How to “Wow” with a Simple, Laser-Cut Greeting Card

I have a folded sample from Tiffany & Co. from a few years back. It was their holiday card, and I remember when I first saw it, I was so impressed with its simplicity and style.

They chose a reverse tri-fold as the base, which is unusual. A reverse tri-fold is a tri-fold set up so that the fold-in panel hinges off the front cover, rather than the back cover – opening to the left, rather than to the right. The beauty of this decision was that it allowed them to laser cut the cover panel and to put a double-hit of their Tiffany blue on the back side of the two panels to serve as the backdrop for the laser-cut scene. Here’s a photo:

Tiffany_1

Tiffany_2

Pro tip: Notice that the Tiffany blue comes just short of the score on the interior. The temptation often is to pull the color box right to the fold, but in a situation where the fold-in panel is slightly shorter to accommodate for the paper thickness (aka “folding compensation”) pulling the color to the fold means they would have had a thin line of Tiffany blue showing on the inside when it was folded. Instead, they pulled it back by 1/8” and the interior is clean as a whistle.

Tiffany_3

Now, it’s my turn
This year, I was actually able to manufacture my own holiday card at Foldfactory, which was exciting for me – but think about it. I have thousands of cool samples in my collection (which I’ll be sharing with you at this blog), and we have tons of creative formats at Foldfactory to choose from. So, what should I do?? The pressure and the expectations (in my head) were huge. I wanted to do something interesting, but I also wanted to prove that a beautiful card doesn’t have to be fussy. And then I remembered the Tiffany card. It was the perfect choice – we can laser-cut at Foldfactory, and the format was a simple twist on an everyday favorite. Planets = aligned.

I decided to go with the theme, “Peace, love & folding.” I wanted the words to be laser-cut on the cover, and then I wanted a multicolor image to show through the writing.

Pro tip: One thing to think about when you’re designing for laser-cutting is that the cut spaces need to connect or work together to build an image. So, for example, the voids in the letters “o” and “a” will be tricky in a standard font. So, you will need to use a font from our list of suggested laser-friendly fonts, or do some testing and custom modification by converting your font to outlines and adding connector points.

I chose Bitbit, a free font that is listed in our laser cut font reference at Foldfactory. The font itself is made out of a series of little circles. I liked the modern feel of it. However I wanted to use a stylish ampersand, which took some experimenting. I needed something that didn’t have voids that would drop out, because I really didn’t have time (or the patience, frankly) to create my own custom ampersand. I found a winner in Caslon 540 Italic. It was perfect, and provided an interesting contrast to Bitbit.

bitbit

The rest of the layout was easy. I bought the hi-res multicolor image from a stock photo service, downloaded it and placed it into layout, making sure that I pulled the image box 1/8” short of the fold, like the Tiffany sample. Easy-breezy. I finessed my message and was ready for file prep.

Prepping my InDesign file for laser-cutting
Our laser-cutting machine can do all sorts of things – cut, kiss-cut, perf, etch and even cut variable content. So we have to create a layer to tell it which function we’d like it to do. We have detailed, step-by-step instructions for how to set up your file for laser-cutting right at Foldfactory, however I’m going to focus on the die-cutting function, because that’s what I used for this project.

First, I created a new layer for the laser cut portion of the design, named it “Laser Cut” and made it the top-most layer. Next, I opened my color palette by clicking “Window,” then “Color,” then “Swatches.” I clicked in the upper right corner of the Swatch Palette and selected “New Color Swatch.” I named the swatch “Dieline.” Then, I clicked on the Color Type drop-down menu and selected “Spot.”

I followed the color guideline that we have at Foldfactory and, since I was die-cutting, chose the color combination for “Dieline,” which was R:0 G:255 B:255. Digital laser cutting rbg guideAs instructed in the online directions, I changed the Color Mode to “RGB” and adjusted the color values to match the RGB formula for “Dieline.”

Once I had my layer and spot color, I needed to modify my graphic elements. I dragged the typography to the Laser Cut layer, and then I converted the type to outlines by choosing “Type” then “Create Outlines.” I did this because I needed to be able to define the outer edges of the little circles and the outer edges of the ampersand. If you look at the font when it’s still a font, the elements are solid. The laser-cutter needs a line. So, if you convert to outlines, you will get the outline of the font.

Card_solid

Once the type was converted, I set the outline of the letterforms to a .25 pt. solid stroke and colored the stroke with the spot color we defined (R:0 G:255 B:255 – a bright cyan-like hue). It looked like this:

Card_outline

The “Why” behind the “What”: In essence, what you’re doing here is telling the printer – both the human who preflights the file, and the machine itself – which elements will be cut. Since, in a digital file, everything is a graphic and in essence lives at the same level, we have to separate the elements that are different and non-printing. We do that by making them their own layer to set them apart. We also assign these items their own spot color so that they may separate out as a different element, and in this case we also assign a specified line weight to the elements, which the laser-cutter identifies and uses for the ultimate precision. Think of it this way: if we were using a 1pt. line weight, which side of the line would the ultra-fine laser-cutter use as its guide? We need a very fine line for the laser to follow.

The last step was to check my art, create a press-ready PDF and upload it to Foldfactory. My end result was this beauty:

FF_card1

FF_card2

Great ideas for laser-cut cards
Both examples that I’ve shown you were used for the holidays, but I think this concept works for many other occasions. It could be a gorgeous “Thank you” card for a wedding with a wedding photo on the inside foldout panels. It could be a great way to showcase a company logo, or a creative line art illustration. I was even thinking about doing a fun series of greeting cards using textese on the cover, like “OMG” and “LOL.” Wouldn’t that be fun? I’d love to hear your ideas for how this laser-cut card format could be used.

If you’d like my file to play with, you can download it here:

FF_Laser_Card.indd

The card finishes to a 5 x 7 format and fits a standard A7 envelope. Have fun, and we’re here for you when you’re ready to laser-cut and print.

Trish Witkowski