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How to Create a Modern Retro Magazine Layout in Adobe InDesign

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This post is part of a series called Magazine Design & Templates .
10 Tips for Designing High-Impact Magazines
How to Make a Magazine: From a Creative InDesign Template
Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

Our love affair for all things vintage isn’t waning anytime soon, but you can bring your designs bang up-to-date by balancing retro and contemporary elements in your layouts. 

Here, we’ll put together a few spreads for a fashion and lifestyle magazine with a retro flavor. This is a great introduction to creating magazines in Adobe InDesign, as well as picking up tips on how to keep your layouts looking fresh and on-trend. 

If you’re a relative beginner to InDesign, this will introduce you to essential print design techniques, as well as broadening your skillset.  

If you want to create a complete magazine design quickly and easily, a magazine template is always a good option. You can find a large selection of templates for lifestyle, fashion, food and travel titles over on GraphicRiver and Envato Elements

final layoutsfinal layoutsfinal layouts

What You’ll Need to Create Your Magazine 

We’ll use Adobe InDesign to create the magazine layout. To create the design pictured here, you’ll also need to download the following images and font files:

For both layouts:

For the first 1950s-inspired layout:

  • These three retro portraits of a model: Photo 1 (no longer available), Photo 2 (no longer available), and Photo 3 (no longer available).
  • Moonface Script font 
  • Besley font

For the second 1980s-inspired layout:

Once you’ve saved the images to a safe place and installed the fonts onto your computer, you’re ready to get started.

1. How to Set Up Your Magazine Document in InDesign

Step 1

Open up InDesign and go to File > New > Document.

Keep the Intent set to Print, and set the Number of Pages to 10*. 

Set the Width of the page to 213 mm and Height to 276.5 mm, which is equivalent to a standard US magazine page size. If you want to adapt your layouts to a different page size, go ahead. 

Set the Top and Outside Margins to 13 mm, Inside to 14 mm, and Bottom to 15 mm.

Add a Bleed of 5 mm, before clicking OK

new documentnew documentnew document

*Note: You can easily add more pages to your magazine later by clicking on the New Page button in the Pages panel (Window > Pages).

Step 2

Well-organised layers are key to keeping your sanity intact while you work on complex magazine spreads. 

Expand the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and double-click on the Layer 1 name. Rename the layer Background Color and click OK

Choose New Layer from the panel’s drop-down menu (at top-right). Name the layer Photos and click OK.

Create three more layers in this order: Typography, Texture and finally Master Elements. 

master elementsmaster elementsmaster elements

Lock all layers except Master Elements, which we’ll work on first. 

master elements layermaster elements layermaster elements layer

Step 3

Expand the Pages panel (Window > Pages) and click onto the A-Master page icons to bring up the master on screen. 

Zoom into the top-right corner of the page and use the Type Tool (T) to create a small text frame against the margin line. Here will be your page number, and you can begin it with a ‘/’ or ‘>>’ as I’ve done here, if you like. 

Use the main Controls panel or Character panel (Window > Type & Tables > Character) to set the frame’s Font to Besley

character panelcharacter panelcharacter panel

With your type cursor sitting in the text frame, head up to Type > Insert Special Character > Markers > Current Page Number. 

current page numbercurrent page numbercurrent page number

Step 4

Right-Click on the A-Master and click on Master Options.

master optionsmaster optionsmaster options

Add ‘Light Background’ to the name of the master, and click OK

master optionsmaster optionsmaster options

Step 5

On the A-Master, Right-Click > Duplicate Master Spread, to create a copy below. 

duplicate spreadduplicate spreadduplicate spread

Rename this B-Master ‘Dark Background’.

master optionsmaster optionsmaster options

From the Swatches panel, switch the Font Color of the page number text to [Paper]. When you set this over a darker colored background, this will ensure the page number will be visible.

paper textpaper textpaper text

2. How to Build Up Color and Photography on Your Magazine Spreads

Step 1

Return to the Layers panel and lock the Master Elements layer. Unlock the bottom layer, Background Color. 

locked layerslocked layerslocked layers

Click on New Color Swatch in the Swatches panel’s menu, and create a new CMYK swatch, C=0 M=27 Y=18 K=0. Click Add and then OK

Head down to Page 2 and 3 of your InDesign document.

Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to create a shape across the whole of Page 2, extending it up to the bleed edge. Set the Fill to your new pink swatch. 

fill rectanglefill rectanglefill rectangle

Step 2

Lock the Background Color layer and unlock the layer above, Photos

Use the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) to create an image frame across Page 3. File > Place, navigate to one of the model portrait images you downloaded earlier (or a photo of your choice) and Open, allowing it to fill the whole frame. 

rectangle frame toolrectangle frame toolrectangle frame tool

Because this photo has a dark background, I drag down the B-Master - Dark Background right-page icon onto the Page 3 icon, to apply it to this page. 

dark backgrounddark backgrounddark background

3. How to Format Retro Typography for Your Magazine

Step 1

Lock the Photos layer and unlock Typography above it. 

Take the Type Tool (T) and create a large text frame for a title over on Page 2 of your spread. Type in the first part of the article title, and set the Font to Moonface Script, around Size 180 pt. 

moonface scriptmoonface scriptmoonface script

Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste the text frame and type up the second part of your title. Move the text frame up to allow the words to join up. 


Step 2

Add body text below your titling set in Bosley, and Uppercase

You can stick to this one-font-for-title, another-for-body-text rule as you work on your magazine spreads. 

text framestext framestext frames
text framestext framestext frames

4. How to Add Texture to Your Designs

Texture is an easy and effective way of injecting vintage style into your magazine designs. 

Step 1

Lock the Typography layer and unlock the Texture layer above. 

texture layertexture layertexture layer

Use the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) to create an image frame across Page 2 of the spread, and File > Place

Choose one of the texture PNG images inside the handmade vintage textures folder. Here, I’ve gone for Texture 14. 

Copy and Paste the texture image frame, moving the copy over on top of Page 3.


Step 2

Select both texture image frames and go to Object > Effects > Transparency. Set the Mode to Color Dodge and bring the Opacity down to around 35%. 

color dodgecolor dodgecolor dodge

Want a moodier look? Set the Mode to Multiply.

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5. And Repeat...

By layering background color, photo, type and texture, you can create a beautiful retro style for your magazine layouts. It’s easy to follow this same process with other layouts, like here, for the next spread of the magazine. 

Here, I’ve set two different model portraits on Pages 4 and 5 of the document. 


Copy and Paste the texture image frames I used on the previous spread and increase the Opacity of the Color Dodge transparency, to bring through a little more texture onto this spread.

color dodgecolor dodgecolor dodge

I’m also going to create another couple of spreads in the magazine, using the same layering process. Read on to see how I use the same technique to create a 1980s-inspired design.

Step 1

Move down to Pages 6 and 7 of your document, and set a large image, such as this one, on the Photos layer, spanning the whole spread. 

photos layerphotos layerphotos layer

Step 2

Use the Type Tool (T) to create a very large text frame across the left-hand page, and type in the article title. Set the Font to Cred Regular.

cred regularcred regularcred regular

Step 3

Gradient swatches are great for adding a retro feel to typography on your magazine designs. First, it’s a good idea to create a range of swatches to use in your gradient.

Choose New Color Swatch from the Swatches panel’s main menu. Set the Type to Process and Mode to CMYK. Then adjust the CMYK values below. To create a sunset-style range of swatches, as used here, add the following swatches to the panel:

  • C=0 M=30 Y=93 K=0
  • C=0 M=84 Y=91 K=0
  • C=0 M=95 Y=18 K=0
  • C=65 M=85 Y=0 K=0
new color swatchnew color swatchnew color swatch

Step 4

Choose New Gradient Swatch from the panel’s main menu. 

new gradient swatchnew gradient swatchnew gradient swatch

Name the swatch Sunset, set the Type to Linear and choose Swatches from the Stop Color menu. 

Click on the left-hand stop on the Gradient Ramp at the bottom and set this to the yellow swatch.

Click on the right-hand stop and set this to the dark purple swatch. 

Click onto the ramp twice to add two more stops, and set these to the orange and pink swatch, to create a gradual sunset effect. Then click OK

gradient optionsgradient optionsgradient options

Step 5

Select the title text frame and apply the Sunset gradient swatch to the text using the Swatches panel.

sunset gradientsunset gradientsunset gradient

You can also create a subtitle set in Arista Pro Fat, and apply the Sunset swatch to this as well. 

arista proarista proarista pro

Step 6

Unlock the Texture layer, Copy and Edit > Paste in Place texture image frames down from the previous spread. 

Go to Object > Effects > Transparency to play around with the transparency settings a little.

soft lightsoft lightsoft light

Step 7

For the final spread of this article, I’m going to add a color gradient across the whole image, to give it a retro look. 

Place a photo on the Photos layer. If you want to introduce a larger section of body text to this spread, only allow the photo to cover some of the spread. 

photo framephoto framephoto frame

Use the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) to create a shape over the top of the image frame, and set the Fill of the shape to Sunset.

sunset gradientsunset gradientsunset gradient

With the shape selected go to Object > Effects > Transparency and set the Mode to Multiply. Bring the Opacity down to around 80% and click OK

multiply transparencymultiply transparencymultiply transparency

Step 8

Scatter text frames set in Cred Regular across the layout, using some of the swatches you created earlier to add a contrasting pop of color. 

cred regularcred regularcred regular

You can set a text frame on the emptier section of your spread, setting body text in Acre.

acre fontacre fontacre font

You can increase the Drop Cap Number of Lines in the Paragraph panel to pull out the first letter of your article in a drop cap. Try setting it in a contrasting font, like Cred, and in the Sunset gradient swatch. 

drop capdrop capdrop cap

And this layout’s finished—awesome!

final layoutfinal layoutfinal layout

Once you’ve finished each spread of your magazine, make sure to head up to File > Save to keep an intact copy of all your hard work.

You can keep adding pages to your magazine using the Pages panel. Follow the sequence of layering—background color, photos, typography, and texture—to build up a consistent vintage-inspired look for your magazine. 


In this tutorial, we’ve looked at how you can add vintage touches to your magazine layouts with color, typography, and texture. This modern-retro mix is a hot trend in print design for 2018, so start experimenting with vintage touches in your projects to keep your designs looking fresh and on-trend. 

If you want to create complete magazine designs quickly and easily, a magazine template is a great place to start. You can find a huge range of templates for lifestyle, fashion, food and travel titles over on GraphicRiver and Envato Elements

final magazinefinal magazinefinal magazine
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