Effective Newsprint Ads

Designing in newsprint is different to other mediums because the final outcome depends on designing for highly absorbent paper. This means that the colours used will always be different from what was intended and designs that look good on glossy paper will not be as effective in newsprint..

Here are some newsprint design tips:

1. Text

It is preferable to use 6pt and above text for a white background, treat so that it is readable. For coloured backgrounds, 8pt text is preferred. Always use a sans-serif font for under 12pt on coloured backgrounds and if the text is darker than the background, the text colour should have the background colour incorporated into it, so that the text is “trapped” properly. For example, text of C=100 M=50 Y=0 K=0 will print perfectly on a background of C=40 M=30 Y=0 K=0 but not on a background of C=0 M=0 Y=100 K=0.

Lighter coloured text on a dark background works best when the text is white, but if another colour is needed and it can’t be reflected in the background, make the sans-serif font size larger than say, 12pt to avoid problems with trapping.

Contact details should stand out in size and/or colour and should be placed either in a prominent spot or at the bottom of the ad.

2. Background

Too often I see ads that use only white as a background. This results in a boring ad that does not stand out from the editorial. Try using a background (even a 10% tint one) and also try adding a border with a same-coloured band at the bottom containing the contact details, rather than adding coloured bands in the middle of the ad.

Strong coloured backgrounds work well – especially if the whole ad is in the same colour. Faded images in the background are not as effective, but a duplicated, transparent logo can add depth to an empty ad. Do not be afraid to use black – it is a powerful colour that can attract the reader’s eye well.

3. Preparing images for newsprint

In Photoshop, the image should be changed to CMYK, be at a minimum of 200dpi (even better if they are 300dpi) and be viewed (if possible) with a newsprint filter (CTRL+SHIFT+K to view dialogue box).

Remember that all colours will appear darker in newsprint (unless you have configured your viewing specifications) so an adjustment to the levels to make the image lighter can help a lot.

To sharpen an image, use the Unsharp Mask filter until the image appears slightly too sharp. Contrast is good, but be careful the darker parts of the images won’t be too dark when printed.

Images that do not fit well in the ad or do not fit together well should not be used. It can be difficult to get around this with customers, but a quick mock ad using stock photos or clipart should help them see the difference.

4. Borders & Elements

Borders form a major part of design in newsprint ads, and should be used in a colourful variety of shapes and thicknesses. Borders that work well include: rounded corners, thick solids, words standing out from the coloured ad on a white background, rainbow gradient borders and dashes/dots. Have a go.

Other helpful elements include the design of cut-out coupons, starbusts, talking bubbles, clipart and clipped images. I recommend Art Explosion 600,000 as an excellent clipart library which is invaluable in newsprint design.


Newsprint design is not hard, but does require the designer to visualise the finished idea to produce quality work consistently. Contrasts, overexcited design and BIG CAPITAL LETTERS in Arial Black will always get you somewhere – but beware of transferring these skills to other mediums!