Set up the Grid

  1. Open a new document (command + n for Mac or ctrl + n for Windows).
  2. In the New Document window, decide if you want facing pages on or off, how many columns you want, what the gutter and margins should be. These setting will depend on the kind of document you’re creating. They can be changed later, so don’t sweat it if you don’t get it right off the bat.
  3. Set up the baseline grid by going to View > Grids and Guides > Show Baseline Grid. The default grid size is set to 12pt, but you can change this by going to Preferences > Grids and updating the “Increment Every” setting there.
  4. Draw out a text frame from the top left corner of the margin to the bottom right corner and paste in your text. Don’t worry about the text not lining up with the baseline grid. We’ll fix that in a minute.

Clean up Your Content

  1. Remove double spaces. The double space after the period is a throwback to the typewriter days when the mono-spaced font needed extra room for readability, but with today’s digital proportional fonts that’s not necessary anymore. A double space after a period is considered bad typesetting and should be removed from your documents.
    • To do this press command + f (or ctrl + f on Windows) to bring up the Find/Changes dialogue box.
    • Select “Multiple Spaces to Single Space” in the Query dropdown menu.
    • Press “Change All”.
  2. Remove multiple paragraph returns.
    • In the same dialogue box, select “Multiple Return to Single Return”.
    • Press “Change All”. This will make your paragraphs seem to disappear, but what you need to use is space after paragraphs or indents after paragraphs to space out each paragraph.
  3. Separate text frame into columns.
    • Go to Object > Text Frame Options (or command + b) and select the number of columns you want. This number should match the number of columns entered when you first set up the document. To change the number of columns on your page layout, go to Layout > Margins and Columns and change the number in the “Columns” section.
  4. Select your font type and size. Print body text is usually between 9pt and 12pt depending on the type of font you use. Take note of the leading setting – this should match your baseline grid size (go to Preferences > Grids > Increment Every to change the baseline grid setting).
  5. Align your text to the baseline grid.
    • Open up the Text Frame Options dialogue box (command + b), and unlink the inset spacing options. Adjust the top inset spacing until you see your text’s baseline sit neatly on your baseline grid.


Set up your Character and Paragraph Styles

For this section, you need to keep in mind your visual hierarchy – basically displaying the importance and flow of information through the use of typeface weights and pairs, scale, texture and colour.

  1. Set up your character style.
    • Select some of your body text (with the font, leading and kerning all ready have been set up), and open up your character style panel. Go to Window > Styles if you don’t see your character style panel.
    • Press the new style icon at the bottom of the panel (highlighted below) and in the pop-up dialogue box give the style a descriptive name like “body” so you know what style it relates to.
  2. Set up your paragraph style.
    • Highlight some body text and in the paragraph style panel, click the new style icon and give the paragraph style a name. “Body” will work again for this.
    • Set up your paragraph spacing by double-clicking on your newly created paragraph style to open the options dialogue box. Under “Indents and Spacing”, in the “Space After” section, enter in the same number you have for the leading setting of your font (this means the font leading, baseline grid size and space after numbers will all be the same).
  3. Set up your sub-heading styles.
    • For your sub-headings, style the text first then create a character style for each. You’ll want to keep the x-height similar to your body font so it doesn’t through off your text from the baseline grid. It’s better to start styling your minor headings first and work your way up to your main heading.
    • If you’re using a serif font for the body, it’s a nice idea to use a sans-serif font for the heading (or vice versa). There’s a website called FontPair that can help you select your fonts if you’re not sure what will look good.
    • After you’ve created a character style for the headings, create a paragraph style for each one (I recommend calling the character styles and paragraph styles the same name for simplicity). The paragraph style will give you more options to style the heading further.
    • To add a line under your heading, that extends across the width of the text frame column, open your paragraph style for that heading and click on Paragraph Rules in the left menu. Select “Rule Below” from the dropdown menu and check “Rule On” is selected. The weight, offset and line type can also be customised. If your copy alignment is set to left alight with a raggedy edge, you may want to nudge the right indent in a bit so it lines up better optically with the rag.
  4. Set up your main heading.
    • Your main heading should be 2 – 4 times the size of your body text, depending on the font used.
    • Style your main heading then create a new character style from it (make sure the heading is selected, then press the “new style” icon from the character style panel – this will make sure your character style is populated with the settings from your heading that you just styled).
    • For big headings, you’ll want to make sure your optical kerning is on and decrease the tracking if necessary (both these options are in the character panel).
    • Create a paragraph style from your character style. In your paragraph style, you can select the heading to span multiple columns by double-clicking main heading paragraph style you just created and open the paragraph style dialogue box. Go to span columns (in the left menu), and select “Span Columns” from the Paragraph Layout dropdown menu. You can also choose how many columns the heading spans.
    • If your heading is sitting too low on your text frame, adjust the baseline to nudge it up so the top of the capital letters sits flush with the top of the text frame. To do this, open up your character style for your main heading and go to Advanced Character Forms in the side panel. Where it says “Baseline Shift”, increase the size of that until you see your heading sit nicely against the top of the text frame.
    • You’ll see here in my example above that the text is no longer sitting on the baseline neatly. To fix this open up your paragraph style for your mail heading and go to “Indents and Spacing” in the left panel, and adjust the space after setting (this is the same setting we adjusted in point 2 of this section).


Getting Your Copy to Look Good

Zoom out and have a look at your whole page. Do you have any widows (single words on their own line) or orphans (single lines of text separated from the rest of their paragraph which has spilled into the next column)? Are the edges to raggedy? Adjust the text size in the body character style if necessary and see if that helps.

Have a look at this article about hyphenation that can give you some tips as to how to control the hyphenation and spacing in your document.

In the body paragraph style, play with the right indent (under “Indents and Spacing”) and see if you can get the rags (the ends of the lines) to flow better as well as eliminate any orphans or widows. Select individual paragraphs if necessary and adjust the right indent in the paragraph palette (not the style – if you change the paragraph style it will adjust all the text set to that style).

Turn on Optical Margin Alignment

This is great for headings and justified text as it looks at each line of text and assesses if it would look more “in line” if some of the characters or punctuation were nudged ever so slightly out of the bounds of the text box. This setting makes the text appear more visually pleasing to the eye. To turn the setting on, select your text box then go to Window > Type & Tables > Story. Check on “Optical Story Alignment” option.

Turning on Optical Story Alignment also gives you those neat hanging quotation marks that fall outside of the text box.

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