1. Design & Illustration
  2. Adobe InDesign

Design a Fold-Out City Guide in Adobe InDesign

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Designing a print document that’s going to be folded can be tricky, but in this tutorial we look at how you can make it ultra simple... and fun! 

In this tutorial suitable for beginners to InDesign, you’ll learn how to create an easy-peasy fold-out city guide that can expand from a pocket-friendly size to an A3 sheet, complete with map, key and insider travel tips. You can easily adapt the design to your own city of choice.

You’ll need access to Adobe InDesign, and, optionally, Adobe Illustrator. Let’s get started!

1. Visualizing Folds

Incorporating folds into a print design can be a great idea. Folded documents save space on the shelf, and give the reader an element of surprise when they expand the design. However, designing print documents with folds can be tricky and a little daunting to a print design beginner.

But it needn’t be scary! Whenever you create a document that’s going to be printed and folded, such as a fold-out flyer or brochure, you can help to create your design in 2D by trying to visualize the final product. Let’s take a look at how we can do that with our fold-out guide. We're going to be creating a two-sided fold-out brochure, with a Concertina fold three times and then a cross fold in half. 

folded mock-up of guide
expanded guide

Step 1

First, we need to set up the basic layout of the document in InDesign. 

So, get InDesign opened up and go to File > New > Document. 

In the New Document window that opens, set the Intent to Print and increase the Number of Pages to 2. Uncheck Facing Pages.

From the Page Size drop-down menu, select A3

A3 page size

Switch the orientation to Landscape by clicking the icon to the far right side of the window, along from the Width text box.

Under Columns, set the Number to 2, and the Gutter to 0 mm. This will divide the pages into two equal sections.

Set the Margins on all sides to 14 mm, and, as we’re creating a document for print, set the Bleed on all sides to 5 mm.

new document window

Click OK to create the new two-page document.

new document

Step 2

To be able to fold the guide up, we need to mark out the location of the folds. We can do this by placing Guides on the document’s Master page, dividing the page up into equal sections.

From the Pages panel (Window > Pages) double-click on the A-Master page icon to bring up the Master on screen. 

Ensure that you can see the rulers running along the left side and top of the workspace (View > Show Rulers), and then from the left-hand ruler, click and drag to pull out a vertical guide. Keep pulling out until the guide is at X position 315 mm.

ruler with guide

Pull out a second vertical guide to 105 mm. The page is now divided up into four tall, equal sections.

vertical guides

From the ruler running along the top of the workspace, pull down a single horizontal guide to the center point of the page, at Y position 148.5 mm.

The page is now divided up into eight equal sections. 

horizontal guide

Step 3

A very important thing to remember when designing fold-out documents is to make sure that the margins are equal for each folded section of the document. 

You don’t want to end up with a folded section looking like this...

folded section with no margin

... just because you didn’t allow enough space for the margins all around the perimeter of the section. You want each section to be able to stand alone and look good, like this instead:

section with equal margins

We can add more guides to the Master to mark out these extra margins. Remember that the outside margins are set at 14 mm. We’ll therefore need to create double-margins (28 mm in width) around each fold line, to give the content equal space on each section bordered by a fold.

Remain on the A-Master page, and drag a guide out from the left-hand ruler to X position 91 mm. Drag a second guide out to X position 119 mm, so you have a pair of vertical guides evenly spaced around the first fold on the left-hand side of the page.

margin guides

Hold down Shift and click to select both of the guides you’ve just created. Go to Edit > Copy and Edit > Paste. Position the pasted pair of guides around the central fold. Repeat the Copy/Paste process a third time, and wrap this third pair of guides around the vertical fold on the right side of the page.

Then pull down a horizontal guide from the top ruler to Y position 134.5 mm, and another guide down to Y position 162.5 mm.

Your A-Master page should look like this (the new ‘margin’ guides are highlighted in red):

full set of margin guides

Step 4

OK, so we’ve added both fold lines and margin lines to our document, and because these are simply InDesign guides they won’t appear on the final printed document. 

But how will content be arranged on our travel guide? It’s difficult to tell from just looking at this 2D layout. 

The best thing to do is to take a piece of A3 paper and fold it, writing down on each visible section as you fold and expand it what content should appear where, and which direction the content needs to face. 

To help you along, this is what I managed to create once I’d experimented with folding my A3 sheet. This shows the ‘front’ of the guide when folded, i.e. what you’d see when you first pick up the guide. Then you’d fold out the guide once to see the ‘reverse’ of the guide.

front and reverse unfolded

Then you’d go ahead and unfold the whole guide, expanding it to its full A3 size. This image shows the ‘Reverse’ side of the guide when expanded, and the way it would be folded. Solid red lines indicate an outwards (bevelled) fold and dashed red lines show an inwards (embossed) fold. 

reverse of guide

On the other side of the guide, which we’ll call the ‘inside’, you have a whole A3 sheet to play around with.

inside of guide

2. Organize the Guide’s Content Into Layers

Now that we’ve successfully ‘visualized’ what the guide will look like when folded and expanded, we can start to put together the design of the guide.

Step 1

From the Pages panel (Window > Pages) double-click on the Page 1 page icon to bring it up on screen.

Open the Layers panel (find it in the same panel as the Pages panel, or go to Window > Layers). Double-click the default Layer 1 name and rename this as Guides in the Layer Options window. Click OK. Lock the layer by clicking in the empty square to the left of the layer’s name.

Guides layer locked

Step 2

Click the Create New Layer icon at the bottom right of the Layers panel. Double-click to rename this layer Map, and click OK.

Repeat the process to create a further three layers, called Background Color, Typography and finally, at the top of the stack, Pointers.

Lock all layers except Background Color, and click on the Background Color layer to make sure it’s active.

layers panel

3. Create a Color Palette and Add Color

We want the guide to look accessible and enticing, and a nice choice of complementary colors is a great way to do this. 

Step 1

Open up the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches) and click on one of the default color swatches towards the bottom of the list of CMYK swatches. 

Go to the panel’s drop-down menu and click New Color Swatch

new color swatch

In the New Color Swatch window, adjust the levels of CMYK to C=16 M=28 Y=77 K=0. Click Add and OK to add the mustard swatch to the Swatches panel.

mustard color swatch

Step 2

Repeat the process, creating a further five CMYK Swatches and adding them to the list of swatches:

  • C=16 M=43 Y=30 K=0 (Dusky Purple)
  • C=23 M=62 Y=100 K=13 (Deep Brown)
  • C=2 M=63 Y=32 K=0 (Pink)
  • C=16 M=55 Y=66 K=0 (Light Brown)
  • C=64 M=13 Y=27 K=0 (Blue)
swatches panel

Step 3

Remaining on Page 1 of the document, and on the background Color layer, select the Rectangle Tool (M) from the Tools panel and drag to create a rectangle shape 110 mm in Width and 135.5 mm in Height.

From the Swatches panel set the Stroke Color to [None] and the Fill Color to the Light Brown swatch you created in the previous step.

Position the shape in the bottom left corner of the page, fitting it snugly against the edge of the bleed.

light brown rectangle

Step 4

Select the rectangle shape and Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste. Position the pasted rectangle directly above the original, in the top left corner of the page, resting the edge against the bleed.

Adjust the Fill Color to the Mustard swatch.

mustard rectangle

Step 5

Edit > Copy the mustard rectangle and navigate down to Page 2 of the document.

Go to Edit > Paste in Place.

mustard shape on page 2

Step 6

Select the rectangle and Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste. Adjust the Fill Color to Dark Brown and position in the bottom right corner of Page 2.

Create a further two rectangles using the Rectangle Tool (M), slightly narrower in Width, 105 mm, setting one with a Dusky Purple Fill and the other with a Pink Fill. Position, as shown, on Page 2, creating a sort of checkerboard effect.

pasted rectangles

Step 7

Head back up to Page 1 of your document, and select the Rectangle Tool (M), as before. 

Drag to create a new rectangle that fits snugly inside the brown rectangle at the bottom left of the page, sitting the edges on the ‘margin’ guides. This new rectangle should be 77 mm in Width and 120.5 mm in Height.

Set the Fill Color to Pink and the Stroke Color to Mustard

Open the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke) and increase the Weight of the Stroke to 3 mm. Set the Type of the Stroke to Thick-Thick.

pink shape with border

Step 8

Select the pink rectangle you created in the previous step and Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste

Position the pasted rectangle on top of the mustard rectangle in the top left corner of Page 1, using the ‘margin’ guides to position it, as shown. 

Adjust the Fill Color to Blue and the Stroke Color to Pink.

blue shape with border

Step 9

Select the blue shape you just created in the previous step and Edit > Copy. 

Navigate down to Page 2 of the document and Edit > Paste. Adjust the Fill Color to [None] and the Stroke Color to Mustard. Position in the white section to the right of the solid mustard rectangle on Page 2.

Copy and Paste the mustard frame twice, and position two more frames in the white spaces on the right side of the page, adjusting the Stroke Colors for each to Blue and Pink.

frames on page 2

Step 10

Finally, take one of the frames you’ve just created and Edit > Copy, once again. Navigate back up to Page 1 and Edit > Paste

Expand the Height of the shape to 268 mm and the Width to 287 mm and position on the right-hand part of the page, positioning the edges against the guides as shown.

black frame on page 1

Adjust the Stroke Color to [Paper]. It’s not visible yet, but it will be soon.

white frame

4. Add a Map and Pointers

Step 1

Return to the Layers panel and Lock the Background Color layer. Unlock the Map layer.

layers panel

Let’s add a map to our city guide! You can choose a specific city map of your choice, or use the image I’ve used here, which is this lovely retro-inspired street map.

If you’re using a vector image like I am, you can open up the image in Adobe Illustrator, and edit the background color to the same Blue swatch (C=64 M=13 Y=27 K=0) you will be using on your InDesign document.

map in Illustrator

Save the map file as an Illustrator or EPS file, and then return to your InDesign document.

Step 2

On Page 1 of your document, select the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) from the Tools panel and drag to create a large image frame, extending across the white part of the page. 

Go to File > Place, select the map image file and click Open. Arrange the image in its frame so it sits inside the white border, which is now visible on the layer above. Give the image a generous margin all the way around, and leave a little more space along the right edge of the image.

placed image file

Step 3

We can create some ‘pointers’ on our map, to mark out things that might be of interest to the reader. We’ll need to use InDesign’s shape tools to create the basic pointer shape.

Return to the Layers panel and Lock the Map layer. Unlock the top layer, Pointers.

Move over to the pasteboard next to Page1 to give yourself some room for drawing.

Select the Ellipse Tool (L) from the Tools panel and, holding Shift, drag to create a small, perfect circle. Set the Stroke Color to [None] and the Fill Color to one of your swatches. 

Next, take the Line Tool (\) and drag to create a short line that extends from the bottom left of the circle to the halfway point of the graphic, as shown in the second image along, below.

Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste the line and Control-Click (Mac OS) or Right-Click (Windows) > Transform > Flip Horizontal, positioning the pasted line opposite the first line, to create a triangle shape.

Select both the lines, and go to Object > Paths > Join. Set the Fill of the triangle to the same swatch as the circle to match and set the Stroke to [None]

drawing tools

Step 4

Select both the circle and triangle and Control-Click (Mac OS) or Right-Click (Windows) > Group. 

With the group of the two shapes selected, go to Object > Effects > Drop Shadow. Reduce the Opacity of the shadow to 83%, set the Distance to 2 mm, the Angle to 92 Degrees, Size to 4 mm and Spread to 7%.

Click OK.

You now have a pointer that you can use across your map.

pointer with drop shadow

Reduce the pointer in scale (holding Shift while you resize) until it’s about 18 mm in Height. Then you can Copy and Paste the pointer multiple times, and place them across your map.

Vary the Fill Color of the pointer (create four groups of colors: Pink, Dusty Purple, Deep Brown and Mustard) as you go. 

map with pointers

Step 5

Add a text frame to each pointer by selecting the Type Tool (T) and dragging to create a small text frame. Type in a number (which we’ll pick up in a key overleaf), and set the Font to the free-to-download Fontin Sans.

From the Character Formatting Controls panel running along the top of the workspace set the Font Weight to Bold, Size to 25 pt, Align Center and Font Color to [Paper].

character formatting controls panel
text frame

Great work so far! Your fold-out guide’s looking colorful and vibrant, and you’ve incorporated a map and pointers. 

pointers with numbers

All that’s left to do is add a bit of typography to the rest of the design...

5. Enhance Your Guide With Cool Typography

Step 1

First up, return to the Layers panel and Lock the Pointers layer. Unlock the Typography layer.

layers panel

Go to Page 1 of your document and zoom in to the bottom left corner of the page. Select the Type Tool (T) and drag to create a text frame that fits inside the pink rectangle.

Type ‘City (paragraph break) Guide’ and set the Font to Fontin Sans Regular, All Caps and Align Center. Highlight just ‘City’ and blow up the Font Size to 90 pt and set the Font Color to Mustard

Highlight ‘Guide’ alone and set the Font Size to 60 pt, and the Leading to 52 pt.

city guide title

Introduce some smaller text below the main title, set in [Paper] and set the Font Size to 12 pt (Leading 18 pt). You can type something like:


City center map

Sightseeing spots

Cafés, bars & restaurants

Shopping & retail

Places to stay

Insider tips’

text on front of guide

Step 2

Select the text frame you just created and Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste. Select the pasted text frame and Control-Click (Mac OS) or Right-Click (Windows) > Transform > Rotate 180 Degrees.

Position the text frame in the section above, in the top left corner of Page 1. Adjust the Font Colors of ‘City’ and ‘Guide’ to complement the different background color.

rotated text

Step 3

Move over to the right side of Page 1, to the right edge of the map image. Create a new, small text frame using the Type Tool (T), and type ‘* See overleaf for Map Key’.

Set the Font to Fontin Sans Small Caps, Size 15 pt and Font Color to [Paper]. Select the text frame and Control-Click (Mac OS) or Right-Click (Windows) > Transform > Rotate 90 Degrees CCW. Position the text frame as shown below.

text frame for map key note

Step 4

We can also populate the other side of the guide with text—including providing a key to the map and adding some space for sharing insider travel tips.

Navigate down to Page 2 of the document, and zoom in to the top left corner of the page. 

Take the Type Tool (T) and drag to create a text frame 77 mm in Width and 8 mm in Height. Position so the frame rests against the left and top margins.

Type ‘Key: Hotels’ and set the Font to Fontin Sans Regular, Size 20 pt, All Caps and Align Center. Pull out ‘Hotels’ in a [Paper] Font Color.

Below the text frame, create a 77 mm Width line using the Line tool (\) (hold Shift and drag from left to right) setting the Stroke Weight to 2 mm and the Type to Thick-Thick (from the Stroke panel).

text frame and line

Step 5

Below the line you created in the previous step, introduce a new text frame using the Type Tool (T), and here you can type in the names of hotels (in this example, but choose something else if you like, e.g. restaurants, museums, clubs, parks, etc.), setting the Font to Fontin Sans Regular, Size 17 pt, Leading 30 pt (plus a space between each entry).

text frame with hotel list

Leave a bit of room to the left of the text frame. You’ll find out why in the next step...

Step 6

Unlock the Pointers layer from the Layers panel, and select one of the pointers, plus its corresponding number, from Page 1 of the document. Edit > Copy and Edit > Paste the pointer onto Page 2, placing it to the left of the first text entry under ‘Hotels’.

Adjust the Fill Color of the pointer to [Paper], and the color of the number to match the Mustard background color. 

Remove the Drop Shadow by going to Object > Effects > Drop Shadow and unchecking the Drop Shadow check box on the left side of the Effects window.

pointer on page 2

Now you have the basic elements to populate the rest of Page 2. Copy and Paste the pointers and the text frames next to them, adjusting the numbers to correspond with the pointers on the map. Adjust the color of the numbers to match as well. 

repeated pointers

Depending on how much detail you have on your map, you may find that you have to fill the whole of Page 2 with the map key. However, if you have a bit of room left over, you can insert sections of text (e.g. 'Insider Tips') in the white sections left over, nesting the text inside the colored borders, as shown below. Set the text in Fontin Sans to match the rest of the map.

insider tips text

When you’ve finished applying text to Page 2 of the document, you can give yourself a big clap on the back—the artwork for your guide is finished, and it looks fantastic! Great work!

front of guide
reverse of guide

Step 7

You can export your guide as a print-ready file by going to File > Export.

Select Adobe PDF (Print) from the Export window’s Format drop-down menu. Give the guide a name, like ‘City Guide_Print-Ready’, and then click Save.

In the Export window that opens, select [Press Quality] from the Adobe PDF Preset drop-down menu at the top of the window. 

press quality export

From the left-hand menu of the window, click on Marks and Bleeds. Under Marks check the box that reads All Printer’s Marks, and under Bleed and Slug check Use Document Bleed Settings. Click the Export button at the bottom right of the window.

marks and bleeds

Congratulations! Your city guide is complete and ready for sending to print. 

exported pdf with marks and bleed

You can ask the printer to prepare the printed sheets as a Concertina fold three times with a cross fold in half. Perhaps take along a mocked-up example to help demonstrate more clearly how you would like the guide to be folded.

final product mock-up

What Have We Learned?

In this tutorial we covered a large range of techniques and skills related to creating fold-out documents for print. We looked at:

  • How you can ‘visualize’ a 3D fold-out brochure or flyer by creating a rough mock-up at the start of the process and placing a series of guides onto the InDesign document’s Master page.
  • Why you should double the width of margins around a fold line to keep content evenly spaced.
  • How a pre-planned color palette can keep your design looking polished and attractive to the eye.
  • How you can create a simple map key using pointers, drawn using InDesign’s Shape Tools.
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