Create a holiday newsletter with Pages or iPhoto

The holiday season is upon us, and for many folks it’s become tradition to include a family newsletter with their greeting cards. It’s a great way to share photos, family milestones, and yearly retrospectives with your loved ones.

Happily, putting together a holiday newsletter is a snap using the apps included with your Mac. You can use both Pages and iPhoto to create simple, elegant newsletters to include with your mailings. (Both are also available on the Mac App Store for $20 and $15 respectively.)

Pages

Although Pages hasn’t received a major update in a few years, it’s an excellent, easy-to-use page-layout program that is loaded with great built-in templates.

Step 1: Choose a template Choose File -> New From Template Chooser; then, when the Template Chooser appears, look to the left column and click Newsletters. You’re then presented with a number of great templates which will serve as a starting point for your own newsletter. I’ll select the first template, called Informal Newsletter, for this example. It’s a family-oriented design that’s easy to customize.

Pages provides dozens of different templates, all of which can be customized.

Step 2: Make it your own You’re free to modify a template as much as you like, but if you’re looking to get a quick start, here are a number of simple tweaks that will help make the template unique.

Change fonts. The simplest way to customize the template is to change the fonts. Double- or triple-click any text block to select all the text. The Format Bar (just below the tool bar) will then show text-specific options, including a pop-up font menu. (If you do not see the format bar, click the View icon at the far left of the tool bar and choose Show Format Bar from the drop down menu.) Choose a font you like from this menu to make the switch, and then repeat this process for other text blocks.

Change colors. Another quick way to give the template a facelift is to change its color scheme. Here’s an example: Click the red background of the Informal Newsletter template. You’ll notice that tiny X’s appear at the corners. This is because the shape is locked; to unlock and change it, choose Arrange -> Unlock. Now head over to the Inspector (View -> Inspector) and click the Graphic inspector tab. At the top, you’ll see Fill. The shape is currently being filled by a tiled graphic, but to keep things simple, let’s change it to a solid color. Choose Color Fill from the topmost pop-up menu and then click the color block at the left. You can then choose any color you like for the background. (Want to change more? The fill or stroke color of any object on the page can be changed by clicking it and returning to graphic section of the Inspector to choose the new look.)

Change graphic attributes. It’s easy to tweak the look of many graphic objects. Let's tackle the lead photo. Click it once to select it, and then return to the graphic section of the Inspector. The only current attribute is a drop shadow, but drop shadows are a bit last-century, so let’s get rid of it by unchecking Shadow. Now give it an outline by choosing Line from the Stroke pop-up menu. Unfortunately, the default line is white and a rather plump 6 points, so let’s tweak that, too. Click the color well to choose a color that complements the background color you chose earlier, and then use the directional arrows to adjust the line weight to 1 point. Lastly, let’s pare back the object’s rounded corners. In the top left you should see a small blue circle; click it and drag it to the left to tone down the corner roundness.

You can quickly make a template your own by changing fonts, colors and other attributes.

Step 3: Add photos. Once you’ve tailored the template you can go about the business of adding content, and this typically starts with photos. Choose Show -> Media Browser to access your photo library or click the Media button in the tool bar. Find a photo you’d like to use and drag it onto one of the placeholder images in the newsletter to replace it. Repeat this process until you’ve filled up the template with your own photos. Want to adjust the placement of a photo within the frame? Click it once and you’ll see a pop-over with a slider that lets you adjust the size of the photo. And if you click Edit Mask, you can then click and drag the photo to reposition it.

After you get the look you want, go ahead and place your own images in the template.

Step 4: Add written content and more pages. The toughest part of this process will likely be adding written content to your newsletter. I can’t help with that part, but I can offer a few tips to help streamline the process:

Keep it short. Too much detail can cause eyes to glaze over. If you’re telling a story, focus on the basics and avoid unnecessary detail. (Save that for a novel!)

Keep it fun. A family newsletter doesn’t have to be a dry retelling of the year’s events. Add in a tasty new recipe, a funny joke, and a snapshot of the kids’ latest artwork. Be entertaining.

Graphic Inspector.png Caption: Attributes such as fill color, stroke color and weight, and drop shadow can be configured in the Graphic Inspector.

In all likelihood, you will need to add at least one additional page to your newsletter. All Pages templates come with a series of secondary template pages, each with its own specialized function (text, text with sidebars, photo collage). To add a new page, click the Pages icon in the top left of the toolbar and choose the template that makes the most sense for your newsletter. And don’t forget to tweak the design to match your first page.

Step 5: Print it! The last step of this process is printing your newsletter. If you’re including it with a greeting card, use a medium weight paper that has some rigidity (to give it some heft) but that isn’t so stiff that it cannot be folded. A 20-24lb paper is probably best.

Alternatively, you can always output the newsletter as a PDF. Choose print, and when the print form slides into view, simply choose Save as PDF from the PDF pop-up menu in the lower left corner. You can then attach your newsletter to email messages or even post it to your website for family and friends to download.

iPhoto

We’ll take a bit of a different approach with iPhoto. Instead of putting together a newsletter to include with your card, we’ll create a newsletter that is a card. First, launch iPhoto, and then do the following.

Step 1: Collect your Photos. First things first—you’ll need a create an album full of photos you’d like to include in your card. Choose File -> New Album, give it a name, and then return to your photo library by clicking Photos in the top left. Now drag and drop the images you’d like to use into the new album.

Step 2: Choose a template. After you’ve collected your photos, you can get to work making the card. Click your new album to select it and then choose File -> New Card. You’re now presented with dozens of card templates. There are three card types across the top of the window: Letterpress, Folded, and Flat; to continue, click Folded. For this example, we’re going to use a gorgeous template called Year in Review, which should be the first template to the right, but if it's not, just click till you find it. Click the Create button to get started.

iPhoto ’11 has dozens of gorgeous card templates, but only a few work well for a yearly newsletter.

Step 3: Tweak the layout. Once the card has been created, you can tweak the layout, add text, and move photos around. Clicking just above the card on either the left or right page will call up the options for that page, and allow you to choose different layouts (in some cases) as well as choose a different trim color. Here’s one way you can mix things up: click just about the left (front) page, and select the layout option in the top right. Now choose a red trim color, to give the card a festive look. Note that the new layout has a space for a text at the bottom, so click the text field and enter an appropriate title, such as “Our Year in Review.”

At the bottom right of the iPhoto window, you’ll see three important icons: Layout, Options, and Photos. Clicking any of these icons will slide open a drawer at the right, giving you access to different functions.

Layout lets you select trim color and alternate layouts (just as you can by clicking at the top of a page), but adds one important option: Horizontal or Vertical. If you’d like your card to have a tall (or portrait) crop, choose Vertical.

Options lets you change the fonts used in the card, as well as apply one of three effects to any photo: Black & White, Sepia, and Antique. (Available options will change depending on what you’ve clicked.)

It’s easy to layout your card in iPhoto—just drag and drop pictures wherever you want!

Photos allows you to quickly reconfigure the photo layout. Simply drag and drop your photos on the card where you want them to appear. Note that a pop-over slider appears each time you drop a photo, allowing you to adjust the size of the photo within the frame. You can also drag the photo around within the frame for a better crop.

Step 4: Add text. One of the most daunting tasks of creating a newsletter is adding written content. I recommend keeping it light-hearted. There’s also very limited space for text with these card layouts, so choose your words carefully. (Unlike a newsletter created with a page layout app, you can’t simply add another page when you run out of room!)

Step 5: Print (or even buy) it. Once you’re happy with your card layout, you have two options. You can order the card directly from Apple by clicking Buy Card, or you can go ahead and print it yourself. Note that all prints include red crop lines so that you know where to trim. If you plan to print of a lot of cards yourself, it might be helpful to have a paper trimmer handy.

This story was updated on 11/26 at 4:30 pm to reflect the current pricing of iPhoto and Pages on the Mac App Store.

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