Starting a Desktop Publishing Business – Part 2 — What Computer Equipment and Software do I Need?

by Kim G on November 13, 2010

desktop_publishing_business_checklistWelcome to the second post on how to start a desktop publishing business.  In the first post, we evaluated the technical skills needed for desktop publishing.  In this post, we will examine what computer equipment and software you will need  in order to run you business.

If you are considering starting your own publishing business, you probably already have some computer equipment.  Listed below are computer equipment you should have, or want to purchase for your business.  This is by no means  a comprehensive list.  Its just is just a short list to get you thinking about what equipment you may need.  Let’s begin.

Computer Equipment

1.  Personal Computer — Of course, you will need a computer.  Get a computer with a extra RAM to help handle memory-intensive programs, and very large graphics and publishing files.  Also, ensure that your computer has good processor speed.   Try to get a monitor with good resolution, a CD/DVD read/writer, and plenty of USB connections.

2.  Printers — At a minimum you will need a quality printer to provide your client with mock-ups and proofs.  You may decide to print short-run printing projects in-house.  The two basic types of printers are laser and ink jet printers.  Both are pretty affordable.  Use a good ink jet printer for printing on heavier paper and cardstock, photos and borderless printing.  Choose a good laser printer to print larger documents and presentations.  Make sure you know the print speed and quality of both types of printers.  Also, check on ink and toner usage and costs.

4. Scanner — You will probably need to convert printed artwork to an electronic format.  Scanners are now very affordable, and are also available as 3 in 1,  or 4 in 1 which is one unit that prints, scans and copies and even faxes.

5.  Digital Cameras —  Digital cameras may be useful for taking photos of client locations and products and events that may be added to printed materials.

6.  External/Portable Storage Devices —  External drives are good for transferring large files to and from client sites. They also are good for backing up and storing your important files.

7.  Internet Access — Not much to say…in order to be competitive you must have internet access.  Broad band is best.  Consider setting up an FTP site for exchanging large files,  saving  trips to client sites


1. Desktop Publishing Software — Desktop Publishing  or page layout software is essential  for running a true desktop publishing business.  Desktop publishing software can vary greatly in price (from free to several thousand dollars) and  functionality. You should take time to research your options before you purchase.  Depending on the publications you will be producing in your business you may be able to get away with using a high-end word processor until you’ve decided on a publishing program.

2. Word Processing Software — You can use word processing programs to produce larger, more text intensive documents.  Microsoft Word is the standard, but there are some good open-source (free) options available, such as OpenOffice Writer.  A good word processor can also double for a desktop publishing program until you are able to purchase layout software.

3. Graphics Software — Graphics programs help you create illustrations and design elements.  Graphics software allow you to create shapes, color gradients, illustrations, photo editing, and many other different design and graphic functions.  Some desktop publishing and word processing programs have graphics creation objects, but if you need advanced functions, you will need to purchase specialized graphics software.  Graphics software can be vector-based, such as Adobe Illustrator, raster-based, such as Photoshop.  There are also programs specifically for photo editing.  There are many, many different graphics programs to choose from.  Take you time to research the functionality that you will need before you spend a lot of money.

4.  Presentation Software — This software will allow you to easily create graphical presentations and slideshows.   Presentation software helps you easily display text, graphics, photos and allows you to create transisitons from one slide to another.  You can also add sound effects.  Presentation software is sometimes bundled with Office productivity software such as Microsoft Office or OpenOffice.

5.  PDF (Portable Document Format) software / PDF Converters — PDF software (or converters) allows you to save documents in PDF format.  You can either have full PDF software or PDF converters that are built into your word processing or graphics software.  PDF documents can be shared with people that do not have the same software or operating systems.  Also, many printers will accept this format, which saves you from having to purchase expensive graphics and layout software.  Almost all documents, regardless of what software it was produced in can be saved in PDF format.

5.  Spreadsheet and Database Software – This is not essential for desktop publishing, but this type of software can help you keep manage your business.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of computer equipment or software.  There are literally hundreds of options to choose from.  Take an inventory of what you currently have, and do a little research to determine what you will need, based on your skill level, and the types of projects and publishing you will need to produce.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kim G May 24, 2011 at 2:11 am

Well, if you are on a budget and don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars and are a beginner, then Microsoft Publisher is a good choice. You will be up and running for about $150 and there are many templates out there to get you started. Plus, it is a pretty simple program to learn. If you know Microsoft Word, you shouldn’t have any problems.

Another good choice if you are on a budget is Scribus. Scribus (download at is a free, open source desktop publishing software package. It does have a pretty steep learning curve, but it is a robust desktop publishing package that will allow you to do most anything.

If you can spend several hundred dollars, of course Adobe InDesign is the Industry standard.

Good Luck.


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