Create a flyer with the free Scribus desktop publishing software

Party Alert!

Article from Issue 163/2014

Linux comes with Scribus, a comprehensive desktop publishing program that can help you create a flyer with a professional layout.

The Apple Mac is still commonly regarded as a tool of choice for creative professionals in the design business. Linux, however, includes a comprehensive and free toolbox that gives you a workable and even convenient option for creating professional layouts. To show how simple this can be, I look at how to design a flyer for a party invitation.

The obvious choice of tool for this task is Scribus [1], the layout program, complemented by GIMP [2] for editing photos and other images. If necessary, Inkscape [3] completes your toolkit if you want to create your own vector graphics or edit third-party graphics. You don't need expensive hardware and even more expensive licenses for commercial software: These three tools can be found in the repositories of all the major distributions, so you can easily install them using your package manager.


A typical flyer is fairly concise – usually letter-sized (A4 or DIN) or postcard-sized, with color printing on both sides. In contrast to business advertising and informal flyers, a party flyer can and should be colorful. However, you should consider where you will be distributing the flyer: If it will be competing with many other colorful printed works, a more subtle or unobtrusive color scheme might attract more attention.

For the example, however, I will use strong colors to brighten up the dull gray of everyday life with computers. The format I chose is DIN long, which offers a little more space for additional information. Among other things, you can add a route map or details of food and drinks.

Carefully consider which format is suitable for your intended purpose, because a later change will mean a lot of work – especially if you are not as proficient with the program. Making a rough sketch on paper first can be helpful. This step helps you quickly identify which photos or other materials you need. These should then be organized in advance.

Getting Started

After completing the preparatory work, launch Scribus and select File | New to create a new document. Scribus asks you for the desired page size. The DIN long format I want is not on the list, so I'll choose Millimeters as the default unit of measurement in the lower right Options pane, Custom for Size and enter a height of 210mm and a width of 105mm. If you work with a printing company that requires different dimensions, you can enter them at this point (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The Scribus settings offer users a number of standard formats, but you can define the size of the document yourself.

Incidentally, Scribus uses the point, one twelfth of a pica (0.138-0.150 inches/0.351-0.356mm, depending on the custom of your country), as the standard unit of measurement. Additionally, printers require what is known as a bleed, which refers to the area that is trimmed after printing. You should never leave this white if the area next to it is uses color. You can set the bleed in the Bleeds tab. The value is generally the same on all sides, and this is what Scribus uses as a default. Thus, you only need to define the required size once.

You will also want to specify the number of pages: in this example, two. Later in the Document Setup dialog under the File menu, you can't do this, but you can insert pages into the document from the Page menu. This step also lets you create a third page, if necessary, to try out an alternative design.


Unlike a brochure for product advertising, for example, a flyer for a party offers you much freedom and flexibility of design. A strict division into specific areas is therefore not necessary. Nevertheless, using a few guides can be worthwhile – in this example, I used a line across the middle of the pages.

You can create such guides, by clicking on the ruler at the margin, holding down the mouse button, and dragging the pointer into the document. The software shows you the position as a numeric value, which gives you a quick way of creating a few guides for the document (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Guides are not strictly necessary for the party flyer; however, they will help you align elements.

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