InDesign 101: Part 2


Take your seats, class. If you followed directions and did your homework from our last session, you should have gathered all the specifications from your printer as well as set up all your comic files to be easily placed into an InDesign document. You may have even started a new document and set up your margins, bleeds and page sizes. How, you are looking at a blank canvas and at some of those peculiar new pallets you don’t recognize from trusty ol’ Photoshop and Illustrator. Now, take a deep breath… this isn’t going to be nearly as hard as you have been imagining. The hard work has already been done: writing, sketching, inking, and coloring your comics… and saving them properly. Now, we have InDesign to gather them all neatly, and then spit them out into a PDF. We can DO this.

Note: if you have not read PART ONE of this series, please do. It gives you a nice primer… and will be referenced in this article.

Okay, fine. Here's a quick overview.

Okay, fine. Here’s a quick overview.

Master Pages

Now here is a key purpose to using InDesign to help set up your book. This is especially helpful if your book will follow a very consistent layout, such as 2 comic strips on a page, and commentary underneath, or maybe there will be a similar background image on each page. If it reminds you of using Powerpoint master slides, you would be correct in that connection- it’s the same idea. Master Pages, located in the top portion of the PAGES pallet, are where you would set up your template for the bulk of your book- displaying items like logos page numbers, footers (with URL, etc), empty text or graphic frames where commentary or a comic will be placed. Any pages within your document that have this master page applied, will be given this default template. You can create multiple masters, even spreads (2 facing pages).  Spend some time learning how to fully utilize master pages, and it’ll save you FAR more time in the end, repeating the same steps over and over and over.

Here are some noteworthy bullets about Master Pages:master

  • You’ll note that items on a master page consist of dotted lines, unlike items on a document page. This helps to ensure you’re on the right kind of page!
  • Items on a master page, once on page in your document, cannot be edited or moved. (again, much like Powerpoint master slides). You can, however, override the master item.
  • Pay attention to layers on the master page. You can set items to be placed behind or in front of the items on your pages.
  • Margins and columns can correspond with your master page. If you change these specifications on the master, you can force items on pages with that master set to adhere to the new adjustments.
  • Create a new master using the menu in the Pages panel, or by dragging a spread from the pages section into the master page section of the panel.
  • You can edit and re-edit the master pages at any time. Once edited, the pages with that master applied will change to reflect your edits.
  • Applying a master page to document page is easy as dragging it over top of the page in the pallet. Top apply a master page to multiple pages, select all those pages and then press Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) as you click the master you want to apply. To UNapply a master, select “none” from the masters section of a the pages panel.
  • Override a master item (such as the image frame where you want to add a comic) by first making sure “Allow Master Item Overrides On Selection” is checked in the Pages panel menu, when that object is selected on the master page. Then, on the document page, press Ctrl+Shift (Windows) or Command+Shift (Mac OS) and click the item, to change the item as desired.

A more detailed set of instructions for Master Pages can be found HERE on Adobe’s site.

Page Numbers

I recall having a hard time figuring out how to add page numbers to my document. Well, it’s actually a lot easier than I made it, as I was stumbling through the process. Allow me to save you that time. Like anything else that you wish to appear on every page, pages numbers can be added to the Master Page.

  1. Double-click the master page, and create a text box where you want the page number to go, on both pages (assuming you are using a double-page spread)
  2. If you wish any word to come before the number itself, such as “page” type it in the box.
  3. Position the insertion tool where you would type the number, and go to Type > Insert Special Character > Markers > Current Page Number.
  4. Make sure this master page is applied to all the pages in your document, where you wish to have a page number. If you are using multiple master pages, add this to each individual master page, for the page numbers to continue counting up correctly.

A more detailed explanation of how to add page numbers (with even more options) can be found on Adobe’s site HERE.

The Basics: Text, Images, Saving

Okay, so now you have a master page set up, with correct margins and bleed and gutters, page numbers, a footer with a URL maybe, possibly a logo, some image frames where your comics will go, and any other text boxes where you may type some additional copy. Time to, you know, actually make your book. While there is PLENTY of other tools available to you, I am only going to give you the bare necessities here. How to add text and make it efficient AND pretty using character & paragraph styles. Adding your actual comic images using the rectangle frame tool. And finally, how to save the file properly for the printer and archive it for easy access should you ever need to make changes.

Picture 1

  1. Text. Just like Master Pages help you more efficiently do the same dang thing repeatedly, Character & Paragraph Styles assist you in the same way with your text. Go ahead and dig into these pallets, use them for all they are worth. Any graphic designer will tell you- consistency is important. So, to keep your book looking pretty, keep the character styles EXACT. This means the font, the point size, the leading, the kerning, the color and any other adjustments you may want to add. For most of you, 2 different styles may be utilized: a general copy style for subtext or commentary, and a header style for bigger call-outs. The header style can use a bold, fun or very stylized font, but I suggest a simplistic font like Arial, Helvetica, or Times for the general copy. In-your-face crazy fonts can be hard to read in a paragraph, or even just a sentence, so use sparingly. Create your new Character Style via the panel’s menu, and work your way through the options, choosing your font, size, color, (etc.) and naming the style accordingly.
    Actually adding text to your page should come easily if you have used any Adobe software- use the type tool and draw a box with it to give text box boundaries. Type your copy. Highlight the copy and simply click the new Character Style you created, and POOF: your typed copy will take on that style. Just like Master Pages, you can edit the style whenever you wish and it will apply the changes throughout your document. More information can be found on Adobe’s site HERE.
  2. Picture 4Images. Although you can copy-paste images into InDesign, it’s best to use the rectangle frame tool, to place where the images will go. Pasting will embed the file, whereas using the Place command will allow you to LINK your image- meaning, if you have to revise your comic itself it will automatically refresh in InDesign! Much like your text sits inside the box you drew with the text tool, do the same with this tool. Draw your box where you want your comic file to be. Go to File–> PLACE, and select a file. You may need to change the size (shrinking only! Do not increase the size of your comic, or bitmapping can occur!), and this can be done manually with the cursor, with the Transform pallet, or using the handy menu command  Object > Fitting.  Please note here, the difference between the selection tool and the DIRECT selection tools. The regular selection tool (black arrow) will select the frame itself, where as the DIRECT selection tool, (white arrow) will turn the cursor into a hand icon, and select the image itself.
    Using your Links Pallet (shown, right), you can then swap out images by “relinking”, check to see which images have been updated, or moved, and quickly see information about each file. If you recall, I suggested in the previous article to keep all your image (comics) files together with this document. If, for instance, you burn off your comics to a DVD, and link the files into an InDesign document, once you remove the DVD, InDesign wil loose that link and give you plenty of headaches about it. Keep all your files together. If it means duplicating the comic files, do so.
    There are even ways of placing multiple images at once— perhaps a full chapter of comic files– which eliminates the extra clicking and selecting. It may work for you, or you may prefer more control and opt to place one by one. Adobe explains it best HERE.
  3. Saving. In the end, you will have 2 main documents: The InDesign file (.indd), and a .PDF file for the printer. Saving the Indesign file is easy enough, simply go to File->Save-As, and save the .indd in a folder with (or close to) all your comic files that are linked. Any time you need to make changes to your book, you will be accessing this file. Once you believe your book to be complete (proofread, and with all the proper specifications per your printer), you will then save a PDF file for the printer. Using File-> EXPORT, start to save your PDF. There are a couple areas in the PDF dialog box where you need to pay close attention. (see, right)
    • Typically, you will be using the Press Quality Preset, at the top.
    • Check to see if your printer prefers “spreads” or single pages, and locate that checkbox under “general”.
    • Pay close attention to the Marks and Bleeds section. Your printer should specify how much bleed is needed. Even if you made sure your placed images bled out accordingly, the bleed itself will not show in the PDF unless you alter this section. If crop marks are required, this is where you add them.

    The “Press Quality” Preset should adequately cover the rest. Sometimes, printers will supply their own preset download, so if that is the case, you would load that FIRST by going to File->Document Presets->Define.
    Once the PDF is saved, you should then be able to upload via your printer’s website, or FTP site if necessary. My experience is with Createspace, and from this point, the pre-press staff will look over the PDF and request alterations only if needed.

A Video, for those who, y’know, want a Video.

That’s it, folks! Pretty much the InDesign basics you’ll need to organize & layout your book. Happy book making! If you have any further questions, feel free to ask and I will see if I can help.


Creator_Bios_Dawn-150x150Dawn Griffin is a self-described “crazy chick”. She likes steak, Cleveland sports, video games and oh yeah, comics. She spent her high school years either playing street ball, pitching, or drawing comics and submitting them to syndicates. Once she –accidentally– discovered the world of webcomics, the syndication route became a pointless hurdle. After all, “Crazy Chicks” do things their *&%$ selves. Dawn is the mastermind behind Zorphbert and Fred, and the illustrator of the Abby’s Adventures kids book series. She can be easily bribed with ice cream.









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