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I'd like to produce my own double-sided mini post cards/business cards from my photos at 3x4" on 80 pound coated stock.

I used to send them to a print shop with odd-number front page, even number back page, and then just ask for 5 copies of the file; but it seems quality had diminished, and I can print small runs on my home inkjet with better results.

What program can I use that would dynamically generate this layout from a PDF? I want 9 up front and back with crop marks so I can cut the 1/8" bleed off easily.

Perhaps I'm looking for RIP software?

Edit: Using another print service is not a solution, I need to print these myself or find a capable local printer with a 2-3 day turn around on orders from 200 to 3,000.

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How widely do these sizes vary? –  Rowland Shaw Dec 15 '10 at 22:05
    
since "a capable local printer" is an option, where's "local"? Also, what OS are you running on? –  lindes Dec 15 '10 at 22:32
    
@Rowland, can vary from business card size up to postcard size. @lindes I have osx, window xp, 7, or linux. Nobody locally can give me the turn around I need [want]. –  Chris Dec 15 '10 at 22:44
    
I think my issue lies with the only print shop capable of printing my products tells me that their printer can't properly reproduce red. They seem very uninterested in putting the effort into fixing the color issue. It's not a color cast, it's just red is completely orange. –  Chris Dec 15 '10 at 22:46
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RIP really isn't the area you want. That's all about taking file and translating it into the native commands of the printer, as well as possibly multiple color plates for several printers in sequence. –  cabbey Dec 16 '10 at 8:34
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2 Answers

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Why not just go to a print shop that supports this, like moo.com -- they allow you to do a range of business cards/postcards with small print runs, and differing images on one side (notionally the front). I had some printed by their UK branch recently for a project I'm working on, and have been overjoyed with the quality.

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I totally second moo.com. Great site, and their quality seems to be very high. They also offer a variety of business card styles, including half-height, or printed on unique types of cardstock or other materials. –  jrista Dec 15 '10 at 20:40
    
+1 I love the Moo mini-cards (here is run I made in 2006: flic.kr/p/pxDv5). I made new runs since then. As Rowland said, you can print a 100 for example, with a different photo on each. I had a photo show with 30 pieces earlier this year, and printed a batch of Moo cards to leave at the show, with pics from the show itself. It was about $20, I reuse them when the show (or pieces of it) travels. –  sebastien.b Dec 15 '10 at 21:53
    
While I appreciate the suggestion, the project is almost time sensitive and the card size could vary between runs. A great suggestion, but not a solution. –  Chris Dec 15 '10 at 21:54
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For what it's worth, I've been only moderately happy with moo.com. The convenience is wonderful, and the quality has been good, but I've had some results where the colors didn't seem quite spot-on. They were close, though, and certainly passable to most folks... and the quality is high in other ways, and again, super convenient. Just wanted to say something, lest someone expect absolute perfection and be sad to not get it. :) –  lindes Dec 15 '10 at 22:35
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If you intend to print them yourself, does it have to be done with PDF? I have used Photoshop myself to create a front and back image to print multiple business cards on cardstock with my own printer. I usually create the business card image itself in two PSD files, one for the front, one for the back, in exactly the right dimensions to print with some bleed, and include the crop marks in the image. It is then easy enough to copy this image, and paste it in an aligned array on a larger image that fits the dimensions and physical margin limitations of the printer exactly. I then just print the PSD directly. I don't have a workhorse printer, just a Canon PIXMA 9500 Mark II, but it got the job done. My volume is considerably lower, and I probably don't even print 200 at a time.

If you had a workhorse printer, like a Canon imagePrograph or one of the professional Epson Stylus printers, you should be able to crank out considerable volume in fairly short order yourself.

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+1 to skipping the round trip through PDF. Print directly from whatever layout package you're using to design the cards, or export the card as a png and layout the png. –  cabbey Dec 16 '10 at 8:32
    
Copy and paste? Use a pattern fill at 100% (just a suggestion). –  Stan Rogers Dec 19 '10 at 16:16
    
@Stan: You don't want to fill the entire area. You need some whitespace, and business cards rarely fill a full sheet perfectly, and you may need the freedom to pack copies in at different orientations to maximize paper use. –  jrista Dec 19 '10 at 19:23
    
I thought you'd said you'd included bleed space in the original. Pattern fill is how I do it. Just sayin'. –  Stan Rogers Dec 19 '10 at 19:31
    
Not bleed space, white space. You can't fill up a sheet completely with business cards...if you tried, some of them would only be partial, and wasteful. It is easier to find and chop off plain white cardstock from the edges of the paper, than to try and find the proper edge within a pattern-filled area. After chopping off the white space, you then have crop marks for each individual business card where you can cut off the bleed. –  jrista Dec 20 '10 at 17:17
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