On an American newspaper, the masthead is the section that lists important information about the newspaper, like its title and the names of the individuals who worked on it. Some newspaper mastheads display the names of every individual who worked on the paper, while others — typically larger newspapers that employ many people and contract numerous freelancers — only display the names of top-level staff.

Despite its name, mastheads on newspapers are not necessarily placed on the top of a newspaper’s cover or first page. A masthead can be along the left or right side or across the bottom of the page. Typically, it is on the inside cover or within the first few pages of the newspaper or magazine.

Many people confuse a newspaper’s masthead with its nameplate. This is because the term masthead is often used to refer to a newspaper’s nameplate. The nameplate is the stylized title of the newspaper, which may be a simple wordmark or a logo. The masthead is the list of important names and information about that particular issue of the newspaper.

Determine How Much Space You Have

The first step in designing a newspaper masthead is determining how much physical space can be devoted to the masthead. When looking at a masthead digital design, you’ll see how many pixels the masthead uses. Rather than showing what this means in inches on a physical newspaper, it shows what percentage of the page the masthead uses.

Knowing how much space you have with which to work will determine the font you use and the font size. It can also help you determine how to group the list of names and if there is any information that needs to be omitted in the interest of using the page space efficiently.

Determine What Needs to Be Included

Depending on how many people contributed to your newspaper, you might have a lot of names to include in the masthead. Determine whether you can fit every name or if you have to only list the department heads and reserve lower-level staff and contributors’ names for a separate credits page.

The amount of information you need to include in your newspaper masthead will determine its size and how much space on the page it can occupy. If you’ve determined the maximum amount of space it can occupy before determining which names to include, your only option is to work within the physical space limitation and cut down your list or reduce your font size in order to make it fit within the space allotted for the masthead.

Create a Digital Design

A digital masthead design shows how the masthead will look on the final printed page. It can also show where the masthead design can potentially interfere with other text and graphics on the page, which can help your graphic design team to determine how to revise the page layout to avoid overlaps and jarring design.

Popular masthead digital design programs include:

  • Adobe InDesign
  • FlipHTML5
  • Lucidpress

Refine and Perfect the Masthead in a Newspaper

The last step in completing your masthead design is creating mockups. Whether you have one masthead design or multiple versions of the design, it’s important that you know how they will look on printed newspapers before the newspapers go to print. Mockups are renderings of how finished deliverables will look. Test your masthead designs by printing mockups — “test” newspapers that have the same dimensions as your regular newspapers and that show exactly how your masthead design will look on finished papers.

Although you created a masthead digital design, it’s important to see how it looks in print before you actually send it to print. This is because a design might look great on a screen but can look too pushed together or have text that’s too small to read comfortably when it’s printed on paper. Once you see how the design looks on a printed newspaper, you can catch mistakes, make edits and reprint the design until you’re happy with the masthead and ready to send the paper to print.