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Tips for Designing Newsletter Layouts in CorelDRAW


Not only is CorelDRAW one of the most robust illustration tools around, but unlike other graphics programs, it can also be used to create multipage layouts. This nifty feature makes it the perfect choice for designing projects like booklets, brochures, and newsletters. While expecting to create a 2,000-page catalog with CorelDRAW isn't realistic, handling a few dozen pages with CorelDRAW is a breeze.

If you're new to the layout and design world, you might find yourself looking for ways to tackle your layout project, fine-tune its readability, or give it some graphic zip. This tutorial provides tips to help you start the process and describes ways to add interest to your text by inserting a little graphic relief.

Start with a Well-Planned Layout
Creating a new layout can be a fairly intimidating experience if you're not quite sure where to start, what your document should look like, or how you should tackle it. Even the most experienced layout artists establish a game plan before starting any layout project. If you create a layout plan and follow it one step at a time, even the most complex layouts can be relatively painless.

When beginning any layout, it's always best to get organized before you open your software program and begin assembling content. You can best tackle this early process by making a simple sketch with good old pen and paper. Sketch a shell for your layout, and include the number of pages allowed by your budget.

The sketch below illustrates margin widths and page proportions as well as faked-in headline text, body text, and line rules. Following this process can help you roughly position your text content. As you develop your layout sketch, you may want to indicate any special treatment of backgrounds, colors, content, or any other issue that could affect the text flow.

Create Your Text Content
It is helpful to consider how your publication text will make its way onto your layout pages. Will you type it into CorelDRAW, or will it be imported from another application? If necessary, you can type text directly into your CorelDRAW layout by using the Text Tool. For large amounts of text, your best strategy is to use the resizable Edit Text dialog (see below). Once you've created a paragraph text frame with the Text Tool, you can open the Edit Text dialog by choosing Text > Edit Text.

You can quickly type and edit text from the Edit Text dialog, so you don't need to navigate through the page views or change the view magnification. You can also apply formatting and use the CorelDRAW spelling checker, thesaurus, and grammar-checking features without leaving the dialog. For very long documents, the most efficient method is to import, or cut and paste, text from a text editor or word processor - such as WordPerfect® - into your layout.

Much of your layout is done in CorelDRAW itself, so avoid using your word processor's specialized formatting features, such as headers, footers, drop caps, text effects, columns, borders, shading, tables, and so on. Concentrate simply on composing your text, but do take advantage of style-based features, such as font, size, indents, and tabbing. These text properties are easily translated by CorelDRAW into your text layout.

With your text content created, the next thing to consider is how to import it. Create your stories as individual text files instead of as a single composite file. This method allows you to import them quickly and easily into the document layout shell that you're about to create.

Create Your Layout Shell
With your layout plan etched on paper, your next step is to create the rough shell for your text content in CorelDRAW. Begin a new file, and set the page size, orientation, and number of pages according to your needs. If you're accustomed to specifying measured values in printers' measures, use the Drawing Units setting on the Property Bar to set your unit measure to "picas, points" as shown below. If you've never worked with printers' measures, it may help you to know that there are roughly 6 picas to an inch and 12 points in a pica.

Use vertical and horizontal guidelines to serve as your top, side, and bottom margins and column gutter guides. You can set these up manually by dragging from the ruler bars. I highly recommend using the Preset guidelines in CorelDRAW. You can instantly place guidelines for margins, gutters, and columns at precise page positions throughout your document. Choose Tools > Options (Ctrl+J), and navigate to Document > Guidelines > Presets in the tree directory to access the Corel Presets, or create your own presets by enabling the User Defined Presets option in the Options dialog (see below).

Another CorelDRAW feature I recommend is the Facing Pages view. In the Options dialog, navigate to Document > Page > Layout, and enable the Facing Pages option (shown below). This feature enables you view your page layouts in actual spreads - just as your reading audience will see them.

Use the Text Tool to create paragraph text frames for the body text of your stories, and create your headlines as artistic text. Choosing View > Guidelines and View > Snap to Guidelines enables you to see - and quickly snap to - the margin, gutter, and column guides you've created. In the example below, I used preset column guides and paragraph text frames to rough out the shell for a three-column layout on two facing pages.

Linking paragraph text frames allows text to flow back and forth between columns as you edit or format it. You can link empty text frames by clicking the bottom flow tab of one frame and using the targeting cursor to click the frame you wish the text to flow into. The example below shows the flow direction of the paragraph text frames for our two-page layout.

Use Line Rules and Boxes for Structure
Unless your publication is required reading for your audience, only a fraction will have the patience to stand reading large amounts of text without craving some visual variety. Adding line rules and boxes is a simple way to organize and structure your content so that readers can follow along.

In CorelDRAW, hold down the Ctrl key while clicking (but not dragging) with the Freehand Tool to constrain line rules to horizontal or vertical, and use the Property Bar to apply line widths and styles. Line rules can give structure to a crowded layout, as shown in the example below.

You can use the Rectangle Tool to create boxes layered behind (and grouped with) your text, but there's a better way to put text in boxes. You can use the rectangle itself - or any closed shape - as the container for your paragraph text. The advantage here is that the two components automatically act as a single unit, so you don't need to group the two objects together.

To place text inside a selected closed shape, hold the Text Tool cursor inside the outline of the shape, and click when you see the "Insert in Object" cursor. The shape is immediately converted into a control curve that is capable of supporting paragraph text and all of its formatting. The example below shows the Insert in Object cursor ready to enter paragraph text in a nonrectangular box shape, and the resulting shape converted to a text container.

Wrap Text Around Shapes
Applying a CorelDRAW text wrap effect to simple shapes is an easy way to create an interesting flow of paragraph text. The simpler the shape, the less distracting the text wrap will be. The example below shows a typical text wrap around a simple shape.

You can apply a text wrap effect to a shape by right-clicking the shape and choosing Wrap Paragraph Text from the context menu. You can also customize the wrap effect by choosing a different style or changing the text wrap offset value from the Wrap Paragraph Text menu (shown below) on the Property Bar.

If your text wrap is difficult to manage because of an awkward shape contour or void, you may need to activate the text hyphenation feature in CorelDRAW. To do this, select your text frame, open the Format Text dialog (Ctrl+T), click the Paragraph tab, click the Hyphenation Settings button, and enable the Automatic Hyphenation option in the dialog that opens (shown below). This dialog also includes options for you to adjust the automatic hyphenation of your text.

Treat Text as Graphics
Another way to add graphic appeal is to apply a drop cap effect to the first paragraph in a story. Drop caps are applied by using the controls on the Effects page of the Format Text dialog, which you can access by clicking the Effects tab. These settings let you apply automated effects by line depth and character spacing. Just remember - only the first paragraph of a story needs a drop cap, as in the example below.

If the automatic effects aren't suitable, you can manually create drop cap character shapes as graphics for interesting results. These mini-illustration designs can range from plain and subtle to large and decorative. Shown below are three simple examples of manually created drop caps, all of which you can create relatively quickly in CorelDRAW.

Another well-used technique is "reverse" treatment, meaning that the text appears white over a colored background. The example below shows a common reverse text effect applied to an editorial sidebar. In CorelDRAW, this effect is easily applied by filling either paragraph or artistic text with white and layering it in front of a colored rectangle.

Beef Up Text Contrast
One common result of hastily prepared layouts is that uninteresting walls of gray text fill your pages. Although such layouts may be fine for epic novels, you need to create something more ambitious if you want your flyers, brochures, or newsletters to successfully attract your audience.

One solution is to contrast different types of content by varying the style and weights of your text. Headlines can stimulate reader interest, so make them larger and bolder than all other text. Subheadings help break up the monotony of straight text - make these bold but smaller than the headlines. Aim for balance by leaving a comfortable white space above and below headings. If needed, rewrite headings to make this happen. Forcing text to fill the page may be an efficient use of space, but you'll run the risk of losing your audience's attention.

In CorelDRAW, you can toggle the font style of your selected text on and off or adjust the font size with timesaving keyboard shortcuts. (When changing text sizes, be sure that your keyboard is set to NUM LOCK mode.) Here are some of the keyboard shortcuts you can use:

Command Keyboard Shortcut
Toggle Bold on/off Ctrl+B
Toggle Italic on/off Ctrl+I
Increase font one size in the Font Size List Ctrl+NUMPAD 6
Decrease font one size in the Font Size List Ctrl+NUMPAD 4
Increase font size one point Ctrl+NUMPAD 8
Decrease font size one point Ctrl+NUMPAD 2
Toggle current Drop Cap effect on/off Ctrl+Shift+D
Toggle current Bullet effect on/off Ctrl+M

Plan for Options in Your Layout
Creating your layout is easier if you have some optional items ready to help stretch the text or fill a space. Pull quotes and sidebars can help provide this flexibility. Pull quotes are essentially text extracts from the main story that highlight an idea. Sidebars contain text related to the main story and can be placed near the related subject but away from the main flow of the story.

Both text and shapes were used to build the pull quote design shown below. The quote shapes were dragged as curves from the Insert Character docker (accessible by choosing Text > Insert Character). The paragraph text was created inside a closed rectangle shape, and line rules, rectangles, quote symbols, and color were added for graphic appeal. The entire arrangement was placed inside an invisible rectangle with a text wrap between the paragraph text columns in the layout.

By following the strategies described, you'll be well on your way to maximizing the readability of your brochure, pamphlet, or newsletter. In the near future, we'll explore layout pitfalls and how CorelDRAW can help you avoid them.

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