Creating and Setting up a Tri-fold Brochure

image001 A tri-fold, or Gate fold brochure has the Inside right panel and Inside left panels folding over the Inside center panel, with the right panel folded inward first, then the left panel folder over the right panel as shown here. The reverse side of the Inside right panel is the Outside back panel and the reverse side of the Inside left panel is the Front panel (cover). The term Gate fold comes from the way the brochure is opened; both the left panel (Front) and right panel (back) open up like swinging gates to reveal the inside of the brochure.

Because this type of fold reveals all three Inside panels at once, content and graphics can be made to have more “punch” by expanding them across multiple panels which really makes the information jump out at the reader. In other words, the three Inside panels can act as one large panel or one double and one single panel.

Because the Tri-fold brochure opens up like a gate (hence Gate fold) to reveal all the panels at once, this can make for a more dynamic layout by allowing the design to expand across multiple panels.

Technically the panels are not folded in equal parts, the first fold, which is the Back panel is folder slight narrower (about 1/16″ less) than the Front Panel. If this doesn’t happen the panels will “bow” outward as it will not lay flat over each other.

The tricky part to this type of fold is to remember that the Outside panel is designed in reverse to the Inside. In this illustration both sides of the brochure are laid out as they would be for printing. Each panel has been numbered for clarity. Notice in the Outside layout that the Front panel (3) is actually on the right side and the Back panel (2) is on the left side.

Both sides back to back

This can confuse a first time designer because designing the Inside of the brochure is a straight forward, left to right, 3 column design. The confusion stems from the fact that the brochure is printed double-sided; one side is the Outside and the other is the Inside of the brochure. When panel 6 (Inside right panel) is folded over it reveals panel 1 (Back panel). When panel 4 is folded over, it reveals panel 3 (Front panel which is the cover).

Another way to picture this is to imagine printing each side of the brochure on a separate sheet of paper and then gluing their backs together to create a double-sided brochure. In this illustration both pages are properly laid out ready to have their backs glued together. You can clearly see that Panel 3 (Front panel) will be on the other side of Panel 4 and that Panel 1 (Back panel) will be on the other side of Panel 6. It should be clearer now to understand why the Front and Back panels are placed in reverse to the Inside panels.

To properly fold this brochure, Panel 6 is folded slightly shorter over the Center panel than Panel 4 can fold over it flat. If both panels are folded evenly there will be a bellowing out of the panels as they cut into each other.

Fold Lines

When creating a basic 3 column brochure its a always a good idea to add column spacing between each column to separate the columns. Generally the brochure’s fold lines are in the column spaces so when folded the text doesn’t get trapped in the fold lines. (Of course this doesn’t apply if the design is spanning across multiple panels). Its also a good idea to determine where the fold lines will be so you can tell if text will get caught in the fold lines.

Fold Line Measurements
However if you want the accuracy in the fold lines the common width measurements used for the Tri-fold brochure fold lines are:

larger outside fold is 3.69″ (Front panel)
smaller inside fold 3.63″ (Back panel)