Business Card Cut Lines and Design Zones

Posted by: Marsha Jones on Mar. 7th, 2011
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There are various types of lines and cuts used while setting up a business card. There are cut/trim lines, bleed lines, and safety lines. Each line helps the card designer ensure that the printed card looks exactly like the original design.

These lines are part of an initial template that is used to set up a business card for commercial printing. See Figure 1—Lines on a Business Card to see the lines.


With these lines, your commercial printer can follow the basic rules of business card printing and the outcome is a clean business card with excellent printing properties.

About the Lines

Cut/Trim Lines

The cut/trim lines are the outer most lines labeled in Figure 1, where the business card will be cut away from a large piece of high quality card stock paper after it is professionally printed. The cut/trim lines result in the actual finished size of the business card.

Safety Lines

The safety lines are the inner most lines labeled in Figure 1, where text or images outside these lines run a risk of being cut off during the cutting process. Commercial cutting machines are accurate, but this guide ensures that key text and images are not lost. It also serves as a guide for a balanced distance between background, text, and images inside of these lines and up to the edge of the paper.

The parts of your business card design such as contact information, logos or images should not be placed outside of the safety lines. That which is placed within the safety area is expected to print.

Bleed Lines

The bleed lines surround the extra space outside the design that extends to the final trim edge of a printed page. This allows the printer a small margin for error. This process eliminates the possibility of non-color areas on the edges of the final product. Without a bleed line, imperfectly cut paper may cause part of a design to be cut off.

Where Do We Draw the Lines?

Whether or not you are designing your own business cards or relying on your commercial printer’s templates and printing guides, understanding cut/trim, safety, and bleed lines will assist you in the overall design ideas for your business card.

It is important to know some of the dimensions involved in the business card design and cutting process. See Figure 2—Business Card Dimensions.

Cut Dimensions

Cutting Paper

Paper cutting is best done by commercial printers with precise heavy-duty paper cutting equipment that can be matched with the size of your print job. The perforated business card paper for creating business cards at home is cut straight enough, but the business cards are generally flimsy, show perforations, and do not portray a professional image.

Invest in your business. Have your commercial printers provide the cutting service for you. The results of professionally cut business cards may mean the difference in a successful business relationship with a new client. Clean cuts speak volumes about your business.

Best Lines and Cuts for Business Cards

Given what you read above about lines and cuts, consider the following tips and guidelines when designing your professional business cards.

  • Know your lines. Study the diagram in Figure 1 so you understand cut/trim, bleed, and safety lines. This will ensure a positive experience in designing and printing your clean and professional business cards
  • Keep your design area—that area for background, text, and graphics—inside the safety line to ensure everything prints far enough from the cut/trim line.
  • Text that prints to close to a cut line will look unprofessional. Study the cut/trim line in connection with the safety line.
  • When uploading layouts, use the full bleed size requirements. They will provide the best printing results.
  • Rely on your commercial printer to cut your business cards accurately and precisely using their professional high quality equipment.

The Bottom Line

In designing a professional business card, it is important to understand cut/trim lines, bleed lines, and safety lines. A commercial printer takes care of all these details if you are using the templates they provide to design your business card. If you are using your own software program to design your business card, you need to know about these lines in order to produce, design, and print a business card that looks professional and clean.