Printing Business Card in Illustrator

I want to create a business card in Illustrator to be sent to a printer. Any good tutorials?

All I know is 300dpi and CMYK. What else? Do I need to convert all text into paths or shapes? How do I know if the printer will use “2-color spot press” or “4 color spot press” (I think that is what they call it)? I thought 4 color will cost more. But how come the online print shops doesn’t specify a different cost?

How do I check if my design can be done in 2 colors in Illustrator? Do I give printer the AI file or the EPS? Will a printer print me one card as a sample, before I print hundreds? Or is that just too cost inefficient for them to do?

I use

There may be tutorials on how to set up your business card sizes in Illustrator (search for “business card template” and you will find a lot you can use). As for designing the card itself, that’s all dependant on you. Maybe take a look at some other cards and see what you like / don’t like? There are a lot of “Best of Business Card” books out there that you could probably browse at your local bookstore.

It would probably be easiest if you convert your text to paths. Depending on the format you provide them (see below) you may not need to worry about it, but for the most part I try to convert them just to be on the safe side.

If you are looking at the online shops for business cards most of them just have full 4-color as an option. 2-color is available more often at the local shops. The online places that are just looking to get you to to order with them aren’t going to worry about how many colors. Usually people want full color so they won’t limit their best prices on only 2 colors.

That’s easy … look at your colors you have in your card and see how many are there. Make note, black IS a color. So if you have a certain color and then black as the only 2 colors in your design, then it can be printed in 2 colors … otherwise you’ll want 4-color.

That will depend on what the printer wants. Check their FAQ or call them to see what they prefer. Most of the time it’s either a PDF or EPS file they prefer. Some will work with original AI files, but because of the different versions out there it’s best to just provide a PDF/EPS to ensure it shows up the same. By providing a PDF file you also can embed the fonts if you don’t convert them to paths (as I noted above).

Most will provide you with a proof that you can view … but it is going to cost you for it. Most online shops will only do digital proofs included in the price. If you want to see it actually printed first, then you’ll need to request a proof and pay for it (plus shipping usually as well). So really it all depends on how important it is to see before they print.

Now a lot of this changes when you are dealing with a local printhouse versus the online shops. Local ones are usually more “customer friendly” meaning they will provide you a proof to look at, give you deals on colors, paper, etc.

So it’s all on what you are comfortable with.

Hi Guys,

I have a few things to add to that (very helpful) reply.

1 | You have two options for printing your cards, in terms of output: Digital and Offset. Digital printers can print for you with very quick turnaround, because they essentially just run your file from a computer. Offset printers need to make photographic plates and then load them into their printing presses before they can run your job.

Digital is fast and inexpensive at smaller runs (in the hundreds). Offset is slower but offers much better value for large runs (in the thousands). Your best bet is to get prices from both digital and offset providers. And I would try for a local place, where you can go in and talk with them in person. It’s a better bet.

2 | 2 colour is only cheaper than 4 colour in some cases. Spot colour refers to pre-mixed inks, such as in the Pantone matching system. These colours are more expensive than the 4 standard Process inks, C-M-Y-K. In some cases, using 2 Pantone colours may be cheaper than using CMYK. Using 1 Pantone, plus white, is definitely cheaper.

While many Digital shops can make use of Spot colours, you probably won’t get the same value for using fewer inks than you would at an Offset provider. Talk with your providers to find out what the price differences might be like.

3 | Illustrator will indicate which colours you’ve used in the Print Dialog. Unless you’ve specifically made use of a Spot Colour Library in your layout, you will likely just have a combination of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black; CMYK, no matter how many actual colours you see on the screen. To check, follow this path within Illustrator:

FILE > PRINT, then select the OUTPUT option at the left. Your inks will be displayed at the bottom of the window.

If you think you can pull off a 1 or 2 colour job, then talk to your service provider and they’ll help you set it all up.

Printing can be complicated, so I always go local – establish human contact and you’ll avoid (sometimes costly) mistakes.


Thanks for the great info. So it looks like I want to do digital 4-color process. Because I had placed a background photograph on the card. The text sits on top of a white rectangle which is semi-tranparant so that you can see through to part of the background image. There is a Flatten Tranparancy dialog, do I need to do anthing there? Also what font size do you typically use for like email and phone. 10pt? 12pt?

I reckon in the almost 4 years since this thread was started that the OP has the answer.

Thread Closed.