If you are beginner when it comes to print out things you can forget the headache while preparing document to print and leave behind all that weird-vector-things. With this tutorial you will be able to create a print-ready tri-fold brochure in nothing but Photoshop. The techniques shown here could be applied to any other printing documents as well, like flyers, business cards etc.

Preview of Final Results


Create a Tri-fold A4 brochure Photoshop Tutorial


  • Program: Adobe Photoshop CS4
  • Difficulty: Medium/ Hard
  • Completion Time: 2 Hours

Step 1 – The concept

Every project needs some concept. At first, we have to plan out things to not get failed in the middle of design process. For now we need to determine the dimensions of the document. It is best to make a calculations with just pen and paper when you can easily and fast draw out shapes and values. I am making a brochure which after fold will be in dimension of A4 size. If you would like to use Letter size rather than European standards, then just check it’s dimensions. It is best for me to work in millimeters. So, if you want to use inches instead, you will have to convert my values (Photoshop does it automatically). Actually, my sketch is one big doodle, so I decided to make a clean graphical show off of the concept. Don’t care about this too much, just write down the values to not confuse yourself. The big numbers determine the placement of the single pages. Notice, that the front page is on the end of document while the back is in the middle. It could be confusing at first, but it’s simply logical. You just have to imagine the print in your head. There are also paper sizes of real dimension and sizes with bleeds. Also, I will tell you that it is named C folding type.


Step 2 – Resolution

Resolution in print is the most important thing to take care of (aside design itself). While creating a new document you can set it here:


Printers shoots out the color dots on the paper. That’s how printers usually works. And the DPI (dots per inch) is the value that determines the amount of those dots in one inch lenght. You can instead use DPCM (dots per cm) value, but I have never met the person nor the printing company that measures dimension in dpcm. Besides, it could be easily converted in Photoshop. While creating new document just type the value of 72 pixels/inch (It’s actually PPI to be formal, not the DPI, but it’s commonly named DPI), when you will change this to pixels/cm…


…the value will automatically switch to the 28,346. The same thing happens when you will change the size units (if you will change the pixels to cm/inches, the dpi value plays role here, just try out). While creating the images for computer screens like web, it is common tu use 72dpi value. Actually, dpi has nothing to do here, for screen images are only relevant to pixels and dpi will only affect its printing size; well, we could say that it is some kind of myth. The universal value for print is 300dpi. It’s named the minimum for getting the sharp, nicely covered with color small prints (small means business cards, brochures, flyers, tickets etc). But it is not the value that is used all the time. As we are creating our A4 brochure which would be seen from the distance of our hands it is perfect. Some printing services suggest even 600dpi and more but it is quite officious. In the past I made a banner that was hanged on the wall and its resolution was 28dpi (If I would use 300dpi instead in this case I would crash my computer, for the size of the document could reach the horizontal or just split artwork into parts which is painfully and time consumable). As you can see 28dpi is very low value and if we had a piece of this banner in our hands we would see the print imperfections, however, from far distance (like street in this example) it was correctly sharp and crisp.

Once again, a short summary what dpi is. DPI specify the amount of dots which creates image’s details. Dots are arranged in columns and rows. The horizontal and vertical amount of dots can vary, but I won’t shake up your heads; besides it’s just printing trick. Just remember- 300 DPI for print if you don’t have other recommendation.


Step 3 – About the bleeds and margins

What bleeds really are? As you can see in step 1 our document is a bit oversized from what we want to have printed out. Just look what could happen without those bleeds and everything will be clear. At first I will get you through a short and bad story line:


To the point- bleeds are those parts of design that will be cut out after print. They will fall out, notwithstanding sometimes batch is setted wrongly, by, let’s say, 1 milimeter. If we would use the sizes of our business card as we set in bad example, we could get those white ugly stripes. But, if we extend our design by few milimeters, this cutting imperfection will be invisible. That’s what bleeds are for. I have set bleeds of 2 mm in my brochure, however, the common bleeds size is 3mm. Those 2mm is just a preference of my printing service. Some accepts even 1 mm. If you don’t know how big your bleeds should be, just assume they are 3 mm (0.125 inch) on each side. Sometime, when you have a white background of your document and any of the objects don’t even touch the documents edge, there is no need for bleeds at all. But you have this in mind before you will start to design. Now, let’s try to make a business card with bleeds. The size of 3,5×2 in corresponds to 89×51 mm and this is US standard (but also used in other countries). The standard size in Poland for business cards is 90×50 mm. Not a big difference, but I will use this second size to show calculations more clearly.


As you can see there is an extra 3 mm on each side of the document all around. So what dimensions you should type on? Here are calculations:

  • Real size: 90 × 50 mm
  • Bleed size: 3 mm
  • Adding bleeds: 90+(3×2) × 50+(3×2)
  • Document size: 96 × 56

Notice that while we add bleeds to the document we are multiplying bleed size by two. The reason is that the bleeds are on both sides. Don’t miss that. The boundary of document is determined by the crop marks (they show where to cut the sheet, you can see some preview above in the ‘bad example story line’). However, we can’t do them automatically in Photoshop (as far, as I know). There is possibility of drawing them manually, but it’s quite nonsense. It is super easy to import the document to illustrator and there bleeds are added automatically. If we don’t have Adobe Illustrator nor InDesign, just tell the print worker that bleeds are seted to 3 mm and are determined by guidelines. It’s second to add them (I will show how to do that later).

Now a little about margins. It is just a safety case. If without bleeds we have that 1mm white stripe, means, that on other side of the document 1 mm is cut out from the design. And if you don’t want to have anything ‘eaten’ just place all your important things (like logo or text) in some distance from the edge. It is usually 5mm.


Step 4 – How to make bleeds and margins easy way

We will base on that business card template one more time. First of all- the concept. Our business card is 90 x 50 mm. We want to add guidelines that will determine the margins and bleeds. This is the fasten way that I know to add them. Also, it is good to make a sample file where you have all guides already placed. It is time saving- just opening the sample rather than making those guides again and again with every new project. Let’s say our margins will have a size of 5mm, and bleeds- 3mm. Bleeds extends real size, while margins are inside the document. My next actions could be confusing, but focus yourself- you will save your time in future with this. Margins are on both side, so actually they affect 10mm of the document horizontally and vertically (and bleeds are 3mm on each side, so they affect 6mm). Now just get your real values (90×50) and delete from each the margin value (10×10). You will get the size of 80 x 40 mm. Create new Photoshop document with that size. From now, you don’t have to calculate anything.


Now go to View > New Guide (twice time) and add horizontal and vertical guides with 0 px in input box.


Duplicate this action, but instead of 0 px type in 100% (you can determine guides not only with pixels but also with centimeters, inches or percents). You will get the following:


Then go to Image > Canvas size and type 10 milimeters in each field (because this is the size of margins). Make sure that Relative checkbox is checked.


And again, add guides the same way. Here’s a tip: You can record a guides adding process as a Photoshop action (for you don’t have to type a specific values, just a beginning and end), so it will be even faster.


And at last go again to Image > Canvas size and type in boxes 6 milimeters, for this is the size of bleeds. As you can see the values are relative and always the same, and by that universal, so you can make a one huge Photoshop action to fasten this process.



Here, I have even prepared one for you. While playing this action you will get a dialog box four times. Just type100% in the input box and hit [Enter] each time. That’s all. The easy process becomes even easier. Of course sometimes you will be asked to make bleeds of some other value than 3 mm, so you should also remember the process.

Margins&bleeds.atn | 1,5 KB

Step 5 – Stop that talk, start design!

All right, it is all for today’s dirty work. Hopefully some of you have learned something. Now we can go straight to the design part. Do you remember what we are actually creating? I am scared that I confused you with that business card’s talking. So we are making a tri-fold A4 brochure, here’s the specs:


And here is a 3D concept to make it easier to understand by you.


Have you noticed something? When you will leave bleeds you will get the following sizes of each pages: 208 / 211 / 211. Why this bold dimension vary from others? It is just folding aspect. The page that is shorter just need to hide itself inside the fold. And if its size would be 211 mm (as rest) it could not fit into the fold and make paper blobs on brochure. So by getting those two or three milimeters back you will avoid those potential troubles.


All right, we can start work from here, really. First of all- create new document with a real dimensions lowered by 10 mm from each axis (because of margins) – just follow the Step 4. My bleeds are equal to 2 mm, not a standard 3 mm. But actually I can run my action, and then just go to Image > Canvas size and type -2 mm (-1mm × 2) in each input field (remember about Relative checkbox).



Now we have to create some additional guidelines that will determine folds. Here’s a trickery. We have to make different guides for inside and outside part of our brochure. Look at this sample guillotine work:


First of all, I will tell you how in Photoshop delete already made guides. It will help you if you will set them wrongly by a mistake. Ok, here’s a magic- press [V] or choose move tool, click on a guide that you want to delete and drag it outside the document- it will disappear. If you want to rotate your guide by 90 degrees you can just press [Alt] and click in the point where guide should rotate. If you want to move guide by 10 pixels and it’s multiplications do it while holding [Shift]. Now let’s create our folding guides. Go to View > New Guide and type in 213mm in the input box. Repeat step, but with value of 424mm (213 + 211). Save the document as a inside.psd. Now delete both guidelines and add another two, but now type respectively 210mm and 421mm (210 + 211). Then go to File > Save as and save this document as outside.psd. Now we will start to work with this outside.psd document, and inside.psd will stay untouched as grid-only blank document for now.


  1. very important and very useful information.. i m a web graphic designer and didn’t have knowledge about printing graphics and bleed and safety margin etc etc.. this is very useful to me.. thanks keep it up. please refer font size information on business card that what should be font size in photoshop and in illustrator.. etc etcc thankkss please mail me.

  2. I’m sure this tutorial is great for beginners, but the title is very confusing. I thought this was about making the mock-ups not the whole brochure and just tell us to download your finished mock-up psd file.

    • That’s what I also thought. I guess that we won’t find any tutorial on how to make a mock-up template soon. :|

  3. This really helped me out. Thanks a bunch. I made a great 3 fold for my business. I tweaked some stuff to make it my own, but it was very helpful to utilize the file you posted as an outline.