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Making Good Layout With Google Docs

Some mid-morning spice: You CAN create a satisfying layout for your game using Google Docs.

First option: Templates! Google Docs has a variety of templates that you can use to get things off to a good start. The “Education” section of templates is probably the best place to look for templates that can work for your needs.

If you don’t find a template you like, you can quickly build your own. To begin, create a blank document.

Cool! A blank, empty white page. This is good for drafting, for blotting ideas onto the page, for writing raw text. But we want it to look “good”, right? (I could write a whole thing about how “good” is subjective, but what it comes down to is YOU want to be happy with it.)

The first thing I would do: from the menu, select File > Page Setup. This window lets you mess with the margins (1" is probably going to be too big, experiment until you find margins that feel good to you). But the piece I want to show you is Page Color.

Pick a color. Aim for Very Dark, or Very Light. Colors in the mid-range will make it hard to set up your text to be readable. I’m going to pick Almost Black.

This looks slick, but you might have noticed a problem already: our text cursor is barely visible, and if we start typing, the text is hard to read. Luckily, we can change the text color!

I try to avoid Pure White and Pure Black, both for text and for page color.

And this is great, but if we have to change the color every time we start a new paragraph we’re going to have problems. Let’s go ahead and make this off-white text color part of the template’s Normal style.

The great thing about this is that a lot of the blank template’s text styles are derived directly from Normal. If we add some headings and a title, we can see the beginnings of our template.

We’re going to want to change the Subtitle and Heading 3 text color as well. Go ahead and do that now.

This is also a great time to look at…fonts! Google Docs has a big library of free, web-safe fonts you can use. I’m not going to tell you which ones to use. Explore!

Damn that’s spiffy. But we want our top-level headings to really pop, we don’t want them to get lost in a mass of text. For that, we’ll want to add a border. Play around with this until it looks good to you, then update your Heading 1 style.

(Here’s a quick design tip: Whatever your Heading 1 style’s font is, make sure that every other Heading style uses the same font, just make the size smaller. No heading style should have a font size that is smaller than the Normal style.)

And that’s…pretty much it. You can add page numbers from the Insert > Header & Page Number menu, as well as add your name (or any other boilerplate text) to the header or footer of every page by double-clicking the top or bottom margin.

You can even add a border to your header/footer, just like you did with your Heading 1.

And now that you’ve set up your template, you can start drafting directly inside this document, or you can paste your existing text into it and apply the styles accordingly.

Need a two-column layout? You can do that too.

Adding images is possible too, though it’s harder to make them look good. But hopefully this helps demystify layout as A Thing You Need To Master.

As much as I enjoy taking commissions (and DM me if you have a project you’d like to hire me for, as always), a lot of you probably don’t need to hire this work out, especially for smaller projects that you’re putting up for Free/PWYW.

Just to put a little button on this:

Hiring a layout artist is still worthwhile, if you have a budget and you don’t have the tools or the patience to move your project to the next stage. That work is valuable. But you don’t HAVE to have it.