It wasn’t too long ago when the typical business card contained the essential text in a certain format with perhaps a small logo placed within, and that was that. With the advent of home publishing programs such as Print Shop and Microsoft Publisher, customers starting using borders in their designs because the programs were crammed with borders of every shape, color and size. They were in the program to use, right?
Today virtually all printing services use the “full bleed” printing technique. This is a borderless printing where backgrounds go right to the edge of the page, with no border whatsoever. This gives a high-end look that has been well accepted by designers and end users alike. This is the default for digital pictures too, although some programs still include borders so users won’t get borderless anxiety.
All professional printing services provide templates for each type of printed media. For business cards, the template is typically 1/16″ to 1/8″ on each side larger than the standard business card of 3.5″ x 2″ size. This is the so-called full bleed edge where “to the edge” design elements would extend to, literally beyond the card. The template also shows in a red dotted line the actual cut line of the card (3.5″ x 2′). Inside of that is another line called the safe zone. All text and needed design elements should be inside of this line. This helps compensate for the problem of shifting cut lines. This is where the stack of cards may move slightly in the cut. So hang that text too close to the edge in your design and it may be chopped off at the trim.
That leaves the problem of what to do with the thin border that sometimes surrounds a card design. The conventional wisdom is to have the customer extend this border width until it meets the safe zone line. If there is text on the border, that text should be on the inner edge of the border away from the edge. This will lessen an uneven appearance if the cut is less than perfect.
If I had my way, I would ban borders altogether. They do nothing for most artwork. It’s just something at-home designers can’t resist, like it’s going to tie all the disparate elements in a nice bow. Baloney! It often looks amateurish and the proof of that is the dearth of borders in professionally designed art. I suggest you follow the full bleed example and take your background right to the edge, border to border.
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