Creating a Grid-Based Document using InDesign


InDesign Grid.jpg

One of the features of InDesign is its grid and snap system. This tutorial explains how to create a grid-based layout.
Uses Tool(s) InDesign CS5
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This workflow can be completed using just one software tool - it would be better described as a "method" of InDesign
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Introduction to InDesign

InDesign is a useful tool to create layouts for printed documents such as portfolios, presentations, business cards, and resumes. It is useful because a series of grids and lines can be set up so that the objects in the document can snap to and align with, resulting in a clean and ordered layout. The layout can be reproduced on several pages, as in a book, or reused for a different document later on. This tutorial will show how to use InDesign to create a simple grid-based layout, and then use the layout to produce a programmatic narrative.

Setting Up the InDesign Document

A grid-based layout is ordered by a series horizontal and vertical guides. When creating a new document notice the options for setting up the page. Choose the number of vertical columns and the size of the gutter (the gap in between each set of columns). Finally, since this is a basic text document, bleed is not needed. Bleed is used when there are objects that overlap the edge of the page. (Bleed would be useful if the edges of the document are going to be trimmed for a presentation board, or if the final document will be sent to a printing company that has specifications of how close to the edge they will print.)

For this tutorial, keep the page size as Letter in the portrait orientation (8.5" x 11"). Create 7 columns with a gutter size of .25" or 1 pica. For the margin size, keep the default size of .5" or 3 pica. Click OK.

Inserting the Horizontal Grid

Now, a series of horizontal guides are needed to complete the grid. Click on Edit->Preferences->Grid . To make sure the guides fit within the margins, set the start to o", or 0 picas, and set it relative to the top margin.

The increment of space between each horizontal guide depends on the relative proportions of elements within the document. Since this is a text-based document, keep the spacing increment small at 14 pt (or in proportion to the text font size). Uncheck the "Grids in Back" box and click OK. Make sure that the baseline grid is set to show in the View menu ( View->Grids & Guides->Show Baseline Grid , or pressing Alt+Ctrl+" ).

At any time during editing, the grid can be switched off so that the document can be seen without hidden lines. To do this, go to View->Grids & Guides->Hide Guides (or pressing Ctrl+; ).


Creating the Title Block

To add text to the grid, make sure that snapping to guides is on by clicking View->Grids & Guides->Snap to Guides (or pressing Shift+Ctrl+; ). Also in the Grids & Guides menu, make sure that Lock Guides is checked so that the grid cannot be moved (or press Alt+Ctrl+; ).

A title box will align the title to the existing grid. Using the Text tool, click and drag on the document to draw a rectangle that is five columns wide and five rows high. Type a title into the box.

Click away from the box so that it is no longer in focus to check if it aligns with the grid. If it does not, select the box and move or resize it so that it is ordered to the grid. A useful method to align the box to the grid is to select the text box, and click Object->Fitting->Fit Frame to Content . This will resize the text box to fit the text as the text settings are changed. Play with the spacing between the letters by highlighting the text and then pressing the arrow keys while holding the Alt key.


Laying Out the Text

When laying out text, remember that hierarchy matters. Design the layout of the text according to what information is most important.

This example will have three bodies of text: two main sections of text and a small box for personal information. Give the first two boxes three lines of space below the title box and make sure they are aligned with the grid. Because the first box of the main section will contain the bulk of the text, create a text box that spans the first 3.5 columns. Place the narrative text in the box. Because only secondary information will be in the second box, it will span just the last 3 columns of the document. Place the secondary text in the box. The final box with personal and contact information will be placed in the bottom left corner, spanning the 2.5 columns.

Make sure that the text leading is the same size as the baseline grid spacing. The actual font size can be any size, but in order for the text to match spacing of the grid, the leading must be the same as the grid spacing. In the option box under the font size box, change the leading to 14 pt for this tutorial.


Additional Editing

There are a few additional edits to add more clarity to the document and give it a more finished look. For example, use boxes with color fill to add background colors to the title and the contact information. For the titles of the subsections, make the font larger and change the text color to match the background color of the title box. To create a bulleted list, click Type->Bulleted & Numbered Lists->Apply Bullets . To be able to edit the bullets individually, click Type->Bulleted & Numbered Lists->Convert Bullets to Text .

Final View

Design the layout and hierarchy of the document so that it becomes cohesive and readable. Select colors judiciously and make sure objects are aligned in relationship to other objects. The underlying grid is but one tool to help keep the document clean and organized.

To turn the grid off, click View->Grids & Guides->Hide Guides (or press Ctrl+; ). To turn the baseline grid off, click View->Grids & Guides->Show Baseline Grid (or press Alt+Ctrl+" ). Zoom out and look at the document as a whole--even without the grid, a clear underlying structure should be evident.


Common Problems