I went around the web, reading articles about business card mistakes, and here is a full list of them:

  1. Don't use cheap materials/techniques or attempt to print your own.
  2. Don't use metal business cards. They won't get through airport security. (Is that true?)
  3. Don't use a big font for the address and contact info.
  4. Don't put a picture of your face on the card.
  5. Don't use pixelated or other substandard images.
  6. Don't flirt with the margins.
  7. Don't overcrowd your card.
  8. Not including information that is attractive to clients, i.e. "5-year warranty," etc.

Obviously name, address, email, phone number, and fax number are necessary, but are there any other do's or don't's?

PS: For a 3.5x2 card, I should use the following settings in Photoshop, correct? 3.75x2.25, 300 DPI.

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    9. Don't use Photoshop – e100 Feb 9 '11 at 14:54
  • Don't know how to use Illustrator, and for that matter, I don't even have it. :) Don't see much option here... other than getting someone else to do it, of course... but I'd rather not resort to that. :) – Michael Feb 9 '11 at 19:07
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    @e100 Go learn [La]TeX. :) – Mateen Ulhaq Feb 10 '11 at 4:54
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    If you do use Photoshop, I'd suggest doubling the resolution. 300ppi is fine for most images, but not for small text printed with litho (wet ink) process on good quality stock. – e100 Feb 10 '11 at 13:51
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    If you're going for quality cards, then yea, 600 ppi minimum. 1200 ppi preferred. – DA01 Jun 2 '11 at 5:36

If you have a logo and a website, add them also.

I suggest no more than two colors. (edited to clarify: two colors for your text. Your logo's colors are outside this suggestion.)

  • It's not a bad first try, but the logo banner is way too busy -- you can barely read the company name. The reverse side is just pretty to be pretty without imparting any useful information. And while you didn't ask, I hope the fonts on your website's front page are just for fun and not what you're actually using?... – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Feb 9 '11 at 19:20
  • @Michael: TB painfully honest, your whole site needs to be redone. You have a lot of sizzle with no reason for it. The logo font on the original is illegible, the menu font is cute but has no connection to the business, and the top deco strip has no relation to anything else. The Arial is frankly a relief after everything else. :) Sorry, this is part of what I do for a living. The font on the card was actually fine! – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Feb 9 '11 at 20:13
  • Brutal. :) Well, if you could suggest some different fonts, I'm willing to look at them. I went through all of the ones that I have installed, and that looked the best. I had planned on cleaning it up with the clone/stamp tool, but yeah... it's by no means perfect. – Michael Feb 9 '11 at 20:43
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    @Michael: Sorry. :) the fonts are not the source of the problem; the entire site needs to be properly designed. If you are not a design pro, I suggest you find one to hire. ::cough::like me::cough:: – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Feb 9 '11 at 21:23
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    @Michael: thank you, I will email you today. @Jaips: I'm not sure where the SE line is drawn about self-promotion, so I stayed on the "discreet-but-funny" side. :) – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Feb 10 '11 at 13:23

Most folks won't spend more than 3 seconds looking at a business card; you probably want to make sure that either your URL or phone number is easy to see (i.e. design for lazy users).

I would disagree about "no more than two colors" unless cost is a prohibiting factor. Depending on your logo and layout you may need more than that (or your logo may not fly without it).

I usually use Illustrator to do the layout (because vector graphics scale better) but there's nothing wrong with using Photoshop. You're going to want to find out what the text area and bleed area for your printer are; they can usually supply you with these numbers.

If your biggest concern for material is getting them through airport security, then you probably don't want metal. If, however, your biggest concern is getting clients to call / email you (which is the point of a business card) then don't immediately dismiss metal (or any other material). There are tons of sites that showcase creative business cards printed on suitably amusing materials (wood, paper, metal, plastic, etc.). The idea is that your card should stand out from everyone else's.

Raster images should be 300 dpi and not overly scaled to prevent jaggies (jagged edges caused by aliasing and low resolution scaling). Most printers want CMYK for 4-color printing, so you may have to find a way to convert your raster image to CMYK. And for god's sake, don't use Comic Sans or MS clipart.

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    I wrote that I "suggest" no more than two colors because if Michael is not a pro designer, it's very easy to get carried away with all the possibilites. A pro will know how to use color carefully. Also, the colors you have in your logo don't all need to be used in the text of the card. If you have a rainbow in your logo, you certainly don't need to use all six colors and black in your type, or your card might look like a clown threw up. Business cards are small spaces. Less is usually more. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Feb 9 '11 at 16:18
  • @lauren: you're right in that too much color can easily get out of hand, but if your logo depends on multiple colors it might cause more problems to try and redesign to fit the two-color rule. I also like to try and keep the colors to a minimum - one color for most of the design and one as an accent. Then again, if your logo depends on multiple colors it may not scale well at all (and thus end up looking like clown vomit) so that's something else to take into account. – lawndartcatcher Feb 9 '11 at 16:43
  • I edited my original answer to clarify. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Feb 9 '11 at 17:29
  • what color profile to use to convert to CMYK? – john Dec 13 '11 at 5:27
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    @john: CMYK is the color profile. – lawndartcatcher Dec 13 '11 at 15:11

Do include a strapline, tagline or a positioning statement - i.e. tell people what you do - don't assume they will just get it from your company name or logo.

It also helps to strengthen your message and remind them of it.

Also, do not add too much information, it isn't a flyer to promote your business services, it is a contact card to remind people what you do and how to get in to contact with you. The more information you try to add, the more you'll have to cram it in and the less comfortable the design will look.


It should be well designed.

Beyond that, it's hard to give specific advice without knowing a lot more about the type of business, your target audience, and how you plan on using them.

Some things to consider:

  • a blank back can be useful for jotting notes down when meeting people
  • a thicker card stock is noticeable in the hand
  • a blind emboss or letterpressed cards can be a nice touch
  • cheesy 3D raised ink from Kinkos is cheesy. Unless you're being ironic. Then maybe it can be cool.
  • glossy stock is harder to write on with a pen
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    +1 for the glossy comment. I hate trying to take notes on a card, only to pull it out later and find a big smudgy smear where my helpful info was supposed to be. – Farray Jun 2 '11 at 5:46
  • Unfortunately, in order to recommend that the other guy take advice from this thread, I had to edit this question in order to include the bit about bleed (I changed the the 3.5x2 design dimensions to 3.75x2.25.) In doing so, I bumped the question, even though I have had my business cards for about a month now. Will still +1 ya for the glossy/pen advice, though. :) – Michael Jun 2 '11 at 6:05

To be honest, if you're getting a print company to make them, it might be easier and not significantly more expensive to get them to do the design as well?

Most if not all print companies can do this themselves or via outsourcing, and you can give them a rough mockup if you want a bit more control.

  • Eh, if you're gonna pay for design, why not pay for a professional designer? Most print shops (from the local mom and pop shops to the big online operations like PSPrint) have subpar to mediocre in-house designers. Graphic design for a throwaway flyer may be a commodity service, but not business card design. So shop for printers & designers separately. – Lèse majesté Jan 28 '12 at 11:13

I recommend VistaPrint as a place to get your business cards made. It's kind of a cheesy operation, but it's not terribly expensive to get a big batch of full-color one side (ie. full color glossy print on the front, blank white on the back) cards printed up. They offer basic design services, but if you are halfway decent with Photoshop it is really easy to just download their template, paste in your logo and place the text, and then upload your design to use for the cards. Basically, if you go with all the defaults then it'll look like crap, but it doesn't cost any more to customize everything.

The list of items in your question are pretty good, but I would point out that if you're anything like me you might want to ditch the mailing address and put on your website. Info like my name (duh), email address, phone number, and website haven't changed in years, but my mailing address changes every few years. If you go through your cards fast then that doesn't really matter, but it's nice to be able to lower printing cost by getting a giant stack of cards that you can keep using for years.

And as lauren pointed out don't go crazy with the colors. Personally I would recommend black for all your text and only use colors in the logo, but if you absolutely must use colored text then limit yourself to just one color.

ADDITION: Incidentally, if you aren't any good with graphic design then you could hire someone to design on VistaPrint's template and thereby get the best of both worlds. Note the third option when ordering business cards is "Upload Complete Design": http://www.vistaprint.com/business-cards.aspx?xnav=TsrItem&xnid=aPremiumBusinessCardsBusiness+Cards

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