Magazines aimed at children and families are enjoying a resurgence, with titles like Milk in France and Junior in the UK presenting super-stylish designs.
If you want to get started with creating your very own kid-friendly magazine, this tutorial is going to take you through the steps of developing a brand for your publication and setting up the cover and page layouts in Adobe InDesign.
Maybe you’ve designed magazines for adults before, or perhaps you’re completely new to magazine design. Either way, you’ll find that designing magazines which are aimed at kids is a really fun process, and in some ways breaks away from the conventions of traditional magazine design.
The way you build the magazine’s brand is going to be a little different to designing titles for adults, and you may need adjust some things, like type size and color, to create a design that’s going to attract the right readership.
The example brand and template that you can recreate in this tutorial is suited to education or even to retail brands aimed at families, and the design taps into the trendy Scandi style that’s dominating children’s design at the moment. We’ll take a look at how to create a strong brand ‘look’ for the magazine first, and then walk through the steps of setting up the magazine document in Adobe InDesign.
Ready? Great! Let’s get started...
1. Begin With a Basic Cover Template
We won’t put together the final magazine layouts just yet, but it will be helpful to work directly into InDesign, so we can transfer elements like color swatches and type styles easily into our final designs.
Open up Adobe InDesign, and create a new document (File > New > Document).
Set the Number of Pages to 2 and deselect Facing Pages.
This document will be the cover template for our magazine. In this tutorial we’ll be creating an A4 magazine, so the full cover will have to be twice the width of an A4 sheet (for the front and back covers), plus a narrow spine. Spine width will vary depending on how many pages you’ll end up with in the magazine, but for now let’s set it at 5 mm.
So, that will mean a total 425 mm for the Page Width (210 mm + 210 mm + 5 mm) and 297 mm for the Height.
Moving down the New Document window, set the Margins on all sides to 12 mm and the Bleed on all sides to 3 mm.
Click OK to create the new document.
From the left-hand ruler (go to View > Show Rulers if your rulers aren’t visible on the workspace), click and drag out a vertical guide to the center of Page 1 of the document, to 212.5 mm.
Drag out a second guide to 215 mm, and a third to 210 mm, to mark out the edges of the spine of the cover.
To complete the 12 mm-wide margins on the front and back parts of the cover, pull out another guide to 227 mm and then a final guide to 198 mm.
Finally, drag your mouse across the whole of Page 1 to select all the guides, and then go to Edit > Copy.
Scroll down to Page 2 of the document, and go to Edit > Paste in Place.
To help you remember which page is which side of the cover, place a note on the pasteboard using the Type Tool (T) next to Page 1 reading ‘Outside of Magazine Cover’ (i.e. Page 1 will have the front cover on the right side, and reverse cover on the left, with the visible spine in the middle).
Then add a caption next to Page 2 reading ‘Inside of Magazine Cover’ (i.e. the side of the cover that will sit inside the magazine, and the spine will be invisible beneath the binding).
Fantastic! Now you have your cover template set up you can start to experiment with the look of your magazine, and build its own brand ‘look’.
There are a number of important elements that will make up the brand look of your magazine, and once you have these sorted out, you’ll find that designing the rest of the magazine, or creating further issues of your publication, will seem much less daunting.
Let’s take a look at some of these elements...
2. Build Your Magazine’s Brand: Color
Kids’ magazines need to be visually stimulating and, above all, fun! Color plays a huge part in this.
A color palette of complementary, versatile colors is going to be really useful for designing the rest of your magazine.
A good place to started with color is to pick just five colors, three of which are closely related to each other (e.g. three different shades of blue), and two ‘accent’ or contrasting colors.
You can choose your own colors, and follow the same process of creating the swatches below, or use the swatches I’ve chosen, which are listed in Step 2 below.
To add a color swatch to your magazine document in InDesign, expand or open the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches).
Select one of the default CMYK swatches listed in the panel, and select New Color Swatch from the panel’s drop-down menu.
Keep the Color Type set to Process and Mode to CMYK, and then adjust the CMYK sliders to create your swatch.
Here, I’ve created a blue swatch, with values C=53 M=2 Y=6 K=0. You may also find it helpful to rename your swatch to make it more memorable.
Click Add, and then OK. Your swatch has now been added to the Swatches panel.
Repeat the process, adding a further four CMYK swatches to your palette, until you have a full set of five swatches.
Remember, three swatches should be related to each other (complementary) and two swatches should be contrasting, as in my set of swatches below:
- Blue: C=53 M=2 Y=6 K=0
- Ice Blue: C=30 M=2 Y=16 K=0
- Dark Blue: C=88 M=56 Y=24 K=8
- Red: C=3 M=89 Y=93 K=0
- Mustard: C=18 M=9 Y=89 K=0
3. Build Your Magazine’s Brand: Typefaces
Typefaces are a key part of designing any brand, and designing for a kids’ magazine is no different—a well-chosen font is going to lift your design and make it instantly recognisable.
Children’s magazines need to adapt their text to their young audience—large, legible type and easy-to-read sans serif fonts are going to be functional and fun!
Choose two fonts that have similar qualities—look for rounded, ultra-legible, sans serif styles—but make sure one font will work better for headings, and the other will work well for subtitles and body text.
Download the fonts, install them, and return to your InDesign document.
4. Build Your Magazine’s Brand: Photos and Graphics
Images are just as important for building the brand of your magazine as are fonts and colors.
You can set down some rules for using photographs to make them look consistent, and you can work on developing an illustrative style for other graphics that remains uniform across the magazine.
Let’s look at photos first. Set yourself some simple brand rules for using photos in the magazine.
So for example, I’ve decided to only use images with a plain or white background, like this image of a hand (no longer available), which means I can easily integrate them into existing layouts without the need for clunky borders.
I’ve also decided that images will also always be in full-color, and feature bold primary colors to make them look optimistic and punchy.
You can expand your photo brand to make it even more specific—for example, will you always include portraits of people, or never have people featured in photos?
Once you have narrowed down the style of photo you can use, you’ll find that browsing stock photo libraries will become much easier and faster too!
Illustrated images or ‘graphics’ might also play a part in your magazine design, and, as with photos, you should set down some rules for selecting graphics that share common elements.
If you’re going to be sourcing images from a stock library, you can first set down some brand rules for images. Will they always be vector or raster (note that vectors can be easier to scale, and simple to edit if you have access to vector software like Adobe Illustrator)? Will they be in a particular style (e.g. traditional line drawings, or colorful cartoons)? Will they always share similar colors to make them look more uniform and consistent?
If you’re looking to create your own graphics, you’ll have much more control over the look of your graphics. Remember that children will respond better to bright colors, simple shapes and cartoon styles.
Take the graphics I’ve created here as an example. This simple, chunky iceberg was easy and quick to create directly in InDesign, using the Pen Tool (P). See Section 5, below, for details on how to create your own iceberg graphic.
Keeping the graphic flat in style makes it easy to apply the brand colors I created earlier, and easy to scale in size when I reuse the graphic on a different page of the magazine.
If you have a strong illustrative style that you can develop for the magazine, that’s great! But no worries if not; try experimenting with simple shapes using the Pen Tool (P) or shape tools in InDesign. Applying bold color to simple graphics can look really effective.
5. Add Your Branding to the Magazine Cover
Now that you have your ‘brand’ in place, which includes fonts, colors and graphics, you’re ready to start applying it to the cover of your magazine.
For the remainder of the tutorial, I’ll walk you through the steps of how I created the cover of this kids’ magazine, and advise you on how to set up a suitable template for the inside pages. I’ll be using my chosen colors, fonts and graphics, so you can either choose to follow along the same steps and use the same branding that I use, or adjust the fonts, colors and images to fit your own preferred design.
First up, we can finish the magazine cover, the template for which we’ve already created in InDesign...
Return to the InDesign document that we created earlier.
Let’s first add some background color to the cover.
Select the Rectangle Tool (M) from the Tools panel and drag onto Page 1 to create a shape. Position over on the right side of the page, and extend the edges up to the bleed on the top, right and bottom of the page. Extend the left edge of the shape over to the right edge of the spine, as shown below.
Set the Fill Color to a pale solid color, like Ice Blue, and the Stroke Color to [None].
Create two more rectangle shapes—one the same size, positioned on the left side of the page, and another, much narrower (5 mm wide), positioned centrally down the spine (fit it snugly between the guides).
Set the Fill Color of the left-hand shape to a contrasting color, like Mustard. Set the spine shape to another bold color, like Red.
Expand or open the Layers panel (Window > Layers). Double-click on the default Layer 1 name to open the Layer Options window. Rename the layer Color and click OK.
Lock the Color layer and click on the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel. Rename this second layer Typography and click OK.
Remaining on the Typography layer, take the Type Tool (T) and drag onto the page to create a text frame. Position the frame on the right-hand side of Page 1, in the top-left corner of what will be the front page of the magazine.
Type the magazine’s title, here ‘Play!’, and set the Font to your chosen header font, or, as I’ve done here, Linotte SemiBold, Size 120 pt and Font Color to Dark Blue.
Create new text frames using the Type Tool (T) and type up other things, like a subtitle and the magazine’s website address, setting them in a smaller-size version of the header font and different colors from the Swatches panel (use [Paper] as a neutral color).
Set the Issue Number up in the top right corner, using the margin guides to position the text frame.
Add the magazine’s title and issue number to the spine by first creating two small, long text frames, and typing up the text at an 11 pt Font Size.
Select the frames and Right-Click (Windows) or Control-Click (Mac OS) > Transform > Rotate 90 Degrees CW. Position the magazine title centrally on the spine, and the issue number towards the bottom of the spine.
You can add further subtitles and article summaries to the front cover, setting the text in your other font (here I’ve used Folks). Try varying the Font Size, Weight (Bold, Regular, etc.) and Color for a varied, interesting look.
Lock the Typography layer in the Layers panel, and create a new layer. Rename it Border, and click and drag the layer down so it sits between the Color and Typography layers.
Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and drag onto the right-hand side of Page 1. Extend the edges of the shape up to the edge of the page, and up to the right side of the spine.
Set the Stroke Color to [Paper]. Open the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke) and, from here, set the Weight of the stroke to 6 mm, and choose Align Stroke to Inside from the Align Stroke options in the middle of the panel.
To cover the top, right and bottom bleeds, take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create long, narrow shapes set in a [Paper] Fill. Cover the visible parts of the color bleed with the white shapes.
Return to the Layers panel and Lock the Border layer. Create another new layer, position it above the Color layer, but below the Typography and Border layers, and rename it Images.
This is where you can place either a photo or a graphic.
I’ve gone for a simple vector graphic, which fits well with the minimal, stylish look of the magazine.
Using the Pen Tool (P) I draw a series of anchors onto the pasteboard next to Page 1, to create a rough iceberg shape, set in a Dark Blue Fill Color.
I then use the Scissors Tool (C) to snip at two points on the top-left and top-right of the shape, to split off a top section, which I set with a [Paper] Fill.
I select both shapes and drag onto the front cover of the magazine.
Teaming the shape with a rectangle shape, made using the Rectangle Tool (M), set behind the iceberg, and a circle shape, using the Ellipse Tool (L), to make a sun, the graphic looks just right!
Just a couple of final steps to finish your cover.
If you want to sell your magazine, you’re going to need a barcode. You can position this at the bottom right of the front cover.
On Page 2 of your InDesign document, which will form the inside of the cover and will only be visible when the magazine is opened, you can leave space for ads, which is pretty standard practice. Or you can Unlock the Color layer in the Layers panel, and add some simple background color using the Rectangle Tool (M).
Fantastic! Your magazine cover is finished—great work.
You’ve successfully created the elements of your magazine’s brand and applied these to your cover design.
Read on to find out how you can set up the template for the magazine’s inside pages...
6. Complete the Template for the Inside Pages
Creating a whole magazine is a big job! But hopefully this tutorial will set you up with the templates and key design elements to help you finish the job and produce something fantastic.
In this final part of the tutorial I’ll take you through the steps of creating a basic template for the inside pages of the magazine, which you can embellish later with your own content.
We’ll need to create a separate InDesign document for the inside pages of the magazine.
For now, go to File > Save, to save your InDesign cover document.
Then, go to File > New > Document to open up the New Document window.
Set the Number of Pages to 6 (you can add more pages as you design if required), and keep Facing Pages checked.
Set the Page Size to A4 (or 210 mm Width and 297 mm Height). Set the Number of Columns to 3 and the Gutter (space between the columns) to 6 mm.
Set the Top Margin to 12 mm, the Bottom and Inside Margins to 14 mm, and the Outside Margin to 13 mm.
Set the Bleed on all sides, except the Inside, to 3 mm. Keep the Inside Bleed set to 0 mm.
Click OK to create your new document.
Go to the Pages panel (Window > Pages) and Right-Click (Windows) or Control-Click (Mac OS) on the A-Master name at the top of the panel to open a menu of options.
Choose Master Options for “A-Master”. In the Master Options window that opens, add the text ‘Page Numbers & Running Headers’ to the Name. Click OK.
Double-click on the A-Master in the Pages panel to bring up the master on screen.
Create a new text frame using the Type Tool (T) and position it on the left-hand page, in the far-left bottom corner.
Set your type cursor in the frame, and go to Type > Insert Special Character > Markers > Current Page Number.
You can format the ‘A’ page number marker how you like. I’ve used one of my ‘brand’ fonts, Folks, and set the color to Ice Blue.
Select the text frame containing the page number marker and Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste. Position it over on the right-hand page, in the bottom-right corner. Adjust the text to Align Right from the Character Formatting Controls panel running along the top of your screen.
You can add running headers to the master as well. Simply create two new text frames, listing the Magazine Title in the top-left corner, and the Issue Number in the top-right corner of the spread.
Now you have your basic master prepared, and it’s been automatically applied to all the pages in your document.
Great work! You’re now ready to get started with filling your magazine template with content. Why not start with a contents spread on pages 2 and 3 of your document?
You can build up articles and features on later pages too. Try lifting some of the elements from the cover to bulk up an article spread.
Remember to use the elements of your branding—colors, fonts and images—across the whole of the magazine to keep it looking unified and stylish.
Have fun with building up the remainder of your magazine—you can make it as long or short as you like! Remember to adjust the width of the spine on the cover to suit the final number of pages.
If you'd like to access more templates and more cool content for your magazine, check out this selection of magazine templates for print on Envato Market.
In this tutorial we’ve looked at some of the most important steps you can take towards creating your own magazine for kids.
You can now feel confident in:
- building a ‘brand look’ for your magazine, and selecting colors and typefaces to use across your design
- laying down rules for using photos and/or graphics in your magazine, and having a go at creating your own simple graphics using the tools available in InDesign
- setting up the template for the magazine cover, and applying your brand look to it
- setting up the template for the inside pages of the magazine, and applying page numbers and running headers to the document’s master spread
Phew! That’s a lot of work—well done! Discover more stylish magazine templates on Envato Market.