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Design Tips for Desktop Publishers

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We're local too!

We're Express Printing & Graphics, a local business, located in Sunnyvale, CA. Being locally owned and operated, we take pride in the Silicon Valley community and want to help other Small Businesses and organizations reach their highest potential.


25 years of experience

We've been thriving in Silicon Valley for over 25 years, helping our customers grow their businesses. We transform our years of printing, marketing, mailing, and website experience into articles that are posted here on our website, Twitter and Facebook. Whichever method you prefer to get your local business ideas from, we are happy to inspire all Bay Area Businesses.


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We offer printing, marketing, mailing, and website services from our location in Sunnyvale. Our marketing experts can help you find the optimal method of promoting your business. Whether it's postcards, mobile websites, social coupons, or an array of other choices, we can narrow it down to what works best for YOU and your BUDGET.


Terry Doland, Owner
Terry Doland, Owner

Design Tips for Sunnyvale Small Businesses  

Are you a desktop publisher? If you own a small business, work for a small business or nonprofit organization, or volunteer at a community organization and use a computer to prepare files for print or the web, then you meet the definition.

Desktop publishers prepare business stationery (business cards, letterheads and envelopes), forms, sales and marketing materials, newsletters and similar documents and print them on the desktop, have them printed by a commercial printer such as Express Printing and Graphics, Inc., distribute them in electronic format, or publish them to a web site.

The term desktop publishing was coined in 1985 by Paul Brainerd, founder of Aldus Corporation, to describe the capability of the computer program Aldus PageMaker. PageMaker, which was later purchased by Adobe, was a new kind of software program, distinct from a word processing machine (which was essentially a typewriter with some form of electronic editing and correction capability). PageMaker enabled one person to perform on a computer what had previously been many separate manual functions associated with getting documents ready to print: design, typesetting and assembling all elements into a page layout.

Over time, as features were added to desktop publishing software and easier-to-use consumer versions were developed, what had once been a job (i.e., desktop publisher) evolved into a set of job skills needed for a wide range of positions: office manager, department head, administrative or legal assistant, secretary, real estate agent, even receptionist and volunteer worker.

We, too, are part of the evolution of desktop publishing. Phototypesetting, mechanical camera work and manual paste up gave way to desktop publishing, then evolved to a complete digital prepress process, with output to either offset press plates or our high-speed color digital printers. For us, desktop publishing means we can produce a first proof faster, make alterations quickly and easily, and significantly improve the quality of the printed image.

Success in desktop publishing

Today desktop publishing is a broad term that encompasses the three main activities of document preparation:
  • Preparing text. The information that is being presented is written, edited, checked for spelling and grammar, and made available as a digital file.
  • Preparing images: Photographs and images to illustrate the text are selected or created, color corrected, manipulated and sized.
  • Assembling elements: The prepared text and images are placed and arranged on the page using principles of graphic design.

Success as a desktop publisher depends partly on selecting and learning to use the correct tools for the three main activities, and partly on mastering the basics of design. Several different kinds of programs are needed for desktop publishing. They correspond to the activity areas.

  • Word processing. A word processor is used to compose and edit text and to check spelling and grammar. Two popular word processing programs are Microsoft Word and Corel WordPerfect.
  • Graphics software. This category includes illustration (drawing) software and image editors. Illustration programs permit great flexibility in sizing illustrations or drawings; image editing software (paint programs or photo editors) are used to manipulate photos and scans. Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW are examples of illustration software; Adobe Photoshop and Corel PaintShop Photo Pro are image editors.
  • Page layout. Page layout software is another way of saying desktop publishing software. This software is designed to integrate text and images on the page, anchor page elements in place, create multiple page documents, and provides tools to add artistic details to the layout. Desktop publishing software permits control over type, including character spacing (i.e., kerning and tracking), line spacing, control of hyphenation and line endings. The leading page layout programs are Adobe InDesign and Quark XPress; Microsoft Publisher is a budget-friendly alternative.

Page Layout

A word about using software programs such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Photoshop and Illustrator for page layout: while some people have developed great proficiency with these programs and use them to produce business cards, brochures and other items, we do not recommend this practice. None of these programs were designed for integrating text and images, and none offer the control over page composition that is built into an actual page layout program.

Desktop publishing is more than software

To produce truly successful designs, more is needed than proficiency with desktop publishing software. A good desktop publisher also much know about color, typography, page composition, images (photos and illustrations), prepress, printing and bindery.

Here are a few tips to guide you:


Black type on a light background is more legible than type reversed out of a colored background. Reversed type is 15% more difficult to read, and should be no smaller than 12 points. 75% of all readers prefer black type on light background.


When confronted with good and bad typography, a majority of readers recognize bad typography immediately. Limit the number of fonts in a document to two or three. Because serif typefaces are slightly more legible than sans serif, use a serif font for text-heavy documents. 67% of readers favor serif typefaces. The most legible typefaces for body copy are between 9 and 12 points. Lowercase letters are more legible than uppercase, and there is no difference in legibility between headlines set in all lower case and those set with initial capitals. Words set in all caps are read letter-by-letter and are approximately 15% slower to read than words set in lower case.

Page composition

Align all elements to each other or to a grid, either vertically or horizontally. Align objects along the same edge or center them. Use one strong visual element; if using multiple images, connect them by keeping them aligned and in proximity. To create a more dynamic layout, use an odd number of visuals or text columns. Thirds creates a very pleasing composition. Use white space around the edges of the page, text, and graphic elements to create visual breathing room.


For photographs, use a resolution of 300 dpi in the size the photograph appears in the document. Color correct photographs, change the color of images, size and crop photographs and images in the appropriate program (illustration/drawing or image editor) before importing the image into the page layout program. For a professional-looking document, limit use of clip art.


Create proofs and mockups for review prior to printing. After approval, create PDFs to be used for printing. Collect all fonts, linked images, and the fonts within linked images for submission.


Use the right color space for the document output.


Be sure the layout allows for post-press operations such as folding, cutting, trimming to the bleed, drilling and mechanical binding. Allow for page creep in multi-page documents that are being saddle stitched.

Know when to do it yourself – and when not to

We encourage our customers to complete some desktop publishing projects themselves. That’s part of the reason we send this newsletter with helpful information.

But there are certain projects that will be finished faster and at less cost if you provide all the inputs – Word files containing text, digital photo and image files, or photo prints and hard copy images that need to be scanned – and let us complete the layout. We have the tools, skills and experience to get to the finished product on time and within budget.

This information provided to you by Silicon Valley's Express Printing & Graphics, Inc.
located at 1205 Alderwood Avenue, Sunnyvale, CA 94089



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