Creating dummy sheets is the start of the process for designing a newspaper or any print periodical. These sheets show the placement of advertising on the pages and the available “news hole” for the editorial staff to fill. Dummying the paper, as it’s called, requires a puzzle master’s touch to fit in all the ads while leaving enough room for the news. To be useable, you need to dummy the whole paper, not just one sheet.
Format the Template
Set the page size in your layout design program. Specific dimensions vary by printer, but most big-city papers are broadsheet, 16 to 17 inches wide, and 21 to 22 inches deep. Community and start-up specialty newspapers are typically tabloid, 10 to 12 inches wide and 14 to 18 inches deep.
Enter the outside margins as required by your printer where nothing can be printed. The margins are normally 1 inch or 6 picas, the measurement unit used in printing, especially for widths. Layout programs have pica measurements available as an option.
Enter the standard number of columns you need for pages that can hold advertising. Other pages, such as page one with only editorial content, can have their own formatting. Standard interior and back pages have six to eight columns in broadsheet, four to six columns in tabloid. Leave at least 1 pica spacing between columns.
Dummy the Paper
Pick the total number of pages for the upcoming issue based on the percentage of advertising to the percentage of news hole. The standard target percentage is 40 percent news to 60 percent advertising of the entire issue. Add pages to broadsheets by increments of two, increments of four for tabloids.
Create a new document from your template and enter the number of pages for the program to add. Assign your interior ad page template to all pages except those with special editorial formats.
Place ads that must be in certain locations of the paper first. Those include advertisers who bought position such as the back page, or ads that include color that may be available only on specific pages.
Draw a graphic rectangle to indicate placement of ads on a page, and include a label for the ad. Ad sizes are defined as column width by inches height. A 4 x 8 ad is 4 columns by 8 inches.
Place remaining ads where appropriate and where they fit, shuffling the rectangles between pages as needed. Less than full page ads are laid out so they leave a horizontal news hole on top. If ads don’t fill the full width of a page, follow your paper’s preferred design to either extend the news hole on the outer edges of a two-page spread, or drop the news space along the interior margins. Don’t do both.
Notify advertising and editorial staff that the dummy sheets are available online. Actual ad copy will be substituted later for the rectangles you placed, and editorial will complete its layout before sending the file to the printer.
Dummying a paper is a negotiation between advertising and editorial, even with a small staff at a community newspaper. Work with them, but don't be quick to jump to additional pages. If ads drop too far below 60 percent, you won't make any money on that issue.
This process never comes out exactly as planned. Ads grow or shrink, late ads come in, news stories break that demand moving an ad to another page, so you may have to adjust quickly even when you thought you were done with this task.
Tom Chmielewski is a longtime journalist with experience in newspapers, magazines, books, e-books and the Internet. With his company TEC Publishing, he has published magazines and an award-winning multimedia e-book, "Celebration at the Sarayi." Chmielewski's design skills include expertise in Adobe Creative Suite's InDesign and Photoshop. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Western Michigan University.