Setting up a Basic Print Document in InDesign

When setting up print documents in InDesign, it’s helpful to have grid structures, paragraph styles, and colors set up before you start working on the actual design. Putting thought into your margins and grids makes for a better end product by keeping elements orderly and consistent. 


Margins: Before determining what your margins will be, think about what kind of document you’ll be designing. One page documents (like flyers) should have the same margins on the left and right sides, but they could be different on the top and bottom, or the same dimensions all the way around. For multi-page brochures and magazines, however, there are many options. Having thin, uniform margins on all sides is a modern approach that many magazines use because it leaves ample room for content. Another approach is to have each one sized differently from smallest to largest as follows: inside margins, top margin, outside margin, bottom margin. This provides more breathing space, and more room for the reader to hold the pages on the edge without their fingers covering text. 

Column grids: Column grids are instrumental in keeping text boxes, graphics, photos, and other design elements lined up properly. As with margins, the number of column grids should be chosen based on the type of document you’re designing. More columns provide for more flexibility. Magazines often use up to six or even twelve column grids, but not all documents require that amount of flexibility.

Baseline grids: Baseline grids are especially important when using large amounts of text. They look like notebook paper with horizontal lines that you set up based on the leading of the body text you’re using. If the leading is set at twelve, you could set up your baseline grid at twelve or even six points. To make sure titles, callouts, etc line up, the rest of your paragraph styles could be set up in multiples of six. For example, a callout could have a leading of 18 and every other line would line up on the grid. Another option is to just have only the first lines of your larger text aligned. When you choose the “Align to Baseline Grid” option in the Paragraph window, InDesign automatically lines up the text on the grid and this helps to ensure your columns of text are neatly aligned. 

Paragraph Styles: Setting up paragraph styles before you begin saves a lot of time and helps to ensure that your headers, body text, and callouts are uniform. Paragraph styles enable you to create a preset that you can apply to text with one click.

Colors: This is pretty basic, but it’s helpful to delete the automatic colors and make swatches with the correct brand colors or the ones you’re planning on using.

Even if you get crazy complicated with the design, having solid grid structures, paragraph styles, and colors set up first can help ensure that everything looks put together. Use this basic guide to help you get started on your print design projects!