Creating a Cartoony Print-Ready Business Card in Photoshop

Business cards are your little marketing companions. They’re small enough to carry anywhere, yet big enough to contain all essential details a prospective client has to know about you.

In this tutorial, we are going to learn how to create a print-ready business card in Photoshop. Designs made for printing have to be prepared in a special manner. Before sending to the printer, it’s best to make sure that your file is ready so you can avoid all the hassle of redesigning, or better yet, the anguish brought by a printing disaster.


Business cards vary in shape and size. In this tutorial, we are going to design a standard rectangular card with the dimensions of 3.5″ x 2″.

Step 1: Create a New File

Every design made for print is required to have an allowance for bleeds. A bleed area is an additional border around your design. Trimming technology is not an exact science. If you want your design to extend to the edge, the background or images must also extend to the bleeds.

Printing companies have different requirements for bleeds, so you may have to check with your printer first before getting started on your design. The printer I work with requires a bleed of 1/8″ or 0.125″ on each side. Therefore, in setting up our file, we’re going to have to add (0.125 + 0.125 =) 0.25″ to its height and width.

With the added bleeds, our final dimensions become 3.75″ x 2.25″.

Files must have a resolution of 300dpi or higher. Saving your file with a high resolution ensures that blurry or pixelated prints are avoided. Printers also use a different color model for the printing process. When you create a new file in Photoshop, the default color mode is RGB (Red, Green, Blue), which we will have to replace with CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black). Saving your file in RGB will cause a shift in color when it is converted for printing; use CMYK for higher color accuracy.

Now, open Photoshop and create a new file with the following specifications:

Create a New File

Step 2: Add Guides

Before we start on the actual design, I recommend setting up guides. Guides define the card’s actual dimensions. We have to make sure we don’t forget about the bleeds we’ve added. These guides also represent the trim line.

Press CTRL + R to view the ruler. Go to View > New Guide, then enter the values for your guides.

New Guide Prompt

The term safe zone is another part of printing jargon. Printers require that any important text or images do not go beyond this area. Printed products could still be misaligned when it’s set up for trimming. The safe zone reduces the probability of cropping any significant part of your design.

To define the safe zone, we need to add four more guides, which are 1/4″ or 0.125″ away from the bleed guides. When entering values in the New Guide prompt, just add two one-eights of an inch. That’s 1/8″ + 1/8″ = 1/4″ or 0.25″ on each side.

Canvas with Guides

Step 3: Create the Design

This Step is comprised of creating three parts: the patterned background, our little green friend, and the holders of the contact details.

First, duplicate the background layer. Fill your new layer with a pale shade of green using the Paint Bucket Tool. The color I used is #AFD9B1.

Canvas Filled with Green Background

Create a group called pattern by going to Layer > New > Group. Creating groups helps in organizing your layers. Then, select Custom Shape Tool > Shape > Symbols > Bull’s Eye.

Bull's Eye Shape

Before we create the the pattern, press CTRL + to enable the Grid. Grid lines are useful when aligning and snapping certain elements of a design.

Use #E9EB81 as the shape’s color. First, create a single shape and move it to an intersecting point of two grid lines. Your shape will automatically snap to the intersection. Duplicate the shape and create a whole row.

Create Pattern

Next, right-click the group and select Duplicate Group. Drag down this new group and create more duplicates until you fill the whole canvas.

Duplicate Rows

Now, it’s time to bring our little green friend to life. Use #73BF44 for the foreground color. Select the Pen Tool and create the shape shown below. The alignment doesn’t have to be perfect.

Create Monster Shape

Now, select the Convert Point Tool and use the Bezier handles to adjust the curvature of each point.

Bezier Handles for Curvature Adjustments

To add the eyes and mouth, use the Ellipse Tool. Press CTRL + T if you need to adjust the size and shape. Select the Pen Tool and set the color to #ED1A5D to create the tongue.

Create a glossy effect by tracing the shape shown below and set its opacity to 70%.

Create Gloss Effect

To hold your contact details, we need to add a talk bubble and two boxes. Go to Custom Shape > Shapes > Talk Bubbles and select Talk 1.

Talk Bubble Shape

Drag on your canvas to create the talk bubble. Right-click the layer and select Blending Options. Enable the Drop Shadow and Stroke features, and copy the following values:

Add Drop Shadow and Stroke

Press CTRL + T to tilt its angle to -19.7 degrees and drag it to the upper-right corner of the canvas.

Tilt Talk Bubble

Create two green boxes under the talk bubble using the Rectangular Marquee Tool and fill it with the same shade of green. Add a drop shadow by performing the same procedure we did on the talk bubble.

Card Design Without Contact Details

Notice that the boxes don’t go beyond the safe zone guides. For the talk bubble and our little green friend, the parts outside the safe zone is not so important.

Step4: Insert Contact Details

The final Step of this tutorial is adding the contact details. We are going to use a default MS Windows font for the text.

Use Arial Rounded Font

Use 12pt. Regular Arial Rounded MT Bold for the dialogue inside the talk bubble and 9pt. for the email address and website. Again, remember to place all text inside the safe zone as shown below.

Design Elements Inside Safe Zone

Save your work; check with your printer for valid file formats. TIFF, JPG, and PSD are usually accepted. You may also import your design to PDF.

And voila! We are done!


Here’s the final design after trimming:

Final Design

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! Please take a minute to chime in and leave a comment below ;)


  1. says

    As a printer it’s great to see someone explaining the importance of a bleed and the ‘safe zone’. You’d be surprised how many self-described ‘designers’ have no idea what to do with their files to make them print ready.

    If you have access to indesign, you can set up a bleed through document settings, without having to do it manually with guides, importing your final design into indesign and setting up the crop marks and bleed through the output settings will save your friendly neighborhood printer some time and headache, and just might get your jobs turned around that much faster.

  2. says

    Thanks for generously sharing such simple card design… People would likely be attracted to minimal business card designs rather than those typical boring ones.

  3. Peter says

    This is good to know Richard, I know very little about crop marks etc when it comes to print. Are they easy enough to set up using Illustrator (I don’t have inDesign :<)

    Great design too Joan, love it!

  4. says

    Your business card looks fantastic. This will definitely help me design my very own card. Though I’m thinking of doing something a tad different from a rectangle design. Any thoughts?

  5. Cormamin_520 says

    Didn’t tell me what I should do to set up the guides on the right or bottom. So since I can’t go any farther without those bleed guides (by the way, you have eight, not four; I would have liked to know why, and how to do that, too), tutorial really didn’t help me do anything besides create a new document. Looked like a good tutorial, but I can’t complete it.

  6. PeterV says

    A far better way of doing the background, making for a much simpler file, would be to define a pattern – just draw one iteration of the circles, select it and then choose “Define Pattern…” from the Edit menu. You can then make a new Pattern Fill Layer (the semi-circles icon at the bottom of the Layers Palette).

    You’ve also made a slight error in specifying the colours. For example, you say to choose #E9EB81 as the pattern colour, but this is actually an RGB colour (OK, so Photoshop is clever enough to render it in CMYK as it is a CMYK file). Since there are RGB colours which are not easily reproducible in CMYK, so it’s always better to specify CMYK colours.

  7. says

    Printing these would be such a breeze especially due to doing all the formatting in photoshop. I get so many business cards that are not formatted properly and it takes so much time to re calibrate it.

  8. says

    I didn’t realise photshop had so much scope to allow you to make such amazing designs. As a web designer, this would be a great skill for me to develop to offer my clients.

  9. says

    Excellent business card. Very powerful…i feel like it actually speaks to me. Well i guess in a way it does lol. Thinking about doing something similar for my business!!


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