August 2020
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Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

Want to make your own book writing template? In this tutorial, we’ll take a look at creating your own InDesign book templates, from creating and applying Master Pages to saving our work as an InDesign Template. We’ll start with a basic example and then apply these basics to a more interesting composition.

If you want to get a great end result without working through the tutorial, check out these useful InDesign book templates.

Tutorial Assets

The following assets are used in this tutorial.

1. Book Design Basics You Should Know

Step 1

Before we jump into InDesign and creating our book layout design, let’s cover a few important book design basics that you’ll want to keep in mind. Consider this an introductory review; it might be a good idea to write these terms down and ask your printer about them. Different projects will have different requirements—if your printer suggests, for example, a 0.75″ gutter, you’ll need to know what that means!

First, let’s talk about Margins. Think of Margins like the border around your page. Once, a student of mine asked, “Why do you need margins at all?” I found the best way to explain this was to share a visual example.

Notice the difference, below, between a page with adequate margin space and one with little margin space at all. Not only would we run the risk of losing type to things like page cutting and folds, it’s just plain old hard on the eyes. 

Example of Varied Margin Space

Step 2

The Gutter often refers to the space between your two pages in a two-page layout (or two-page spread).

So why would this space differ from the rest of your margins? Well, open up any book and take a look at the middle of it, between the two pages. Notice how some of the page space gets “lost” in the area where the page comes together. That’s why, in many cases, extra space here needs to be added to accommodate the space occupied when the book is bound together. Otherwise, the contents here would be closer than intended.

Example of Gutter

Step 3

Have you ever folded up several pieces of paper and noticed that they don’t line up perfectly when you do so? Each page ends up sticking out differently. That’s Creep.

The printer typically trims the pages, so they all align nice and neatly, rather than each of them extending in a varied way, like this.

Bleed, as ominous as it sounds, refers to the area of your work that will be trimmed off. For example, let’s say you have a layout where you want a full-page image with no visible margin. You’ll need to extend the work into the Bleed Area, so when the work is Trimmed, things will look as intended.

In the example, below, there is a 0.25″ Bleed outside the boundary of the document.

Example of Bleed

Step 4

Leading or Line Spacing refers to the space between your lines of type (not to be confused with Kerning or Tracking, which refer to spacing considerations for the words themselves).

As when we spoke about Margins earlier, Space is very important. It’s generally not a good idea, for example, to haphazardly pack content tightly with little regard for negative space.

Too little Line Spacing could make your content look cramped and hard to read. Too much Line Spacing and each line may look independent, rather than fluent. Find a happy medium.

2. How to Set Up an InDesign Book Template

Step 1

Now, let’s start out with a New Document in InDesign.

Note, we’re making a New Document and not a New Book. An InDesign Book file is a great way to combine multiple InDesign documents into one file (or book!). We’ll talk about that a little later on.

Example of Creating a New Document

Step 2

There are a lot of options here, so let’s start at the beginning.

Choose your Height and Width. You can change the unit of measurement where it says Units. I’ve set my Units to Inches, and I chose to work with 6″ x 9″.

You can also choose your Orientation. However, note that InDesign will take note of your values and swap the orientation automatically to correspond with the values you’ve input.

Example of New Document Settings

Step 3

Choose the number of pages you’d like. It’s easy to add new pages once you’ve already created your document, if you change your mind.

Facing Pages refers to whether or not you’d like your document to be presented as a two-page spread. For this tutorial, we’ll do so. However, this option can also be changed after you’ve created your document.

You can also choose the page number you’ll start with—choose what’s best for your project on this. This is another option that can be changed after you’ve created your document.

We’ll use Primary Text Frames to help make our text flow from page to page, so make sure this is toggled on. If you forget to do it when you create your document, you can always add this later, as well.

We can use Columns to help organize our layout. Column Gutter, in this case, refers to the space between each column.

Example of Additional New Document Settings

Step 4

Next, we can set our Margins. Note that the Link Icon here locks the values so they remain identical. Toggle it off if you’d like your margins to vary.

Example of Margin Settings

Step 5

Finally, we have our Bleed and Slug. Your printer may, for example, require a Bleed for elements that extend to the edge of the page. We could define that here, as a visual guide. For example, I print my own posters at home. When I do so, I always give myself a Bleed to work with, to account for minor variations when trimming. 

But what’s a Slug? The Slug is also located off of the page, so you won’t see it in the finished product. It is generally for print information, and we won’t use it in this tutorial.

Since we’re starting with a simple book layout design, we’ll leave the Bleed and Slug set to Zero, for now. 

Again, keep in mind that all of these values can be changed after your document has been created via File > Document Setup.

Example of Bleed and Slug Settings

3. How to Use Master Pages in InDesign

Step 1

Now that we’ve created our Document, let’s get started with Master Pages.

First, make sure your Pages panel is open. This is where we can view our pages at large—all of them in a nice, visual overview. If you don’t already see this panel, you can find it via Window > Pages.

Opening the Pages Panel

Step 2

At the very top of the Pages panel, we have our Master Pages. You will likely see [None] and A-Master, the defaults. 

So, what are Master Pages, and why are they so useful? Think of it as your book format template—this page (or pages) won’t print. Instead, InDesign will use the Master Pages as a set of rules to apply to your active pages. 

You don’t necessarily have to use Master Pages—if you don’t want one to apply to a particular page, you can choose [None], for example. 

However, you can also use multiple, different Master Pages in one document. See how this can really come in handy? We could potentially make a whole collection of book design templates here and apply them to different pages.

Example of Master Pages

Step 3

Let’s start out by editing A-Master. Double-Click on A-Master to start editing it.

If you want to double-check if you’re “inside” the A-Master and not one of your active pages, you can check the bottom of the screen. This dropdown tells you which page you’re currently viewing. 

Example of Visible Work Space

Step 4

While inside A-Master, you’ll notice InDesign has already placed a text box for us. It’s our Primary Text Frame, and this is where we’re going to put our body copy.

Notice that, by default, we have two large Text Frames that take up the space here defined by our single column and our margins. We could edit this in any way we like—resize it, move it, etc. However, for the purposes of this tutorial, let’s just leave it in this default appearance, for now. 

Take note of the three highlighted parts of the work area, below: 

The icon on the Text Frame indicates that this is a Primary Text Frame

Looking at the Pages Panel, we are working on A-Master.

At the bottom of the work area, we can again verify that we are currently working on A-Master.

Example of Work Space when editing Master Page

Step 5

Now, let’s add a Page Number to the footer area of our Master Page.

Thankfully, we don’t have to do this by hand for every page! InDesign can easily put an indicator here that will dynamically place the page number for us. 

First, Create a New Text Frame by using the Type Tool. Click and drag to create the Text Frame. Don’t worry if it’s not perfectly placed. We can fix that later.

Adding a New Text Frame

Step 6

Then, insert a Current Page Number Marker by going Type > Insert Special Character > Markers > Current Page Number

Tip: Make sure your Text Frame is selected, with the Type Tool, before doing so—InDesign can’t place this marker if you don’t tell it where to do so!

Adding in Page Number Markers

Step 7

Do this on both pages. You can alter the alignment of the Current Page Number Marker via the Paragraph panel. You can find that via Window > Type and Tables > Paragraph

You can resize your Text Frames with the Selection Tool (located in the Tools panel)

In this case, I aligned the page number in the center, on both pages, to keep things simple.

Resizing and Adjusting the Page Numbers

Step 8

I also made some adjustments to my Margins. You can do so by going File > Document Setup. It’ll give you the same options as when we first created our document. 

In working with my composition here, I decided I’d like a little extra margin space on the bottom, for the page number, and some extra margin space in the Gutter to potentially accommodate the fold. 

Adjusting the Margins

Step 9

But let’s say we want the first page of each chapter to look a little different. 

Let’s select A-Master and Right-Click (on PC) or Control-Click (on Mac), then select Duplicate Master Spread “A-Master”.

You’ll notice that this creates a new Master Page set for us called B-Master.

Creating a Duplicate Master Page

Step 10

Go inside of B-Master, just as we did with A-Master earlier.

I decided that I’d like the left page to be blank. I erased the Primary Text Frame from this side of my two-page spread.

Then, I decided to make the Primary Text Frame start lower on the right page. Use the Selection Tool to adjust the size of the Text Frame.

I want to place a header at the top of this page. This would be a great place to put something like the number or name of the chapter. 

Use the Text Tool to Create a New Text Frame. Then, I can type anything I want in here. For the sake of this example, I made it say “Chapter One”. 

I also wanted the text here to be different from the body copy, so it stands out. You can change the text in any Text Frame by using the Character and Paragraph panels. They are located within Window > Type and Tables.

Here is what my B-Master looks like.

Editing the Master Page

4. How to Apply Master Pages

Step 1

Now that we’ve created a basic book layout template, let’s take it for a test drive!

If you need some body copy to experiment with, I recommend going to—it will generate some dummy copy for you (or test words for you to experiment with). This will have a more natural text flow as opposed to typing gibberish. 

I pasted a good 15+ paragraphs of Lorem Ipsum onto my first page—and then InDesign went ahead and created additional pages for me, to accommodate the length of the text. Handy, right?

Go ahead and browse through your pages—you’ll notice the page numbers are all there and correct too. Awesome, right?

Adding Text to Active Pages

Step 2

Let’s not forget about our B-Master! This is how we’d like the start of our chapter to look, after all. 

To apply the B-Master to a page, simply click and drag it to the page(s) you’d like it applied to. It’s as simple as that!

Notice that the text flow is uninterrupted, even with the different Master Page applied. 

Applying a New Master Page

5. How to Use These Book Layout Design Concepts

Step 1

So, now that we’ve created a basic book layout design and applied it to our document, let’s do something a little more interesting with what we’ve explored. Let’s create a more interesting and creative layout design. 

No need to start a New Document—I’m just going to go ahead and Create a New Master Page. Duplicate A-Master—this will give us a new set of Master Pages called C-Master.

Remember to make sure you’re working “inside” of C-Master, as we make changes, and not on one of your active pages.

Duplicating a Master Page

Step 2

Many books contain more footer (or header) information that just the page number. It’s not uncommon to see the title of the book and/or the author there, too. So let’s add that in here using the Text Tool

Remember, you can change the type’s appearance via the Character and Paragraph Panels. You can also change the Text Color from the toolbar. 

Since this is a page of body copy, we don’t necessarily want to get too wild with the design elements. Simple, clean, and easy to read is typically the way to go.

I did, however, experiment with a little use of line, using the Line Tool. Feel free to try it on your Master Page, too! I lowered the Stroke Width to 0.5 (the Stroke panel, via Window > Stroke) and the Opacity to 50% (the Effects panel, via Window > Effects), so these lines would stay nice and subtle. 

Experiment with adding and moving around elements! Feel free to try your own ideas or you can follow my layout, below. 

Example Book Design Layout

Step 3

I tried to think of a fun, yet supplemental way to incorporate a little whimsy here, without being distracting, so I thought… how about rainbow page numbers that gradually transition as you turn the page? Cool, right? And it’s simple too, using Master Pages. 

Once I was happy with C-Master, I duplicated it three times. The only difference between these Master Pages is the color of the footer content. This meant that after I changed the text color, I had:

  • C-Master, where the page numbers are red on the left and orange on the right
  • D-Master, where the page numbers are yellow on the left and green on the right
  • E-Master, where the page numbers are blue on the left and purple on the right

Here’s an example of what these page transitions would look like, together.

Example of Rainbow Footer Transitions

Step 4

In further experimenting with this aesthetic, I added some watercolor elements in the footer area. These Watercolor Rainbow Hearts are available on Envato Elements, if you’d like to experiment with them too!

If you’d like to insert imagery, go to File > Place to load up your image of choice. InDesign will then let you place it in a frame within your layout. 

I added hearts of corresponding colors to the footers of each of my rainbow-themed Master Pages. 

Adding Images to the Footer Area

Step 5

Now, let’s do something interesting with the first page of the chapter. 

Create one more duplicate of C-Master. This one will be called F-Master (if you followed along with my rainbow page numbers). 

On the left page, I removed the Primary Text Frame and arranged multiple hearts. I might use this between chapters or if I plan to have content prior to a chapter. 

On the right, I lowered the starting point for the text on the first page. I also added a small, decorative element above the start of the chapter. 

Remember, we’re working inside Master Pages here—not inside the active pages.

Example of Master Page Design

Step 6

Now that we’ve made ourselves a fun book design layout, let’s go ahead and put it to use!

Looking at your Pages panel, let’s change the applied Master Pages here from A-Master and B-Master to our newly created Master Pages.

All you have to do is select the Master Page of your choice and click and drag to apply it to select pages. 

Then voila! We’ve changed up our layout and applied our new template content.

Remember, you can always go back to your Master Pages and make changes! Very rarely do I get a design “just right” the first time; personally, my process involves a lot of experimenting and adjusting.

6. How to Create InDesign Books and InDesign Templates

Step 1

Note that, when you save your work, you can specifically save it as an InDesign Template or indt file, rather than an InDesign Document or indd file

So, what’s the difference? 

With an InDesign Template, you can start up a New Document, using this Template as your basis. Simply go to File > Open and choose your Template file. 

When you choose your Template File, you can choose “Open Normal” or “Open Original”. See how this could come in handy?

When choosing “Open Normal” for an InDesign Template File, you’ll get a new, untitled document, based on your template.

When choosing “Open Original”, you’ll open the original Template File—so you can make changes to it.

Example of Opening an inDesign Template

Step 2

It’s important to note that a book is a big project. For example, I put together a process book once that was over 300 pages—and it was graphically intensive too. A file of that size can be a challenge to work with for a number of reasons.

That’s why InDesign Books can be a great tool to use for larger projects. For example, you could have each chapter of your book as an individual InDesign file. This could be far more manageable than dealing with hundreds of pages in one file. Then, you could compile them all in one InDesign Book—it’ll even sort out the page numbers across files for you.

While this functionality is not the focus of this tutorial, you can check out the feature via File > New > Book

Example of Creating a New Book

Step 3

Note that this does not open up a New Document—instead, you’ll see the Book panel. Here, you can add files, move files, and print files as one group. 

Example of the Book Panel

And There You Have It!

We’ve created an InDesign Book Template! 

A final tip before we say goodbye: communicate with your printer, especially if you’re publishing on your own. Ask questions and arm yourself with a knowledge of print-related terms. If you’re not sure of the best file specifications, like sizing, margins, and things like that—ask! Your printer should be happy to help you with this information, and it’s better to ask lots of questions at the start than to realize your file’s all messed up at the very end.

Thank you for following along, and good luck with your InDesign projects!

Example of Final Book Design Example

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