Is this a business card, or am I asking for a pony?
November 10, 2015 5:07 PM   Subscribe

My friend the artist would like me to help her find a printer for her business card. The catch? Because she makes popup art books, she would prefer a card that pops up. Is there a way do something like this without pulling our hair out over the details?

She wants something business card-sized that opens to reveal a cutout that stands up. (Like this: Closed. Open.) I have some experience with having things printed, but combining these options into one finished card is challenging me. What's my best, least expensive option? Online printer, and assemble them ourselves? Contact a local printer I trust? Input welcome - thank you!
posted by deliriouscool to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's been many many years since I've done print projects, but whenever my firm had a popup or non standard, folded project, we had it done by custom shops in China or Taiwan.
Your example would probably involve a die cut and hand gluing and assembly. I don't think you will find a cost effective way to have this done in the US.

The cheapest way will be to have everything printed flat and you guys do the cutting and assembly by hand. I guess I'm assuming you need a quantity of under 500 or something manageable to do yourself.

If you are dedicated to having them finished fully by a print company, you'll need to bring a mockup to the best, most custom printer in your area and be prepared for them to say no or to tell you $20 each. It's a lot of hand work for them too.

I don't have any overseas leads but search online for custom printers doing handwork (glued and folded pieces) in China and Taiwan. It will still be expensive and it will take months but they can do it.
posted by littlewater at 5:29 PM on November 10, 2015

You are asking for a pony, but within reason. It is possible to find a company to do that for you as well as to do it yourself but, it will cost more than what most people would consider reasonable for a business card. The beauty of a business card is that it is just a card, that slides easily into a pocket or wallet. If you have edges that catch and tear, it is no longer a business card and can easily become a nuisance. If you do go this route, keep the tear factor in mind in the design. A piece of a pop-up card with no information on it useless.
posted by myselfasme at 5:29 PM on November 10, 2015

Pop-up wedding invitations are surprisingly common. I'd probably look at companies that manufacture those and see if you can get them to do something in business card size. Alibaba lists a ton of possible suppliers, including some who say they can do business card sizes. Here's a random example.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:30 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is a nifty idea. Unfortunately, it will not be cheap.

Do you have an idea how many cards she would like to have made? Just to get the pieces cut out is going to be very expensive for small quantities, as you will need to have a die made to cut them (this will cost hundreds) and then you would still need to assemble them if you used the design from your prototype.

Alternately, you could design the pop up part so that it would remain attached to the main part of the cart and simply be folded inside. There would be a corner folded in on the final card where the house was attached. This avoids having to assemble different parts together after cutting.

I would look for a local or online printer that offers custom die cut business cards. Alternately, for very small quantities, I think you might be able to do this with a Cricut machine at home.
posted by ssg at 5:30 PM on November 10, 2015

Maybe you could look into getting the cutting done by laser?
posted by odinsdream at 5:35 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

This information is all very interesting so far - thank you. I think a quantity of 500 would be sufficient to last for quite awhile, and I have already alerted her that handwork would be involved - we are okay with that.
posted by deliriouscool at 5:46 PM on November 10, 2015

I can do laser cutting. I would be willing to cut the cards for you if you do the folding etc. Message me if you are interested.

(If this is not allowed on ASK I apologize and promise I wont do this again.)
posted by WalkerWestridge at 5:57 PM on November 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

I would look for generic pop-up cards that have designs you can work with. See for instance: popfotocard.

I have no experience with that company. It's just the first one that came up in a search.
posted by willnot at 7:36 PM on November 10, 2015

A client of mine is getting, in addition to his expensive cards, a second bunch of simpler, cheaper cards, because there'll be times you just want to give a bunch of cards to providers or to students in conferences, saving the more expensive cards for possible clients or people you really want to impress.
posted by clearlydemon at 7:37 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

A simple compromise would be some glorious photography of several samples of the pop-up books your friend does, printed as a series by someone like
posted by valkane at 2:49 AM on November 11, 2015

Have a look at this supplier, maybe they can help you:
posted by Fallbala at 3:40 AM on November 11, 2015

The place to solve your problems is in the design phase, not the post design.

Cutting out the pop-up will require a custom die which will greatly increase the cost unless you can figure out a way to design the card so that the pop up can be cut out using a previously existing die, or only straight edges so that your friend can cut them out herself using a straight edge trimmer such as the kind they sell at Michael's for scrap-bookers.

You probably can't get access to pre-existing dies. And your artistic friend probably has a specific shape of a pop-up in mind. You might need to score the pop ups before folding them, depending on the weight of the cardstock. Many standard business cards are printed on 110 weight cardstock, which generally has to be scored before you fold it to make a crisp fold.

You could, however, use a much lighter weight card stock for the interior pop up and this way evade the need for scoring. It would also make the finished product much thinner which is a good thing.

Now the ideal thing would be to find a cheap source of pre-cut light card stock shapes -such as cutting waste, or die cut scrap book shapes sold in packages of 100 identical pieces, and design the pop up using those. Instead of trying to find a source to print and cut out your pop up components, design your pop up from already available components.

As someone who makes pop ups your friend is probably extremely aware of the labour intensive nature of pop-ups, so she hopefully is not going to blink when you let her know the difficulties and expense involved in this project. She may also have the coordination and patience to be willing to spend a couple of afternoons doing the assembly.

In order to avoid die cutting, or complex cutting, the pop up can be printed with a background. For example, if the pop up is of a castle you do not want to try to cut out itty bitty crenelations for five hundred cards. So you print the crenelations on the top of the turret, and then simply cut out and use a plain rectangular scrap of card with the tower printed on it.

Now the design can be made to exactly fit the shapes that you can easily cut out. For example, put a dragon on the top of the turret and have the dragon's wings make a perfect pyramid shape and you only have straight cuts. Small pieces are sometimes quite expensive to cut and tricky too as cutting is one of the most expensive parts of the project - printing and materials are going to be your cheapest expense. You can expect prices like $1 per guillotine cut, or 25c per hand trimmed rectangle. But printing can end up being a problem too because you need a few millimeters tolerance to avoid mis-cuts and obviously with a business card sized your tolerances are going to be infinitesimal. Want to make a printer cry? Ask for a pin stripe just around the border of your business card. If the card is mis-cut the pinstripe will make every little variance visible. The four edges all have to be exactly, exactly the same distance from that %$#%^-ing pinstripe. The job may be printed and cut multiple times before it passes quality inspection. Good designers leave some nice blank negative space around the edges of the design to make the job easier for the printer. Your friend is being diabolical

Business cards are cheap because printing shops make so many of them that they can churn them out efficiently. The process gets streamlined so that their relative cost per cut, and in time spent is quite low compared to many of the other products that the print shop produces. Your friend is turning that advantage upside down.

Your friend might like to consider hand making a display model of business card sized pop ups and a carrying case for them so that she hands out ordinary flat little business cards but shows her clients the set of six business cards sized pop ups as examples of what she does. Then she can hand make her tiny pop ups to the same finish quality as the books that she sells.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:28 AM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Echoing Jane the Brown - this is all in the design phase. If the cards are designed to have parts that are not too tiny and delicate, then they could be readily cut out on a laser cutter, a plotter cutter (or, if you're careful enough, even a bandsaw), and then assembled by hand. The laser cutter and plotter cutter could also potentially be used to pre-score any folds, though this gets tricky. Feel free to PM me if you're looking for specifics about this. I've been using a laser cutter to make my business cards, and for cutting and scoring origami structures. And my wife and I made our own wedding invitations down to custom envelopes (which we cut on a bandsaw).
posted by taltalim at 7:42 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Googling "pop-up business cards" brings up a lot of links - including links to printers who do this kind of work - there are probably some good leads there.
posted by vitabellosi at 8:44 AM on November 11, 2015

I have used 4colorprint for all kinds of pony business printing. They do pop ups, spot veneers, weird papers, transparencies... pretty much anything you want. They are expensive-- I paid something like 500 bucks for 1000 speciality bookmarks (foiled, fluted edges, special paper,) but the result was freaking gorgeous. They do ship from China, so it can take a little while to get your order (a couple of weeks, if I remember correctly.)
posted by headspace at 9:25 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

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