Design a Ready to Print Brochure in Photoshop

Part 1: Setting Up the Work Document

Step 1 – Chose the Folding Type

There are several things we need to consider before starting to design a brochure: the size, shape, and folding type besides the concept itself. Generally, we should start with pen and paper – literally. It’s a good idea to grab a piece of paper and start looking for the best way to fold it, anyway at the end you’ll have only two printable sides, that means, two Photoshop documents, one for the front side, and another for the back side.
This time I’ll show you how to design a three-fold brochure. Below is a quick draft of the folding guide. From here and forward, we’ll name each print area a “Face,” so we have “Face 1,” “Face 2,” “Face 3″… until “Face 6.”

Step 2 – Drafting

It isn’t hard to imagine a design once the folding type is chosen. Once you’ve folded your piece of paper, draw something over it and see how it looks. This is the most creative step, so feel free to do whatever you want.
In the following example, I’ve used my tablet to draw something for you (did the same on paper actually). This forms the basic guidelines of the design and some of the graphic ideas. Drafting will help you to see where you’ll put the content of your brochure and if the layout will help the reader find the info quickly, besides it’s a good way to keep your info ordered. E.g. in my draft you can see how I placed the “Contact us” text in field number 2 (see the previous graphic), so when the brochure stays folded, the reader will still be able to read the title of the brochure and the contact info as a quick reference.

Side I

Step 3 – Setting Up the Work Document

Let the design begin! This time I’ll work with a standard 11 by 8,5 inches document. Open Photoshop and hit Command + N to create a new Document. For print design, the document settings are very important, so take care with the following values. Set the Resolution value to 300 pixels per inch, Color mode to CMYK color. It’s a good idea, before starting to design anything to calibrate your monitor color with the printer color, but that’s another subject, so you can leave the Color Profile as is.
Once you created the document, (you can name it “brochure – front”), show the Rulers by going to View > Rulers or hitting Command + R. Also set the ruler units as Inches, do it by Alt-clicking over the ruler and selecting Inches in the options menu. You must enable the Show Guides options by going to View > Show > Guides or hitting the default shortcut Command + Semi-Colon key.

Step 4 – Main Area Bounds

We must define the bounds of our valid print area or “Main area” it means 8,5 x 11 inches. For this just draw four Guides on each one of the document sides. Those Guides aren’t printable lines, they’re just references for you to keep your design ordered.
You can show them and hide them anytime by going to View > Show > Guides. To draw a guide, just click on the ruler, either Horizontal or Vertical, and drag the Guide, then place it where you want.

Step 5 – Increase the Document Size

Once you have the four guides placed, go to Image > Canvas Size and add an inch to both Width and Height values, that means, 12 by 9,5 inches. Besides, check if the anchor point is right in the middle. Hit OK and you’ll see the white background is 0,5 inches bigger on every side.

Step 6 – Bleed

Now we’ll add a 0,25 inches Bleed. Draw 4 guides over 1/4 inch before the previous guides. This is very important since any background image or color must be draw inside the bleeding bounds.

Step 7 – Security Border

Even if our cutting process is perfect, there’re still a little area we must leave without any important text or image inside the printable space. We’ll add a Security margin, a border without any element, or a space between the margin and the design, you can call it Padding if you’re more familiar with web design.
Drag four guides 1/4 inch after the “Main area” guides on each side of the document, this is just a suggestion. You can make it bigger or smaller, it’s up to you. By the end you must have something like the last of the images below.

Step 8 – Create Column Guides

Now we need to create the column guides, since this brochure has three equals columns creating three content areas. There are several ways to add those guides, one of them is to grab the calculator and divide the width of the paper by three (11 / 3 = 3,6666), kinda hard right? One of my favorite tricks to create several columns with the same width in both web and print design is to use some temporal shapes.
Start drawing a Rectangle (U), use the guides, start on top-left on the corner of the “Main area” guides intersection, and drag the rectangle until you reach the bottom “Main area” guide.
The width of this temporal shape isn’t important, just try to make it a little narrow. Then, change the tool to the Move Tool (V) and select the first rectangle, ensure the Show Transform Controls option in the Options Panel is checked and then duplicate the rectangle; you can do it by Alt-clicking while you drag the selected vector shape.
Place the copy just next to the previous rectangle with first rectangle’s right side touching the second rectangle’s left side. It’s really easy actually. I’m changing the color of the copy for graphic purposes (See the image below).
Duplicate a third rectangle and place it next the second one, as shown. Once you have the three rectangles ready, ensure there’s no space between and there’s no overlapping. Select the three rectangles, then in the Layers Palette (Hold the Shift key and click on every layer miniature) Go to the middle right Transform Control and expand the three rectangles until reach the right “Main area” guide.
This transform process will expand every rectangle in the same proportion. Next, just select the middle rectangle using the Move Tool and use the transform bounds as a limit for two new Guides for the columns. Finally, delete the rectangles.

Step 9 – Folding Security Margin

As a final step on the guides process, add the 1/4 inch Security margin guide next to the Column Guides. This is very important since the folding always uses 2-3 millimeters of the print area, and it’s crucial you do not have any graphic object on that area.
At this point you must have a perfect bunch of guides to work within. It’s a great time to save your work, also you can save it as a template for further projects.

Step 10 – Background

Let’s add a background color. Of course you must use CMYK values to find the perfect color. Double-click over the Foreground color in the Tools Bar and select your background color.
I’m using a subtle combination of Yellow 15% and Plain Black 10%. Now draw a rectangle from the Top-Left corner to the Bottom-Right Corner of the Bleed Guides, by default the fill of that Vector Rectangle is the Foreground color. It’s very important to add the background including the bleeding margin.

Step 11 – Trim Guides

Now we’ll add some custom trim guides to let us know where to cut and where to fold. For this, select the foreground color as a 100% Black color. Select the Line Tool (Click and hold over the rectangle tool until you’ve got more options, there select the Line tool).
Draw some lines just over the “Main area” guides. Until you reach the bleed border (look at the images below), draw a straight line, just hold the Shift key while you’re drawing the line. Draw those trim lines over the four corners and over the Column guides. You can show and hide the guides as many times as you need by clicking Command + Semi-Colon key.

Step 12

Put all the trim lines into a Group named “Trim Guides.”

Part 2: Design

Step 13 – Add a texture background

Since we’re designing in Photoshop, why not textures? The cool feature of easily adding textures and blending layers is one of the strengths of Photoshop. We’ll use this image as a background texture, in order to give this design a dirt and old style.
Paste the image into the document in a new layer named “BG Texture” and using the Move Tool (V) and the Free Transform Options, place it exactly inside the Bleed Guides, just like the Rectangle of the previous steps. Once you’ve placed it, use the Clone Tool to fix the imperfections, like the blue ink lines of the stock picture. Finally change the texture Blending Mode to Multiply and its Opacity to 40%.

IMPORTANT: Changing the layer’s Blending Mode is different on CMYK color than RGB color. RGB color uses the Light to mix the layers, CMYK mode uses the Ink percentage to mix them. The popular Blending Modes like Multiply, are based on light mixing using mathematical formulas over the RGB color code. The result will become strongly different depending the color mode.
Below there is an example of a simple Multiply Blending Mode on both RGB and CMYK color modes. Even if there are almost no alteration on Cyan, Magenta and Yellow, the Red, Blue and Green colors shows a huge difference with the RGB ones. Anyway, there are no rich black color resulting from the blending mode on CMYK as it does on RGB.
An easy way to fix this issue is work your complex Blending Mode editing on a RGB document, and once you’ve finish it, convert the color mode to CMYK by going to Image > Mode > CMYK color and flatten all the layers, but that isn’t perfect at all, you will probably still have loss of Saturation and Brightness when you change the mode.

Step 14 – Add a Long Stripe

Now we’ll start the design itself. Based on my sketch, I’ll start drawing a long rectangle all across the page. Use any foreground color because we’ll add several Layer Effects to make it look nice.

  • Start adding a Gradient Overlay using the colors described below (dark red to red). You can either use the Color Picker, use a Pantone color or Type the values directly into the CMYK fields. I suggest you the last option.
  • Add a lighter Red 10px Stroke.
  • And finally a big Drop Shadow. Drop Shadow uses a Plain Black color by default in CMYK mode, that means C=0%, M=0%, Y=0%, and K=100%.

Hit OK and see how it looks.

Step 15 – Texturing the Stripe

Hit Command + A to Select All, on the Layers Palette select the “BG Texture” layer and copy ( Command + C ) the selection. Paste it into a new layer above the previous step “Stripe” layer and transform the texture a little bit by stretching its height. Name the layer “Stripe Texture.”
Command-click over the “Stripe” Vector Mask miniature and go to Select > Inverse to inverse the selection. Then delete the extra texture leaving just a piece over the stripe. Next, change the “Stripe Texture” Blending mode to Linear Burn. As you can see, we’ve got a nice texture over the stripe, now Group both “Stripe” and “Stripe Texture” layers into a Folder named just “Stripe.”

Step 16 – Rotate the Stripe

I decided to not use the standard vertical 90º align, instead I’ll create two little variation angles of 15º and 5º and rotate the brochure objects according to those angles.
First, grab the Move Tool (V) and select the “Stripe” folder. Now using the Free Transform controls rotate the design to -15º. You can hold the Shift key to increase/decrease the rotation angle on intervals of 15 degrees.
Once you set up, hit return to commit the transform and place the stripe wherever you want. I’ll use a reference intersection point between the bottom border of the stripe and the “Main Area” right guide. Also I created a guide just in the vertical middle.
Finally, we’ll add a custom detail. Since I’ve rotated the angle of the stripe (if you take a look at the angle of the Gradient Overlay, on the “Stripe” layer styles) it stills on 90º; that’s why the left side looks darker than the right side of the stripe. You can increase or decrease that angle to make the gradient looks good. I’m setting the Gradient Overlay angle to 100º.

Step 17 – Add a Second Stripe

Select the “Stripe Folder” using the Move Tool. With the Alt Key pressed, drag the Folder to duplicate it. Then rotate the new folder to make it horizontal again.
We’ll need to make this Stripe Gradient darker, so, change the colors of the Gradient Overlay Effect as shown below. Also, stretch the height of the new folder a little bit.

Step 18 – Rotate the Second Stripe

Rotate the “Stripe copy” just a little bit, to -5º. You can type the angle value into the angle box in the Transform Tool properties panel. Once you’ve rotated the stripe, place it just a few millimeters below the first one (see the image below). Commit all the transforming and move forward.

Align Center (Optional)

As I want to add a wrap effect with those stripes on the back side, it’s very important to put them aligned at horizontal center. It’s really simple actually, just hit Command + A to select all, select the Move Tool (V) and then click on the “Stripe” folder in the layers palette.
You’ll see the alignment options in the tool options panel. Click on Align Horizontal Center. Hit Command + D to deselect the previous selection. Repeat this operation with the “Stripe copy” folder.

Step 19 – The Ribbon

Now we’ll add a Yellow Ribbon in order to have an impressive graphic detail on the front side of the brochure. Create a new Group between the “Stripe” and “Stripe copy” Folders and name it “Ribbon.” Inside it, create a new yellow Vector rectangle not much wider, just as shown below. The color isn’t important right now.
To create the ribbon, draw a temporary vertical guide in the middle of the rectangle. Select the vector mask in the Layer Palette and from the Tools Bar chose the Add Anchor Point Tool. Click and hold the Pent Tool button, using that tool click once at the bottom-center to create a little anchor point on the rectangle.
Now switch the tool to the Convert Point Tool (click and hold the Pen Tool button) and click once over the previous anchor point to delete the curve handles. Next, from the Tool Bar, select the Direct Selection Tool (Click and hold over the Path Selection Tool) and select the new anchor point. Now use the cursor to move the point some millimeters up. Now you’ve got a ribbon. Take care that the ribbon is inside the brochure’s Face 1 bounds, including the folding security margin.

Step 20 – Ribbon Layer Styles

Next, add a Gradient Overlay (dark yellow to yellow) style to the “Ribbon” layer using the values shown below. Also, add a 5 pixels Stroke using the color shown below.

Step 21 – Ribbon Shadow

We’ll add a shadow to the Ribbon; you can lift it with a simple drop shadow if you want to, but this time I’ll add an advanced shadow because I’ll distort the Ribbon to make it pop.
Duplicate the Ribbon layer and Rasterize the layer, you can do it quickly by creating a new blank layer above or below the copy, select both and hit Command + E to merge them and name the resultant layer “Ribbon Shadow.”
Move the shadow layer some millimeters to the right. Then Apply a plain black Color Overlay Layer Style to the shadow. Following, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 10 pixels and hit OK. You’ll see the blurred layer doesn’t look good, so, change the “Ribbon Shadow” Blending Mode to Overlay and Opacity to 75%.

Step 22 – Finishing the Ribbon

To add the final details to our ribbon, we’ll need to distort it a little bit. Use the Move Tool to select the Ribbon and activate the Free Transform controls from the Options Menu. Look for Warp button and click it.
Use the cursor to Warp the ribbon just a little bit, as shown below. Hit Return to commit the warping. Finally, use the same technique as Step 15 to texture the Ribbon, the only difference is change the “Ribbon texture” Blending Mode to Multiply and Opacity to 50%.

Step 23 – The Title

Now is a good moment to add the brochure title. Based on my sketch, I’ll type the word “PSD” over the big strip, and “TUTS+” over the little one. Select the Type Tool (T), click anywhere over the big strip and type the words. Now go to Window > Character to see the little Character panel to customize the text properties. You can take a look at my Comprehensive Introduction to the Type Tool for more information on using this tool.
For the first word I’m using Helvetica-Black with a weight of Black, you can use Arial Black, as it looks good as well. Once you’ve created the text layer, switch to the Move Tool (V) to rotate the text layer -15º to make it match the stripe rotation angle.
Finally, to create a letterpress effect, add a dark red Color Overlay Style to the text layer, a soft red Outer Glow, and a 65% Opacity plain black Inner Shadow (see the values on the image below).

Step 24 -The Title

Let’s finish the title. Repeat the previous step, but with a smaller font and place it over the small stripe, apply the same layers style as well. Then rotate the text layer only -5 degrees. As a little adjustment, change the Color Overlay to another one to make it a little bit darker. Finally, Group both text layers into a folder named “Title.” Remember, your text layers must be inside the Security Margin bounding guides.

Step 25 – A Little 3D Shadow

Since Drop Shadow style, isn’t the most reliable way to obtain a realistic shadow, I’ll add another shadow, just below the “Stripe” folder to create a nice effect.
Create a new layer named “Shadow” below the “Stripe” folder. On that layer, create and stretch an ellipse (you can either use the Elliptical Marquee Tool or Ellipse Tool). Fill the shape with plain black (100% K) and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, then set the Radius to 20 pixels and hit OK. Next, Rotate that the Shadow layer -15º. Finally, change its Blending mode to Multiply and Opacity to 50%.

Step 26 – Content Text

Adding the content text is quite simple, but you must apply all your typographic knowledge to make it look good. In the following example, I’m creating a Paragraph Text Layer with some dummy text for the “Face 2” text.
Arial Black will be my choice this time. I’m also adding a two Point Text layer to create eye catching titles. Another important thing is the rotation. Once you’ve created your text layers, you must rotate them -15 degrees if the text layers are upside the big stripe, or -5 degrees if the text layers are at the bottom of the small stripe. The rotation effect will give our design an extra special touch. Once more, remember to design inside the Security Margin.

Step 27 – Group Content

I’m adding more text layers with some dummy content. Of course, you must add your very own. Notice the “Contact Us” text has a -5º rotation because its below the small stripe. You can Group the layers into folders according the face where it belongs, “Face 1,” “Face 2,” or “Face 3.”

End of Side I

At this point we’ve got the first side of our design ready. Remember save your work with a descriptive title, like “brochure – front.” Then Save the Document as “brochure – back” and continue.

Side II

Step 28 – Set Up the Inner Side Layout

We’re working on the back side of the print paper. Obviously, the side, the margin, the guides are exactly the same than front side. But in order to create a wrapping effect with the stripes, we’ll need to flip them.
First of all, delete (or hide) all the content layers (“Face 1,” “Face2,” and “Face 3″) and leave only the stripes and the ribbon. You can create three folders named “Face 4,” “Face 5,” and “Face 6″ to add the content in.

Step 29 – Flip the Stripes

Now we’ll flip the stripes. Select the “Stripe Copy” Folder and go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal. Do the same with the “Stripe” folder. Finally, move the ribbon to the left side of the document as shown.

Step 30 – Add More Text

It isn’t hard to add content to the back, just repeat what we did in Step 26, but this time the rotation angle must be positive. In this case, the rotation angle is 15º. I created the services list icons by using one of Photoshop’s default Custom Shapes. Remember: do not exceed the Security Margin bounds.

Step 31 – Add a custom support image

Extract this picture from its background and paste it into a new layer named “Polaroid” inside the “Face 5” folder. Now paste any picture inside the polaroid dark rectangle (you must play with the marquee selections or adding a Layer Mask). Paste it into a layer on top of the “Polaroid” layer named “Picture.” I’m using this picture by the way. Finally, change the “Picture” layer blending mode to Overlay.

Step 32

Merge the “Picture” and “Polaroid” layers into one named “Polaroid,” then adjust the Hue/Saturation (Command + U) and set the values shown below.

Step 33 – Picture Shadow

Create a new rectangle (100%K) behind the “Polaroid” layer and name it “Shadow.” Hit Command + F to re-apply the last Gaussian Blur Filter. Then change the layer Blending Mode to Multiply and its Opacity to 60%. Next, rotate the “Shadow” layer a few degrees to the right.

Step 34 – Final Touches

Rotate the entire “Face 5” folder a few degrees to the right. And just because we can, Select the Burn Tool and burn some areas of the polaroid picture to make it more grungy.

Step 35 – End of Side II

And that’s the outcome for the back side.


And that’s it, now you can export the document in your preferred format by clicking on File > Save as and select a filetype (Photoshop PDF is a great choice).
Also, you can get rid of the Trim Guides and export a .TIFF file to InDesign or Illustrator. There are many ways to send these files to print service. Besides you can buy a mock-up template from Graphic River or make one from scratch and get a cool preview of your brochure.


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