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(For more resources on Scribus, see here.)
Creating a new layout
Creating a layout in Scribus means dealing with the New Document window. It is not a complex window but be aware that many things you’ll set here will be considered definitive. If these settings look simple or evident, you should consider all these settings as important. Some of them like the page size mean that you already have an idea of the final document, or atleast that you’ve already made some choices that won’t change after it is created. Of course, Scribus will let you change this later if you change your mind, but many things you will have done in the meantime will simply have to be done again.
Time for action – setting page size and paper size and margins
This window is the first that opens when you launch Scribus or when you go to the File | New menu. It contains several options that need to be set.
- First among these options will certainly be the page size. In our case, people usually use 54x85mm (USA: 51×89mm). When you type the measurements in the Width and Height fields, the Size option, which contains the common size presets, is automatically switched to Custom.
- If you want to use a different system unit, just change the Default Unit value placed below. Usually, we prefer Millimeters (mm), which is quite precise without having too many significant decimals.
- Then, you can set the margin for your document. Professional printers are very different from desktop printers as they can print without margins. In fact, consider margins as helpers to place objects. For a small document like a business card, having small 4mm margins will be good.
What just happened?
Some common page sizes are: the series (the ISO standards biggest starting with A0 841×1189, that is 1m², and halving at each half step), the US formats, especially letter (216x279mm), legal (216x356mm), and tabloid (approximately 279x432mm, 11x17in), commonly used in the UK for newspapers.
The best business card size
When choosing the size for the business card, you’ll consider the existing size often used. Is ISO 54×85.6mm better than the US 2×3.5in, or the European 55x85mm, or the Australian 55x90mm, when only a few millimeters divide them? Best is certainly to match the most commonly-used size in your country. Remember one thing: a business card must have to be easily stored and sorted. Grabbing an uncommon format can just lead to the fact that no one will be able to put your card in their wallet.
Presets will be useful if you want to print locally, but don’t forget that your print company crops the paper to the size you want. So don’t mind being creative and do some testing. For example, you might print on an A3 size paper for your final document or in an A3+ real printing size so that you’ll be able to use bleeds, as we’ll explain in the following sections.
Here we’re talking about the page size and not the paper size, which can be double if the Document Layout is set to any option but Single Page. For all the folded documents, the page size differs from the paper size—keep that in mind.
For now choose 54×85.6 in landscape: just set 54 as the height or change the orientation button if you haven’t.
The other setting that might interest you is the margin . In Scribus, consider the margin as a helper. In fact nobody in the professional print process will need margins. It is useful for desktop printers, which can’t print up to the sheet border. As our example is much smaller than the usual paper size, we won’t have any trouble with it.
Scribus has some presets for margins that are available only when a layout other than Single Page is selected. For our model, 4mm to each side will be fine. If you want to set all the fields at once, just click on the chain button at the right-hand side of the margin fields. But actually, we can consider that we won’t have much to write and that it would be nice if our margins could help position the text. So let’s define the margins as follows:
- Left: 10mm
- Right: 40mm
- Top: 30mm
- Bottom: 2mm
Choosing a layout
We’ve already talked about this option several times but here we are again. What kind of layout would you choose? Single page will simulate what you might have in a text processor. You can have as many pages as you want but it will be printed page after page. You’ll get its result when printing with your desktop printer:
- Double-sided will be the option you’ll use when you’ll need a folded document. This is useful for magazines, newsletters, books, or such documents. In this layout, the reader will see two pages side by side at once, and you can easily manage elements that will overlap both pages. The fold will be in the exact middle. Usually, unless you have a small document size like A5 or smaller, this layout is intended to be printed by a professional.
- 3-Fold and 4-Fold are more for commercial little brochures. Usually, you won’t use it in Scribus and will prefer a Single Page layout that you’ll divide later into three or four parts. Why? Because with the folded out, Scribus will consider each “fold” as a page and will print each of them on a separate sheet—a bit tricky.
You can see that for a business card, where no fold is needed, the Single Page layout will be our choice.
(Move the mouse over the image to enlarge.)
For the moment we won’t need other options, so you can click on OK. You’ll get a white rectangle on a greyish workspace. The red outline is the selection indicator for the selected page. It shows the borders of the page. The blue rectangle shows where the margins are placed.
Save the document as often as possible
“Save the document as often as possible”—this is the first commandment of a software user, but in Scribus this is much more important for several reasons:
- First of all, apologies, Scribus is a very nice piece of software but still not perfect (but which one is?). It can crash sometimes, slightly more than you’d wish, and never at a time you would expect or appreciate. Saving often will help you save a lot of time doing again what you’ve already achieved during the day.
- The Scribus undo system acts on layout options but not on text manipulations. Saving often can be helpful if you make mistakes that you can’t undo.
In Scribus, we will use File | Save As (or Ctrl + Shift + S) to set the document name and format. It’s very simple because you have no other choice than Scribus Documents *.sla. In the list, you will see sla.gz that will be used when the Compress File checkbox will be selected. Usually, a Scribus file is not that large in size and there is no real need to compress it. Of course, if the file already exists, Scribus asks whether you want to overwrite the previous one.
Scribus file version
Each Scribus release has enhanced the file format to be able to store the new possibilities in the file. But when saving, you cannot choose a version: Scribus will always use the current one. Every document can be opened in future Scribus releases but not in the older ones. So be careful when you need to send the file to someone or else when you’re working on several computers.
Once you’ve used Saved As, you’ll just have to simply save (File | Save) or more magically use Ctrl + S, and the modifications will automatically be added to the saved document. The extra Save as Template menu will store the actual file in a special Scribus folder. When you want to create a new document with the same global aspect, you can go to the New from Template menu and grab it from the list. There are some default templates available here, but yours might be better. Saving as a template might not be the usual saving process; this is done at the end when the basics of your layout have been made. Saving as template must happen only once for a template. So we’ll use it at the end of our tutorial.
Basic frames for text and images
The biggest part of a design job is adding frames, setting their visual aspect, and importing content into them. In our business card we’ll need a logo, name, and other information. You may add a photo.
Time for action – adding the logo
They are several types of graphic elements in a layout. The logo is of course one of the most important. Generally, we prefer using vector logos in SVG or EPS. Let’s import a logo.
- In the File menu choose File | Import | Get Vector File.
- The cursor has now been changed, and you can click on the page where you want to place the logo. Try to click at the upper-left corner of the margins. It will certainly not be correctly placed and the logo may be too big. We’ll soon see how to change it.
- A warning will appear and inform you that some SVG features will not be supported. There is no option other than clicking on OK, and everything should be good.
What just happened?
The logo is the master piece of the card. It helps recognize the origin of the contact. In some ways, it is the most important recognition for a company. Usually, a logo is the only graphical element on the card. It can be put anywhere you want, but generally the upper left-hand side corner is the place of choice.