When designing an ID card template the best way to get started is to make a list of what you plan to accomplish with the ID. Is it for access control? Payments? Simply identification? No matter the case make a list of the elements you plan to have on it. Some examples: Name, Address, City, State, Zip code, Height, Eye Color, Hair color, Restrictions, Barcode, Photo, Logo(s), Title, ID number, Expiration Date, etc.
Once you have decided all the information you want on your ID the easiest thing to do is start by drafting a quick sketch with a pencil and paper. This doesn’t have to be precise, but it’s helpful to get a feel for where the individual pieces of information will go on the ID. Don’t forget you always have the option of putting things on the back of the card. Typically you will want to use the back of the ID card for a barcode, company/organization name and address, and other information that doesn’t fit well on the front of the card.
Your next step is to use software such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or GIMP (a free Photoshop alternative) and create your document. The size of a normal credit card size ID is 3.375″ x 2.125″, and I recommend using a resolution of at least 600 pixels/inch. You should create two of the documents right now – one for the front of the ID and one for the back. You should try to keep each separate element of the ID in its own layer, and further to keep whole sections in folders of layers (for example you may want folders for “Header”, “Information”, “Photo”, etc). Keeping this organized really helps in the long run as changes can be made quickly and efficiently (especially if you aren’t the one making the changes).
I recommend leaving some whitespace around the border of your ID, but if you want to have a full bleed (color all the way to the edge of the ID), you should make the document slightly larger (about 1/8″-1/4″ on all sides). In this way when you punch your cards out you will have color which runs to all the way to the edge.