A tri-fold brochure is one of the simplest print layouts you can create. Without the need for any fancy die-cutting or complicated folding, we’ll be taking a look at how you can elevate the simple tri-fold layout to create a high-impact, design-led brochure guaranteed to catch the eye! In this tutorial we’ll be creating a brochure advertising a fictional music festival.
This tutorial is aimed at intermediate or advanced users of Adobe InDesign, who have some familiarity with using layers, typography and working with vector images in InDesign. We'll also be hopping over briefly to Adobe Illustrator, to edit a vector graphic for use in the brochure design.
Let’s get started!
1. Preparing for Folding
Before we begin designing the brochure and thinking about color and typography, let's pause and think about how the final brochure will be folded once printed.
The brochure will be tri-fold, with three folded sections to each side of the brochure (three ‘pages’), and printed on both sides on a single A4 landscape sheet.
This image shows one side of the brochure, which will include the visible front page when folded up. The pink dotted line indicates an inward fold and the solid pink line indicates an outward fold.
This image shows the other side of the brochure, which includes the back page of the brochure, which is visible when folded up.
We can set up this layout in InDesign. Open up InDesign and we can get going...
In the New Document window, keep the Intent to Print, and up the Number of Pages to 2. Uncheck Facing Pages.
From the Page Size menu select A4, and then switch the orientation to Landscape.
Set the Margins on all sides to 10 mm, and the Bleed on all sides to 5 mm. Click OK to create the new two-page document.
From the Pages panel, navigate to the A-Master of the document.
Ensure the Rulers are visible (View > Show Rulers), and then drag out a vertical guide to X position 148.5 mm, the center-point of the brochure.
Drag out another guide to 99 mm and another to 198 mm, to mark out the three foldable sections of the brochure.
To allow for a 10 mm margin around the entirety of each section, drag out vertical guides to 89 mm, 109 mm, 108 mm and 208 mm.
Leave the A-Master and return to Page 1 of the document. If you would find it helpful, you can use the Type Tool (T) to mark out the different sections of the brochure, and keep them on a separate layer for reference, as shown below.
I have renamed Layer 1 from the Layers panel (Window > Layers) as Guides, and then locked it. I can switch the visibility off and on as I work, using the text as a reminder for where content should be placed.
2. Only a ‘Rich Black’ Will Do!
This brochure design uses a dramatic, high-contrast color palette, with just three tones: a deep ‘rich’ black, a coral, and white.
Creating a custom ‘rich’ black, rather than using the default [Black] swatch you can find in the InDesign Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches [F5]), will give the background of the printed brochure a truly black color, giving your brochure depth and drama.
Open the Swatches panel (find it docked to the right-side of the workspace if set to Essentials) and click on the New Swatch button at the bottom of the panel. In the window that opens, rename the Swatch as Rich Black - Warm and set the sliders to the following values: C=40 M=60 Y=60 K=100.
If you prefer, you can create a cooler rich black by reducing the level of Yellow and increasing the percentage of Cyan.
On Page 1 of the document, first create a New Layer in the Layers panel, renaming it Rich Black. Then take the Rectangle Tool (M) and drag to create a shape that extends across the whole page, up to the edges of the bleed.
Select the shape and Edit > Copy, before Edit > Paste in Place onto Page 2 of the document. You can now Lock the Rich Black layer.
3. Get Experimental With Your Typography
The content of this brochure is going to be stripped back and simple, with typography and high-contrast color being the main focus. That doesn’t mean we can be dull with our typographic efforts, however—let’s create text that’s high-impact and eye-catching!
First up, select a pairing of typefaces that complement each other and represent different type styles. Let’s try out a decorative slab font, like Glamor:
Pair it with a more pared-back, ultra-legible sans serif, like Gandhi Sans:
Download and install the fonts, and then return to InDesign.
On the visible front section of the brochure, we’re going to write ‘Music ‘15’ in an experimental, jaunty format, to give the text a sense of movement, imitating musical notes.
Navigate to the far right side of Page 1 of the document; we’ll be working in the far-right third of the page for now. Create a New Layer, renaming it Decorative Typography.
Select the Type Tool (T) and drag to create a large square text frame at the top of the third section of the page.
Type just the letter ‘M’ and set the Font to Glamor Bold, Size 400 pt.
Let’s give the text a pop of contrasting color... hop over to the Swatches panel and create a New Swatch, setting the CMYK values to C=0 M=84 Y=57 K=0 to create a hot coral color. Set the ‘M’ to coral.
Position the M so it fits snugly in the top corner of the brochure, allowing some of the edges to spill into the top and right-hand bleed, and the central section of the page.
Hit W on the keyboard to switch between the Normal and Preview Screen Modes to assess how it’s positioned.
Create a second text frame and type ‘u’ into it, setting the Font to Glamor Light Italic, Size 250 pt and the Font Color to [Paper].
Position the ‘u’ snugly under the center of the ‘M’.
Build up the text further, with more text frames, respectively reading ‘S’, ‘I’, ‘c’, and finally ‘‘15’. Adjust the Weight and Size of each letter, keeping the Font set to Glamor. Set the color of some to coral, others to [Paper].
Be playful, and don’t be afraid of rotating a text frame or two, to allow the letters to fit nicely together. Try to imitate the look of the letters exactly below, or have a go creating your own version... get experimental!
Move over to Page 2 of the document, and create two new text frames using the Type Tool (T). Type ‘F’ into the first, positioning it to the top left of the page and setting the Font to Glamor Bold, Size 400 pt, and Color to [Paper].
In the other text frame (position at the bottom left of the page) type ‘M’ and set the Font to Glamor Bold, Size 250 pt and to the coral swatch.
Pair these capitals with separate text frames, completing the ‘estival’ for ‘Festival’, at top, and ‘usic’ for ‘Music’ at the bottom. Set the text for both to Gandhi Sans, increasing the Size until the text fits snugly against the 188 mm guide.
4. Make Some Music
Because we’re advertising a music festival, we can create some references to the musical nature of the event with musical notes.
Introducing lines, which will imitate the look of sheet music, can give your brochure structure and a visible grid, marking out areas to position text and other elements.
Head back up to Page 1 of your document and Lock the Decorative Typography layer. Create another New Layer, naming it Lines, and drag it to sit just below the top Decorative Typography layer.
Take the Line Tool (\) and, holding Shift, drag downwards to create a perfect line about 115 mm in Length. Position the line along the left-hand margin of the page, towards the top-left corner, so that some of the line extends past the edge of the page and onto the bleed.
Set the Stroke Weight to 0.75 mm and the Color to [Paper].
Next up, take the Line Tool (\) again and, holding Shift, drag from left to right to create a perfect horizontal line, letting the left edge touch the white line, and the right edge cross the left part of the ‘M’ on the far right of the page. Set the Weight to 0.25 mm and the Color to coral.
Create the illusion of sheet music by creating a series of five evenly spaced horizontal lines, set in [Paper]. Give the central three lines a Weight of 0.15 mm and the outer lines a slightly thicker Weight of 0.25 mm.
Position roughly as shown below, disguising the right edges of the lines by extending them onto the far right side of the page, letting them sit under the decorative letters.
Select the series of lines and Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste, positioning below with a generous gap between the two sets.
Copy and Paste in Place all of the lines onto Page 2 of the document, adjusting the bulkier groups of lines so that they sit behind the ‘Festival’ and 'Music’ text, as shown below. Adjust the color of the second set of lines to coral, and create a completely new coral line that sits below ‘Festival’, at Y position 115 mm.
Return to the Layers panel and Lock the Lines layer.
What will really bring this brochure to life are a few well-chosen graphics. Don’t distract from the high-impact typography with busy photos—try out some silhouetted graphics instead!
I’ve downloaded this vector image of sheet music from GraphicRiver and opened it up in Adobe Illustrator. Do the same, or feel free to select your own vector image of sheet music or musical notes.
I switch off the visibility of the lines sitting behind the notes, and then drag to select just one complete line of notes. Go to Edit > Copy in Illustrator, and then return to the InDesign brochure document.
Create another new layer for the graphics to sit on. From the Layers panel create a new layer, sitting above the Lines layer, and rename it Music Notes.
In InDesign, Edit > Paste the graphic onto Page 1 of the document. From the Swatches panel, or from the Controls panel running along the top of the workspace, change the Fill Color of the musical notes from the default black to [Paper].
Resize the group of musical notes while holding Shift to retain the proportions, and sit the notes comfortably on the top set of lines, as shown below.
Return to the Illustrator vector file, and select another line of musical notes, before going to Edit > Copy.
Paste into the InDesign document, as we did in the previous step, resizing and positioning onto the second set of lines on Page 1.
Repeat the process for Page 2 of the document, copying and pasting more sets of notes onto the page, until you are happy with the result.
For the lower set of lines on Page 2, you might want to adjust the Fill Color to coral to match the color of the ‘Music’ text.
You might also like to adjust the Opacity of the graphics, to make them more subtle, by going to Object > Effects > Transparency and reducing the Opacity to about 80%.
5. Fill Your Brochure With Text
You’ve successfully set up the layout, decorative typography and graphics for your brochure. Great work so far!
Now all that’s left to do is to populate the design with information for the reader. We’ll need to include a subtitle for the front page, a schedule for the festival, and a bit of blurb about the festival itself, as well as giving the reader some info about the location of the event and contact details.
We’ll use the existing typography and graphics to mark out sections of the brochure for placing text. Let’s walk through the steps now...
Go to the Layers panel and Lock the Music Notes layer. Create a final New Layer that sits at the very top of the pile, and rename it Sans Serif Typography. We’ll place all the other text on this layer, so it’s easily editable and separate from the rest of the artwork.
Navigate up to Page 1 of the document, and remind yourself of the folded sections for this page, by switching off the visibility of all layers, or by simply reminding yourself with this image:
The far-right third will be the front page of the brochure when folded up. At the moment, it’s not really clear enough what the brochure is actually about, so we can introduce a small subtitle at the top of the third.
Back on the Sans Serif Typography layer, take the Type Tool (T) and drag to create a small text frame about 59 mm in Width that fits centrally towards the top of the far-right third of the page.
Type ‘SYDNEY (paragraph break) MUSIC (paragraph break) FESTIVAL’ and set the Font to Gandhi Sans Regular, Color to [Paper], Tracking to 140 and Leading to 30 pt.
Highlight ‘SYDNEY’ alone and increase the Font Size to 20 pt.
Highlight just ‘MUSIC’ and set the text to Align Center and the Font Size to 18 pt.
Lastly, highlight ‘FESTIVAL’ and set the word to Align Right and Font Size to 15 pt.
Position the text frame so it sits nestled within the large ‘M’ sitting behind it, as shown below.
The two left-hand thirds of Page 1 will be a good place to detail the schedule (programme) of the festival's events.
Take the Type Tool (T) again and create a long, narrow text frame. Type in ‘WHAT’S ON WHEN?’ and set the Font to Gandhi Sans, Size 20 pt, Tracking 90, Align Center and Font Color to coral.
Position the text frame above the top coral line, and so that it crosses the two left thirds of the page, as shown.
Create a second text frame, shorter in Width, and position it at the top left of the far-left third of the page, just above the first line of musical notes.
Type ‘DAY (paragraph break) EVENT’ and set the Font to Gandhi Sans, Tracking to 50 and Align Center. Highlight the day alone and set the Font Color to coral, and Font Size to 12 pt. Highlight just the event and up the Size to 14 pt and adjust the Font Weight to Bold.
Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste the text frame you’ve just created and repeat down the length of the left-hand third of Page 1 four more times. Populate the central third of the page with the same text frame as well. You can adjust the content of the text as you go, if you like, to create a complete schedule for the festival, as I’ve done here:
Move down to Page 2 of your document. Let’s remind ourselves of how this page will be folded:
The ‘Inside Pages’, the two left-hand thirds of this page, will probably be the first pages the reader will look at when they unfold the brochure. So this would be the perfect place to draw the reader in with a more detailed blurb about the festival, and convince them why they should attend.
The reader will also read these two left-hand thirds as a whole, as they are only divided by an inward fold. So we can feel confident placing text that crosses these two thirds.
Take the Type Tool (T) again and drag to create a text frame about 155 mm in Width and 35 mm in Height. Type ‘Welcome’, followed by a couple of paragraph breaks, and then you have room for a couple of sentences.
Go to Type > Fill with Placeholder Text, if you’d prefer, for now.
Set the Font to Gandhi Sans, Size 12 pt, Leading 32 pt, Tracking 50, All Caps, and Align Right. Pull out the ‘Welcome’ in a coral color and the remainder in [Paper]. Position the frame so it rests against the 188 mm guide to the right.
Copy > Paste the text frame, and position below the top set of music notes, adjusting the text to Align Left.
You can adjust the content of the text to give the reader a bit more detail about the festival.
The far-right third of Page 2 will be the back page of the brochure when folded up. You’ll usually find need-to-know information on this part of brochures: contact information, maps and addresses, or important dates.
Introduce some more text frames here, using the lines of musical notes to separate different sections of information. Set the text to Gandhi Sans and Align Center for a clear, professional finish. Set titles in coral and other info in [Paper].
6. You’re Ready to Go to Print!
Congratulations! Your beautiful brochure is finished, and it's looking really polished and professional.
All that’s left to do is to check the text for any spelling errors (Edit > Spelling > Check Spelling), perform a technical Preflight (Window > Output > Preflight) and finally, to export the brochure as a print-ready PDF.
To export your brochure artwork as a print-ready file, ready for sending straight to the printers, hop up to File > Export and select Adobe PDF (Print) from the drop-down menu in the Export window.
Once you hit Save, select [Press Quality] from the Adobe PDF Preset drop-down menu at the top of the Export Adobe PDF window.
Under the Marks and Bleeds options, click to select All Printer’s Marks and check Use Document Bleed Settings under Bleed and Slug.
Select Export to create your print-ready file, complete with printer’s marks.
You’re now ready to send the brochure to print!
Be sure to specify the paper weight (something between 130 and 200 gsm is usually pretty safe, and will give a more luxe finish) and whether you’d like the finish to be gloss or matte (matte often looks more modern).
Your beautiful brochure is complete, and ready for sending to print. Fantastic work!
In this tutorial we’ve covered a range of advanced InDesign skills and techniques, ranging across typography, layout and grid design, color design and working with graphics in InDesign. Specifically, you should now have more confidence in:
- Designing 2D layouts that will be transformed into folded, 3D products, and sectioning the layout appropriately to allow for this
- Creating ‘Rich Black’ swatches for optimal printed results
- Using decorative typography in an experimental, design-led way, to give your layouts an ultra-professional look
- Enhancing your type-heavy designs with bold color combinations and simple vector graphics
Be sure to check back to the Tuts+ Design & Illustration page for more InDesign tutorials, and above all have fun with creating your own experimental designs for print!
If you're interested in getting some help with your brochure design, Envato Studio has a great collection of Print Designers that you might like to explore.