Affinity & Print Design
Business card design is one of the staple projects of graphic designers. As soon as we’ve knocked out a fabulous logo design we stick it on a mock business card. So what do we do when that business card actually needs to go to print? In an effort to use more Affinity software over Adobe, I’m going to show you how to set up a business card for print in Affinity Publisher.
Fortunately, the process is extremely similar to how you would do it in Adobe InDesign. Basically, to a design a business card in Affinity Publisher, you set up your 3.5″ by 2″ file, with front and back pages, add text and imagery, use only CMYK colours, do a preflight checklist, then save as PDF. Here’s a more detailed tutorial on how to do that.
Step One: File Setup
Assuming you’re going to make a business card with standard dimensions, we’ll do a basic setup. Go File > New. Set the Type to Print, and select 2 pages.
On the Layout tab, set the width and height at 3.5 in and 2 in. This is the standard business card size. If you want a portrait orientation, check the Portrait box and this will flip your width and height values. Your DPI should be set to 300. If Facing Pages is checked, uncheck it. We won’t have any facing pages in a business card design, just a front and back.
On the Margins tab, set all values to 0.25 in. This part isn’t mandatory, it’s just the margin size I like to set up so there’s plenty of space from the edge. If you want a lot of extra space around the edge of your card, you could give it a margin of 0.5 in instead.
On the bleed tab, set all values to 0.125 in (1/8″). This is the industry standard, but check with your printer to be sure.
Step Two: Design The Front
Now, we can start to design the card. I’m going to stick to a pretty basic design here. While you design your card, you’re going to want to make sure everything will print properly along the way.
First, make sure to use only CMYK colours, including in linked files like logos. You can check this by going to Document > Resource Manager. Any linked files should be set to 300dpi and be in CMYK rather than RGB. Here, you can also see the Placed DPI for your images. When an image is blown up or shrunk in the document, this will indicate the new dpi of the image. For instance, if you have a 300 dpi image in your document that you enlarge too much, your image could drop to 100 dpi. This would make the image look pixelated when printed. Try to avoid going too much lower than 300dpi in your images.
For the front of the card I’m going to keep things minimal and bring in a logo design I’ve previously done. This is what will typically go on the front of the card anyway. I’m bringing in an .eps file into Affinity Publisher. You can also copy and paste from Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer, but here I wanted to make sure the design was in CMYK. After the logo is placed, I checked the colour in Document > Resource Manager. Next to colour space it should say CMYK. If not, go into the original document and make it CMYK.
Step Three: Design The Back
Since the business card doesn’t actually have any details yet, I’d better add that. This should include all the contact info like physical address, phone number, email address, and website. You can also include social media handles. Try not to make the fonts too small. Anything smaller than 7pt font is going to be hard to read. If the company the business cards are for has an older target demographic, keep the font sizes large. In the case of my business card here, the target demo is young, so I can go with a smaller font.
I’m going to use the main logo colour to fill the entire back of the card. This could effect legibility somewhat, so I’m going to use a 9pt font for the important stuff to compensate. Sometimes smaller fonts that are white on colour won’t print as nicely as black on white, so if you’re getting cards cheaply printed, you will need to allow for this.
I’ll add in the name, title, contact info and social handles. In this case, the social handle is the same on all three sites, so I don’t need to include more than one. The social media icons are .png files, entirely white. In that case the colour space won’t really matter, and is probably greyscale anyway. Since the icons aren’t vector images, dpi could be an issue. The original files are large but at 72dpi. Fortunately, they’re small enough on the card that the effective dpi is now over 5000. So we’re good.
When you’re happy with the card you can get it ready for print.
Step Four: Setting Up For Print & Preflight Checklist
Unlike Adobe InDesign, Publisher doesn’t have a separations preview or preflight tools to make sure everything is perfect. But if you pay attention to your colours, files, and fonts, you’ll be fine.
If you haven’t already been checking in with your links, go to Document > Resource Manager. Here, make sure all your colour images are in CMYK and that none of them have a placed DPI smaller than 250. You don’t want pixelated images. Here, you can also embed any of the linked images. That means that images will become part of the file itself. This will increase the file size of the document, but then you don’t have to worry about sending images along with the file if you send the working Publisher file to the printer or elsewhere. Usually just saving as a pdf is all your printer needs, but in some cases that could be different.
Check over your text. All of it. Double check you have the correct contact details, site address, and correctly spelled first and last name. Go to the website listed on the card. Go to the social sites. Make sure they go where they should. I’ve had clients forget they had an underscore in one of their social media handles and it would have been terribly inaccurate had I not checked.
Next, save the file. I’m assuming that’s not the first time you’re saving. If so, better late than never. Now the document is saved, right-click on any text in your document and click convert to curves. This eliminates any fonts in the document and leaves all text as vector data only. This means the printer won’t have any issues if you’re using a font that isn’t on their system in case they need to open the finished pdf in a vector editing program.
Now go to Document > Font Manager. There should be nothing here. If there are any fonts listed here (like in the example below) that means some of your text hasn’t been converted to curves. You can hit the Locate button to find where you missed.
Step Five: Save As PDF
Once everything is ready to go to print you’re almost done. Go to File > Export. Choose PDF (for print) and make sure that Include Bleed is checked (Since our example business card has a bleed). For area, choose All Pages, which will export both the front and the back of the business card. Then click the More… button. This will bring up a ton more options.
Unless there are specific things you want to change, just scroll to the bottom. Make sure Include Bleed is still checked, and Include Printers Marks is checked. Including the printers marks adds a whole bunch of information to the final PDF file that the printer needs. The crop marks being the most important, since these tell the printer where to cut the cards. Hit Close when that’s done. Then hit Export.
Below is what the final file looks like with all the printer marks. This is what you send to the printers. If this is the first time you’re sending this design to the printers, ask for a printed proof first. It’s good to check over what the cards will look like when they’re all printed. Often, the printer will be able to send you a PDF proof, of what the cards will look like when printed. This is a great option if there’s no time to get a physically printed proof. Still, make sure to check it over carefully before you sign off on the design.
Make sure not to save the version of your Publisher file with the fonts converted to curves. This is why we save before converting to curves. You might need to come back later and make changes so the text needs to stay editable.
Designing A Business Card in Affinity Publisher: In Summary
Designing a business card, or any print file, can take a bit of getting used to. Once you’ve done it enough, setting files up for print will become second nature. Things can get tricky when you need to do print effects like foils and spot glosses, or custom die-cuts. Just make sure to work with your printer and follow the directions they give you when creating custom effects.
Fortunately, print setup is generally the same whether you’re using Publisher, InDesign, or Quark. Hopefully Affinity Publisher will add some preflight tools soon. The software is quite new so I’m sure there will be additions are time goes on.
What desktop publishing program do you prefer to use? Let me know in the comments below. I’m definitely more used to InDesign, but Affinity Publisher is growing on me.