Join Anne-Marie Concepción for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating a template from a PDF, part of Designing Templates with InDesign.
- Sometimes you're given the task of creating a publication template based on a PDF. You don't have an editable file. Maybe the designer left and the only PDF is available from the commercial printer or from a client's website. It's a lot of work to create a new document simply based on a PDF, but I intend to show you in this video a few very strong tips that will help streamline the work. I do tend to talk pretty quickly in this video so if you get lost, don't worry about it. I do cover a lot of these topics in depth in later videos in the course.
There's some commercial scripts around that do that as well. But notice, I don't have a document open. I'm just going let PlaceMultipagePDF do the work for me. It's not the most stable script around. I think it's been around for a while. But it'll do the job. Watch what happens. It says, where is the PDF? I select community_newsletter and choose Open. It creates a new document based on the trim size of the PDF, and then starts placing everything right here on page one. Now notice it had some trouble with some of these spreads. I'm going to close the Scripts panel.
But I've had good luck with it in the past. I'm not sure why it's having problems with this document. Maybe some artwork spans the spread? I'm not sure. But at least we have a few representative pages, which is good enough for us to get started in creating a template. First thing that I want to do is add some of the colors. Notice that the colors in this document, there's lots of shades of green. What you could do to add the colors to your Swatches panel is to use the Color Theme Tool. Now the Color Theme Tool is new-ish with InDesign CC.
If you don't have a Color Theme Tool, you can use the eyedropper tool to pick up colors. But what I like about the Color Theme Tool is I can just click on any object on my screen, notice it gets the dark outline around it, and it shows me the color palette for this artwork. Now I just want to pick up this green, so I can come over here, and you'll see that it says "Opt-click to add selected color", to the Swatches panel. So there's the Swatches panel. Here's my selected color. I'll hold down the opt key, or alt if I was on Windows, and it gets added.
I can do the same thing up here on this one. Maybe I'll get some different colors. I'll switch to the Color Theme Tool and click, and now I have a different palette. I'm going to grab this darker green. I'll select it and opt or alt + click, and add that as well. Now what I want to do is start creating margins and columns and create some text styles and things like that on top of the PDF. But the PDF is going to get in my way. I'm not going to be able to see what I'm doing because it looks like it's an actual page. So here's a really good way to hide it.
First of all, even before I go there, notice that this panel is persistent, and it may be one day they'll add a close box to it, but for now, the tip to get rid of the color theme tool panel is to make sure the color theme tool is active and then press the Escape key. The way that I like to obscure the placed PDF so I can draw on top of it is similar to what Illustrator does. I'm going to zoom out with cmd or ctrl + minus a bunch of times, and I'll just select the first placed PDF page. Go to the Effects panel, and I'll reduce the Opacity to about 25%.
And I want to do that to all of the spreads in here that I'll be dragging on top of, and the fast way to do that, of course, is to create an object style. I'll opt or alt + click here and call it 25. There you go. And then click on this one, and that's 25, and this one, and that's 25, and so on. All of these PDFs are on the same layer, the default layer. I haven't done anything special with them. But I don't want to accidentally start dragging on here and moving it out of the way. So I want to lock them in place.
The best way to do that is to lock the actual layer. So I'll just click right here, and the layer is locked. Now I need to create a new layer on top of that that I can draw on, right? So I'll call this one, I just double-click the layer name, and I'll call it "editing". I talk about layers in detail in another video in this title, so don't worry about it if you're not following about layers. Now I want to create some margin and column guides. And to do that, I of course want to apply that to the master. If I go to the master, then I can't see the documents.
I actually press cmd + opt + 0 to fit the spread in the window, or ctrl + alt + 0. And to see the document as well as the master, we just need to split the screen view. There's a little button down here that you can use to split the screen view. On the left, I'll click at the left to make sure I'm looking at the master. On the right, I'll click the right side, and then double-click on a document page and choose Fit in Window so I can see what I'm doing. Then I'll click again on the master, and now everything that I do to the master, I can see immediately applied to this document page because this document page is based on master page A.
This is a great tip to use in all your production stuff, by the way. Anyway, we want to go to Margins and Columns, and I'd like this master to have three columns. So I'll go down to Columns. I'll tap the up arrow. Three columns that fit perfectly with the default, one-pica gutter. This type of document happens to have half-inch margins all the way around, but of course if the margins were different, then I would use the same method to tweak the margin settings to get this to match.
That's good. So I'll click OK, and then I will unsplit by clicking this button again. And here we are back here. If I want to get other things on the master, like, for example, folios here at the bottom, then the easiest way would be to recreate it right here on top, trying to get the type to match, and then cut and paste right onto the master. What about the styles for the type? That is a toughy. You're going to have to do this by eye. Just drag out a text frame and then start filling in with text.
So I'm dragging out a text frame. And now zoom in. And we're going to try to match this. Now here's one last tip that will help you match this. If you go back to Acrobat, in any recent version of Acrobat, you can choose to edit the PDF. So if I click on Edit PDF and then just click on any block of type, you'll see it tells me, look at that, the font and the size and some other attributes of the text. Unfortunately, you can't select and copy and paste over the formatting.
You can get the text over if for some reason you need to get the text. Local gardeners dig deep, I'll select that, copy it, and paste it, and I'm trying to make a headline up here, so I want to put it right up here. And drag right there, and paste. And it comes in without the formatting but the actual text. Now I can start doing local formatting to make it look right, and then convert all the local formatting to paragraph and character styles. And in this way, you start building up all of your styles and all your object styles too for when you place images.
If you see that they all have drop shadows in the PDF you do that over here in the InDesign file as well. And while you're working, you can just press the "w" key to switch to preview mode, and, oops, I forgot to do one last step in my Layers panel. In that layer that contains the placed PDF, if you double-click it, you can turn off Print Layer. And that means that when I switch to the preview mode by tapping W key, everything that's on that template layer hides, and I can see how I'm doing with my actual template document.
So those few tricks that I showed you I hope will help you recreate this document from scratch in InDesign. And it might be a day's worth of work or so, but I think it's a lot faster than constantly switching back and forth between InDesign and Acrobat to see if things are matching. When you're done, the last step would be to go to the Layers panel, select that template layer, and delete it, and then save your document as an INDT as a master file. And there you go.
So what are you waiting for? In this course, Anne-Marie Concepción shows how to use InDesign to find and create templates that fit your needs. By building in the power tools you need for production—flexible master pages, logical layers, object styles, libraries and snippets, and styles—you'll have a template that prepares you for success. Plus, get tips, secret shortcuts, and useful scripts, as well as practice lessons to reinforce your newfound skills along the way.
- Finding free and paid InDesign templates
- Creating templates from existing documents
- Setting up new templates: margins, swatches, grids, and more
- Adding text and image placeholders
- Creating reusable elements
- Making smart paragraph, character, and object styles
- Embedding a custom preflight check
- Adding a style guide
- Working with special EPUB and interactive templates