Engaging a printer to produce your custom business cards is a fantastic idea. The quality of the finished product will always be much better than a business card printed from a personal computer or stationary store, and most industry printing companies offer a wide assortment of quantities, card materials, and enhancement features (such as spot UV business cards). Some will even create your high-resolution, print-ready artwork for you, thereby eliminating the time and hassle of creating your own card files.
However, in order to optimize your print job, it is important to avoid or at least consider some of the potential problems that could create a less-than-perfect finished product.
Pitfall #1: Cards with Spot Colors
Accurate color reproduction is by far the most common problem seen throughout the printing industry. Most times, problems arise when a CMYK printer attempts to print a Pantone color. Pantone or spot colors are typically highly customized colors that fall outside of the normal CMYK 4-color printing process.
CMYK is a process whereby thousands of colors can be created by mixing various percentages of cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y) and black (K). Open any full color magazine and you will see CMYK printing. The vast majority of printers in the market utilize a CMYK process that is not compatible with spot colors.
Usually, whenever a CMYK business card printer attempts to print a spot color, a color shift occurs. In other words, the shade of the color might come out differently than the artwork file dictates. It might be possible to match a spot color to a CMYK color by utilizing a Pantone swatch book, but this is more of an art than a science and there is still no guarantee that the spot color will be accurately reproduced in a CMYK printing environment.
If you have a logo or some other design element that utilizes a Pantone color, attempt to locate a Pantone printer. Otherwise, you will have to recreate the logo in CMYK mode as closely as possible to the Pantone color.
Pitfall #2: Cards with Black Backgrounds
Whether you are printing a black business card or mixing black paint at the local Home Depot, black is by far the most difficult color to reproduce due to its deep, dark nature. A common problem with black cards is that they turn out gray, or that the black bleeds into other areas of the card.
This problem can be solved by following the best practice of utilizing a rich black for your cards background. Rich black incorporates other colors of the CMYK spectrum into the black color. A black background consisting of 100% black (C=0%, M=0%, Y=0%, K=100%) will almost certainly result in oversaturation and produce unexpected results.
A rich black incorporates values of C, M, and Y into the mix. To the naked eye, the black will look the same, but rich black is much more printer-friendly. The specific rich black CMYK mix varies depending on printer preference, but a good mix is C=40%, M=30%, Y=20%, and K=100%.
Pitfall #3: Business Cards with Borders
Artwork containing a border is a tricky proposition because even if the cardstock is perfectly lined up in the equipment, a slight shift could occur during the trimming process. Thus, the border may have one side larger or smaller than the others, or it might be off center on some of the cards.
Theres really not much you can do about this because this shifting possibility is an industry-accepted standard. Just realize the possibility, and if the risk of uneven borders seems too great, remove the border from your custom business card artwork.
Pitfall #4: Cramming Multiple Enhancement Features on the Same Card
Enhancement features refer to such bells and whistles as spot UV, embossing, foil stamping, scoring, perforation, and more. It is not advisable to put more than one of these options on a single card because it puts too much stress on the cardstock.
You should only consider multiple enhancements with thick cardstock (15pt or higher). However, no matter how thick the cards are, the possibility for flaws is still high. Spot UV could crack, foil could flake, or embossing could show up unclear, among other possible problems. Your best bet is to stick with a single enhancement like spot UV business cards.
Pitfall #5: Hidden File Problems
Whenever you submit your files to the printer, pay careful attention to their file specifications. Many business card printers will check your files to ensure they are in-spec prior to production, but its not a good idea to rely on this because you just never know.
Hidden problems include things such as transparencies, overprint, and embedded fonts. Transparencies are basically layers in your file that could cause unexpected results. Always flatten your files. Also, always turn off overprint, and outline any and all embedded fonts to ensure they are not converted to an unwanted default font during production.
Hiring a business card printer for your custom business cards is an excellent idea, but occasionally printing problems could occur. By following the advice in this article, you can eliminate 99% of these potential problems.
When in doubt, ask your printing company for specific advice, especially if you are printing spot UV business cards or some other enhanced product. Most printers are highly accommodating, and are more than willing to provide advice to avoid problems down the road.