Looking into creating your own layout templates? This article covers fundamental elements that can help you master your typographic skills.
Typography is one of the most important elements of any design. Be it digital or printed, successful typography can make or break a design piece. In this article, we will touch on some the basics of a magazine page layout, typographic rules, and what you need to have in InDesign templates. Whether you are creating an InDesign book layout template, magazine layout design, or newsletter layout, these tips will come in handy.
InDesign templates are great sources of income if you make them available in an asset library like Envato Elements or GraphicRiver. Not only that, they can speed up the process of any project. Let’s say you are working with a recurring client on a monthly publication or at a studio with multiple designers. Having an InDesign template that you can start working from on each issue will make the job easier.
Before you start setting up an InDesign template, you need to take careful consideration of layouts, typefaces, columns, and grids. These systematic elements will help you create a cohesive design. While this article includes key typographical rules, it is important to know that you can always break the rules and create something new that can work for your project.
1. Structure Your Layout Template
Using structure in your InDesign page layout will save you time. Keep elements aligned and organized so your magazine page layout can look clean, neat, and cohesive. Nobody likes mess!
Grids are the backbone of every good InDesign page layout. This is one of the first things you use to create a multi-page layout composition.
There’s no right or wrong number of columns or rows, as long as you are using them properly. You can align type, imagery, graphics, and pretty much any element you will be placing on the layout.
One of the biggest advantages of using grids is efficiency. Grids can make you efficient. Period. They are doing most of the job for you by hinting at the best place to position and scale elements, instead of randomly moving them around until you find the right composition.
Now that you’ve got the grids set, it’s time to talk about columns. Columns contain the body copy, so this is the meat of your design. If you flip through a magazine layout design, you will notice that important stories are set in two columns that fit the width of the magazine page layout. This is so the reader won’t need to jump to the next line so often. Shorter articles are set in three or more columns, resulting in narrower columns on a page.
Columns go hand in hand with type size, line length, and leading. As a rule of thumb, the number of characters per row should be between 45 and 75. Let’s take a US letter size page as an example to talk about the number of columns:
Depending on the font size you are using, one column can look extremely heavy. To solve this, allow for extra margin around it, which can make the magazine page layout look elegant. You can also add a narrow column to go alongside it to break the heaviness.
Most magazine layout templates use two columns for main stories. The width of the columns can usually carry the ideal number of characters (45-75), making the text readable to the users.
Some main stories can be laid out in three columns. Add some pull-quotes in between to break the magazine page layout. Depending on the width, you can also have short stories and event short interviews laid out.
Four or More Columns
Newspapers and informational parts of a magazine layout design use four or more columns. Narrower columns can also be used for small text blocks like image captions. If you are using more than four columns on a magazine layout template, be sure to use a smaller type size to make it readable.
Columns and Line Length
In order to make your text readable, it is important to consider the width of the column and its content. The wider the column, the more characters you will be able to fit. This doesn’t necessarily mean optimal readability as the reader will get lost trying to find the next line. If the column width is too narrow, the reader will need to jump to the next line more often. It's important to find the right balance to reduce readability problems.
As a rule of thumb, the number of characters per row should be between 45 and 75. Depending on the type size, you might need to adjust the width of the column. While it can be different from template to template, it's always good to test your design by printing it.
You can check the characters per line in InDesign by opening the Info pane (Window > Info).
2. Fonts for Print Layout Template
Choosing the right font for your project can determine whether someone will want to use your template or not. With thousands and thousands of typefaces available, deciding on the right mix doesn’t need to be difficult.
Serif fonts are the most commonly used style for lengthy text. They help the eye travel across the lines due to their anatomy and are more comfortable to read. While serif fonts are quite traditional and conservative, there are many experimental options to explore. When designing a template, consider your audience, the kind of project you will be designing, and the font’s legibility.
Many would argue that Sans Serif fonts are just as legible as Serif fonts. Use Sans Serifs if you want to call attention to a headline or for very small captions over a background. While there are many Sans Serif fonts, consider how legible the text will be to your audience.
Display fonts are eccentric and intended for use at a larger size. They are great to use as headings because they can lend textural contrast to the magazine page layout. Use this style to entice the reader to an article. Don’t use this style for body copy purposes—there’s a right time and place to use it.
When designing an InDesign magazine template, you’ll usually have a different typeface for the heading and a different one for the body. This will create a nice contrast, hierarchy and interest to the magazine page layout. There are a couple of rules you should follow if you are planning on mixing up fonts:
Serif/Sans Serif combinations work really well. Take a look at a magazine layout design and you’ll notice two fonts used interchangeably: one for a large body of text and one for headlines. Use the rest of the font families to help you with the deck, folio, etc.
Don’t combine Serif with a Serif or Sans Serif with a Sans Serif as it can look bland. If you do decide to experiment, try using very different fonts in anatomy. As a rule of thumb, stick to two fonts. If you use too many, your design can end up looking confusing, so remember you are trying to design something systematic.
In the image below, I paired a sans serif font for the heading, folio, byline, and pull quote. I used a serif font for the body copy so it is comfortable to read.
3. Typographic Hierarchy and Elements of a Multi-Page Document
Flip through any printed design piece and you’ll come across a beautiful visual texture on the page. Hierarchy helps the reader notice what’s important on a page and work their way down. Using different fonts, sizes and weights will help you create a hierarchy in your template.
To apply a hierarchy, you need to know the components that are necessary in a page layout. The main elements are the headline, subhead, and copy. These three levels of hierarchy are simple but will provide you with the basic contrast you need for your design to get noticed. Let’s talk about them:
Headline (Level One)
Headlines usually sit at the top of the InDesign page layout, drawing the reader's attention to it. Headlines vary in size and, depending on the article, they will have a bigger or smaller point size.
Intro or Deck (Level Two)
The intro or deck briefly describes the theme of the article. It usually summarizes the story and should also attract the reader's attention. From the design point of view, the deck should be smaller than the headline but bigger than the body copy. Take this chance to use a different type family. If you're using a sans serif font on the headline, try using the italic version of it or a serif font.
Body Copy (Level Three)
This is the meat of your design. This is where you should be spending some time designing as you will be dealing with legibility and readability. There are many elements you mustn't overlook, especially if you are designing a template. Set the right margins, column width, and gutter, and choose the right font size and leading.
If you are designing a multi-page document such as a magazine layout template, you will need a few more elements. Alongside the three above, these elements will not only add helpful information for your reader but will also add texture as design elements. While it is not necessary to include all of them in an InDesign brochure template with a small page count, it is a nice addition to a lengthy magazine layout template. Let’s take a look:
The folio consists of page numbers—which are a must. The folio can also include the publication name, date, and section. These elements are usually repeated on each page of the magazine page layout to help guide the reader through the publication.
From the design standpoint, folios can be traditional or you can really experiment with them. Make the number bigger or smaller, change the colors, think outside of the box!
Pull quotes are a great design element that will help you break up columns and big masses of text in an InDesign page layout. These can be taken out from the copy directly or be summarized. Set the pull quotes in a big enough size that will call the reader. The size shouldn’t be as big as the headline, and you can use other graphic elements to emphasize them.
Captions work alongside images. Many templates won’t include captions, but it is a nice addition should users need them. Captions usually go below or on top of images.
The type size can be as big as the body copy. In most instances, they are smaller by a point or two. Sans serif tends to be the first choice here as they are legible at a very small point size and on image backgrounds.
Bylines will include the name of the writer/author, as well as photographers that worked on the article.
The position of this element varies from publication to publication. Most magazine layout designs include the bylines right under the deck in important articles. Gutter bylines are more discreet, smaller in point size compared to the body copy, and placed along the gutter.
4. Organization Panels for Your InDesign Templates
In InDesign, you can find the Layers panel by going to Window > Layers. Layers contain all the elements you create in an InDesign book layout template. Content placed on the top layer will appear at the front, and content placed on the bottom layer will be placed at the back.
Layers allow you to hide, lock, and edit content on the layer you have selected. So how is this helpful in a template? Create multiple layers to include copy, images, and background. Users will benefit from this as they will be able to either hide or lock layers as they need. Locking or hiding a layer will allow them to move freely through the document to edit copy. When it comes to proofreading or printing a document, users can hide the images layer and only print the body copy layer.
In InDesign, you can find the Swatches panel by going to Window > Color Swatches. The Swatches panel lets you create and quickly change/apply color swatches to an object.
Swatches make it easier for you and your users to modify colors without having to locate each element. Let’s say you are using a blue headline throughout your document, but users would like to change it yellow. They can do so by selecting the color swatch—instead of each headline—and changing the color by moving the CMYK sliders.
In InDesign, you can find the Paragraph Styles panel by going to Window > Paragraph Styles. This panel contains formatting options such as size, color, and leading, and even paragraph options such as indents, alignment, etc. The advantage of using them is that they are time-savers when a user wants to change the font, let’s say, on all the headlines. Instead of changing the font on each headline individually, users have the option to change the font on all the headlines in the document through the Paragraph Style.
In InDesign, you can find the Master Pages panel by going to Window > Pages. Master pages become very, very useful when working on a lengthy InDesign magazine template. Master pages create consistency by housing elements that will be repeated throughout the magazine layout design, like the folio and grids.
Every magazine layout in InDesign can have multiple master pages. If you are creating a template, you can have an A-Master page with folios and a B-Master page with placeholder frames. Another option would be to have different layout options as master pages. This way, you’d be giving users the freedom to add what they need depending on their content.
There You Have It!
Setting up InDesign book templates, newsletter templates, and InDesign magazine templates can be complicated. There are many important elements to include in your book layout template that you can’t miss. This guide lists the essentials to consider when you are planning, developing, and seeing your design come to fruition.
If you are either planning on monetizing InDesign book templates or work at a studio with multiple designers, this article can help you out. InDesign templates are meant to be quick and helpful, and the software offers great tools to create them.
When you are ready to design your own template, take a look at some of our tutorials below. We cover everything from InDesign magazine templates to newsletter layouts, menu layout templates, and much more! They are perfect to get you started!
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