Streamlining InDesign Templates with Cinnamon

Michael kindly offered to have me share a few things that I’ve learned in my years working in publishing. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share, and hopeful that a few of my “learned the hard way” lessons can make someone else’s job much easier.

I’ve been working, in various aspects, of the printing industry for more than 10 years now. I’ve done everything from touch-up on large format photography (with a tiny paint brush and toxic paint) to formatting 1000+ page textbooks for printing.

My current job has me working for a textbook publisher and I try to focus on creating efficient templates in InDesign to make the final book print exactly the way the designers imagined it, and make the jobs of the editors and production people easier. I hope to be able to share here occasionally thanks to Michael’s kindness in sharing his space with me. And since his kind (and delightfully cheesy) introduction gets out the basics, I’ll jump right into a basic page and talk about some of the problems with it.

Basic layout page

What you see above you is a very basic page setup for a pretend book. It has a few problems which I’ll spell out and explain how to change. But, first, here is a story to help illustrate a real life possible situation. Here are the assumptions:

  1. You’ve accepted a production job to put together a book.
  2. You’ll work directly with 1 designer and 1 editor.
  3. The editor will send you Microsoft Word files that contain the text and the designer will send you examples of what the various different parts of the book will look like.

This is the first design you received with mocked up text. This designer knows that there are probably better ways to create these documents, and since this is a large book, they’ve asked you to let them know if there is anything they could do differently to make your part of the process go faster.

For example’s sake, we’ll also assume that most of the information you see above appears on the master page. The text is the only non-master item. You have three layers: Background, Art, Text. The designer knows enough to know that the text always goes on the top-most layer. You know that there isn’t any art in this file, and there won’t be, so you activate only the Background layer and realize that the blue is a large rectangle that fills the whole page. You turn that off and turn on the Art layer and see that the white box is actually a text box (uh oh! more to come on this) placed on top of the blue background. The text layer thankfully contains the yellow bubble, the title box, and the running text.

You know that creating the smallest file size is imperative and you know that the fewer number of boxes that can accidentally accept text, the less likely you are to introduce random letters. (Hitting x, instead of command + x for example, could get you a letter x in the upper corner of this white box if you aren’t careful.

To simplify these two boxes, you could use the pen tool to edit the shape of the blue background so it has a cut-out in the center, instead of a white box. However, if you’ve worked with Illustrator you might know that there is an easier way to to this. Simply select your blue background, hold down your shift key and select your white box. Now under the Object menu, choose Pathfinder/Subtract. This will subtract the blue background behind the white box and you’ve just turned two boxes into one. Since you know you’d only edit the graphic frame on the master page, lock this layer and you’ll never have to worry about accidentally selecting it (or the footers, if they live on this layer) locally, nor will you have to worry about those random letters appearing in what you thought were art frames instead of text frames.

Now you open your Object Styles menu, and you’re delighted to see that the designer has created an object style for the background labeled Nonfiction and an object style for the yellow box labeled Nonfiction Lozenge. This is great. This means that your designer just may know enough that your job really will be easy. So you double-click on the object style for the yellow lozenge and see that the corner effect is selected, the color is selected, the text indent is selected, and the paragraph style for the text is selected as well. You’re a little worried about the color of the text that appears on the colored lozenge, but you’ll test that in a bit for possible trapping problems. As much as you’d like to think so, you do have to pay attention to trapping if you’re having things printed using plates.

You navigate to View and turn on Overprint Preview. Uh oh! Your pretty yellow is now a summertime green. How did that happen?
How to set Overprint Fill
If you go back to your Object Styles palette and double-click on the object style for the yellow lozenge, you’ll see under the Fill options that “Overprint Fill” is clicked on.
This demonstrates Overprint Preview
When you check the object style for the background you see that this is also selected. This little checkbox is your culprit and unless you click on Overprint Preview before you send the file off to the printer, you’re going to be very surprised when you get your proofs back from the printer, and at that point you’ll have to go though and edit your style and create all new PDFs.

At my first job, we had a picture of Mae West on the wall wearing a Miss America-style banner that said GIRTFirT. “Get It Right the First Time.” And even though she no longer graces my wall, she lives in my memory and says “Beautiful, dahling!” every time I find something early that will save me work later.

5 Responses

  1. Good catch with the Overprint Preview! Always a good step when someone hands you a layout to work with.

    I got a little confused with the background art part. If the blue background is on the master page, why would you need to lock the layer it’s on? You won’t be able to edit it in the document anyway, without overriding it first. Or was the blue on a document page?

    Also don’t forget that quiet little CS3-only feature: The preference setting for “Type tool converts frames to text frames.” It’s on by default, but turning it off would prevent that issue you mention of a random letter appearing in a graphic frame.

    Incredible posts here, Mike! I’m printing out the Hybrid Workflow one for further study! (I just soft-launched…


  2. Thanks, Anne Marie.
    The blue frame is likely to appear on several pages of a multi-page document, hence being on a master page. And maybe its because I’m paranoid but I like adding as many barriers to accidental editing as possible to a file.

    And thanks for the CS3 tip. I’ve not started using it for live work (large corporations move slowly) so I hadn’t come across that yet.

    And good plug for I’ll be sure to add that to my RSS reader as well.

  3. Thanks Anne-Marie. I didn’t know that CS3 feature either. I’ve been thinking for weeks now that I have to schedule a time to get re-certified as an ACE in InDesign, just to force myself to look under every last nook and cranny in the documentation. I was also putting it off after seeing and hearing you and David talk about the mess that was the first version of the CS3 test. I know it’s fixed now, so I have no excuse.

    And kudos on InCopySecrets! Brilliant. I subscribed about 5 seconds after seeing it.

  4. Ahhh good old GIRTFirT. A term worth resurfacing.

  5. And don’t I wish that this information was so readily available and so concisely stated when I first had to learn it the hard way as you did. I love this. I’d love to see an update if there are any features that end up appearing in the supposedly soon-to-be-released CS5 edition of the software.

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