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Perfect Proportions • Using Page Margins in Desktop Publishing

Guidelines for determining margins


Example of perfectly proportioned margin

One example of perfectly proportioned margins

Some rules governing margins can help the designer break away from the defaults while still providing all the functions required of margins.

Putting all the following rules together might give us a set of margins such as those shown in the image at the top of the sidebar.

  1. Not All the Same
    Avoid using the same margins on all sides of a publication. In facing-page documents, the inside margin should be smaller than the outside margins. The bottom margin is usually larger than any other margins.


  2. Larger Outside
    In publications with facing pages, the outside margin of each page should be double the inside margin.


  3. Progressively Sized
    For best appearance, margins should be sized progressively from smallest to largest: inside, top, outside, bottom.

These proportions can produce many different looks. In this second illustration, the page size and the proportions of the margins remain the same as in the first but the margins are wider overall, leaving less area for text and graphics.

Although you should never let strict formulas keep you from finding the right balance of margin to printing area, they can provide a convenient starting point. In the two spread examples, the margins follow these proportions:

  • Inside to Outside 1:2
    The inside margin is 1/2 of the outside margin.


  • Top to Bottom 1:2
    The top margin is 1/2 of the bottom margin.


  • Inside to Bottom 1:3
    The inside margin is 1/3 of the bottom margin.


  • Outside to Bottom 2:3
    The outside margin is 2/3 of the bottom margin.


In addition to finding the perfect fonts and moving graphics around on the page, give careful consideration to the margins of your next project. Try decreasing and expanding the margins to achieve different looks. It may be empty space but it can throw a design completely out of balance or bring it into focus.

Basic Desktop Publishing > The Desktop Document > Document Setup Phase > Margins

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