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.


Using the type tool click anywhere on the Artboard and type out the first word in your design or you can copy what I am doing here. Once you have the first word typed out we can change its color to our bright blue by simply selecting the word with the selection tool and then clicking the bright blue color in our swatches panel that we set up earlier. A trick I like to do at this point is to simply copy and paste that same word over and over so that I can simply click the text tool on each one and replace that text with all of the other information I need. This way, we don’t have to continue to fix the font choice and color for each word we use.

For the sake of the tutorial I will be referencing the words I am using in my design to guide us along. But feel free to use your own information and follow along with the tutorial!


Once we have “PRINT” placed on our card and have copied it a few times, we can start to click each copy and change the words to the other information we need. Our card should look pretty similar to this at this point.


We will also be using the inside guides we set up earlier to line up and scale all of our type. Simply click the text that you want to scale and while holding down the shift key, click and hold the corner of the text box. While holding these down, move your mouse away from the corner and your text should scale proportionally (not distorted in any way). Line each side of the word up to the inside margin guides on each side of the card. Go ahead and vary the colors up some when you are done lining up your type. We should all have something that looks similar to this at this point.

Refine and Final Design

Now that we have a nice base set up to work on, we can start playing around with size, shape, and position of words. Think of the words as a puzzle that you can fit together in many ways, but always be mindful of the readability of your information.

To finish out this design, we are going to take inspiration from letterpress posters from the past. Big type, and small variations to separate the information.


Using the rectangle tool, draw a small thin rectangle that touches each of the margin lines in your card. Just like the type. Use one of the two colors we chose earlier to color this rectangle. Copy the rectangle we just made and paste it onto the card right below the first one.

As we continue to move things around, keep lining words up and keeping the spacing consistent between each word. We don’t want our design to look haphazard, make sure to pay attention to details.


Now we are going to make a custom shape to contain our agents name and bring an even higher level of emphasis to it. To make this shape, use the rectangle tool to draw a rectangle that fits within the same guides we used to scale our type.


Now we will select the Star Tool to create a triangle. Click and hold with the Star Tool on the artboard. A star marquee should appear, while still holding down on the left click press the down arrow key on your keyboard. This will decrease the number of points on your star. Keep pressing the down arrow until you get a triangle. Now, hold shift before letting go of the left click to make the triangle straight and horizontal (shown).


Rotate that triangle while holding shift to make it point to the right horizontally.


Now that we have a triangle, we need to copy and paste this shape to make another one. Rotate your second triangle while holding shift to make it point the exact opposite way. Using these two triangles to cover the rectangle beneath, make the shape.


Now, with all 3 selected (rectangle and triangles) open the pathfinder panel from the window menu and click the subtract from shape area icon. You should get something that looks like this.


The action of subtracting from that shape will bring it to the front, you will need to send it to the back so that your type will go over it. Right click your shape, select arrange, and send to back. Make sure your shape lines up on the same guides we’ve been using throughout the tutorial.

Resize your type to fit within the shape we just created.


Now we are going to line up our final bit of information type with the rest of the major information. Then add the final thin rectangle to the bottom of the card, lining it up as well.

The final step is to select all of your type and choose Outline Type from the Type menu. This will prevent any problems with the printer not having the same font that you used. After you outline type, it is no longer editable, so be sure everything is correct.

Preparing for the Printer

Now that our design is pretty much where we want it to be. Go ahead and check over your work to make sure the spacing, also known as leading, between each word is balanced and equal. We want the spacing to be consistent so that the design is well put together and attractive. Go ahead and finalize any color choices and spell check the information as well.


In Adobe Illustrator CS3, you will need to save your file in a special way to give the printer what they need.

To save your file, select Print from the file menu. Once you are in the print dialog box, click marks and bleed in the menu to the left, above the preview image.

In the marks and bleed menu that pops up, you will need to select All Printers Marks. This will add all of the marks that a professional printer will need to print and cut your business card.


Now we will select Adobe Postscript File from the Printer menu at the top. You will also need to choose Adobe PDF from the PPD menu below this. This will change the print button to a save button. Note that you may have to scroll down quite a bit to find the Adobe PDF option.


Now we will click General to return to the default print menu. In this menu you will need to select Custom from the Size menu in the Media section. Also make sure that Do Not Scale is selected below the Media section. Go ahead and click save, we will use this file to create the final file we need to send to the printer.


Go to where you saved the file, it should have a .PS after the file name.

Open the .PS file with Acrobat Distiller, you can download this program for free, and use it to convert this file into a PDF. Make sure you are using the Press Quality option from the top drop-down menu.


The final file should look like this. This is the end of our journey creating a business card in Adobe Illustrator CS3. Go ahead and send this PDF file to the printer of your choice and everything should go smoothly!

Final Product (what you’ll be creating)


Written by Irene.Thompson

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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