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InDesign Tips I Wish I’d Known When Starting Out

I love Adobe InDesign. For multi-page documents, it’s the most flexible and complete application out there. Yet I remember how counter-intuitive some things were when I was learning it for the first time. Here are some tips I wish I had known when starting out, as well as some answers to questions that others often ask me.

This is not intended to be a manual; some good ones are already out there (although I personally learned by doing). Hopefully, these tips will help you make the best of your day-to-day use of InDesign.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

Margins And Bleeds Link

If you are preparing a document for print, keep your margins and bleeds in mind from the beginning. Your printer will give you the measurements for the bleed, but generally 1/8 inch or 3 mm should suffice. Approximately the same area within the document should be kept free of text and important graphic elements (such as the logo). Set up your document for bleed in InDesign as you create it by selecting the correct settings in the document set-up box.


Master Pages Link

When you have a multiple-page document, such as a brochure or catalog, using master pages will save you time. Master pages are used to automatically insert layout elements on various pages. All elements of the master page are placed onto any page you choose, and these are by default not selectable, which allows you to further develop the page without worrying about accidentally modifying the pre-defined elements (such as page numbers, grids and guides, and graphic elements).

To set them up, bring up the Pages palette and double-click on “A-Master.”

indesign tips5

Add all of the elements that are repeated throughout most of your document: guides, page numbers, a running text box, image frames, graphic elements, etc. You can have more than one set of master pages in a document, which is particularly useful for brochures, whose content often varies (for example, with a mostly textual introduction followed by image-heavy pages).

To apply your master page to new pages, simply drag it from the Master Pages pane onto the Pages pane in the palette. If you’ve already started working on layout elements but forgot to make a master page, you can turn any page into a master page. Just drag it from the Pages pane to the Master Pages pane.

And yes, you can modify master page elements on a particular page if you need to. Triple-click on the element — that is, click on it while holding down Shift +Command (on a Mac) or Shift + Control (Windows). Now you can select and edit it on the page you are working on while leaving it unchanged on all other pages.

Frames Link

InDesign places your content in frames. This goes for both text and images as well as databases and interactive content.

There are two types of frames: text and image.


The text frame is fairly self-explanatory. After creating the shape for a text frame (typically a rectangle, but it could be a circle or a custom shape drawn with the Pen tool), you have two options: either type directly in the frame or import content from another document. To import, go to the File menu and choose Place (or use the shortcut: Command + D on a Mac and Control + D on Windows).

Image frames work in a similar way. After creating an image frame (either by selecting one of the default shapes or drawing one yourself), you can fill it with color or place an image from your computer inside it. Again, this is done by going to FilePlace (or using the shortcut).

Another way to import images and text is to simply drag them onto the document (from Mac’s Finder or Windows Explorer). This will automatically create an image or text frame, import the content and create a link to that file. If you drag content on top of an existing frame, it will replace the existing content but leave the size and cropping intact.

Resizing Content in a Frame Link

The set of shortcuts for fitting an image to a frame is also useful, and with it you can easily adapt content the way you want. To keep the frame the same size and fit the content proportionally, press Command + Option + Shift + E. (Note that if the image and frame have different proportions, then some white space will be left.)

To fill the frame proportionally, use Command + Option + Shift + C. (If the image and frame have different proportions, then the image will be resized and end up larger than the frame, being cropped the edges.)

To center the content in the frame, use Command + Shift + E. And if you want the image to stay the same and resize the frame instead, then fit the frame to the content with Command + Option + C.

Selecting Frames Link

Selecting the top frame is easy, but if a lot of frames are overlapping or one is on top of the other, you can cycle through them by holding Command on Mac and Control on Windows and then clicking on the frames to select the lower one. Keep clicking to cycle through them if you have several frames.

Image Formats Link

InDesign can import many image formats (including JPEG, PNG, EPS, PICT, PDF, PSD and TIFF). If you are preparing a file for print, make sure the images are in an acceptable format. If you’re using a file format that allows for low-resolution settings, such as JPEG, check that the images have a resolution of 300 pixels per inch (PPI) and are saved in CMYK color mode.

Place images at no higher than 100% of their size. That is, if your original image is 3 × 5 inches, don’t blow it up to 12 × 20, because the results would be obviously pixelated.

To be on the safe side, avoid JPEG altogether, and stick with formats that are intended for print, such as EPS and TIFF.

Importing PSD Files Link

The PSD image format deserves special mention. Being able to import PSD files into InDesign is extremely useful when working with elaborate graphics that have transparent or semi-transparent elements, especially if they are to be placed over colored backgrounds or textures. Another useful feature is the ability to turn the layers in a PSD file on and off directly in InDesign (i.e. without having to open Photoshop).

PSDs take up significant memory, which can sometime cause problems when exporting as PDF. I would recommend avoiding PSD files for simple images that could just as easily be flattened when saved as TIFF or EPS. But in cases where using a PSD file really solves a problem, make sure it is 300 PPI and in CMYK color mode, and keep it at its actual size. And when exporting to PDF, double-check that the transparency flattening is set to high.

Transparency Flattening Presets Link

You can create custom transparency settings by going to EditTransparency Flattener Presets:


In most cases, the “High Resolution” setting will suffice. You can make sure this preset is used when exporting to PDF by going to FileExport, selecting PDF and then clicking on the “Advanced” tab. You can now set the “Transparency Flattener” option to “High Resolution” by default.


Should You Copy And Paste? Link

One feature of the Adobe Creative Suite is the ability to copy and paste between its applications. But just because you can do this doesn’t mean you should. Vector files should still be created in Illustrator, and raster images should be saved in Photoshop. Not only will you be able to maintain control of these elements, but you’ll be saved from having to update every single occurrence of a given element in multi-page documents. Keep a given graphic in a separate Illustrator or Photoshop file, and you’ll be able to update all occurrences of it with one click.

Every image in an InDesign document can be viewed from the Links palette. Bring it up by going to WindowLinks or by pressing Command/Control + Shift + D.


You can update placed images or check their locations directly from the Links palette. To bring up the Links menu, select the name of the image and click on the arrow to the right.


Working With Color Link

InDesign is set up exactly like Illustrator in terms of using colors. You have the option of working with color sliders directly, and in either RGB or CMYK mode (remember to use CMYK if creating a document for print!). Press F5 to bring up the Color palette, and adjust the CMYK values in the sliders to change the color of the fill or stroke.


You could also select a color from the Swatches palette or add a new swatch. Bring up the Swatches palette by pressing F6. Saving a color as a swatch makes sense if you use it frequently. Alternatively, you could import swatches that you’ve already created in Illustrator or Photoshop.


You can also select spot colors from existing libraries, such as Pantone’s. But keep this in mind: if the document will be printed in CMYK only, without using Pantone colors, then you’re better off converting the colors to CMYK so that you get an accurate preview of the result.

Use The Right Black Link

There seems to be some confusion about the use of rich black, which is made up of all CMYK colors (for example, 40, 40, 30, 100). Rich black is excellent for large areas of black, such as logos and black backgrounds. It prevents fading (to a dull gray), which is especially useful for outdoor posters and flyers.

However, body text should always be in process black (i.e. 100% K) to avoid trapping problems. For the same reason, registration black (which is composed of 100% CMYK) should never be used for body text or thin lines.

Paragraph and Character Styles Link

The ability to create custom paragraph and character styles is an excellent time-saving feature. This pane is visible in the work area by default, and if you’ve hidden it for some reason, you can bring it up by pressing Command/Control + F11. You can create styles exactly to your liking using many options; and then you can apply them to a portion of text with just one click.


Character styles work in a similar way, but they don’t have to be separated by the paragraph indents. This is very useful for highlighting words and phrases in a paragraph. You can even embed a character style in a paragraph and then define variables to apply it to certain words or before certain characters.

Special Characters Link

Special characters — an apparently underused InDesign feature — include things like date, page numbers and the “page 1 of (x)” format. Special characters free you from having to insert this data by hand (or having to modify it by hand whenever significant changes are in order).

In small documents, minor changes are not a major undertaking, but imagine working on a 164-page catalog or a 200-page book. Manually changing all of the page numbers would be a big hassle (trust me: I know from personal experience). To insert special characters, go to the Edit menu.


Alternatively, simply right-click on active text to bring up the menu. Explore the options; you can insert a variety of symbols, dashes, spaces and indents through this menu, including the very useful “Indent to here.”

Glyphs Link

These are worth mentioning. With them, you can explore all of the characters in a font, which is handy when you’re looking for a particular symbol or working in a language that has accented characters.


Use Find/Change Link

Another extremely useful feature for text-heavy documents is Find/Change. I don’t know about you, but in my experience, the longer the text, the greater the chance that the client will ask me to replace all occurrences of a certain phrase or title. When you have a fully laid-out 192-page book with footnotes, glossary and index, the task of manually replacing phrases is rather daunting.

In such cases, smart use of Find/Change comes to the rescue. You can find it under the Edit menu or press Command/Control + F. If it’s an unusual phrase or title, this is fairly easy: type the original phrase and the new one, and hit “Replace all.” There are advanced options to replace hyphens, em dashes and quotation marks as well.


If it’s something complex, such as a word that has to be changed only in titles, you can use the advanced options to isolate some distinguishing feature. For example, if the titles are in a different font than the body text, you can use that. Use the font options in the “Find format” box.

You could include things like empty spaces and paragraph breaks in your search if you know, for example, that the word that has to change is followed by a space. Insert these special characters by clicking the “@” arrow to the right of the Find box, or search for a particular glyph by going to the Glyph tab. Replacing glyphs one by one might be best, so that you can monitor your work and progress.

You can even search for objects by using specific formatting options. For example, if all of your frames have a black stroke, and would like to remove the stroke, you can do so by selecting the appropriate options in the Object tab of the Find/Change box.

Of course, if you use Object Styles, which work like Paragraph Styles, then you don’t need this feature. Still, it’s the fastest way to do it if you’ve forgotten to save the style, or if you’re working on a document created by someone else or if you want to change one detail that’s common to several different saved styles.


Toggle The Preview Link

Instead of hiding all the guides, you can hit the W key (make sure the text tool isn’t active) to quickly toggle between the document view and the working (or “Normal”) view, which has all of the margins, guides and outlines. I frequently use it for composition checks, because guides tend to distract from the big picture.

Data Import Feature Link

Few people think this feature is handy. Yet many of us frequently work with tables given to us by clients. The one I run into most often is the Excel spreadsheet of price listings and item features, which I have to make presentable for a catalog or sales collateral. Many designers recreate these tables from scratch to make them clean and attractive, but this can be time-consuming, especially with large tables.

There is a better way. InDesign has an “Import table” feature. You can import the client’s table from Excel and style it however you want. Use the “Place file” option in the File menu (or Command/Control + D), select “Show import options,” and you’ll be able to define the cells to import on the next screen and then style them as a group.


Learn By Doing Link

Theory is great, and articles like this one can give you quick useful tips, but the best way to learn is by practice. If you are new to InDesign, try this: use an existing layout as a guide (anything you want: a page from a magazine, a poster or a business card), and try to recreate it from scratch. Familiarize yourself with the tools, menus and options. If you get stuck, you can always search for tips and tutorials or ask a friend.

Adobe InDesign is a versatile application, and there is always something new to learn. Have fun exploring it!

Want To Know More? Link

Here are a few articles that go into more detail on some of the topics we just covered:


Footnotes Link

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In addition to Italian, Russian and Dutch, Lisa speaks fluent Advertising and Design, and is happy to translate any concepts and terms into plain English. Lisa is on a mission to reduce the amount of ordinary, mediocre communication and marketing materials. And -- why not? -- to make the world a happier place. One beautiful communication piece at a time. Lisa has 10+ years of design and advertising experience, both in Europe and the US. In her free time, she rescues puppies, grows her own tomatoes, dances, and hangs out on Twitter.

  1. 1

    I love Indesign, thanks for the article.

  2. 2

    el gato de alien

    March 17, 2011 2:38 am

    I’m just starting out with InDesign and this article seems to be very helpful. Thanks Lisa.

  3. 3

    Thank you, this is an incredible piece for any beginner or just ID user!

  4. 4

    Clarence Johnson

    March 17, 2011 3:06 am

    Thank you for this … great read.

  5. 5

    Great list! Here are a few additional things that I think might trip up novices/might be helpful to know:

    1) Preferences: In InDesign, setting preferences requires that you DON’T have a document open. If you do, your changes will only affect the current document. If you create a new one or open another, they will be back to where they were. One instance where this comes up a lot is changing your measurement units. If you change them with a document open, you’ll go insane wondering why InDesign resets them all the time (by the way, you can change them quickly by right-clicking the rulers).

    To permanently change preferences, close all open documents, then change the settings you want. This is not limited to regular preferences, you can also change the swatches (delete the default RGBCMY swatches and replace them with your own for instance), margins & columns settings etc.

    2) InDesign still does not color manage grayscale image AT ALL. If you place a grayscale image, InDesign will render the pixel values in your files roughly as if they were sRGB luminance data. Or at least similar. Never trust InDesign’s preview of grayscale images. Never. You can check them in Photoshop, or you can export a PDF of your InDesign document and then softproof that in Acrobat.

    3) Don’t use the color picker dialog box you get when double clicking the color pot in the toolbar. It tends to mess up your color values. Use the color panel, or double click a swatch in the swatches panel.

    4) Don’t be alarmed when the PDFs you export from InDesign have white lines going through them when viewed in Acrobat. As long as they don’t get thicker when you zoom in, they are a rendering error caused by InDesign splitting images into multiple chunks (happens for a variety of reasons, such as transparency flattening etc).

    5) Make sure non-closed paths with dotted line styles don’t have a fill assigned, otherwise you’ll get a continuous line that runs through them.

    6) In the flyout menu of the Transform panel, there is a setting that determines whether you stroke is scaled when your objects are scaled. If you want, say, consistent 0.2 pt contours around all your images for instance, turn that off or the stroke width will change every time you scale an image up or down.

    7) The input fields can all do simple math. For instance, you can create a guide on an A4 page, the enter “297mm/2” into the y position field, and it’s going to be at the exact center of your page.

    8) If you use the right indent tab (Type > Insert special character > Other > Right Indent Tab), and you want to assign a leader for it (like a dot pattern for a TOC), you can’t do it the regular way because the right indent tab won’t show up as a regular tabstop in the Tabs panel. Hower, you can simply create a regular tabstop beyond your right column edge and assign a leader to that, and the right indent tab will use that leader.

    9) Adobe InCopy ( is an awesome companion tool you should at least know about. You can use the equally awesome and free Dropbox ( to collaborate on smaller InDesign/InCopy projects.

    Hope that was helpful to some of you. I wish I had known this stuff a lot earlier instead of having to figure it all out for myself …

    • 6

      Alvaro Carrilho (Lisbon-Portugal)

      March 17, 2011 2:33 pm

      Peter, you’re in the top shelf. You gave me a good reason to explore incopy with dropbox. Thks, ThksLisa & Thks Smashing

    • 7

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      March 19, 2011 1:47 pm

      Peter, thank you! That is an excellent list. You should write the follow up article for intermediates. :)

  6. 8

    There’s some inaccurate, or at least misleading information in this article in regards to print production. The most glaring is the recommendation to create files destined for print at 300ppi. The rule of thumb would be to create files that are between 2 – 2.5 times the halftone screen frequency. The output method designates what the halftone screen frequency will be so ask the company printing the document for that info. Anything less will very well produce haggles

  7. 9

    This is an excellent article and wish I knew starting out too. I figured most of this out the hard way.

  8. 10

    This is really fresh and helpful, thank you for sharing, learned something new to me.

  9. 11

    Nice article, thanks :)

    Should also note that Paragraph styles are invaluable when you come to adding a table of contents (or contents page) to a document. Being able to automate and then easily update it by specifying which paragraph styles to include is a huge time saver!



    • 12

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      March 19, 2011 1:45 pm

      Thanks for that addition, Doug! Yes, for long documents that’s a must!
      I tried to keep this one to the very basics, as it was meant for beginners, but excellent tip for a follow-up.

  10. 13

    Nice article for a beginner – although these are mostly things that any designer creating work for print should be doing, regardless of what programme they use, although InDesign definitely does it best.

    The three things that I wish I had known when I started using InDesign, and that I think should be included in the above, are:

    1) Grids and the ability to align text to a grid.

    2) Automatic page numbering! When you’re designing a 100+ page document, this comes in reeeeally handy!!

    3) Preflight Panel – the ability to create a print profile (eg. 300dpi CMYK) that will preflight your document as you are working on it. Saves you a lot of time and headaches.

    • 14

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      March 19, 2011 2:01 pm

      Thanks Alice! Many of those things were the most commonly asked questions/common issues in a few studios I worked for as they switched to InDesign. (Auto page numbering is mentioned in the article.)

  11. 15

    (I just tried posting off an iPhone and had it crash in the middle of my comment, so here goes again)

    There’s some inaccuracies to what’s suggested for outputting for print. The two most notable are the suggestions to output at 300ppi and the suggestions to converting files to CMYK.

    The rule of thumb for print production is that your images be between 2 – 2.5 times the halftone screen frequency of the output (LPI). The halftone screen frequency is dictated by the hardware used for the RIP, which means this number is available by asking he production house running the job. Anything less than that may result in jaggies and anything more is a waste of file size that will slow down the RIP or often times crash it. Printers generally, push for the lowest number that looks decent because it makes the pressman’s job far easier when he’s making ready and dialing in color, which means less time = cheaper costs. Fact is that the higher the LPI, the closer the job looks to a continuous tone image, as the dots in teh halftone become harder to see.

    The second inaccuracy has to do with converting files to CMYK. This used to be the case many moons ago, but once digital workflows took over and everything converted to PDF output the rules are now that you leave files in RGB and do a one time conversion across the entire document. RGB has a wider color gamut than CMYK, which means more color information. Therefore you always edit images in RBG. Generally you would create a custom profile per image so that the color space conversion kept the integrity of the color as true as possible and you’d save a version of the file in each color space in case you had to re-edit. These days it’s generally that you’ll edit your RGB images to what they need to be (Photoshop allows you to see CMYK data without the change in color space so you can easily dial in densities and color value) and then import the RGB versions into inDesign. Once converting to PDF you’ll create a custom color profile and do a document wide conversion to CMYK. This saves a ton of time and disk space and generally how it’s done.

    Granted these have less to do with inDesign than basic production workflow, but since the author brought it up, I figured I should interject. In any case, most of the other info is helpful.

    Good read.

    • 16

      Interesting… never heard this before. Although since it literally takes less than a second to convert to CMYK in Photoshop, why wouldn’t you switch to CMYK just so you can see how everything will look? I would rather check every file individually (because there are big variations between RGB and CMYK – especially when dealing with neon bright colours) and be happy with it in detail, rather than just letting my PDF output sweep over it with a big colour-flattening hand.

      I also 300dpi is a perfectly good rule of thumb. Why over-complicate things? I have worked for printing companies since I was 17 and have never had any problems at 300dpi or above… unless you are making fine art prints or something then I think (for general print, brochures, magazines etc) 300dpi is fine.

      • 17

        You can check how everything looks by using the Proof Colors command in Photoshop’s view menu. No need to convert back and forth between RGB and CMYK, you can toggle the preview on and off, and you can also use something called gamut warning, which will show you which colors can’t be represented in your CMYK color space. Just make sure you selected the correct CMYK color profile in the proof settings and if you’re using the “Working CMYK”, also in your color management settings.
        Since somewhere around CS4 you can even choose color blindness profiles in addition to CMYK profiles to check how color blind people will see your images.

        InDesign also has a proof option that even allows you to see what will end up on the individual plates, which is extremely useful if you want to check if graphics are separated correctly (i.e. black text should end up only on the black plate and nowhere else etc.), and you can also keep an eye on your ink limit (a function Photoshop still lacks), which may be critical if you have something that is set to overprint or sometimes even if you using one of the transparency blend modes.

        If precise control over the CMYK image is needed, I still do it the old way, i.e. converting every image to CMYK in Photoshop and then importing it into InDesign. That way you can control the rendering intent for the conversion of each image, and you can use tools like Selective Color to tweak the CMYK values directly if need be. But be careful when manipulating CMYK images directly, you may excceed your ink limit and stuff like that if you don’t know exactly what you are doing.

        • 18

          Building off Peter’s comment, you also need to remember we’re discussing long documents. As such you’re almost always dealing with signatures and therefore impositioning. As such you have color contamination to deal with (ie: heavy density in a channel at the head of a sheet infecting the color at the tail of the sheet). Even if you dial in the color perfectly on screen, besides adjusting for the fact that a display simply cannot reproduce color the same way as a printed sheet (additive vs subtractive color), you contend with contamination, the color & brightness of the stock itself (brighter paper pops color), the affect of the finish applied if any (gloss coats pop color vs dull coats flattening color), and probably most substantial (beyond the affect of impositioning) is the finish on the stock itself and any subsequent dot gain resulting from the hardness of a stocks surface coating that also plays into the density of a channel (which you can view values for in Photoshop, but is not really possible to view in a reactive manner on screen)

      • 19

        True you can convert to CMYK in a second, but generally ICC profiles are very carefully considered so that the outcome can be predicted. When you get to color critical print production, it would be blasphemous to go with some stock profile and hope the color space converts to what you want. Also, often times keeping color consistent takes precedent to color accuracy, or at least is super important. Let’s say you have a book with 5000 images… testing each one would be a monumental effort when in a modern workflow, you might have a body of shots where you can calibrate the first, apply the settings across the board and then fine tune them if needed. Create a single, well considered profile and convert all your assets. That’s the beauty of apps like LightRoom and colorcards and one of the strengths of PDF outputs.

        300dpi is not a good rule of thumb. Most work I print (books) are printed at 200LPI and even sometimes at 400LPI. 300dpi would not allow for good reproduction at that line screen. Likewise, plenty of printing is still done at 133LPI which means conceivably your wasting a lot of disk space on a job with a significant amount of assets and slowing down the RIP, which probably means the printer will either charge you more if your files take appreciably longer to RIP or down sample all your assets which I imagine they’d charge for even if it was as simple as automating it.

      • 21

        Lisa Valuyskaya

        March 19, 2011 2:32 pm

        Thank you Alice, and agreed with you on both points.

    • 22

      In a professional print design and prepress workflow you work with CMYK files from start to finish. You convert the RGB files as soon as you get them (but keep the originals just in case) and make all the necessary colour corrections on them. RGB to CMYK conversion should never be an automated process and the worst possible thing you can do is to leave it to the end of the workflow (PDF creation).

      You need to think in CMYK throughout the whole process, define and use colours wisely. For eg. use the fewest possible ink components for solid colours when you define swatches. Avoid leaving just 1-2 percent of any colour component, it will only increase noise. Try to use 100% of at least any one of the components for thin lines or light text to decrease rasterisation.

      You should “think” in CMYK, it’s also much easier to define shades and colour variations if you use rounded percentages of CMYK values. Working in print production involves lots of compromises and knowing and using CMYK is the best way to make it a reliable and fun process.

      • 23

        That may have been the case in the analog days, or at least pre PDF workflow, but it’s been years since I’ve operated like this and I publish books and catalogs professionally and have clients randing from Nike to Chopard, as well as production that spans from California to China.

        Indeed, the end result is CMYK, but operating in that color space has become that last step. Again, we’re discussing long documents that potentially have thousands of assets. The tools to maximize file integrity, color accuracy and overall reproduction have really taken big leaps in the last decade, so hearing people convert files one at a time hoping they nail the conversion kinda makes me think of assembling files in QuarkExpress3. No need for either, when there’s far better tools and methods available.

        • 24

          In the world of printing, we’re still in the “analog days”. The inks are analog, so is the paper.

          Your workflow is faster and more convenient. However, there are still assignments that need higher precision and more manual control where working in CMYK is beneficial, convenient and fun. We don’t mind colour correcting images one by one in quality brochures and catalogues and I rarely see images that do not need at least minor corrections after conversion. Automated tools are not sufficient for that.

          On the other hand, designing for print is usually much more than placing images onto pages. As I mentioned earlier there are lots of design related decisions to make in the CMYK world that could further improve quality when printing. So staying and feeling comfortable in the CMYK space can be highly rewarding.

          But I see your point and appreciate your arguments.

        • 25

          Lisa Valuyskaya

          March 19, 2011 2:37 pm

          Just a quick sidenote: long documents (books) have a whole bunch of considerations that I think merit a separate article. Maybe you should write one? :)

      • 26

        Lisa Valuyskaya

        March 19, 2011 2:35 pm

        Chris — yes, exactly! “You should think in CMYK” expresses it perfectly. I still think that’s the best way to learn. And if someone want to call me old-fashioned due to that… well, I guess I am.

      • 27

        David Cooke A.C.E.

        April 1, 2011 3:31 am

        Actually, this practice is a bit out of date these days. RGB has a wider gamut and file sizes are smaller. Plus 99% of images supplied will be RGB. I’d normally recommend to design companies I work with to leave everything in RGB until it comes to ripping the PDF. The engine for CMYK conversion is the same as Photoshop’s anyway.

        Even better still is if their printers are using the latest Adobe Print Engine. This allows them to output PDF’s to the X-4:2008 standard which means the conversion doesn’t take place until it reached the image setter which is significantly better than any PC system.
        The only real difficulty is matching screen colours to print but this is still a problem in any workflow.

        • 28

          +1 for wider gamut, why would you throw away image imformation before you need to?

    • 29

      “Once converting to PDF you’ll create a custom color profile and do a document wide conversion to CMYK.”
      This is not always the best way to convert images. I know by experience that gradients in images do not convert well from Indesign. This is especially the case with with light shades on white. In these cases it’s vital to make the rgb-cmyk conversion in Photoshop.

      I agree with Alice to not overcomplicate things with the resolution. 300 DPI is fine. Same goes for color profiles. I’ve always had perfectly good results with the standard color RGB profile and previewing the CMYK output in Photoshop.

    • 30

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      March 19, 2011 2:25 pm

      About 98% printers I have worked with, talked with and requested quotes from have 300 ppi as their standard tech spec. Clearly, if you are working on some very particular, intricate project, you would check with your printer beforehand anyway — or at least I hope so! But since this article is meant for beginners, 300 ppi is a good rule of thumb.
      I did make the assumption that the beginners would be working on simple projects such as business cards and brochures — that is usually where most people start, but I could be biased by my own background, so if it more common nowadays to start with books (as you mention further down), please let me know so I can keep that in mind for other articles.

      As for CMYK vs RGB… I’m sorry, but the Photoshop preview of RGB files doesn’t come close to what actually prints. Again, my own background does influence this, and as a print designer, I hae been taught to convert to CMYK as soon as an image comes in, and tweak from there (in print design studios/departments of agencies, RGB image may be kept as original, but is rarely used for anything else). I have also seen some very unhappy clients and bosses when a coworker tried doing the conversion you describe.

      Granted, when one has experience with that workflow — as I assume you do — you will probably have found workarounds to prevent the common problems and don’t even think about it. The only times I have witnessed this conversion used though yielded some rather terrifying results… That’s why I don’t think it’s a good idea to suggest beginners use it, as the traditional way allows them to learn the differences, and what to watch out for, as they work — rather than at the end of a project with a deadline looming.

      Thanks for an interesting discussion though!

  12. 31

    Whats your view on creating outlines of text before exporting for print?

    Does it still need to be done?

    • 32

      I believe InDesign embeds fonts when exporting to PDF, so it would be unnecessary and makes your text uneditable. I don’t suggest for general documents it unless you want to save two InDesign files – one for print and one working file.

      If your worried about not getting all the fonts to your printer, you can always package your InDesign document with all the fonts and links by going to File>Package. You’ll end up with a folder that includes the InDesign file, a print instruction page, a fonts folder and a links folder. It’s very handy for file management too. :)

      The only reason I can think of for creating outlines of text would be for logos or the like…

    • 33

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      March 19, 2011 2:51 pm

      Yes, Trish is right, InDesign does embed fonts when exporting to PDF, so there is usually no need to convert to outlines. Or you can choose to subset it (only include the characters used) rather than embedding the entire font.
      Creating outlines is usually reserved for more graphic work, like logos — and situations where there is a known issue with embedding. (only happened once in my experience) Even then, you don’t have to do it manually; you can create a custom transparency flattener preset, checking the “convert text to outlines” option, and export to PDF using that.

  13. 34

    After reading great Photoshop articles on SM recently I was a bit disappointed when I got to the end of this article on InDesign, which I felt was made up of 60% images and 40% text. These tips are hardly hidden away from the first time user. These are pretty much the first things you do and find out when starting with InDesign and I think it is a bit lame to call these tip “something you’d wish you had known”…

    When you start with InDesign you should first read up on the following issues (as they will bite you in the back otherwise) but you will definitely not find anything about these issues in this “the basic most basic intro to InDesign” article. Instead, look up some articles/tutorials on the following:

    – Books (save your life when designing 50+ page documents)
    – Master Text Frames (see above)
    – Object Styles (oh yes!)
    – Table of Contents / Footnotes
    – Proper bullet points
    – Correct usage of white space
    – Fitting Content to Frame and vice versa
    – Display Performance settings (especially when working with PSD files as suggested)
    – Styling tables in Indesign
    – Text wrap do’s and don’ts
    – Intro and set up of baseline grids
    – Variable data in Indesign

  14. 35

    Thanks a lot for the tips! I especially like importing excel spreedsheets straight into InDesign. How useful!

  15. 37

    Glad I knew all that when I was starting out, way back with InDesign CS. Thank you Total Training.

  16. 38

    Greg Treadwell

    March 17, 2011 5:40 am

    I like this article, it contains everything I’ve been teaching my students in 1 place, definitely going to share this with them.
    I have found one error I’d like to point out: Special Characters is found under the Type menu, not the Edit menu.
    As for the CMYK/RGB debate, I find with students it’s easier for them to grain control over their colours if they convert to CMYK – it forces them to be aware of the shifts that can happen when converting colour spaces.

    • 39

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      March 19, 2011 2:57 pm

      Thanks Greg! I’ll see if I can fix the error without accidentally unpublishing it.

      And yes, the way you teach your students is the way I was taught as well, and it’s that hands-on experience with conversion shifts that makes you learn quickly what to adjust and when.

  17. 40

    Lucid Theory

    March 17, 2011 5:53 am

    300dpi is perfectly fine for images, unless they have flattened text, which plates and prints fine @ 600dpi.

    Rich black was also mentioned, but not really answered properly. A good rich black would be made up of either 30% cyan or magenta and 100% black. Anything more is just unnecessary and the printed sheets will take longer to dry.

    And I would always outline text before exporting as a pdf, it simply stops quite a lot of possible font issues when the printers plate the job – one of which being they may need to adjust three page and will struggle if they have fonts missing.

    • 41

      Process black is mostly dependent on the stock and production hardware. On a hard coated sheet you’ll get an entirely different result than on an uncoated sheet. Likewise, sheet fed production generally runs more dense than web press production for example.

      Also, the drying time is also subject to finishing. If you have an inline UV for example, you can run a really wet sheet and it’ll be sealed in with the finish instantly. Likewise, an absorbent sheet with no coating will ‘ghost’ if you run it wetter (denser) if you aren’t careful.

      And again, there’s no broad rule on resolution. The formula isn’t rocket science… Files are submitted at 2 – 2.5 times the screen frequency. I think this is important to note if we’re discussing real production. If your a newbie, chances are you aren’t sending a book off to press. If you are, you’d be best served having the resolution proper before potentially screwing up a job that I’d imagine would be a significant sum of money in most situations.

    • 42

      Martin SIlvertant

      March 17, 2011 3:04 pm

      I’m not sure if you voted AKANYC’s comment down or someone else did, but to everyone reading this, AKANYC is correct. I must admit I always use 300dpi myself, but it’s a risk you will take. This is what Wikipedia says:

      “The resolution of a halftone screen is measured in lines per inch (lpi). This is the number of lines of dots in one inch, measured parallel with the screen’s angle. Known as the screen ruling, the resolution of a screen is written either with the suffix lpi or a hash mark; for example, “150 lpi” or “150#”.
      The higher the pixel resolution of a source file, the greater the detail that can be reproduced. However, such increase also requires a corresponding increase in screen ruling or the output will suffer from posterization. Therefore file resolution is matched to the output resolution.”

      I’ve never had posterization before, but you will definitely risk that if you blindly use 300dpi. It’s definitely best to ask your printer first. Sadly enough not all printers are equally competent, and many probably won’t even know what LPI is.

      • 43

        Lisa Valuyskaya

        March 19, 2011 3:29 pm

        Martin, I’m not sure if you were talking to me, but I was out of town and didn’t even know the article was published until today — so any voting up and down by me is happening now, not before. ;)

        I would look for links that talk about dpi, ppi, and professional printer output, but it is midnight over here, so I hope you will forgive me if I leave it for another time… 300 ppi stays a good rule of thumb — a starting place, especially for someone new to designing for print. And you have to admit, it’s much easier to start with a higher quality file and adjust down, rather than getting a 72ppi one to look decent. Because the most common mistake is still sending low-res files for print, and most certainly not the other way around.

    • 44

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      March 19, 2011 3:07 pm

      Rich black values depend on the job, the printer and the desired result. There really isn’t a formula.

      You would outline the text rather than embed it or subset it? I usually hear the opposite, and outlining tends to be a last-resort solution if there are errors or something — but maybe I am misunderstanding and you were talking about some specific issue. In any case, no need to do it before exporting; you can just use a custom transparency flattener to outline as you export.

      • 45

        David Cooke A.C.E.

        April 1, 2011 3:41 am

        True. It’s a matter of taste. Some want a warm black others a cool one. The problem is that it’s almost impossible to proof these things so designers often just stick to one!

    • 46

      David Cooke A.C.E.

      April 1, 2011 3:46 am

      Converting text to outlines is not something I’d usually recommend as it increases file size and can have unpredictable outcomes with smaller fonts. Just the thoughts of converting a 200 page book to outlines is making me break out in a sweat :)

      The only time I consider it is when I use truetype fonts or display fonts that I don’t wish to embed.

  18. 47

    very usefull explanations and very clear! you should write more about InDesign functions!! I really appreciate this article

  19. 48

    John Mindiola III

    March 17, 2011 6:21 am

    From my experience, outlining text should only be reserved for logos and other special graphics. The text will render out smoother and as intended if the text is left editable and the font files are sent with the INDD file (all in a package with the images).

    Even if creating your own PDFs and sending those to the printer, sending the font files is still a good idea.

    I also have never heard that RGB files are good/okay to use for print production. However, I know it is common to globally convert color to grayscale during the PDFing process, so perhaps global RGB>CMYK isn’t such a bad idea.

    • 49

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      March 19, 2011 3:34 pm

      Hi John,

      Agreed on the text (though usually not necessary to include font files with PDF if they’re already embedded).

      As far as global conversion, I stand by my old fashioned views: I like adjusting manually, and I think it’s the best way to see the difference and learn to work with it — for anyone who want to learn, that is.

      Thanks for your comment!

  20. 50

    Excellent resource on InDesign, I’m printing this and keeping it handy. It’s taken me years to unearth many of these functions, they just don’t show you some of this in any course on InDesign. Any chance on a “what experts in InDesign may not know” followup? :)

    Thank you,
    Rod Salm

    • 51

      Martin SIlvertant

      March 17, 2011 2:36 pm

      “they just don’t show you some of this in any course on InDesign”

      What about the Help section of InDesign? If that isn’t the most complete handbook, I don’t know what is…

    • 52

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      March 19, 2011 3:36 pm

      Thanks Rod! Any suggestions on what to include in the follow up? Because I’m not sure what it is that the experts may not know. ;)

  21. 53

    John Mindiola III

    March 17, 2011 6:24 am

    Then again, if you elements in the InDesign file (like boxes, trim lines, type) that need to match the colors used in the placed Photoshop files, then converting to CMYK ahead of time seems to be necessary. I know there’s the Info panel in PS which gives CMYK and RGB reads, but it still seem like a gamble to me.

  22. 54

    Ha, I’ve been on my way to getting started with InDesign for a week or so now and this is excellent! Thanks.

  23. 55

    One nice thing is the “Relink file extension” in the links panel. You can open multiple image files at once and relink from .jpg to .tiff for example.

  24. 56

    Me and the resident production guru had the “work-in-cmyk” vs. “convert to-cmyk-as-last-step” debate a year ago complete with articles/forum posts and samples off the digital and web press.

    “converting-to-cmyk-as-a-last step” won.

    2 cents.

    • 57

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      March 19, 2011 3:38 pm

      Hi Sean, thanks for the comment! I am curious — any documentation of that debate that you can share?

  25. 58

    Why on earth would you design in RGB if you intend to send the finished PDF to print? If there are any students reading this, it is sooo much better to design in CMYK if you intend on sending the file to print. The range of the colours are limited to those of the 4 colour process and can’t reach the vibrancy of some RGB values.

  26. 59

    Martin SIlvertant

    March 17, 2011 2:30 pm

    “Tips I Wish I’d Known When Starting Out”
    What are you talking about? Half of what this article is about is main (InDesign-specific) features of InDesign while the title of the article implies there are features which are more obscure; features which safe time and effort. You do name a few, but I reckon I can name at least 10 more — most aimed at professional text formatting.

    “registration black (which is composed of 100% CMYK) should never be used for body text or thin lines.”
    While that’s true, its restrictions in use go much further. I think 30/30/30/100 is pretty much the darkest you should go (though for body text 100% Key is indeed better). 100% CMYK will definitely piss the printer off. He can’t cope with such thick inks, high tendency to smudge and incredibly long drying time. Registration black should only be used for registration marks. Also, strictly speaking registration black isn’t 100% CMYK; it’s 100% of whichever colors are used in reproduction.

    All in all, it’s a pretty decent article, but it’s missing the target.

    • 60

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      March 19, 2011 3:48 pm

      Believe it or not, most people don’t read the manuals or help files. And also, believe it or not, the tips come from real-life questions and experiences with people learning it. (A super-quick side-note just to clarify, not to justify –the original title I wrote was not the one you see up there.)

      Oh, and I could probably name 10 or 20 or 50 more tips too. I did try to keep this one simple and for beginners.
      I am sure you could name even more time-saving tips. In fact, why don’t you? Would love to read that article.

      Keep me posted, alright?

  27. 61

    Bookmarked! Some very handy tips in here


  28. 62

    I think this is first article where is too long comment :) this is the love of Indesign.

  29. 63

    Inigo Villalba

    March 18, 2011 2:06 am

    Great article, thanks so much.

    I will be sure to send this article around the design team


  30. 64

    With all these indesign experts, I’d like to take an opportunity to pose a question! I had to do a B/W plus 1 spot colour for a newspaper advert. It uses a line drawing, so I changed the background line image to greyscale in Photoshop and it looks great.

    However these line drawings have tiny cyan dots that mark key features of the product. Where the cyan dot was placed on top, the finished PDF has white underneath. Mostly this would be the right thing to do because cyan on black would look terrible. but registration is likely to be a problem also. If there a way to specify on a single graphic (or the document as a whole) that I want the cyan to overlay the black and not leave the white gap. And what is the right way to handle this kind of problem. Is it always a compromise and keep your fingers crossed that registration isn’t too far out?

    • 65

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      March 19, 2011 4:43 pm

      Hi Dianne,
      I’m not sure if I understand correctly — do you want the cyan set to overprint? It would not be visible on black — though if by black you mean a percentage of black (light gray?) — could be a different story.
      You can set the object (dot) to overprint from indesign by changing object attributes(window-attributes-overprint fill); or even set the spot color to overprint (ink manager, in InDesign or Acrobat). This is if you need the whole dot to blend with gray underneath.

      If you simply want to avoid the gap, then trapping is a better solution. You can set it directly from Acrobat Pro, or set the stroke of the dot to overprint from InDesign. (check with your printer to determine the right settings.)
      It’s also likely that your printer will add trapping even if you didn’t include it. I’d check with them.
      I hope this helps, and if I misunderstood the question, let me know.

  31. 66

    lol, I didn’t think I can find something that I don’t know – but I found. Nice read!

    I’ll never forget when I had to edit a school report from a classmate. She didn’t use Master Page, so you can imagine how was made the design and numbering of each single page.

    And here is a tip from me. When you have to import a huge word document and you use copy paste – press Shift click and than click wherever you want the text to start. It will automatically create all the needed pages until it finishes the text. When I didn’t know that I was just manually putting the text on each single page, that I had to create manually, too. Such a waste of time…

    • 67

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      March 19, 2011 4:47 pm

      Thanks Menian! You can also simply insert the Word document right into a text frame, without copy paste, same way as you would a graphic.

  32. 68

    I love to work with InDesign!! It’s very rare to see nice articles like this one, congratulations. This will be very usefull for beginners.

    I also appreciate @peter tips, especially this one:
    “7) The input fields can all do simple math. For instance, you can create a guide on an A4 page, the enter “297mm/2″ into the y position field, and it’s going to be at the exact center of your page.”

    Thank you all,

  33. 69

    Great article. I love this Program! One thing to add to your copy and paste section FYI: you can copy and PASTE IN PLACE… which is great for separate documents that have similar content. As for packaging, in my case, I may have several packages with the same die (dimensions) and certain logos and features of this product always go in the same place. Whereas in Quark and other such programs you have to measure out exactly where it has to go in order for them to match consistently. If you create one master document for your die with no artwork placed yet just your type and logos you can either use this as a template or simply copy and paste in place exactly where your info should go! This works with guides as well. All guides can be selected and copied and pasted into place exactly where it was on the document or page before it!

    The only thing that I may suggest is there is never enough BLEED you can ad. Some media such as magazines and books require 1/8 or 3mm at the minimum. But its always safer, being a pre-press guy, to leave a bit more. Remember to set your live areas, which is where your text and logos are to be placed for visibility. When magazines and books are bound there is always a bit of space where the page before hangs over part of your design keep that in mind when you are creating documents. You always want all content visible in this “live area.”

    Maybe I should write an article as well?


  34. 70

    t h a n k y o u !

  35. 71

    Awesome article. I truly wish a similar one written for Illustrator.

  36. 72

    Great article and some fantastic in-depth comments. Thanks

  37. 73

    Andrew Maclarty UK

    March 26, 2011 3:16 pm

    Having upgraded from InDesign CS2 I’m starting work on a manual of around 250 pages. There was so much trouble with CS2 I often reverted to PageMaker 7. Mostly the trouble was in printing output as I don’t have a post script printer.
    The manual will have an intro plus TOC and will deal with subject matter in five large sections. My problem is to keep the readers aware of each section. One idea is to make each section margin coloured in a pastel tint, with rounded corners, A thumb sized half circle on the outside margin will have the page number in reverse .
    Has anyone got helpful ideas about the margin ? Help would be gratefully received. Andymac.

  38. 74

    Theresa Southern

    March 28, 2011 7:25 pm

    I always learn so much from reading the comments. Great article – – even better discussion!

  39. 75

    Dankjewel Lisa. Goed om te lezen. Heb toch nog iets nieuws opgestoken! Keep it up!

  40. 76

    We bought the CS4 InDesign Total Training DVD. Forcing myself to watch all 16 or so hours seems to have paid off. Covered just about everything that would have taken forever to learn the hard way. Since then we’ve moved to other training sources, but the idea still holds true. If you shell out the bucks for those all-inclusive training DVDs, they can save you plenty of time in the long run.

  41. 77

    Great article, thanks! Lots of helpful stuff in there, and a nice suggestion to recreate a mag page from scratch. Would love to read an article about more of the colour specifics (like the various black shades you mentioned for different purposes) – do you know if there are any good articles like this? I’m always petrified sending things to printers – trying to figure out the difference between CMYK, using pantone colours etc. and trying to guarantee a client the colour that is on the screen.

    • 78

      NEVER guarantee a colour that appears on screen will print the same way on paper. No matter how well calibrated your monitor seems.You will inevitably run into a problem with a client. In the old days we used colour keys if we wanted to give the most accurate proof possible. I don’t know if anyone is even making them anymore. If they are, they will be pricey. PDF proofs are useless when it comes to colour (and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) and there are so many types of hard copy proofs – none will be 100% accurate. I’ve been told by some printers that a 10% variance from their hard copy proof to final print is all they will guarantee. That is the most you should give – but never from a screen view.

  42. 79

    It should be noted that in some cases, like with color, scan resolution, and print resolution, students learning InDesign should keep in mind that for the best results for inkjet printer proofs for projects, they should actually follow different rules to “fake” what a real world offset print job would look like.
    Inkjet color, resolution, etc. is different from press requirements.
    Adjunct professors (often FT designers who teach one class) will drill in you the real world information. The full time professors will do that and also give you the PROOF info. Proof in this case, for students, being your portfolio of work you did in college and, what will get you a job.
    So keep in mind: there are the real world things with InDesign then there are the things that work while you are in college developing your design skills and faking real world work with limited resources and no access to paid prepress experts.

  43. 80

    Joshua Jackson

    March 30, 2011 4:58 pm

    Lots of good information here, Lisa. Some folks need to relax though: This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive, exhaustive article on InDesign. It’s one person’s insights that she decided to share. If you want a more authoritative and complete resource, let me suggest “Real World InDesign CS4,” by Olav Martin Kvern and David Blatner. Incidentally, sign up for a subscription to InDesign Magazine at or check out,, or any number of blogs out there (just consult Google or your favorite search engine). And one more resource to pass along: LinkedIn. Join one of several professional InDesign groups and find help to any number of InDesign issues.

    Here’s one thing I only recently discovered (or had reason to use): Data Merge. What a great tool this is. If you’ve used Mail Merge tools in a word processor, this function works much the same way in InDesign. The basic idea works like this: Save an Excel spreadsheet as a CSV or tab-delimited file and open the Data Merge panel, which is located under Window–> Automation.

    I used this today to generate 90 pages of technical data sheets for products at our manufacturing company. Each data sheet is styled the same way, but each page is a separate product with its own set of variable, technical data. Once the Excel sheet was customized and my style sheet set up in InDesign, it took less than a minute to populate those 90 pages.

    I’m sure there are lots more uses for this tool. Give it a try if you ever have to work with variable data.

  44. 81

    Another tip:

    If you change palletes, create character/paragraph styles, when no documents open, it will be default for every new document, so you don’t have to create generic styles every time.

  45. 82

    There are tonnes of experienced professionals who know sweet fuck all. Please use paragraph and character styles and DON’T COPY AND PASTE IMAGES INTO YOUR FILE. EVER. PERIOD. Good luck trying to find that istock number when you need it. Ugh.

    Also, please use an “indent to here” dagger when you’re trying to line indented text elements up. If you’re tabbing each line in, then I’m sorry to say, you’re a fucking idiot.

    That is all.

  46. 83

    Thanks guys from the article to whom comment on, Am designer from Tanzania east africa and i think need some ex-part on designing…

    I never been to school of design.. just learn from working place but i think I need a serious class to shape my career, can you help guys?


    Francis Bonda

  47. 84

    Brett Widmann

    May 12, 2011 4:47 pm

    Thanks! These will really come in handy soon.

  48. 85

    A helpful article for beginners, I am a graphic designer and use to be in the print biz, and it is surprising how many people call themselves designers, and don know how to create things properly in indesign when sending to print. it would be good to have a follow up to this on exporting to PDF for print, and packaging the indesign documents correctly, if you need sending them to a printer etc.

  49. 86

    Jason Sprenger

    June 6, 2011 9:57 pm

    Nice article on some of InDesign’s features, but this is all kinda out the door when you have a client who requests their design be in MS Word …

  50. 87

    I have a question regarding the rendering intent though….

    If i have a SWOP profiled image import form PS to ID, do I still needs to define the Profile and rendering intent in the import option box??

    I read artical that it is no harm to choose it again, if you choose the exact same setting as the image in PS. But do we really need to do it twice??

  51. 88

    The combination of Photoshop and InDesign has transformed how I work – it’s so much easier now to concentrate on what I want to do, rather than the mechanics of how to do it. Thanks for presenting people with a great primer.

  52. 89

    The above is all great information…I do not have a vast experience in any computer graphics but am old school advertising. I have tought myself enough to get by on community projects and art club pieces. I was hoping that I could pick your brain on a graphics matter. I have designed some pieces for a small company and done some digital printing and in the course of things come up with a little logo. It has a fast, loose sketch of flowers connected to the logo. The logo is made up of layers of type and these flowers (drawn in photoshop). Now I am sending a job to a digital printer.The piece has a 100% yellow background and I am getting a darker yellow area where the graphics box for the flowers reside in on the piece (even though this background on the art is transparent.) Do you have any suggestions for me????..

  53. 91

    This was helpful but im having a problem with including bleeds in a booklet when exporting to pdf.

    Im creating an A4 booklet in InDesign with a front cover, a back cover, and a series of two adjacent pages throughout the middle. For the pages that run side by side in the middle there is no bleed line in the middle just around the entire outside of the two pages because this will be printed straight onto an A3 piece of paper. But how can I import my graphics so that they dont bleed over to the other page when I export it as a PDF? When I Export as a PDF each page is saved with its own separate bleed.

    Ive tried everything :( please help

  54. 92

    Data Merge and save option required
    when i do a data merge for certificate which is A4 size….
    i will get 14 pages in single pdf file…
    since i have to do 14 certificates…

    I have two questions on this…
    1) I need to create separate pdf
    2) I need to name the individual pdf as the name given in the field…

    I need to save the pdf to individual names..


  55. 93
  56. 94

    @ Mathews: I just noticed that script is 4 years old. If that script doesn’t work, I’m pretty sure you can still do something similar in Acrobat Professional. Here’s a more recent article:

  57. 95

    Romano op den Kelder

    August 30, 2011 6:56 am

    Hi you all

    I would like to know if it possible to add a field which would would be a version id of the document and every time I would save it it would be added up by 1, so I can see what version I am working with every time.

    is this possible


  58. 96

    I was wondering if there is any way to retrieve or save an InDesign file that has had all the text and images created to outlines? I was handed a file this way and no original file without the outlines is available.

  59. 97

    i am new to indesign ..i was just obliged (heheh) to use this sw because of our school newspaper
    originally the paper size is that we should work with is 8 1/2″ x 14″ ..apparently when were done we were asked to changed it to 9″ x 12″..will there be a major major adjustments? or is there any tool that automatically change the paper size and its contents? thanks!

  60. 98

    Amazing! Thanks for clearing Rich Black and Style. I always got a bit confusing about this.

  61. 99


    Thanks so much for this. I found this when searching for what kinds of documents creating a style sheet makes sense for. Our design staff simply uses last year’s InDesign document and replaces text–sometimes. The problem we’re having is that, even though my Word document was accurate, the designers will use last year’s text and forget to insert the new text. This has just resulted in an error in an annual program that we produce, and it’s embarrassing. I had had to compare my Word document to the proof, but apparently I missed a line. The designers were asked to create style sheets to avoid this problem, and the answer was that it doesn’t make sense to create a style sheet for a program (multipage document that doesn’t change format from year to year). The “solution” was for us in editorial to doublecheck against the Word document anytime we suspect that material was lifted from last year’s version, which just strikes me as time-consuming and ripe for error. There is always the possibility that we would miss something that wasn’t updated.

    Anyway, I would greatly appreciate your input on this issue, and I thank you in advance for your time.

    • 100

      The conversation of converting RGB to CMYK is important for me as the pre-flight packaging is showing 2432 links found which are using RGB COLOR SPACE. No matter how we got there, long story as this is a very large book – I see in the links panel that the files are RGB color space so question – when I save to CMYK the PNG option does not appear – so how do you preserve transparency or which file type to utilize – PSD?, tiff, jpeg ?

  62. 101

    Lots of debate is going over here and I am really confused where to starts and where to end to make my file brings a good results. I am very new with InDesign and printing but very curious to know what my file will look when printed.I google thru some few site related to printing but every body/writers talks about different setting and colors management and here I am with no solutions. As going thru your discussion I assumed theres no real proved on anything related to Printing (?) or it all depends on you and your printer?

  63. 102

    Have to echo John above – I too am very new to InDesign and finding all of this utterly confusing, so I dont think this article is a “beginner’s” article, and definitely the discussion it has sparked makes me want to reach for a bar of chocolate to forget my woes.

    The sad thing is, I did my BA (Hons) in graphic design, many moons ago, and back then InDesign did not exist – we were taught Quark Xpress. Also, our teachers totally neglected to educate us beyond the creation of the design, so we never learned about how to set up the document for professional printing and how to interact with printers; alot of the printing language used above is completely foreign to me.

    Now I suddenly find myself with a job where I have to use InDesign to create a magazine, and I would absolutely love to find a crash course on it online, aimed at designers who dont need to be taught the basics of design, just the basics and details of InDesign itself. If anyone here knows of just such a course/tutorials, please do share. Thanks.

  64. 103

    super helpful, the above. However I may be losing my mind because I meticuloulsy size a frame at 3 5 / 8 inches. yet when I print it out, it’s more like 3 / 28 inches. Also, the various elements do not match in the print out where I have placed them within the grid. With that, two questions: I used to be able to print an .indd document directly. Now , seems llike I have to export it to .pdf to see it in hard copy. Second, so I can get a grip on what’s going on, is there a way to print out the grid and ruler markings for test print-outs? Hugh befuddled in Los Angeles

  65. 104

    Emoral Morrow

    January 8, 2012 1:04 pm

    Every time i want to print into a printer (epson photos style R280 and epson artisan 835… I doesn’t let me change the printer, instead says PostScript®file… Can you help me

  66. 105

    thank you for your comments. Does anyone know if you how export documents which include text and pictures from Pages to Indesign and still edit them.

  67. 106

    Fantastic article, and comments. There seemed to be 2 discussions at the beginning, I for beginners and 1 for experts. I have about 20 years in prepress and print and can see both sides, and agree with both. While most beginners will be designing and printing smaller projects and will most likely be dealing with smaller print shops, the article is very accurate. Small print shops need to stay competitive and don’t tend to keep up with the latest workflows. So working in CMYK, with 300dpi images is suitable and will result in much better results. When the beginner starts working in large documents, the time spent converting to CMYK and correcting everything will NOT be advantageous. But in that case you would be depending on your printers ability to convert the colour space for you. In either case the best advice is talk to your printers prepress operator/manager if you have any questions. Quite often you’ll get the wrong answers from a sale rep./CSR who is using information from when/what they learned, and can be outdated. As a point on colour conversion no one has touched LAB colour space. Quite a few workflows will convert your RGB files to CMYK using LAB. If you are having trouble keeping your colours bright, try converting RGB to LAB and finally to CMYK.

  68. 107

    Stanislav Fritz

    January 30, 2012 9:56 pm

    Good article. I am still hunting for an easy way to do this, which seems vaguely related to this article. I want to insert a variable in a long Book (say 300 pages) where I can merge in a small graphic instead of the variable (e.g. a nice little graphic at the end of a chapter, or a POV graphic in the middle of the chapter, instead of the old *** that was used for centuries. Even a way to search for the key word and replace with a graphic would be all I need (since there would only be one or two levels), although I could see the usefulness of a meta data variable for Chapter NNN for instance where the chapter heading/name has a graphic instead of text.

    I am a newbie, but am an old programmer (rusty on that though) so I assume this can be done, but am a bit stymied by InDesign’s tutorials and help files. I never found Adobe’s way of thinking to quite mesh my own engineering way of thinking :-).

    • 108

      I’m also a newb and an electrical engineer turned InDesigner (for personal use).

      I wanted to do the same thing, and the fix I came up with was to use a character/glyph that you don’t use anywhere else in the book and find/replace using ^C (which replaces what you “found” with what is on the clipboard (i.e., your graphic)).

      There is a good chance there’s a better way (the InDesign people are brilliant and think of just about everything), but that’s what I came up with and it worked fine.

      Also great article … I’m reading up on color management before I go to press (so nervous…).

  69. 109

    Fantastic article – some really useful advice. I have a question – I’ve neglected to put in page numbers from the start and now the only place they will fit in by not disrupting text is in the bleed margins – will this print? It might be a silly question. If it won’t, does anybody have any shortcuts for placing page numbers as an afterthought? Thanks.

    • 110

      Page numbers in the bleed will not print unless the text block intersects the page. HOWEVER, once printed, they will be trimmed off. You can create the auto number in your master page, or if your pages vary a lot in height of margins, create the auto number on a page in its own separate text block, then copy and “paste in place” on subsequent pages that can accommodate it. (Type: Insert Special Character: Markers: Current Page Number) If you use the master page option and need to remove the page number, choose the page in the page menu (F12) and hit CTRL Click to bring up the menu, and choose “override all master page items” to allow you to delete it on that page.

  70. 111

    When I try to open a new In Design document on my G5 all I get is a very small section – about 1/2 ” square of the new document. Why am I not seeing the entire page?
    I would appreciate any help so I can get started.

  71. 112

    Hi there, I run a small digital print shop in New Zealand.

    So thought I would add my observations, we typically tell customers 300dpi will be adequate and it is – however files that come at 600dpi print better – true most people don’t bother but the higher quality is available straight off our production laser.

    Whenever we create image heavy files inhouse we do so at 600dpi – the photos print noticably better.

    Secondly in regards to RGB/ CMYK when to convert – if you convert to CMYK early you narrow the colour space which makes it easier to predict the output colour. However if images are left in RGB in the PDF then our RIP processes the to CMYK these images/colours are often brighter & cleaner than their CMYK cousins – as the RIP (set up for this printer) is better at the conversion than a Photoshop conversion for ‘a’ printer.

    So for brighter colours and higher quality images 600dpi with files ‘unconverted’ – but 300dpi CMYK files will be fine.

  72. 113

    This is great but doesn’t answer one question I can’t seem to find the answer to. Is it possible to view my InDesign file with no guidelines, etc. without exporting it to pdf? The lines distract me when trying to get a full-on view.

    • 114

      Meredith, is this what you’re looking for:
      (from the article)

      Toggle The Preview

      Instead of hiding all the guides, you can hit the W key (make sure the text tool isn’t active) to quickly toggle between the document view and the working (or “Normal”) view, which has all of the margins, guides and outlines. I frequently use it for composition checks, because guides tend to distract from the big picture.

  73. 115

    Candace White

    March 17, 2012 5:10 am

    Whenever I open my Indesign, I cannot add any new pages. Under the Pages tool it won’t let me created master pages or any new pages at all…I really need help! I’ve tried resetting my Preferences and it wouldn’t let me do that either.

  74. 116

    Thank you for the lovely article! Some times its the most obvious things that get skipped when learning new stuff even when their the mot needed.

  75. 117

    i love indesign thanks for adding this article

  76. 118

    I have never prepared a book cover before, and may never do so again, but would appreciate whatever good advice people may be able to offer me for the following process.

    I have a Photoshop *.psd file which contains on one layer the colourful artwork for the complete book cover (front, back, and spine). The file also contains about 15 other layers on which are all the (coloured) textual elements (the title, author, back-cover blurb, and so forth). The entire *.psd file has been composed in RGB mode. No special colour profile was set up at the outset: I simply ensured I was in RGB mode in order to have access to the many more tools available in Photoshop when in RGB mode, as opposed to the fewer tools available when working in CMYK.

    And it is only now that I have discovered that the printer requires that when this file is converted into a PDF it is must be in CMYK mode. And I now see from many of the above comments that it would have been best to compose the cover in CMYK from the outset. However, that’s not been the case.

    So how can I get the best possible conversion to CMYK?

    For example, will it lessen “the damage” if while in RGB mode I merge the 16 layers one-by-one, and save after each, before converting to CMYK, (and then producing the PDF)?

    Someone who is familiar with the printer I will be using (LSI), has advised that I should simply make a PDF from the RGB *.psd file and leave it to “the technical people” at LSI to convert it to CMYK. But that seems to me to be handing over control regarding aesthetic judgements, and I might regret it.

    All advice will be much appreciated.

    Thank you.

  77. 119

    Thanks Lisa – what a great article! It says a lot when comments are still coming in 2 years later ;o)

    I think both seasoned ID users and newbies will benefit from reading the comments also, they add a lot to the discussion. The different views and strength of argument show that there is often more the one way to do something. I’ve worked with ID for 5 years now, and am still coming across little time saving tips, usually in palettes which I just got blind to, never realised what they were or did.

    FWIW, I think 300ppi is a good rule of thumb for a newbie. That said, I think I’m going to begin talking to the printer more!

    The RGB-convert-at-the-end vs work-in-cmyk argument is a good one, I had a similar discussion with a colleague. For the sake of speed we opted to use The RGB route, but now I see that there’s room for both solutions, depending on the project. If colour’s critical, then work in cmyk seems a better route – like you say, better not to have a conversion surprise right at the end of a project when the deadline is pressing.

    Thanks again for starting this – long may the discussions continue!

  78. 120

    Suzanne Woodie

    December 2, 2013 2:50 pm

    Thank you so very much!
    I had the hardest time trying to figure out a way to individually adjust the automated page numbers generated in my master pages. Command, shift , click on page number . . . thanks for sharing.

  79. 121

    Great article for beginners like me!
    I still have a question: when I try to copy a .doc several pages long using the option “File–>Place” it only copies the first page. The same happens if I select several pages and do a normal “copy/paste”. Is there a way to copy several pages from Word to several pages on InDesign other than doing it one by one? Thanks!

  80. 122

    Eliana really you are so helpful! I am making the transition from PageMaker (as a hobby – I am retired) and your explanations are so very helpful.

    I have a question (maybe stupid – old brain) every time i try to change the colour of text it goes to a gradient with three colours. I cannot seem to find how to overcome this problem. I know it could be in swatches but how?

    Thanks a million and you really are great – just like your picture

    sincerely Gwyn (in Bangkok)

  81. 123

    thanks for the article, useful.

  82. 124

    Michael Higgins

    February 21, 2014 10:56 am

    I have a 500 page catalouge in PDF –I want to place a frame or over lay on this catalouge with more information logo & a little more.

    I am flat out busy with sales 7 marketing & I would love to find someone who would do this for me without being greedy,

    Alternatively as Im computer & photo shop savvy I could do it myself

    In this case what is the best program to purchase to allow me do these PDF overlays

    I would be grateful for any advise as I dont believe in reinventing the wheel


    • 125

      Toby Andrews

      March 5, 2014 1:17 am

      Hi Michael,
      I’d be happy to give you a hand updating your catalouge.
      PDF pages can be placed into a new InDesign document, and the new elements added to a master page so as to appear on all or most pages. Then the whole thing can be re-outputted to PDF. I currently manage catalouges for a large musical instrument wholesaler and am not greedy on price – happy to meet your requirements.
      best regards,

  83. 126

    Lynn Jenkins

    April 16, 2014 4:41 am

    Does anyone know how to use InDesign CS6 to format different types of copy in a single book? I need to visually separate my narrative from emails using both typeface and a change in margins. Do I need to create a separate text book for emails with a narrower margin or do I continue on in the same text box as my narrative?


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