Part 5

Some Assembly Required

Preparing a bulletin for printing is the critical stage. All the painstaking effort that has gone before is wasted if care is not lavished on the product that goes to the printer. Many modern typewriters, and certainly all computer word processing softwares, allow their users to directly produce a finished page, “camera ready” for reproduction. However, many editors still use the time-honored “cut- and-paste” method to assemble their pages. The following is primarily for their benefit.


Earlier, formatting was defined as deciding how each finished page should look. Now it’s time to put those decisions to work. Formatting—placing the various stories, articles and graphics bits on the various pages—is somewhat like building a flagstone walkway. The odd- sized pieces must fit together in a pleasing manner, yet fill the predetermined space. Here are things that must be considered:

Paper size: determined largely by economics and the handling capability of the printing method. Standard sizes are 8 x 11" (letter), 8 x 14" (legal) and 11 x 17". The 11 x 17" size folds in half to become four letter-size pages. Most copy machines will not feed other sizes; offset printers charge premium prices for special paper sizes.

Orientation: the way text is placed on the page. The two options are “portrait” (the longer dimension of the paper is vertical) and “landscape” (the longer dimension is horizontal). Portrait is the orientation most often used.

Margins: A minimum of -inch is acceptable and reduces positioning problems during reproduction. Larger top and bottom margin space is pleasing to the eye. Top and bottom margins may be unequal, but should remain the same from inside page to page.

Assembly: placement of text, graphics, photos, etc., on each page. Again, a relatively simple process with the “cut and paste” feature of most computer software, but another matter altogether for editors without such luxuries.


There are a number of variations to the technique for placing matter to be printed on the appropriate pages. Basically, it consists of trimming the final proofed copy into manageable pieces, deciding their positions on each page, marking the positions and fastening them in place. The finished products are variously referred to as “mechanicals,” “paste-ups,” or “dummies.” (A dummy may also be a hand-draw representation of a page, showing where various elements will be located—a map.) Mechanicals seems to be the preferred term, and is used in this manual.

Cutting: Remove all extraneous paper. Leave narrow margins on all sides of the materials to be “pasted.” The cutting device may be scissors, razor blade or Xacto knife. The latter two require some sort of a cutting board. A pane of glass will do, but it quickly dulls blades. A piece of Masonite or plywood will work, but in time their surfaces become roughened with use. A superior third alternative is a cutting mat, made from a plastic material that “heals” after every cut so the mat surface stays smooth. Most cutting mats have a printed grid for guidance.

Marking: A lead pencil may be used for marking copy positions on mechanicals, but the marks must be removed before printing. A better choice is pens or pencils designated “photo blue,” a pastel, light blue not visible to copy machines or offset printing processes. A T-square and a drafting triangle are helpful to ensure that marks and subsequent placement of copy is plumb with the edges of the mechanicals. This is crucial. Tiny departures from plumb, scarcely visible to the naked eye, will stick out like the proverbial sore thumb on the printed copy. (See Light Box, Part 6.)

Another alternative is the use of “art boards.” They are heavy sheets of paper (Bristol board) with smooth surfaces on which is printed a grid pattern (available in increments from 1/16th-inch to 1/4-inch) in photo blue. Some also have marks printed to indicate standard margins, page centers, location of three-ring binder perforations and the like. With care, art boards may be reused numerous times.

Art boards are manufactured in sizes appropriate for 8 x 11-inch or 11 x 17-inch pages. They may usually be found in stores dealing in artists’ and engineering supplies.

Pasting: “Paste-up” is the final step in preparing mechanicals for printing. All items must be firmly fixed to the mechanical, but they should not be permanently mounted. It is often necessary to reposition items for better use of space, or to provide a more eye-pleasing arrangement.

Several types of adhesive do the job well:

  1. Rubber cement—available everywhere. Messy to apply and residue may accumulate outside the edge of pasted copy and attract dirt which can show up on the finished printing. Users should have a supply of rubber cement thinner (acetone) and a rubber cement eraser at hand.
  2. Hot wax—less messy. Requires a hot wax applicator: a device with an electrically heated reservoir where the wax is melted and a roller arrangement for applying the melted wax in a thin, stippled coating to the copy. Not readily available; expensive. Least costly is the LECTRO-STIC, manufactured by Lectro-Stic Corp., Chicago, Ill. 60613, or from many art supply stores. It is a small, hand-held tool that rolls on a 1-inch wide coat of wax, so repeated passes are necessary to coat almost all copy. The tool comes supplied with a quantity of wax cubes said to be equivalent to a gallon of rubber cement. Replenishment supplies may be a problem.
  3. Spray adhesive—Comes in an aerosol container similar to spray paints. Label should specify the adhesive does not provide a permanent bond. Fairly clean, but some method to capture overspray must be used. An empty paper carton makes a good spray booth. A light mist application is sufficient to anchor copy, which may be lifted and repositioned several times before more adhesive is needed. Scotch 3M brand Spray Mount Artist’s Adhesive is available in art supply stores for about $10 per can.
  4. Cellophane tape—Cheap and easy to use, but may be difficult to remove. Scotch 3M produces a removable tape, but it may not be invisible to copy machines and offset printing processes.
  5. Glue stick—A recent arrival on the market is a glue stick from Dennison Mfg. Co., Farmingham, MA 01701. It contains a non-permanent glue, much like the adhesive on Post-It Notes. Clean, simple to use, but expensive. About $2.00 for a two-inch applicator tube. Initial tests in preparation of this manual indicate the adhesive is not as reliable as the other methods described


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