Can I get perfectly centered business cards printed?
June 28, 2013 9:21 AM   Subscribe

I want to get business cards with borders. I was looking at moo, and they recommend not using a border because cropping may not be even on all sides. I'm not talking about scientific precision, but I would like my cards to appear even on all sides. Is this realistic, and are there other companies that do this better? I would also like to be able to get rounded corners and some sort of smooth matte or glossy finish on both sides.
posted by lgyre to Shopping (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Sure, if you create cards with guides on them, the cutting will take care of that.
posted by xingcat at 9:26 AM on June 28, 2013

A local print shop (not Kinkos. An actual "we put smelly ink on nice paper using a press" shop) does exactly what you're asking.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:31 AM on June 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: With a local print shop like that, is there likely to be a huge minimum order?
posted by lgyre at 9:35 AM on June 28, 2013

I got cards printed at a local print shop. I think the minimum was one standard business card box - I think about 200 cards?, and I remember paying about $70. My cards are printed on both sides (one with a full color image, one with just text), and they're matte finish. Rounded corners likely cost extra.
posted by hungrybruno at 9:38 AM on June 28, 2013

You, you need the old school dedicated print shop type of business for this. The whole point of all those cheapo internet "sure, order 50 cards, that's cool!" services is that they're catering to people who are more interested in quick turnaround, cheap price, and control over quantity than in fine attention to detail.
posted by Sara C. at 9:42 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

With regards to corner rounding, I've found that if you have some patience and willingness to work while sitting in front of the TV, you can do a good job on ordinary rectangular business cards with an inexpensive corner punch (I have this one) and do a pretty good job yourself (plus now you have a device that can round corners on other cardstock things).
posted by jackbishop at 9:42 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Rounded corners will require a die cut. It's not an uncommon feature, so, with any luck, the print shop will already have a stock die for just this purpose. Otherwise, there will be a charge for creating the die.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:55 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

lgyre: "... is there likely to be a huge minimum order?"

Much of the cost of a good local print shop scales, so the cost difference between a few hundred and a few tens of thousands of cards are irrelevant.

Setups cost money. My first job out of high school was in a high end local print shop, we did full-bleed embossed business cards for a large healthcare company that required etched metal embossing plates, multiple offset plates (one for each color, and this wasn't "process" 4 color CMYK, each color on the card was a distinct ink), so you had:
  • the overhead of shooting negatives for the embossing plates and for each of the ink plates
  • the cost of etching the embossing plates (this was outsourced)
  • the additional costs of "stripping" and aligning the negatives to burn each of the ink plates
  • press setup and cleanup time, with all of those plates on the press
The press is feeding a sheet of paper on the order of every second (could be faster or slower, depending on the press, the operator, how the paper is behaving on the weather that day), you're getting 10 or 12 cards per sheet, so that's 600 cards per minute of operating time...

The paper cutter doesn't care if it's cutting 10 sheets or a thousand sheets of paper. So it's easier to let the press run, make a big stack of the cards, do everything in bulk.

I think at that point our smallest run was 5000 cards because it just didn't cost any less to run less than that, for the bigwigs we'd run in the 5 digits, and we saved the plates for reprints. (And for that particular company, a number of the elements on the cards were common enough that we'd re-use some of the plates, but you get the picture...).

There were some per-card overheads (we actually thumbed through the cards to quality check for alignment between the embossing and the printing (yes, despite running a mean stat camera and being able to strip fast, I was on the bottom of the totem pole), embossing and letterpress was a lot slower than the paper through the offset press), but those were dwarfed by the time necessary to make all those negatives, do the stripping, burn the plates, do the press setup and cleanup, check paper alignment for the cutter...

Can most people tell the difference between a modern ink-jet card and a really nice physically embossed die-cut offset printed with individual ink colors card? Not consciously. And these days I don't run across many really nice business cards.

But when I do, it makes an impression... And I have to think that people notice, even if they can't tell you why.
posted by straw at 10:06 AM on June 28, 2013 [7 favorites]

William Arthur is not cheap and not extremely fast (except, maybe, for a price) but they do really really beautiful work. To be certain you like the results, even though you do the layout online, order a proof.

I am formerly a Cranes addict and William Arthur has a dedicated customer in me. I use them for business cards and stationery.
posted by janey47 at 10:08 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Straw explained it pretty well.

You can't get "super precision" which is what you're asking for with thin precise borders, and "cheap no-minimum order" from the same place. Pick one.

From time to time I'll run some business cards off a high-volume laser printer, and throw 'em in our low-end leaver operated chopper. Even if I make very precise stacks and measurements in the cutter, and even if the printer has been recently tuned up and is behaving well I'm still getting a maximum variation on 1/16th an inch horizontal and vertical in where the image hits the page, and maybe 1 degree of skew from sheet to sheet. Not to mention the slight tendency of paper to pull as it is being cut, (more if the blade is dull), adding the the skew through the height of the stack.

All of this is amplified hugely by the small scale of the business card. If we were talking letter size flyers with a half inch border, no one would be the wiser.

If you wanted me to print those cards with this set up I would hate you, because I would actually care about your cards not looking like shit, and they would look like shit I can guarantee. This is why Moo doesn't want to print them. Moo doesn't even have humans attending to just about any part of this process aside from putting cards in boxes.

Part of design is acknowledging the weaknesses of your process. If you've got a cheap client you've got to design for cheap printing. And then go home and sigh.
posted by fontophilic at 11:20 AM on June 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

Uprinting will do this for you. After you upload your design it will show you where it will be cropped. You can create the crop marks if you like, but if you don't want to, I haven't had any major mess-ups with them as far as centering and doing good crops. The minimum is 250 cards, but that's still only $47 and cheaper than going to your local print shop for die cuts most likely.
posted by biscuits at 11:24 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

FYI, if you want the border color to go all the way to the edge, this is called a bleed (because the color bleeds past the cut edge). Useful to know the terminology before you call for quotes, because a bleed is different from a border that sits inside the cut edge such that the cut edge is unprinted (and may actually requires less precision at a print shop).
posted by devinemissk at 11:38 AM on June 28, 2013

using crop marks is standard practice for printing so that is not a fix for this. printers don't like borders on BCs because the paper shifts a bit in the press so everything will not print exactly evenly. on something as small as a business card with a border this would be noticeable. since it won't be exact i wouldn't recommend putting a border on a BC.
posted by wildflower at 6:20 PM on June 28, 2013

Or if you want to take your chances, place a larger order - maybe double the amount you want, and then you can sort through them and use the best looking ones. will do rounded corners, and I think they've got a glossy option too. But yes, many of your cards will not be straight with nice looking borders. But some will turn out ok...
posted by hydra77 at 1:32 AM on June 29, 2013

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