When it comes to business cards, there are two options for getting them made – going to a print shop either in person or online, or doing it yourself at home. The biggest disadvantage to using a print shop is that there is usually a minimum order, typically at around 100 cards.
If you’re a freelancer in Japan like myself, this can seem like overkill. Plus, what if you want to change the design later down the line? You’ll be stuck with a bunch of cards that will have become useless!
Working as a graphic designer, I decided to make my own business cards to give out to potential clients. One thing was certain though – I wanted a full bleed design! In this article, I’m going to talk about the various methods on how to achieve this.
Full bleed is printing from one edge of the paper to the other without the standard borders by which most personal printers are limited. This is useful for printing brochures, posters, and other marketing materials.Definition of “full bleed” taken from Wikipedia
Finding the Right Kind of Paper
|🇯🇵 Japan||55 mm x 91 mm|
|🇺🇸 United States||51 mm x 89 mm|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||55 mm x 85 mm|
Business cards in Japan measure at 55 mm x 91 mm, differing from US and UK sizes at 51 mm x 89 mm and 55 x 85 mm respectively. If you already have a design made according to another country’s measurements, most likely you will have to make some adjustments.
Moving onto the types of paper available, these can range all the way from cheap-and-cheerful 100-yen shop paper, all the way up to luxury papers with translucency and more.
Another thing you will need to consider is how many you get per page. 10 is typical, however there are some with 8, which allow for full bleed printing!
If your printer supports it, an alternative is printing directly onto single cards. Of course, not all printers support this, most notably the majority of laser printers. I’m going to compare these options below.
You may be wondering: what’s wrong with printing onto the standard 10 per page cards? The biggest problem that occurs with using these types of cards is that there is no margin (white space) between cards, meaning that if there is even the tiniest of misalignment, you will see it reproduced as the design overflowing into places you don’t want it to!
Full-Bleed option 1: 8 Cards per Page
The first option I’m going to explore is printing onto sheets of perforated paper with 8 cards per page. The biggest advantage to this method is that almost all printers support this, as it’s essentially the same as printing onto a sheet of A4 card. If your printer doesn’t support card stock however you’re out of luck!
One thing I noticed while looking for paper to use was how few of these were available. Go to your typical electronics store and the majority of places will only stock sheets with 10 per page, which is unsuitable for full-bleed designs as I mentioned before.
You will have to look out for ones that allow for double sided printing as well – some designs give you a nice clean edge, however this is at a sacrifice of the back side requiring a white border. If you are fine with single-sided cards though, clean edge type cards could be an option.
I went with these cards from ELECOM.
And here’s what they look like when I printed them out.
The texture of the cards feels high quality, with text sharp and colours vibrant. The only thing that I didn’t like however were the edges. Pull your finger over it and you’ll feel a “zig-zag” pattern, which cheapens the feel somewhat. One solution to this is using – guess what – a nail file(!!) to smoothen down the edges if it really bothers you.
For these particular cards, ELECOM provides an online tool for laying out your design to prepare for printing. I prefer using Illustrator though – you can download the template I made below!
Full-Bleed Option 2: Single Cards
If your printer supports it, this is definitely the best option. All you have to do is feed the cards into your printer (most likely the manual feed tray) and you’ll be able to print out cards double sided, with no ugly white border!
One thing to look out for when buying cards is the type of paper used. Using the cheapest paper fine text tends to bleed, much like when you use copy paper in an inkjet. I definitely recommend using “superfine” cards if you can find them!
I used these cards.
I had to fiddle around with my printer settings, namely the borderless scaling factor and the paper settings. Scaling to 96% in Illustrator and setting the borderless scaling factor to the second notch gave me the best results. This will depend on your printer model and cards of course. Here is what I got.
Now let’s take a look at both and see how they differ.
8 Per Page
- Text appears sharp
- Colours are vibrant
- “Zig-zag” edges
- Must print 8 at a time – if there’s a mistake, they all go to waste!
- Smooth edges
- Can print one at a time – if you make a mistake there’s less going to waste.
- Can only print one side at a time – not good if you need lots fast!
- Colours, while good are not as vibrant as the 8-per-page cards.
- Have to fiddle with printer settings to get the desired results
Having compared the two options for printing full-bleed business cards, I definitely recommend the single cards if you have a printer that supports them. Going one-by-one can be time consuming, but the results are worth it in my book! If you only have a laser printer, the 8 per page cards produce good results too.
If you plan to print single-sided, clean edge type cards can prove to be a viable alternative.