Creating a captivating brand is essential for any business, whether you are a new startup or an established company working on modernizing your style. As your business grows, so should your brand. And an eye-catching business card is the cornerstone of any successful branding venture.
However, if you think of a business card design as just the text and graphics, you could be missing an opportunity to elevate your style and impress your customers. You may also want to consider the importance of the physical production of your business cards. Where will they be printed? What kind of paper will you use? What method of printing will be used to create them? These factors can be just as important as the graphic design itself. That’s why we have identified these 10 techniques to help inspire your thinking about your new cards.
Technique One: The Deep Impression
Letterpress printing is truly done on a “press,” meaning it uses pressure to push ink onto the paper. You can use this to your advantage by adding light and shadow to your design, along with the added texture. It’s impossible not to run your fingers across a letterpress impression.
Technique Two: The Blind Deboss
Why use ink at all? When combined with soft, textured cotton letterpress paper, a blind deboss can add a subtle touch of texture that gives you a clean white-on-white appeal. One important tip is to only use blind deboss for bold design elements – important details should always be printed with adequate contrast for easy visibility.
Technique Three: Edge Painting
We can all agree the third dimension is pretty cool. After all, the world would be pretty flat and boring without it. Why shouldn’t your business card be in on the fun? You can add an exciting splash of color with edge painting. Go subtle with a color that’s close to the paper color, or go bold with a neon fluorescent. It’s up to you! Fourth dimensional edge painting coming soon, as soon as we learn how to transcend time and space.
This example shows neon pink edge painting on 220lb (600gsm) Crane’s Lettra paper.
Technique Four: Duplexing
Duplexing is the process of mounting two layers of paper together to create a double-thick sheet. There are many interesting ways to use duplexing in your design.
Many designs call for a solid color on one side of the business card. Instead of printing the color, you can achieve a deep, consistent color by using paper that is dyed in the paper-making process. A great example of this are some of the paper varieties from French Paper Co. They are made with bright, intense colors that would be difficult to achieve with printing ink alone. But what happens if the other side of the card needs to be white? That’s where duplexing shines. You can easily mount a red paper to a white paper to create a custom card that’s unique for your design.
Another use for duplexing is for printing a deep letterpress impression on both sides of a business card. With a deep impression, bruising on the back of the sheet can be unavoidable. Instead, you can print the fronts and backs on separate sheets, and mount them together after printing. The bruising is concealed between the two sheets.
The duplexing process is can be done precisely, but we do not recommend using on designs with a border on both sides of the paper unless absolutely necessary. Some customers have expressed concern that the glue may come apart, or may not line up exactly with the front of the card. The glue we use is specifically designed for this process, so it will not come apart in normal use. And the gluing is done before the cards are trimmed. After trimming, the glue line is barely noticeable.
Technique Five: Foil Embossing
Letterpress is known for pressing the artwork into the paper. What if you wanted to raise it? That’s where embossing comes in. Embossing is often used interchangeably with debossing, so let’s clear that up first. Debossing is what it’s called when the artwork is pressed into the paper. An emboss is a raised image. It’s done with a two-part die. The paper is sandwiched between the two dies on the press, and it is sculpted with heat and pressure to create the raised image. There are several different kinds of embossing, such as foil embossing like the image above, or blind embossing, where there is no ink or foil and the color is the paper color. It’s a really cool process that is definitely worth exploring, but it does tend to be one of the more costly options.
Technique Six: Die-Cutting
Don’t be a square, or a rectangle for that matter. Die cutting can help you add a unique shape to your business cards. Picture a cutting die like a really heavy duty cookie cutter that’s strong enough to punch through paper. It’s just like that! It’s locked into the press just like a printing plate, but instead of printing, it uses the pressure of the press to punch the cards out precisely in the shape of your design. To design a die-cut card, start with vector die lines. A die maker can usually use a PDF file. The process is a fairly accurate and will allow your printed artwork to align cleanly with the cut edges.
Technique Seven: Colorful Papers
Now is an amazing time for colorful papers. There are so many interesting papers out there to accentuate your design. Colored papers can be an interesting design choice when you want to add a lot of color without the expense of a multi-color print. The blue cards above are stamped with copper foil on Neenah Classic Crest Patriot Blue. You could even use multiple colors of paper throughout the press run. Or duplex two different colors together to create your own combination.
Technique Eight: Foil Stamping
Foil stamping is very similar to letterpress, and it is done on the same type of equipment. The difference is that it uses a film of metallized foil instead of ink. The press is equipped with a special electric heating attachment that heats a metal die between 200-300F. The heated die, combined with the impression, transfers the foil in the shape of the design. In this example, we used bronze and black metallic foil on black French Poptone Black Licorice paper to create a striking appearance. And it’s not just gold and silver foil stamping. There are many colors available in both metallic and pigment shades.
Technique Nine: White Pigment Foil
Foil stamping doesn’t have to be a metallic color. We often use white pigment foil stamping to print business cards that print white on dark black paper. There are also clear foils, and pearlized tint foils.
Technique 10: Simplicity
Just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should. There are many possibilities with letterpress printing, but in the end, ink on paper is the classic. Don’t be afraid to create a simple design that embraces the elegance of fine typography, beautiful paper and and generous white space. After all, this has been the tradition for 500 years.