A business card is a business card, right? Actually, NO. When it comes to business cards, there are a million and one options. From the shape and size, weight/thickness and surface to specialty finishes and more, each print shop offers many many options that differ from the options found at the next print shop. So how do you know where to order from and what options to choose?

You ask us! Now, let’s talk printing.

Size and Shape

You may be thinking that the size and shape of a business card is what it is and that there are no options to consider here… but you’d be wrong. The standard business card is a 3.5x2 inch rectangle, but in an effort to stand out, many businesses opt for something more creative. A few of the most common options, aside from simple rounded corners, are square business cards, rectangular cards that are both slightly taller (oversized) or slightly shorter (slim) than the 3.5x2 inch standard, folded cards (a larger original size, scored and folded to a finished size of 3.5x2), 3.5x2 inch oval cards, circular cards, half circle cards and more.

All of these unique shapes and sizes can add visual interest to your card and help you stand out from the crowd. However, you should always let your brand do the talking when it comes to business card design. Choose a size and shape that compliments your brand, even if that means sticking the the standard 3.5x2 rectangle.

Weight/Thickness and Surface

Identifying the thickness and sturdiness of a paper can get complicated and confusing pretty quickly. Printers use terms like book, text, cover and cardstock and measurements of both lbs and pts to describe the thickness and denseness, and that’s before we ever even get to the surface terms. For the sake of simplicity (and staying on topic) the most common, and generally least expensive, choice for business cards is 14pt cover. The graphic below shows several thicknesses for business cards in progression from magazine cover on the left to credit card on the right.  The thicker the card, the sturdier it will be, and the more luxurious it will feel.

Commonly used terms to describe paper surface are matte, gloss, semi-gloss, coated, uncoated, satin, velvet, linen, etc. Unlike weight and thickness terms, these terms are very much self describing. Uncoated and matte surfaces are dull with no shine. Coated surfaces can be satin, semi-gloss and gloss (just like paint) with varying degrees of sheen. Other surface options like linen and velvet are more of an actual texture than a coating and are less commonly used. Most often, business cards are gloss and semi-gloss, or matte, for a writable surface. A less common surface can add a pop of interest to your card, especially when used in  conjunction with a specialty finish.

Specialty Finishes

This is where the real fun starts. Specialty finishes can transform a common business card into something that people really examine, turn over, pay attention to… AND KEEP. Specialty finishes include treatments like spot gloss, raised spot gloss, foiling, embossing and more. These too, are pretty self-explanatory, but not entirely. Spot gloss and raised spot gloss are the application of a clear glossy finish to only certain parts of the card. The difference is that spot gloss is low profile and a raised spot gloss is thicker, creating a surface texture on the card that can be felt. Foiling is the application of a metallic (gold, silver, rose gold) finish and can also be applied in only certain areas and can be either flat against the surface of the card or raised, to create a touchy-feely texture. Embossing is when the paper is stamped and pressed inward to create a texture that is sunken in rather than raised. Together with a good design, these specialty finished can make your business card a work of art.


As I mentioned before, not all printers offer all options. But more importantly, not all printers offer all options well. One of the largest benefits to working with an agency like Storm Cloud is that you have access to the knowledge and experience of the team. Not only do we know how to design a beautiful card that matches your brand and what extras to add to make it really stand out, but we also know where to go to get the best quality product at the best price.

A Comparison of Cards

A word of advise: when it comes to cost don’t skimp. If you want a card that wows, the last thing you need is a stellar design with poor execution. The phrase, you get what you pay for, applies heavily when it comes to print quality, and some printers, while they may be very affordable, just don’t measure up to others.

The examples below show two cards of the same exact design purchased from two different online printers (neither of which shall be named here). Both cards are on the recommended thick paper, and both have a raised spot gloss, but the quality of card A far exceeds the quality of card B in all aspects from paper thickness, sturdiness and surface to printing accuracy and the actual execution of the raised spot gloss application.

Let’s first look at the way the raised spot gloss contrasts with the card. The printer of card A offers what is called a velvet surfaced card. The velvet surface is matte (not shiny) but still very soft, making the shine of the raised spot gloss really pop. The printer of card B offers what they call a satin matte surface, but notice that there is still a good amount of shine to it which results in much less contrast.

In addition to less contrast, the satin matte surface greatly reduces that ability of the raised spot gloss to adhere to the card. Notice here how the gloss in card B is bubbling up from the surface of the paper itself while the gloss in card A is not.

Regardless of the paper surface, the application of the raised spot gloss itself can greatly affect the quality of the product. Here the raised spot gloss in card A is smooth and consistent while the application in card B is clumpy an inconsistent.

About Price…

1000 of card A cost approximately $600 and 1000 of card B cost approximately $165, a significant difference, one you may or may not see the value in. It is important to remember however, that you are never limited to just one or two printers or the options they offer. We have experience ordering thousands of products from hundreds of printers and can use that experience to get you the best quality product for the budget you have.

Printer Fail

Sometimes, bargain shopping can result in something much worse than a sub par business card. You may receive cards that are completely unusable. The images below are not a typical result for an order like this, but it is a result that can occur when ordering based on price alone. This order of 1000 cards was an exact reorder of card B above, but due to a printer error, arrived in this unusable state. Notice how the gloss is not only covering areas of the card that it shouldn’t be, but that it is bubbled up and quite literally flaking off the cards.

The printer did correct the error by sending out a new order at no extra cost, other than the time invested in filing a complaint ticket and awaiting the arrival of the replacement cards.

So, what have we learned?

  1. You CAN have business cards that are a work of art!
  2. There are SO MANY unique and creative ways to make your business card pop!
  3. Using an agency to design and order cards means you don’t have to know about print options or printers.
  4. You really do get what you pay for, so spending a little more will get you a MUCH BETTER end product that will grab people’s attention.
  5. Mistakes can happen, but the knowledge and experience of an agency can DRASTICALLY reduce the chances.

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