Time for Business Cards

Somewhat off-topic, I know…but I needed to make up new business cards and I thought I’d describe the process I used to create customized ones. While I used the full-blown Adobe Photoshop, it is possible to use the much less expensive Photoshop Elements, or similar, that will allow you to text to a background image.

The front of the final card design. By grouping the subject all across the center, I was able to fit in the text above and below. Be sure any text is well inside the “bleed” zone (extra 1/8-inch border, which gets trimmed off).

Because I wanted to make the background completely custom, I photographed a few commonly-used tools for EMC troubleshooting (see, there IS a connection to EMC!). In order to make the resulting image “professional” looking, I placed the objects into a “light tent” and used daylight-balanced CFL lamps placed on each side of the tent. The tent serves as a light diffuser, which softens the light and reduces shadows. I also used a seamless background – mine being blue at the top and transitioning to white on the bottom.

The rear design of the final card. I like to include my portrait (make sure you’re smiling!), along with the services I provide and email/web.

While the setup described can be purchased, it’s possible to cobble your own together out of ordinary parts found in most hardware stores. I certainly wouldn’t buy this setup new just to take a picture for your business card!

Let me describe the homemade setup. Start by purchasing about a yard of white nylon translucent fabric at a material store. You’ll drape this over the top, rear and both sides of the tent frame, which is created using white plastic PVC water pipe. With the right type of corner couplings, you’ll end up with three-sided framework (left, right and rear) about three feet on a side. The fabric will serve as a diffuser.

Purchase two reflector-style utility lamp fixtures (usually comes with line cord attached) and buy some daylight balanced (5000K) CFL screw-in lamps. These may be used as general utility lighting later.

Set up the framework and fabric on your dining room table and place the lamps just outside the framework on each side. This will be you light source for the subject.

Next, take some wide craft paper (white, or most any pastel color, from a hobby or art supply store) – maybe three 2-3 feet wide by three feet long and attach the corners at the top of the rear side, so the paper drapes in a wide curve from upper rear to lower front as you’re attending facing the setup. This will serve as your seamless background, hiding most of the framework.

One try at a subject, but the spectrum analyzer was too tall to fit the text in, so I had to lay it over and remove several items. I show this photo, because it shows the seamless background and part of the diffusion tent. 

Adjust the lights to reduce shadows. You may have to prop them up on boxes to get them higher. Place your subject items at the bottom (towards the middle) of the paper backdrop and photograph it, taking care to leave out the sides and any framework showing. You may have to stand back a ways and use your telephoto to zoom in a bit. Turn off your built in flash, as the side lamps should provide all the light required. Make sure your camera ISO is set high enough so the shutter speed is 1/100th second, or faster, for the sharpest image.

Load the final image into your favorite editing software and make any adjustments to the subject you wish. Crop to 2.25″ high by 3.75″ wide by 300 dpi (business card size with about 1/8-inch “bleed” all around the edge. This bleed area will be trimmed off during the production. Be sure there’s no text within or close to the bleed zone.

Add your desired text all around the background image, keeping in mind that good business card designs have most of the contact info in a single place – not all around the edges. After all, you want the viewer’s eyes to go right to the info and not have to search all around for it!

I usually create a double-sided card with my portrait on the back with my services provided, but leaving some “white space” for written notes. I feel the portrait is important, because most people recall “visual”cues, rather than text (names). I also use a gloss coating on the front and leave the back matte, so notes may be easily added.

The final step is to convert the background image with text to JPEG files (one for the front and one for the rear) and turn the files (or upload) to your nearest print shop!

3 responses to “Time for Business Cards

  1. Ken:

    Instead of a colored paper background, you could have used a Photoshop layer to create a color-1 to color-2 transition vertically across the entire layer. That way, you could go from any color to any other color easily. I say this simply because I find it easier to use a layer instead of worrying over lighting of an object like your sheet of background paper.

  2. Pingback: 2012 in review |

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