How to Create an Iron Cross Self-Mailer Template Using InDesign

Looking for something more exciting than a standard trifold or postcard? One attention-grabbing solution is the iron cross fold. This speciality, or exotic, fold gets its name from the cross shape/plus sign shape it forms when flat and unfolded. It is fairly easy to set up and will add significant flair to your piece. It can be either square or rectangular after folding. The flaps can vary in size and include curves or angled cuts, if desired.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to create an iron cross self-mailer template using InDesign.

Step 1

Because the iron cross is an irregular shape, float the template on the page rather than create a document the trim size of the piece. Go to New > Document and set up a one-page document that is 1 inch larger than the trim size of the entire piece.

Since the outer edges of the template are 26.875 inches wide x 17.875 inches tall, the document pages need to be 27.875 inches wide x 18.875 inches tall. Uncheck Facing Pages. Set the Margins, Bleeds, and Slugs to 0 on all sides, as you won’t need them.

New Document

Step 2

If you don’t have your Rulers turned on, go to View > Show Rulers. You will need them to create the die lines and guides.

Click on the horizontal ruler and drag a guideline onto the page. In the Y coordinate box, enter 0.5 inches. Then, drag a guideline from the vertical ruler and enter 0.5 inches in the X coordinate box.

drag guideline

Step 3

Use step and repeat to create the other two sides of the outer guide.

Select the horizontal guideline. Then, go to Edit > Step and Repeat. Set the repeat count to 1 and the vertical offset to 17.875 inches, which is the height of our template. Click OK and the guide will pop into place.

To make the final outer guideline, select the vertical guideline and follow the above step and repeat process. Enter a repeat count of 1 and a Horizontal Offset of 26.875 inches, which is the width of our template. The outer guides are now complete.

step and repeat horiz

Step 4

Once again, use the step and repeat process to create guides for the inner edges of the template.

To compensate for the fold and ensure that the piece lies flat after folding, the left and right panels need to be .0625 inches (1/16 in.) narrower than the center panel. The left and right panels/wings will be 8.9375 inches wide and the center panel will be 9 inches wide.

Highlight the left outer guide. Go to Edit > Step and Repeat. Set the repeat to 1 and the Horizontal Offset to 8.9375 inches. The guide will automatically move to the 8.9375 inch mark on the horizontal ruler.

inner guides

Step 5

Highlight the newest guide and step and repeat it 9 inches horizontally.

You now have three panels measuring 8.9375 inches, 9 inches and 8.9375 inches.

panels wMeasurements

Step 6

Now, set the horizontal guidelines. To compensate for the fold and ensure that the piece lies flat after folding, the top and bottom panels need to be 0.0625 inches (1/16 in.) shorter than the center panel, making them 5.9375 inches tall.

Drag a guideline from the ruler at the top of the page. To place the first horizontal guideline, type 5.9375 inches into the Y coordinate box and hit return. The guide will automatically move to the 5.9375 inch mark on the vertical ruler.

Set First Horiz Guide

Step 7

Using the step and repeat method, highlight the last guide you created and set the repeat count to 1 and the Vertical Offset to 0.0625 inches (1/16 in.). This guide shortens the right and left panels to compensate for folding.

step and repeat 0625

Step 8

Highlight your latest guideline. Go to Edit > Step and Repeat. Enter 1 in the repeat count and 5.875 inches in the Vertical Offset box. Remember that we are taking 1/16 of an inch off both the top and the bottom of the right and left wings.

step and repeat 5875

Step 9

To create the final guideline, repeat the process above but enter 0.0625 inches in the Vertical Offset box.

step and repeat 0625 final

Step 10

It’s a good idea to lock your guides at this point to avoid accidentally moving them. Go to View > Grids and Guides > Lock Guides.

Your guidelines are now in place and should look like the screen shot below.

guidelines complete

Step 11

Create a die line indicating where the printer or bindery should trim the mailer.

Before you begin, Go to View > Grids & Guides > Snap to Guides and make sure Snap to Guides has a check mark beside it.

Create a new layer labeled either "Die Line" or "Die Line Do Not Print." On this layer, create a box using the Rectangle Tool (M) and enter the values W=9 inches and H=17.875 inches in the width and height boxes in the top menu bar. Fill the box with a color, no outline. Then, place the box between the guidelines. Make sure the edges of the box snuggly rest against the guides on all four sides.

first die rectangle

Step 12

The horizontal portion of the die area is created the same way as above but with the values W=26.875 inches and H=5.875 inches. Position the horizontal box between the guidelines.

You should now have a large cross/plus sign centered on your artboard.

stay between guides

Step 13

Select both of the boxes you just created. Go to Object > Pathfinder > Add. The two rectangles will merge into one shape.

Merge shapes

Step 14

To differentiate the die line from the graphics, outline it with a spot color.

Go to the Swatches panel and click on the fly-out menu in the upper right corner. Select New Color Swatch. In the dialogue box that comes up, set Color Type to Spot. After Color Mode, choose any swatch library you like. I chose Pantone Solid Coated. Since pink is easily recognized by printers as a die line, I picked Pantone Rubine Red. Click OK and you now have a new spot color in your Swatch panel.

Select your die line, delete the fill, and add a 0.5 Stroke using the spot color you just created. The die line also needs to be set to overprint. Select the die line. Go to Window > Output > Attributes and check Overprint Stroke. The printer will now be able to print a separate plate for the die line that will not interfere with the artwork.

create spot color

Step 15

On a standard rectangular piece, fold lines are created in the slug area. Since the iron cross is an irregular shape, the folds have to be marked another way.

Add a new layer and label it either "Fold Lines" or "Fold Lines Do Not Print." Then, create a new spot color using the process above. On the Fold Line layer, create a box that is 9 inches wide by 6 inches high. This is the size of the center of the piece. Place this box between the outer guidelines of the center rectangle. Select the fold line, delete the fill, and add a 0.5 stroke using the spot color you just created.

Make this stroke a dashed line to indicate that it is a fold. Several dashed line styles are available in the stroke options palette. If you do not see them, click on the Stroke panel fly-out menu. Choose Show Options and select your dash from the Type options.

fold lines

Step 16

To ensure that ink goes to the edge of the piece, it is necessary to add a bleed to the outer edges of the mailer. Since placement of the bleed guidelines isn’t critical, it’s okay to trust your eyes and set them up using the rulers.

Drag guidelines from the horizontal and vertical rulers and place them 1/8 of an inch from every edge of the die line.

bleed lines

Step 17

The second page of the document needs guides, bleeds and a template as well. This is a very easy process. Click on the Pages menu fly-out and choose Duplicate Spreads.

Duplicate spread


You are now ready to create a fabulous mailer!

Tip: Since the iron cross design involves a die cut, scoring, and possibly hand folding, it will also add expense. Be sure to check with both your printer and your client before you get started. Another thing you should know is that this layout is a paper hog and creates a considerable amount of waste. Do not despair my tree hugger friends! The extra paper can be used for accompanying pieces such as inserts or cards. As is true for most extraordinary things, they require added thought, funds and planning… but the end result is worth it.

Duplicate spread


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