Years ago when I first decided that I’d like to try out print design (my background is in web and screen work), I had this impression that there was some magically difficult things you had to know to get stuff printed. The reality is that for simple projects it’s actually very easy. In this tutorial I will walk you through the complete process of designing a simple brochure, getting it ready for print and then actually uploading it to a commercial online printer, checking the proof and seeing the finished product.
The Pre-Design Planning Stage
Before you start any print project you should always do some planning. That’s because the final format, dimensions, and choice of printer will all affect how you go about designing.
The first thing you would normally do is get the project brief. In my case there is no client, so I’m just going to make up a project. Since this week we’re promoting GraphicRiver, I’m going to make a brochure about the site, as if it’s aimed at a designer who doesn’t know what the site offers. So it’ll really be a sort of basic catalog.
Step 1 – Choose a Printer
So the first thing we’ll do is select a printer. It’s not a bad idea to have a few different printers that you are used to working with. I’d suggest that over time you should have:
- A small local printer that you regularly use and know
This is a good idea because you can literally get to know the person who is putting your jobs into the press. That means you can talk to them about jobs, get their input on how to get things to come out right and get ideas for future jobs.
- Specialty printers for odd jobs
For some types of job you may need a specialty printer or service. Examples of specialty printers are companies that print onto objects (like stamps, clothing, pens and so on), printers that specialise in signage, printers that do special effects like embossing, printers that specialise in large formats, and so on.
- An online printer for quick turn-arounds, cheap projects and interstate work
These days there are a lot of large commercial printers offering online services. They are often very fast and provide a lot of options. The drawback is you’re much less likely to get to know someone at the printer – though you may get assigned a rep at some online printers.
For our purposes we’re going to use an online printer called UPrinting. They are a US printer and deliver anywhere in the country. You can do absolutely everything from payment to upload to proofing through their website, and the rates they offer are very competitive.
I’d never used them before this tutorial and overall I was quite impressed with the service.
Step 2 – Choose a Product
So here we are at the UPrinting website. The first step is to select a product. We want to make some Brochures.
Step 3 – Grab Dimensions and Fold Information
The next step is to specify what type of brochure we’re interested in:
- Size: 8.5" x 11"
UPrinting offers a few different sizes. Note that the size is for the brochure laid out flat and unfolded. I have chosen 8.5" x 11" which is close to an A4 page when laid out.
- Stock: 100lb Text Gloss
The stock is the type of paper you’ll be printing on. This makes a pretty big difference to the look and feel of the final product. Glossy papers tend to have a shiny feel and Matte papers have a duller more papery feel. You will also often need to choose a weight for the paper, the heavier the weight the thicker and closer it gets to card. For some types of project like a business card you will want a very thick weight.
I’ve chosen a heavyish stock. The weight is a bit foreign to me as here in Australia we use gsm instead of lbs. You can find a conversion chart here.
- Folding: Trifold
It is critical that you pay attention to how the paper is going to be folded so you can determine how to layout your work. I’ve chosen a Trifold fold. To be honest I never remember which fold is which, but happily UPrinting gives you a little demo in the corner so you can be sure you’ve chosen the right one.
- Color: 4 Color Both Sides
Finally we choose how we want to print. We want full color on both sides, UPrinting calls this 4 color – i.e. CMYK.
Step 4 – Quick Paper Mockup
Now that we know what we’re designing for it’s a good idea to do a very quick paper mockup. I find this useful for items which are going to include folding because it helps make sure you put the right things in the right places.
So here I’ve just grabbed a piece of paper from my notebook, folded it like a trifold brochure and then scribbled in roughly what I’m going to place on each page.
Then when you unfold it you can see how to arrange the different panels on the page. So for example the front cover of the brochure actually appears on the right most panel of the outside page. This make sense when you see it in reality, but if you just open up Photoshop and start designing, there is a temptation to think that the front page must be the first one and therefore on the left.
The other benefit to making a paper mockup is you get a feel for how the person will read the brochure and that’ll be useful for the next step.
Step 5 – Information Design
So in my paper mockup I came up with a basic layout of how I want to arrange things in the brochure. The front page will just have a heading – "1000′s of graphic files from just $1" – and the logo. Then the inside pages will have all our various product types – Photoshop, Illustrator and Other. The outside page that you see when you first open the front cover will have a "How it works" step by step instruction on the site, and the back cover will talk about our sister marketplaces.
I’ve laid it out this way to try to present the information in an easily digestable way:
- Front Cover: Basic sales proposition (1000s of files)
- First Inside Page: How the site works
- Inside Spread: What the files actually are
- Back Cover: Call to Action – Site address and upselling the reader on other sites
Step 6 – Setup the Document
The next step is to setup a document in Photoshop to design in. Some printers will just give you a set of information and specifications and you’ll need to set up your own document.
Warning: If you’re not used to print design there is a temptation to assume that the fold lines for the document will simply be placed at 1/3 intervals of the document – since it’s going to get folded in three. This isn’t the case. So for example for our trifold brochure the size of the panels are 3.625", 3.6875" and 3.6875" – i.e. one of them is .06" smaller than the other two. And moreover when you flip over to the other side the smaller panel is in a different spot. On the outside it’s the left most panel, on the inside it’s the right most panel.
Happily UPrinting provides a templates section where you can get a document complete with guides placed correctly which you can switch on and off while you design.
Step 7 – Templates
You can see the two templates below.
The important things to note are:
- If you go to Image Size in Photoshop you will discover that the document is 11.25" x 8.75". Of course the brochure itself is only 11" x 8.5".
- The extra space is the Bleed for the document. You can see it in the template as that darker area which is .125" on each edge.
- The Safe Zone is a further .125" inside and is just an indicator of where you should avoid placing anything that you don’t want to accidentally get cut off. Sometimes copies of your printed material won’t be cut exactly correctly – that’s why we have bleed, but conversely it can go the other way too.
Photoshop Design Stage
So with our document all set up and our preplanning done, it’s time to actually make some graphics. So we’ll work directly in the template PSD files provided by UPrinting because then we don’t need to go about redrawing the guides.
Step 8 – Background Collage
What we’re going to do is make a simple background out of thumbnails of all the many files available on GraphicRiver. So I’ve gone through and got screenshots of a good 35 or so items and cropped them to 375px x 375px, then laid them out in a grid as you can see below. When I ran out I just started repeating the same thumbnails again (because I was a bit lazy to make more of them!)
Next we’ll fade those out to black by creating a new layer above, filling it with black and setting transparency to 85%.
Step 9 – Adding Some Shading
Next I’ve gone to View > Show > Guides to make the UPrinting guides appear. Then we create a new layer on top and fill a rectangle shaped the size of one of the panels with black as shown below.
Now while the panel is selected, go to Select > Modify > Feather and use a value of 150px.
Then hit Delete and you should be left with a dark fade at the edges.
Now follow the same steps to add the dark fade on all three panels. Once you have all three, it’s probably worth duplicating the layers to double up the effect and make it a bit more pronounced.
And there we have our background! I repeated this same procedure on both the inside and outside PSD files.
Step 10 – Heading Text Style
Now we’re going to create some heading text using the font Agenda-Black which is nice and round and fat. I typed in my main heading ("1000′s of Graphic Files") set in all caps.
Next we’re going to add a layer style to the text, for this to work though we need each line of text seperate as it’s own layer. This will make more sense in a moment. So you should have one layer with the word "1000′s" and another layer with the words "of Graphic Files".
Then right click on either layer and select Blending Options to bring up the layer style dialog box. Now add a Gradient Overlay and set the gradient to be white to a very faint grey (C:0, M:0, Y:0, K:12). Then add a 2px Inner Stroke of white.
The reason we need to have each line of text on its own layer is that otherwise the gradient will stretch over both lines of text, whereas we want a gradient on each line.
This font and style combination is of course the usual way I style text on the Envato Marketplaces for ads and general graphics. This is important as we want to keep a consistent bit of branding going through the brochure.
Step 11 – Laying Out the Outside
Next I’ve simply laid out all the different elements on the page. It’s mostly text and logos so there isn’t a lot of Photoshop technique so to speak.
For the steps I added some numbered buttons. The numbers are the same Agenda-Black font with the same layer style added. The shiny looking circles you can make with an old Psdtuts+ tutorial called the Photoshop Button Maker.
The things to note about how I’ve laid out everything here are that:
- The fonts I’ve used are all variations of the Agenda font. So while we used Agenda Black for the heading text, for the other bits of text I’ve used Agenda Semibold and Agenda Medium. It’s a good idea to stick to one or two typefaces in a design unless you have good reason not to as it helps you keep consistency. Varying just weights and styles of the same typeface lets you have visual interest while keeping it cohesive.
- The left most "How it Works" panel is all aligned so that the edges of the buttons and the main title line up on the left, and the subtitles and text blocks also all line up.
- For the back panel I’ve centered everything up. This worked well as the logos are all odd shapes and there isn’t much text on the page.
- The aim on each panel is to have a visual heirarchy to guide the reader’s eye. So on the cover the first thing the person sees is "1000′s" which is pretty attention grabbing, then they see "of Graphic Files" and next they see "from just $1".
On the "How it Works" panel they should see the four numbered buttons first which I’ve made big and bold so it’s immediately clear that although there is a lot of text on this panel, that it’s going to be easy to read and digest. Then we’ve got a big step title so that even if they never read the small text a reader can still digest the main gist of the page.
Step 12 – Laying Out the Inside
Next we’ll lay out the inside. So open up the other template PSD file and run through the same procedure to make our background. Note that you can’t just copy and paste the background in one fell swoop because the panel sizes are different on this side.
Next I placed three titles for the three panels. My aim here was to create a bit of visual interest by making them go in a diagonal across and down the page. I’ve also added Photoshop and Illustrator icons with a heavy drop shadow and tilted at an angle to give the page a bit of a slapped together feel.
Step 13 – Placing Items
Next I went through and thought about all the different types of files we have on GraphicRiver and choose representatives to showcase. For each one I’ve made a small graphic – usually a screenshot with some drop shadow – and placed a two line title next to it in Agenda Semibold.
So here you can see the three pages laid out with items criss-crossing back and forth. This page feels a bit messy, but it’s not actually too bad and once the brochure is folded up it’ll feel like it has a bit more structure. In all cases it’s a good idea to line up the text blocks so they are centred and vertically aligned with other text blocks on their axises.
Here you can see both pages next to each other. And with that we are done with Photoshop!
Step 14 – Saving the Files for InDesign
Now because our file is saved at 300 dpi and is fairly high resolution we could theoretically just save a PDF from Photoshop and upload that for printing.
It used to be that Photoshop would flatten everything and the text wouldn’t be kept as vectors. These days you can save a Photoshop PDF and it will store the text and any other vector objects (such as Smart Objects) as vectors.
However in many situations it’s a good idea to create InDesign documents for printing because InDesign gives you access to some useful page layout tools like stylesheets, the ability to create multipage PDFs, the ability to add printer marks really easily, and so on.
For this tutorial we are going to now take our Photoshop artwork and place it all into InDesign, then from InDesign create the final PDF.
So next go through both PSDs and switch off all the plain text (not the headings with layer styles) so they aren’t visible. Then go to File > Save As… and choose TIFF. Untick the box that asks if you want to keep the layers and then just create a big, flat TIFF files of the brochure sides.
… Continued over at Vectortuts+
To finish this tutorial, head over to Vectortuts+ where we’ll take our Photoshop work into InDesign and from there send it off to print!