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General Style Guidelines for Print Media

  • Most magazines use a combination of 2-column and 3-column presentation. If this is more of a literary digest, then it could follow style conventions for book publishing.

  • Size of body copy depends on the font, but generally 10-point or 11-point font is the standard. In the majority of EU countries 12-point is the minimum text size for main body text.
  • Copy should be fully justified with no gaps at the beginning or end of individual lines of text to give a story a jagged appearance (in other words, not left-justified or right-justified, but type that is flush both left and right).
  • Until recently serif fonts, with small finishing strokes appended to each character (more closely resembling handwriting), were the established norm for the body text in print publications. However this has changed with the prevalence of sans-serif fonts such as  helvetica and arial in web-based content. Research the established styles of journals in your field, as for example Art and Design are increasing using sans-serif but Psychology journals use serif fonts.
  • Use a larger, bolder version of the body typefont for headlines, or a bold sans serif typefont. Also consider using CAPS for design impact. Titles should be written using title formatting all conjunctions are lower case, primary words are uppercase for example: "general style guidelines for print media" will become, "General Style Guidelines for Print Media".
  • Use sans serif type when characters must be smaller than 10 points or for items that include a lot of numerals (e.g., for captions, page numbering and footers, charts, tables, lists and formulas).
  • Leading, or line spacing, refers to the distance between lines of type. Generally speaking, you need at least two points of leading. Leading is expressed as 10/12, or “ten on twelve” for example, which is the type size with two points of leading.

Leading in Adobe InDesign CS6 

Leading in Adobe Photoshop CS6 

  • Pay close attention to two-page spreads (pages that will face one another). It is better to treat them as a unified element. Be wary of ending a story on a left-hand page and starting a new story on the right-hand page directly across from it. Readers have been proven to skip more articles that start this way because they are still digesting the story that just ended.
  • When constructing any publication it is essential to devise a simple set of Design Standards, particularly when you are working on a group project. I have included an example of a design standards document made for Carleton materials as a PDF here and there is a preview image below.


The Chicago Manual of Style is the primary source for periodicals like newspapers, newsletters, and magazines. This is often supplemented with a “house style” to provide additional guidelines for the presentation of names, titles, and such. Carleton College has a supplemental style guide , for example. This practice is quite common for organizations, institutions, and companies that want to present a consistent brand and identity. You can access the 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style online via this link:

Mechanical Specifications

Color   Full color magazines are typically printed using 4-color process printing. All colors are rendered from combining Cyan, Yellow, Magenta, and Black (CYMK). Much like photo-processing, CYMK plates must be developed, and then the separate color plates are stripped together and laid out on the printing press. To reduce costs, you can print just in black-and-white or use a 2-color process where you have a black plate and one other spot color of your choosing. Spot color choices are vast, and if you use one once in a form (see below) you can use them anywhere else in the same form without a significant increase in cost.

Stitching or Binding   Magazines are generally saddle-stitched or perfect-bound. Saddle-stitched means the pages are folded together and the magazine is held together with two or three staples on the spine. Perfect-bound means the magazine pages are held together by attaching them to the spine with a strip of glue, just like a book. Generally speaking, magazines less than 100 pages are saddle-stitched, and magazines with more than 100 pages are perfect bound. Some magazines up to 160 pages have been saddle-stitched, though. Determine what the printer can accommodate.

Forms   Magazines are generally printed on presses that can print, 4-, 8-, and/or 16-page forms. The full magazine is created by assembling these forms and stitching or binding them together. The cover is typically a separate 4-page form so it can be glossier than the interior pages, use a spot color of some sort, etc. The contents of the magazine are usually combinations of 8- and 16-page forms with 16-page forms more desirable. It costs just as much to run a press with a 16-page form as it does with an 8-page form, so you get more for your money with 16-page forms. Smaller forms use less paper and ink, though, so cost-to-benefit ratio is small unless you’re printing huge quantities.

Trim size  the final page dimensions of the magazine. Typically, magazine pages are printed on larger paper and the edges are trimmed off to allow for smooth and even page edges and other desirable effects, like bleeds (see below). You need to know the trim-size so page editors and graphic artists know the size of their canvas.

Bleed   Printing or art that goes all the way to the edge of the paper, seeming to run off of the sheet. Printers create bleeds by printing on sheets larger than the trim size, then cutting away the edges. This creates the illusion that the press printed to the very edge of the sheet. The bleed width, or actual paper size the printer is using, should be visible in the page templates so you can create bleeds when desired. Pages shift on press during printing. If you do not provide enough bleed, something you want to bleed will just end up hanging there.

Gutter-width   The line or fold where facing pages meet. This will vary depending on whether you are stitching or binding the magazine and on the number of pages. Without consideration for gutter-width, facing pages will look closer together in some places in the magazine and farther apart in others. The printer should be able to provide this specification. Trim size, bleed width, and gutter-width should be incorporated into page templates.

Spine-width   If your magazine will be perfect-bound, you will need to know the appropriate spine-width for the number of pages that will fit inside the cover. If the spine-width is large enough, you can put text on it.