Making your business cards dynamic in Illustrator

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.

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