Adobe InDesign

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NOTE: This page is a daughter page of: Adobe

Adobe InDesign is a professional product for producing printed works like magazines, books and business cards.

InDesign supports a mix of vectors and bitmap and "print publication" concepts like pagination, bleed area, page templates, paragraph styles (headers), table of contents, etc. While Illustrator can be used to design logos and single page designs, InDesign is much better for something like a book.

In this article I will keep track of the main tips and tricks I want to remember.

Page Templates (and Editable Text)

Open the Pages panel and by default you'll see just one master called "A-Master". Double click it to edit. Changes here apply to the background of all other pages. Click the hamburger to add a new master, apply a master to particular pages, or change the options. This is great for adding styles in the background (borders, watermarks etc).

Editable Template Text

Often you'll want text in the same place (think: Chapter pages), but obviously different editable text for each page. To achieve this, make your text boxes in the Master Page, but then in the actual pages use {Cmd}+{Shift}+click to select the text box in the background and edit the text. If you move it in the master page it should still move across all your custom text pages.

Nested Masters

Hot Tip: In the Master Options you can base a master on another Master... so your first mast you might just want to add page numbers and call "Blank" (and 2 page span if you want numbers on the left and right side respectively)... but then you might have different styles (different colors) laid over different sections all based on your "Blank" Master.

Master Layers (master objects on top of page objects)

In some cases you'll want objects (eg: page numbers, watermarks) in your Master to appear above any graphics or images on your page. To do this press {F7} to bring up the layers panel and put these objects in a new Layer. These layers appear for all masters and pages, so you might even do three layers ("BOTTOM", "MIDDLE", "TOP") and do most of your page contents in the middle layer.

Adding Page Numbers

The next thing you'll probably want is page numbers. Best to do this in your template. Insert a text box at the bottom left and then go: Menubar > Type > Insert Special Character > Markers > Current Page Number. Done.

Adding Headings (and a Table of Contents)

The steps to create a table of contents (TOC) are:

  • Open the Paragraph Styles panel via: Menubar > Window > Styles > Paragraph Styles.
  • Add a style called "CHAPTER_HEADER" and "HEADING_1" (etc) and set the font.
    • Apply your header styles to the right text pieces.
  • Click: Menubar > Layout > Table of Contents.
    • Add your heading Paragraph Styles as the sections you want listed, and you can also add a level order.
    • Click done and then you can drag the TOC onto any page (probably you want a blank page).
  • Extra notes:

Paragraph Styles

A great feature of InDesign, is that both Colors and Paragraph Styles can be added, and will change the whole document. Notice for Paragraph Styles, you have to go to the Character tab to change text color.

Adding a Bleed Area

When you start a project you select a bleed area. To produce a book on Amazon, you'll want 0.125 inches on all sides, and you'll notice bleed shown in a red dotted area. At the bottom of the toolbar you can switch between "Normal" view (which shows the bleed area) and "Preview" to see it without the bleed.

Exporting with Bleed

When you save your PDF, make sure you go to the "Marks and Bleeds" tab in the Export Adobe PDF window, and make sure "Use Document Bleed Settings" is ticked, but none of the markers.


Vertical and Horizontal Text Alignment

Hit {Cmd}+{B} to bring up the Text Frame Options and you can set vertical alignment to top, center or bottom. For horizontal alignment, you can set that in the Paragraph Style Options or the Properties tab (down in the paragraph section).

Folder Configuration

Similar to Adobe Illustrator when you drag an image into your document (which is recommended), it will be linked... meaning that at the start of a new project you should setup your project with an "import" folder. For a big project like a book, you might want to photoshop or illustrator edit certain images, so suddenly a full blown setup might look like this:

  • DOWNLOADS/ ..................... to organize stuff you find
  • IN_DESIGN/ ..................... self-contained in design + imports
    • import/ ..................... all your linked files in InDesign
      • orig/
        • pg_1_photo.jpg
        • pg_2_photo.jpg
      • photoshopped/
        • pg_3_photo.jpg
        • pg_4_illustrator_graphic.png
    • export/ ..................... files (eg: PDFs) you export from InDesign
    • BOOK_MyCoffeeTableBook_6x6.indd ..................... main file you are working on
    • FULLCOVER_MyCoffeeTableBook_6x6.indd
  • ILLUSTRATOR/ ..................... for adobe illustrator files
    • import/
      • pg_4_graphic_1.jpg
  • PHOTOSHOP/ ..................... for adobe photoshop files
    • pg_3_photo.psd

How To Guides

How To: Make a Book Cover for KDP in InDesign

Any good publisher, for instance Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) will have a page size guide including page thickness, bleed requirements and a formulas to work out spine width (assuming your book is thick enough to need a spine) and thus cover size. In InDesign, you should only need to know: (1) your book's desired width height, (2) your page count, (3) page thickness and (4) bleed width (typically equal for each side).

Let's take a use case:

Desired Width: 6 inches
Desired Height: 6 inches
Bleed Area: 0.125" for KDP.
Spine Width: 112 pages * 0.002347" (for color interior pages for KDP) = 0.262 inches
Whole Cover Width:     (desired_width * 2) + spine_width = 12.262 inches

This should be everything needed... now simply:

  • Create a new InDesign Document for the front cover only
    • Specs: 1 page... 6 x 6 (with 0.125 bleed area)... and uncheck "facing"
    • You will want to keep this doc separately to render thumbnails of the front cover.
    • Export settings: Export as an image or PDF without bleed area.
  • Create a new InDesign Document for the whole cover
    • Specs: 1 page... 6 x 12.262 (with 0.125 bleed area).
    • Drag a marker (from the ruler) to mark the spine... so one at 6" and one at 6.262".
    • Create a layer for the "SPINE", "FRONT" and "BACK".
    • Copy the whole front cover (from the other doc) to your FRONT layer... then add a spine and back cover design.
    • Export settings: Export as PDF with "Use Document Bleed Settings" checked (but no markers) and upload this to KDP.

How To: Add a Nice Index Page

Another nice feature of InDesign... make sure you create a blank page (or two) for your index then do the following:

  • Open the Index window via: Window > Type & Tables > Index, and click Select Reference.
  • Select any relevant piece of text (title) and click the plus on the Index tab to add a reference. Do this for all references.
  • Click the little icon to create a reference, and drag that into your blank page.
    • Tips: I like to use "^t" for "Following Topics", and then change the Index Level paragraph styles > tabs to use "." as the "Leader" to help show each line number via a row of dots.
Settings to add an Index to a book
Dot separator in Paragraph Styles

How To: Export as an EBook to KDP (as an EPUB)

There's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) video that mentions InDesign. This helped me figure out settings that are mostly acceptable for a picture book:

  • Book dimensions. I made a version of my book 8"*5" (portrait) with facing pages turned off (very important - you don't want a two page spread) and ~size 13 font (big enough to read easily on even the smallest kindly). These settings seemed to work pretty well. If you are adapting this from a different aspect ratio then resizing everything will be pretty annoying, but I admit I was pretty impressed by what menubar: File > Adjust Layout was able to do in gettin close.
  • Limitations. Some features that work fine for a PDF didn't work for me in a EPUB. Some things that failed: circles, rounded rectangles, non-straight lines, images with transparency (PNGs over anything else), text/shapes with transparency. Most of these elements placed big ugly white boxes underneath - even some text boxes did the same. My tips: keep it very simple, but *still* use bleed area for all your images - even though you wouldn't think it matters for a web format you seem to see a white edge around the page if you don't use bleed area for EPUBs. The Amazon KDP default font (Bookerly) usually isn't installed on InDesign, but you probably want to stick with a common font like Arial or Times New Roman to play it safe.
  • Export as EPUB. In Adobe go File > Export > EPUB (Fixed Layout). You'll want dynamic layout if your book is mostly (or all) plain text and you're not worried about pictures. Don't include the cover - you add that separately in KDP.
  • Preview carefully. Be sure it presents well in Kindle Previewer before you upload. And one you upload, even if you don't own a kindle (and if you're serious you should probably buy one), you can buy your own book and see it on "Kindle Could Reader" to check once more there are no hideous formatting issues.
  • Cover image size. Ideal size of your eBook cover art is a height/width ratio of 1.6:1 (8:5). Ideal dimensions for cover files are 2,560 x 1,600 pixels, which you should export as a high quality JPG in RPG. You add your cover separately to your book in KDP.

Sadly for me, I had pretty complex formatting so it turned out horribly on Kindle E-reader (see below) on my first try because I thought a two page spread of 6x6 inch wouldn't be "too bad". In that time before I realized the formatting was horrible, my first buyer downloaded onto an old kindle and left a 2 star review because it rendered so bad. I realize I had to (quickly) make a new version of my book where I removed most of the fanciness, and made it a 8*5" (portrait) single page spread. And yes, I'm still learning.

I should have heeded this error in the Kindle Previewer app, because it looked just like this (landscape) on a real E-reader. A jumbled mess because I though it would be fine to leave on "facing pages" for an EPUB. Ouch.