How to Use a Digital Pasteboard in Page Layout Software

Pasteboards are holding areas for text and images during page layout

Designers reviewing ideas on desktop computer
Shannon Fagan / Getty Images

During the page layout phase of preparing a document, graphic artists assemble text, images, graphics, charts, logos and other elements with which they create a polished page layout. Professional page layout programs such as Adobe InDesign and QuarkXpress use a pasteboard analogy — a work area that simulates the physical work area once used in the manual (non-software) creation of layouts. Elements destined for inclusion in a page layout can be scattered about the pasteboard before being positioned on the page, just like they were once scattered about a graphic artist's drawing board or desk.

What Is a Pasteboard in Page Layout Software

When you open a page layout application and create a new document, your desktop or work area within the application is typically larger than the document. Your page sits in the middle of the large area, which is called the pasteboard.

You can move blocks of text and images on and off the document page and leave them sitting on the pasteboard. You can pan or zoom out to view what's on the pasteboard. It's a convenient holding area while working with your design, and it's one way that desktop publishing software differs from word processing software.

With some software, you can hide items on the pasteboard to get a clearer view of the document on which you are working. Usually, the items on the pasteboard outside of your document do not print. Some software may allow you an option to print the contents of the pasteboard. Most software programs that use pasteboards give you some control over the size and color of the pasteboard itself.

Advantages of Using a Pasteboard

Creating a great page design is all about finding the right combination of elements that please the eye and tells the story the page is destined to tell. By positioning text, images and other elements on the pasteboard, the graphic designer can see what he has to work with and try easily different arrangements to see what works best.

He may pull a couple of photos onto the page along with a graphic and chart and then realize the balance of the page is off. He can move one photo off to the pasteboard, try again with the arrangement and continue to pull in pieces from the pasteboard — or remove them — for a complete, balanced page design. Being able to look at the pasteboard and see the elements that are available for use on the page makes visualization of the finished product much easier.