How To: Set Up a Tri-Fold Brochure
Want to make a brochure creation of your own? Follow this easy-peasy format!

Design Master

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Tri-fold is one of the standard formats for brochures and it’s one of the best choices you have.

A tri-fold brochure allows for a perfect balance between informative and visual content, makes it easy to arrange your content and offers designated spaces for different purposes.

Before actually creating the brochure, you need to take some precautions in setting up your project to ensure that everything will proceed as smoothly as possible, from the design to the print stage.

First of all, you have to consider the tool you want — and can afford — to use.

The most obvious choices for brochure creation are InDesign and QuarkXPress. Both are considered standard programs for page layout. Their open source equivalent, which is free to download, is Scribus. Some designers prefer to use editors like Photoshop instead.

Other options, which are definitely easier to handle for beginners, are Microsoft Publisher and Microsoft Word. Both of these programs come packed with templates that will not require particular knowledge and all come press-ready.

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It’s likely you will have a professional service handle the printing, especially if you plan to produce large quantities. If this is the case, download a template and use that instead of starting your brochure project from scratch.

Many online printers offer free templates that are designed to be fully compatible with their specific requirements.

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Launch your software and create a new document. Dimensions for tri-folds can vary.

Eight and a half inches by 11 inches is the most common size, but depending on your need, you can also go for 8.5 inches by 14 inches (legal size), 11 inches by 17 inches (tabloid size) and 11 inches by 25.5 inches (the largest size for content-heavy brochures).

Enter your desired size in the width and height fields.

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Since this is a tri-fold brochure, you have to divide the space among your three panels. If you want to keep things simple, you can create three identical panels by dividing your total width by three.

However, if you want to be a little more accurate, you have to calculate a little extra space for the panels that need folding. That is to say, if you have picked the 8.5 inch by 11 inch brochure, you should set your inside panel to a width of 3.625 inches, while both the other two panels can be set to 3.6875 inches.

For an 8.5 inch by 14 inch brochure, the inside should be 4.625 inches and the other two panels 4.6875 inches each.

For an 11 inch by 17 inch brochure, the inside should be 5.625 inches and the other two panels 5.6875 inches each. For a larger 11 inch by 25.5 inch brochure, the inside should be 8.375 inches and the other two panels 8.5625 inches each.

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To make sure your design will cover the whole area of your brochure, you should have it extend a little farther than the standard paper size. This extra space is called the bleed, and it guarantees that no blank areas will show up around the borders in your printed product.

A bleed of 0.125 inches for each border is what’s usually used. If your printer requires or allows bleed, remember to specify this setting when creating your document.

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In addition to all of the above, make sure the relevant elements of your design will be placed within a safe area that is at a minimum distance of 0.125 inches from each border, otherwise something might get cut off.

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Setting up a brochure can be intimidating the first times around, especially if you have to figure out things on your own. We hope these tips will make your brochure making easier.

Edited in InDesign CS5 and Photoshop CS5.

About the Author
Kristi Maddox is a master of graphic design, on-site design and ordering, and is the go-to for template and design tool usage.
Kristi and the team order print jobs from every major printer to test quality, value, customer service, and more. See their reviews here:


  1. you say that the 3 panel is the standard and I agree. Im not sure I have seen a brochure that didnt have that set up.

  2. hi i am mom and i think this is cool and it helps me and my sons