Creating a PDF? We’ll Help You Get Started

As we continue to add new product sizes to the MagCloud service, we’ve made it easier to find the requirements for the product you want to create with our Getting Started page. This new page in the Create section on the MagCloud site lets you select the product, trim size, and binding type for the publication you want to create, and then provides you with the appropriate PDF specifications, things to keep in mind when designing your publication, and step-by-step information packets to help you get started.

In the PDF specifications section, we not only provide the correct PDF size, trim size, safe zone, and bleeds for creating a MagCloud-ready PDF but we also make it easier to understand what these concepts are and how they relate to one another. As you hover over each of these values on the right, you’ll notice that the corresponding area gets highlighted in red in the diagram on the left. At the same time, a text description of what the specification is appears next to your cursor, letting you know, for example, that the PDF Size is the page size of the PDF you will upload to MagCloud. Below the PDF specifications, there is a section for Additional Information that is specific to the publication you are hoping to create. This area lists things that are important to keep in mind while designing your PDF, from embedding fonts to allowing space for the 2D barcode that goes on the back page of your publication.

Finally, at the bottom of the Getting Started page are links to download Information Packets for a variety of software programs. Clicking on one of the icons will download a .zip file, which unzips to become a folder specific to that program and the product, trim size and binding you initially selected. Each folder contains a PDF with step-by-step instructions to help you design a MagCloud-ready PDF from scratch, or modify an existing document for use with MagCloud. In addition, many of these folders also include templates or presets that can be used in conjunction with the step-by-step instructions to help jump-start your creation process.

At the moment we offer Instruction Packets for Adobe InDesign, QuarkXPress, Microsoft Word for Mac and PC, Apple iWork Pages, and Microsoft Publisher. We are planning to add instructions for additional software in the near future though, so keep an eye on the blog for news about those additions. And if there’s a type of software that you would like to see MagCloud-specific instructions for, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

How to Personalize Your MagCloud Page

If you’re using MagCloud to create collateral for your business, portfolios for photography, catalogs for your retail store, a unique magazine, or other content to promote your brand, then shouldn’t your MagCloud page reinforce your brand too?

It’s easy to make your MagCloud profile and publication pages work for you by taking a few minutes to flesh out your publisher profile and create header images that reinforce your brand throughout your pages.

Your Publisher Page

No matter what sort of business you’re into, when customers discover your content on MagCloud, you want them to be able to connect with you directly. Your profile page includes an option to link directly to a website of your choosing, and with some simple html you can also include hyperlinks, images and emphasize text within your profile description.

To get started, you’ll need to log into your account and go to your publisher profile editor.


Link to a website: <a href=”URL”>link</a>

In our Jane Doe example, we used some of MagCloud’s allowed HTML tags to include more links in Jane’s profile. To add a link to your website without having to include the whole website URL, you can simply insert a block of text like below:

Curious about more recent work, or what I’m up to?
Check out my <a href=”http://yourwebaddress.com”>blog</a&gt;.

It will show up in your profile like this:

Bold Text: <b>text</b>

To create bold text, you just need to add <b> before your selection and </b> after. We did this with our Jane example like this:

Hi! I’m Jane, and here on MagCloud you can find all of my portfolios, pricing guides, photography workbooks and collateral for my photography business <b>NotYourAverageJane</b>.

Which then looks like this:

Emphasize/italicize Text: <em>emphasis</em>

To add the title of Jane’s autobiography in italics we used the code for emphasis. Simply put <em> before the text you want italicized and </em> after the text to close the emphasis:

Want to find out more about me, and my life behind the lens? Be sure to check out my 200-page autobiography <em>Don’t Call Me Jane</em> available for purchase here on MagCloud.

Which will appear like this:

Image Link: <img src=”URL”>

You can also insert images or logos into your profile by linking to the image within the text using <img src=”URL”>. This requires that the image is the size you want it to appear in the profile, and that it already has an associated URL. It’s best if this image is pulled from your own website (like your logo) or if you have loaded a special sized image onto your own flickr or other photo host that allows linking directly to the image. If you link to a resource that you don’t control, you might run into broken links if the image is ever moved. For Jane’s example we linked the social media icons that she already had on her blog. This example actually includes two pieces of html, one for the icon image, and then the following text which links to the associated LinkedIn URL:

You can also find me on
<img src=”http://notyouraveragejane/images/LinkedIn_IN_Icon_25px.jpg&#8221; />
<a href=”http://linkedin.com”>LinkedIn</a&gt;

Which will appear like this:

Your Collection Page

For every group of documents you create, you get to have a “collection page” which can have it’s own branded banner and unique URL. This is great if you have a selection of related documents that you want to be able to promote as a group. A great example of this is MagCloud publisher, Golfweek, which has created collections of Souvenir Golf Programs and Golfweek Special Editions. Each collection reinforces the Golfweek brand and furthers their messaging but keeps relevant content together. Check out their banners below:

Customizing with Banners

Want to create your own branded banners? To setup the custom banner for a collection, you must first create the graphic that you plan to use. The banner specs require an image with a maximum size of 790 x 90px, in either JPG, GIF, or PNG formats. You can create this image in any software application of your choosing that can output to one of these formats. You can also upload a smaller image–it’s up to you.

Uploading Your Banner

Once you have your image ready to go, you’ll want to navigate to your collection page. You can get here by visiting your profile page (yourusername.magcloud.com) or by going to one of your publications via magcloud.com/publish. On the right-hand side of the page, you will see an “Add a Custom Banner Image” button.

Once you have clicked the button, you will be prompted to find the image file on your harddrive, and upload it to MagCloud.

The image you upload will be visible on the associated collection page,

and on each of the individual publication pages within that collection.

Have you used custom banners or any of these HTML tricks in your publisher/publication descriptions?
If so, please share them below in the comments section to inspire others.

Get With the Program

Planning for an event can sometimes be, well, eventful. There are always changing schedules to deal with, speakers canceling at the last minute, and 11th hour edits to the program. Making it to press in time (sometimes weeks before the event) with all of these adjustments can be nearly impossible. So, why not lighten your load and use MagCloud?

With fast print turn-around times (as fast as 3-business days for some orders) and great digital options, you could have your next event’s program done quickly, printed beautifully and even offer a digital option to attendees who would rather have their program on their mobile device.

Whether you are planning an internal training day for 10, a corporate meeting for 100 or a conference for 1,000+, MagCloud makes it easy to publish a program with just a few clicks of the mouse and have prints delivered straight to the event location. How easy is that?!

Need shipping that fits your budget? Use the MagCloud pricing calculator to figure out what level of shipping option works best for you.

To help you get started, we have 3 basic templates for Adobe InDesign (CS3 and later) Microsoft Word, and Apple iWork Pages. You can also find templates for sale online from many sites, but be cautious that many of them will require some tweaking to output for print through MagCloud. Please see our How to Guides for details on MagCloud-ready settings.

Ready to design on your own? Get inspired by other publishers’ event and sports programs and agendas on MagCloud:

  

 

Put MagCloud to Work: Publish a Business Brochure

A wise person once said ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression’. In fact, it just takes a few seconds or a cursory glance for a person to make a judgment about us. Our subsequent actions, behavior and professionalism may change that perception slightly, but not to a great extent.

So it stands to reason that how you portray your business to prospective clients is almost as important as how you do business.

Whether you are a fashion designer, a multi-media training company, an industry consultant, a yoga studio, or a niche photographer, putting your brand out there in a professional manner is extremely important.

One could argue that a brochure is just as important as your business card. It is an important marketing and sales tool, one in which you can do a little bragging and shamelessly present your business in the most positive light. It is your opportunity to create a lasting impression, so be sure that it is a good one.

Whether you are a company with a staff of 2, 20 or 20,000, MagCloud is a great tool for affordably publishing and distributing your brochures in a professional format. Our full-color, full-bleed print options in both standard and digest trim sizes give you the choice to create a robust brochure of multiple pages, or something simple and portable, like a four-paged digest handout. Digital distribution options also make it easy to share your brochure digitally to a desktop, laptop, the iPad, or other mobile device.

MagCloud’s ship-to-group feature makes it easy to drop-ship seasonal information or annual brochures to your clients around the world. Or, if you are a small business, its on-demand functionality means that you can distribute individual copies as needed to interested clients, allowing you to maintain a professional appearance without exceeding a limited budget.

Once you have these great logistics and beautiful print quality, the only thing holding you back is content, and design. Here are a few tips for gathering the content you should include in your brochures, and how to effectively assemble it into a professional-looking publication.

Getting Started:

Who are you talking to?

The first thing you need to know is what you want your brochure to accomplish. That ties directly into the target audience and what the message of the brochure will be. Identify your target audience and speak directly to them. Never try to address everyone. Once you know who your audience is, it will be easier to target your messaging and articulate that your product or service is a solution to their needs.

What is your message?

Always include a meaningful headline. Your headline should clearly communicate your main point so that even if the reader reads nothing else, they will understand what you are about.

Tell the whole story in your writing. Be concise, but remember to write your body copy in plain English. Don’t use jargon or industry lingo, instead pretend you’re explaining your message to a friend.

It’s helpful to use succinct, pithy copy. Avoid long sentences. Keep your message to the point. Use subheadings liberally, as they break up long copy and help draw a reader through the text. Ideally, a reader should be able to get a good grasp of your message by reading only the headings and subheadings.

Designing Your Brochure: 

When all of your information is gathered and your writing is done, you can finally get down to the business of designing. You’ll want take into account the basic elements of good design – organization, consistent styling, balance, color, and so on.

Lay out your brochure cleanly and professionally. The design should draw the reader in and ease the process of reading. Remember that erring on the simple side will be easier for your consumer than an over-designed, distracting or hard-to-read brochure.

It’s great to use graphics to provide balance with text, but be sure they are relevant to your content. Use graphics that grab your reader’s attention and underline your message. Whether it’s a picture, logo, or stock image, just be sure it relates to your message and brand.

As with any design there are some things you’ll want to avoid. These include:

  • Avoid over-used typefaces, such as Arial and Helvetica. Read more in our recent blog post.
  • For content type, keep the point size under 12.
  • Don’t use more than three type faces in a brochure.
  • Generally don’t use more than one alignment.

If you feel lost…

Starting from scratch on a brochure can be challenging. Some great resources for design inspiration can come from other designs. Try searching the web for brochures in your industry and see how your design stacks up against the competition. You don’t want to copy someone else’s design, but it’s a great way to get inspired.

Also check out the stock templates available within most design and word-processing software. If you aren’t a super-savvy designer using InDesign or Quark, you’ll be amazed what you can do with Apple iWork Pages, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Publisher. For those who are confident in their skills with the software, but looking to get a more professional look, you can also investigate altering templates from Stocklayouts or Inkd, just be sure you are ready to tweak these designs as they are not all perfectly sized for output through MagCloud.

Have you published your company’s brochure through MagCloud, or found other great resources for inspiration and design? Please share them in the comments below.

The Space Between

No matter what sort of document you’re planning to publish through MagCloud, it’s important to understand the role that white space plays in your design’s aesthetics.

White space, also known as negative space, is the unused space between text and graphic elements within a publication. It gives the eye a place to land and rest, and implies significance to the content you place on a page.  Some would argue that this empty space is as important as the text and graphic images of a page and that it can make, or break a design. So let’s explore why it’s so important.

Balance and Harmony in Print Design
White space is an integral element of design, as it enables a state of balance to exist between the design objects. It also plays an active role in the effectiveness of a layout; it can highlight important elements and support the overall hierarchy, leading the viewer around the page as the designer intended. The empty space on a page can be every bit as important as the space occupied by graphic elements, and thoughtful use of white space can give a page a timeless, tasteful, and professional appearance.

Check out this example below of a Small Business Brochure that has been reworked to better showcase their photography while still including valuable messaging.

Balance and Harmony in Print Design
Give your photos room to breathe. Highlighting photography doesn’t mean you have to fill a page edge-to-edge with your image. Leaving empty space near an image leaves room for the consumer to pause and use their imagination beyond the frame. The second layout has the same written content, and even had room for a 3rd photo.
 

De-clutter Your Page to Get Your Message Across
Clutter on a page is a lot like clutter in a room–it’s distracting and can overwhelm you, or in this case can overwhelm your reader. But when space is at a premium, white space is often abandoned in order to get as much information on the page as possible. It’s important to keep in mind that a page crammed full of text or graphics with very little white space runs the risk of seeming busy, cluttered and in turn difficult to read. It can also cheapen the overall image you are trying to portray.

Large blocks of text, with little breathing room, tire the eyes much more quickly than those that are adequately spaced with healthy kerning (spacing between characters) and leading (spacing between lines of text). A crowded layout runs the risk of being overlooked by readers simply because it puts strain on their eyes, and in turn, their patience.

With that in mind, when you are designing your next publication, keep in mind a goal of making the end viewing experience as easy and pleasant for your readers as possible. Just like you would tidy your house for guests, de-clutter your pages to make them inviting for your readers, helping them feel more relaxed and encouraging them to spend time lingering over your content.

Use White Space to Convey Your Message
Step away from the edge. Asymmetry and putting content on the margin, when done deliberately, can have a powerful effect on the reader, but when overdone, it can leave the reader feeling on edge. Text that gets too close to the edge of a page can leave the reader feeling like they are going to fall off the page. What’s worse? If you play it too close, content could get trimmed off during the binding process. In this example above, we re-worked the layout and narrowed the columns to make it easier to read.
 

Focus on the Negative, Just This Once
There aren’t many situations in life where focusing on the negative is a good thing, but when it comes to print design, you’ll find it can lead to positive results. Take a look through your favorite magazines to see which designs strike a chord with you more frequently. Chances are, you’ll notice a theme. You may start to notice that highlighting and separating text and graphics with white space imparts more value to content.

After you’ve explored other print designs with this focus on the negative space, be sure to revisit some of your own designs, we’re sure you’ll find ways to tidy up and balance your content with a little more breathing room.

Focus on the Negative
Which would you rather read? When dealing with text-heavy content, you don’t need to fill the page from margin to margin with tiny, single-column text. Take a step back and look at the page from afar. Does the content look digestible? Ask yourself “Would I want to read that?” Narrower columns are easier to read than wide ones that span an entire page. 
 

Get Inspired by Other MagCloud Publishers
For more great examples, check out these MagCloud publishers who really know how to use white space to their advantage:

Hacker Monthly
Snapixel Magazine
Stumble

Think you have an exemplary use of white space in your MagCloud publication?
Share it in the comments section below!

The Importance of Layouts and Templates

Whether you’re a design newbie, or a seasoned veteran, sitting down to create a new publication can be a daunting task. There’s nothing more frustrating than staring at a blank page, feeling stuck, and unsure of where to begin. It’s often easier to change things that don’t work for you, than to completely start from scratch, which is why we suggest starting with an existing document. It can be the design of a similar publication, or a simple template that has preloaded margins, column guides and style sheets, that you can quickly adjust for a head start. The advantage of dong this, it that the basics of the page are already in place so you can focus on your content and styling.

Why use a template?

Whether you are creating a 12-page or 120-page publication, if you plan to create a series with the same style, you’ll definitely want to invest the time to develop style sheets, and come up with a few layouts that you can repurpose each time you publish. This will help you keep a visual consistency not only throughout each publication, but also from publication to publication over time.

Some of our publishers have done a great job of this, and you can see how it helps reinforce their brand to have consistent styling throughout each publication.  Check out a few issues of Hacker Monthly or Livestrong, or portfolios by professional photographer David Livingston and you will see what we mean. Each of these publishers have developed a consistent style using templates that is unmistakably and identifiably their own.

Not an expert at design? No problem. Using a professional-looking template can increase your credibility, and make any publisher look like a pro. Find a template that has a style that resonates with you and use it as a springboard to get yourself started. You can see some great examples of this in our blog post Easy Design with Templates in Apple’s [iWork] Pages, where we turned a basic Symphony Program into a business services guide for an event planning company, a sports team yearbook, and a fashion magazine, with just a few changes in font, colors and photography.

Finding Templates
Where to look and what to look for…

Some software comes equipped with built-in templates, and you can also find great free and paid templates online at the companies’ websites, like Microsoft has for Word and Publisher here, or Adobe has for InDesign at Adobe.com

Still can’t find what you need? Other resources exist where you can buy specific designs for your needs and many of these sites make their templates available for a variety of design programs like Inkd and Stocklayouts.com.

When picking your templates, there are a number of things to consider for your publication:

1. Is this template for an 8.5″ x 11″ document? If it’s designed as a 17″ x 11″ spread, do I know how to adjust it to the right size?

2. What sort of page-layouts are included in the template?

3. Does the template have the right ratio of graphics to text for my needs?

4. Are there hidden layouts that I don’t see? * Hint: if you are using iWorks Pages, there probably are!

5. Does the style suit the audience I am trying to reach? If not, is it easily changed with a few font/color tweaks?

6. Don’t feel restricted by the stock photography or color palette used in a template. Keep in mind our example of the Symphony Program being transformed into a fashion magazine or an event planner’s business collateral

7. Ask yourself, “This template isn’t designed for my specific use-case, but does the overall layout and feel fit my purpose? Could I transform it into something that works?”

Ready to customize your template?
A few tips for making any template fit your needs.

– Unless you get a template directly from our blog, you will likely have to alter some of their settings to accommodate MagCloud’s printing requirements. Before you start making any edits to your template, be sure the document settings match those in the MagCloud Help Section.

– When you make changes to fonts and colors, always do this by editing the font or paragraph style sheets. This way, if you don’t like a change that you have made, it will be easy to adjust and will change that style use on all of the pages of the template.

– Always start with the original file and make 2 or 3 versions, each with different fonts or colors. Then save each as it’s own template so that you can compare them and easily decide which one you like best.

Ready, Set, Start Publishing!

Now that you have your template selected, it’s up to you to make it your own. Need a bit of extra help? Check out our other Tips & Tricks blog posts, or visit the help sections of your software’s site. Many of them have great how-to resources and videos to help you on your way.

Adobe InDesign

Microsoft Office

iWorks Pages