Supplies for Desktop Publishing

Graphic designer working late at computer in office

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By definition, you need desktop publishing software to do desktop publishing. And even that comes in many flavors. After that, your supplies depend on what you're trying to do.

This list isn't exhaustive but covers much of what you may use for most desktop publishing projects. But don't be daunted by the length. Many of these items are primarily used by professional graphic designers. The casual home user or small business person may never have a need for things like swatch books or even scanners. After the first item, these supplies are in no specific order.

Desktop Publishing Supplies

  • Primary Software: We won't go in-depth here. If you want to know more about the types of software used in desktop publishing, including page layout, graphics, and even word processing software explore Desktop Publishing and Design Software. And yes, before the software you need the computer.
  • Secondary Software: Programs for organizing fonts and graphics as well as color calibration software and even time management software are just some of the many optional utilities used in desktop publishing. Organizational software is most important when you have huge font or image collections. Color calibration software is essential for high-end professional graphic design but useful for others as well although not near as critical.
  • Printer: Theoretically you could do desktop publishing without having a printer. If you do only Web design then you'll care more about how your work looks on screen than in print. You could create digital files and take them elsewhere for printing. But even if all your final projects are done with commercial printing, a desktop printer lets you print drafts and comps and digital proofs.
  • Fonts: Your computer and your software may come with a selection of fonts but chances are you'll want even more.
  • Images: Images include graphics you create, pictures you take, images you acquire from clip art collections. Some software may come with enough images to suit your needs, but like fonts, you'll probably want to acquire more, more, more. Don't overlook dingbat fonts as a way to expand your image collection.
  • Paper: Unless everything you do is on the web, you'll probably need paper. From printing drafts and proofs of the paper for the finished print project, desktop publishing uses lots of paper.
  • Scanner: You can survive just fine without a scanner. But they do come in handy when you have non-digital photographs and other printed material you want to get onto your computer.
  • Swatch Books: Printed color guides, such as those from PANTONE, are most useful to print designers. When precise color matching is needed they become almost mandatory but it is possible to work without them.
  • Rulers, Gauges: Tools for precision measurements (beyond on screen or in-software rulers) may not be necessary for all types of desktop publishing, but they can be useful. Some all-in-one tools, such as the Galaxy Gauge ruler include multiple measurement systems, charts, and tables.
  • Templates: For getting started fast and helping beginners create better compositions, templates for print and the web are a great tool. Some software comes with templates and many others can be purchased or found for free online.
  • Additional Hardware: Dual monitors, graphics tablets, and digital cameras can enhance your desktop publishing experience, but they aren't mandatory. An extra hard drive just for all those fonts and images isn't a bad idea either. A portable hard drive or a USB flash drive is useful for working on files in multiple locations, such as on a desktop computer as well as from your laptop.
  • Portfolio Case: A simple binder may suffice but for more professional presentations it can be good to have a nice portfolio case to showcase your work.
  • Books, Magazines: You could learn everything you need to know about desktop publishing and your software from electronic manuals and Web sites. However, there's is a wealth of information found in books and magazines on graphic design, typography, freelance design, digital photography, and every other aspect of desktop publishing. A well-stocked library at your fingertips is highly recommended.