Let’s face it, we all love printables. They’re great for organization, workflows, processes… actually, they’re good for just about everything. Besides, who wouldn’t want to snag and print out an awesomely designed resource for free rather than taking 30 minutes or more trying to make a decent one on good ol’ Microsoft? In my opinion, it’s the useful content, instant convenience and organized design layout that drives a person to download a printable. So how can you make the one great printable to rule them all for you or your clients? Let me show you.
Before we get started, make sure your Adobe skills are up to speed. Check out my articles for some good refreshers:
- Design 101: 3 InDesign Tricks You Need To Know
- Design 101: 3 Illustrator Alignment Tips for Pixel-Perfect Design
- Design 101: Using Guides To Guide You
- Design 101: Designing One Handed? Here’s How
What's a printable? Find out and how they can boost your business! #GraphicDesign Click To Tweet
Step 1: Deciding Functionality
Printables can be just about anything, and can be used for just about everything. You’ll need to first decide whom you’re designing your printable for and what function or purpose it will bring to the person downloading it. Decide if you’re creating a content-based resource, a checklist, a to-do list, a calendar, etc. Once you’ve decided what kind of printable you’re making, make sure to write your content. This seems like common sense with all design work, but with printables this is vitally important. Your content will drive the number and length of lines, spaces, columns and rows you’ll need to create. Once you’ve got your content ready, it’s time to move to layout and design.
Step 2: Layout & Design
I can’t stress enough to you, “Keep It Simple, Stupid,” exactly how Michael Scott did to Dwight on the show The Office. Printables are meant to be printed, so you have to hold back from going design crazy here. Great designs with lots of colors and photos are great… for web. You can’t just slap those on a printable and expect people to print it out, because no one wants to waste their ink. Instead, keep your printable airy with lots of white space, and try to keep text hierarchy as minimal as possible.
For example, keep body copy at a minimum of 11 pt., for subheadings try 14 pt. and for headings try 17 pt. This way, you can get as much content possible on each page while allowing for hierarchy to be your most dominant design element. Do you have those little asterisk blurbs you want included under your subheadings? Try 8 pt. font. It’s small enough to be non-distracting but not too small that it’s not legible. For line spacing, my advice is to give them at least .35” of spacing between lines. Finally, if you’re making this for a client, always keep their logo at the top left part of the page and for the footer, add a bit of color and place the page number. If requested by your client, this is where you’ll want to put any other company information with icons (phone number, address, etc.).
Having a hard time visualizing this layout example I provided? Go download the latest printable I created for our client, Click Boarding here: “The Onboarding Cheat Sheet All New Hires Need.”
Step 3: Final Touches
You’re not done yet. It’s time to add the magic. By magic I mean interactivity. What’s the point if it’s going to be printed? Not everyone is going to want to write out every field and every line, and the good news about that great Adobe Creative Cloud subscription you have is the ability to convert your printable into fillable forms with Adobe Acrobat DC. Yep, you heard that right. Now, there are two ways to do this. The first is to create a blank document and add in forms with Acrobat DC, but that takes too long. The best way is to create your whole printable (lines, boxes and all), then pop it into Acrobat DC. From here, simply click the “Tools” tab, navigate to the “Forms & Signatures” section and click “Prepare Form.” Finally, make sure your document is selected in the next window and click “Start.” Boom. Your handmade printable is now fillable, thanks to Acrobat DC. You can modify the form box text if you’d like by double clicking the box and changing the text in the “Name” field. Watch how I converted Click Boarding’s printable I shared with you earlier into a fillable form PDF below.
Step 4: Promotion
To get the most out of your printable, you have to go one final step further. Just like any other resource, you’ll want to promote it. More than likely, your client will have a landing page for your printable set up (if not, make one) so it’s a good practice to create social cover photos and/or social post images. Again, make sure your images stand out, and more importantly, your resource is visible on the image. For this to happen, you’ll need to make your resource into a quick mockup. Even something as simple as taking your PDF file, dropping it page by page into a Photoshop or Illustrator file, giving each page a quick thin dark gray lined stroke outline, staggering the pages so they look like they’re fanned or stacked together and adding quick drop shadows is all you really need. Finally, put your social covers and/or social post images together (using this dimension guide and exporting at double the size for quality).
Quick Tip: For social covers, consider using a powerful one or two line description, and converting the landing page link into a bit.ly so users can easily type out your link. For social post images, consider using a powerful one-line description that appears next to your mockup. Check out some of our examples below!
Social cover example:
Social posting image example:
Printables are an incredibly useful and powerful document if you know how to create them correctly. Make sure to keep them simple with minimal text hierarchy, little or no imagery, the client’s logo in the top left corner and a simple footer with (or without) company information and the page number. Put in interactivity for added user convenience so they can fill in the form and print it out when they complete it. Finally, don’t forget to promote your resource so it can be fully utilized!