ChecklistMicrosoft Publisher is “an entry level desktop publishing program from Microsoft” (according to Wikipedia). However, just because it’s considered to be ‘entry level’ doesn’t mean that you can’t create professional looking publications. All it means it that it’s far less complicated to use than other professional graphic design programs!

Graphic design and desktop publishing are things that aren’t necessarily native to most VAs – we do admin, not design, don’t we?? The issue is, that by the nature of what we do, our small business owner clients are jack-of-all-trades in their business, and quite often would like us to be too! We’ve all been asked to pull together a ‘simple’ flyer or a notice to customers at some point or another. Occasionally you can manage this using Microsoft Word, but more often than not, Publisher is the man for the job.

But have you ever spent way longer than you wanted to on the ‘simple flyer’ to then send it to the client or printers and it comes back looking nowhere near as great as it did on the computer? (No? Is that just me?!). The colours don’t look right, the images are blurry or pixelated or the spacing is wrong when you fold it. Over the next few articles, we’ll look into how you can create professional looking publications every time, using this checklist.

Top things to consider when creating a publication for print:

  • First things first – plan, plan, plan. Even for the simplest of flyers or leaflets, the first thing you need to do is have a clear idea of what you want from your flyer, I’m think page size, images, wording, theme, colours. These things will all affect how you set up your document and it’s easier to do this at the beginning than when you are halfway through the design!
  • Next, liaise with your print company asap! Contact them before you even start designing and find out whether they will actually accept publisher files, or if not, which format they prefer to receive files in. Most will accept print quality PDFs, but get exact specifications and make sure that you stick to them!
  • Choose the right page layout. Publisher is clever and comes with a range of preset layouts for page sizes and folded documents. Before you start, have a good think about the sizes your document needs to be. Also, check your specifications from the print company for measurements for bleed lines etc. and set these before you start.
  • Familiarise yourself with colours for printing. This rule applies whether you are using Microsoft publisher or any other software. In most cases there is a difference between the colours that you see on your screen and how it looks when printed so make sure you know exactly what you design will look like! Use CMYK colours and not RGB.  The designing in colour tutorial is coming soon.
  • Know your images. The most important thing here is to use the best quality images that you can possibly get your hands on. Low resolution photos copied from a website will never print well so make sure you can get your hands on the originals. The same applies to logos and images, use images of at least 300dpi, ideally in the original vector format to get the best quality. The lowdown on images article will be coming soon…
  • Think about fonts and make sure that they are reader friendly! Follow the age old rule of keeping it simple; stick to just one font family for the main body text (Times New Roman, Garamond, Arial etc.). If you need it, choose a big, bold, quirky or crazy font for headings – but use it sparingly!
  • Keep positioning, spacing and alignment consistent. Use the built in tools of Microsoft Publisher to help you with alignment and grouping elements. Have layout guides turned on and know how to use the keyboard shortcuts for fine precision positioning of images, text and graphics.
  • Proof read, spell check and print a hard copy! Sounds crazy, but seriously, you’d be amazed at what you’ll miss. Print a hard copy and come back later to check it with fresh eyes. Pay careful attention to spacing, especially when the document is folded, and spell check carefully.
  • At the end of it all, save the file in the format required by the print company. Some will prefer to receive the publisher file so that they can set print settings themselves, others may request a file ready to print. If this is the case, use the pack & go wizard to save the file as a print quality PDF.