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How to Make a Catalog [Step-by-Step]

Step-by-step guide to making a catalog. 

Catalogs create a connection between your brand and your audience. They are effective marketing tools that share a story with each reader about who your company is and what you have to offer. When designed and made successfully catalogs are a marketing material that can help you bring in more customers and better retain your existing ones.

With catalogs having the potential to bring in a tremendous amount of positive results for your company, we have created a step-by-step guide for you to make an extremely powerful catalog that your audience won’t be able to ignore.

Step 1. Decide on your catalogs message.

Starting with the end in mind is key when making your catalog. This means that you need to decide what your catalog will provide for your readers before you even begin creating it.

What message will your catalog deliver? Will it be used to advertise products for sale or services you provide? Will it be used as a calendar, guide, or introduction to your business?

No matter what your catalogs intent is, or whether it’s an informational catalog, promotional catalog, or service listing catalog, it is important to figure out the end result for your catalogs before moving forward. This will help smooth the entire process and help to avoid any hiccups during the making of your catalog.

Step 2. Figure out your budget.

Step 2: Figure out your budget. 

Although priced a bit higher than brochures or postcards, catalog printing isn’t as expensive as you may think. In fact, there are some proven ways that companies who have a small budget create cheap catalogs while still reaping the benefits of catalog marketing. Regardless, figuring out your budget will help steer you in choosing the size, page count, paper stock, direct mail marketing strategy and more. So, whether you have limited resources or an immense budget, it is still important to utilize catalogs as they provide one of the highest returns on investment and help connect your audience with your brand.

Step 3. Gather your catalog content.

Outlines are a good idea for any project, especially when creating a catalog. There are many components that will make up your catalog and making sure that it is organized and well-designed begins with gathering the content. Your content will include everything from the front cover to the back and your outline for the content should include a good idea of the images you would like to use on each, what products or services you will feature and all other information that you will need. This may include information about your company, testimonials, table of contents, contact information and more.

Front Cover

The front cover of your catalog is the first thing your audience will see and will play a key part in your readers decision to open your catalog up of toss it aside. Take magazines for example, a magazines cover is what grabs the reader's attention and persuades them to pick up and purchase the magazine. Catalogs, and any printed material for that matter, have the same effect.

Your catalogs cover should be thoroughly thought out and include your brands name, vibrant colors and imagery as well as intriguing language to attract your audience.

Table of Contents

Whether your catalogs have 16 pages or 200, a table of contents or index is a necessary component for your readers to navigate through your catalog.

A well planned out table of contents will show your audience that you care about their interests and makes the experience for them easier. This small section within your catalog brings your entire contents together and acts as a map, leading your readers to the pages that will bring in more interest and sales to your company.

Introduction Pages

Like a book, catalogs tell a story. This story walks your readers through your brand and shares with them your business’s identity or what it has to offer. And like any good book, there is always an introduction.

For catalogs that are selling and listing products and services you offer, the introduction pages are a good place to provide advertisements and promotions to get the reader excited for what is to come in the next pages. For informational catalogs and other types of catalogs, these pages can also act as advertisement space but isn’t always the right option. In this case, the introduction pages are the perfect place to include a summary about your brand or any intriguing content that grabs the reader's attention and moves it further.

Main catalog content. 

Main Content

The main content or product and service listing section is the longest and main event within your catalog. These pages need to include well planned and quality images along with adequate negative space between copy and imagery which we will get more into details of the design here later. Make sure that each page highlights the content or products that you want to prioritize so that they are represented on a higher note for your audience to engage with.

These pages also need to be organized and sectioned based on the table of contents to give your audience an organized and efficient experience. It may also be beneficial to begin with the main content and then figure out the table of contents or the way you would like the pages to be arranged. This way you can lay out all of your catalogs main pages and develop a better understanding of how you want your audiences experience to flow.

Final Pages

The final pages of your catalog is the section where your entire catalog is wrapped up. These pages could include more advertisement space to remind the readers of why they flipped further in the first place. They can also be a good place to include customer reviews or stories about your company.

Guide For How to Order

Order forms were once a popular page in catalogs, where readers could fill out what they would like to purchase and mail it to the company. These forms aren’t regularly seen any more but may be a good idea to include, especially if the individuals reading your catalog aren't computer savvy. Either way, if you include an ordering form or not, the last page of your catalog should include a way for your audience to reach your website. This could include a simple URL or a QR code for your readers to easily scan and view your website to proceed with a purchase.

Including a QR code or website URL is the most efficient way for you audience to visit your website, social media page, app, or place orders online while ensuring you are able to get their purchases to them quickly.

Back cover

Just like delicious desert at the end of your meal, the back cover provides the perfect ending to your catalog. Like your front cover, your catalogs back cover should be visually appealing and attract your reader to your catalog. You can highlight an important feature within your catalog or present something that your audience will not be able to resist.

Step 4. Include high-quality images.

We discussed imagery within the above step of planning your catalogs content out and including quality images in your catalog cannot be stressed enough. This is because low resolution, pixilated, over or under saturated images and any other flaw within your product images and any other images will not lead your reader further and will generate less than desired results. For example, if you’re listening to the radio and begin to get static on a station, you would change the station. Just like static on the radio, an unappealing image drives the reader away.

Include high-quality images. 

Images should be converted to CMYK color model and be at least 300 dpi in resolution to ensure your imagery is printed crisp and vibrant. Images that need to be scanned, like line-art or graphics, should be at 1200 dpi for best results.

Not only does the resolution and color need to be of high-quality, but the content within your images should reflect what your catalog copy reads and what your brand has to offer. This may include using a professional photographer or graphic designer or a highly skilled team member. In fact, hiring a professional is usually the best idea as your images are what your audience sees before they read the copy and is considered the most important aspect of your catalog.

Step 5. Choose the right size for your catalog.

Choosing the appropriate size for your catalog is very important. It may be enticing to design and print your catalogs at a smaller size like 5.5 x 8.5 or 6 x 9 to save a bit of money but if you have a high volume of content that needs to be included; this should be avoided. A larger printed catalog like 8.5 x 11 or 9 x 12 will provide you more space so your catalog pages are not overwhelming and have a nice amount of negative space to frame the product images, product descriptions and all other content.

Step 6. Decide on how many pages.

Your catalogs page count will be determined by the binding option you choose and the amount of content your catalog will be holding. For saddle-stitched bound catalogs—the most popular catalog binding method—your pages need to be divisible by 4 as one sheet of paper will provide 4 pages. Saddle-stitched catalogs also have page limitations as too many pages can result in page creep: the inner pages begin to stick out further from the cover. For larger page counts, perfect bound catalogs are the ideal option. This is because there is no worry about page creep as the cover is printed larger to accommodate the thickness of the inner pages when stacked together.

Saddle-stitched catalogs are the most cost-effective option but if you need many pages within your catalog, you need to consider perfect binding.

Step 7. Use a template to ensure perfect printing.

Catalog Templates 

Before even beginning creating your catalog, grabbing a catalog template can be a handy tool to make sure your content is far enough from the edges of the page and that the “bleed” is set to the right parameters. This will ensure that your catalog design will not be ruined or that content will be cut out during the print process. Your printer can provide you with these templates along with any other help you may need. Once you have gotten your catalog template, you simply add it into a separate layer in your layout program and use it as a guide for where to place your catalog images and copy.

Step 8. Create your catalog in the right platform.

Adobe platforms, like InDesign are the ideal platforms for creating your catalog as they neatly package everything needed for printing, including image files and fonts. These are not the only platforms suited though. Making a catalog in Word, and other platforms can also be done. No matter what platform you choose, it is important to generate your catalog design in a PDF file to acquire the best quality and to allow your files to travel smoothly through the print production system.

Step 9. Design an eye-catching cover.

Eye-catching catalog covers. 

Now that your layout is all set up, it is time to assemble your catalog content within your design platform. Let's start with the cover.

As we mentioned in step 3, your catalogs cover—front and back—is what will determine if your audience reads your catalog or tosses it aside. Which means it needs to be highly impressive and able to capture the attention of your intended reader. Irresistible deals, incredible images, vibrant colors, and stunning font can all play a role in encouraging your audience to explore your catalogs pages.

You also need to be sure to not create a cover where the art and copy is crammed together. It is important to leave open and negative space to let your catalog cover design “breath.” This will help show your audience they are in for a refreshing and exciting experience and not an overwhelming and stressful one.

Step 10. Build out your catalog pages.

Each page may be a separate component to your catalog, but they should all flow cohesively. Make sure that the image to copy ratio is balanced. Breaking your text up and balancing the images from one page to the next will provide better readability. Think of each page as a grid and layout your images and copy accordingly so you distribute your content fluidly.

If you are concerned about the design of your catalog, it can be a good idea to use a graphic designer so that you can ensure that your catalog is professionally designed and is viewed in that manner.

Step 11. Include intriguing call to actions.

A call to action or CTA is the use of words or phrases that attract the viewer to respond and encourages them to move forward with your company’s offerings. Call to actions are an important part to any marketing effort and with catalogs having multiple pages it is important to provide not only one but a few. This could include a CTA on the cover, driving the reader to open your catalog, a few within the pages that draw your reader to your website, and another one within the final pages or back cover. When it comes to call to actions the more you have the better.

Step 12. Choose the right way to print your catalogs.

Catalog printing done right. 

You have made it to the printing step of your catalog! When you choose a printer, it is important to look for one that promotes high-quality and low prices so that you can get the most out of your catalog marketing. Other things to look for in a printer are good customer service so you can have a team backing you up with any questions, and a printer who has a graphic design team of their own in case you need any assistance with your design. You should also look for a printer who offers many paper stocks and coating options so that you have options, and your catalog is produced with quality and professionalism in place.

One more thing you should look for in a printer is a company who has expertise in mailing and has their own mailing center. This will be a positive asset especially if you are looking to use direct mail marketing to distribute your catalogs. When you use a printer, who has their own mailing center, like Conquest Graphics, it saves you time and money while also allowing your catalogs to get to your audience in the quickest way possible.

Step 13. Make a mailing and marketing game plan.

Now that you have made a catalog that your audience will love it is time to distribute them. How do you want your audience to receive your catalog? You can hand them out at a tradeshow, place them on the front desk of your business for people to grab or you can mail them out.

If you decide to mail your catalogs directly to your audience, there are a few ways you can do this. Bulk mailing, EDDM and creating your own targeted mailing list are all affordable and great ways to reach the people who matter most.

Bulk Mailing

If you have a mailing list built out, bulk mailing is an affordable way to deliver your catalogs to the addresses you have listed. Bulk mailing is for large mailings that qualify for reduced postage costs. This includes commercial First-Class Mail and Standard mail. First class is for mailings with a quantity under 200 and Standard has a minimum of 200.

Bulk mailing is a great option if your company provides a catalog subscription or are looking to mail your catalogs to any other list of addresses that you already have.


Catalog Mailing 

EDDM or every door direct mail is the perfect way to reach a large audience who you do not have addresses for. If you have identified an area that could benefit from your catalog, you can simply choose a mailing route or ZIP Code and mail your catalogs to every address on that mailing route.

Targeted Mailing Lists

There are many forms of targeted mailing but one promising method for catalog marketing is to use a targeted mailing list or a “build your own” list of potential customers. You can create a business list or consumer list and filter you audience based on your company’s rules and demographics. This could include mailing to certain households based on age or marital status or businesses who are considered a small business or are owned by women.

When creating a targeted mailing list, you have a wide variety of consumer and business options so that your catalogs reach potential customers who are more likely to be interested in your catalog's offerings.

At Conquest Graphics, we are a leader in high-quality and low-priced catalog printing, and we can provide you with every tool that you need to print and distribute your catalogs in the most efficient way possible. If you have any questions, feel free to contact our experts or click below to get started on your catalog project today!

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