Guided by the Light (Blue, Magenta, or even Gray)

Guides are a wonderful thing. If you’ve ever drawn a guide on your layout so you can lock frames to that guide, you’ll know how nice it is to just click, drag, let go and get perfectly aligned rows of frames. But sometimes you don’t want dozens of guides drawn all over your page.

If you haven’t used the Margins and Columns panel under the Layout menu, I suggest you check it out. It’s a fantastic way to create guide lines on your layout without having anything that can be accidentally dragged or moved.  The margin guides can be hidden, are visible in InCopy, and make it a great way to show that you’ve got your art and text in the live area of your file. Whether you are creating a book where you need to make sure that there is the correct amount of white space in the gutter to keep things from getting cut off in the binding, or whether you’re creating a postcard and want to make sure you don’t have text too close to the trim so you don’t risk losing something that is very important in the final image. And if you’re often dragging around frames, if you keep your Snap to Guides selected, your boxes will lock to the margin guides and you’ll have less work to perform to get items to align.

If you have a non-facing pages document, your Margins and Columns guide will look like this:
If you have a facing pages document, your Margins and Columns guide will look like this:

And that’s great. Having a guide on the page to always let you know if you’re within your safe printing or binding area is wonderful. But there is more that you can do with unselectable guides.

In that same window there are column guides you can set, too.  Imagine a newspaper front page. There are likely very even columns of text with white space between them and occasionally image boxes that align on those columns.  But what if your layout calls for you to have one really wide column and one skinny column? Well, if you choose 3 columns and adjust the gutter (which is the white space between columns) then you just can create one text area that runs across two columns and one text frame that runs across one. In this example the light blue box is your main text column and the light pink box is your secondary text column.

The Document Setup window also has settings that will apply permanent guides. If you’ve got documents that need to have a set bleed per your printer’s requests, you can set that as well in the Document Setup window. Click on More Options and you can enter in the amount of your bleed and a colored guide line will appear outside your document edge. If you enter a slug area in that same window you’ll get another colored line appearing outside your document edge. The slug area is a great place to put information that you may want to be able to include in a printout or a PDF, but that you would also want to exclude from a printout or PDF.  (When you print, you can choose to have your bleeds or your slug area included in the printout or PDF.


The nice thing about all these guide lines is that you can determine what color they appear in your document. And you can align those colors with the colors of your layers. Say your slug guide lines are light blue. You can create a layer called slug, make sure it is colored light blue, and then you can add whatever info to a text frame that you might find helpful. This makes the slug guidelines and your text frame the same color so they’re easy to visually relate to each other.

And because InDesign is almost as flexible as a performer for Cirque de Soleil you can either create all of these items when you create a new document:

You can have different margins on each spread, or even each page.

If you know you’re going to have just a few different types of shell files with guides, swatches, layers, even styles then you can create a file that has all the info in it you want all of your documents to have, save it as a template (it will have .indt in the name). Then when you want to create a new file choose File/New/Document from Template. Open your desired file and you’re ready to go and you’ll know that all of your preferences are set. In fact, if you choose that option now you’ll be taken to Bridge where you can see all the different templates that InDesign comes loaded with. Might be worth poking around to see if there is anything that will help you out.

X-Treme Rogue Spots: Issue 1

Sometimes when I’m creating templates I feel like an X-Men style mutant. Able to see things others don’t see or care about. Finding latent threats hidden in plain view. Finding myself enthralled with a single-dimensional world where colors are brighter than the real world. (Hey, it’s been pretty gray in Chicago lately.)

And one of the things that I find myself running into pretty frequently, especially with files that have been saved up from a previous version of InDesign, is something I like to call rogue swatches. (Now do you get the X-Men reference?)

Anyway, I opened a file recently to turn it into a template. There were several pieces of art that had been linked but that I wasn’t given. I knew that these art pieces were going to be placed in the final document by someone else and I didn’t need the art to create a template. And I knew that my document was going to be printed in 1-color. And that color was the very acceptable, but very boring Black.

However I couldn’t find the unwanted Pantone spot swatch in my document and went through every paragraph style and character style trying to find where it was used. I didn’t have the linked art to see which piece of art might be bringing the swatch into my palette so I decided to delete everything to try to find it. I deleted all the art frames, all the paragraph styles, all the character styles, all the object styles, all the table and cell styles. I ended up with a document that only had guides in it, and that blasted swatch.


The designer confirmed that there should be no spot colors in the final document. So I began looking for other methods of deletion. Based on several websites (none of which had the cognitive abilities of Professor Xavier) I created a set of steps that seem to work most of the time.

Step 1
Choose “Select All Unused” in the Swatches palette. You should be able to “Delete Swatch” by clicking the trash can icon. If it is greyed out like the screenshot above, then move on to the next step.

Step 2
Export your document as an Interchange Document. Open the .inx file you’ll find located on your hard drive. Try to delete the unused swatches again. Not feeling super-powered yet?

Step 3
Create a new InDesign file. Select all of the unused swatches and delete them. Grab your rogue swatch from your original file and drag it to this new document. If any other swatches come through with it (seems to happen for me in CS3), delete them. Create an empty frame and fill it with your rogue swatch. Export this file as a pdf. Place the pdf in your original file. Delete it. Your chances of being able to select the rogue swatch and delete it should be greater now. But still no? Ay yi yi! I know how you feel.

Step 4
Create an empty Illustrator file. Create a new swatch that has the exact same name as the rogue swatch, but the swatch makeup doesn’t matter as long as it does have a color applied. Make sure that it is saved as a spot color if your rogue swatch is spot, and process if your rogue is process. Save this as a .ai file and as a .pdf. Open your original InDesign file, place both elements on your page and delete them one at a time. You should now be able to delete the rogue swatch.

I sincerely hope you can delete the swatch. If you can’t, please, please contact me. I’d love to take your file and see if I can figure it out. Seriously! Cause my super-power? Total geekery.

Lunchtime Links: The Happy Birthday Publicious Edition

Happy Birthday, Publicious!

One year ago today, I published my first Publicious post. Here we are 150 posts later! This has been incredibly fun, rewarding, and tiring. In honor of the occasion, all of today’s links are staying “in house.” Sort of a Greatest Hits thing. Without further ado, here are the 10 most popular Publicious posts to date, according to the WordPress stats.

10. Über-Master Pages in which Cinnamon shows she is the Buffy of page layout.

9. Adventures in FontStruction in which I re-create the 8-bit Atari glory of my youth, one pixel at a time.

8. House of a Different Color in which I apply a virtual coat of paint to my in-laws’ house, thereby avoiding the actual job. Gotta love digitizing your chores. Now if I could just apply the Scoop filter to the litterbox…

7. Try to Tri-Fold Correctly in which Cinnamon drops the knowledge of just how tricky it is to make a brochure really right. Almost as cool as being able to fold a t-shirt in 2 seconds. Oops, OK, I’ll let that one external link slide.

6. TLF, My New BFF in which I wax rhapsodic about the possibilities of Adobe’s text tech.

5. Streamlining InDesign Templates in which Cinnamon shows how to build an InDesign document right, from the ground up.

4.  Basically Adaptable Styles in which Cinnamon offers up a sequel to her templating hit.

3. The Road to Hell is Paved With Double Clicks in which I reveal to the world just how far I am willing to go down the rabbit hole in search of that last morsel of geek.

2. Is This What a Kindle Killer Looks Like? in which I think I’m smarter than a company that got 615 million visitors to its website last year.

1. CS5 Revealed! in which I play a Nostradorkus, foretelling of the future of publishing tech in a book that I found at my town recycling center one Saturday. It’s Back to the Future, with mullets and vectors.

Now that’s a spicy meatball. First, a huge thanks to Cinnamon, since four of those top ten posts are hers. If only I could sabotage her sewing machine… Second, there are no posts by Eric on that list, simply because his stuff hasn’t been around long enough to accumulate mad stats yet. However, IMNSHO, Eric’s “Bits and Pieces” series should be required reading for anyone who may have to deal with XML in publishing. Which is, like, everyone, right? So here you go.

The Bits and Pieces I: Making XML

The Bits and Pieces II: Content Model

The Bits and Pieces III: Building Blocks

The Bits and Pieces IV: The Vendors

And what’s a birthday without presents? Here’s a gift for everyone: I’ve found another massively talented person to agree to be a contributor. She’s an amazing digital artist who will bring a whole new area of expertise to Publicious. Who is this person? Stay tuned!

OK, I have to go blow out these candles before the wax drips inside my keyboard.

Try to Tri-fold Correctly

Mike was nice enough to mail me a crowbar and my postal carrier (a rather awesome woman named RoJean, actually) was nice enough to apply a little bit of leverage once it arrived so I could crawl out from under that rather heavy load. And the timing was perfect since my cats had eaten through the supply of potato chips and were starting to eye my toes. *shudder*

But while I was under that looming hunka heaviness, I thought back on how my life has changed since I started doing page layout work for a living. I’ve been fortunate to work in a couple of different industries, including a service bureau that honestly felt like a Kinko’s-style copy center with nicer carpet. I punched and drilled and bound and proofed and pdf’d my little heart out. And while I recognized that most of our clients were administrative assistants who had to figure out how to get something printed, I hated them for using Excel to create posters and Powerpoint to create banners. But, I learned a lot at this job and a lot of what I learned was what NOT to do. It was at this job that I realized that there are a fair number of websites with introductory information and thanks to great Google-foo (If I could have a black belt in this I totally would!) I can usually find more information about my more obscure and advanced needs on the internet. But what is lacking, and what I’m *obviously* geekily interested in, is transitioning users from having the basic knowledge of how the tools work and making it possible for them to use those tools with slightly better practices to create files that work better and cleaner. And there are limitations to what you can get some pieces of software to do (personally I’d love to see Adobe completely rewrite the Office suite of products), but with a little creativity and finger-crossing you can often get something beautiful with crudely made tools. So not only am I hoping to write more often about some great ways to use InDesign better (to keep Mike from mailing me a wrecking-ball), but I also want to exorcise some of my previous-life print demons and share some information that many mind helpful.

One of the most commonly printed promotional items that this previous job printed was the tri-fold brochure. A tri-fold brochure is a really fancy way of saying a piece of paper that has been printed on both sides and then folded into thirds. So if you’re going to put together one for say, oh maybe a small accessories company, you’d probably just start with a basic InDesign document set up like this:
to get a page that looks like this:

1p gutter gives you room to fold the brochure without having anything important touching the fold line. The p3 margin keeps anything important 1/4″ away from the edge of the paper which should take into consideration most color copiers gripper edges. I’m assuming that you’re planning on having your brochure printed on letter-size paper on a standard color copier. If you’re getting your brochure printed on a more traditional press, or if you’re planning on having your items bleed off the edge and get trimmed to size later, then these limitations won’t matter. But I’m going to assume this is getting printed on the cheap.

However, what this very basic setup doesn’t take into account is the “turn” of the paper. If you’re going to have a piece of paper folded and then folded again, there is an extra piece of paper in the way of permitting your brochure to fold flat, and its even more noticeable if you’re using a sheet of 80 pound coverstock. Now if you take into consideration that the paper is getting folded by a machine and that if the machine isn’t calibrated perfectly, the inner-most folded flap could be just a wee bit wider so when the other fold happens you get flap interference that results in your inner-flap getting crinkled as it goes through the folding device.

But thankfully there is a very easy to prevent this. All you have to do is make three even panels, and then make the panel that gets folded in 1/16″-inch more narrow. You can either pay to have that narrow strip trimmed off your paper (but we’re going for cheap, right?) or you can divide that 1/16″ by two and add 1/32″ of an inch to the other two panels. No matter your paper width, your brochure formula looks like:
Panel 1- (front panel): 1/3 of the paper length + 1/32″
Panel 2- (back panel): 1/3 of the paper length + 1/32″
Panel 3- (inner panel): 1/3 of the paper length – 1/16″

If you’re going to be using letter-size paper, your panels look like this (converted to decimals, instead of fractions):

Panel 1: 3.67 + .03125 = 3.698
Panel 2: 3.67 + .03125 = 3.698
Panel 3: 3.67 – .0625 = 3.604

And if you think this little bit of extra math is so not important, then keep in mind that your print-shop will remember that they had to do extra work to your file last time so next time they’ll charge you more to make up for it. Or, your client (the accessories company) might decide that since your brochure had crinkled pages, they’d be better of finding someone else to layout their “really simple” brochure. Trust me that paying attention to the smallest of details will set you apart from the mass of people who don’t. I always, always, always recommend calling your print-shop and telling them what you’re getting printed and ask if they have any requirements.

So, now that we know what our brochure panels should be set to, what is the best way to set guides so we don’t have to draw guides and rules? Unfortunately the Margins and Columns option (shown in the first screenshot above) will no longer work for us since our columns aren’t even. So draw a ruler guide and make the X-location = 3.698. Copy the guide, paste in place, and type +3.698 into the x-location box so it reads
<b>3.698+3.698</b>. If you haven’t yet figured out that you can do basic math in these boxes, give it a shot.

Hit return and you should now have two guides on the page. This page is now the inside of your brochure. You’ll need to create another page to be the outside of your brochure. Since the last panel of your first page will be the first panel of your second page, you’ll create the panel widths differently. Draw a ruler guide and position it at 3.604 in the X-location. Copy the guide, paste it in place, and add 3.698 to position the second guide correctly.

You now have a very basic skeleton of a brochure template. And this setup is perfect if you know that the folding capabilities of your bindery or print shop is great and you can have full-color bleed go directly to the fold-line without it going over. However if you’re not sure about the folding accuracy of your final product, here are a few suggestions.
* If possible keep the inside of your brochure having no background fill in any of the columns. Think of it as one piece, instead of one piece divided in three.
* If you have to have solid fills of color, keep the fill 1/4″ from the outside edge of the paper and at least 1/8″ from the fold-line. This will prevent you from getting a sliver of your front cover bleeding into your back cover.
* As tempting as it is, try to not make the text and art on your front and back cover perfectly centered. If it is centered perfectly you’ll see exactly how badly the folding was. Try to keep the imagery and text balanced, but not even.
• Or, keep any items that need to be centered and as close to full-bleed as possible, at least 1/4″ away from the edges of the panel. This should keep you from getting a badly folded brochure that makes your panel look really off-kilter.

So if you’re really unsure about the quality of the final folding (keep in mind that your sample is most likely going to be folded by hand and therefore perfect), and you want your template to take this into consideration, here is a simple way to alter your template to create a “no ink zone” in the fold area.

Draw a line that overlaps your guide perfectly. In the stroke palette, change it to be .25″ wide. You know have a very wide stroke that you can make any color that makes you happy. Keep in mind that if you want to duplicate this line and move it to overlap your second guide, you should have the center square of your “reference point” chosen. Otherwise, the left edge of your guide will align if you have the top-left reference point chosen. And as we’ve proven, 1/32″ can make a difference in your final product. I suggest putting these strokes on a separate layer and setting it to be a non-printing layer.