You’ll learn how to prepare a business card for printing in Adobe InDesign, and how to import graphics, color swatches and text from an outside program. We’ll also look at ways of keeping your brand ‘look’ consistent as you create different designs for your business card.
For this tutorial, which is suitable for beginners, you’ll need to have access to Adobe InDesign; and we’ll also be dipping into Adobe Illustrator to edit vector graphics.
Let’s get started!
1. A Note on Branding...
Branding is an essential tool for giving your company or organization an instantly recognizable identity, and can also set the tone for the group, communicating how you want to appear to clients and the competition.
Are you a formal company that deals with high-end clients, or a free-and-easy start-up that wants to attract a young, hip customer base? The colors, fonts and logo you use will help convey your identity and niche in the market. Branding is a visual way of communicating a group’s ethos and ambitions, and as a result it’s an incredibly important part of establishing a business.
That being said, branding can also be really fun and creative! Creating a brand identity is a hugely rewarding aspect of working in design, and judging how to take the brand forward and extend the identity across other materials—such as stationery, social media and websites—is a fun, relaxing process, as you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you create something for the company.
In this tutorial, we’ll walk through the steps of creating a business card for the Design & Illustration team here at Tuts+, known affectionately as ‘Team Awesome’, and re-assert the Team Awesome brand identity as we go, by using the brand colors and logo.
With so many printing companies now offering multiple card designs printed in single print runs, we’ll also create a couple of alternative business card layouts that still fit within the Team’s brand guidelines.
2. Set Up the Layout of the Card in InDesign
Open up Adobe InDesign and select New > Document from the Welcome window, or hop up to the File menu and select New > Document.
In the New Document window that opens, keep the Intent set to Print. Up the Number of Pages to 2 and uncheck the box next to Facing Pages.
From the Page Size drop-down menu, select US Business Card, which is one of the default size options included in InDesign, or alternatively you can manually set the Width to 88.9 mm and the Height to 50.8 mm.
Set the Margins on all sides to 2 mm, and include a Bleed of 3 mm on all sides of the page.
Click OK to create your new two-page document.
3. Create a Swatch Library for the Brand
Open up Adobe Illustrator and the completed logo for the Team Awesome brand. Check out this tutorial on how to create the logo and vectorize it in Illustrator.
With the logo up on screen in Illustrator, first release any clipping masks or ungroup elements by Right-Clicking (Windows) or Control-Clicking (Mac OS) and selecting Release Clipping Mask or Ungroup.
Select the lighter red elements of the logo, and open up the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches). Click the New Swatch button at the bottom of the panel to open up the red swatch in the New Swatch window. Rename the swatch as ‘Team Awesome Red’ and click OK.
Select the darker red element of the logo and click the New Swatch button again. Rename the swatch as ‘Team Awesome Dark Red’ and hit OK.
Hold down Shift and select both the red swatches in the Swatches panel. Go to the Swatches panel’s drop-down menu and select Save Swatch Library as ASE (Adobe Swatch Exchange).
In the window that opens, choose a sensible place to save the ASE file, and name the file ‘Team Awesome Brand Colors’. Hit Save.
Return to your InDesign document, and open up the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches).
From the panel’s drop-down menu, select Load Swatches. Navigate to your ASE file and click Open.
The two red swatches will load into your list of swatches. Great work!
Take the Rectangle Tool (M) from the Tools panel and drag to create a rectangle that extends across the whole of the first page of your document, reaching up to the edge of the bleed on all sides. From the Swatches panel, set the Fill Color to Team Awesome Red and the Stroke Color to [None].
Select the rectangle and Edit > Copy. Scroll down to Page 2 and select Edit > Paste in Place. Adjust the Fill Color to [Paper].
4. Build Up Graphics on the Card Design
Expand the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and double-click the default Layer 1 name to open the Layer Options window. Rename the layer as Color and click OK.
Lock the layer by clicking in the blank square to the left of the layer’s name. From the Layers panel’s drop-down menu, select New Layer.
Rename the new layer as Border and click OK.
Create a third and final layer, and rename it as Typography. You now have a sequence of three layers: Color, then Border, and finally Typography.
Lock the top layer, Typography, and click on the Border layer to activate it.
Remaining on Page 1 of your document, select the Rectangle Tool (M) and drag to create a rectangle that sits on the margin of the page on all sides.
Set the Stroke Color of the rectangle to [Paper] and the Fill Color to [None]. Open up the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke) and, from here, reduce the Stroke Weight to 0.25 mm and the Type to Japanese Dots.
For the business cards, we want to create a contemporary, flat design, so we won’t need to use the complete 3D version of the logo—a simplified version of it will work really well on the cards. It’s a good tip to keep business card designs simple and striking—complicated graphics that might look great at larger scale can lose their impact at a much smaller size.
Return to Illustrator and the vector logo. With the logo artwork up on screen, select just the white fill of the text (Right-Click or Control-Click > Release Clipping Mask to easily select just the white section of the logo on its own) and go to Edit > Copy.
Return to InDesign and Lock the Border layer. Unlock and activate the top layer, Typography.
Go to Edit > Paste to paste the vector logo directly into the InDesign document. Hold Shift to resize it until it’s about 80 mm in Width. Position at the top left of Page 1, as shown below.
Select the logo you’ve pasted onto Page 1 and Edit > Copy. Edit > Paste in Place onto Page 2.
Adjust the Fill Color of the logo to Team Awesome Dark Red.
Let’s switch this page, which will be the reverse side of the card, to a portrait layout. Select the Page Tool (Shift-P) from the Tools panel and click on Page 2 to select the page with the tool.
Choose Scale from the drop-down menu that appears at the top of the workspace in the Controls panel.
Manually type 50.8 mm into the Width text box in the Controls panel.
InDesign will shrink the width of the page, and scale the size of the logo with it.
Now choose Off from the Page Tool’s drop-down menu.
Manually adjust the Height of the page to 88.9 mm. Hit V on the keyboard to activate the Selection Tool and deselect the Page Tool.
Unlock the Color layer and adjust the size of the [Paper] rectangle to fit the page. Then return to the Layers panel and Lock the Color layer.
Head back up to Page 1 of the document, which is going to be the front of the business card. Lock the Typography layer and Unlock the Border layer.
Then, take the Scissors Tool (C) and zoom in on the top left corner of the page, where the logo crosses the dotted border. Snip the dotted border at points where the logo meets the border, so that the border appears to disappear seamlessly when it reaches about 5 mm from the edges of the logo.
Select the snipped parts and delete them.
Lock the Border layer and Unlock the Typography layer.
5. Import Your Contact Details
Let’s first add an individual’s email address to the front of the business card. If you’d like, you could also drop in a phone number.
Remaining on Page 1 and the Typography layer, select the Type Tool (T) and drag to create a long, narrow text frame. Position at the bottom right corner of the card, as shown below.
We’re going to use a clean, modern font for the text on the cards. Download the free font Picadilly, install it and return to InDesign.
Type ‘Email Address’ into the text frame you just created, and set the Font to Picadilly, Size 8pt, Align Right and Font Color to [Paper]. Pull out the first part of the email address in a Bold Weight.
Move down to Page 2 of the InDesign document. Take the Type Tool (T) and drag to create a text frame about 43 mm in Width and 33 mm in Height. Position centrally, on the lower half of the page.
You can choose either to enter contact details manually, or to import text from a Word file. InDesign works best with imported Microsoft Word documents, so if you’ve been working in Mac Pages, make sure to export your file to a Word format.
To import a Word file, like the one I’ve prepared here, place your Type cursor in the text frame on Page 2 of the InDesign document, and then go to File > Place.
Navigate to your saved Word document. Make sure Show Import Options is checked at the bottom of the window. Then click Open.
In the Import Options window that opens, make sure you check the option that says Remove Styles and Formatting from Text and Tables. This will just bring in the text content, without any formatting. Click OK.
Format the text in InDesign by setting the Font to Picadilly, Size 8.5 pt, Leading 12 pt, Align Center and Font Color to Team Awesome Dark Red for the individual’s name, and [Black] for the remaining text.
You can repeat the process for other members of Team Awesome! Simply set up the contact details of the individual in a Word file, and then File > Place the Word file in InDesign.
Format the text to match.
6. Preparing Your Business Card for Print
Now that you have your basic card layout prepared, you can choose to be a bit more experimental with colorways, and create a few different designs which will make your cards really special.
To keep the branding looking consistent, try to change just one element for each new design. Here, I’ve switched up the color, setting the front logo in Team Awesome Red, on a white background, with a colored reverse side.
For a simplified version of the card that looks minimal and sleek, try just setting the type in black. And why not introduce the Team Awesome mascot, for a quirky touch? Check out how to create the team mascot with Monika Zagrobelna’s fantastic tutorial.
Once you’ve finalised the artwork for your designs, you’re ready to prepare the InDesign document as a print-ready file, perfect for sending straight to the printers...
In InDesign, first Preflight your document (Window > Output > Preflight) to check for any technical errors. Then head up to File > Export.
Choose Adobe PDF (Print) from the Format drop-down menu at the bottom of the Export window, and click Save.
In the Export Adobe PDF window that opens, choose [Press Quality] from the Adobe PDF Preset drop-down menu at the top of the window.
From the left-hand menu in the window, click on Marks and Bleeds, and check the box that reads All Printer’s Marks. Also check Use Document Bleed Settings at the bottom of the window.
Click on the Export button to create your print-ready PDF file. Ta-dah!
Great work! Your business cards are now ready to send straight to the printers!
In this tutorial we’ve looked at how you can extend an existing brand identity (logo and colors) across print materials, and create business cards that are simple and striking.
You should now feel confident in:
- Creating a simple business card layout in Adobe InDesign
- Creating a color swatch library and sharing it between software programs
- Importing graphics and text from sources outside InDesign
- Keeping a brand look consistent across different business card designs
- Exporting your business cards to a high-resolution, print-ready format
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