Catalogue Designing & Printing: Best Practice Secrets

Printed catalogues and directories have a long shelf life so they remain popular for companies who sell a large range of products. Consumer catalogues are still widely used for fashion, homeware, consumer electronics and gardens, while business-to-business catalogues are often used for components, machines, tools and other industrial products.

Keeping in mind the costs of designing, production, printing and postage, it’s important to get catalogue printing right first time. What are the secrets to a successful catalogue marketing? It starts with design and production.

Start by thinking about size and aspects. Common, economical sizes which are typically used for catalogue printing are B5 (240 x 170mm) A5 (210 x 148mm) or A4 (297 x 210mm). Do you want portrait or landscape? This might depend on your images, especially the size and quality, but it’s very much a personal preference. The widescreen look, A4 landscape, is a popular modern style. Calico can advise you on what’s best for your products.


Most catalogues and directories are printed in 4 colours throughout, although sometimes a fifth colour, typically a Pantone (PMS), might be specified for a specific element, like a logo, to ensure colour consistency throughout. Calico has many clients who use metallic inks such as gold or silver for beautiful effects, especially on covers.

Branding and brand identity.

Catalogues are highly effective marketing tools for your brand. Newer brands may need to shout louder than established big players, so it’s important to prioritise your brand name and graphic identity. Strong brands typically use their name or trademarks for their catalogue name. Emerging brands must use a compelling catalogue name, but might also want to describe their products on the cover.

Graphic design and layout.

More than just colours and graphics, layout entails an understanding of usability, organisation and aesthetics. Overall, it drives how somebody might interact with the catalogue. The cover and contents page must work together to deliver an anticipation of what lies within. All catalogues should have a table of contents, and larger ones may utilise folios or tabs. Depending on the category, an offer or hook can pique interest, or create a sense of excitement. Calico can advise on design and layout aspects of catalogues and directories. Don’t forget, white space is good! The Where’s Wally effect will only put off consumers.


Pictures are the heart of any catalogue or directory. The best catalogues are highly visual, allowing the user to quickly scan through content. A word of caution: don’t mix styles too often. It’s good to set the scene with mood images, with interplay between people, products and environments, but when it comes to product photography, make sure you create some standards for all the images. A white background is easier on the eye and allows the products to shine.


Catalogue copy should follow a house style, so it remains coherent and dependable. Defining the house style is one the earliest decisions to make. Will it be quirky, amusing or educational, or concise and literal. All of these have a place, but it largely depends upon the look and feel of your brand. Overall, the catalogue user must be able to find all information required to make a purchase decision, or risk losing the sale. Ordering information and pricing should be presented in easy to read tables.


Make it easy for consumer to interact with your catalogue. Refer to online promotions to drive traffic to your site. Clearly communicate when there are multiple options for ordering. Highlight ordering options on every page or spread. Promote Free Phone numbers throughout. Make your promotions pop!


It’s essential to thoroughly consider printing and finishing before you start design. Obviously the quality of paper, covers, binding and types of finishes can make a dramatic difference to the overall unit price, as well as the postage costs.

Paper quality.

Typical catalogues utilise a 300/350gsm gloss, silk, matt or uncoated paper for the covers. Inside, the pages are typically printed on 100/130/150gsm silk, matt or uncoated papers.

Cover finishes.

Matt or gloss laminated are popular. Textures and glosses to highlight certain features are possible. Common finishes include spot u/v, u/v varnished extra glossy finish, gold, silver or bronze foil blocking. These add a super luxury feel that will definitely make a bid impression on your customers.


Catalogue and directory binding options depend largely on pagination – the number of pages – and the weight. A perfect bound catalogue, for instance, provides a flat spine for printing a logo and title, but it usually necessitates at least 70+ pages. Popular binding types include saddle stitched, perfect bound, PUR bound, wiro bound, ring binders, loose leaf binders, paper overboard binders. Calico can provide example of all of these types.

Finally, you have to think about the print run volume.