New Document Settings

We want to pay attention when setting up our document in the New Document dialogue. But don’t be too nervous about it. If you need to, you can change settings after the fact.

Facing pages

Use facing pages if your document is a publication. If it’s going to be printed as loose sheets, then don’t use Facing Pages.


Primary Text Frame

When you’re reading a mainstream magazine, there’s usually a lot going on in the pages. There are adds, side bars, titles, photos and more. There’s also the guts of the main story you’re reading. Well, those text frames are the Primary Text Frames. They make up the flow of the main story. They’re like a stream going through your document.


There can only be one primary text stream through a document. The beauty of Primary Text Frames is that when you apply a new Master with a Primary Frame, it adapts to the new layout with the text simply re-flowing through it.

If you didn’t check the Primary Text Frame checkbox when you created the document, you can always go to your Master Pages to activate them there. All you need to do is click on the icon shown above to make the little arrow appear.


The page bleeds is the excess space you set to allow for inaccuracy when your commercial printer trims your pages. It’s usually ⅛″. In InDesign, it appears as a red line all the way around the perimeter of your pages.


When you’re setting up your new document in InDesign, it’s a good idea to add a bleed. Even if you’re not sure that the document will bleed, there’s no harm in having it there. At least you won’t need to add it after the fact if you discover you need it.


Managing Text Frames

Your document can have a series of threaded frames. That means that the text from one story will flow from one frame to the next across pages. You can also have a single text frame that doesn’t connect to another.

In InDesign, a Story is one or a series of threaded text frames. You’ll know you’ve come to the end of the story when you see the # symbol at the end of the text.

Master Pages

Set Up a Horizontal Grid

Go to your A-Master, then use Layout > Create Guides… To create horizontal guides on your pages.


These guides will give you a structure for aligning objects.

Master Text Frames

Text frames which are on Master Pages appear on all pages that have that Master applied to them. Master text frames are locked on document pages. That means that you cannot select them on the document page without unlocking them. You can Shift-⌘-click on a locked frame on a document page to unlock it.


If you ever see the red + symbol shown above, it means that you have overset text. This means that there’s too much text to fit in the box. The excess text just doesn’t appear on screen.

To resolve this, you can either make your frame larger, or make the text flow to another frame by threading it.

Text Threads

Go View > Extras > Show Text Threads. We want to turn on text threads. Do this with no document open so that the setting sticks for all future documents. That’s what we call an InDesign default.


Text frames can be linked so the text flows from one to another. This is called threading. The little square at the bottom right of a text frame is called the out port.


It indicates if text in the current frame threads to another frame, as it does in the image above.

To thread text, click on the out port. You’ll get a cursor loaded with text. Just click anywhere on another frame to create a thread.

If you wish to insert a new frame between two threaded ones, simply click on the out port. You’ll get a cursor loaded with text. Click and drag to create a new frame in the story.

To break a thread, double-click on the out port. It will become overset text. You can then re-thread it to a new frame.

Styling Text

Body text us usually somewhere between 9 and 11 points in size, depending on the characteristics of your chosen font. The default leading in InDesign is 120%. This means that if your body text is set at 10 points, your leading will be 12 points. Don’t change this unless you really have a good reason.


We should be aiming for line lengths of 35 to 45 characters per line. You can check the number of characters per line using the Info panel. Highlight a line of text and refer to the panel for the character count.


When styling a large title, a deck or another short paragraph with large text, we want to turn on Balance Ragged Lines in their paragraph style. Never turn on this feature for long lengths of text like body copy. The line length will become uneven.

Base Styles

We create base styles with the goal of easing revisions. We want to set a base serif and a base sans-serif paragraph style. If we need to change the underlying fonts in our document, all we’ll need to do is change one style and all the inheriting styles will change.

Create a Base Sans paragraph style. The only item you set in this style is the font family. We want to have a Base Serif too. If you want, you can use Basic Paragraph for this. Again, just set the font family.


When you create all other styles, make them all Based on the base style. The base styles should be the parent of all the styles you create. When we change the font family in the base style, all other styles will inherit the change automatically. This is a real time-saver and headache avoider.

All text in all of your documents need to have a Paragraph Style applied to make revisions easier. It also prevents omissions in editing.

Spacing Paragraphs

We need a subtle but clear indication when one paragraph ends and another begins. The choices are a first line indent at the start of the paragraph, or a space after the paragraph.


When you use a space after the paragraph, these spaces cumulatively burn up a lot of room in your doucument. If space is precious, it may be better to use a first line indent. Size your first line indent at 1em. That means make it the same size as your type size. 9pt type, 9pt first line indent.

Character Styles

Use Character Styles sparingly and only where necessary. They’re used for styling at a character level and not at a paragraph level. They’re good for italicising words and the like.


GREP Styles

GREP Styles apply Character Styles when a certain condition is met. You could autotmatically make every instance of the word ‘français’ appear as français across your whole document.


All you need to do is tell it which Character Style to apply to the text. You also need to tell it which text to apply it to. InDesign will dynamically apply the style as it encounters the criteria. GREP Styles can do much more. We haven’t even touched on the actual GREP patterns here. We’ll come back to them in the future.

Align to Baseline

Aligning the text to the baseline is a common practice for multi-column page designs, like magazines. It makes the text baselines align across columns. So, if you put a ruler on the page at the baseline, they would all line up across columns. This makes for a much cleaner look.


You need to know your leading size to start with. Go to Preferences > Grids, then change the Increment Every number to match your leading value. Once that’s done, go to Indents and Spacing in your paragraph style. Set Align to Grid to All Lines.

Drop Caps

We’ll style a drop cap with the help of this information.

Paragraph Rules

Paragraph Rules are horizontal lines which can be activated in a Paragraph Style. They appear either above or below a paragraph. Remember, in InDesign, a paragraph can be as short as one glyph!


Styling Pull Quotes

Second to a headline, a pull-quote can really be an attention-getter. Pulling a quote from the text with provocative text will draw the reader to your story.


Pull quotes are set in a separate text frame in InDesign. We take a quote from the text (leaving it in the text) and copy it into its own frame, then style it with distinctive type and decorative quotation marks. The sans-serif font should be based on our Base Sans. Style a large quotation mark by typing a large quote mark in its own text frame. We want it light grey behind the text. Go to Swatches panel and create a New Tint Swatch. This takes the current colour and saves the tint as a swatch. Once it’s styled, select the frame and go Type > Create Outlines. Group the quote mark frame and the quote frame itself. Add a text wrap on the frame with the second button in the panel. Add 9pt padding around it.

All this will be set up in a way that we’ll be able to drop a fully formatted pull quote onto a page. The text frame should automatically size itself to the length of the quoted text.

Stying Sidebar Stories

Sidebar stories are separate but related stories. They’ll be of interest to the reader of the main story. A separate text frame is created and styled to stand out, sometimes with a background colour.


Sidebar stories can be another entry point for the reader. It’s easier to digest than the longer feature story. A reader may read the sidebar, then decide to dive into the feature.

We’ll create a separate text frame which will contain the headline and the sidebar story. It will have a wrap on it to push away the main text frame.


It can have its own custom baseline to match its leading. We’ll even create a rule along the top of its frame to differentiate it from the rest of the page content.

Your Assignment

Download the provided text. Create a new InDesign document with these settings. Pay attention to each field in this dialogue:


When we choose to start our document on page two, with facing pages, it makes it that we get one left and one right page in our document. We’re doing this because this layout is part of a magazine. Our story will appear on a left and a right page.

Master Pages

Rename A-Master to A-Grid. Place guides on the page using Layout > Create Guides…, like this:


Create a second master page called B-Folios. Base it on A-Grid. Add page numbers on this one using Shift-⌥-⌘-N.

Create a third master called C-Feature based on B-Folios. This is the one that’s going to have your Primary Text Frames on it. Make them 2-column text frames that are 4 page-columns wide, as shown on the design guide.

Styling Text

Start by activating Abril Text Regular and Franklin Gothic URW Compressed Book and Demi weights on TypeKit. Go to your Basic Paragraph Style and change it to Abril font. It’s going to be your Base Serif style. Create a Base Sans Paragraph Style with Franklin Gothic URW Compressed Book.

From here, you can style the rest of the document based on the provided style guide.

GREP Style

In your body copy paragraph style, go to GREP Styles. Make it that each instance of the word InDesign is coloured red.

Text Alignment

Your body copy needs to be left justified (not left aligned) and aligned to the baseline. There should be no Space After spacing in your body copy. Use a 1em first line indent.

Drop Cap

Create a Drop Cap Paragraph Style. Use the font Franklin Gothic Compressed for your drop cap. If you need a reminder of the process, read this…

Pull Quote

Use the provided text to create a pull quote as shown on the design guide.

Sidebar Story

Use the provided text to create a sidebar story as shown on the design guide.