The Vistaprint Guide to Flyers

Well before phrases like “street marketing” and “canvassing” were invented, flyers were already viewed as a terrific way to get the word out. In fact, they were part of the American Revolution, as colonists outraged with the 1765 Stamp Act gathered together to issue single-sheet flyers explaining their position to other citizens, as well as to their representatives.

Flyers (alternately known as leaflets or handbills) are mostly used today to help businesses find new customers and get the word out on various events and activities. But the core principles that make flyers work are the same: They’re cost-efficient and easy to distribute.

How to make flyers

The first step to creating your flyer is figuring out exactly what goes on it. Most flyers fall into one of three distinct categories, each with a unique goal that affects what goes onto the final product.

  • Event announcements: These are the flyers that come to many people’s minds when they first think of flyers. They can range from concerts at a local club to a sale at a local bookstore, and are usually posted on community bulletin boards or handed out on the street.
  • Product information/fact sheet: If you’ve ever been to a trade show, you’ve had one of these handed to you. These documents (usually two-sided) allow companies to give prospective customers an in-depth look at their products. These flyers also serve as great additions to sales packets left with clients.
  • General awareness: Do you have a new business? Are you looking for volunteers? These are flyers designed and intended to get the word out.

Because each of these has specific uses and requirements, it affects the size and wording of your finished flyer.

For example, an event announcement would require space for the date, time and location, as well as participants’ names event theme information. A product fact sheet is generally double-sided to make sure there’s space for product specifications, benefits, uses and more. If you’re creating a flyer for a sale or promotion, make sure to give your discount or deal prominence, and be clear with any limitations or dates so you don’t disappoint your customers.

Picking the right flyer size

At Vistaprint, we feature flyers in the following sizes:

  • 2.5” x 4”
  • 3.75” x 8.25”
  • 4” x 6”
  • 4.2” x 5.5”
  • 5” x 7”
  • 5.5” x 8.5”
  • 6” x 6”
  • 8” x 8”
  • 8.5” x 11”
  • 11” x 17”
Product photo of custom flyer

A full-page flyer (8.5” x 11”) is perfect as a product information sheet you intend to distribute at an industry conference. They also work well if you want to advertise a sale by posting flyers around town.

Half-page flyers (5.5” x 8.5”) and square formats (6” x 6” or 8” x 8”) are great for sales and special events – not only do they stand out, they can also be easily inserted into a customer’s bag or handed out on the street. If you need to distribute a lot of flyers and are able to compress your message into a smaller space, then a smaller sized flyer (2.5” x 4”, 4” x 6”, 4.2” x 5.5” or 5” x 7”) could be way to go – you get more impressions for less money with them.

Long flyers (3.75” x 8.25”) are well-suited for price lists and restaurant menus, while an oversized flyer (11” x 17”) creates a can’t-miss message wherever you display it.

No matter where you get your flyers printed, make sure that they offer the size and paper stock that’s best for your usage.

How to write a flyer

Promoting an event? Get to the point. Flyers for a concert or club event can feature the very basics: artist names, location, date, time, and ticket price. More complex events, such as farmers’ markets and speaking engagements, may require additional context (“All Local, All-Organic!” or “International Best-selling Author”) to engage potential customers, as well as contact information, like as a phone number, social media accounts, or web address. That said, the basic idea – and goal – is still the same.

With a flyer for a sale or promotion, make sure you get the audience’s attention as effectively as possible. Make the deal you’re offering bold and to the point. “20% Off Everything” is an eye-catching headline that will draw readers in to find out more. From there, use clear, direct language to tell people more, including start and end dates, any limitations and, of course, information about where they can find your business.

Flyers created for general awareness can follow similar guidelines by being as direct as possible and offering prominently displayed contact information. If you are looking for volunteers to help at a food pantry, for example, you might use an enticing headline such as, “In just two hours a week, you can feed 20 families,” with supporting copy that guides readers to your contact information and a prominent call to action.

Educational and informational flyers require much more finesse, as you need to get your readers’ attention and then help them quickly digest your copy. To do that, clarity and brevity are your best friends.

Before you start to think about your product sheet’s layout, you’ll want to optimize the copy for maximum impact. It can be tempting to start with a snazzy design and then force your text to fit, but that’s putting the cart before the horse. Instead, draft a document that covers all you want to say – then simplify as much as possible.

Whatever your flyer goal, keep in mind that you need to engage your readers. What are the benefits of using your product? Why should someone follow the advice you’ve outlined in your flyer? Why should they join your organization? Make it interesting: A headline such as “Save 30% On Production Costs” is a lot more likely to appeal to a senior executive at a machine tool show than something like “XL-9 Advanced Preprocessing Software.”

Photo of individual writing on notepad

Some more flyer writing tips

Organize your information well. Subheads, bullet lists and informational graphics help readers find and read what’s most important to them.

  • Is there a next step your audience should take? Make sure that your call to action is as prominent as possible and that your flyer’s copy drives people to it.
  • Use customer testimonials to earn readers’ trust. Take the time to ask your happiest customers for a few words.
  • Keep your audience in mind. A medical office will want to skip complex jargon in a patient handout, while automotive parts companies may like to speak in the technical language that mechanics use.
  • Make sure that you include information about where your audience can find you, whether it’s through your website, social media, or even your physical address.

Flyer design tips

The copy is just the beginning. You’ll also want to make sure that your flyer has an eye-catching design that draws in the audience.

  • Use color to your advantage. Embracing bold color choices and contrasts helps your flyer draw the eye, even at a distance.
  • Consider two-sided printing. If you have more copy than you can comfortably fit on one side of a flyer, two-sided printing lets you get more from a single sheet of paper. This is especially useful for product sheets and informational flyers.
  • Keep it simple. It can be tempting to overcomplicate your design. Use the same principles behind good flyer copy to guide your visual choices – blank space can be your friend.
  • Your headline should be clear, big and bold. By setting your headline in a typeface that’s different than the copy on your flyer, you immediately create an eye-catching contrast and a focal point.
  • Speaking of fonts: size matters. Make sure that you don’t go below 10 points for body copy – you want everyone to be able to read what you have to say.
  • Using photography? Make sure your images are high resolution and print ready. We recommend a minimum of 300 DPI (dots per inch) on every image printed, meaning that a background photograph on an 8.5” x 11” flyer would need to be 2550 x 3300 pixels, or around 8.4 megapixels.

In addition to the design you’re printing on the page, think about the paper you use. Paper quality matters, even on a quarter-page flyer you plan to hand out in front of your store. By selecting a paper type that complements your color and graphical choices, you can elevate your design greatly.

Matte and uncoated paper is ideal for simple designs that don’t feature vibrant colors. Black and white imagery and text-heavy product sheets benefit from its low reflectivity. Choose glossy paper when you have a design that relies on photography or features a brighter palette. Need a little more durability? Cover stock is the way to go, especially for flyers that are posted outdoors.

Flyer distribution techniques

Once you’ve got your flyers printed, it’s time to get them to your audience. Informational flyers and product sheets are usually handed directly to people with whom you’ve already engaged, whether in your office or at a trade show. If you’re promoting an event or want to advertise your business in general, you’re going to have to think about your broader distribution options.

The easiest way to get the word out is to place your flyers where your audience goes. This is the option with the least amount of work because you simply need to ask someone if it’s okay if you use a little space on their bulletin board, window or in their waiting room. Use a holder – not only does it place your flyers upright, it adds a touch of professionalism.

When placing your flyers at another business, you’ll want to make sure that you match their customers’ intent with your own. A hair salon is a great place to post a flyer about an all-day spa, but it’s not probably not a good fit for an automotive mechanic’s. That mechanic, though, might benefit from a flyer posted at an auto parts store.

Street promotion costs more money, but it can get more flyers in front of more people in less time. Make sure that anyone handing out your flyers understands that they must follow with a sales pitch and be okay with being told no. Asking people to look at a piece of paper isn’t enough – instead, work with your staff on developing their patter. Successful opening questions to potential customers can be something like “What would you do with $500 extra this month?” Just make sure that your representatives know enough to follow up when more questions are asked.

Photo of custom flyer being handed out

You may also want to look into door-to-door options, where your team drops off flyers directly at the customer’s home or business. This can be a very effective distribution channel for service businesses like landscapers, exterminators and home repair, because you’re reaching the potential audience right where they can be helped. Restaurants and beauty salons can also use this method to attract local customers.

(An important note: You’ll want to check into local laws and rules about flyering and what you can do when it comes to street promotion and door-to-door distribution. Some places ban one or the other outright, but many have no problem with either, as long as you’re not impeding anyone’s path or creating a nuisance.)

If you have a mailing list of existing customers or access to a targeted mailing list, consider using a direct mail campaign to get flyers into your customers’ hands. You can either design the flyer to be sealed and mailed directly or use customized envelopes to create unified branding that impresses.

Finally, insertion into a publication can be expensive, but the approach offers you an unparalleled opportunity to reach a targeted audience with a specific value proposition. Consider this option if you work with a specific industry that has its own publications or if you have a local newspaper / magazine. This method can be especially rewarding if you have a coupon or deal that’s available specifically with the flyer.

Flyers get the word out

The world is loaded with distractions, and you’ve only got a second or two to catch your customer’s eye. You need to make a great first impression. By taking the time to craft good flyer copy and an attractive design, it’s amazing what a single piece of paper can do for your business.