Printing Business Cards


I’ll be printing my first run of business cards soon on photopolymer plates. It will be a 2 color job. Would you suggest I print the cards 2-up (or 4-up) with crop marks on a larger sheet and then trim down later? Or should I print one card at a time? Any advice on this and how to achieve good registration for the 2 colors would be much appreciated. Thank you!

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I’m assuming you have access to a paper cutter that is a guillotine type. If you’re hand trimming or printing final size, ignore this..

It’s a lot easier to trim a 2 up down than a single imposition (to me), but only if you plan it correctly. You should line them all up so that the leading edge that will touch the guides is parallel with the short length of the cards- ie, if you’re doing 2x3 inch cards, make it so the 2 inch side is the side touching the grippers/guides and that you use crop marks/square them up really really well.
When you go to trim down, this will play to your advantage because the cards will trim down by putting the knife across the 2” dimension first- which leaves a more stable edge to put against the backgauge for the splitting cuts, as it will be 3” wide rather than 2” wide.

Also, leave a .125” ‘gutter’ between your cards so you can turn them around and neaten the edge by having it behind the knife. This will also afford you the opportunity to make the cards all the same size by having the final cut be the same.

Here’s a link to an illustration that explains my suggested layout and cutting diagram in order of cut:

It’s important to note- the side the labels are on in the cutting diagram is the side that should face the operator.
My first cut is always made with the gripper edge touching the back gauge.
Then I turn around and square this up.
Next, the side guide is against the back gauge, and this cut trims the 3” side off one of the cards.
Following this, I move the gauge forward and “split” the two cards up, making two piles and simultaneously trimming a side down on card #2.
Then I set the cutter to the final size depth- in the case of my layout, 2”. Feed both piles in and trim them down to 2”, and voila, done in 5 cuts instead of 8. Less time on the cutter and less time printing = more time spent doing other things. Aces.

First Things first: What type of a press are you using?

I got a private email, that the type of press doesn’t matter, ok

On a Heidelberg Windmill (Tiegel) you can print BC all day long one up, x colors in tight registration.

On a smaller C&P Platenpress, you can feed (hand feed) single BC for print,

On a proof press you could also do single BC , but you need a large gripper edge, so, eg, it would be more useful to print 4 or 8 up, also on the C&P, it’s easier to place a larger sheet than the size of a BC, you would also rather print multiple up.

Maybe the type of press matters after all.

Type of press matters, at least if you want to be economical on paper, efficient, not over-reach the impression strength by printing the entire platen size etc.

@Typenut Yep, that is an odd comment. Clearly, the press being used can make a difference on how you would setup a job.

Well dang, I never said it didn’t ;-)
I agree with you.
I was mostly trying to point out that when organizing forms for later cutdown/split, it’s best to plan out in a fashion that assists you with your trimming, not fight against. Who wants to print a beautiful form and cut it crooked? ;-)

@ Haven Your post was very good advice. Not being critical of that.

Quantity is as important as type of press. 100? 1,000? 5,000?
Trimming out cards run as multiple-up is sometimes what spoils the job. That is, if the customer expects each position to have the exact same margins.
That’s why I always run multiple-up cards with back-trim, which is a blank gutter area between cards. It is more work trimmimg, but it allows slight changes to retain specific margin. If there is only one cut between cards, then if one side is a bit wide, then the next card is tight, with no possible repair.
The end cards may have slightly varying dimensions, but the end recipients never see a stack of cards, just one with proper margins.

Another question would be whether the cards are double-sided or not. If they are, you can save yourself work and money by running them work-and-turn. This means both the front and the back of the card are on the same plate. Using Haven’s excellent diagram above, you’d put the front on perhaps the left side of the plate and the back on the right. This halves your plate costs and if done right greatly shortens your makeready downtime.

Generally, I put them on foot to foot, meaning the bottoms of each side face the gutter in the middle, but they can be set head to head or even both facing the same direction (head to foot), depending on how you intend to flip the stock. I do them foot to foot simply because I can either print work-and-turn or print a single side, then fold and glue to duplex the stock.

Here’s a link to the imposition layout I used on my personal business cards as an example.

If you do your makeready well and center the artwork on the paper properly, you can print both sides of the card from the same setup. Print the first side, let dry, flip the stack and print the second side, checking that your crop/registration marks line up. Then change plates to the second color and adjust your makeready for the new plate. Print the second color. Much simpler than having to deal with four plates, four plate changes and four makeready adjustments.

Parellel- great minds must think alike :-)

When running cards on a hand fed engraving press, we ran them on 4 1/4 x 3 1/2” cards. This kept the fingers out of the die impression area feeding the card in the 3 1/2” direction. The side register to the 3 1/2” dimension can be controlled accurately, then the leading edge of the card into the press was typically the bottom line of copy on the card, and that edge was also against the back gauge on the paper cutter. Only one setting was needed on the cutter and all cards were accurately cut with the 1/4” gutter in the middle being the waste. On letterpress, this typically gives the ink time to set up enough to feed back a second time to print on the unprinted side of the card. This works nicely with metal type where only one setting of type is needed, and with designs that don’t invlove bleeds.


Thanks for all the replies. To answer a few questions, I’m using a C&P 8x12 and will be using polymer plates, and will probably be running about 100-200 cards, single sided.

HavenPress: Thanks for the information and the diagram. This will be a big help. Would you think I could run 4 up on my press, or should I stick with 2 up?

Also, what’s the best way to ensure proper registration with two color jobs when using polymer plates?


Hey Chris- Honestly, if you’re only running 200 pieces, and on a c&P, stick with 2 up. But then, platen/imposition size comes into it too; how big is your base? Can you do a 9” wide form on that press comfortably?
Also, I’ve always found hand feeding feeding small pieces through the platen press to be more accurate for me than larger pieces. Stock cups and bows sometimes and it’s easier and more reliable for me to feed a small piece into the guides gently and with intent.

What kind of pins/guides are you using?
You have to set the press up so you’ll have room for your guides/gage pins/tongues coming out of those pins, unless you’re using henry compressibles or some other method that lets the pins go on the platen where the base is taking up space.

Besides, 2 up VS 4 up time wise, it will take you no time at all in comparison once you get to feeding- but a lot more time in makeready if you spend time on that sort of thing.
Also- You’ll probably be spending more time washing the press up than you will feeding regardless.
I chose to run 2 up the other day for a 2 color job on my C&P 10X15, and I was only feeding about 500 pieces through @ 2up to make 700-800 final pieces (once the job is split).

Had I been intending to feed 1000 pieces through, I’d have run them 4 up maybe or something, but no need since the press is so quick.


I have a 6x9 boxcar base. I have tested on some 5x7 invite sized plates on there, but haven’t gone larger or maxed out the base. But I think 2 up may be the way the go.

I’m glad you brought up the gauge pins, have a few questions on those! I’m either using Kort guides or Henry compressible pins. I started to use Henry guides so I wouldn’t have to worry about smashing the base, but I can’t get them to stick well to the tympan, even after wiping the guide area with rubbing alcohol (as suggested). I really want to use the Korts, but I’m having trouble calculating where to place those so there are outside the base area. Is it ok if the Kort tongues are inside the base area? Or does the entire thing have to be outside? What size paper and how much margin should I allow when using Korts?

Thanks again!

also, what is the most efficient way to register the 2-color job when using polymer plates, so that I don’t have to move my guides between color runs? should i get the plates made together with both color areas and then cut them?

Take a look at the link I sent you. See that little line of targets down the middle of the sheet? Targets on one side of a line? This is the mechanism I use to line up color work, but this really only works with clear poly plates.
You’ll need double stick tape or masking tape. You have to already have your guides placed on the press and secured.

I remove the backing from the adhesive on the plate, and then with the plate face down on a sheet from the job I carefully square the first plate up with it flat on a table, looking through it at some indicated lines that you might draw with a pencil or pen.
Then I simply tape the plate to this sheet of paper, place it in the guides, and set the press on impression/turn it over slowly by hand once.
Check by printing another fresh sheet of paper and measure your crop marks for squareness.
For this to work, your plate has to be smaller than your piece of paper- and you need to temporarily remove the tongues from your guides.
Other than that it’s fairly straightforward.
When I do multi-color work, I build in locating marks- like the targets you see in the above picture I posted- and use these to locate the next plate, so on and so forth.
With enough patience and doublestick tape to secure the plate as flat as it can be against the sheet, you should be able to nail hairline register from plate to plate.

The pic above- I don’t know if you noticed, but there are two plates- one is a white underpinning layer to cover up the black stock, the other a red overprint that needed to line up with the white precisely.

If I can nail it with this method, so can you.

One other thing- Call around and find an art supply store that sells MYLAR STICKER PAPER. I buy it in 24x36 sheets. Carefully cover your entire topsheet/topmost tympan sheet with this and your Henry gages will stick to it more easily.

If there’s some distance between the two colors, yes, you can have them made as a single plate and then cut them apart. Make sure not to cut them in a straight line but rather something wavy or otherwise oddly shaped. This makes it much easier to place the second color exactly where it is supposed to go as the two halves of the plate only align cleanly one way. A straight cut allows the two halves to potentially slide out of position. This is called keying the plates together.

Obviously, this won’t work if one color is overprinting or touching another. It wouldn’t work, for instance, on my business card artwork I posted earlier. I had to have three individual plates made.


Thanks so much. All very helpful info! Would crop marks work the same as the target registration points you make? Or not?


That makes a lot of sense, thank you for the tip! My 2 colors aren’t right up next to each other, so I should have enough room to cut the plate in a wavy manner. I see how this will make it line back up almost exactly.

here’s a snapshot at the logo i’ll be printing on the business card. you can disregard the distressing effect shown here. i’m assuming these 2 colors are far enough apart where i can cut one polymer plate in 2 parts?

image: Screen shot 2013-08-06 at 12.58.21 PM.png

Screen shot 2013-08-06 at 12.58.21 PM.png

Crop marks can work as registration marks, but they’re not quite as precise. The circle in the registration mark helps you spot slight angular mis-position that is easier to visually miss with just crop marks. Ideally, both are used.

Interesting logo. You may have a bit of trouble getting the second color plate positioned against the first as it wraps nearly completely around the first color, but it’s worth a try.

Crop marks for register. if first pass the darker color, with pp plates cut out a bit from each “line ” then on second pass you will see the color fill the gap indicating registration between Colorado (old offset printing trick)
Ted Lavin

I would suggest making two plates in this instance, it may prove to be too much trouble.

I use the targets and put them down the center of the gutter in both cases, and use these targets as a ‘keyhole’ mechanism to register off. If the exact same targets are in the exact same place on both plates…… The second plate’s targets should fit right into the leftover impression from the first plate. You can do this with crop marks, and I have, but what I have found in my own practice is that centered targets give me, personally, the best locating mark possible for this type of work.


When you say “leftover impression from the first plate”, are you referring to impression on the tympan or from a piece of paper?

On the piece of paper.

See, if the targets are on both plates, they will indent the paper and leave an approximate ‘cast’ of themselves.
This indention is matched by the targets on plate two.

you have to build them in digitally when you’re making your two separate elements, and they need to be in the same place on both elements, but physically it works very well.

The easiest way to get the crop and registration marks to be in the exact same place on every plate when setting up digitally is to use the color swatch “Registration”. When you create the registration and crop mark artwork, set the stroke color to that swatch and it will automatically output with every color when the art is separated.

Most production quality software like QuarkXpress, InDesign, Illustrator and the like will give you this option. It’s slightly harder to do this in Photoshop, but then, spot color separation was never PS’s strong point. Lower-end software will be a crap shoot as to whether you have this option or not.

Of course, this won’t work so easily when doing the cut-plate method because you’re starting with just one plate. You can, however, cut the registration and crop marks off as if they were another separation and then just never take them off the plate base. This can make attaching second (or whatever) colors more difficult, though, since you have all this plate art in the way. It really depends on how complex the artwork is.

Oh, and here’s a photo of a job I did with single-plate artwork cut apart to print two colors.

And the plate.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

Michael- most people submitting to boxcar are ganging plates up on big sheets of paper to make sure they can save money by meeting their minimums.

It’s very easy to make locating marks in illustrator, place them just outside the crop marks you also make in illustrator with all the artwork in place, and then select what you need/duplicate by copying/paste/group, place on your ‘gang’ page, turn to 100%K. Takes more time than making a pdf but it means you can stick ‘em all on the same page no problem.