How to print business cards: The business card printing process explained

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Printing business cards is more than just putting ink on paper—it’s about making a lasting impression.

Whether you’re at a conference, meeting potential clients or networking, a high-quality business card opens doors and generates leads.

This article will guide you through the ins and outs of how to design and print business cards, covering everything from gathering ideas and preparing for print to selecting the right paper and size and choosing between professional services and DIY options.

A step-by-step guide to printing business cards

  1. Collect your ideas and carry out initial preparations
  2. Design your business card
  3. Prepare your business card design for print
  4. Choose the right paper and size
  5. Print your business cards

Key takeaways

  • Gathering ideas: Define your card’s purpose and the audience receiving the cards. Explore design inspirations using a variety of sources.
  • Creating your design: Tips on hiring a designer vs. DIY design, and essential design elements.
  • Preparing for print: Understand file formats, color settings (CMYK), and design elements.
  • Paper and size selection: Learn about different paper types (matte, glossy, textured) and standard card sizes.
  • Printing options: Compare the benefits and drawbacks of professional services vs. printing at home.
  • Steps for professional printing: Follow the steps for uploading, proofing, and selecting delivery options.
  • Steps for home printing: Get tips on finalizing designs, printer setup, and cutting techniques.

Read on to learn more about these steps and get actionable tips on how to print your business cards.

How to gather ideas for your business card design

First things first, you need to define the purpose of your business card. Are you aiming to network at events, boost brand visibility, or maybe both? Knowing what you want your card to achieve will guide your design choices.

Next, consider your target audience and industry. A sleek, minimalist design might be perfect for a tech startup but not so much for a playful, creative brand. Understanding who will be receiving your card and what impression you want to leave will help you craft a design that speaks directly to them.

Once you’ve nailed down the purpose and audience, it’s time to dive into the world of business card ideas and inspiration.

Minimalist business card design idea

Source: Minimalist business card design idea via VistaPrint

A great starting point would be to check out the current business card trends. Maybe it’s bold typography, interactive elements, or eye-catching patterns—keeping an eye on trends can spark some great ideas.

To get those creative juices flowing, check out these resources:

Additionally, consider one of VistaPrint’s design services, like 99designs by Vista, where you can browse through designs created by professional designers for other businesses. Or you can use a range of business card design templates that can serve as a great starting point. And, of course, don’t forget about the traditional sources of inspiration like Pinterest, Behance and Dribbble.

Screenshot of the Business Card Templates page on VistaPrint

Source: Business card templates on VistaPrint

After finding designs that speak to you, it’s time to gather all that visual inspiration in one place. Create a mood board with colors, fonts and images that align with your brand. You can go digital with tools like Pinterest or keep it old-school with a physical board using magazines and print materials. This collection will help you see how different elements work together and keep your business card design direction focused.

How to design your business card

Now that you’ve got a treasure trove of ideas, it’s time to dive into the design process. Whether you’re thinking about hiring a designer or taking the DIY path, there are plenty of ways to make your business card pop.

Designing a business card with professional help

First off, let’s talk about hiring a designer. If you’re looking for a polished, unique design and have the budget, this is a fantastic option. But how do you find the right designer?

Start by looking at portfolios on platforms like 99designs by Vista, Behance or Dribbble. Check out reviews and see if their style aligns with your vision. Alternatively, you can ask fellow business owners or friends for referrals and recommendations.

Have a conversation with potential designers about your needs and see if they understand your brand and goals.

A critical step in this process is creating a design brief. This document should outline your business card’s purpose, target audience and any specific elements you want to include.

Business card design with raised foil finish
Printed business card with foil accent

Source: Business cards with special foil accent finishes via VistaPrint

Designing a business card yourself

If you’re a hands-on kind of person or working with a tight budget, designing your own business card is totally doable. Tools like VistaCreate and VistaPrint have a bunch of business card design templates to help you get started.

For a business card design that looks professional and aligns with your brand identity, remember the following:

  • Key components: Your card needs your logo, name, contact information and social media handles. These are non-negotiables.
  • Layout: Keep it clean and organized. A cluttered card is a turn-off. Balance is key.
  • Font choices: Stick to two or three fonts. Too many can make your card look chaotic. Make readability your top priority.
  • Color schemes: Use your brand colors to maintain consistency. Colors should complement each other and not be overwhelming.
  • Brand consistency: Your business card should reflect your overall brand identity. This means consistently using your brand’s colors, fonts and style elements.

For more information about designing your business card, check out our ultimate guide to business card design.

Business card design for a jewelry maker

Source: Example of a great business card design by HYPdesign via 99designs by Vista

Tip

When browsing through templates, don’t get too hung up on finding one specifically designed for your industry. Instead, look for a layout that appeals to you. Remember, you can always customize it with elements unique to your business.

How to prepare your business card for print

With your business card design ready to go, it’s time to prepare it for printing. This step is crucial to ensure your final product looks as good in person as it does on screen. Here are a few technical terms and tips to get you started.

But what does it mean to prepare a business card for print? In simple terms, it means confirming your design has the correct bleed, trim, and crop marks and that it’s saved in the right file and color format.

Bleed is the extra space around your design that gets cut off when the card is trimmed to size. With bleed, there are no unprinted edges and your design goes all the way to the edge of the card. This little bit of extra space creates a polished look.

Trim marks show where the card will be cut to its final size, while crop marks indicate where to trim the bleed area. These marks help the printer cut your design accurately, ensuring it looks polished and professional.

Standard business card with bleed, crop and trim marks

Source: Bleed, trim and crop marks on a standard business card via VistaPrint

When it comes to file formats for printing business cards, PDF, AI, and EPS are your best bets. They keep your design sharp and make sure everything prints perfectly.

Now, you might be wondering about other formats. JPEGs? Great for Instagram, not so much for business cards. They tend to lose quality and can make your card look like it was designed in the Stone Age. PNGs? Fabulous for web graphics, but they don’t handle printing well and can leave your card looking fuzzy. 

File types - RGB
File formats - CMYK

Last but definitely not least, color format. Use CMYK for printing, as it’s the color model printers use. When you print in RGB, the colors might look wildly different from what you see on your screen. RGB is designed for digital displays, so printers often struggle to replicate those colors accurately, leading to unexpected and sometimes downright weird results.

RGB colors
CMYK colors

To learn more about RBG vs CMYK, check out our article!

Tip

Design in CMYK color mode from the beginning. Converting from RGB to CMYK at the end can lead to dull or altered colors.

How to choose the right paper and size when printing business cards

Now that your business card design is print-ready, it’s time to think about the details that will make your card stand out in person. Picking the right paper and size impacts your impression. Here’s a quick rundown of your options.

Paper types for business cards

The common paper types for business cards are matte, glossy and textured.

Smooth and non-reflective, matte business cards offer a clean, sophisticated look. They’re perfect for professional settings and easy to write on, making them ideal for jotting down notes or additional contact info. This is the best choice for business cards at conferences and trade shows.

Matte business card

Source: Matte business card via VistaPrint

Shiny and vibrant, glossy business cards make colors pop and give your design a modern feel. They’re great for eye-catching visuals and bold designs but can be a bit tricky to write on.

Glossy business card

Source: Glossy business card via VistaPrint

Adding a tactile element, textured cards give your business card a unique, premium touch. They’re perfect for creative industries and anyone looking to make a memorable impression.

Textured business card

Source: Textured business card via VistaPrint

If you want to make an impression, remember that your choices aren’t limited to traditional business card paper types. You might also consider printing cards with foil accents, kraft, cotton and linen.

Learn more about different types of business card paper stock and which one to choose for your business in our guide to types of business card paper.

Tip

If in doubt, go for matte for its versatility and professional appeal.

Business card paperweight

Another decision you need to make is the thickness of your business card paper. It’s usually measured in GSM (grams per square meter):

  • Light (200-250 GSM): Economical and good for bulk handouts.
  • Medium (300-350 GSM): Standard weight, offering a balance of durability and cost.
  • Heavy (400+ GSM): Premium feel, perfect for making a strong impression with your business card.

Business card sizes

Finally, you need to choose the dimensions for your business card. Here are the common sizes:

  • US standard: 3.5 x 2 inches. The most common size that fits perfectly in wallets and cardholders.
  • European standard: 3.3 x 2.1 inches. Slightly different but still widely used and practical.
  • Square: Typically 2.5 x 2.5 inches. Unique and eye-catching, perfect for standing out.
  • Mini: 3 x 1 inches. Compact and modern, great for minimalist designs.
Standard business card dimensions

Source: Standard, rounded and square business card sizes via VistaPrint

While you can experiment with the specs of your business card to create an unconventional and memorable one, it’s crucial you consider practicality and cost. If in doubt, it’s best to stick to standard sizes as they ensure your card fits in standard holders and wallets.

A more in-depth guide to business card size and dimensions is in our blog.

You’ve reached the final step—congratulations! Now, it’s time to print your business cards.

When it comes to printing your business cards, you have two options—professional printing service providers like VistaPrint or print your business cards yourself. Let’s break it down so you get the best results.

How to print business cards at home

Printing business cards yourself can be a cost-effective and quick solution, especially for small batches.

However, it’s not without its challenges.

On the plus side, you get immediate results and save money on small quantities. You also have full control over the process.

On the downside, the print quality might not match that of professional services, and it can be quite time-consuming. Plus, you’ll need the right equipment, like a high-quality printer, which can increase the project’s cost.

If you decide to choose this path, you need to:

  1. Design in CMYK format with proper bleed and trim marks.
  2. Gather the equipment you need to print business cards yourself: A high-quality printer, heavy cardstock paper and a paper cutter or trimmer.
  3. Adjust your printer settings for optimal quality and run test prints.
  4. Print in small batches to ensure consistency.
  5. Use a paper cutter to trim the cards to size.
Embossed business card example

Source: Raised embossed gloss business card finish via VistaPrint

How to print business cards with the help of professional printing services

The alternative route, printing business cards with the help of professional printing services, comes with its own set of pros and cons.

On the upside, you get high-quality prints, a variety of material options and the convenience of letting someone else handle the heavy lifting.

However, it can be more expensive and take longer than home printing.

For a hassle-free experience, VistaPrint is your go-to choice for printing business cards. VistaPrint offers reliable on-demand printing services that ensure your cards look professional and polished:

  1. Upload your design: Check your design file is in the correct format (PDF, AI, EPS).
  2. Proof and approve: Carefully review the digital proof to catch any errors.
  3. Choose delivery options: Select your preferred delivery method and turnaround time based on your needs.

And voilà! You have your high-quality, professional-looking business cards where you need them, easy like that.

Get the business card of your dreams

You’ve mastered the essentials of printing business cards: gathering design ideas, picking the right paper and size, prepping your design, and deciding between DIY and professional printing. Don’t be shy—experiment with different designs and options to find what best showcases your brand.

FAQ about printing business cards

Can I print business cards on a regular printer?

Yes, but the quality of the final business card might not match professional printing. Use high-quality paper stock and ensure your printer settings are optimized.

What type of paper should I use for printing business cards at home?

For a professional feel, use heavy paper stock, preferably matte or glossy. Look for paper specifically designed for business cards.

What is the best paper weight for business cards?

The best paper weight for a business card is 300-350 GSM for a sturdy, professional feel. For a premium touch, go for 400 GSM or higher.

What size do I use to print business cards?

Use standard dimensions: 3.5 x 2 inches for US business cards and 3.3 x 2.1 inches for international cards. Custom sizes can give your card a unique flair, but keep practicality in mind.

Should I use CMYK or RGB color format for printing business cards?

Use CMYK for printing to ensure accurate color reproduction. RGB is for digital screens and might not print as expected.