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Mar 08

Making your business cards dynamic in Illustrator

2007 at 10.14 pm posted by Veerle Pieters

Do you often have to create a page filled with the same business cards, stickers etc. nicely arranged ready to go to the printer? You know you don’t have to copy and drag them “manually” on the page. There is a much smarter way of doing this…

Step 1 - Create your business card and group all objects

First create your business card with crop marks and everything all set. When finished group all objects.

Create the business card and group the objects

Step 2 - Apply a Transform Effect

Select your business card and go to the Effects menu. Go to Distort & Transform and choose Transform. Check the Preview option so you see the effect live. Enter 3 in the copies field, -65 mm in the vertical field under the Move option. So we're duplicating the card 2 times under each other.

Apply the Transform Effect on the card

Enter the data in the Transform Effect's box

Step 3 - Apply a 2nd Transform Effect on top

Now, we're going to add a 2nd effect on top of this one to have this column duplicated to the right. With the original card still selected, go to the Transform effect again and ignore the alert message box, because normally you don't go to the same effect twice. You use the Appearance Palette instead and edit from there. In this case however, we ignore the warning and click "Apply New Effect". Enter 1 in the copies field and make sure Preview is checked again so you see what happens. Enter 92 mm in the horizontal field under the Move option. Woohoo! Look at that! A whole page of cards! But wait, it's not done yet :)

Step 4 - Watch the magic

Now, just to show it's magic and power, edit the name of the business card or any other data. All cards are updated automatically! Cool isn't it? If you want to move the cards. It'll move all duplicates as well, that's also very handy.

Step 5 - Create a Graphic Style for later reuse

There is more magic to show. Select the card again and drag it into the Graphic Styles palette. You've now created a style that you can apply to any other business card with the same dimensions. If you create a new card, group all objects, select the new card and select this new style you've just created in the Graphic Styles palette, it'll automatically duplicate your new card and create a full sheet of cards! What a time safer that is! :)

I've used this technique a lot for stickers and business cards and it has saved me a lot of time instead of duplicating them "manually".

All credits of this article go to Collin Smith from Adobe. To my knowledge he invented this technique a few years back. This technique works in version CS or later.

Want to learn more?

VECTORTUTS+ Vector Tutorials and More A good and not expensive source to learn more about Illustrator, Photoshop, or web design is by joining the Tuts+ sites. You get access to the source files for just $9 a month. So your ONE membership gives you access to members-only content for ALL the Plus sites. I've written a tutorial for the Vector Tuts section.




permalink this comment Ward Thu Mar 8, 2007 at 10.59 pm

How handy!  You pulled me out of lurking status with this one… :)



permalink this comment Simeon Thu Mar 8, 2007 at 11.00 pm

Wow! I use transform each all the time, but I didn’t know they could be used as effects as well. Good to know

(but I would’ve put single trims between the cards personally ;o)



permalink this comment Octave Z Thu Mar 8, 2007 at 11.04 pm

Oooh! Great tutorials! Thanks Veerle.



permalink this comment Michael Tighe Thu Mar 8, 2007 at 11.15 pm

I have always been curious how to achieve this in illustrator. There had to be an easier way that creating guides and spacing each one!

Thanks so much for this write-up.



permalink this comment Reinier Meenhorst - Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 12.14 am

This is great - production tips are so valuable. Illustrator has loads of these hidden gems but sometimes they’re very hard to uncover. I am glad you showed me to look beyond the Transform function (Object menu).



permalink this comment Marijn Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 12.28 am

These tips are really great! Simple and yet something I never would’ve discovered on my own. While I really enjoy your other articles I think this one got me out of lurking as well ;)



permalink this comment Jacob Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 02.04 am

Ahh another great tip and its come just in time for me as i’m set to go to the printers with some new business cards next week.



permalink this comment Chris Harrison Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 02.35 am

Wow… That is one awesome tip… I could have used this quite a few times.



permalink this comment Jacob Reiff Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 02.40 am

That’s pure genius, thanks for sharing! Anything to make the boring bits of Illustrator less time-consuming…



permalink this comment Artiatesia Deal Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 03.18 am

This is a great tip. I have to bookmarks this. I’m still learning Illustrator and I know that this tip will come in handy. And like everyone else, this post has pulled me out of lurking too.



permalink this comment DeaPeaJay Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 03.46 am

YES! I think we’ve found a Stargate fan!



permalink this comment Ronald Poi Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 05.22 am

I love this kind of tips, short and super useful…
Thank you!



permalink this comment esotericsean Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 07.00 am

wow, awesome! and a very strange coincidence that i was designing a business card this very moment!

thanks so much!



permalink this comment Matthias Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 10.15 am

I often see my colleague right next to me fiddling around with business cards or stickers on an Illustrator page.

Maybe I’ll tell her this next time. Maybe ...




permalink this comment McVirusS Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 10.40 am

For me it was funny to see the exact businesscard you are using for this article laying on my desk ;), just a few inches away from the monitor. It’s a small world ;).

(Only the name differs, mine says Jesper ;))



permalink this comment Florin Hatmanu Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 10.59 am

Priceless. This tip will increase my productivity for sure, thanks.



permalink this comment Limbo Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 11.30 am

Excellent little trick that - I probably won’t need it for professional print - I let my printer set the pagination, but as a step and repeat tool, that is a great tip!



permalink this comment kitune Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 12.25 pm

Thanks!!! very useful.



permalink this comment J Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 03.04 pm

Very slick, but what is the reasoning behind setting up duplicate cards like this when preparing business cards for print?

In the past I have just provided the printer with one .eps with crop marks for the front of the card and a separate .eps file for the back.



permalink this comment Roel Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 04.03 pm

Nice find :) I used to do this with ‘Oject > Transform > Move > Copy’ (Shift+Cmd+M) and then pressed Cmd+D a couple of times to repeat that action (first horizontally, then vertically). Your technique is faster.



permalink this comment Ara Pehlivanian Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 04.39 pm

Impressive… very efficient.



permalink this comment nick Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 05.49 pm

thank you, thank you, very nice :) can’t wait to implement :p the technique :)



permalink this comment jackie Fri Mar 9, 2007 at 07.53 pm

wow.  I had no idea you could duplicate business cards like that.  I have always copied and pasted as a group, and trying to set up the guides for each one was monstrous.  This will be a reason to upgrade my version of Illustrator too!

Thanks again for another amazing and helpful tip.



permalink this comment prisca Sat Mar 10, 2007 at 11.25 am

excellent method, very clever and quick - thanks, Veerle ;)



permalink this comment Niko Neugebauer Sat Mar 10, 2007 at 02.01 pm

Very nice and extremely useful one ! =O)
I am quite impressed, and some friends who works with Illustrator will appreciate it greatly.



permalink this comment Markus Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 01.06 pm

Very nice and usefull tip!



permalink this comment MaRmAR Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 06.13 pm

Great! I didn’t know about this feature! Thanks. :-)



permalink this comment 1012 Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 01.38 am

I tried this and it works great :D

How would i then go about manipulating the set of objects, not just the individuals?



permalink this comment Mark Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 10.14 am

Good article, as a designer (web or graphic) it’s always important to use your time effectively. So I think this is a great example



permalink this comment jayhan Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 10.20 am

Thanks for the useful tips! Like it!



permalink this comment Tom Hermans Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 12.13 pm

very handy indeed, I use Indesign for these kind of things, but this is another way to do it ! thx for the tip



permalink this comment Alex Buga Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 01.02 pm

It’s usefull allright, but usually the DTP guy does this, so I only send the main layout of the business card.

Anyway. Good tip. I never knew that you can do that with transform.



permalink this comment Paul Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 02.49 pm

As a printer, I use this technique all the time. I have a template with crop marks set up, also using this technique.
However I didn’t know about dragging it to the Graphic Styles template. Cool.

To J: I’m willing to bet that your printer does the same thing with your .eps file after you give it to them. Because a business card takes up such little space, it saves paper to print 8 or 10 on a sheet and cut them apart.



permalink this comment Veerle Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 08.38 pm

@Alex Buga and J, these days I usually export a PDF from either Illustrator or InDesign because that’s what “my” printer prefers me to do, but a lot of printers prefer that you deliver them a page filled just like Paul for example. I guess it depends from printer to printer. Also for printing at home it can be handy I think.



permalink this comment Lisa Town Tue Mar 13, 2007 at 12.49 am

This is fabulous - thanks for the tip!



permalink this comment Damon Stephenson Tue Mar 13, 2007 at 01.42 am

Those “crop marks” what are they for? I’m assuming the small lines in the corners are not supposed to be there when cut?



permalink this comment Hurry Tue Mar 13, 2007 at 10.29 am

great great tips, i`m out of lurking now :)



permalink this comment Cruz Vaughn Tue Mar 13, 2007 at 02.30 pm

I gatta thank you,‘couse I learn from you so much,and your design is so good! Specially your Christmas desktop ,that is amazing!



permalink this comment Aston Martin Tue Mar 13, 2007 at 11.38 pm

Veerle you can write own guide for designers. The whole blog is a guide :)



permalink this comment Chet Wed Mar 14, 2007 at 08.41 pm

This is Awesome. Thanks for the sweet tips ;) (Also - your site design is amazing, keep up the good work! It flows so perfectly)



permalink this comment Ben Thoma Thu Mar 15, 2007 at 12.37 am

Very cool! I will use that when making fliers.



permalink this comment Nate Tharp Thu Mar 15, 2007 at 11.09 pm

Thank you so much for that! I just wish I’d read it two weeks ago. I guess I’ll have to make some other business cards to try it out on. Your tips are always useful.



permalink this comment Veerle Sun Mar 18, 2007 at 04.15 pm

Damon Stephenson said:

Those “crop marks” what are they for? I’m assuming the small lines in the corners are not supposed to be there when cut?

These lines are there as precise marks on where to crop the cards after printing. The word says exactly its meaning “marks to crop”. So yes, these lines should exactly be there so you know where to crop. Of course the lines will be cut off in the end, they are on the outside area of the card.

Glad you all enjoy this tip so much. It’s actually Collin Smith from Adobe we have to than, here.



permalink this comment Anthony Baker Thu Mar 22, 2007 at 02.38 pm

Lordy… by mind is reeling. Brilliant trick, Veerle!



permalink this comment Justin Pardee Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 05.10 am

This works great, but I’m a bit of an Illustrator newbie and am having trouble “flattening” my file for output as PDF or EPS.

The transformed duplicates don’t show up, am I missing something?



permalink this comment Veerle Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 07.44 pm

Justin Pardee said:

This works great, but I’m a bit of an Illustrator newbie and am having trouble “flattening” my file for output as PDF or EPS. The transformed duplicates don’t show up, am I missing something?

Not sure what you do wrong here :-/ I’ve done some tests and even saving to an EPS version 9 doesn’t give me the result of what you are saying, same if I save to PDF version 1.3. Normally you just do “save as”, select PDF or EPS from the dropdown and then choose the necessary EPS or PDF version and that’s it. Nothing special is needed. You can of course always expand the appearance right before exporting to avoid this weirness from happening. Select the object and go to the Object menu and choose Expand Appearance. Your original AI file will still have the appearance in tact, so it’s only for exporting. Further than that I really don’t know what goes wrong and how to help you I’m afraid. It’s just weird that this happens.



permalink this comment Andrew Kumar Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 10.36 am

that’s cool!



permalink this comment Rob Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 04.08 pm

So simple! I had no idea this was there the whole time I was doing the “measure/guide/copy/paste/change/change/change” shuffle. Thanks so much!

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