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In this series, David Blatner and Anne-Marie Concepción, co-hosts of the web's top resource for InDesign tips and tricks, InDesignSecrets.com, share some hidden and sometimes surprising workflow tips that will make working in InDesign more efficient and more fun. The course covers built-in timesaving features such as Quick Apply and auto-expanding text, but also little-known tricks, such as using the eyedropper to copy and paste character and paragraph text attributes and making accurate selections by selecting through or even into objects.
New techniques will be added to the collection every other week, so check back early and often. Find more tips and tricks at indesignsecrets.com.
Making a book cover has long been a pain in any page layout program. It's not the front or the back cover that's difficult, but rather the combination of front, back, and most importantly, the spine of the cover. And one of the reasons why it's so hard is that you often don't know exactly how wide the spine will be until the very last minute. Fortunately, InDesign makes this process much easier, as long as you set your document up correctly. So, let me show you how to set up a brand new front, back, and spine for a book.
I'll go to the File menu and choose New > Document. I'm going to set the Number of Pages to 3. That's the back cover of the spine and the front cover. And I'm going to leave Facing Pages turned on. Next, I'll set the size of the book cover. Let's set this to seven inches by nine inches for example. I'm not going to worry about columns or margins right now, but I am going to open the Bleed and Slug area and I'm going to set a bleed area to, let's say, p9. When I hit Tab, all four fields change because this little link icon is turned on. Now I'll turn on the Preview check box, which is available in InDesign CC, and I can see a preview of my document behind the dialog box.
So I can see if I got it right. Now, I only see page one right now. I can't see the other pages. We'll take care of that in just a minute. But I can see that that's looking pretty good, so I'll click OK and move on. Now let's open the Pages Panel and we can see that's where my other two pages went. They're on a separate spread. That doesn't help us. We want all three pages on the same spread and there's various ways to do that, but I find the easiest way to do it is to go to the Pages Panel menu and turn off the Allow Document Pages to Shuffle feature. When that's on, all the pages will always shuffle into spreads.
But when it's turned off, you can actually put your pages where you want them. In this case, I'm going to move page one down simply by dragging it until I see this thick black line that looks kind of like a bracket, next to page two. When I let go, InDesign moves the page there, so I now have a three-page spread. Now, if this were the Encyclopedia Britannica and it were eight inches wide, then I'd be pretty much done. But in most books, that's not the case. You want the spine, this middle page, to be more narrow. To do that, you want the Page tool, which is the third tool in the Tool panel.
After you click it, make sure the middle page is selected. Just click once on it and you'll see little highlights around it with these corner and side handles. Now, I can change the width of this page to anything I want. For example, I'll go over to the Width Field in the Control Panel and I'll change it to, say, 0.75 inches. But when I hit Return or Enter, I have a problem. InDesign alerts me that the page size won't fit because the margins are too big. That's right. All of these have three pica margins, so that's getting in my way.
I'll click OK, and while this page is still selected, I'll go to the Layout menu and chose Margins and Columns, and now, I can change the inside and outside margin just for the single page. I'll just set it to 0. When I click OK, you'll see that I still have a top and a bottom margin, but I don't have any margins on the left and right. Now I can go back and change the width one more time. I'll set it to, say, 0.75 inches, and then hit Return or Enter, and you'll see that the page size became more narrow. And because I had set this up as facing pages, the other pages automatically snap, so I have no gaps between them.
Let's recenter this page spread in the window by pressing Cmd+Option+0 or Ctrl+Alt+0. And then, I'm going to start designing my page. For example, I might just make a text frame and say Encyclopedia of Art or whatever you want to call it, and I will make it a little bigger with keyboard shortcuts. I'll go ahead and make this not quite so high, and I'll rotate it. You get the idea. I'm going to drop it on my spine, center it on there, and that looks pretty good. Obviously, if you are really designing a cover, you do a lot more work, but I'm going to leave it right there and leave the rest up to your imagination.
But I do want to point out that when you're done and just before you go to press, your printer is going to say, you need to change the spine to and they'll tell you how wide it should be. Let's say it was 0.81 inches instead. So, to do that, one more time you go to the Page tool, make sure you have the center page selected, and then go up to the Width field and change it to exactly the size you want. When you do that however, make sure you have the reference point, this little feature in the left side of the Control Panel. Make sure that it's set to the center point of the reference point.
That way, when you change the width, everything will get centered. It won't move to the left or right. So, that's set. I'll change my width to 0.81 inches, hit Return or Enter, and everything changes on the page just perfectly. Now, technically you could add the rest of the book, you know, all the other pages of your book here in this InDesign document, but I don't like doing that. I like keeping this as a separate InDesign document. And the main reason I do that is because of how I export this to PDF or print. Let me show you. I'll go to the File menu and choose Export.
I'll give it a name. I'll call this my cover and then click Save. And here inside the Export Adobe PDF dialog box, I'm going to turn on the Spreads radio button. Instead of Pages, I want Spreads. That tells InDesign to keep all those pages together, the back cover, the front cover, and the spine all treated as a single spread, a single page, in the final PDF. I need that for the cover. I would not want that for the rest of the book. That would be a disaster. But in the cover, I need to export as spreads. Then I'll go to Marks and Bleeds, and I can turn on some printer marks like crop marks.
Also, if I did have any objects bleeding off the side of the page, I'd want to make sure I turned on the Use Document Bleed Settings feature. Let's go back to General. I'll make sure View PDF after Exporting is turned on and then I'll click Export. You can see that InDesign exported this PDF and opened it in Acrobat and I get those crop marks not just in the corners, but also fold marks right where I want them, right where the pages end. That's the spine, and that's what my printer's going to want to see. As you can see, so much of being efficient in InDesign is all about setting up your document right from the start, but using that Page tool at the right time and the right way also really helps.
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