THIS IS THE FIRST in a series of articles outlining the process I use when designing a magazine. The information in this first post is mainly aimed at newbies and is very basic, just covering setting up the document and blank page templates in InDesign (in great detail - probably way too much for anybody familiar with the program).
I’ll get into the juicy details of page design in part 2. In the meantime, this is a good introduction for anyone new to using InDesign for magazine production.
*All of this information relates to the process I use when designing LeftLion magazine - a bi-monthly free magazine printed on newsprint in full-colour full-bleed tabloid supplement format. The printer spec is for the magazine to be supplied as single page PDF files, rather than spreads or any other multiple page setup (for which i would use a slightly different setup and export method, which i must write up at some point). All instructions are for setup using InDesign on a PC (the process should be roughly the same on a Mac, but dialog boxes and naming conventions may differ.
Setting up the documents
The first thing I do is setup the page templates in inDesign. For LeftLion, the page size is 280×380mm with all four page margins set at 10mm; and bleed set at 5mm on all four edges. As I like to vary the number of columns i use on the various pages within the mag, I leave the page columns setting as 1 (this just stops me having to look at unneccessary column guides while I’m working on the page). If I used a standard number of columns on all pages, I would use this number as my columns setting.
I never layout a publication on a single page template - I always work on the pages as spreads (check the ‘facing pages’ option when setting up the document in InDesign). The reader is going to to experience the layout as spreads, so it should be worked on and laid out accordingly. You get a better feel for the structure and pacing of the mag working on it that way. It’s best not to do the full magazine one one document, though - the amount of picture links it would end up containing would make it unnecessarily slow to work with. What I do is create 3 documents - one for the front section of the magazine, which goes from the cover to the page before the centrespread.
This is a convenient place to split the layout documents up, as the centrespread will be laid out as one landscape document, which requires its own double-width template (560×380mm). The third document is basically a copy of the front document, but is used for the back half of the magazine. You can open your blank front section document and save a copy of it as the back section layout document, but before doing that, it is worth adding common elements such as extra margin guides, page numbers etc. to the front document so that they are included in the back section template when you save it as a copy.
It is good practice to leave more space as the bottom of the page than at the top - it stops the content looking like it is falling of the page and provides space to include page numbers. I place a horizontal ruler guide 15mm from the bottom of the page and use this to align the bottom of my body text or other content to. Then I add page numbers to the bottom outer corners of the pages, aligned flush with the vertical margin (10mm in from the outer edge, so it lines up with the content above) and flush beneath the bottom margin, which gives it 5mm breathing space from the content above.
Once I’ve done this, I’ll save a copy of the front template as the back template (as mentioned above) and change the page numbers. I find it useful to go into the numbering and section options menu of the back template document and set the page numbers to start from the same page number as the back section (ie. if I am producing a 32 page magazine, the first page of the back half will be page 18, so i would set the back section document to begin from page 18). This way, the document mirrors the page numbers of the magazine and makes it easier to jump to the correct page in the document using inDesign’s page selection buttons at the bottom left of screen.
I also put the same footer margin on the centrespread and paste the page numbers on from one of the previous documents.
Now I have three files for the whole magazine, ready to have content placed on them and laid out - something I’ll cover in part 2 of this series next week, which will be much more exciting, I promise.