Most businesses are looking at ways to save money these days. If you own a copy of Microsoft Word, you don’t have to run off to a graphic designer every time you need a brochure. No matter what version of Word you are using, it’s easy to create a simple tri-fold brochure using just your word processor.
Newer versions of Word, such as Word 2000, let you link text boxes like you can in a desktop publishing program, but for a simple brochure, all that frustrating clicking and dragging may be overkill. The older — but potentially easier — way to create a brochure in any version of Word is to use the built-in columns feature. Your brochure is basically just two landscape oriented pages set up with three columns.
1 Figure out the layout
Before you open Word, you should figure out how the panels of your brochure will appear on the paper. There are two types of folds commonly used in brochures: the z (or accordion) fold and the barrel (or roll) fold. As the name indicates, with a z-fold, the paper is folded in alternating directions, which is good if you want to present information sequentially. The barrel fold is much like you’d fold a letter before putting it in an envelope (the second fold wraps around the first one). It helps to take a scrap piece of paper and fold it the way you want your brochure to appear. Then number the panels on each side. You may be surprised to find that the back side of the brochure has the front cover.
2 Set up the page
Next you want to set up the margins for your brochure. Remember that some printers have restrictions on their “live” printable area, so don’t make the margins too small. (Inkjets are especially likely to require extra large margins.) To set up your page, choose File|Page Setup. Click the Paper Size tab and change the orientation to Landscape. Now, click the Margins tab and set your margins. For example, you might make your margins .5″ all the way around.
3 Set up columns
Now you are ready to set up the columns. The trick to keeping your brochure from looking lopsided when you fold the brochure is to make sure that the number you type into the Spacing box in the Columns dialog box is double that of your margins. (Technically, this space is called the gutter between columns.) So if your margins are .5 inches, make your gutter between the columns 1 inch. Choose Format|Columns and click the icon for three columns under Presets. Now change the default spacing amount that Word has entered to be double that of your margins and click OK.
4 Add breaks
Okay, so now you have a page with three columns on it with your cursor sitting at the beginning of column 1. It helps to visualize your layout if you turn on text boundaries and paragraph marks. Choose Tools|Options and click the View tab. Now put a check mark next to Text boundaries and Paragraph Marks and click OK. (It looks a little more like a brochure now.) You can either start typing or you can set up the next page by inserting column breaks. Press the Enter key to add a blank line and then choose Insert|Break. Click Column break and click OK. Now your cursor is at the top of the second column. Repeat the process and your cursor ends up at the top of the third column. Now you want to insert a page break to create the second side. Choose Insert|Break and click Page Break. Now add column breaks and your new page is set up just like your first page.
5 Add and format text
Your layout is now all set up. You should see two pages that each have three panels with a blank paragraph in each one. Now you can begin adding text. If you have quite a bit of text to enter, you may want to switch to Normal View to see your column breaks more easily. Choose View|Normal and you see dotted lines with the words Column break. When you are adding text, don’t forget about where it will end up in the finished product. The cover may actually be the last panel (refer to your folded scrap piece of paper if you forget). You can format the text as you type or type it all in first and format later. Remember, with formatting, less is often more. Using every font on your system is always bad idea. Look at layouts you like and you’ll notice that designers always choose fonts for a reason. The whole goal of any brochure is to communicate. Anything that is hard to read, won’t be read.
6 Add pictures
Along with your text, you may want to add some pictures to your layout. For example, if you are creating a product brochure, you may want to include a photograph of the product. Avoid using cheesy clip art just because it’s there. Bad clip art rarely adds to the layout. To insert a picture from a file you already have, choose Insert|Picture|From File. Find your file on the hard disk and click Insert. The picture appears on the screen. You can size it by clicking and dragging one of the corner handles. More recent versions of Word also include a number of other picture manipulation options, which you can access by right-clicking on the picture.
7 Print it out
After you have your brochure laid out and formatted the way you want it, you are ready to print. Getting the document to print correctly depends on your printer. Check your printer’s instruction manual to determine the right way to place the paper to get the pages to print correctly. Remember, the pages will be back to back. If your printer has a duplexer attachment, this process may actually be automatic.
So, there you have it…with just a little thought and a few insider tricks, you’ve entered the wonderful world of graphic design using just a word processor. Pretty cool, huh?