Creating and Printing Impressive Typographic Business Card

Today we are going to learn about Typography and proper file set up for a business card. We are going to use professional standards of typography, color, layout, and file setup. Along the way, any new designers out there should learn a few things that will help with any project that has to go to print or be mass produced.


Choosing a typeface for our project is the most important element. Since we are focusing on using only type for this business card we have to think about what a typeface represents or what it’s “attitude” is. You can find a myriad of articles online about typography to expand your knowledge on proper use of type and the implications each typeface holds. Google is your friend!


Setting Up the Document

For small graphic design jobs that deal with typography or illustrations I tend to use Adobe Illustrator. Open a new document and make the dimensions shown below. We want this card to be a vertical set up of 2in by 3.5in, at 300ppi, and set to CMYK color. 2 x 3.5 inches is the standard business card size that you’ll see everywhere. But, there are really cool things you can do with sizing and die-cuts, just keep in mind how the card will be stored or held in hand.

Beginning Steps

The first thing we want to do is open our rulers so we can properly line everything up nice and neat. Do this by clicking view in the toolbar and then clicking show rulers within that menu.

The fonts I am using are Blackoak Std and Trade Gothic. Depending on the type of mood or “attitude” we want our card to have, we need to choose a font that accurately portrays that. For this card, we want it to be centered around a letterpress feel with a modern touch of color. Feel free to use any two fonts you wish, but continue reading for now to get some advice on what to consider when choosing fonts.

Font Choice

Blackoak Std is a font that mimics the look of old wood type from a letterpress. To contrast this older and rougher look, we will choose Trade Gothic. Trade Gothic is a modern font that is sans serif and very precise. These two fonts together make for a very dynamic look and keep the card from being too monotone and boring.

Generally it is completely fine to use more than one typeface on projects. As a rule for myself though I will usually never go over three different typefaces in the same project. Of course there are exceptions to the rule and some projects call for many typefaces to be used. But for the sake of simplicity we will say that two fonts that compliment and contrast each other will be enough for most projects.

When you are choosing fonts, try to find two that contrast each other in ways that are subtle but powerful. It could be as simple as choosing a sans-serif font and pairing it with a serif font. The simple difference of serif will allow your project to have a bit more excitement to it’s type treatment. Experiment with type combinations to find what works together and what doesn’t. As a rule though, you don’t want the difference between typefaces to be too loud or distracting. We are simply enhancing the design, not dominating it.


Color can make or break a design. Do yourself a favor and just spend an hour or so looking at This site can help you with color choices as well as teach you a bit about what colors work together and what colors don’t.

For our business card we are going to work with a bright blue and pair it with a duller version of that same blue. Monochrome color combinations usually always will work. Simply use the same color in different values (darkness / lightness) to achieve a design with colors that will hold it together. The bright blue can be achieved by using 69.8% Cyan and 14.9% Magenta. The second color we are using can be achieved by using 54.12% Cyan, 22.75% Magenta, and 6.67% Yellow. Drag these colors to your swatches panel so you can use them over and over with ease. You can access the swatches panel by clicking window in the toolbar and then clicking swatches.

Moving Forward

Now that we’ve chosen our fonts we are going to work with, as well as the colors we will use throughout the design, we can move forward and start conceptualizing.

For a business card you want to stay within the “safe margin”. This is what the print shop will require so that small inconsistencies in cutting will not affect the actual design of the card. A general safe margin for a business card is .125 inches. This means that you must keep all important information or design at least .125 inches away from the edge of the card.


Go ahead and drag some ruler guides from the rulers we opened earlier and place them .125 inches inside the edge of the card on each of the four sides. In addition to placing guides to mark the safe margin, go ahead and place secondary guides to line our type up with (as shown below). Note that the safe margin can be broken if you plan on “bleeding” your design off of the edge. You can find more information on bleeding online if you are curious.

Irene Thompson is a graphic designer who has a love in illustrator and enjoys in creating new concepts in print design. She works at, a trusted online printing company that lets you design and print business card online for a high quality and full color offset printing.

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