Choosing an Online Printer to Print Business Cards

CME asked:

In recent years many online UK business card printing companies have popped up giving you the customer plenty of choice. Most specialise in printing business cards and other similar products like printing leaflets, flyers, compliment slips etc. This article focuses on business cards.

The assumption is that ultimately you as a consumer are looking to purchase professional quality business cards for a reasonable cost. Costs obviously vary from printer to printer but in general the costs are less than high street business cards printing costs. To differentiate between online printers and to make a judgement about what you are getting for your money, you have to look at the overall service provided by the online printer. In assessing the overall service it is important to consider the following five key points.

1)  Business Card Design

Many online printers usually give you two options:

Option one is where you choose from a variety of template business card designs which you can then tailor to your needs. Obviously you are looking for a printer that has a rich variety of business card template designs including blank business card templates which can be modified from ground up. You also need a powerful and easy to use business cards online design tool, which will allow you to design a business card to meet your exacting requirements.

Option two is where you design business cards using your own software and you can submit this design to the printer. Many printers will put restrictions on what you can submit in terms of file types, quality etc.  Essentially you as the customer need to be quite well versed in printing jargon to make sure you can use the printer. Most people are novices to printing.

But there are a few printers who will treat the customer like a novice and provide added knowledge value without charging any extra. As an example they will accept any file type you submit without restrictions and help to create a design that is suitable to be printed and also check the quality of any files submitted in terms of resolution (dpi).

Dpi (dots per inch) or resolution refers to the sharpness of your design. It does not matter how good the printers are, if your business cards design is not sharp enough then the printed card will not appear crisp and clear. Ideally for the best result, you are looking at having a design of at least 300dpi when created in actual printing size.

2)  Business Card Paper Thickness and Options

Thickness (gsm) of the business card is reference to its weight. Anything over 300gsm normally will give the feel of a quality business card. Most printers provide a range of between 270 to 400 gsm. Sometimes a card may feel stiffer but it is not necessarily thicker. The common paper types are matt, silk, gloss and recycled, again all of these give a pretty reasonable end result. 

A common option is a laminated business card. This adds to the thickness and durability of the card giving a superb feel. Don’t confuse lamination with thick encapsulation. Lamination is a thin film of coating on the card, and you will not even know that the card has been laminated by visual inspection. Again some vendors may charge a lot extra for lamination.

3)  Gimmicks

Many vendors offer free business cards. There is no such thing. You will be charged for the postage and packing, and the quicker you need the cards, the more you will be charged. In addition for the reduced cost there will be restrictions on the free business card designs you can use, you may not be allowed to submit your own design, and you may also be required to put the logo of the printing company on the back of your printed business card which markets the printing company.

Instead of going for the free business cards, choose an online vendor who does cheap business card printing. The price will roughly be the same for either option but with the cheap business cards option, you may not be required to place the logo of the printer on the back of your card – much more professional business cards.  Besides why do free marketing for the printer when there is no free business card printing.

4)  Quality of Printing

Most online business card printers will have pretty much professional printing equipment and do full colour printing (CMYK) that will give an overall quality print finish. The printing falls into two categories of lithographic printing or digital printing. The words lithographic or digital are simply references to the technology of the printing machines and the printing processes used to print the cards. Lithographic printing is an older method of printing and gives a very clear and crisp result. Digital printing is a newer method and depending on the quality of digital printers used, the results may vary. The best digital printers produce a printed quality as crisp and clear as the best lithographic printers, and better results than some of the older lithographic printers.

Again the quality of print does depend on the quality of business cards design – artwork as mentioned earlier.

5)  Colour

One pitfall of dealing with online printers is that because of low prices they rarely provide a printed business card proof. Some printers will provide you with an email proof of design which you can use to establish the overall look and feel of the card design which for most customers is sufficient. But for customers who do have very specific colour requirements’ working online does have its shortcomings and it can never replace a printed proof for the purposes of colour matching. The following gives a brief explanation why.

If you want a very close colour match between colours on the business card designs you see on the computer monitor and the printed business cards speak to the printer. Depending on the type of monitor you use and the colours involved, there could be a huge difference between how the colour looks on the monitor (RGB MODE) and how the printed colour (CMYK MODE) looks when printed from the printer or when printed using your home of office printer. Also the type of paper used affects how the printed colours look.

One reason this happens is quite simply because of the physics of the situation. Monitor colours (RGB: Red-Green-Blue) appear more brighter because the colours are reflected, whereas the same printed CMYK colours would appear duller because the colours are absorbed on the paper which is also why using different types of paper which absorb colour differently can affect how the printed colour looks.

If you want very close matches the best way to proceed is to send a paper copy of the card with colours on it to the printer. The printer can then try to find the closest matching CMYK colour. If the printer can’t find an appropriate CMYK colour code, he may recommend using another printing set of colours called Pantone (Spot) colours. Pantone colour printing is normally more expensive than CMYK colour printing, but the accuracy to colour match is also better. The printer will also factor the business card material in the decision process.

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