Buss Cards with GPL Apps

May 25, 2006.
This set of instructions are from an early set attempting to use OO and even Mozilla’s Composer to create ready to print business card images in the .pdf format. Eventually I settled for Scribus to compensate Inkscape’s limitations (which I like very much anyway).

Since I am overseas at the moment, I don’t have a printer. Thus, part of this article documents how I had managed to create quality .pdf files that I could burn to CD and take to a local cyber-café to print on a “windoze” network (or email to myself and access at said place).

Although you need only Inkscape and Scribus/Aqua to follow the business card instructions, this is what I used:

  • OS X Panther 10.3.9
  • Inkscape 0.43
  • Scribus/Aqua 1.3.3 (Alpha version?) 27 March 2006, with Ghost Script 8.50. It’s slow on Tiger, but usable on Panther. Short cuts sometimes don’t work so you’ll have to depend on your mouse. AFAIK, most features work. [ 09 January 2007 Build ID C-C-T-F-A-Mac/Aqua works on a dual Core Intel MacBook running Tiger under Rosetta as of Jan. 30, 2007 ]
  • Composer that comes with Mozilla 1.7.13
  • OpenOffice (OO) 2.0

I liked the freedom that Inkscape provides over the always terse word processing documents that lack the stylistic freedom of ¨artistic¨ driven programs. There were many, many caveats along the way. But gladly, I found solutions. You can and should ignore the instructions in “Strikethrough” font as these were only kept for “historical” purposes.

I used a handy set of Inkscape instructions to create my own buss cards (google ¨en:Make business cards easily with Inkscape¨ or try < http://popolon.org/gblog2/categorie/didacticiel/didacticiel-graphique/didacticiel-inkscape/>). It was very useful. but when I started to manipulate imported images such as .png images I came across broken image problems. I also found that ¨Path=>Object to path¨ suggested creates uneditable files so I do not suggest using that feature. To make use of this set of instructions you´ll need one template available on the original site:

http://popolon.org/gblog2/wp-content/upload/business card-85×54.svgz

If using imported bitmap images, ignore the instructions to use the tiled template (template with many cards ready for print) as the copying and pasting from the original card document to the tiled template is unreliable and frequently creates broken images, images or entire cards with red “x”s on them.

Also ignore the advice on the English page, “if the whole designed card is littler [this is not my spelling] than the template, make a rectangle with the exact size of the document. Transparent or white if needed. This is essential to use in the page template”. I don’t know how the card outline was created but if you make a layer as a card outline, upon exporting it as a .eps file, the cards will show up greyed out.

Exporting an Inkscape image as an .eps file works fine for ‘text images’ and solid Inkscape created shapes. But imported images and Inkscape effects such as semi-transparency do NOT transfer over well to .eps documents. These problems range from effects not showing at all to transparent shapes show up as solid and imported bitmap images show up as grey blanks in .eps files. Single cards made with imported bitmap images DO show up well when they are exported as .png files though. But even when working with the .png format, exporting a single card works, but a tiled page creates broken images.

The trick to high quality business cards seems to be to create quality files, which inherently creates large sized files. This also creates larger than necessary files, in terms of area, business cards take. These large files, in both area and size, then get resized to a smaller area size. This process ends in high quality imaged business cards.

Dimensions of Business Cards

  • Inkscape buss. cards (French standard): 85mm Width (length) x 54mm height
    I’ve found that using the smaller setting gives a little extra slack, and guarantees that your cards will fit in north American sized wallets.
  • Chilean? standard: 9cm x 5cm

If you don’t want to read about my experience with OpenOffice and Composer, skip right to the “Instructions” section below.

Experience with OpenOffice (OO)

I want to start by saying that I like OO, and that I am generally impressed with it, other than the blurry fonts and menus on the OS X ports. I vastly recommend it over it’s sister project NeoOffice [NeoOffice seems to have stabilized as of January 2007 as it’s out of the alpha phase but I can’t attest to it’s usability over OO].

I spent about a week and a half trying to figure a better way to do this. I imagine this might have worked if OO easily allowed to resize readily, and then duplicate resized images. That’s why, in my early attempts, I used gimp to resize the images and in the process probably created an inferior quality image. OO seems to lack even the most basic tiling features, and I hate how you have to adjust the writable area before placing the images into the table, else the images may distort if not done in just the right order. I also don’t like how I can’t seem to select legal sized paper anywhere in the “Print” sections in the “Options” or “Customize” sections. OO spaces cards evenly but I am only able to put 4 per page rather the 5 for letter sized paper. I think the problem is in that the table feature is not “set and static” before importing the image (rather it’s dynamic); OO sizes the table according to your image. Thus you can’t size the image using the table as a guide. Using a table to size cards is easier than fiddling around with contextual menus. You know you can fit 5 per letter sized paper or 6 with legal. As hinted earlier, you can set the image size in the sub-contextual Picture/Type but this is terse. OO’s automatic spacing of cards also presumes it knows best how much space you want between cards, or is needed. Thus it doesn’t allow, at least not readily, a personalized and possibly maximum use of space (so as to fit another row of cards). OO also creates a second page without permission or notification. I don’t like how word editors treat one as if one were ignorant, and couldn’t make these decisions oneself. I guess these defaults are for these sort of people.

Experience with Composer
I was excited about using Composer as I have been using it almost exclusively for web-page creation. There were various problems when using it as a ready to print business card tiled paged. First, there is no page length selection. You can’t set legal or letter, etc. Thus “paging” is done blindly, and having to “Print Preview” to check how many cards can fit on one page before two pages are created is a nuisance. Second, .pdfs created through “Print Preview” seem to shrink cards to make room for the pathway and date up top. Third, card size adjustment is somewhat terse as with OO but more so as size is determined in pixels or percent, not in cm or mm.
First Template
1) Design a business card within Inkscape using the Inkscape template provided on the link above.

Deprecated Tiled page process (gets corrupted with imported .pngs)
Second Template
2-and tile it with ready to print template
-using File/Document Preferences, select legal size
-fill in the extra two card spaces, copy or duplicate
-adjust, you may have to unselect some as there seems to be a minor bug when moving the cards as a group. Solution move them together with the mouse after highlighting all cards and unlinking the original through the menu.

2) Select all
3) Export as .png using page tab and 500dpi and “Page” tab or “Selection” tab

Deprecated, I don’t think this is necessary if the first export was done with at least 500dpi.
Open a New Inkscape canvas
-import .png image (or tiled page)
-select image with mouse or select all
-press on chain/proportion lock

As a single image/card
=and input 85 under width (w) in mm
-select all
-export using Page tab as .png or save as .svg

As a Tiled Page (gets corrupted easily)
=and input 215.900 under width (w) in mm
-select all
-export page as .png or save as .svg

4) Use insert “Image Frame”
5) Adjust the graphical “Image Frame” to whole page which should be legal size since we used legal size in Inkscape


-Use insert table to have 6 rows and 2 columns for or A4 paper (5 rows for letter).
=Adjust images with mouse till they fit flush into table boxes.
-“Get Image” from sub-contextual while highlighting the created “Image Frame”.
=Convert table to “Image Frame” if “Get Image” does not show up in sub-contextual.
-Adjust image using sub-contextual “Properties” to appropriate size is necessary
ie., Under the “Image” tab, “Scale to frame size” and “Proportionate” feature if necessary


The deprecated way for a tiled page:
The easy and fast way but risky as the image may show “corrupted” (assumes you saved the .png file ‘within’ the .svg file):
-open .svg file containing .png tiled image
-click “ok” when Scribus says the file contains unsupported features,
-ignore the save the converted Scribus file request
-voilà, it opens and fills the page without adjustment

6) Once everything looks organized, use the .pdf export option to print a .pdf copy. (Make sure the page settings in OS X’s “System Preferences” concurs with the business card document.)
7) Burn to CD or email to yourself and access at cyber-café for printing.

Printing in Adobe PDF Viewer (in a Cyber-Café)

The following only applies if you’re using oficio sized paper.

8) I had to run off a few copies before I realized that the settings are off.

Apparently, some of the wysiwyg problems I encountered are due to the fact that legal sized paper is not the same as what they call oficio here in Chile. I assumed them to be the same. ¨Legal¨ has a few inches more than ¨oficio¨. I’m told that Adobe Acrobat Reader and (most) apps do not support oficio. (It seems oficio might just be a Spanish or Latin American thing.) The solution would be to buy paper sized for Legal but I can’t find it in thick (for cards) paper. Vendors sell large tracts of paper which one has to cut to size. Read below for the solution I found.

Problems and Solutions:

  • Adobe sees and prints my light green as puke green. If something like this happens, go to the photo section in the print preferences and brighten up the picture.
  • Adobe sets default page settings to ¨Shrink large sheets¨, set to ¨Use sheet size¨ or something to that effect. Don’t use the ¨No settings choice¨, or the ¨Shrink large sheets¨.
  • Set the “grapar” feature in the printer configuration to “inferior” (bottom of page).

9) Make sure to use a high quality print setting.

Maurice Cepeda,

Last Updated: January 30, 2007

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