for print publication design
Until you have a specific
reason to do otherwise, follow these rules of thumb.
Note: The capitalized word
Printer is used to name the professionals who operates printing
presses, to distinguish them from the printer that is a device attached to
Here is a version in Word (.doc) format you can download and print.
|Consult your Printer
|The crucial step for any
beginning designer for print publications is to make an appointment
with the people who will print it and discuss your project. They can
help you avoid common mistakes and reduce extra work. Take a file
containing a sample layout that includes some pictures you will use.
|Think of your reader
|Readers will never see the
document with the clarity and brightness you see on screen. They will
read in imperfect, changing light, with interruptions and distractions.
Design to make it possible for them to read under these conditions.
|Know when to stop
||Consider this approach: Use
the minimum design necessary to communicate the contents, then add
design that communicates, in addition, the personality of the
publication. Then stop. Don't show off, unless there is a design reason
for doing so. (Or if the publication is for show.)
||Create graphics for
print magazines in CMYK, not RGB. The RGB process is used to create
colors on the Web. CMYK is used to create colors on paper.
||Prepare for the Printer: Each
picture scanned at the actual size used, at 300 dpi. Do not
submit a larger scan that you size down in the layout. Do not use
pictures at smaller than 300 dpi, unless they are intended to look
||When using PhotoShop,
Illustrator, etc., to create graphics that contain type, save the
original and export an EPS copy with "embedded fonts" or fonts
converted to paths. This puts the letters directly into the EPS file.
That way, the Printer does not need to have the files for the fonts you
used in the EPS graphic. If you omit this step, a different font may be
substituted for the one you intended, or the graphic may not print.
||If you have to use a picture
off the internet, use the largest size possible and change it
in PhotoShop's Image Size to 300 dpi. Though this will not improve the
picture, but it will reduce the blotchy pixellation. The results will
almost never be as good as you hoped. Don't violate copyright.
|The screen can fool you
||Remember that what you see
on screen will be
different from the printed page, so make allowances for the reduced
contrast and luminosity of the printed page, as well as differences in
color balance. Do not be lured into expecting the printed page to
produce luminescent, transmissive color effects, the way a monitor
does. As a general rule, design with greater
contrast than you think you need (avoid, for example, small gray
letters on a black background),
|Fonts for the Printer
||Be sure you understand the
printing company's requirements for fonts. On the Macintosh,
use only the styles of fonts (bold, etc.) that have separate printer
files in the fonts folder. E.g., you can print Gill Sans in bold ONLY
if there is a file in the fonts folder called GillSanBol. You CANNOT
take the GillSan file and ADD bold through the "style" command. This
maneuver works on our little printer, but the commercial machine at the
print shop rejects it. TrueType fonts should work OK, although the
results may not be as good as PostScript fonts, due to the fact that
the Printer's output device uses PostScript. If you don't know about
TrueType and PostScript fonts or the parts of fonts, you need to learn
this before designing a magazine.
|Use restraint in type
||Resist the temptation to
exhaust the available type effects. Use restraint. Create
meaningful contrasts for your reader. Nothing is as effective as a well
designed font; depend on that design far more than on styling,
stretching, coloring the font.
|Deliver a PDF
|Your Printer will almost
certainly instruct you to deliver your document as a PDF file, with all
graphics and fonts embedded. Use the High Quality Print setting in
making the PDF. InDesign makes PDFs through the Export command. Many
other programs go through the Print command to make a PDF.
|Graphics files for the
||If you deliver your document
to the Printer as a PDF, you're fine; if not: Save all pictures, fonts,
and graphics files in a folder and send them to the Printer
with your layout file. InDesign does not incorporate these files; it
only calls them. They have to be there when it calls.
|Reverse type on colored
||When you use reverses, try to
restrict your colored backgrounds to C, M, Y, or K and their
shades. Each additional color creates new layers of alignment problems
at the print shop, which can bleed into the type area and obscure the
letters with colored outlines.
(type in paragraphs)
|Set body copy to 10 or 11
points, unless you are using a very small or very large font. Times
needs to be in 11. Helvetica needs to be in 9. Do NOT use 12 point body
type. It may look good on screen, but it looks HUGE in print. Use a serif type for body copy. One of the
most common design errors is to set text type in 12-point Helvetica.
||Not too long, not too short.
Do not use 1-column pages that produce extremely long lines of type. Or
lines so narrow they break up the phrases. Any time you use long lines,
add extra line spacing to help readers read.
||Indent with a tab (never with
the space bar). Change InDesign's default indents from 0.5 inch to
about 1/4 inch (or around 2 picas). Make all indents the same.
||If a headline larger than 20
points has more than one line, always reduce the spacing between lines.
Try spacing the same as the point size ("set solid," e.g., 24 point
type on 24 point spacing). On very large type, kern to reduce the
spacing between letters.
|Space after a period
||If your copy was typed with two
spaces after each period, search and replace those two spaces with
|Avoid ALL CAPS
|Replace ALL CAPS and underlining
with strong fonts and bold. Except in small doses, all
caps is difficult to read, and it is much less interesting than ulc.
Avoid centering in columns
||With rare exceptions, avoid centering
titles and subheads. Use flush left. It will look good;
trust me. Be leery even of using justified columns of type; they can
introduce an easy, false sense of orderliness. Create your own order—a
dynamic order based on cooperating imbalances.
|Use em-dash for two hyphens
|Find uses of two hyphens — and
replace them with the em dash (option- shift- hyphen)
|Use en-dash as minus
|Use en-dash (option-hyphen) in
scores and as minus sign (as in the score: 4–3).
|Use bullets, not asterisks
|Replace *asterisk and -hyphen
lists with bullet lists. Select passage; go to Paragraph menu,
options list, for bullets. Afterward, fine tune it through Format/Tabs
and set the lower triangle on the ruler bar to where you want the
indent. Do NOT use the spacebar to align columns or lists. It never
works right—because spaces differ in width depending on the font and
size they are set in!
number of fonts
|Restrict yourself to two fonts
in a typical application, or at most three. If that seems too
restrictive, adopt this rule: Make every font meaningful to readers,
and use the same fonts repeatedly in a way readers can use to navigate
the structure and meaning of the publication. Make meaningful use of
the full power of fonts and font manipulation, but avoid graphic
|Avoid excessive reversed
||Place your design effort on
the pictures, headlines, and overall look. When readers reach the
reading matter, stop designing and leave them alone to read it! Real
designers can make black type on white paper look fabulous.
Avoid excessive use of white type against a dark or colored background,
or against a picture. Check for type set against a cluttered
background. Give such reversed type plenty of contrast against the
background. Use a strong font without hairlines, such as Helvetica, and
large enough to stand out.
Do not trust the contrast that you see on screen. On the printed page,
small letters may be swallowed up by the background as the ink bleeds
||Until they improve it, avoid
the style "shadow." If you need a shadow, duplicate the text block,
make the rear one black or white and mis-align the two blocks to create
your own shadow effect.
||Make sure bleeds extend at
least 1/8 inch past the edge of the final page size. Remember that the
illusion of printing to the edge of the page is created when the
Printer slices off a thin strip of a larger page that had a white
Times and Helvetica
|If you are using Helvetica and
Times, try other combinations. Expand your range.
|Widows and orphans
||Check for widows and orphans
and remove them. These are stray lines at the top or bottom of a
|Design your white space
||Examine all white space
to make sure none of it is accidental. Design it. Use enough white
space so your layout is not claustrophobic. By making your text
10-point and putting it into compact columns, you make room for white
space on the page.
||Focus: Verify that your layout
has a single clear focus—one dominant element.
||Check for unaligned elements
and align them, including the tops of columns.
|Check for cut-off text
||Check the end of each text
block to make sure no text has been cut off.
|Do not align with space bar
||Check for alignment (in lists
or paragraph indents) made with the space bar. Replace it with tabs and
margin settings. There should be no place that has more than one space
|Use contrasting fonts
||Check for closely related
fonts juxtaposed. Replace them with strongly contrasting fonts. A
closely related font looks like an accident.
|Check the quote marks
||Check the quotation marks and
hyphens to make sure they are not reversed. A special problem: the
leading apostrophe, as in "The class of '01." Software unintentionally
reverses this apostrophe.
||Make your design consistent in
its use of fonts, styles, sizes, indents, headings, colors,
|Use dynamic balance
||Break up static, symmetrical
layouts. Make them dynamic. Make them dance.
||Give your pages contrast.
Don't let them look gray and even. Insert pull quotes.
And use contrast in the perceptual sense: Make sure readers can
distinguish the foreground from the background! Everything we
experience comes to us through contrast. Respect it.
|Avoid awkward hyphenations
||Check for awkward hyphenations
or multiple hyphenations in a row, or needed hyphenations. Check for
rivers of white caused by bad hyphenations, esp. in narrow columns. In
titles and subheads, turn off hyphenation (Paragraph menu, options
||If you want to be
perfectionistic, align the baselines of adjacent columns. Do this last.
|Verify that nothing has
intruded into the non-printing margin of the page—or that your columns
have strayed outside the print area.
|Use fonts that say
the right thing
|Query your fonts: Do they set
the proper tone for this subject and purpose?
|Use ornamentation sparingly
||Remove any excess
ornamentation. Avoid visual clutter. If you find yourself adding
ornament, that probably means you have not designed the piece well
enough to stand on its own. Revise the design.
|Do not use script fonts in
|Check for ALL CAPS made in
hand-formed typefaces (script, Old English, etc.). Replace it with
another font in ulc bold.
|Display type differs
from text type
|Certain fonts work only in
large sizes. Check for display type unintentionally used as text type
and replace it.
|Use extra spacing
when you need it
|E.g., if you have used a sans
serif font in multiple lines, it may need extra line spacing.
|Design for the kind
of paper used
|Make sure your typefaces are
large and thick enough to handle the printing conditions (esp. on
Source: Aspecial acknowledgement to retired graphic design
professor Ronald Norvelle, whose checklist provided the basis for this
one. His material has been incorporated and expanded with permission.
— Gerald Grow — www.longleaf.net/ggrow