Whether printed or online, marketing collateral is important for communicating with your customers and prospects. However, print and online media don’t always mesh well, and those pretty printed brochures you have may not look as good or be as usable when you put them on your Web site.

The solution is twofold: 1) plan new marketing collateral that will work well on both your Web site and in print; and 2) follow a specific process of converting existing print collateral into Web-friendly format.

Adobe® PDF — The de Facto Standard
The software program Adobe® Acrobat® will convert your original brochure files to a PDF file suitable for use on the Web. Almost everyone has the Adobe® Reader® on their computer, allowing them to view, download or print PDF documents.

To create PDF files, you need the original brochure files developed in Adobe® Illustrator®, QuarkXpress® or other design and layout programs. Documents created in Microsoft® Word or other word processing programs also can be converted to PDF. This is a great way to get white papers and other text documents converted for Web use.
To learn more about Adobe Acrobat, visit Adobe’s Web site at www.adobe.com or speak with your print or Web designer.

New Marketing Collateral
When designing new collateral to be used in both print and on the Web, pay attention to these details to reduce or eliminate many of the common issues:

  • The page size should be 8.5”x11” (U.S.) or A4 (Europe). Many users will want to print your collateral rather than read it online, and these are the standard sized papers that almost any office printer can handle.
  • A popular way to design sell sheets or technical data sheets is the basic 2-sided, front and back sheet. These convert well to PDF and reading either online or printing for reading later. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a printed brochure that opens up to a broad spread, or a two-fold brochure that opens up to 8.5”x11.” But it does mean that — unless you want to lay out two different versions of the brochure — you should have the design naturally break into individual 8.5”x11” or A4 pages.
  • Have available both low-resolution and high-resolution versions of photographs or other images that will appear in the brochure. High-resolution images required for commercial printing can be quite large, leading to unwieldy PDF files that take a long time to render online. Low-resolution works fine on screen or for individual printing.
  • Many users will print PDFs in black and white. Colors that are similar in tone and value will blend together, making it difficult to see transitions or some graphics; keep this in mind when picking colors. In addition, large blocks of color use up a lot of ink when printing, and white text on dark backgrounds may be difficult to read.

Converting Existing Collateral
To convert existing printed collateral to PDF for use on your Web site, you will need the original files, as mentioned above. Whoever designed the collateral for you should have them. You will then need to deal with the same issues of fitting to popular page sizes, using low resolution imagery to keep file size down, and using colors that work well when printed as black and white. Some minor re-design or layout may be necessary.

PDFs Do Not Replace Web Pages
Online marketing collateral in PDF format should not be considered a substitute for standard Web pages. Ideally, the information in your marketing collateral will also be available on Web pages to accommodate users who prefer to read Web pages. However, the information should be presented in a different way online than in print. This is called "re-purposing" content. Web writing requires short chunks of information, bullet points, headlines and sub-headlines that allow users to quickly scan the screen for important information.


  1. I recently had a three-fold brochure created for my company. The original file is in Quark XPress, but when I try to print it to pdf, it only gives one page or area. Is there somewhere that I can get more detailed instructions on this?

  2. Responding to Patricia’s comment/question:

    I’ve had better success by exporting a postscript (.ps) file, and using Acrobat Distiller to create the PDF.

    Set your Quark PDF preferences to create postscript for later distilling.

    Then I use Adobe Acrobat Professional to convert the .ps file to a PDF.

    – Hope this helps

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