Quality business cards on a budget
July 23, 2007 7:39 AM   Subscribe

I have a business card design that I want to get printed inexpensively, but without going too cheap. But I only know enough about print to be dangerous. What's my best bet?

I want the design linked above on the front and solid orange on the back. I know that the right way to do this would be 2-color offset, but I also know that that's an expensive way to go for small quantities of cards (probably 500).

On the other hand I know 4-color digital is much cheaper, but orange and grey type -- and the solid back -- don't sound like they'd lend themselves to good 4-color reproduction. But I only know from what I've read, not what I've seen.

How should I get cards printed without looking like "free business cards!!!", and without breaking the bank?
posted by mendel to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Overnight prints are pretty good.
posted by milarepa at 7:44 AM on July 23, 2007

I've used vistaprint.com in the past and was pleased.
posted by jaded at 7:45 AM on July 23, 2007

Response by poster: Oops, I should have clarified that: Vistaprint-type stuff is a bit under what I'm aiming for. I want to go to a local printing company, but I'm not sure what printing technology I should plan to use or what I should expect it to cost, and I want some idea of that before I shop around.

The cards are for self-promotion as an MBA student so I want something a bit above web-business-card-store, which is why I'm considering spot color. I just want to know what I can get away with below that.
posted by mendel at 7:49 AM on July 23, 2007

Response by poster: (Also, recommendations for printers in/around Ottawa, Ontario welcomed.)
posted by mendel at 7:49 AM on July 23, 2007

How picky are you about card stock and color?

Vistaprint and all of the other overnight printing places will essentially use high-quality color copiers to print your stuff. So you'll have the 'little dots of yellow and red = orange" and "little dots of every color equals grey" effect pretty bad with that kind of card.

Two color offset that simple would probably run you $100 for 500 cards.
posted by SpecialK at 7:50 AM on July 23, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, I'm picky. That's the problem! I need to balance my pickiness a bit.

I've had fridge magnets made by a Canadian Vistaprint-alike before, so I know that's not high-enough quality. And I know that spot color would be ideal. It's that middle ground, of higher-quality 4-color digital at a real print shop, that I'm not sure about.

(And yeah, I know that that design doesn't lend itself to 4-color.)

But $100 for 500 is cheaper than I expected. I figured I'd take a bigger hit from setup costs. Maybe I should just look into spot and worry about alternatives if that ends up too much.
posted by mendel at 7:58 AM on July 23, 2007

Best answer: Ok, then you do want two-color offset. If you can bring your font files, the shop will usually do the layout for you in their template, which means they can cut them more easily since their cutting machine's aready set up for it.

I'd find a smaller shop run by an old guy ... a place that actually has their own presses. You can go to a chain (i.e. in the US - Sir Speedy is one) but the mom and pop shops are more likely to work closely with you.
posted by SpecialK at 8:01 AM on July 23, 2007

I don't think the 'little dots' effect is all that noticable on a high quality (min 600 pel) color copier unless you're using a 5x loupe.
A bigger problem with solid colors in xerography is that any variation in paper humidity or corona condition is readily apparant, but your card doesn't look like the color areas are that wide.
Take it to Kinkos/Staples and have them print 1 page for you.
posted by MtDewd at 8:07 AM on July 23, 2007

Response by poster: Is there a practical difference between high-end color copier and the digital 4-color "no setup fees" printers found in print shops?
posted by mendel at 8:11 AM on July 23, 2007

Yes, but those are pretty expensive to use because they're still really slow.
posted by SpecialK at 8:17 AM on July 23, 2007

We were happier with overnight than vistaprint.

We got a batch from overnightprints and the color was uneven between boxes.

We got a set from vistaprint and they looked like they were printed on a dot matrix printer.

We used the overnight prints cards and threw the vistaprints in the trash.
posted by mrbugsentry at 8:21 AM on July 23, 2007

Best answer: While, I'm not qualified to comment on the print process, I do have a bit of experience with paper. When you go to the local printer make sure that you look at a few different weights and glosses. Also, make sure you look at card stock, not paper stock (I think you know the difference already, just making sure). Finally think about getting a UV coating on one or both sides. The gloss gives off a nice effect. (As an alternative, and kind of cool, trick you can have them place a UV gloss rectangle over just your name. This ends up creating a highlight effect when you are looking at the card from different angles.)

Just remember that the paper costs won't vary greatly from mediocre quality to above average quality and poor quality paper can really make a business card feel cheap and cruddy.

P.s. I like the card design, simple yet attractive.
posted by oddman at 8:43 AM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

This has nothing to do with an answer, I just wanted to say I love the design.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:48 AM on July 23, 2007

Best answer: You are an MBA student, have you checked what your university press can do for you? Ours has a deal on buisness card printing for students, and they look wonderful.
posted by Eringatang at 9:08 AM on July 23, 2007

Response by poster: Eringatang: Oh, good idea, thanks! I'm still "accepted" rather than "enrolled" until September, but I'll see what they can do.
posted by mendel at 9:28 AM on July 23, 2007

I like PsPrint - they target more the small business crowd more than individuals (more custom jobs, proofing, etc.), but after shipping and fees are taken into account, they tend to be cheaper than a lot of others.
posted by lubujackson at 9:43 AM on July 23, 2007

Never been but try Business Cards Plus, 221 Plymouth Street (near Bronson and the TC): (613) 235-0931

Hopefully it's not just one of those 1000 cards for $20 shops.
posted by Null Pointer and the Exceptions at 10:20 AM on July 23, 2007

Obligatory "American Psycho" reference.
posted by rhizome at 11:05 AM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Your design would look awesome printed letterpress. If you can find an old guy with a letterpress shop, you might be surprised at the deal you'll get. I've discovered a surprising amount of them by driving around, but never online. They seem to be allergic to the Internet.
posted by pantsonfire at 12:00 PM on July 23, 2007

seconding eringatang: our university print shop has good deals for students just like you.
posted by boo_radley at 12:10 PM on July 23, 2007

Response by poster: Wow, that's awesome! Seriously above and beyond. Thanks!
posted by mendel at 1:32 PM on July 23, 2007

I have nothing to change to fandango_matt's fantastic help, but a couple of further notes:
- the Pantone colors he suggests are for uncoated paper; if you choose coated or specialty paper, the PMS colors may change too
- ask if you can be at the print run to approve the cards; if not, ask for a proof to initial before they run the job.
posted by rob511 at 6:41 PM on July 23, 2007

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