Preparing Your Cards For Print with Affinity Publisher

1. What do I Need?

This basic tutorial will offer you some advice on how to use Publisher and Photo to create your content and prepare print-ready PDF files for DriveThruCards. It will address how to set up one digital file so that both sides of the card are printed in full color.

The screenshots shown in the tutorial use Affinity Publisher and Photo for Mac OS. If you are using a different OS some of the instructions and screenshots may be slightly different, but hopefully you can find the right feature in your software version.

What is Affinity Software?

Affinity Suite includes Affinity Designer, Affinity Publisher and Affinity Photo. All are available for both Windows and Mac OS.

Affinity Publisher is a desktop publishing application and is Apple’s Mac App of the year (2019). Affinity Photo is an image editor (raster graphics) and Affinity Designer is a vector graphics editor

Affinity Software:

Affinity Publisher:

Affinity Photo:

You will need the CGATS21_CRPC1 color profile. For installation information see section 3.

2. How to Start a New Document with Publisher

This is the beginning of the step-by-step process for creating a new document for your cards.

Please Note

For your convenience, we have created template files to make your work easier. You can download card templates and tuckbox templates.

Starting your new file from a template

First, open Publisher. Then, in the File pull-down menu, select Open and then navigate to where you have saved your downloaded template file. Open it.

Let’s take a look at this template for a standard US poker-sized card. What are all these lines?


  • The dark gray space is the bleed area. Background images or color must extend to this line in the file, which you can see is outside of the paper trim line. This ensures that there is no unprinted white margin around the edges of your finished cards.
  • The edge of the gray area at the black dotted line is the trim line. This is approximately where the paper will be cut or trimmed off after the cards are printed.
  • The pink area edged by the dotted white line is the safe area for your text, logos and any important images. If any of these elements run outside of this area, it risks being trimmed off when the cards are cut after printing.

3. What You Need to Know before You Begin

The order of your document pages

for correct back-to-front printing

Please create one file for your entire deck of cards. The order of the cards in the final PDF will be the order of the finished cards in their packages.

To set up your file, you must order the pages with one card back and then one card front for each card in the deck. See the screenshot to the right for a sample view of what your multi-page document should begin to look like.

Understanding the document order of card backs and fronts is important. This will make it very easy to design and apply master pages for the correct card back and front pages, which we will cover next in this tutorial.

Cards do not need to have a common border color between their backs and fronts.


Your Image Files Need to Be High Resolution

The images you will be using for your cards, regardless of front or back placement, need to be high resolution, which is at least 300 dpi. The physical size of the image at 300 dpi needs to be at least the same size as the printed card or larger.

For example, if your background image is 300 dpi with a physical size of 3” by 4”, you are good to go since that is larger than the card. If your background image is 300 dpi but measures 1½” (1.5”) by 2”, then you have a problem. To scale up this image to meet the size of the actual printed card, your image will be degraded because the physical size of the image is not large enough.


Color Management in Publisher

Cards cannot have ink coverage that exceeds 300%. When selecting colors in layout, set blacks to: Cyan 0%, Magenta 0%, Yellow 0% and Black 100%. If you want a richer black you can set values to: Cyan 60%, Magenta 40%, Yellow 40% and Black 100%. The rich black may look better, but if it is layered with other elements it may push the combination to be over ink.

The images you will be using for your cards must be CMYK. Files that are PNG can not be CMYK, so please make sure your files are CMYK and save them as tif, psd, or if you need to jpg

Unfortunately, you can not check ink in Affinity Publisher, but you can in Affinity Photo. We recommend making sure your resolution and color are correct in Affinity Photo BEFORE starting layout in Publisher.

Install the CGATS21_CRPC1 color profile

Download the profile here

Windows right-click on profile and select Install Profile. Alternatively, copy the profiles into the WINDOWS\system32\spool\drivers\color folder.

Mac OS, copy profiles into the /Library/ColorSync/Profiles folder or the /Users/[username]/Library/ColorSync/Profiles folder.

Check Ink Coverage in Photo

Open the art file in Photo. In the View pull-down menu, under Studio, select info. In the Info window, click the three gray dots on the left (1) and select Total Ink (2), then do the same on the right and select CMYK (3), and now you can hover over the darkest areas to see the total ink coverage and the ink mix. If the total is over 300%, it will need to be corrected.

Correct Ink Coverage in Photo: In the Document pull-down menu...

4.png Convert Format/ICCProfile and in the new window select the CGATS21_CRPC1 profile that you have just installed.


4. Getting to Know Your Workspace

This is just a few words to orient you to your workspace. You will use the Dock Toolbar, the Context Toolbar, the Toolbar at the top of your workspace, and various palettes throughout your document production. What remains open in your workspace is customizable. Be sure to explore the View drop-down menu under Studio to see what palettes you may need to make your work faster and more efficient.


5. Adding Text with Publisher

If using a template from DriveThruCards, you will need to delete page one before exporting your file for print. To delete, simply select the page in the Pages Palette, then right-click and select delete.

To get started, select the Text Tool in the Toolbar. Click and drag on the page to place a text frame. You can manually resize it by clicking and dragging the blocks or handles on the Frame box edges.

Then, using the Type Tool click into the frame on the page. Your cursor will become a blinking text cursor inside the box. Now, you’ll also notice the Context Tool Bar has also changed to reflect your use of the Type Tool. Paragraph and Character Formatting options are now available.

To place text, open the file with your text content, select the text you want to place, and copy it. Go back to your Publisher file and click inside the text box, right-click or control-click and then choose Paste to import and place all of the selected text.


Another way to place text, which is helpful if you have a lot of text to import, is to use the Place command. You can import Word files, text files, and rich text files. Using the Type Tool make a text box, then go to the File pull-down menu and navigate to the document you’d like to import.

When you select the document, Publisher will auto fill the text box on the page, with the remaining text to be filled which will be indicated by the little crossed red box as noted on the previous page.


If you add pages (open the Page pallet on the right, right-click the page, then select add pages. You can always add more or remove pages later) and use the Text Tool to put text boxes in, then you can click the little crossed red box. When you click on the next text box, it will auto fill it with the rest of the text. If there is more text than will fit in the box, you can resize the box or make another box, continuing to click the little crossed red box and place text until all your text is placed.

You can change the size of the text boxes and move them at any time. You can also change the text formatting at any time as well.


6. Formatting Text and Making Style Sheets

Style sheets are templates for fonts and their formatting. You can create styles with specific attributes, save them, and then apply them document-wide with a few mouse clicks. Publisher lets you apply Text Styles to a paragraph or a range of paragraphs, or to single words or a
string of words.


Paragraph Styles and Character Styles are created in much the same way. Starting with Paragraph styles, select the text you would like to change. You can style the text initially in the Control Bar using options available. When it’s close to how you would like it, select the text you have just altered, and then click on the New Paragraph Style on the bottom left of the Text Style pallet, which will open the Paragraph Style Menu.


In this menu, start by naming the Paragraph Style something that will easily identify it later. Now look at the Character options. You’ll notice it has already picked up the attributes of the text you fixed and selected. You can further alter the style in this dialog box, and the ones below. When you’re done, click OK to save it. Afterward, make sure to apply this style to your altered paragraph when the style is saved.


Similarly, Character Styles may be made, saved and applied. Use this to italicize or bold words, make words a different color, or underline certain words. Start by clicking the
Character Style Menu.

To change fonts or attributes, just update your Style Sheets. The changes will be made globally throughout your document.



Things to avoid as you style text in your document:

  • Widows: One single word or line at the bottom of a column of text
  • Orphans: One single word or line at the top of a column of text
  • Hyphens between columns of text

7. Adding Art with Publisher

Go to the File pull-down menu and select Place as you did with text OR click the Place Image Tool in the Dock Toolbar on the left. Then navigate to the art or logo you are placing and click Open. Your cursor with change shape, then simply click and drag to place the item.


Use any of the corner handles with the Move Tool (at the top of the Dock Toolbar) to proportionately resize the item. Avoid using the middle dots to resize your image; they do not scale proportionately and will cause the image to look odd.

You can hover over any of the tools in the Toolbar and Context Toolbar to see what other options are offered, but placing and sizing are the basics. To move above or behind another item, select and right-click, goto Arrange and pick which level you want.


8. Creating Master Pages with Publisher

Master Pages allow you to place borders, text and other information just once in the file. Then those elements will appear on all of the pages you select, in the exact same spot. It’s very useful for recurring items, like repeating card backs.

In your Pages Palette, open the Master Pages tab (the small arrow next to the Master Pages listing), and click on the new page icon at the top of the Master Pages Palette. Name your new Master something easy to recognize. In this same window, make sure the correct measurements for the page and the safe area are applied to your new Master Page.


Click on the Master Page you just made to make sure you’re actually working on that page. It will highlight in the Pages Palette (you will also see it on the bottom left of the window).


Now, begin your work by adding text, images, or graphics. When you are done, you’ll be ready to apply this template page to your document.

Keep the Master Pages tab open and open the Pages tab (it’s the small arrow next to the Page listing) and right-click on any page, and select Apply Master...

In the window that opens, use the pull-down to select the proper Master Page and select the pages you want to apply the Master Page to. You can list the page numbers you would like to apply this Master Page to or select any of the preset options and it will populate all the pages you have selected.

Alternately, with your Selection Tool, you can grab the Master Page icon from the Pages Palette and drag it on top of the page you wish to apply it to. It will automatically apply the Master to that one page.

Now, if you need to make changes to recurring elements in your document, you can just update your Master Page. The changes automatically update throughout your document, on all of the pages styled with that Master.


9. Exporting Your Publisher File as a Print-Ready Color PDF

When your work is complete, thoroughly check for errors in the document, like missing fonts or broken image links. Affinity does not yet have a Preflight tool but it’s been suggested that it is coming. This tutorial will be updated at that time.

After you’ve fixed your document, you’re now ready to export your Publisher file as a
print-ready PDF.

Go to the File pull-down menu and select Export.


The pop-up will have all the file type options along the top. Make sure PDF is selected. In the Preset pull-down menu, select PDF/X-1a:2003. If you do not see this profile you can download it and install it with a quick internet search. Set the raster size to 300 and include the bleed. Then click the More button.



In the window that opens, there is a lot of info to cover. Be sure to follow the image as closely as possible.

There are a few things here that are very VERY important.
1 Use DPI is set to 300
2 Compatibility set to PDF/X-1a:2003
   Color Space CMYK
   Profile CGATS_CRPC1.icc (this is the profile  
   you installed at the start of this tutorial)
3 Honor spot colors NOT checked
4 Include bleed
5 Do NOT include printer marks
6 Embed fonts: All Fonts

Then click close and hit Export!

Once the file is done exporting, open it and thoroughly proof it to make sure everything looks as you want it. This is super important and can save you days of frustration. If it looks as it should, go ahead and upload!


10.  Tips and Things to Remember


Affinity Publisher does not (yet) have a package feature like InDesign does. This section will be updated if it does in the future.

For now, it is VERY important to make sure you have your Affinity Publisher file, PDF, and all the linked/placed text, images, fonts, and graphics in one folder. If you try to open this later or if you need to send the files to someone else, you will need all the parts used to compile this
deck of cards.

About Specifications

  • All images must be 300 dpi/ppi resolution. The physical size of the image should at least be the size as it appears on the card.
  • Final PDF can not be over 300% ink limit.
  • All images should be CMYK. Do not use RGB or Lab colors. The colors may shift unpredictably during the export to print ready PDF process.
  • Preferred image formats are TIFF or EPS files. Refrain from using JPG or PNG files, which are more suitable for web publishing.
  • Header fonts shouldn’t be ridiculously large. The optimal range is 24 pts to 14 pts. Body Fonts should be 10 pts to 12 pts. Line spacing or leading is usually 2 points more than the font size.
  • In making your text fit into small spaces, avoid Tracking your text more or less than 20%. It will look too squished or too loose.
  • Avoid widows and orphans: leaving a single word at the end of a paragraph or a single line at the top or bottom of a column of text.
  • Black text should be made with a 100% black swatch, with total CMYK values of 0% Cyan (C), 0% Magenta (M), 0% Yellow (Y), and 100% Black (K).
  • Black elements should NOT be built in “Registration” black or with the 100% black swatch used for text. They should be built out of “Rich” black. For best results, we recommend the CMYK values of 60% Cyan (C), 40% Magenta (M), 40% Yellow (Y), and 100% Black (K). CMYK total value should NOT exceed 240%.
  • Text should be at least 0.125” from the trim edge.
  • Embed all fonts used in the document (all font families used, including all screen
    and printer fonts).
  • Do not add information or printer marks such as crop marks, web-press comments, etc.

11. I Need More Help!

I have questions that aren’t covered here...

To contact Partner Relations, please email

Brian will do his best to help you and answer any questions you have that are not covered in this tutorial. Your questions will help us improve this tutorial, so it answers more questions for everyone.

If you have decided that you don’t care to do your own file layout, you can find people with professional skills and contract them to create your print files. The cost of this work depends on how much of the work you do yourself before handing it over.

We can recommend someone for layout if you would like. Please contact Partner Services
for details.

You can also find freelance layout professionals at sites like

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