Chances are, you've been asked to put together a program, booklet or some other type of material for a club, banquet, special event or occasion because you're the one who does all of the terrific flyers and signs in your crowd. The task looks as though it should be simple. You boot the computer and enter the information. However, when you try to construct the booklet, pages don't match, images are in the wrong places, and you have no clue how to make the project right. You're not alone. Learning how to compile a booklet without having to purchase software that does the job for you is tricky, but not impossible.
Master the concept of "the signature." The easiest way to do this is to grab a piece of 8.5" x 11" paper and fold it in half so the size is 8.5" x 5.5." This is what printers refer to as a signature. The fold literally converts two sides of paper into four sides of paper. This is the reason that, when making a booklet, you must always work in units of four.
Decide what should appear on each page of your booklet. For example, let's say that you are making a program booklet for a dance recital. There are four "acts" in the recital, and you want one page each to showcase the dancers and the music. You need a page to thank everyone who helped stage the event, and another to run an ad for the guy who paid for the printing. Add front and back covers, bringing the total to 8 pages or 4 signatures.
Turn on your computer. Open your favorite word processing software, such as Microsoft Word. Create an 11" x 8.5" (horizontal) page. Access the Format pull-down menu to "Columns." Indicate two. Each column represents a page. Add three more two-column pages, and your eight-page booklet template will be ready for content.
Lay out the four, two-columned pages in this order: (1) Back cover (left)/ front cover (right), (2): Page 1 (left)/ page 6 (right) (3): Page 5 (left)/ page 2 (right) and (4) Page 3 (left)/ page 4 (right). If you get confused, fold two pieces of paper and use a pen to write in page numbers, and then use this as your guide.
Treat each half page as a separate unit. Insert a text box into each of the eight pages. Begin entering information on appropriate pages. Insert photos if you had planned to use them in the booklet and have the room.
Be cautious with the fonts you choose for the text. Studies show that serif fonts are easier to read. This font family includes Times, New Times Roman, Baskerville, Courier, Garamond, Georgia, Gaudy and Palatino. Use fancy script fonts like Brush Script, Lucida Handwriting, Mistral and Zapfino for headlines only. Graphic artists have a rule you will want to borrow: no more than three fonts per project, and only one should ever be a script font.
Pay attention to font size. It's hard to read type that's smaller than 10-point. On occasion, you may have no choice but to use a very small font, so if possible, allow a little more room in between the lines to help readers. If your booklet is being targeted to a mature audience, you would be well advised to use nothing smaller than 14-point type.
Once you're satisfied with the placement of the text and pictures - and you've spell checked the document - it's time to print a sample booklet. Output several copies of the monitor screens showing just the front and back covers. Load those sheets back into your printer's paper tray and print out the screen that reads pages 1 and 6. Next, print out the center spread (pages 3 and 4); return the paper to the tray and print the screen that includes pages 5 and 2.
Fold the pages in half, and nest them in order. Staple the booklet together and you're done. Get comfortable with the process before you go into mass production. Pitfalls include loading paper upside down when backside pages are reintroduced to the printer tray. You might accidentally put sheets in the tray face up when you meant to place them face down. If it's any consolation, professionals forced to work without booklet-making software run into the same dilemmas you may encounter, so just take a breath, try again and you'll become a master.