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Create a Die-Cut Business Card for a Local Client in Adobe InDesign

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Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

A business card is a great starting point for a small business - it helps to reach customers directly and personable, and condenses the business’ brand identity into a small, efficient print space. The designer’s challenge is to condense the business’ identity and contact details while resisting the urge to cram!

Stick to the three Golden Rules of business card design I laid down in a previous tutorial for creating your own self-promotional cards. These rules also apply to cards you might design for a client. First, keep your design minimal; second, make the text legible; and third, always keep the appropriate audience in mind - who will read the card, and what will entice them to contact the business?

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how you can create die-cut cards with simple shapes that stray from the usual sharp-cornered rectangular shape. Design touches like this can transform your business card into something that will be treasured, not discarded, by a customer. After all, if the business cared this much about the look of their cards, they must be a business worth contacting!

Here, I put together example cards for two fictional small businesses, a bike shop and a café. We’ll put them together in InDesign but I will hop over to Illustrator to demonstrate how to create some of the artwork.

1. Set up the Template for Your Business Card

Step 1

Open InDesign and select File > New Document. In the New Document window set the Intent to Print and set the No. of Pages to 2. Deselect Facing Pages. Under Page Size select Custom... from the drop-down menu to open the Custom Page Size window. Under name type ‘Business Card’ and set the Width to 84 mm and Height to 55 mm. This is a standard card size for some popular online card printers and is generous enough to give your design some space. Click Add, and then OK

In this first example, we’ll be creating a portrait-oriented design, so switch the pages to portrait by clicking the Portrait Orientation icon.

Set the Margins on all sides to 5 mm. Set the Bleed all round to a generous 4 mm

Click OK.

2. Create an Engaging Business Card for a Bicycle Shop!

Step 1

Firstly, we’re going to set up a die line for cutting rounded corners around the card.

Click on the Layers panel (Window > Layers) to open it and click on the Create New Layer icon at the bottom of the panel. Double-Click the ‘Layer 2’ name to open a new window, and rename this layer ‘Die Line’, click OK. For now, lockLayer 1’ by clicking into the blank space to the right of the eye icon.

With the ‘Die Line’ layer selected, and Page 1 of the document up on screen, go to the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a new frame 55 mm in Width and 84 mm in Height

Go to Object > Corner Options to open the Corner Options window. Set the Shape to Rounded on all sides and the Size to 4.233 mm on all sides. Click OK.

With the frame selected, set the Fill to [None] and create a New Swatch in the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches) with a 100% Magenta value. Set the Stroke Color to this new Swatch, and the Weight to 0.25 pt.

Double-click the Magenta Swatch in the Swatches panel to bring up the window again. Set the Color Type to Spot and rename the swatch ‘Die Line Spot Color’. Click OK.

Step 2

As a final measure to create the die line, go to Window > Output > Attributes and check the box that says Overprint Stroke

You should Edit > Copy > Paste in Place the frame onto Page 2 of the document in the same Layer.

As with any product designed for die cutting, you should always talk with your printer before setting up the die line, and check their preferences.

Step 3

Lock the 'Die Line' layer and Unlock 'Layer 1'. For now, you can switch off visibility for the Die Line layer to better see your final card design. Just remember to switch it back on before you export for print.

With 'Layer 1' selected and Page 1 still up on screen, use the Rectangle Tool (M) to create a new frame 55 mm in Width and 84 mm in Height, as before. Set the Stroke to [None] and introduce a new CMYK Swatch for the Fill: C=69, M=15, Y=3, K=0. Double-click the Swatch and rename it as ‘Business Card Blue’. 

With the frame selected, go to Edit > Copy and, with Page 2 up on screen, Paste in Place.

Step 4

Return to Page 1 - this will be the FRONT of the business card.

Select the blue frame and Edit > Copy > Paste. Set the Fill Color to [None] and the Stroke Color to [Paper]. Readjust the proportions of the frame to fit within the margins, Width 45 mm, Height 74 mm

Open the Stroke panel by going to Window > Stroke. Set the Weight to 0.25 mm and Type to Japanese Dots.

Step 5

Use the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) to create an image frame around 28 mm in Width and 20 mm in Height. Go to File > Place and select a suitable vector image to insert. Here, I’ve created a simple Illustrator line vector in white CMYK, with a transparent background. An EPS file would also be suitable.

Click Open. Use the Fill Frame Proportionally icon in the top control panel to adjust the size of the image until you are happy with the result.

Step 6

Select a typeface to use on your business card. This could be the client’s brand face, or if they don’t already have one, choose a font that both reflects the general ‘feel’ of the business and is legible at small-scale. An all-caps font might be a good choice to make the text stand-out. Here, I’ve used Mohave, a quirky typeface with impact.

Step 7

Remaining on Page 1 of the InDesign document, introduce a text frame using the Type Tool (T) 45 mm in Width and 26 mm in Height. Position this below the image, at around Y position 42 mm.

Type ‘Joe’s (paragraph break) Bike (paragraph break) Shed’, set the Font to Mohave SemiBold, Font Color to [Paper] and Align Center. You can play around with the sizing and leading of the lines of text to line them up precisely. Here, I highlighted ‘Joe’s’ alone, and set the Size to 24 pt; I then set the Size of ‘Bike’ to 29 pt with Leading of 27 pt. I set ‘Shed’ to a Size of 27 pt and Leading to 24 pt

Finally, I introduced a new CMYK Swatch (Window > Swatches > New Swatch) which I renamed ‘Business Card Orange’, and set the values to C=0, M=56, Y=95, K=0. I set the Font Color of ‘Bike’ alone to ‘Business Card Orange’.

Step 8

For a final touch on the front of the card use the Line Tool (\) to introduce a horizontal stroke (hold down Shift to keep it straight) 30 mm in Length. Position this centrally between the image and the text frame.

With the line selected set the Stroke Color to [Paper]. Go to the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke), set the Weight to 0.2 mm, Type to Japanese Dots and the Start and End to Circle

Great - the front of the card is looking lovely! Now for the back...

Step 9

Double-click the Page 2 icon in the Pages panel to bring up Page 2 on screen. This will be the REVERSE of the card.

Go to View > Rotate Spread > Rotate 90⁰ CCW to switch the view of the card. We will lay the reverse of the card out as a Landscape design.

Step 10

Go to Page 1 and select the dotted frame that sits on the margins. Go to Edit > Copy and return to Page 1. Edit > Paste in Place. Right-click (PC) or Ctrl-Click (Mac) and Transform > Rotate 90⁰ CCW. Set the Fill Color to ‘Business Card Orange’.

Create a new image frame using the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) 24 mm in Width and 16 mm in Height. Position this in the top left corner of the orange frame, allowing for a 5 mm margin between the image and the edge of the frame. Go to File > Place and select the same vector image as before. Arrange the proportions and Right-click (PC) or Ctrl-Click (Mac) and Transform > Flip Horizontal to face the image in the opposite direction.

With the image frame selected, Edit > Copy > Edit > Paste and Right-click (PC) or Ctrl-Click (Mac) and Transform > Flip Horizontal. Position this in the bottom right-hand corner of the orange frame allowing for  a 5 mm margin, as before.

Step 11

Use the Line Tool (\) and hold down Shift to create a horizontal stroke 49 mm in Length. Position the right edge of this line against the right-hand edge of the orange frame, meeting at the back of the bike’s wheel, and set the Stroke Color to [Paper]. Go to the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke) and set the Weight to 0.2 mm and Type to Japanese Dots.

Select the Stroke and Edit > Copy > Edit > Paste. Position this second stroke against the left-hand edge of the orange frame, meeting the left-edge of the lower image.

Step 12

Introduce a new text frame using the Type Tool (T) 33 mm in Width and 7.5 mm in Height. Type ‘Contact Name (paragraph break) Website Address’ and set the Font Color to [Paper], Font to Mohave Regular, Size 10 pt, Leading 12 pt and set the text to Align Right. Highlight the central part of the 'Website Address' and set the Font Weight to Bold.

Position the frame on the top right-hand of the orange frame, sitting about 5 mm above the lower image frame.

Step 13

Introduce a second text frame with dimensions as above, in Step 12. Position this in the lower left-hand section of the orange frame, allowing a 5 mm gap between the text frame and the bottom dotted line.

Edit the text to ‘Telephone Number (paragraph break) Email Address’ and set the text to Align Left. Highlight any details you’d like to ‘pop’ by setting the Font Weight to Bold.

Awesome work! Your business card for the Bicycle Shop is complete, and it’s looking great. Skip to the bottom of the tutorial to read how to export this for print.

3. Design a Unique and Eye-Catching Business Card for a Café!

Step 1


Select File > New Document. In the New Document window set the Intent to Print and set the No. of Pages to 2. Deselect Facing Pages. Under Page Size select ‘Business Card’ from the drop-down menu, but edit the Height to 55 mm so that the pages are square. 

Set the Margins on all sides to 5 mm. Set the Bleed all round to 4 mm. Click OK.

Step 2

As in the Bicycle Shop card, we’re also going to create a die line in order to create a circular business card. This will work well in conjunction with a coffee cup design.

Go to the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and click on the Create New Layer icon at the bottom of the panel. Double-Click the ‘Layer 2’ name to open a new window, and rename this layer ‘Die Line’, click OK. For now, lockLayer 1’ by clicking into the blank space to the right of the eye icon.

With the ‘Die Line’ layer selected, and Page 1 of the document up on screen, use the Ellipse Tool (L) to create a new frame 55 mm in Diameter (hold down Shift to create a perfect circle). Position this in the center of Page 1.

With the frame selected, set the Fill to [None] and create a New Swatch in the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches) with a 100% Magenta value. Set the Stroke Color to this new Swatch, and the Weight to 0.25 pt.

Double-click the Magenta Swatch in the Swatches panel to bring up the window again. Set the Color Type to Spot and rename the swatch ‘Die Line Spot Color’. Click OK.

Step 3

Again, as with the first example card, with the circle frame selected go to Window > Output > Attributes and check the box that says Overprint Stroke

You should Edit > Copy > Paste in Place the frame onto Page 2 of the document in the same Layer.

Again to emphasise, as with any product designed for die cutting, you should always talk with your printer before setting up the die line, and check their preferences before you proceed with your design.

Step 4

Lock the 'Die Line' layer and Unlock 'Layer 1'. For now, you can switch off visibility for the 'Die Line' layer to better see your final card design. Just remember to switch it back on before you export for print.

With 'Layer 1' selected and Page 1 still up on screen, use the Ellipse Tool (L) to create a new frame 55 mm in Diameter, as before. Set the Stroke to [None] and introduce a new CMYK Swatch for the Fill: C=0, M=0, Y=13, K=0. Double-click the Swatch and rename it as ‘Business Card Cream’. 

With the frame selected, go to Edit > Copy and, with Page 2 up on screen, Paste in Place.

Step 5

Return to Page 1 - this will be the FRONT of the business card.

Use the Ellipse Tool (L) and hold Shift to create a circle frame 50 mm in Diameter. Center this on Page 1. Go to the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches) and click New Swatch at the bottom of the panel. Create a new CMYK Swatch, values C=1, M=48, Y=81, K=28 and rename this ‘Business Card Coffee’.

With the new frame selected, set the Stroke Color to [Paper], and open the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke) to set the Stroke Weight to 0.5 mm and the Type to Thick - Thin. Select the frame and Edit > Copy. Go to Page 2 of the document and Edit > Paste in Place.

Step 6

Return to Page 1 of the document. Here I’m going to introduce a vector graphic to create the illusion of a Flat White coffee on the business card. 

In Illustrator I created a simple graphic with a Black Fill and Stroke, and 100% Opacity. Then go to Edit > Copy. Return to InDesign and to Page 1 of the document. Go to Edit > Paste. The graphic is pasted directly (without an image frame) into the InDesign document. 

With the vector image selected, change the Fill from Black to ‘Business Card Cream’. Go to Object > Effects > Transparency... and set the Opacity to 75%. Click OK.

The front of your card is looking great - let’s tweak the reverse...

Step 7

Select the vector graphic and Edit > Copy. Go to Page 2 by clicking the Page 2 icon in the Pages panel (Window > Pages) and Edit > Paste in Place. Go to Object > Effects > Transparency...; set the Mode to Soft Light and reduce the Opacity to 40%. Click OK.

Step 8

Select a typeface for the card that has, as in the first example, relevance to the brand identity of the business as well as legibility. Here I’ve chosen a really nice typeface with a vintage feel, Kraftstoff.

Use the Type Tool (T) to create a text frame 28 mm in Height and 32 mm in Width. Type ‘Business Name (paragraph break x2) Address Line 1 (paragraph break) Address Line 2 (paragraph break x2) Website address (paragraph break) Telephone Number’. 

Highlight all the text and set the Font to Kraftstoff Regular, and Align Center

Highlight the ‘Business Name’ alone and set the Size to 22 pt, Leading to 11 pt and Font Color to [Paper]. Highlight the two lines of the ‘Address’ and set the Size to 13 pt, Leading 11 pt and Color to ‘Business Card Cream’. Highlight the last two lines of the text, the ‘Website’ and ‘Telephone Number’ and set the Size to 11 pt, Leading to 12 pt and Color to ‘Business Card Cream’. Highlight the ‘www’ and ‘.com’ of the website address separately and set the Font Size to 9 pt.

Step 9

As a final touch on the reverse of the card, introduce a horizontal stroke using the Line Tool (\) (hold Shift to keep it straight) 25 mm in Length. Set the Stroke Color to ‘Business Card Cream’ and position the line centrally beneath the ‘Business Name’.

In the Stroke Panel (Window > Stroke) set the Weight to 0.5 mm and the Type to Left Slant Hash.

Great work - your card is finished! Read on to learn how to export it for print...

4. Export Your Business Card Design for Print

Step 1

Remember the die line layers we set up earlier? It’s time to switch their visibility on. Go to the Layers panel and click in the far left box next to the ‘Die Line’ layer to make the Eye icon appear. You can Unlock the 'Die Line' layer too. Ensure again that the Overprint Stroke option in the Attributes panel is checked for each instance of the die line.

Step 2

Go to File > Export... to open the Export window. Select Adobe PDF (Print) from the Format drop-down menu. Name the file and click Save.

In the Export Adobe PDF window select [PDF/X-1a:2001] from the Adobe PDF Preset drop-down menu, and keep Pages selected. 

Under the Marks and Bleeds section, click to select All Printer’s Marks under the Marks menu and click to select Use Document Bleed Settings under the Bleed and Slug menu. Click Export.

Congratulations! 

You now have your business card ready to be sent to the printers. 

Make sure to instruct the printer regarding your die line and to specify a minimum paper weight of 350 gsm (maximum weight of 600 gsm) for an optimum printed result.

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