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 by Ken Black

The most important part of this design hinges on the alignment of the three panels or the folds. Often the creative excitement of starting new work or in the rush to meet deadlines, the positions of these folds may get laid out incorrectly. This occurs by either dividing the sheet into thirds or worse, they have been “eye-balled”.

Now, the printer is calling. I am certain that these words are familiar: “Yeah, the folds are off. Sure, we can fix it for our hourly rate.” or “We can't edit your files. Your going to have to fix it and re-send them. Oh, and that is going to push the completion of your brochure back a day”. This can all be avoided by taking a few simple steps from the beginning.

It is always a good idea to consult with your printer because there is often more than one solution to a folding problem and different printers may have slightly different folding panel measurements. But generally speaking, a folding layout can be determined for any multi-panel folding brochure by subtracting .0625" (1/16") from each panel after the finished size of the two outside panels, while heavier stocks may require adjustment of .125" (1/8"). Also note that some sheet sizes or folding layouts (such as 12" x 9" wrap fold) may require slight back-trimming to make the panels work correctly.

For fold-specific dimensions for most common brochure sizes please see the layout dimensions found in our brochure templates section.

Building a 11" x 8.5" Letter-Fold Brochure Template

For this example, the most common 11” x 8.5” three panel tri-fold or letter-fold is being used. The fold locations for this design are as follows: Outside (l-r) 3.625" and 7.3125", Inside (l-r) 3.6875" and 7.375". As a result, the panel widths are: Outside (l-r) 3.625", 3.6875 and 3.6875", Inside (l-r) 3.6875", 3.6875" and 3.625".

1. Start by setting up the document as 11” x 8.5”, with .25” margins and .125” bleed. The .25" margins act as a safety guide for text and important images such as logos. Keeping these objects within this border ensures that nothing will get cut off at the final trim stage of the brochure. 
Application Note: Indesign users can set the bleed in the document setup window, Quark 6.5 and 7 users can set the document size and the margins, however, the bleed guides will have to be set manually.

2. Next, create a layer and name it Guides.

3. Be sure that your documents rulers are zeroed to the upper left-hand corner and on the Guides layer, place a guide at 3.625”, this creates the panel that will fold into the inside on a letter-fold brochure.


Application Note: For Indesign users, guides can be dragged to the pasteboard and their coordinates can be typed directly into the x and y coordinate boxes in the measurements pallete, making for quick and precise placement. Quark users, both 6.5 and 7 will find the Guide Manager Xtension must be used to set guides precisely. If the Xpert Tools Xtensions (free with Quark 7, extra for 6.5) are installed, then you can click on the guide and type the coordinates into the window that opens.

4. Place another guide at 7.3125”, this adds the back panel (middle) and front panel (left) of the brochure. (Fig 1).

5. Next, create another page for the inside of the brochure and place a guide at 3.6875” and another at 7.375”.

6. Click the lock on the Guides layer so it will be locked and not tampered with.

7. Now save the “New and Improved” blank white sheet as a template file. The extension will be .indt for Indesign and .qxt for Quark Xpress. Give the document a generic name that refers to its size, function and finish, for example: 11x8.5_3-panel_letterfold or whatever keeps it organized for yourself. (Fig 2).

By saving the document as a template, the panels and guides are preserved for any future brochure designs and you can be sure that the folds will come out correct every time.

Other design issues that may effect the outcome of the finished piece including topics such as image resolution, color and typefaces can be found through these links:

Printing faqs

File submission faqs

File preperation pitfalls