Artwork Preparation Guide

Business Cards

General information


We've tried to give you helpful and complete information here. That means there is quite a bit to read as we have to cover all of the options you DON'T want as well as all of the options you DO want. Don't panic! Much of it boils down to common sense and a few key things to remember. Once you have read this guide, you can call the Helpdesk to discuss anything you need more help with. But, please read the guide first.

In a nutshell?

You need to send us 1 PDF file that contains your print ready artwork. Set the page size to the business card size. One page for a single sided business card. Two pages for a double sided card. If you require foiling it gets more complex. Read on for more detailed information!

Why should you bother with all this?

Getting a job commercially printed requires you to prepare your artwork in a specific way. Once you understand this, it's easy to do and you'll get the results that you want. If you don't follow these simple steps, then you may end up with a job that you're not happy with.

Is proofing the same as proof reading?

It's worth remembering that when we proof your business card we just check that it is technically capable of being printed. We don't proof read it, we don't check it for factual errors, we don't check or critique the way that you've laid it out, and we don't call you for a chat if we dislike like the colours you've chosen. We're just the printers.

Is creating or editing your original artwork included in the price?

No, the prices you see on the web site are from your print ready PDFs. If you need help with graphic design, please call to the helpdesk on 01452 751900 to discuss.

Need help understanding the order process?

This isn't part of this guide, but you can read the help section:

HELP > PLACING AN ORDER > HOW DO I PLACE MY ORDER open link in new window  (opens in a new window)

Is proofing the same as proof reading?

It's worth remembering that when we proof your business card we just check that it is technically capable of being printed. We don't proof read it, we don't check it for factual errors, we don't check or critique the way that you've laid it out, and we don't call you for a chat if we dislike like the colours you've chosen. We're just the printers. To understand more about proofing and how the proofing process works have a read of the relevant the help section:

HELP > ARTWORK > PROOFS open link in new window  (opens in a new window)

Don't despair!

If you get stuck, the nice people at the helpdesk are happy to help. But please read the artwork preparation guide first.

Useful Terms.

Understanding some of the lingo is useful as we'll use it when an exact meaning is required. Plus it may come up in Trivial Pursuit one day.


This is the electronic file (usually a PDF) that you send us to print.


A proof is what we send back to you to check. There are two types of proof, a soft proof and a hard copy proof. We process your artwork, create a proof from it and send it back to you. This proof will resemble your actual printed copy as closely as we can make it and you need to check it carefully along with the report that we'll send you. See the link above to learn more about the proofing process.

What format should my business card be in?

One PDF (usually)

Unless you have made special arrangements, you should supply us with one PDF file containing your artwork. The templates will tell you the correct sizes and suggested layout. These days it's very rare for any design software or word processor to be unable to create PDFs that we can print from. If your software doesn't create PDFs, then the best advice is to ditch it and use something else. Follow the link for some suggestions:


If your software has the option to select "Press" or "Commercial print" settings for generating your PDF, it's probably a good idea to use those. Don't worry about it too much though, our proofing team will convert your PDF to a "press ready" PDF wherever possible. You can read more about the proofing process here:

PROOFSopen link in new window

Hot foiling and embossing

You need to pay especial attention to creating the artwork for hot foiling and embossing, there is most definitely a right way to do it and many, many, wrong ways. There is a separate section in this artwork preparation guide that gives you details on how to supply artwork for foiling and embossing.

Generally people supply their foiling and embossing artwork as one or more pages within the same PDF. It doesn't have to be though, that's not a hard and fast rule. If you find it easier to supply 1 PDF with the print artwork and one with the hot foil artwork, that's fine too.

Printers marks

Printers marks are for the printer to use and apply. Please don't bother about turning any on. In the best case we will just delete them, in the worst case they might get in the way of your artwork and spoil your job.

Page size

Make sure that you set the correct page size! This is probably the most important thing and it's amazing how often people get this wrong. The templates will tell you the correct sizes.

Embedding fonts

If your software has the option to embed fonts, turn it on. Don't worry about it too much though, our pre-press software will attempt to fix this for you and if it can't be fixed you will get an error on your proof report to let you know. This is only really an issue if you've used some wild and wacky fonts that we don't have loaded up on our servers! Free fonts downloaded from the internet are the usual culprit.

Everything else

If you have your file in a different format and you cannot create a PDF, then please call the Help Desk for advice on how to proceed, we can help in nearly all cases!

And finally...

Always take a good look at the PDF before you send it to us. This small step is so often omitted and causes much gnashing of teeth when a project is delayed. Did you check that the page size is definitely right? If we had a pound for every job that arrives with the wrong page size set we'd be mi... well, we'd certainly have enough money for a new van.

How to create artwork for Hot Foiling

In a nut shell

You must supply the artwork for your hot foiling and or embossing in PDF format. All hot foil artwork must be in BLACK. Do not mix your hot foil artwork into the same page as your normal printing artwork. You have to have one page each for every hot foil colour and side of your card. So, if you want 1 hot foil colour on the front of your business card, that's 1 PDF page. If you want 2 colours on the front and 2 colours on the back, that's 4 PDF pages. Embossing requires it's own separate page. Clear as mud? Call the helpdesk for a chat.

A bit of background information

This might help you to understand why we need the artwork in a specific way. When we print your business cards, there are several different processes and machines involved. The printing is done on one of our latest generation printing presses. Very big, very shiny, very technical, very 21st century. We feed them with electronic artwork and they produce large quantities of top quality full colour print. The printed sheets then need to be hot foiled and embossed on a very different type of machine. To get proper hot foiling and embossing you need a lot of heat and a LOT of pressure. We use a Kluge EHD press. Although our machine is almost new (installed at our factory in 2017), you can trace the origins of the design back around 100 years to when Brandtjen & Kluge first started designing and manufacturing presses. It's a big piece of mechanical engineering perfection and this type of machine is still the best way to make properly beautiful foiled and embossed items. Your electronic artwork is physically engraved onto copper or brass dies which are installed onto a heated chase. The colour that's hot foiled onto your sheet depends on what foil is loaded, it has nothing to do with the die used. One die, one colour. If we are a foiling a design with 2 foil colours, that requires 2 different dies and 2 passes through the Kluge. The machine keeps perfect registration, so each piece of the artwork will line up exactly as it should. We keep thousands of kilometers of different colour foils on large reels and cut down what we need for your job. For embossing, we use 2 part dies that reform the card into your design.

What colour should your hot foil and embossing artwork be?

All of your artwork for hot foiling and embossing MUST SIMPLY BE IN BLACK. Do not send a mixture of colours, you will not like the results! No tints (a percentage of black) please.

Pages in your PDF

Important note. DO NOT mix the artwork that you want printed and your hot foil (or embossing) artwork on the SAME PAGE. That simply will not work.

Generally people supply us with one PDF that contains the standard print artwork and the hot foil artwork as one or more separate pages. That's not a hard and fast rule. If you want to send your business card artwork as two or more PDFs, that's fine as well.

You must provide the artwork for the areas to be hot foiled as one or more PDF pages. Do not confuse PDF pages with PDF files, one PDF can have many pages. Each hot foil colour requires 1 page for each side of the card to be hot foiled. Unless it's 100% clear from the artwork supplied, you need to specifically tell us which page contains which artwork. You need to make sure that the foiled areas align correctly with the printed areas.

Here are a couple of examples:

(i) I want a card with full colour standard printing, plus matt blue and gloss gold foiling on the face (side 1) of the card. I supply 1 PDF with 3 pages. Page 1 is the standard printing page in full colour. Page 2 is the blue foiling artwork. Page 3 is the gold foiling artwork.

(i) I want a card with full colour standard printing, plus matt blue and gloss gold foiling on the both sides of the card. I supply 1 PDF with 5 pages. Page 1 is the standard printing page in full colour. Page 2 is the side 1 blue foiling artwork. Page 3 is the side 1 gold foiling artwork. Page 4 is the side 2 blue foiling artwork. Page 5 is the side 2 gold foiling artwork.

Note: You can have foil on top of normal print and on top of other foil. Foil is normally completely opaque, so it will "knock out" whatever is underneath. The standard full colour print is always the "base" layer. If you have more than one foil colour and your design overlaps, you need to tell us what order to lay down the foil. In example (i) above, I may want gold on top of the matt blue and in fact this kind of combination is often used in sophisticated designs.

Note: You can combine foiling with laminating and this looks great. For example, a matt laminate with a gloss metallic on top. The foil is applied on top of the laminate. It is technically possible for us to apply the foil first and then laminate, however this is much more expensive as we need to use very large dies to achieve this effect. If you want this type of effect, you will need to discuss it with us first.


Text and simple graphics work best with hot foiling. If you wish to print a graphic, keep it simple (and solid black). Do not use tints (a percentage of black), they do not translate well to hot foiling.


This is a fairly important point to get your head around, especially when creating more complex designs.

Paper is a physical media and has texture. At one end of the spectrum is silky smooth, at the other end is a heavy texture. If we are foiling onto a paper with some texture, only the raised part of the paper will touch the die. This leads to imperfect foil transfer, areas where the foil has not adhered. To counter this, we increase the pressure. Just like ironing a shirt, all the wrinkles are smoothed out. You have effectively lost some or all of the texture in the area foiled. That can be a great looking effect if you are planning on it, but it's worth taking into consideration while you are designing your artwork. Sometimes, when we have a soft paper and especially where the paper is thick, we can get a deep impression in the area foiled. Again, most designers love this and are actively looking for this effect. As printers, we are trained to use the minimum pressure to achieve good consistent coverage. So, if you want a deep impression in your printing, it's best to discuss this with us and ask for it!

There is a related technical issue which has to do with the depth of impression that we want. Remember, this is either because the designer is looking for this effect, or because the texture and caliper (thickness) of the paper require high pressure. For this type of work, we require the die to be "deep cut" and this is achievable only in brass. This has a slight effect on cost and may what's achievable in your artwork. We'll generally try to pick this kind of think up during pre-press job preparation and contact you to discuss. Again, it's worth you knowing about this, factoring it into your design and proactively discussing your requirements with us.


We will always need to discuss embossing with you once we've had a look at your artwork. It's complicated and we want to make sure that you will be happy with the end result.


It's worth noting that we'll always try to send you a proof that confirms how the hot foiled areas will overlay your standard printed areas. A double (or triple) check is always doing!


In general

The very first thing to note is that you cannot edit these templates. They are simply there to show you dimensions and where we recommend that you place content.

Each template will show you information like such as the size, bleeds, safe text areas etc. The templates are only a suggested layout. It's your artwork, you can choose to lay it out however you wish.

Remember that the templates are not there to be printed, so don't include them with the artwork you send us!

If you don't see the template that you need here, please contact the helpdesk.

85x55mm Business Card 90x55mm Business Card
85x55mm 90x55mm

What are bleeds and how do I set them up?

Do I even need bleeds?

If your card has white space all round, like a border or margin then you do not need bleeds and you should submit your artwork at the exact size (see the relevant template). If your card has a background colour or image that goes all the way to the edge then you will require a bleed area.

What are bleeds?

As chance would have it, we have a handy dandy help section which explains this very thing:

BLEEDSopen link in new window

What size bleed area do I need?

We require at least 2mm bleeds all round, so for an 85x55mm business card, your artwork should be 89x59mm including the bleed area.


REMEMBER TO USE THE TEMPLATE. This shows you the correct size, bleed, trim and safe copy areas as well as fold lines where appropriate.


Do I have to supply my file in CMYK?

This is relevant for case artwork or inner pages printed in full colour.

No you don't have to supply your file in CMYK. If you supply your file in RGB we will convert it to CMYK as part of the proofing process.

Bluffer's guide to RGB and CMYK

If you have no earthly what these terms mean, despair not, follow the link to our handy Bluffer's Guide:

THE BLUFFERS GUIDE TO CMYK AND RGBopen link in new window

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-V2 19/19/2018-

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