Tri-fold brochures are one of the most commonly used marketing materials, but can be one of the most challenging to design. There are many details to consider when laying out a tri-fold brochure, including paper size, fold lines, content layout, and file preparation. This article serves as your guide for setting up a tri-fold brochure for professional printing.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to choosing the size of your brochure. There are no limits to your creativity, nor should there be in your design. However, if you want to create something easy to design and print, you may want to stick with one of the standard sizes below. Throughout the rest of this post I will focus on the most common brochure size, the 8.5″ x 11″ tri‑fold.
8.5″ x 11″ (Letter)
The standard ‘tri-fold’ is actually three panels with only two fold lines. It can be handed out, placed in a brochure rack, or easily mailed. This size is also often used for take-out menus.
8.5″ x 14″ (Legal)
Legal size tri-folds are not as common, but are still used today. With three extra inches of total length, each of your panels will allow a bit more space for content.
11″ x 17″ (Tabloid)
Although frequently used as a half-fold brochure or menu, this paper size can also be used as a tri-fold.
11″ x 25.5″
The much larger 11″ x 25.5″ brochure is comprised of three 8.5″ x 11″ panels, and is used for lengthy, more robust brochures.
Novice designers assume that a tri-fold brochure folds into three equal parts, but this is not the case. A little extra room is required to account for the thickness of the paper in the fold. While creating a design with three slightly unequal panels isn’t the end of the world, your result will be more professional if you make this adjustment. Below are the correct fold lines for an 8.5″ x 11″ tri‑fold brochure or pamphlet:
Outside: 3.625″ & 7.313″, creating 3.625″, 3.688″, 3.688″ panels.
Inside: 3.688″ & 7.376″, creating 3.688″, 3.688″, 3.625″ panels.
The outside spread of your layout consists of the top of your inside flap, back cover, and the front cover. Please note that the graphics on each panel will stand alone when the brochure is folded. This doesn’t mean you can’t design across the panels, but double check that each panel looks good on its own.
The inside spread lays flat when opened and the design does not necessarily have to be compartmentalized into panels. Your design will look more fluid if you design across the page.
For optimal print results, it is important to make your file print-ready. Most printers require full bleeds in a design. The graphics in your design should extend .25″ beyond the paper size (.125″ on each side). Also be sure to lay out text and important graphics within the safe zone, a .125″ area within the paper size. You can print your design on any stock paper of your choosing, but brochures are generally printed on 80 to 100 lb. stock. Ask your printer for their recommendation if necessary.
For help with adding bleeds to a Publisher document, please visit How to Set-up Bleeds on a Microsoft Publisher Document for Professional Printing. Note: It is not recommended you attempt to add bleeds to a Microsoft Word design.
For blank templates and more details on setting up your file for print, visit one of the following print websites:
With any professional print job, it is a good idea to check with your commercial printer for any special requirements.
Graphic Design Resources
Make your own tri-fold brochure with tri-fold templates from StockLayouts.
Get Word tri-fold brochure templates from LayoutReady.com – templates for Microsoft Word and Publisher.
Download the StockLayouts Graphic Design Catalog of professional print layouts to use as a creative resource.
Try a free tri-fold brochure template and see how easy it is to customize StockLayouts’ designs!