17 Ways to Customize a Presentation Folder Design

Vladimir Gendelman has been designing inspirational presentation folders for business clients for nearly a decade and offers a plethora of unique cuts at his online folder emporium, CompanyFolders. He is a master of clever printing techniques and this is a guest blog post on the many ways to customize a presentation folder design.

Enter Vladimir

There’s a common misconception that designing for digital media is no different from designing for print media, and that knowing how to design graphics for a website is basically the same as creating a presentation folder. While it’s true that the basic tenets of design are universal no matter the medium, there are still special considerations you need to take into account when designing for print – mainly due to the fact that you are creating a physical object.

That means not only do your presentation folder designs have to look good, they have to create a sensory experience when they’re physically touched. Folder designs also need to be functional so that people can properly interact with it. Since there are many things you can accomplish with print that you can’t accomplish on a computer screen, there are more possibilities available to you when customizing a presentation folder.

1. Custom die-cut pockets and panels

Custom die-cuts let you alter the entire shape of the folder, essentially changing the canvas to your liking, so to speak. Not only are unique die-cut designs fun to look at and interact with, they let you fully customize the folder design to match the contents inside or establish a brand identity.

The texture of printed materials is very important and custom die cutting gives you the tools to manipulate the way your folder feels. In a pile of papers and other printed materials, you can always find the one that has a custom die-cut design using touch alone.

There are a variety of interesting design ideas to apply to your custom die cuts. For example, the folder panels and pockets can be shaped to highlight a strong design element, such as a logo. If you’re looking for something a little more playful, use die cuts shapes that have relevance to your brand identity, such as a car-shaped pocket for an auto dealer.

2. Media slits

Die cut media slits give you the ability to easily display and store business cards, brochures, CDs and other items directly on top of the pocket, instead of inside the pocket itself. This not only ensures that these media items will be out in the open for people to see, but that they won’t be lost in the shuffle.

Many printers include shaped media slits as a standard feature on their folder templates. However, these are usually just your standard tab or corner-style slits. With custom die-cuts, your business card slits can be cut into any reasonable size or shape. Find more information on slits here.

3. Die-cut windows

Since folders open like a book, we naturally think of the front panel as the “cover” while the inside panels are the “content.” A die-cut window can allow you to display this content directly from the cover by offering a sneak peek of what’s inside. This tantalizes people and makes them eager to flip open the folder to see what lies within.

Die cut windows can be any shape, allowing you to conform to the shape of the design element you want to highlight. Alternatively, you can let the window itself be the design – cutting a design into the front and having a color or pattern behind it.

4. Stock thickness

Stock thickness or weight can affect the way your audience perceives your design, even if it’s not directly part of the design itself. You know how cheap items can feel flimsy and poorly made? It’s the same thing for stock thickness. Thicker, heavier stock has a higher quality feel, reflecting well on both your design and the brand it represents, but thinner stock has the opposite effect.

5. Stock texture

Stocks come in a variety of texture – even some that mimic other materials, such as vellum and linen. These textures make your folder have a unique feel, but they can alter the look of your printed designs, so using them can limit your options.

On the other hand, uniquely textured stock leaves a lasting impression on your audience because it feels new and unfamiliar, which creates a stronger sense memory. Textured stock is also a good option for embossing, which adds even more touch sensation to your design. There’s more than a few great stock options available for presentation folders, here are some examples.

6. Stock color

Stocks come in a variety of colors, but the color of your stock can alter the appearance of your printed elements. Some designers embrace this quality and use colored stock to play with different color combinations, creating new effects when the ink is applied to the colored stock. It’s also possible to print on colored stock by using a layer of white ink first; but there will still be some loss of color quality.

Designers usually print a colored background instead of relying on colored stock, but colored stock has an advantage in the fact that the color goes all the way through the paper. If you use white stock to print a colored background, that white stock will be visible along the edge of every cut.

7. Embossing

The embossing process creates a textured impression on the stock that is raised off the page, just like the seal on an official document. Embossed elements are as irresistible as bubble wrap – they practically beg to be touched. Think of embossing as bait you can use to ensure that the audience makes a tactile connection to your design.

Embossing is the most compatible design option because it can be combined with nearly any other imprint method to create distinctive raised design elements. You can make printed pictures pop off the page or create the illusion of real metal by combining it with foil stamping. Blind embossing is when you use embossing alone to create your design, which gives your folder an elegant, sophisticated look.

8. Debossing

Debossing is like the identical twin cousin of embossing – it’s the same process, but in reverse. Instead of the imprint popping out at you, it’s depressed directly into the page. This creates a similar effect to embossing, but debossing has a unique quality that sort of pulls the audience into the design itself. For maximum variety in texture, use a combination of both techniques.

9. Metallic foil stamping

Metallic foil is a reflective material that mimics the appearance of metal. Metallic foil stamping is often paired with dark stock or colored stock to make the foil really stand out. This technique used by itself can be subtle and elegent, or you can go for big bold designs by pairing it with other imprint methods.

Since the foil is a different material than the stock, it adds a smooth texture to your folder. When combined with embossing, the two effects create a realistic metallic look that also feels somewhat like metal that’s been affixed to the page.

10. Non-metallic foil stamping

Non-metallic foil stamping uses the same process and provides a lot of the same benefits as metallic foil, such as a compatibility with colored stocks and embossed designs. There are several different types of non-metallic foils, such as colored foils that resemble vinyl or special effect foils that have holographic or three-dimensional properties.

11. Metallic ink

Metallic ink represents the middle ground between printing in ink and using metallic foil. The shiny effect comes from actual metal shavings mixed into the ink. This creates a subtle effect that is less flashy and a bit more diverse than metallic foil.

Metallic ink still acts primarily like normal ink, so you’re able to create more detailed imagery than what’s available to you with foil stamping. It’s also better for small details, since it doesn’t require adhesion like foil. This technique is capable of producing a greater variety of tones since it can be applied in multiple layers.

12. Textured coatings

Coating not only adds protection to your folder, it can add texture to your design. Aqueous coating comes in a wide variety of styles and will protect against weathering, bleaching and general wear and tear.

Laminate and matte coatings are both smooth, but laminate also has a shiny effect while matte is static. Soft-touch coating creates a feeling that is reminiscent of velvet, which guarantees a tactile connection with your media. Vinyl coating has a texture like satin, which is silky and pleasing to the touch.

13. UV coatings

UV coating helps make your colored print designs look brighter and pop off the page, especially designs that use color photography. In fact, it’s best to think of UV coating like the coating of a glossy photograph – it offers some minimal protection for the folder, but is only available in a smooth texture. Therefore, UV coating is more about making your design look its best instead of getting the audience to interact with the folder.

14. Spot coating

Different coatings can be applied to the same design, allowing you to create textural variety in your folder. You could choose to make your logo or other important design element in a highly-textural coating while making the rest of your folder smooth. The audience’s fingers will gravitate towards the different texture, creating a stronger connection to that element.

15. Spot printing

There are two standard ink printing options for folders, 4-color process and PMS ink. 4-color process is similar to what your computer printer uses – it creates colors from cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) tones. Meanwhile, PMS inks are pre-mixed, which ensures that the colors are always accurate.

4-color process is usually the standard for designs that use more than two or three colors. However, much like spot coating, you can also spot print with PMS ink, letting you have a larger variety of colors to work with than what’s normally available with just 4-color process. This lets you correct color inaccuracies, use precise branding colors or add metallic ink effects to any 4-color design. Check out these tips for designing for 4CP.

16. Spine attachments

Custom spine attachments let you utilize your folder like the cover to a book. These can be used to bind your materials into the folder itself instead of using pockets. You can also opt to use the spine to attach additional materials such as a stitched brochure. Attachments not only make your information more easily accessible, they put it front and center and make it the star of the folder’s interior.

17. Folder accessories

A presentation folder is a great tool for making an impact, but it can only do so much on its own. You require additional folder accessories to create a full presentation packet and it’s best to design all of these contents at once to establish a consistent brand image. Likewise, having one printer who can create all of your materials at once lets you save time and money. At CompanyFolders, we carry six accessories to choose from.

The most popular accessory is folder inserts, which help you create an attractive package by displaying your leading points on stacked, cascading information pages. These not only look nice, they make it easier for recipients to find what they’re looking for.

If you plan mailing your folder, pair it with a portfolio sleeve. These are specially designed for folders and can be created using many of the same special print options available for folders, allowing you to maintain a consistent design scheme.


Your best bet for an alluring presentation folder is to have a strong relationship with your printer. They can tell you what type of special options are available and how to best use them to make your folder design truly unique.

Do you have any question on designing presentation folders? Is there something you need more information about? Let us know in the comments!


Written by CrazyLeaf Editorial

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