Heya, got a few bits to contribute since I do business cards (and
other print jobs) on a regular basis at work. I am also having a bit
of a slowish day (waiting for approval in like fifty million projects,
which according to Murphy's law will all happen at the same instant,
with overlapping deadlines) so pardon my long-windedness and
outpouring of little kernels of acquired information.
Both Stuart and Tacit have some good points but I don't completely
agree in others:
First: STAY AWAY from programs like Word. Simply the wrong tool and
will only cause both you and your printer a plethora of headaches.
Second: and I can't stress this one enough: contact your printer. Ask
what file format works best for him/her, font requirements (some will
not take your true type fonts, and will require you to use type 1),
bleeds, etc, etc. When in doubt, these are the people that will most
likely give you the information you need, and never hurts to get all
the details before you invest time into it.
I am assuming for the rest of this post, that you are running these
cards through an offset printer, rather than a Kinko's run (although
most if not all of this would still apply)
Here comes my primary disagreement with the previous posters: it
doesn't have to be all vector. As a matter of fact, because of the
requirements of many of the clients I work with, I end up doing a
great majority of the work for the cards in photoshop, and then I take
that image into Quark Xpress or Illustrator and lay down the text.
The reason you want to stay away from photoshop when doing the text is
that the text will be rendered at whatever the resolution of your file
is set as (assuming you flatten stuff into something like a .Tiff).
This overlooks the capability of the printer of doing linework
(including text) at a much higher resolution, giving you far crisper
text. Also, to directly answer one of your questions: YES, you could
use photoshop 7 all the way, but I wouldn't advise it. The latest
version of photoshop allows you to retain the vector information of
the text, when saved as an .eps and this option is chosen. However I
have not had the chance to test this myself, so I would proceed
Whether you use photoshop at all or do it entirely in something like
Illustrator or quark depends wholly on what you want to do. if you
want a simpler card with just a logo and contact info, then definitely
go with a vector program or a page layout program. If you want to do
more funky stuff using background images, using bitmaps, etc then
using photoshop for that and laying the text/linework in a vector or
page layout program is the way to go. As far as resolution goes, if
you work in vectors this is obviously a non-issue, if you work with
bitmaps then those shouldn't go lower than 300dpi. You can go higher
to 600 if you want.
Make sure you got some decent bleed. Most places tend to go with
something like 1/8th (of an inch) bleed, but I have seen it go as low
as 1/32nd (insane) or as high as 1/4 (wasteful). And also make sure
you got some space between the bleed line and the live text. Because
the cutting is not always exact (depending also on the skill of your
printer), that can migrate a bit, and if you have content too close to
the edges you potentially stand to have some of it cropped.
Another little kernel of wisdom to prevent said printer from cursing
your entire family tree: try, as much as possible, to keep text a
single color (CYM or K, or a spot color if you are using them). More
so if the text is small. A printer will despise little else in the
world as much as he does getting a 9 pt thin text that is 4-color.
It's a pain in the rear to line up 4-plates of very thin lines and
notches and getting sharp text.
Well I hope that helped a bit (and not confused you even more)
(Remove NOSPAM from email if you want to email me)