Shaped Postcards – A Novelty That Works

Forme cut postcards are a great way to advertise something as they are far more exciting to look at than a traditional rectangular shape. They are also more eye catching than paying for advertising in someone else’s publication. Only a few extra steps are needed to progress electronic artwork to send to the printers for forme cutting. I designed this forme postcard in Adobe Photoshop CS and Adobe Indesign CS.


Firstly, treatment I wanted to create a funky and modern design to use for the forme postcard, doctor so I browsed such websites as to find a suitable image. The client had given me a tagline “slip into the comfort zone” so choosing slippers for the image made sense. I obtained the large jpg image, check took it into Photoshop, saved it as a 300dpi eps and created a path around the slippers. Then I placed the image in Indesign, referencing the clipping path as the Photoshop one. Orange seemed to be the best colour for the background and I placed the words and logo on the top layer. The website address wass meant to stand out particularly, so I used some other colours to highlight words to make it easier for readers to remember.


When printers forme cut around an item, it is recommended that the electronic files you send them are a) the artwork with bleed and no keyline and b) the keyline by itself. Both of these files need to have perfect positioning, so that the keyline is in the same place on the page as it would be in the bleed file. A keyline only needs to be hairline or maybe 0.5pt to be adequate. If the keyline is too thick, you might lose some of the areas you want to keep. In order to work in Indesign to fit text and images within the shape, I copied and pasted the keyline onto a separate layer which I then hid when I made the print ready PDF.


Forme shapes need to be easy to create and cut with, so it is best not to use shapes with long, jagged edges or lots of inclusions or borders. Simple, easy to draw shapes work best – the more complex the forme shape is, the more you will have to pay to create the customised forme. Some printing companies already have a variety of formes they have made and you can always ask them to use one of these as the cost is far less. Also remember that when designing the shape, you need to know the thickness of the paper or card it is printed on so that if the shape is too long, it won’t flop etc.


When I had finished creating the electronic artwork, I sent it to the printers by using a Print Preset PDF I had created in Indesign. It is a good idea to set up your PDFs as low-res, med-res and print res, so that when you send work to a client, they can’t go and reuse it elsewhere without notifying you and paying you first (ie, you send them a low-med res PDF of less than 200dpi – it becomes pixelated if they go to print commercially with it). These low-med res PDFs are adequate for viewing drafts on the screen and when it is time to send an item to print, you can send it as a high res (300dpi +) PDF so that it will look terrific!

Extra Tips & Tricks

* Using drop shadows or outer glows on text placed in front of images helps to make the text stand out better.
* Lighter background colours are better than darker background colours for making forme postcards eye-catching.
* Keep all text at least 0.5cm from the edge of the card or else it might be chopped off (the further in the better).

Fig 1. The back of the postcard

Fig 2. The keyline by itself

Fig 3. The front of the postcard – printing file(without keyline)