Desktop Publishing Process Overview

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Desktop publishing is the process of using computer software to combine and rearrange text and images and create digital files that are either sent to a commercial printer for printing or printed directly from a desktop printer.

Here are the key steps to creating an attractive layout in most types of page layout software and printing it from your desktop printer. This is an overview of the desktop publishing process.

Desktop Publishing Supplies

It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours depending on the complexity of the desktop publishing project. Here's what you'll need to execute your project:

Steps to Taking an Idea From Screen to Print

Have a Plan, Make a Sketch

Before even opening the software it is wise to have an idea where you are going with your design. What do you want to create? Even the roughest of sketches can be useful. You could skip this step but it is recommended to try to do a few thumbnail sketches first.

Choose a Template

If your chosen software has templates for the type of project you plan to do, take a look at those templates to see if they will work as-is or with a little tweaking for your project. Using a template can be faster than starting from scratch and a great way for those new to desktop publishing to get started. Or, as an alternative, find a tutorial for your software that takes you through the steps of learning the software while doing a specific project such as a greeting card, business card, or brochure. With Microsoft Publisher, you can craft a birth announcement, business card, or greeting card. You can also set up a business card.

Set up Your Document

If using a template, you may need to tweak some of the template settings. If starting from scratch, set the size and orientation of your document — set the margins. If you'll be doing text in columns, set up text columns. The specific steps you take in the document setup will vary from one type of project to the next.​

Place Text in Your Document

If your document is mostly text, place it in your layout by importing it from a file, copying it from another program, or typing it directly in your program (not the best choice if it is a substantial amount of text).

Format Your Text

Align your text. Apply the desired typeface, style, size, and spacing to your text. You may end up making some changes later, but go ahead and select the fonts you believe you want to use. Apply embellishments such as plain or fancy drop caps. The specific steps of composing the text that you choose will depend on the amount of text and the type of document you are preparing.

Place Graphics in Your Document

If your document is mostly graphics-based, you may want to place the images before adding bits of text. Import your graphics from a file, copy them from another program, or create them directly in your page layout software (simple boxes, rules, etc.). You can even do some drawing and graphics creation right in your page layout program. Draw with shapes in InDesign shows you how to create all kinds of vector drawings without leaving InDesign.

Tweak Your Graphics Placement

Move your graphics around so that they line up the way you want them. Set up your graphics so that text wraps around them. Crop or resize graphics if necessary (best done in your graphics software, but for desktop printing, it can be acceptable to crop and resize in the desktop publishing software).

Apply the Rules of Desktop Publishing

Once you have your initial layout, improve and fine-tune. Simply applying these tried and true rules of arranging a page and doing desktop publishing will result in more attractive pages even without formal graphic design training. In brief: drop typewritten conventions such as two spaces after periods and double hard returns between paragraphs; use fewer fonts, less clip art; leave white space in the layout; avoid most centered and justified text.

Print a Draft and Proofread It

You can proofread on-screen but it's always a good idea to print out your project. Proof your printout not only for colors (colors on screen don't always print as expected), typographical errors, and placement of elements. If it is to be folded or trimmed, make sure it folds properly and that trim marks print correctly. Think you've caught all the errors? Proofread it again.

Print Your Project

Once you're happy with your layout and your proofs are printing properly, print your creation on your desktop printer. Ideally, even before you finalize your design you've gone through all the preparatory steps for desktop printing including calibration, print options, previews, and troubleshooting.

Useful Tips and Tricks

Want to improve your design skills? Learn how to do graphic design. There is a lot of similarity to the steps outlined here but with a stronger focus on the basics of graphic design.

Although the above steps work for most types of desktop publishing projects, when the document is destined for commercial printing, there are additional file preparation and printing and finishing considerations.

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Your Citation
Bear, Jacci Howard. "Desktop Publishing Process Overview." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Bear, Jacci Howard. (2023, April 5). Desktop Publishing Process Overview. Retrieved from Bear, Jacci Howard. "Desktop Publishing Process Overview." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 28, 2023).