This is how to make your own debossing business card with a laser cutter, card stock, acrylic and rolling mill.
You will need:
1) Laser cutter
2) Rolling mill
3) X-acto knife
4) Mat board
5) Card stock
6) 1/8" acrylic
7) Adobe Illustrator and computer
8) Sink and water
Step 1: Vector Set Up
This is a vector set up for any laser cutter. I am using Adobe Illustrator, but any other program that exports vectors will do.
1) Standard business card is 3.5" x 2". If you plan to use that size, make sure your art board is to that size or bigger. If you are unfamiliar with the art board, you can go up to File-document setup. Once the a menu pops up for "document set up" you can hit "edit artboard" which should be in the upper right side of the menu. Adjust where needed as long as it is bigger than the card size.
2) Set up your lettering to however you want. You can choose any font size you like, but be sure to make the lettering has a vector path once you have set up the look to your desire.
Ex: I chose Helvetica. Once I positioned the letters to my liking, I then "right clicked" and choose "create outline". This will turn the letters into a vector and create a line on the outside and a fill. I then turned the letters black in with RGB. Do not use CYMK. Laser generally can only read RGB. I choose black because that is generally the standard for etching any material. This can vary, but it is unusual to have any other set up unless you are running multiple passes and layers.
3)Since I am debossing (depressing an image) and not embossing (raised image), you are going to need to a second rectangle to the size of the card and make the letter white and rest black. So that means, make a 3.5"x2" black rectangle and vectored lettering on top. Once you have that, you need to go to "Window" and choose "Pathfinder". Then select all the letters and the rectangle and in the pathfinder menu, click on "divid". Then go back to the letters with the " White Arrow" and delete all the fill of the letters. If you are having a hard time imaging what is going on, picture a cardboard rectangle and you cut the shapes of letters in it. You can see the cuts, but the fill is still there. You are simply just poking those out and throwing them away like a stencil. You are doing essentially doing the same thing when it comes too dividing and deleting in pathfinder.
4) I then set up the initial rectangle (step 1, 3.5"x2") to have a red line. True read is 255 in the RGB scale. You can tell if it is those numbers by double clicking on the red line and color menu will pop up to choose colors. This is the color picker. In the menu will be some numbers after RGB. Make sure that R is 255 and G, B are both 0. Any other letters in the menu should be 0 as well. You will also need to set the vector paths stroke to your laser setting. I will be setting my stroke to .005 for a vector image. If you cannot find stroke, you can find this in the "Window" drop down menu. At the bottom will be stroke. Once the menu pops up for stroke, select your path and set it to .005 for red and .001 for black.
5) Save file as a AI file and then hit print. Depending on your set up, this will automatically send it to the Laser software program. For me I will be using a Universal Laser Cutter.
Step 2: Materials and Steps
I will be using 1/8" acrylic. Acrylic generally cuts really clean and well for the detail that I want.
1) Take your acrylic and lay it down on laser cutters bed and tape down on the sides.
2) First etch raster or vector lettering first. This is because sometimes when you cut a object out first, it can turn or move a littler especially if it is somewhat warped. If you etch the letters first, that will be the most accurate. This goes for any future cuts that you may have as well. Always do the outside cuts last. You can generally do this by sectioning off the etching and cutting. In this case, we chose to etch black first and turned off the red path. You can usually find this in the laser setting when asked whether you want to use one color over another. You can also set to do all at the same time, but for accuracy will set black first, then red.
3) Once etched the you can go ahead and cut. However, sometimes the etching was not as deep as I liked. If it is not to your satisfactory, then just repeat the etching to double up the pass or a second round. Then you can cut it afterward. The deeper the etch, the deeper the debossing will be on the paper card stock. Once done cutting, be sure to wash thoroughly and dray all particulates.
Step 3: Running Paper in Mill
Once you acrylic sheet is clean, then you can begin to start pressing you cards. Now I choose a really thick white card stock. I want to get the most press out of it, so therefore it is a little thicker than your standard business card.
1) Cut down card sock sheets to where it is longer than the actual business card and make sure it is wider also. Be sure that is still fits in your rolling mill.
Ex: My mill is 4 wide, so I cut the width to 3.5 by 5 long to make sure that it got the press down on the paper. I can always cut it shorter later.
2) You are going to have to test a few sheets first to get the right pressure on it. Start with a light pressure first. If it is to strong, you can crack the acrylic and then you are really screwed. I also suggest running to papers stacked on top of each other. Sometimes those mills have grease on them and you do not want to get it on you cards. Therefor if you have it stacked plastic, card, and then paper protector, the cards will not get dirty. You can keep rerunning the same paper over and over with the other cards too. Once you have your desired pressure, do as many as you like.
Step 4: Cutting and Finishing
For this you want to make sure that you have a cutting mat, x-acto knife and ruler. Now I am kind of eyeing of what I want with these cards. For me personally, I made it to where there the whole card has a 1/8" boarder. I did not cut a boarder in the original laser cut so I am just eying it up to what looks best. I like the hand cut look and how they are all a little unique in one way or another. That being said, if you want a perfect guide line, you can put one in the initial vector when laser cutting. Once you are done cutting, that is the end of the project.