Date posted 10 March 2015

Those who have dabbled with desk top publishing, have a knowledge of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get), and are familiar with graphics and fonts, know how difficult it is to combine these elements together to design an outstanding business card. Only a professional artist, with years of experience could envision a layout that contained all the requisite elements, had a pleasing colour combination, yet left enough white space on the card. Including a half point curved edge border placed 2mm away from the edge of the card gave it a sober look.

Printing visiting cards in the past

Visiting cards have been around for ages. Letterpress machines were used to print visiting cards before the advent of computers and desk top publishing software. However, it used to take a lot of time from the conception process, visualising the colour (the first generation computers had monochrome screens), taking a printout of the artwork, colour it manually, and getting the layout approved by the client. After this, the designer used to get a single card printed, checked it to ensure that the printed matter appeared on the correct spot on the card, and make necessary corrections before approving the printing process. The printing process too graduated from letterpress to silkscreen. Printing halftones were a nightmare for printers during this era. All these processes used to take a lot of time. On a typical basis, it used to take 15 days from the time the order was placed to the time the client received the cards. The arrival of colour screens speeded up the designing and approval process, but the printing task remained a bottleneck.

The advent of online printing

The advent of the internet and the arrival of online printing shops have removed all headaches and time delays associated with designing and printing. Ordering business cards online has become so easy that even a novice, using the help of ready to use templates, can complete the designing process in less than 15 minutes. The client gets the card within three business days after completing the layout and making the payment. He can choose from a wide range of cards of different GSMs (grams per square meter... thicker cards have a higher GSM than their thinner counterparts), different finishes like glossy or matte, and much more. Since the cards are printed on digital printing machines, there is hardly any scope for errors creeping in. Calibrating the monitor ensures that the colour of the printed card is just the same as it was displayed on the monitor. Does this ring the death knell for traditional artists? Does this mean that anybody with access to the internet can become a professional visiting card designer? No! There are many aspects, which only a professional designer can understand.

Understanding jargons like CYMK

How many individuals know that the acronym CYMK means Cyan, Yellow, Magenta, and Black? How many people have knowledge about hue and saturation? Most people do not know the difference between serif and sans serif fonts and the role they play in designing an outstanding business card. A simple term like bleeding has one meaning in the healthcare industry and a different meaning in the printing industry. The latter signifies that the background colour should spill over the trimming guidelines of the card. The professionals of the online printing store are aware about these things. However, they cannot implement it unless specified.

For further reading see our help topics on
Understanding colour

Understanding printers bleed

Interaction between professionals

This is where a qualified designer makes his presence felt. They can understand the exact requirements of the client and convey that to the printer in a language that only professionals understand. A professional designer also knows the correct colour and type combination to use in business cards for local companies that manufacture toys or for executives of multinational giants. They experiment a lot. You will be surprised to know that they have successfully used materials as diverse as mica and sandalwood instead of stock board for business cards used by executives of mica mining companies and companies that sell hand crafted goods made of sandalwood. Obviously, you should not expect such cards from online stores. However, you can order embossed, engraved, and laminated cards from online printing stores.


Embossing is the process of creating raised designs and images on the card. Although it is possible to achieve an illusion of this process by including drop shadows, set at a certain angle beside the text or image, it can never replace physical embossing. This is vital for printing cards for visually impaired persons, which requires usage of Braille characters. In the silkscreen process, the printer mixes a special chemical with the pigment. After the printing process is over, the printer places the on a wire mesh and passes them through a heat chamber. This causes the chemically treated pigment to swell. Digital printers use a manually or automatic machine with a metal die mounted on it to upraise parts of the business card. This is a precision process where a customised die head has to be aligned perfectly so that it only raises a particular section of the card. The die presses the card from the rear.


This is the opposite of the embossing process that is too costly for the silkscreen process (the sole option is to emboss the remaining part of the card to depress the area to be engraved). In other processes, the same procedure as outlined above is used. The only difference is that the die presses the card from the front.


In this process, the printer places the card between two sheets of clear vinyl. The card then traverses via a series of rollers that pull the card, insert it inside the machine where heat fuses the vinyl on the card, and then pushes it out of the machine. This process is employed for identity cards.

Do it yourself

If you want a simple card sans embossing, laminating, or engraving, you might consider ordering business cards online. Log on to the online printer's website, choose a template, edit the text & colour combinations, upload your logo and position it on the card. When you are satisfied, click on the button that takes you to the payment gateway, input your street address and your contact number, pay the amount via credit card, and click on the submit button. You will receive the card in a few days via courier. It is a wise idea to visit a number of online stores before finalising the deal because many of them provide special discounts on their other products. Certain printers also offer free delivery on bulk orders. A few of them offer 20-50 cards free as long as you pay the shipping and handling costs.