Whether you're a do-it-yourself-er, a creative hobbyist, or a professional designer, sometimes it's challenging wading through the sea of creative tools available today to pick the right one for your specific project. The default for most of us is to try to make it work with our go-to tools — the ones with which we are most familiar, but sometimes the software in our 'comfort zone' is not the best software for the job. That's why I put together this list of the 5 best software tools for designing brochures, in hopes that something mentioned here might do a better job than the tools you're using today.
Of course, being a professional designer myself, my best advice would be to get professional design services that will give your brand and your brochure the treatment they deserve. If that sounds good to you, any time you're ready. If you're looking for more of a creative how-to and less of a technical one, have a look at our post How to Design a Brochure: 10 Pro Tips and Free Templates. Otherwise, let's move on.
Here my top five favorite tools for designing brochures, why I think they're the best, and what I think their strengths & weaknesses are.
1. Adobe InDesign CC
Designing multi-page documents is what InDesign was built for, and it is very good at it. In addition, InDesign is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud software suite, which is considered the industry standard. InDesign has many strengths, and very few weaknesses.
- Industry standard design tool
- Seamless Integration with Creative Cloud (e.g. Illustrator, PhotoShop, Acrobat, etc)
- Configurable paragraph & character styles (setup type styles & re-use easily)
- Master pages (page templates)
- Configurable workspace
- Asset linking
- Output packaging
- Advanced font management with TypeKit support
- Advanced color management with support for PMS, FOCOLTONE, HKS, TOYO & more
- Way more than can be listed in a basic bullet list on a blog post of reasonable length
- The subscription is only $50/mo. So if you really need to, you could just get the subscription, design your brochure, then cancel the subscription.
- Steep learning curve — if you've never used InDesign, it can be a bit taunting
- Price — although the subscription is worth it for a professional designer, shelling out $50/mo annually can be a bit steep for someone who just wants to design a brochure this one time (but remember: you can simply cancel the subscription when you no longer need it)
2. Adobe Illustrator CC
Illustrator has many of the same strengths and weaknesses as InDesign, but with a slightly different workflow. Illustrator is intended for professional designers who want to create high-end vector art, but for a basic design like a brochure, Illustrator can easily be your go-to app if your more comfortable with it.
Scribus is an open source desktop publishing tool originally designed for Linux, BSD & Debian systems. Although not as powerful or flexible as Adobe's software, Scribus has an impressive feature set that can be leveraged to create your perfect brochure. Much like InDesign, learning Scribus is not exactly a cakewalk, but unlike InDesign, Scribus is FREE. If you're planning on going this route, it might be a good idea to get the (also free) image editing app Gimp, as they have some nice integrations.
- Price (Free!)
- Powerful layout tools
- Supports industry standard measurements & layouts
- Integration with Gimp
- Configurable paragraph & character styles
- Master pages
- Asset linking
- Output packaging
- and more...
- Steep learning curve
- Not as powerful or polished as InDesign
Inkscape is to Illustrator what Scribus is to InDesign. It is an open-source full-featured vector art editing program that uses the SVG standard as its native file. And just like Scribus, Inkscape is free to download and use. Since Inkscape confirms to the SVG standard, it only supports a single page or canvas, and is therefor lacking all of the cool canvas tools that might make creating a multi-page brochure a little easier. However, when all is said and done, you can just create two files (front and back), and Inkscape will let you have both open simultaneously. So it's not a huge compromise.
- Price (Free!)
- Powerful vector editing tools
- Supports industry standard measurements and page sizes
- High-quality PDF export
- Not as well-suited for the job as InDesign or Scribus
- Not as powerful or polished as InDesign or Illustrator
- No cool canvas tools
5. Microsoft Publisher
Although my least favorite suggestion on the "best" list, Microsoft Publisher has made something of a name for itself among do-it-yourself designers. It has lots of built in templates, with more available online, and has an interface that might be familiar to users of Microsoft's other Office software.
- Familiar interface (for Office users)
- Built-in templates
- Included with Office 365 (Home)
- Not a professional-grade product, which can make getting press-suitable files difficult
- Limited functionality
The 'Meh' List
These are not necessarily recommended, nor do I have a lot of experience with them, but that are well known and have a decent reputation.
It's not too uncommon to see the office professionals of the world to attempt a design in Word, and although Word is an extremely powerful word processor, it is just not the right tool for the job for many reasons. You can try it if you have nothing else, but I would recommend Publisher as an alternative if you're limited to 365 products.
PowerPoint & Keynote
If Word is bad, PowerPoint is terrible. Although it's really easy to design in PowerPoint, it is intended for screen use only. Great for presentations, bad for print. That being said, it's still not impossible to get a great-looking print job out of these presentation tools. Have a look at our tutorial: How To Make a Print Ready File In Apple Keynote.
Ones to Avoid
The following is a not-necessarily-complete list of apps I would recommend avoiding when creating your brochure. Although you can get some of these to sort of work sometimes, in the end you'll just end up making a lot more work for yourself and invite expensive fixes from your print provider.
Please just don't. Excel is a spreadsheet program, not a design tool.
Although much more capable than many other apps on this list, Photoshop is undoubtedly the worst of the 'Big Three' Adobe apps (Illustrator, InDesign, PhotoShop) you could use for this type of project. It is an unrivaled photo manipulation tool, but for layout design use InDesign or Illustrator instead.
Hopefully nobody's trying to use this to make a brochure. I really like Windows 10's new Paint 3D tool, but please just no.
OK that about wraps it up. Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or would like to mention your favorite design software and what you like about it (or add to the list of software not to use), sound off in the comments below. Don't forget, if you ever need us, .