Fun with folds – How to design for folded marketing material

Posted on October 3rd, 2015 | Tags: Brochures, Business, Marketing

One of the cool things you can do with printed marketing that will never work on a PDF or website is fold it. It’s more than just greeting cards or A4 brochures folded into thirds. Folded marketing material allows you to break up long or complex information into easier to read chunks. Folding material also allows you to hide information so that when a person opens it up they get a surprise of what’s inside. There are also such things as designing for books and brochures where you want artwork information to go across two pages (a spread) to give it more impact. Now how you design your material to make use of it may seem confusing and you think that you would have to pay a designer a lot of money to set things up. The truth of it that you can do most of it yourself just by following a few common sense rules that I will outline here.

Talk to your printing company

This is the first step in making things easier. At Copy Express we have templates that you can access to guide you through the steps of setting up a folded document. Another reason why it’s good to talk to the printers up front is to find out how they will do the finishing of the product for you. For example: roll folded A4 flyers, the ones folded into thirds with one flap folded over the other, each printing company does it slightly differently; one will make the outer flap and middle section 100mm wide and the inner flap 97mm, a second one might stagger sections width to 100mm/99mm/98mm, a third will make the outer flap and center panel 99mm wide and trim the inner flap to be 98mm. If the item has more than 1 fold the order of how the pages are read depends on how the order of how the paper is folded, maps being typical of this where there are folds are at right angles to each other. By getting the correct template from the printing company, you will avoid designing your contents in the wrong reading order.

Internal flaps must always be smaller

To understand what I mean, take a normal sheet of A4 paper and fold into thirds like you get a letter from a bank. You can see that you can’t fold the paper so each section is exactly  the same size, one has to be smaller to fit between the other two sections. This is because paper has a thickness, even though it’s ‘paper thin’ and you have to allow for each fold. Also if the edge of a inner section is too close to a fold, it’s harder to open flap. To deal with this different printing companies take different approaches to problem as sighted in my previous paragraph. Again using the template the printer company supplied or just talking to them will help ensure that you get the format for your design.

Allow for shifts by having generous margins

Printing is a physical/practical process and as such is prone to what I call production shifting. While all printing companies endeavor to have your material printed perfectly, it’s not a perfect world. The prints’ position on the sheet of paper can shift up to 0.5mm in each direction on each side. The cutting alignment and also have up to 0.5mm movement in each direction. This is why we recommend at least a 3mm internal margin for all important content to allow for this. With folding or creasing, you are adding more steps which again can be out of alignment because of the shifting in the printing and cutting, or add a new one due to the paper not feeding correctly at one point. As such you can’t guarantee that artwork will end exactly on creases/folds or that the margins are going to be exactly even on every panel. this is why I recommend having generous margins when having material being folded, at least 4mm or more. That way if there is a shift problem, it’s less obvious on a 5mm margin being out by 1mm than a 3mm one.

Folding and creasing uses paper both physically and visually

I know this sounds counter intuitive but there is a good reason why I say this. Paper has a thickness and this has to be allowed for when folding or creasing. When you unfold a sheet of paper you rarely if ever fold it flat, meaning that the gaps between contents in each panel become visually closer even though they are no closer on the page. By using generous margins, this keeps  everything looking balanced to the reader. Dealing with folds and creases in multipage documents are their own special area of discussion which I’ve covered in Book terms for the non-bibliofile. When dealing with card, you can’t fold it easily on machines, so it’s standard practice for all printers to supply it creased. Creasing is the process where a metal bar is pressed into the card so a natural fold point is formed. Because it’s a metal bar, this crease can be up to 2mm wide with a visible bend in the paper. While the bending only shortens the paper by a small fraction, visually it becomes an ‘edge’ so text can look like it’s being chopped off even though it’s not. Again this is where using generous margins and working your design so that no important information is caught in the crease matters.

Horizontal folds may mean vertically flipping some of your artwork

You are asking why should you have to flip some of the artwork if everything is going to be printed flat? It is because how it looks after it is folded decides how pages are orientated. Take for instance a landscape greeting card, where the fold is at the top of the card. If you fold it flat you will see that the front of the card is upside down to the rest of the card, because it has to be right side up when the card is folded up. It can take a bit to get your head around how this works but if you follow the templates the printer supplies you, then it will tell you how the material is to be folded and which direction is ‘up’ for each panel.

Design by panel not by sheet

A lot of people, even with the advice I’ve given here, can still get confused on how to set up a folded flyer or card. Here is a the simplest bit of advice I can give: design it as a series of pages and let us at Copy Express sort out the reading order. Using our example of a A4 folded into thirds, what you would do is setup 6 panels each 99mm x 210mm in size and put the content into reading order (unless you’ve got a background image). Sent us the PDF and we would set them up as single A4 sheet based on the style of folding you want and send you back the proof as a PDF and print a sample for you to inspect. From there it’s easy to make sure everything looks right and it all reads in the correct order.

Of course there is a lot you can do with folded marketing material which I’ve not covered here. You could use a non standard size and number of folds for a flyer to stand out from the crowd. Add a section that isn’t a fold but a tear off card they can send back to you. With our specialist partners we can even create flyers that has punch out section. If you want to explore the world of folded/creased marketing material why not email or call us today.