Design a Print-ready Ad in Adobe InDesign

This post is part of a series called Design Essentials.
The Logo Design Process for Ultimate Potential
Create a Rationalized, Geometric Wordmark and Ambigram

Want to learn how to make an ad that could go into a magazine? Jump into Adobe InDesign with this real-world tutorial on creating a print-ready ad. This tutorial is perfect for you if you're familiar with Adobe Illustrator and want to get started with a layout program suited toward publication design.

Final Image Preview

Below is the final image we will be working towards. 

Step 1

Make a new document by going to File > New > Document.

Click More Options if need be then enter 1/8 (0.125) inch for the Bleed. The bleed is the area that falls outside of the printable document (highlighted below in yellow). Any artwork that needs to extend to the edge of the page, once printed, needs to touch or go past the red line. The red line is the bleed line.

The purple line is the margin (highlighted below) and is automatically set at 0.5. You can change this but it's not necessary.

Leave all the other options as they are and click OK.

Step 2

This is what your document will look like.

Step 3

Add a headline to the page using the Type tool (T). Click-and-drag with the Type tool to make a box. Type the headline "Form, meet Function."

Step 4

Access the Character Palette by pressing Command + T. Highlight your text and change the font to something more fitting for a headline. Change the size of the text to be much larger than 12 pt as well.

Did You Know?

Headlines and small amounts of text can use fonts that are more decorative. These fonts are called Display fonts or Display type. body copy (the main text that is used for an ad or publication) should use a font that is not as decorative and is easy to read. For large amounts of text it is recommended to use a serif font.

Step 5

We'll align the text to the center of the page. Go to Window > Type & Tables > Paragraph. Highlight your text with the Type tool or by clicking the text box with the Selection tool then press Align Center as highlighted below. Go to Window > Object & Layout > Align, select Align to Page from the drop down list, then select Align Horizontal Centers.

Step 6

To add images to the layout click on the Rectangle Frame tool (F) then draw a box...

Step 7

With your box still selected go to File > Place and select the image or artwork that you want to use.

Anytime you're working with images or graphics that will need to be printed you have to make sure they're correctly formatted. Make sure your images are:

  • 300 dpi (for raster images)
  • CMYK, grayscale, duotone or bitmap (NO RGB)
  • Saved as eps or tiff (for raster images)
  • Saved as eps (for vector images)

Step 8

Observe below that my image has been placed inside the box but the whole image is not visible. To correct this Control-click on the image...

Step 9

Scroll to Fitting > Fit Content Proportionally.

Step 10

Your image is now completely visible.

Step 11

You can scale the image larger or smaller depending upon how you want to incorporate it. To change the size of the image hold down Command + Shift, then click-and-drag one of the corners of the image to scale it proportionately.

Step 12

I've decided that I want my image to be rotated slightly for the sake of the composition. To rotate an image select it, select the Rotate tool (R) then click-and-drag on the image.

Step 13

Draw more boxes using the Rectangle Frame tool and place any other images inside the layout.

NOTE: When placing images inside of InDesign you may notice that the images do not look as high quality that as should. This is a result of the Display Performance. In order to increase the speed at which InDesign performs, the images are shown at a varying degrees of quality. To change the way the images are displayed go to View > Display Performance and select the desired setting.

Step 14

Next we'll add the body copy under the images. Draw a text box using the Type tool.

Step 15

For the purposes of this tutorial we'll use Placeholder Text (text that is for initial layout purposes). With your text box selected, go to Type > Fill with Placeholder Text.

Step 16

Placeholder text fills the text box with precisely the correct amount of text for the size of the box. Placeholder text is commonly used when you are designing an ad, publication or any document that you don't have the actual text for. It gives the viewer an idea of what the layout will look like when it's complete. You can use a combination of Placeholder Text and actual text (as we have) if the situation calls for it.

Step 17

Select the first line of text and type in "The hottest new mobile device."

Change the font to something a little more interesting. Then change the size of the text to be a little larger, but not as large as the headline. You don't want these two lines to visually compete with each other.

NOTE: The red plus highlighted below indicates that there is more text that is being cutoff. To see the other text simply grab one of the lower corners of the text box and extend it. This text is being cutoff because we have increased the size of the first line.

Step 18

For the Placeholder text portion of the body copy I've decided to use a font called Franklin Gothic.

Add a hard return after the top line so there's a space between it and the Placeholder text. Adjust the space between the lines simultaneously by selecting all the lines of this paragraph besides the first one, then adjusting the Leading (highlighted below) to be a few points larger. We're adjusting the Leading because as the text gets larger the Leading should also be increased so the text remains easy to read. We select all the lines besides the first line because changing the Leading with the first line selected will make the space above the paragraph condense, which is not what we're after.

Step 19

Use the Pen tool (P) and draw a vertical line to separate the paragraph of information from the pricing information.

Step 20

Draw a text box and enter "$199*" in it.

Step 21

Instead of changing the font size of the dollar sign and asterisk we'll apply Superscript to them. Select the dollar sign then in the Character Palette select the Flyout triangle (highlighted below) and select Superscript.

Step 22

Select the asterisk and repeat the last step. Now, the dollar sign and asterisk are not huge and do not call as much attention to themselves!

Step 23

Add the product pricing underneath.

Step 24

To create a dotted line that extends to the price of each model we'll use what's called a dot leader. Highlight all the text and press Command + Shift + T. Put a period in the space highlighted below. With the text still highlighted click just above the ruler wherever you want the price to start at.

Step 25

Deselect your text, insert your cursor at the end of the first line (after Gigabyte) then press the tab key. You'll now have a dotted line that spans the length of the space. Go to the second and third lines and press tab as well. Close the Tabs dialog by pressing the circle in the upper left corner.

Step 26

Enter the prices after the dots and you're all set!

Step 27

Using the Rectangle Frame tool, place another rectangle and add your logo to it. Place this image in the bottom right corner of the layout.

Step 28

This is what your layout will look like right now.

Step 29

You can use InDesign's pre-formatted colors or you can make your own. We'll add a new custom color to the document.

Make sure you don't have any text or images selected. In the Swatches Palette (Window > Swatches) select the Flyout triangle and choose New Color Swatch.

For Color Type Select Process. For Color Mode Select CMYK. Enter C=34, M=3, Y=100, and K=0, then press OK.

Step 30

Your new color is added to the Swatches Palette.

Step 31

Select the text that you want to change the color of, then select the color from the Swatches Palette. Make sure you have the Fill color on top, as opposed to the stroke color on top. Whichever option is on top (stroke or fill) is the option that the color will be applied to.

Step 32

You can select multiple text boxes at once and change the text color simultaneously.

Step 33

Select the line that divides the paragraph and pricing information and give it a stroke color of Paper (white).

Step 34

The background will need to be an intense black so we'll add a new swatch that will give us a very dark black (called Rich Black). From the Swatches Flyout menu select New Color Swatch. For Color Type select Process. For Color Mode select CMYK. Enter C=40, M=30, Y=20, and K=100, then click OK.

Step 35

Draw a rectangle and fill it with the black swatch you just made. This black is different than the other two black colors that are in the document by default. The two default blacks (Black and Registration) are used for other purposes.

IMPORTANT: Never use Rich Black for small text (body copy for example) as it will make the text on your printed document overly saturated. Instead use the default Black for body copy or small text that needs to be black.

Step 36

Send the black rectangle to the back of the document by selecting it and choosing Object > Arrange > Send to Back.

Step 37

Select the paragraph of text and give it a white fill color by selecting Paper.

Step 38

Add the disclaimer to the bottom. You can adjust the opacity of the text by highlighting it and in the Effects Palette (Window > Effects) change the Opacity to about 20%.

This will complete the layout!

Step 39

Once your design is complete you can package it to be printed. Packaging a document for print collects all of the images, graphics and fonts that were used. This way, you don't have to go hunting for each element individually. Once your design is packaged, that's the file that you send to the printer.

To package the document save it and go to File > Package. If you have done everything correctly you will see the dialog below. However, if there is something that InDesign determines as a possible problem, you will be alerted.

You should be taken right to the dialog below if there are no potential problems in your document. You can enter information on this screen for the printing facility to reference.

NOTE: You'll be prompted to save the packaged file to a location. Save it to wherever appropriate, perhaps your desktop.

Click continue.

Step 40

You'll get a message basically stating that fonts cannot be freely distributed unless you're sending the document to be printed. Click OK.

Step 41

Your document will be packaged into the following categories. Fonts, instructions, "Ad.indd" (your document) and links.

Step 42

Here's the view inside of the fonts folder. To print a document you will need two versions of the font, a printer font and a screen font. InDesign automatically packages both versions for you. There may look like more fonts than you used for the document, but even selecting a different weight (like bold) or style (like italics) will require its own printer and screen fonts.

Step 43

Here are all the images that we're used for this document.

Step 44

This is what the "instructions.txt" file looks like. This information is automatically generated and gives the person printing the job a complete overview of how the file was created. They can quickly look at this to tell if there are any problems with the way the file was setup.

Step 45

Alternatively, you may want to send someone a PDF version of the Ad before you send it to print. If this is the case, with your document open go to File > Export choose PDF from the drop down list at the bottom of the page and choose a location to save the PDF. After that, you will be presented with the following dialog.

Below you'll notice that I selected Marks and Bleeds on the left. Under this menu I specified that I want to use All Printer's Marks. This will create a PDF that has all the marks in the next step. These marks give the viewer a solid idea of how the file will be trimmed. The colored squares (color bars) don't represent all the colors used on the document, rather those are used during the printing process itself.

You can specify a multitude of options here. The options are vast, so you'll have to look through and explore all the features for yourself!

Final Image

Here is the final ad. You've just learned the basics of how to create an ad in Adobe InDesign!