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Setting up a document for print using Adobe InDesign

Posted on Sep 25, 2018 by | Tags: Indesign, Adobe Creative Cloud, Artwork, Graphic design, Tutorial  | Comments (0)

Have you ever needed to design a flyer, poster or business card? We've all been there, deciding which of the numerous Adobe Creative Cloud programmes to choose from, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, all will do the job but which one is the right tool for the job?

Introducing Adobe InDesign

Adobe InDesign is the industry leading page design and layout app which lets you create, preflight and publish documents for both print and digital media. We're going to look at using Adobe InDesign specifically for print; we'll cover how to set up your InDesign document, choosing the right colour profiles and saving a print-ready PDF. You can download our go-to templates at the end of this tutorial: InDesign Templates.

Setting up the document

Open up your copy of Adobe InDesign CC and click the Create New button on the left-hand side of the screen. A New Document Pop-up will appear, here is where we'll set up some document defaults.

In our screenshot we've gone straight to the Print tab on the top of the Pop-up, we've selected A4 as our document size and then preset some defaults. Namely, we've set the column count to 6 with a column gutter of 6.35mm and added 3mm bleed to all four sides - Top, bottom, inside and outside.

Why 6.35mm?

When setting up your Indesign document, it's a good idea to set up page columns. Page columns break the document page into sections which allows you space content proportionally. If you are new to designing setting up columns is an easy way of making your layouts look killer! We use the magic 6.35mm as it is precisely half of 12.7mm, the document margins. It's a good idea to keep your margins to 12.7mm on all sides and keep all important information within the margins. Otherwise, you risk having it cut during finishing.

Getting started

Adobe InDesign can look a bit daunting at first, but you'll soon get used to it. As you can see your margins and bleed are visible by default, you can toggle the visibility using the shortcut cmd+; or windows ctrl+;. Learning how to use Adobe InDesign is outside the scope of this article, however here are some great resources to get you started:

If you want your workspace to look like ours, then change it by going to Window > Workspace > Essentials.

You can remove the annoying blue bounding box by going to View > Extras > Show Frame Edges (or if you are on a Mac ctrl+cmd+h)

I'm done what's next?

When you've completed your design, you'll need to export it to a format that printers will accept. Traditionally we use PDF (Portable Document Format) for our documents as they can compress a large amount of data while retaining vital data such as layers, colour profiles, fonts and even EPS files, everything your printer needs to get the job done.

Go to File > Export, select the directory to save your PDF file and give the file a name and click Save. Make sure the drop-down menu at the bottom of the Pop-up window says Adobe PDF (Print). A new Pop-up will appear, here we'll set make sure the PDF contains all the right information that the printers will need. In the top section of the Pop-up, select Press Quality from the Adobe PDF Preset drop-down, this will set up our document for High-Quality Prepress printing. Next, we'll make some changes to the default options, on the left-hand side of the Pop-up, there will be different sections which we can edit. We'll be making changes to Marks and Bleeds and Output.

Marks and Bleeds

If you are sending your file to be printed professionally, you'll need to provide the correct printing marks. If you set your document up using the steps above, then you only need to select Crop Marks and then check the box, 'Use Document Bleed Settings', otherwise you'll need to set your bleed to 3mm on all margins. Why 3mm? We use 3mm as it gives plenty of room to cut off the page excess without going overboard!


When creating your document, you should have made sure that all images and colours used a CMYK profile, preferable Coated FOGRA39. If not it can produce colour mismatching when printing, but don't worry too much if some images are in RGB colour space, it just means they'll be slightly duller/ darker in the printed version. In the Output section change the Colour Conversion drop-down to 'Convert to Destination' (Preserve Numbers), this will change all embedded profiles to the profile specified in the Destination box below. In the next box, 'Destination' select 'Coated FOGRA39.

Why Coated FOGRA39?

In an ideal world, all printers would use one international standard profile for printing. However, North America, Europe and Japan all have different printing standards which resulted in the creation of different printing profiles. The international standard ISO 12647/2-2004 is being used more and more by the UK and Europe based printers which were developed by the German printing research organisation FOGRA. Coated FOGRA39 is the second version of the standard and is widely used across the UK and Europe.

Hit Export

Before you hit export, check the summary section to see if there are any issues that InDesign has flagged, you'll want to fix those before going to print. When you are ready, click Export and your PDF will be created, it's that simple.

Getting it right

It takes a lot of time and practice to get your documents looking just right on both the screen and print. Nevertheless, keep practising as the pay off vastly outweighs the growing pains. If you'd like some help with your next print project, whether it's creating a flyer, magazine or a 100-foot billboard then get in touch with us, and we'll see what we can do.

InDesign Templates

We've made our 'go to' templates available to download to help you start your next project.

Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

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