Now that you've created your Master Page, and have your guides in place, it's time to begin the work of adding your text and graphic content.


As you discovered in the chapter Hands-on, your content will be placed in frames, which might be called boxes in other programs. The name frame comes from the device of that name used in the days of typesetting with lead type, which was a physical wooden frame to hold the type together.

Frames serve as containers for whatever you wish to have on your page, and for the most part one kind of frame can be converted to another, but note that a frame can only have one kind of content. If you convert a text frame to an image frame, the text disappears. If you right-click on a frame to bring up the context menu, from which you will see Convert to, with some choices.

One way of beginning your layout is to create a number of empty frames of various types, sized and positioned for a pleasing appearance. Use the Snap to feature to align them with your guides as needed. Remember, this is set with Page > Snap to Guides.

Colors, gradients, and patterns in frames

Giving a background color to a frame is a simple matter of going to the Properties palette (opened up with Windows > Properties, or pressing F2), then from the Color tab choosing a color from your color palette, making sure the Fill button is selected (the icon looks like a spilling bucket).

The frame itself is a vector object, but for text and image frames the default is for its background and border to have no color. The paintbrush icon denotes the border, also known as stroke.

Aside from using a solid color, you also have the option of creating a gradient for the fill color. Just below the fill and stroke buttons is a drop-down list, where Normal denotes a solid color, then below that you have a list of various gradients. If you choose one of these, the first thing you will see when a color bar appears below the gradient choice is that you still only have a solid color, since you must choose the colors for the gradient you wish to use.

Note that there are two triangle markers below the color bar, and that one of them is red. This is the selected point for the color which is highlighted in your color list. Choose a different color and you should now see a gradient. Click on the other triangle to select it to change its color. You can also slide these triangles nearer to each other.

In addition, you may add more triangles by bringing the mouse cursor up below the color bar and clicking (once) – you should see the cursor change to a + when you are able to make a new triangle. If you want to delete one of these, click-drag it vertically from the color bar. The minimum number of these triangles is two.

As was indicated in the chapter Choosing colors, you may either download or create patterns from various Scribus objects. If you have any patterns, then this will be an additional choice in the drop-down list where you find gradients, after which you can choose a pattern as a background for your frame.

Basic design considerations

Any time you are working, and as of yet have no actual content, you may find this a good time to manipulate a collection of frames for a pleasing result. For example, in a 4-column text layout, you might have an image somewhere spanning 3 columns.

While there certainly are no hard and fast rules to designing layout, and sometimes of course breaking rules can be an intentional aspect, here are some things to consider:

  • Begin with 2 or 3 elements, whether these might be some initial color choices, or objects on the page, then gradually build from there, trying to avoid what we might call a "layout pizza", with way too much of everything on it.
  • Prioritize the information on the page– sometimes literally squinting as you look at the page will show you what immediately stands out visually, and there should be some hierarchy of attracting your attention, but hopefully no more than 3 levels of hierarchy.
  • Since in most Western languages we read from left to right, top to bottom, this is also how we scan a page, so consider this as you arrange various objects. At the same time, contradicting this can heighten the interest and energy in your layout.
  • Typography is the central concern in a textual document, legibility and readability are paramount.
  • Consider white space as more than the absence of content, but an active element in showcasing your text and images. If you wish to strongly separate two areas visually, use lines as separators, but keep in mind that lines can be a barrier to natural eye tracking.
  • Use contrasts to heighten visual interest – light and darker colors, large and small sizes, Serif and Sans serif, full and empty, proximity versus distance, balance and imbalance, shades of gray versus colors. Having a larger white space around some text draws the eye to that text.
  • Keep things simple, and focus on the readability of your document. Use things like patterns and gradients sparingly (if at all), since they may attract more visual attention than they deserve.

Linking text

Now that you have a basic collection of objects, arranged carefully, surely you will continue to refine your layout by adding what is needed and subtracting what is not. There is yet another important task you must know as you build the overall document: linking text, which determines how text connects from one part of a page to another or one page to another.

Scribus will not automatically create a new frame or new page once the current one is overflowing. So you must manually create those pages and frames, then use the linking tool. If you hover your mouse over the toolbar you will eventually get to the linking icon. From the main menu, there is also Item > Link Text Frames.


Once you see that you have overflowing text (indicated by a small box with an X in the lower right corner of the frame), you should ensure you have another frame to link to.

  1. Select the frame which is overflowing.
  2. Click the Link Text Frames icon.
  3. Click the frame to which to want text to flow.
  4. If you wish to link to a third (or more) frame, you must click the icon again, then the next frame in the linkage.
  5. If you need to unlink a frame, there is an Unlink Text Frames icon next to the one for linking. It will only be selectable when you have an already linked frame selected. Select the last frame which you wish to remain in the linkage, click the unlink icon, then then next frame, and linkage will be broken at that point.

Note that you can create linkages between frames even before there is text content. Also, if you have selected Automatic Text Frames when you created your document, whenever you add a new page, it will contain a frame which is already linked to the previous page.

In case you wish to view all of your text frame linkages, select View > Show Text Chain from the menu.

Sample text

There are times when you wish to capture in some rough way the visual impact of the combination of text and other elements, or perhaps help to choose an appropriate font with its settings. This is where sample text, sometimes called lorem ipsum, can be used.

Lorem ipsum refers to the most famous, perhaps original version of this, and goes something like this: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Ut a sapien. Aliquam aliquet purus molestie dolor. Integer quis eros..., which doesn't translate from Latin to anything since it's a jumbled up mixture of words. Nonetheless, it has a sentence-like structure, is divided into paragraphs, and contains a mixture of various words, both small and large.

To use sample text, select a frame, then from the menu, Insert > Sample Text (also obtainable from the context menu). From the dialog that appears you can choose the language you wish, and the number of paragraphs of text.

Typographic color

Typographic color, also perhaps referred to as typographical gray, is the perception one has of the degree of darkness or overall color impression of a block of text, which comes not only from the typeface and its weight, but also the white space between letters, words, and lines. This is also affected by the whiteness or the color of the paper on which the text is printed.

This is a very important consideration in your layout, since it is immediately seen by the reader before the actual text content is understood.

Factors which influence the tonal value are the specific font, its subset, weight, the linespacing (or leading), line breaks, kerning, and justification. It may be easier to appreciate the tonal value by squinting to make the text indistinct so that you are left with the overall gray sense of a block of text. You may also notice a non-homogeneity, if some areas are darker, some lighter.

Typography will be discussed further in its own chapter in the section Produce.

The image below shows the same text in 11 pt Liberation Sans with progressive linespacing of 3, 6, 9, 12, and 15 pts. Immediately you see the change from a very overall black appearance to light gray. This example shows only one of the parameters which can influence the tonal value, yet in a quite obvious way.

Stacking objects (levels and layers)

A final and important thing to discuss here is the arrangement of your various objects, not just in an X, Y space referring to there placement on the two-dimensional page, but also in a third Z axis, regarding which objects are on top or underneath other objects. This is especially important when two objects might be overlapping – one must be on top of the other.

In Scribus this is called the Level, and can be adjusted by right-clicking for the context menu, then under Level, choosing to raise or lower the object. Here you only know the relative movement you have selected, but in the X, Y, Z tab of Properties, where you can also make these changes, you will also see what level the object is on, 1 being the lowest. Note that each object has its own unique level.

Any time you add a new object, it will be placed above all other content, creating a new level.

For more complex documents you may wish to go further and create a new Layer, which will be another set of levels, separate from your original. Within a layer, you will have the typical arrangment of levels, one on another, but the entire layer will either be above or below some other layer.

Your default document will only have one layer, called Background. Bring up the layers dialog with Windows > Layers (keyboard shortcut: F6). At the bottom of the dialog, see the '+', to click to create a new layer, which you should give a meaningful name to. By default it will be created above the Background, but can be moved below it if you wish, by clicking the down arrow icon.

Some additional important features:

  • You may only edit on one layer at a time, the one which is highlighted. This is a very useful feature, to keep from accidentally changing or moving objects. Furthermore, you can lock an entire layer, so that it cannot be edited even if selected.
  • You can delete any layer except for the Background.
  • You can rename any layer, including the Background layer.
  • You can make a copy of a layer (with all its objects).
  • You can choose to make an entire layer invisible, and independently not print (or export to PDF).
  • You may choose to have all text on a layer flow around any objects on layers above it.
  • Finally, you can represent all objects on a layer in a simple "wireframe" appearance for faster screen updates – this only affects display.
  • You can easily move an object from one layer to another, by way of the context menu.

There is also a drop-down list for the blending mode, Normal being a separate representation of each object on a layer. Experimentation will show how these various setting affect the appearance.

In the upper right corner of the dialog you can set the Opacity or transparency of objects on that particular layer.

As you may imagine, using layers is a very powerful tool in creating and manipulating your layout.