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Design and Print Bold Promo Cards in 60 Minutes

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I still remember the days when you had to go to a post office to pay your bills, a travel agent to book flights and a video store to get movies. Pretty much everything seems to have moved online these days, including print services. In this tutorial I'm going to show you how incredibly easy it is to put together some promo cards using MOO.com's minicards and a couple of vectors from GraphicRiver, in fact the whole thing from idea to execution to print only took me just 60 minutes. Now that's a fast print job!

This Post is Day 9 of our Graphic Design Session. Creative Sessions

Upselling and Promotion

When you run your own freelancing business as I used to, you quickly learn that part of your job is to sell your own services. I don't know about you, but I kind of suck at selling in person. So given the choice, I'd much rather do my talking through design.

So let's say that I was still freelancing and wanted to promote my print design services - after all I'm more of a web designer than anything else. A great way to do this would be to create some little promo cards and attach them to my quotes, estimates, and other communications. I could also use them as leave-behinds when I go to meetings or present my work.


Assembling the Components

I don't want to spend too much time designing these because I (supposedly) have a freelance business to run! So let's keep it simple.

Since I'm promoting print services, I'll make four cards each one using one of the four process colours of most print work - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.

I spent a few minutes and came up with four simple catch phrases that use the word "print" which I think will be easy to represent visually:

  1. Say It In Print
  2. Think Print
  3. I Love Print
  4. Print Starts Conversations

They aren't going to win me any copywriting awards, but they'll do the job nicely.

A quick search of GraphicRiver's Vector category found me two simple vectors that will work perfectly: speech bubbles and hearts:

GraphicRiver Files

Setup the Artboard

We're going to be using MOO.com to print these promo cards and we're going to use their Mini cards product. The neat thing about Mini cards is that because they are digitally printed we can provide 100 different designs for 100 different cards and that won't cost any more than providing 1 design for 100 cards. This is as opposed to more traditional offset printing where for each print run someone would need to setup the plates and therefore trying to get 100 designs would cost a small fortune. In our case we only want 4 different designs, one for each slogan.

So from the MOO.com website I gather that the dimensions for the cards are: 28mm x 70mm

For many print jobs you also need what is called Bleed. This is just extra space on the edges of the design so that if the cutting isn't precise your design will still run to the edge. For some silly reason MOO.com doesn't mention anything about bleed, but later on it turns out that they do actually require a bit of it.

So we're going to add 5mm of bleed to each edge, that means the overall dimensions will be 38mm x 80mm (5mm on each edge = 10mm extra to the width and height each).

Create a New Document

So first I'll create a new document sized at 38mm x 80mm.

GraphicRiver Files

Add Guides for the Bleed Area

Now because I'm still using Illustrator CS3 I'll need to draw in some guides to mark off the bleed area. In Illustrator CS4 as we saw in the tutorial earlier this week you can actually specify this in Document Setup.

In any case I go to View > Show Rulers to switch them on and drag out some guides so they are 5mm away from each edge. The space in the middle is where my artwork should mostly sit since anything off in the bleed area shouldn't actually show up (unless the printer has the worst aim in history!)

GraphicRiver Files

Simple, Bold, Typographic Design

Now to make our designs. There's not much to them, so I'll walk through creating one and assume that the rest are pretty much just the same process of placing items on a page.

So to begin I've just added a rectangle to the page coloured as C:100, M:0, Y:0, K:0 - in other words in plain Cyan.

Promo Cards Process

Next I've opened up the speech bubble set in Illustrator and copied over an appropriate speech bubble. As you can see it's not quite the right size. No worries, just grab the Direct Selection Tool (A) which is the white arrow tool. As you know this tool is useful for moving points around. You can either move a single point or if you click and drag a box around a group of points you'll move them all together. In the image below you can see I've selected all the points on the right hand side, after which I just hit the left arrow a few times until the speech bubble is appropriately sized.

Promo Cards Process

After a bit of moving around I ended up with a speech bubble sitting nicely in the boundaries of my card. Note that it doesn't stray into the bleed area because that's going to get chopped off later.

Promo Cards Process

Next I just turned the speech bubble white and added some big, bold text in Gotham a nice typeface that was famously used on Obama's campaign. As you can see I've placed one word in Magenta (C:0, M:100, Y:0, K:0) and the rest in plain Black.

When you use black in print you have to decide what sort you want. In my case I've used straight black in line with my theme of using the print process colours, so it's C:0, M:0, Y:0, K:100. But to get a richer black you could add some Cyan, or all sorts of variations really.

Promo Cards Process

And here are the three other designs. With each one I've simply moved objects around so that:

  • The words are expressed graphically
  • The text is bold and nicely contrasted (e.g. blue text on magenta is a bit eye tearing while yellow on magenta is nice)
  • The little graphics are placed so that they are either centered and bold, or right-aligned with lots of empty space to make it more interesting.

Awesome, that's the design out of the way! That took no time at all, now on to the printing. So we go to MOO.com's minicards page and click Start Designing Your Mini Cards. At this point you can do lots of interesting things like use Flickr images or premade designs. Whatever, we're not interested in that stuff, we want to click Start Uploading Images so we can add our own!

Promo Cards Process

So next we see this page where MOO tells us that apparently we have to provide the images as .GIF, .PNG or .JPG. That's actually pretty strange for a printer, most take PDFs, so if you're new to printing don't expect this to be the norm.

They've also got some minimum dimensions which are pretty minimum!

Promo Cards Process

Now we're going to make our files into .PNG. To do this we'll copy them into a Photoshop document and save from there. In Illustrator there is actually a "Save for Web and Devices" option, but it always seems to make things tiny. Beats me, if anyone knows how I can skip the Photoshop steps, leave a comment!

So anyhow, we open up Photoshop and create a new document. We're making it 80mm x 38mm again, and at 300dpi so there's enough resolution to make a nice print. Remember that print is different from the screen where you can get away with just 72dpi.

Promo Cards Process

Once we've got the document set up, just copy and paste in the designs. They are the right size so should just slot in.

Promo Cards Process

And then go to File > Save for Web and Devices and choose PNG-24 from the options to create our .PNG files!

Promo Cards Process

Back at MOO we upload our four images. As you can see you could actually upload 100 different images which is actually pretty cool, but totally unnecessary in this case.

Promo Cards Process

Next MOO asks us to resize our images, we don't need to do anything. As you can see that bleed area that we added has come in handy and is in the no-print zone.

Promo Cards Process

Next we get to customize the back with a few lines of text. There isn't much room for customization here, but that's OK we'll just add a brief message for our clients to find out about print services. With a bit of judicious placement, even though it's just simple text it still looks kinda nice and clean.

Promo Cards Process

After that MOO manages to get some money off me, not too much though, 20 dollars plus shipping! And we put in an address and thanks to the magic of online printing a few days later ....

Promo Cards Process

There they are!

Promo Cards Process
Promo Cards Process

100 of these little promo cards should last ages. So all in all it cost $20 + shipping and an hour of my time. That's not half bad at all!

While MOO.com is certainly not appropriate for all types of print job, I hope this tutorial has shown that even someone with very little prepress or production skills can very quickly make some professional looking print work in the time that it takes to watch an episode of 24.

Promo Cards Process
This Post is Day 9 of our Graphic Design Session. Creative Sessions