One of the most vital parts of your brand, that is very easy to overlook, is your business card. When you give someone a business card you are handing them a piece of your brand. You want that piece of paper to represent you and what you shoot.
Content is a very important element to a business card, you want to include contact information but not too much of it. A business card is meant to be concise and, as a general rule of thumb, three points of contact are ideal. As a photographer those will most commonly be your email, phone number and website.
Also, be sure to include contact information that you check frequently. Some photographers choose to include location and some don’t, it is an entirely personal decision. It can be easy to put too much information on a business card so, we typically recommend leaving off social media to avoid making your card look too crowded.
Another very important element of a business card is the design. A business card is a piece of your brand, it should match stylistically and include your logo. Some photographers choose to have a photo on the back and some don’t, just keep in mind that if you decide to put a photo on your card you will most likely have to update your cards more frequently.
You will want your business card to stand out and the design and how you get your card printed is a great way to do that. Spending a bit more in the process is going to set you apart in all the right ways, if your card is of good quality someone is more likely to hold onto it.
There are a variety of print processes that you can use to make your business card — each has its own merits and limitations.
Foil Stamping: In foil stamping, heat is applied to a metallic paper (the foil), which transfers the shiny material onto another surface. In the case of business cards it will typically be a thick card stock. This is done with a plate, the plate is in the shape of your design so that the foil will only stick in the areas you want it to. Although gold and silver are the most common colors, foil is offered in a large range of colors, finishes and optical effects. One of the bonuses of foil printing is that it is opaque material, this makes using a light foil on a dark piece of stock easy to do and it looks great. If you want the paper to show through a bit there are semi-transparent foils as well. The one con to this process is that because it is applied using heat you can’t use it with another heat process as you risk the chance of melting the other process off.
Design: Samantha McCafferty | Printing: Main Line Print Shop
Die Cutting: Die Cutting is a process where you use a steel cutting die to cut a piece of paper into a specific shape or to cut a specific shape out of your material. For example, you could die cut your logo out of your business card. The pros to this process are that the results can be very personalized and it’s a little more unique than other options. The limitations are that very complicated shapes or cuts may not work. You will need to take into consideration what stock you use as some don’t hold up quite as well for die cutting.
Design & Printing: Studio on FireLetterpress: Letterpress has recently become a very popular print process for everything from wedding stationery to business cards. And there is a reason why this process makes an impression and has been around since the 1800’s. This process started with handset type made of metal and wood, now the standard is polymer plates. The main element of letterpress to understand is that you print each color with a separate plate and these prints are done one at a time. This layered look is something that is really unique to letterpress. Once you have prepped the plates (one for each color) you attach the plate to the base of the press and ink the rollers. The amount of ink is imperative, too much will give you a messy print and with too little the design won’t be solid. You then roll the paper through. After this process is completed you do this whole process again for each color.
The pros to letterpress are that it is one of the most tactile print processes. The cons are that it's not the best process for large fields of color and is intended to be printed with a limited color palette (it's also on the more expensive side).
Design: Samantha McCafferty | Printing: Paper Meets Press
Design: Melissa Yeager | Printing: Paper Meets Press
Duplex: The process of duplex is most simply defined as gluing two separate pieces of paper together. This process results in a thicker stock and gives you the ability to use letterpress without having it show through. Another thing that is great about duplexing is that you can use two different color stocks. It’s a unique process that can be a bit pricey but in the end will result in a card that people will want to keep around.
Design: Another Colour | Printing: Dolce Press
Edge Painting: Edge painting just means that the edges of the card are painted. This process can be done in a variety of colors and can also be done in foils and metallic. This is another process that will really make your cards stand out. Also, this is a process that is done after everything else. The printer will stack all the cards and weigh them down in a padding press. You then use a brayer, which is a fancy paint roller, and off you go one side at a time. The pros to this process are that you can pick any color under the sun so it’s extremely customizable. The down side is that you need a fairly thick stock – 160lb and up.
Design: Shyama Golden | Printing: Mandate Press
Offset Printing: This is most often confused with digital printing. However, it is very different, in offset the ink is transferred from a plate to a rubber blanket then onto the printing surface. This is done with four colors: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. You may recognize the breakdown, which is CMYK. The combination of these colors will make up your design. Your files must be in the CMYK color mode.
Now, the difference between the two, offset is known for having better quality than digital and you have a greater range of materials that you can print on. It can also be more expensive depending on how many you are printing. Digital offset often pays off when you are printing large quantities as they are usually more expensive on the front end.
Digital Printing: Most people know what digital printing is, it is the method of printing used with home and office printers. While the process is similar, the quality than can be achieved through a print shop is going to be leagues above your home printer. The printer will use four colors of ink which are cyan, magenta, yellow and black and will apply them all at once. Digital is a popular printing method because it is quick and cost effective. However, you are limited with paperweight because the paper has to be able to run through a set of rollers.
Design: Melissa Yeager | Printing: Moo
Silk Screen: The way basic silkscreen works is that you create a stencil on a mesh screen (typically silk) and then you run ink over that screen with a squeegee and it transfers onto the paper surface. The screens have a very long process before they get to that point. Silk Screen is similar to letterpress in that you will be working in single colors, one color per screen. One of the pros to silkscreen is that it has a very distinct look to it because the ink is on the top of the paper and it is very vibrant. Another plus about screen-printing is that you can print on top of different materials such as wood. Some of the limitations are that fine details and text can break up. Also, textured papers can be a challenge as the surface is uneven and the ink doesn’t take to it as well. Thin papers often can’t stand up to the ink which can make the paper buckle.
Design & Printing: Valkenberg & Janssen
Varnish: A varnish is applied on a press in the same way many other types of ink are applied. Typically, you are going to see gloss and matte varnishes, these will really make your colors pop. There are a few ways you can do varnishes — regular varnishes and UV. UV is applied by roller and is then exposed to UV light to polymerize and harden it while regular varnish is applied in a more traditional fashion. There are a few terms that would be useful to know if you are thinking of using this method, such as a flood varnish (which covers the entire surface) and a spot varnish (which only covers a select area). The plus side to using varnish is that it creates a fairly subtle difference that looks really great. The down side is that varnishes can yellow over the years and a flood varnish can start to peel at the edges over time.
Design: Array DesignCreative Materials: One great thing about business cards is that now they can be produced on a variety of materials such as wood, plastic, metal and fabric. For wood, the design is typically burnt directly onto the material giving it a very rustic look. When using fabric, designs can be printed or embroidered. If you opt for plastic the options are endless.
Design: Melissa Yeager | Printing: Big Secret
Pricing / Where to Find
Now that you know everything there is to know about print processes, you have to have find somewhere to print your awesome business cards! One place that we will recommend to people over and over again for digital printing is MOO (they print our office cards too!). They have been growing in popularity in the past few years and have fantastic customer service. They offer three card sizes: standard, mini and square. The quality is great and the prices aren’t too shabby either. For specialty printing we use local print shops and so should you! Supporting local businesses is a great way to bolster your local economy. We personally use Main Line Print Shop and Paper Meets Press, which are both located in Wayne, PA. If you have no idea where to find a local printer here are a few places to look.
Interested in learning more from Wonderful Machine? You can visit their website here.