What’s the best graphic design software?

Pictured above: Adobe InDesign 6 

We’ll start with what doesn’t work!

Word processor programs, such as Microsoft Word are a bad choice for print layout. The reasons for that are numerous, and not within the scope of this article. The bottom line is (unless you’re dealing with simple black and white documents, and the simple, non-critical graphics), MS Word won’t work.

By the same token, programs such as Excel or Powerpoint are a bad fit. They’re designed with an entirely different purpose in mind.

 If not Word, Excel or Powerpoint, what will work?

Look for a page layout program. If you can budget for it, Adobe InDesign is today’s most popular pro page design software. QuarkXpress is another less popular, but powerful option. There’s a bit of a learning curve on both of these programs; they’re very feature-rich.

InDesign is available for purchase or subscription. You can grab a 3 month trial of Adobe InDesign here. Or purchase a full version here.

Low Budget Alternatives

A low budget option is Scribus, an open source (free) program that has the potential to export “print ready” PDF files. This book will get you up to speed on Scribus’ many features.

BTW, the popular Windows page layout program MS Publisher, may work in some situations, but is hopelessly cobbled when true quality results are needed.

Low Cost Macintosh Options
If you own a Macintosh computer, there’s one choice that stands out for the novice document designer. Apple’s Pages program is simple, intuitive and has a decent engine under the hood. Used correctly, it can easily create typical business or personal documents, and save them in print ready PDF files.

Beyond the software. Your document should be:

1. Sized correctly. Don’t just randomly place a business card in the middle of a letter size sheet.
2. Designed with the correct number and type of colors for your printing process. If you find this statement confusing, chances are your document will come out wrong.
3. Built from compatible elements. Besides text, any graphics, clip art, photos or other elements require compatible file formats, color model, and quality fonts.
4. Built using a page layout, or possibly a draw program. Files created in image editing programs (such as Photoshop) are a poor choice for average documents that contain a combination of text, logos, and non-photographic elements.
5. Compatible with mechanical requirements of the printing process. Text that is too close to the edge, can be problematic. Documents with “bleed” (wall to wall) color, or unusually heavy ink coverage may give you less than optimal results, unless properly treated.

Publishing for the Masses

If you have the time, and a little bit of money, creating your own documents for print can be fun and effective. But remember when time is tight, or when the stakes are high, consider hiring an experienced graphic design pro to help. The right designer can make ALL the difference!

Remember: when you create your own documents using any of the major publishing packages, Copies&Ink will be able to help you get much better results in your final projects. And if you support us by purchasing the software from Amazon though the links on this page; we’ll earn a modest affiliate commission from your purchase.


New Rules for Business Mailing: USPS January 2013 Changes

You’ve probably heard that the cost to mail a First Class letter is going up a penny. More info on that here.

Notably, the largest impact of the Jan. 2013 changes involve standard class (read: bulk) mail. An effective cure for insomnia can be found in this PDF.

Here’s the short list for self mailers, our most popular product:

Sealing with a single tab is no longer allowed, two tabs are required to qualify for standard class discounts.





For tri-fold self-mailers, the mailing address must be on the middle panel, with the final fold creating the non-address side. Here’s what that looks like.





For “oblong” self mailers: the final fold must be on the right side, or ‘leading edge’. Here’s what that looks like, including options for tabbing.





Full Disclosure: This is not a complete list! There may be more changes and “interpretation” to come in the next few months. If there’s any doubt about how to design your upcoming mailer, drop me a note. I’ll run it by the our own postal specialists and even get you a pre-approval from the “man.”


Night School: Photoshop

Basics of Photoshop Color Correction Touch Ups and Enhancements

Just in time for Summer vacation, a bit of knowledge can go a long way in making your photos shine.

Here’s one of the best Adobe Photoshop tutorials I’ve run across. Yes, some things are over simplified, but for the average user: this will really help.

Even if you don’t own Photoshop, the concepts presented will pretty much carry over to any decent image editing program.

Some Photoshop alternatives can be found here. A Macintosh specific list can be found here.


The Right Strategy Wins

If you’ve tried everything, and nothing seems to be working, it could be your strategy.

After decades of working with business owners, I’ve found that even the most basic marketing tactics are effective when the right basic strategy is in place. And when no strategy (or a poorly chosen strategy) is in place, the world is a cruel place, regardless of even the best marketing efforts.

For example. a couple of insurance industry clients claimed that business was down about 30%. A strategy that served them well five years ago is no longer effective. Yet, another insurance company client is holding their own, even growing a bit. And yes, they have chosen wisely when it comes to strategy.

This isn’t a matter of tactics. It’s about having the courage to admit that your entire business, the products you sell, your pricing or manufacturing model or the markets you serve no longer offer a reasonable expectation of success. Few can win the battle against the large forces of the marketplace.

Tactics won’t help, regardless how polished. No direct mail, no telemarketing, no selling can turn the tide of a bad underlying strategy. It’s like banging your head against the wall.

Marketer Seth Godin stated it well:

“If you are tired of hammering your head against the wall, if it feels like you never are good enough, or that you’re working way too hard, it doesn’t mean you’re a loser. It means you’ve got the wrong strategy… It takes real guts to abandon a strategy, especially if you’ve gotten super good at the tactics. That’s precisely the reason that switching strategies is often such a good idea. Because your competition is afraid to.”

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