Brochures - 5 Tips for a Great Brochure

What You Need to Know Before Printing a Brochure

Print brochures can be an effective tool in your marketing collateral arsenal, but there are several things to consider before you start having brochures printed up. Size is an important factor, for example. So is resolution. But perhaps most important for you to think about is that your brochure will become part of you brand identity, and design decisions and creative ideas should be made or implemented with that in mind.

With the abundance of available software tools that can facilitate brochure design, like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark Xpress, and Microsoft Publisher, many home business owners decide to create their own brochures. But there are a few key tips a home business owner should know that will help your brochures look professional when it comes time for printing.

From a Brochure Printing Expert

To get some perspective on what a brochure printing service looks for in a brochure design, I asked Shawn MacKinnon, director of to provide his insight on how to create a great brochure. His top 5 tips for creating a great brochure follow.

Brochure Tip 1: Know Your Print Size

Shawn told me that one of the most common errors made by those who create their own brochures, but one of the most challenging to correct, is an incorrect setup size for the brochure. He says that all too often, a print layout has to be returned to the customer because it wasn't setup for the proper output size.

Don't use an 8.5 x 11 layout and submit it for printing on 8x10 paper. MacKinnon points out that when a print service has to stretch or shrink a brochure layout to fit the paper, the quality of the print resolution may be compromised.

Brochure Tip 2: Allow for Bleed

What is print bleed? Think of it as an insurance policy to make your final printed brochure look its best.

Brochures are printed together in sheets, and then sliced into single units. The blade that cuts out each brochure is precise, but when cutting thousands of pieces, it can fluctuate slightly over the course of the order.

MacKinnon says, "By expanding your brochure design slightly beyond the established page borders, when we cut each page you’ll have solid ink coverage from edge to edge. This is imperative if you have a photo, color, or pattern that needs to be displayed to the extreme edge of your brochure layout." Designing your brochure with an extra 1/8th inch of coverage beyond each edge is recommended.

Brochure Tip 3: Resolution is Key

Using high-resolution images in your layout is a critical step toward creating a professional looking final brochure. If you submit something for print that isn’t the proper resolution, your images will come out ‘soft’, blurry, or even pixilated.

The images you see on your computer monitor are only 72 dpi (dots-per-inch), which is fine for viewing on a monitor, but very inadequate for a professional-looking printed brochure. Your images should be at least 300 dpi to print clearly with full sharpness. There are a variety of stock image sites on the web where you can obtain inexpensive, high-resolution, royalty-free images to use in your brochure designs.

Some stock image sites even offer free high-resolution pictures you can use for your brochure.

Brochure Tip 4: Select the Correct Paper

Most print shops that print brochures offer either an 80lb or 100lb stock paper, with a variety of gloss / matte finishes. It’s really your choice in the end, but a 100lb stock is surprisingly more substantial than 80lb stock paper without a huge cost difference. Using a heavier paper may convince a potential customer that you are more professional than your competitors.

Adding varnish will add an appealing gloss to your brochure, but if you have a lot of ink coverage your brochure will appear glossy anyway. However, if you use too many dark colors in your brochure design, using a varnish will prevent fingerprint smudges on your brochure.

Brochure Tip 5: Be Original and be Creative

Carefully consider what you want to say with your brochure. What information are you trying to convey?

You can start by looking at your competitors to see what approach they're taking in their advertising materials. Have they provided all of the necessary contact information? What makes other brochure designs leap out at you?

Remember, the fronts of your brochures are all people will see when scanning display racks, so make sure the front of your brochure is appealing and makes prospective customers want to pick it up!

MacKinnon goes on to advise, "Don’t get stuck using the fonts that shipped with your software. Everybody has those fonts, and you don’t want your brochure to look like everyone else's." Look around the web for a variety of free, interesting fonts you can use to make your brochure stand out from the crowd and look very professional at the same time.

A Brochure is Part of Your Business Identity

Creating a brochure is part of creating your business identity. A well-designed brochure that's professionally printed can be worth a great deal more than its cost. Knowing what printers are looking for when it comes time to print your brochure will save you considerable time and aggravation.

This article is part of the Brochures and More series.