Which is the best software to use when designing a brochure?

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Five logos of different design software packages

Five popular brochure design packages

When it comes to designing a brochure there are a number of different software packages available. It’s easy to use the same package for every design project you have but each one has its strengths and weaknesses and so your go to software package might not necessarily be the right one for designing a brochure.

Here are five of the most popular software packages to choose from!

 

Adobe InDesign

We would argue that this would be the top choice for most designers. Adobe InDesign is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud software suite which is the industry standard. It’s invaluable for creating multiple page documents, with its set page formats and templates. Once mastered, this piece of software will speed up the design process and eliminate some of the manual work.

What’s good?

It comes as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite which means, it’s easy to use packages such as Photoshop and/or Illustrator alongside InDesign. For example you can use library elements throughout the suite as well as set up a colour palette to use across multiple documents.

It’s an industry standard package which means if you need a designer or printer to edit or work with the file, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Create a style for your text and use across the document. For example you can set main headings and sub headings and ensure continuity.

The creation of master pages enables you to set features of the page such as headers, footers and page numbers which will then appear on all pages of the publication. This template can then be reused should you need to create another publication in the same series.

Like other Adobe packages you can arrange the workspace to what works best for you. Removing tool windows you don’t need and keeping those you repeatedly use. This can help speed up the design process and give you a clear, familiar setting in which to create your brochure.

These are just five good things about this package, there are many more cool features and useful tools which make this an essential choice for a professional designer, however like every package it does have its drawbacks!

What’s bad?

Well not a lot, other than these two points, which, when it comes to the amateur designer are huge factors to consider.

The cost, whilst being affordable for a design business through the Adobe subscription option. £40/£50 per month. would be a lot to commit to if you were just wanting to dabble with creating a brochure yourself. Which leads on to the second point.

Adobe InDesign is not really a package you can just pick up and master quickly. With its many features and flexibility comes a complexity to the design process. To a new user, the interface can appear daunting and unintuitive. If you are familiar with other Adobe programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator then this will help, as some features run across and the general workspace does look familiar with the same icons and format used throughout the suite.

In conclusion

A must have for the professional designer but perhaps too difficult to use if the project is just going to be a one off or you are not familiar with any of the other Adobe packages.

 

Adobe Illustrator

Here’s another great piece of software within the Adobe Creative Cloud suite and our personal favourite. This vector based program is another must have for any professional designer. It offers the designer a vast array of tools to stretch their creativity to the limits. It takes the creative process away from the limitations of pixels and into the realm of clean and scalable vector graphics.

What’s good?

In the same way as Adobe InDesign, being part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite makes it easy to use alongside other Adobe packages. It also has a lot of helpful resources online as well as access to Adobe support. The easy to follow and professional tutorials means that learning any of the Adobe packages is accessible to anyone who subscribes.

Whilst not every designer or printer will be 100% familiar with Illustrator, it would be unusual for them to not be able to open and edit a file should you need some professional input further down the line. Again having an industry standard piece of software would enable you to easily work alongside a professional designer and/or printer on your brochure project.

In the same way as InDesign, Illustrator offers a flexible workspace which you can personalise and set out in the way you prefer.

Illustrator’s tool bars and menus are intuitive and whilst there are many tips and tricks to learn, it’s relatively easy to get started on a simple brochure project. However it is important to state that many would argue that this piece of software is too difficult. The more familiar you are with other Adobe programs, the more likely you are to be able to pick up Illustrator. If you are not familiar with other programs, then it might be a good idea to look at another piece of software to design your brochure such as Scribus or Microsoft Publisher.

As stated before Illustrator works with lines instead of pixels (squares) which means that any design is easily scalable without distortion.

Illustrator CC allows multiple artboards, a feature which was previously only found in InDesign. This means that multipage documents can be saved as pdfs with just a few clicks.

With global editing you can alter all instances of one item by just editing the one instance. For example you can revise a logo on one page of a brochure and the change can be carried through to all of the pages within the artwork.

There is much more to Illustrator which would win you round to this great piece of software but as with all packages there are some not so good bits, especially when it comes to designing a brochure!

What’s bad?

Like Adobe InDesign the cost would be a huge drawback for many. If you are looking to have access to more than just one Adobe piece of software and you are planning on working on more than one or two design projects then spending £40/£50 per month might be worth considering. If the project is a one off, then it might be worth putting the money towards hiring a professional to design your brochure.

Older versions of Illustrator do not support multiple artboards meaning that one brochure must be made up of multiple .ai files. Whilst this has improved with Illustrator CC, the lack of being able to create a master page, means that simple page set-ups become a manual task. Because of this, it can feel old-fashioned and laborious to the professional who is familiar with the short-cuts within other commercial packages such as InDesign.

In conclusion

Illustrator, being a vector based program, is key when creating aspects of a brochure such as the logo or illustrative artwork. However it falls short if you are looking to create a multiple page document quickly and with easy consistency. We would argue that Illustrator is a more creative space to design a brochure as opposed to the organisational space of InDesign. However organisation might be a priority when it comes to a designing a brochure with many pages!

 

Scribus

This open source piece of software is fairly popular for those looking for a desktop publishing program which doesn’t cost a penny.

What’s good?

I would say the biggest advantage of Scribus is that it’s free! This makes it a popular tool for the novice and first time brochure designer!

Not only is Scribus free to download, but patches and updates are available for free. So,no software obsoletion and no costly upgrades!

It comes with 200 colour palettes and supports RGB, CMYK and spot colours.

It’s less complex than its Adobe counterparts and has a slimmer tool box which could be seen as another good point for some, although this obviously for the professional is a major drawback. Like any piece of software it’s down to personal taste and preference as to whether you like the format etc.

What’s bad?

Many users have experienced the software to be slow and prone to crashing.

It’s not great typographically and therefore if set fonts are key to your brochure project then you might want to look at another piece of software.

As this is not an industry standard package it might be difficult to work alongside a professional design and/or printer on a brochure project created within Scribus.

Perhaps due to it being a free piece of kit, the support is not great with a smaller community to dip into to find answers to any issues or problems that might arise.

In conclusion

It’s free and capable, so you can’t complain too much. It’s certainly an option to consider for a non-professional designer wanting to create a brochure. If you are not familiar with the other commercial programs, then Scribus might be a more suitable option to try at least.

 

Inkscape

This piece of software is the free open source equivalent of Illustrator. As with other open source programs the free aspect comes with some negatives. However if you are looking for a vector based program and you don’t want to pay for one then Inkscape is the option.

What’s good?

Another free program, which compared to its commercial equivalent, is a big saving!

It has a relatively clear layout with a good amount of tools and filters etc, considering you’re not paying anything. If you are not familiar with other packages then the editing options within Inkscape will appeal and without the comparison of Illustrator you won’t miss what you’ve never had!

What’s bad?

Like older versions of Illustrator, this vector based program is not set up to create more than one page within a document. Therefore if you are looking for a free piece of software that will set up a multi-page document more easily, I would recommend giving Scribus a try.

This program also lacks in features when compared to Illustrator. For example there’s no mesh tool, some filters are a little hit and miss and can look gimmicky and there’s no kerning control.

As this is not an industry standard package the usual drawbacks will apply if used for creating a brochure.

In conclusion

If you are keen to use a vector based program to design your brochure and your budget won’t stretch to an industry standard package such as Illustrator, then Inkscape is an ideal option. Like other open source pieces of software if you don’t like it, you’ve not wasted any money trying!

 

Microsoft Publisher

If you are limited to using a Microsoft product then Publisher is the only one I would recommend you look at. For many professionals their heart might sink if a client mentions this piece of software. Its in-built templates for brochures means that a designer who likes to create bespoke designs would not even consider going anywhere near Publisher! However depending on your brochure brief, Publisher can be the ideal program to use.

What’s good?

As this comes as part of Office 365 it’s often a commercial package which people have access to, even if they’ve not had reason to use it.

The help and support available for this package is vast.

Because it’s a Microsoft product the interface will be familiar to those who use Word or Excel.

Templates! This is both good and bad, depending on your brochure brief. If bespoke is not important and you just want to create something quick with a clear layout, then the templates within Publisher will be a huge plus.

What’s bad?

Templates! Whilst you don’t have to use a template, this piece of software does push to use them for your layouts. It’s not particularly built for the creative designer, meaning there are less features and options to design something unique. The temptation of templates will mean that your brochure can end up looking like many others.

As this is not an Industry standard package to use for creating brochures, there can be issues down the line when you come to create files ready for print. You might also find that if you need any professional input the designer or printer might have issues working with your file as Publisher files do not work with Adobe programs.

In conclusion

If you want a program that will do a lot of the design work for you and you are not concerned about having a bespoke brochure, then Publisher might be the package to choose. It’s arguably the amateur’s choice!

 

So which design package should you go for?

These are just five packages you can use to design your brochure. Other more comprehensive lists could include Quark Express, Corel Draw, Canva, GIMP, LucidPress and perhaps even Photoshop! Every designer will have their own preference, just as every piece of software has its good and not so good bits.

If you are starting out or you only have one or two creative design projects on the horizon then I would recommend trying Scribus. If you are a professional, then I would opt for InDesign working alongside other Adobe packages such as Illustrator and Photoshop. The investment you’ll make (time and money) by using the Industry standard software will give a greater return in terms creativity and end result.

 

About us and this blog

am:pm graphics is a graphic design partnership based in Buxton, Derbyshire. We offer a range of quality, affordable graphic design solutions for print and web, helping our customers achieve a consistent professional identity across a variety of media.

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