Professional layouts for magazine spreads

How to create a visually interesting and professional looking magazine spread.
The three main ingredients in producing a top class spread in magazine journalism:

1. pictures
2. typography
3. written article

1. Pictures

In journalism photographs are used in a variety of ways. News mostly focuses around point pictures, action shots and identification photos. Magazine journalism mainly focuses on feature photos. The main purpose of a feature photograph is to draw in and hold the attention of your audience. Simplistic on the one hand – in terms of backdrop and background – but grabbing and bold in the foreground, it is important to be ruthless in choosing your single best shot and then applying it to the rule of thirds. Images must ‘bleed’ over the page – a printing term that refers to printing that goes beyond the edge of the sheet before trimming. If using a single point of focus, it’s best to place your subject on the right hand side of the page as this is where the eye naturally settles and the text on the left. Make sure there is plenty of ‘free’ space in the spread for writing.

The size of your spread should be roughly 1280 x 960 as this creates an image that complies with the natural field of vision. Use hue control in editing to adjust skin tones. The best editing software that we use for this is Adobe’s Fireworks CS6.

2. Typography

There are two types of text that are mainly used in journalism:

Sans-serif text is typically used in tabloid newspapers such as The SunIt is believed that this typography is the easiest to read – especially in larger formats.

Serif text is typically used in broadsheet newspapers such as The Independent. In smaller formats, this typography makes it easier to follow text as the letters run easily into each other and follow closely to the lines.

Each typeface has casting off – this is the calculation of the quantity of area which the text will take up due to the given measure and typeface. Therefore, on your magazine spread there will be space appointed alongside your image for an article introduction or perhaps a summary. In publishing, ‘lorem ipsum’ is a placeholder text used to demonstrate the graphic elements of a document or visual presentation, such as font, typography, and layout.

3. Written article 

The written article for your magazine spread is ultimately up to your own journalistic and artistic style. However, there are two types of layout to choose from to complete your top class spread:

1. linear
2. modular

Linear text follows the layout of a novel, left to right, line to line down repeating the pattern of rules in a grammatical system. This layout is typical of upmarket magazines.

Modular text is much more visual but more typical of a downmarket magazine layout as text is assorted in blocks (very much in the style of artist, Mondrian).

Example of final product

Here is my latest spread structured on these notes which I produced for Absolute:ly Magazine:

Using Fireworks, I created a simple background using the backdrop from my photo shoot. I cut around my ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures to merge them in harmony with the canvas background and used the rule of thirds to position them. I chose to use ‘Serif’ typeface for my writing and also condensed the text so that the letters were closer together to give a more upmarket and professional look.  I also wrote a brief summary of my article to include in the spread along with a screen shot of the video tutorial.

Taking into account the constructive criticism that I received on my previous articles alongside some useful tips on structure, I was able to create a much more effective and visually interesting piece and I am proud of the results.

You can read my full article and watch my video tutorial here:


About brackenstockley

Contributor to the JusticeGap and WINOL. Currently studying journalism at the University of Winchester (Year Three).
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