InDesign Project — Bleed and Layering Master Pages

By LaurenMarie

I thought I had finished my last InDesign Project installation and then I realized I hadn’t walked you through setting up bleed or talked to you about the different screen/view modes. Tracey had also asked if I would further expand on the idea of layering master pages. Sorry this is a little out of the normal flow of a project!

If you missed any of the previous articles, you can find them here:

  1. Grids, Guides and Baselines
  2. Setting Up Master Pages and Styles
  3. Working with Text and Images
  4. Lists, Tabs and Final Details

Setting up Bleed

I completely forgot to go over setting up bleed in the first article of this InDesign project walkthrough series. It’s very simple, but if you don’t know how to do it, I’ll explain.

First, bleed is the extra area around the outside of a page so that any elements which go to the edge of the final size of the paper, like an image or a block of color, will truly go to the edge of the paper and there won’t be a risk of having a white border (like if you were to print it out on your ink jet at home). Professional print shops actually print your projects on paper larger than the trim size (final size), usually with multiple pages on one sheet. Suffice to say if your images are on the edge of the paper, you need to give them extra room on the edges in Photoshop than you’ll actually need. When in InDesign the images will need to touch the red bleed line.

Setting Up Bleed in InDesign

In InDesign, you’ll set up the bleed when you create your document. If you can’t see the Bleed and Slug area in the New Document dialog box, then click More Options (bottom button on top right of box). I like to use 1p6 or ¼” on every side, but generally 0p9 or 1/8″ (3mm for you metric people) is within acceptable limits. You may want to double check how much bleed your printer needs, especially if you are printing large format banners.

Quick Word about Views

Screen Modes in InDesignIt’s important to know how to switch between different views or screen modes. You could use the screen mode buttons at the bottom of the Tools palette, or you could just learn to love the W key. The Normal view is your view with all the guides and grids that you have turned on (access more grid/guide options in the View>Guides and Grids). Preview is roughly what your page will look like trimmed down to final size. There are other screen modes that you can access via the Tools palette (click on and hold the Preview icon until the menu to the right shows up) or the View>Screen Modes menu item.

There is also and Overprint Preview, which gives you a full resolution view of the whole document. View>Overprint Preview or Alt+Shift+Ctrl+Y will turn it on/off. Warning: this is very performance intensive and it is not recommended you use this all the time. I generally only use it if I need to line objects up perfectly or if I want to check how something will render in output. It’s faster, in my opinion, than working with the Display Performance settings.

Display Performance in InDesign

Overprint Preview is different and separate from the Display Performance settings found under the view menu. The Display Performance is what you’re used to with the resolution options from QuarkXpress. You can set the overall display performance and you can control settings for individual objects through right clicking on them and going down to the last option Display Performance. I keep all these settings at their defaults: Typical Display for overall and Allow Object-Level Display Settings.

Layering Master Pages

I’ve mentioned a few times before that you can layer Master Pages. It’s a good idea, especially if you have multiple types of pages you’ll be using throughout your document.

When you create a new document, you have one Master Page, A-Master. Use this to put your page numbers and other folio information on.

Automatic Page Numbering in InDesign

To insert an automatic page number

  1. Create a new text box on the Master Page with the text tool (no need to create a content box like with QuarkXpress)
  2. With your cursor in the box, right click and navigate to Insert Special Character>Markers>Current Page Number
  3. The prefix of the Master Page will appear (A for A-Master) to represent the auto page number when you’re on the Master Page. On normal layout pages, the page number will appear

Now create a new Master Page by right clicking in the Master Page area on the Pages palette and choosing New Master… You can name it whatever you’d like (perhaps what kind of master it is, like Chapter Start) but make sure to select A-Master for the Based On Master drop down menu. You can create as many Master Pages as you need in this fashion.

Layering Master Pages Diagram

You can even layer several Master Pages. Here is an example of multiple Masters:

  1. A-Folio: Put all your folio information on the first Master Page because you want it to always show the page number
  2. B-Header: Put all the repeating header graphics on another Master that is based on A-Folio.
  3. C-Text: Put all your basic text elements on this page and base it on B-Header (which is based on A-Folio, so it will have page numbers)
  4. D-Graphs: You have a separate style for supporting graphs for the text and you want the header graphics on here so you base this on B-Header, too (which is based on A-Folio). This kind of page is different than the text pages, though, and you don’t want to include all the text boxes you used on D-Text, which is why we’re creating a new master.
  5. E-Reference: You want a different header graphic for the index at the back and the table of contents in the front so you create a fifth Master that is based on A-Folio so that it has page numbers and has text boxes for the content.

Working with Multiple Masters

Renaming a Master Page in InDesign

Now back to our original project. One thing you’ll quickly learn is that if you change your mind on something you’ve already created, you can always go back and change its settings. I decided to rename my Master Pages to better tell what they are. I right clicked on the Master Page name (A-Master) in the Pages palette and chose Master Options for “A-Master” and changed the name to Folio, so now it shows up as A-Folio. I did the same for B-Master, changing its name to Chapter Start and I also changed the number of pages to 1 because I’ve decided all my chapters are going to start on the right hand side even if the facing page has to be left blank.

Folio on Wrong Side

I create a little chapter title text box on the Master Page (B-Chapter Start) that I want for all of my chapter titles (of course, I create a paragraph style for it in case I need to change it later!). Unfortunately, my folio is on the left hand side and I want it on the right. I Ctrl+Shift Click on the folio text box to override it and then I move it to the right side and change the paragraph alignment to right. It does make the auto page number marker change to B, but this won’t matter for our purposes.

Applying a New Master Page in InDesign

Next I add some pages to my layout by clicking and dragging the A-Folio page down into the document page portion of the Pages palette. For the spread that covers pages 4-5, I want it to be a new chapter. Notice how at first it has little A’s in the corners of the pages. I’m going to click and drag B-Chapter Start onto the right hand page and click and drag [None] onto the left page because I want it to be completely blank.

You can continue adding new spreads to the document by dragging the A-Folio pages into the layout section of the Pages palette until you have all of your pages (remember they need to be in multiples of 4 for printing purposes). Change the Master Page to B and [None] as needed for your chapter starts.

I hope this example has better illustrates just how powerful Master Pages really are and why you should use them. If you have any questions or need me to explain something a little better, just ask in the comments!

Do you need more help with InDesign? Feel free to leave a comment below, contact me or head over to and sign up for their InDesign Tutorials. It’s only $25/mo for unlimited access! This is a resource I use myself and I highly recommend it. You can get a free 7 day pass to, now too! Just follow that link.

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