How Can I Make a Catalog at Home?

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A catalog is a grouping of products, along with short descriptions, that are used as selling tools (most commonly for direct mail campaigns). You can make a short one or two page catalog that can be distributed among your friends, or a full length catalog similar to the ones you receive in the mail. To do this you need an image editing program, layout design program, and a service that specializes in catalog printing.

Compile Product Data

  • Before you start designing your catalog, list all of the names, item numbers (if applicable), prices, and additional information about each product that you plan to include in the catalog in a Microsoft Excel file. Highlight the products that you want to feature on the front and back cover as well as the first and second pages. Update this file until you are comfortable with the selection for your catalog.

Write Descriptions

  • Once you have all of your products listed, pull each one by one and write a description for the product. The descriptions should be about 100 to 150 words long (shorter if you plan to fit many products on one page). Write about the use, special features, and why it's a "must-have." Save your written descriptions into a plain text file in Notepad because it is easier to insert plain text (.txt files) into layout programs.

Edit Pictures

  • Next, prepare the product pictures. Make sure that the product photos are professionally taken and edited, high-resolution (300 dpi/dots per inch or higher) shots. If you already have a folder full of the product pictures, you can skip this step and work on the layout.

Do Layout

  • Now that you have your pictures and descriptions prepared, start laying out your catalog. Use Illustrator, InDesign, or Quark Xpress. Common catalog sizes are 8.5 x 11, 8.5 x 5.5, and 11 x 17. Add .125 inches to both the length and width to get the total document size (for instance 8.625 x 11.125) if you don't want white edges to appear on your pages (this is called a "bleed"---see "References" for more information).
    First layout your front and back cover with one page-filling featured product photo. Add your store name at the top of the front cover along with a descriptive phrase or paragraph about what your shopper can expect in the catalog. On the back page, be sure to leave a white strip at the bottom where you will stick the address labels for your direct mail campaign.
    Next, create a template that you can use for every page of your catalog, with your descriptions placed below or inset with each photo. Stick to anywhere between four to six products per page. Be sure to include an order form page at the middle or end of the book that lists all of your products from the Excel file.

Print the Catalog

  • Once your catalog layout is done, send the file over to a professional printer (see "Resources" for an example). Convert your file to PDF format first since this format is easier for printers to work with.

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