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I've just created my first business card in Illustrator. It has the standard UK business card size of 55 x 85 mm, a 3mm bleed, 300 DPI and the rest of it, and my smallest font-size is 8.94 points, above the 7pt minimum legible size for contact information that I've seen recommended in a few places.

However, when I'm finished designing the card and zoom out to 100%, this text looks really small, just about readable but aesthetically jarring. I'm wondering whether the card will actually look that small when printed, or whether I should just trust that it will always look larger when printed.

Unfortunately doing a test print is out of the question as the client will be using an online printer and the project is already time-sensitive.

Can what my business card looks like at 100% in Illustrator be assumed to be to scale?

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    Make contact information easy to see and easy to read correctly unless you don't need the contact. If it isn't big enough leave space for the client to write it by hand as they make an apology about the incompetent artist who prepared the artwork. – Stan Aug 3 at 1:47
  • In your chosen font, does the l look like 1; does 0 look like O, B like 8, etc. Cover one eye. Also, look around. How many are wearing glasses? How many that don't have you seen squinting? – Stan Aug 3 at 1:54
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    100% zoom is not real size. Its just each pixel is 1/72th of an inch which most likely your monitor is not. Illustrator has no DPI setting To evaluate size you dont need to print it with the same system they will print. Print it a with your office printer will give you a good enough indication. – joojaa Aug 3 at 6:32
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I don't think any of this has anything to do with Illustrator specifically. Illustrator is a fine tool for business cards just as InDesign, QuarkXpress, etc would be.


9pt type is small. Using Illustrator has nothing to do with that.

For good readability using around 11pt type may be better. I do not think 9pt type is too small. It is generally fine for small pieces of text, like those on a business card. I generally recommend nothing smaller than 10pts for legibility though. 7pt is for things like copyrights or unimportant information... not for contact info on a business card.

Form vs function

The function of a business card is pass along contact information. Therefore the contact information should be easily read. It is the primary reason behind the creation.


If you really want a more accurate indicator of what size things will appear as.... print the artwork. You can only ever really get a sense of size and spacing via hard copies.. even if they don't accurately represent color at times.

Just because you can't get a test print from the print provider does not mean you can't run a test print at your desk using your printer or by taking art to the local "copy shop" and printing out a sample. I keep a black and white laser printer just for this reason.

  • It never occurred to me that I could print it and see how it would look when actually printed by a printer, although it does make sense that the sizes would at least be the same. I only have an inkjet printer available to me - is that likely to make any difference here? – Hashim Aug 3 at 6:46
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    @Hashim The print is for size and placement test, not really color accuracy or quality... generally ANY print will help. For AI and an inkjet.. save as PDF.. then print the PDF – Scott Aug 3 at 15:26
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    @Hashim Remember to print 100% (disable fit page to paper) – slebetman Aug 3 at 16:25
  • @Scott many designs of business cards have company logo on both sides. Is both side necessary? Or one side Logo and other side about Name and other info? – Vikas Aug 8 at 7:16
  • That is all entirely up to whoever is designing cards, Vikas. – Scott Aug 8 at 23:56
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To answer your question, yes, Illustrator is accurate for the size of a business card, or any print document.

The problem: 100% zoom is not the physical size of your document on-screen. Selecting that zoom level will not display the physical size, and even the "Actual size" zoom will not display the right size. The reason for this is that Illustrator knows nothing about your screen's pixel density, and this is what it would need to know to work out how much to zoom in so you could see a document at its physical size, and unfortunately there is no setting even to let Illustrator know this.

The Solution (a hack): Firstly, there's no need to print anything and waste paper/ink (let's save the planet and your money!). All you need to do is calibrate your zoom to match a physical sheet size, and if you want to, you can also store it as a new custom view, and set up a shortcut key so you can zoom in to that size any time you want.

How to do it:

  1. Get a physical sheet of paper, either Letter size or A4

  2. Create a new document the same size as the physical sheet you have.

  3. Place the paper sheet against your screen, and type into the zoom field until the width on-screen matches the width of the sheet of paper. Take a note of this value.

At this point you can stop right here. Any time you want to see the phyiscal size of any document, just enter that zoom value into the zoom field. This value will be different for everybody, since the setting will depend on the pixel density of your monitor.

The following additional steps will allow you to set up a shortcut key to zoom to that size. This could be useful if you like to work zoomed in, but often want to zoom back to the physical size to check your document as you work on it.

  1. Click View > New View - give it the name "Physical Size"

  2. Open the keyboard shortucts using Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts

  3. Change from Tools to Menu commands

  4. Click on View

  5. Scroll down until you see Custom View 1, and select the shortcut field

  6. Type the new shortcut, something like Alt(Option)+Shift+Ctrl(Command)+Z will do the trick

enter image description here

  1. Give your shortcut set a new name, to save it. Something like "My Shortcuts" will do.

  2. Close the document, no need to save it.

Now to use the shortcut you just made with your business card document*:

  1. Open your business card document

  2. Type in the zoom you noted earlier in Step 3

  3. Click View > New View. Name it "Physical size"

  4. Save your document

Now the shortcut you created earlier will zoom to the physical size, and the custom view will be saved with your document. Also note that in the View menu, right at the bottom, the option "Physical size" can be selected if you forget the shortcut (which should also be displayed there).

enter image description here

*Note: You will have to repeat steps 12 to 15 for any new document you create. The shortcut is already created so you don't need to repeat the other steps above. They only need to be done once.

  • "The reason for this is that Illustrator knows nothing about your screen's pixel density" Modern displays and operating systems usually pass on this information to programs from the EDID information stored on a chip in the monitor. But always good to check that the 100% zoom is actually correct. – jpa Aug 3 at 16:22
  • @jpa - yes, I am sure this would be possible, but even a manual setting in Illustrator would be helpful. Hopefully Adobe is listening! – Billy Kerr Aug 3 at 16:34
  • @jpa The computer might or might not know the setting of the monitor. It might lt might not be correct. It depends a lot. But the real question is what do you do when the monitor has a excotic subpixel pattern, the system has multiple monitors attached, the image is projected on a screen, the monitor is huge or it is tiny. Anyway the problem is that adobe screwed up when they chose to implement pixel units, and now 100% means 2 separate things... Anyway its easy to make a menuitem called physical size that has a setting you can set up. – joojaa Aug 3 at 22:16
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Print it on your black and white laser printer. That will give you a good idea of size and if fonts are legible, etc.

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If your smallest font size is 8.94 points, you're more than ok. Go ahead and print it. And to answer the question in the actual title, yes Illustrator is accurate. This may be your first card, but others have done hundreds already in Illustrator, its pretty much industry standard for print along with InDesign.

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Illustrator has no idea how big are the pixels of your screen. As said already by others and can be found also elsewhere, Illustrator assumes there are 72 pixels per inch. I must zoom to 130% to get the real size preview. 130% is for my monitor, you simply zoom in until the size on the screen is right in millimeters.

But that's not the truth of printing, so forget it. Screen resolution is inferior when one tries to read small point size texts, printed dots are much smaller than screen pixels. Unfortunately the exact conversion between Illustrator's pixels and printed pixels needs underhood knowledge of the print process. But one practical method has been useful:

Zoom to 416% and watch the result so far away that the apparent size is the same as the size of the card at usual reading distance. Have another card in your hand for reference. If the result is ok, a pro printing will also be ok.

416% is 300/72 and it assumes a pro printer can output properly at least 300 pixels per inch. It's well possible that black ink or spot color text objects and other vector shapes are even sharper.

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