Technical Details of Tri-fold Brochure Design

tri fold brochure design print specifications

The brochure design posts I come across all seem to skim just the basics which can be applied to any design field. None seem to dive into too many details. They explain the importance of determining a target audience, readability, use of colors and the need for an appealing design layout. But, none seem to go further into the technicalities of brochure design. Today however, we will.

We know that a brochure design has to be appealing and convey the theme or message efficiently. It must grasp the viewer the second they lay eyes on it. A brochure should not only have compelling writing and strong call to action but should also be designed to appeal. When creating the design you must discuss (and decide on) color schemes, design and content layout, paper-size, print specifications and fold lines.

Color Schemes

tri fold brochure color scheme

Colors can bring a brochure to life, but just picking your favorite shades and putting them together will not be effective. This approach can set the entire marketing campaign up for failure.

First, determine which color scheme you want for your design. Should you go for a RGB, CMYK or Pantone PMS color scheme. CMYK, which stands of cyan, magenta, yellow and black, is great for print work, thus ideal for brochure design. RGB, which stands for red, green and blue, offers more color variation and shades than CMYK. Pantone colors are solid shades that are easily converted into either RGB or CMYK. Choose a color scheme for the brochure next. Whether you pick contrasting colors or complementary, remember to choose according to the industry and target audience of your client. For instance, bright colors generally don’t work well for serious businesses like consulting while sober and dull colors are a bad choice for a younger audience.

Paper Size

tri fold brochure paper size

The sky is the limit when it comes to the actual size of the brochure.  However, there are a few standard sizes that companies should start off with.

  • 8.5” x11” (Letter Format) – This is the most common and widely used dimension for tri-fold brochures. This size is perfect for a brochure rack and can also be mailed in bulk.
  • 8.5” x14” (Legal Format) – Not many people use this, but it is a feasible format.  The 3 extra inches allow for more space for content.
  • 8.5” x17” (Tabloid Format) –Another choice, very popular for restaurant menus.

Folding Lines

folding lines of a tri fold brochure 

A lot of people get this wrong. The typical thought is that folding a tri-fold brochure means folding it three times in equal measurement. This is wrong. Extra space has to be made to allow the thickness of the paper in the fold.

Outside: 3.625″ & 7.313″, creating 3.625″, 3.688″, 3.688″ panels.

Inside: 3.688″ & 7.376″, creating 3.688″, 3.688″, 3.625″ panels.

Design Layout

tri fold brochure design layout

Since the brochure will be folded to make a tri-fold design, with two sides showing. Image placement and design layout play a vital role. You have to ensure that after adding the fold lines and content placement, you end up with each visible side reflecting the inside content in the best way possible.

Graphics on each side will be stand alone entities. Of course, this is for the outer layout and not to discourage designers from designing across the panel. Just be sure everything lines up correctly. Once opened, the inside will lay flat on its back. Therefore, images and content on the inside don’t have to be streamlined to fit perfectly in each folding section.

Image Formatting

tri fold image formatting

It is critical that you use high-resolution images in your brochure to give it a professional look. Using a low resolution image for printing can lead to disaster. An image that is not of proper resolution will turn out blurry and even pixilated in print.

Most images appear well on a monitor (which requires only 72 dpi) but this size is inadequate for printing purposes. It should be at least of 300 dpi (dots-per-inch) to keep its full clarity in print. Make sure you obtain high-resolution images in .TIFF format to use in your brochure.

For Best Image Resolution & Maximum Print Size I use the following and it works perfectly.

If you have an image 1152 X 864 72 dpi, and you need to set it up for printing, simply do a little math.  First convert pixels into inches, and divide each by 4.166 to get the right size in 300 DPI. For example:

1152px = 16”| 16” divided by 4.166 = 3.84”, 300 DPI

864px = 12” | 12” divided by 4.166 = 2.88”, 300 DPI

Thus, 1152px X 864px, 72 dpi is 3.84in X 2.88in, 300DPI

In some of the extreme cases where high definition camera is used, the designer has the liberty to enlarge the image, but it should be calculated.

Once a picture is converted into 300 DPI, make sure to check the result in actual pixels to ensure it does not become pixelated or blurred when printed.

Here is a chart to help you determine the correct image resolution and size for printing:

Image Resolution

Maximum Print Size

less than 640X480

Wallet size print


absolute minimum, 4X6






8X10 or up


Print Specifications

tri fold brochure print specifications

It goes without saying that the design file should be print ready. The graphics on the brochure design should extend 0.125 inches from each side. The content and images should be in the safe zone, which is 0.25 inches inside the paper. Brochures are typically printed on 100lb stock paper.

I hope the tips above will help to shed light on the technical aspects of designing a tri-fold brochure. There is no denying that designing an elegant brochure requires a lot of time and resources. Often, companies shy away from this approach because of these two factors. But, the end result and the return on the investment of a properly designed brochure are simply astounding. A brochure can be worth its weight in gold. Pun intended.

NOTE: The information in this article is for educational purposes only. Users may experience different printing results based on the quality of images used therefore and LogoDesignGuru cannot be held accountable in any such cases.

An active blogger, editor and creative writer for, Sana is an art buff who likes to stay ahead of design trends. She is helping educate both graphic designers and small business owners on how to effectively market themselves online.

3 thoughts on “Technical Details of Tri-fold Brochure Design

  1. Hi Sana Khan,
    Thanks for such important tips.It will proof very helpful while designing a tri-fold.I really like the image resolution chart which you described in details.Keep sharing.

  2. Hi Sana Khan,
    Thanks for providing technical knowledge on such an important topic.I really like the way of your description of each and every points in details.The detail knowledge on pixel and resolutioins will really help me a lot in future.Keep us updating.

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