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If you work in a small business, (also known as a Small Office / Home Office or SOHO) you may want to consider investing in a desktop publishing package.

Desktop publishing packages offer a number of advantages over word processors. These include more control over letter spacing and kerning, more precise placement of columns and boxes of text, and the ability to flow text between text boxes on multiple pages.

Professionals favor high end packages like Quark Xpress and Adobe InDesign. However cheaper, less rigorous solutions are available for those on a more limited budget. Microsoft Publisher is one such option. It doesn’t offer as much flexibility as a package like InDesign, but it is less costly. Publisher is supplied with some versions of Microsoft Office — so if you already own it, why not use it? Another option is Serif PagePlus, which costs less than Publisher, and offers a broad feature set. Serif offers a free starter version of PagePlus which allows you to sample the software before purchasing the full version. If you can get by with your office printer, use the free version of PagePlus to teach yourself desktop publishing basics. Be advised, however, that in addition to its other limitations, the free version does not output PDF files, which are preferred by many printing vendors.

Both Publisher and PagePlus offer templates for a variety of document types while InDesign does not. If you use the templates provided in Publisher or PagePlus, be aware of their strengths and limitations. For example, Publisher offers color coordinated publication designs that look great when printed on an inkjet printer. However, these designs are expensive to have printed by a commercial printer. Let’s discuss why:

Much conventional commercial printing is accomplished through offset printing. Ink from the printing plate is offset onto a rubber blanket. The ink is then transferred from the blanket onto paper, creating a printed page. Every color used in a print job requires its own plate. Typically, full color printing uses four plates: one each for cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK). Four color printing is common, although added colors are sometimes used for reproducing fine art.

One color printing typically uses black ink plus the white of the paper to reproduce black, white and shades of gray. Two color printing usually uses black plus one other color. The second color can be one of the colors used in four color printing: cyan, magenta, or yellow, known as process colors. The second ink can also be a pre-mixed color, such as rubine red or reflex blue. These are known as spot colors.

For every color used in conventional printing, a plate must be created and mounted on the press. Each ink color is run separately, requiring setup time, breakdown time, and press time. That’s why adding color adds cost to a printing job.
If full color printing doesn’t fit within your budget, and if one color seems too plain, than two color printing can be a good alternative. However, the templates in Publisher or PagePlus don’t take into account the costs of printing in multiple colors. With a little planning and creativity, you can convert a Publisher or PagePlus supplied design into two colors. Typically, a two color print job will use black ink (which printers always have) and one other color (which your printer may have to order). Ask your printer what colors are available within your budget and time frame, then modify your design accordingly.

Let’s say that you only have enough in your budget for two color printing. If your existing Publisher design consists of black, green, blue and yellow, you’ll need to change your design in order to be able to print in two colors. One option would be to modify your design so that the text appears in blue while other design elements appear in blue, yellow and green. By combining blue and yellow ink, your two color design can appear to be printed in three colors.
Another option might be to retain your black text while substituting tints of blue for your blue and green and a tint of black (grey) for yellow. While the design won’t be as colorful, it can be just as expressive using tints of blue and black. For example, black can be used at 100 percent and 30 percent, while blue is used at 100 percent, 50 percent and 25 percent.

Excerpt from Graphics Essentials for Small Offices.