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How to edit a magazine template in ten steps with Adobe InDesign

Introduction

A magazine template is an easy and affordable way to design a professional magazine in a short period of time. A template offers ready-to-use components like layout, fonts and grid, so that more time can be spent focussing on content. Nevertheless such a template may seem overwhelming at first: where to start, how to adjust a template to a specific brand identity, how to prepare a template for export prior to publication.

This blog will act as your guide. It explains in ten easy steps how to edit a magazine template with Adobe InDesign, i.e. all the preparatory proceedings, and in addition gives suggestions how to optimize the end result and export the template to a PDF document prior to publication. You can either read the complete blog or select a specific chapter by clicking on one of the steps below:

Step 01: Preparation

Step 02: Replacing Placeholder Text

Step 03: Adjusting Placeholder Colors

Step 04: Replacing Placeholder Images

Step 05: Duplicating and Removing Pages

Step 06: Adjusting the Document Size

Step 07: Replacing Document Fonts

Step 08: Adjusting Paragraph Styles

Step 09: Preflight Inspection

Step 10: Exporting to a PDF Document

 

Step 01: Preparation

Before a magazine template is ready for use it is important to install the accompanying fonts. This is because Adobe InDesign will give an error message when you try to open a document containing fonts which have not been installed on the computer. This notification can be very useful when it is unclear which of the fonts used in the template have or have not been installed. Fortunately Adobe InDesign offers the possibility to replace missing fonts by fonts which are already installed on the computer. When a magazine template is purchased, nine out of ten times the necessary fonts are included. In this case it is taken for granted that these have been downloaded and are ready to be installed on the computer.

  1. On the computer look for the fonts needed, right-click all .ttf and .otf files and choose ‘Open’.

  2. A window pops up asking you to install the fonts. Choose ‘Install’ and the fonts are ready to use.

Now that the fonts have been installed the template can be opened. An Adobe InDesign file is easy to recognize: it ends in .indd. Open the template by double-clicking the Adobe InDesign file. Sometimes the document is designed in a more recent version of Adobe InDesign than the version used trying to open it. In that case it will be necessary to open the IDML file. This type is meant for earlier versions of Adobe InDesign and is recognizable by .idml at the end of the file name.

Please note: make sure not to delete or replace anything when opening the template; it may render the template invalid.


STEP 02: REPLACING PLACEHOLDER TEXT

Templates are usually designed with a so-called ‘Lorem Ipsum’ text. This placeholder text may be replaced using the ‘Text Tool’.

  1. To replace any given placeholder text you select the ‘Text Tool’ in the tool panel.

  2. Select the placeholder text you want to replace. Now you can type your own text.

  3. Select the ‘Move Tool’ in the tool panel to confirm your adjustments.

When the Text Tool is active Adobe InDesign shows options for text formats. It is important to realize that these adjust selected texts only. How to adjust text formats throughout the entire document in one go is explained in step 08 of this blog.

 


STEP 03: ADJUSTING PLACEHOLDER COLORS

In Adobe InDesign colors are edited using swatches. Swatches offer a range of colors which can be customized in the ‘Swatches’ palette.

  1. To adjust the colors provided you open the ‘Swatch Palette’ by going to ‘Window’, then ‘Color’ and finally ‘Swatches’.

  2. Right-click the swatch you want to edit and choose ‘Swatch Options’.

  3. A new window pops up where you can choose the color you want.

  4. Hit ‘OK’ to confirm. The original color will automatically be replaced throughout the document.

Please bear in mind that a color which has been adjusted in the ‘Swatches’ palette will be changed throughout the entire document. For instance, when all titles are in the same tint of red and the accompanying swatch is changed to blue all red titles will turn blue.

  1. To add a new swatch click on the hamburger menu in the upper right hand corner of the ‘Swatch Palette’ and choose ‘New Color Swatch...’.

  2. A new window pops up where you can adjust and add colors to your liking.


STEP 04: REPLACING PLACEHOLDER IMAGES

Most magazine templates contain placeholder images to indicate where the photos will eventually end up.

  1. To replace images, go to ‘Window’, then ‘Links’ to open the links panel.

  2. Select the image you want to replace.

  3. Go to ‘File’, then ‘Place’.

  4. A new window pops up where you can choose an image to your liking. Hit ‘OK’ to confirm.

In Adobe InDesign each photo is placed in a set frame which determines the size of the photo. When a 2:1 rectangular photo is placed in a square 1:1 frame all parts outside the frame won’t show. It is possible to adjust the position, ratio and size of the photo within the frame.

  1. Should you wish to resize the image, go to ‘Object’ and then ‘Fitting’ in order to choose the size which meets your requirements. The options most frequently used are: ‘Fill Frame Proportionally’, ‘Fit Content Proportionally’ and ‘Fit Content To Frame’.


STEP 05: DUPLICATING AND REMOVING PAGES

Some layouts are more suitable for a project with the focus on images, others for textual content. Fortunately, Adobe InDesign templates offer the possibility to easily duplicate and remove the pages as the need arises.

  1. To duplicate a page you open the ‘Pages’-panel by clicking ‘Window’ at the top of your screen and choosing ‘Pages’. A new panel will open where you can view all current pages.

  2. Select the thumbnail of the page you want to duplicate and right-click the thumbnail. Choose ‘Duplicate Page’ to make an extra copy of that page. The same goes for spreads: select multiple thumbnails next to each other, right-click one of them and choose ‘Duplicate Spread(s)’.

  3. The duplicated pages will be pasted as the last pages of your document. If you duplicate page 2 and 3 for instance in a document of 50 pages, they will show up as pages 51 and 52. Right-click the pages and select ‘Move Pages’ to choose a new location in your document. Alternatively, you can simply select and drag the pages around to the place of your choice.

  4. Unnecessary pages can be removed by selecting the thumbnails concerned in the ‘Pages’ panel and right-clicking them. Choose ‘Delete Pages’ and they will be removed.


STEP 06: ADJUSTING THE DOCUMENT SIZE

It is possible to adjust the size of a template in a few simple steps although sometimes it may require a little extra effort. For example, if you want to resize the document to a different ratio the document grid will become a problem. Part of the text and images may overlap the printing areas, depending on your measurements. That is why it is best to only resize a template to a size with the same ratio as the original template.

  1. To adjust the sizes of a magazine template go to ‘File’ and then to ‘Document Setup’. 

  2. A new window will pop up, where you choose ‘Adjust Layout’

  3. Adjust the width and height to your liking.

  4. Check the boxes ‘Auto-adjust margins to page size changes’, ‘Adjust Font Size’ and ‘Adjust Locked Content’.

  5. Hit ‘OK’ to confirm.

Another important aspect is readability of a text. Legibility is affected by characters which are too small, especially when templates are downloaded with the intention to print them. You will find the solution to this problem in step 08: how to edit several texts at the same time.  


STEP 07: REPLACING DOCUMENT FONTS

Sometimes people want to replace given fonts by their own. Fortunately this can be done simultaneously for all texts by using the ‘Find Font’ window.

  1. To replace one or more fonts click ‘Type’ at the top of the screen and then ‘Find Font’. A new window will open. 

  2. Select the fonts to be replaced in the box at the top of the screen. Select the desired font and style under the heading ‘Replace With:’. 

  3. Click ‘Change All’ to replace the font throughout the entire document. 

  4. Click ‘Done’ to close the ‘Find Font’ window.


STEP 08: ADJUSTING PARAGRAPH STYLES

In the ‘Paragraph Styles’ palette the layout of the complete text in the same style can be adjusted. This will save lots of repetitive work.

  1. Open the palette by clicking ‘Window’ at the top of the screen, then ‘Styles’ and subsequently ‘Paragraph Styles’.  

  2. Select a style and right-click on the style. Then choose ‘Edit “Style Name”’.

  3. A new window will open where the paragraph styles can be adjusted to personal preferences.

  4. Click on ‘OK’ to confirm the adjustment.

Check the ‘Preview’ option at the bottom left hand corner of the window in order to see the adjustments to the template being effectuated live. 


STEP 09: PREFLIGHT INSPECTION

It is very important to export the magazine with the right settings. Most printing companies ask for 3mm bleeds and a 300dpi quality size. Should you wish to have the magazine printed, it is advisable to get in touch with your printing company and ask them for the printing specifications. Most printable templates are originally set up in 300dpi placeholders and 3mm document bleeds. For digital purposes, such as an e-book, photos with 72dpi are sharp enough and in addition there is no need for document bleeds.

It is of the greatest importance to check the resolution of the images used. You can do so by following the next steps:

  1. Go to ‘Window’ at the top of your screen and select ‘Links’ to open the link panel.

  2. Select your images and search for the ‘Effective PPI’ of each image.

  3. The effective PPI should be higher than the minimum of 72dpi for digital purposes and 300dpi for printing purposes.

  4. If an image has a lower effective PPI you either replace the image with an image of higher quality, downscale the image or contact your printing company to let them check the image.

The ‘Preflight’ panel shows possible mistakes in the document and therefore should be consulted last when checking the document. For instance, broken links, missing fonts or overlapping texts will be indicated as ‘error’.

  1. Open the panel by clicking ‘Window’, ‘Output’ and then ‘Preflight’. 

  2. In case of an error message double-click the message to solve the problem.


STEP 10: EXPORTING TO A PDF DOCUMENT

In most cases a magazine template is exported either as an e-book or as a document for printing by a printing company. Each has its own specific process of exporting. For printing purposes cutting edges are added, the photos will remain sharp and a specific color profile is designated, depending on the printing company.

  1. To export a template to a PDF file for printing purposes you open the export panel by going to ‘File’ in the upper left hand corner and choose ‘Export…’.

  2. A new window pops up where you can choose a name and location to save your PDF file.

  3. Set the format to ‘Adobe PDF (Print)’ and hit ‘Save’.

  4. A new window pops up where you can adjust the export settings to the requirements of your printing company.

  5. Choose ‘Export’ to create the PDF file.

Exporting a digital PDF requires different proceedings. For colors to be shown as intended it is important to reset the images to an RGB profile. Moreover, with a digital PDF it is possible to make a document interactive, with moving images or active hyperlinks for instance.

  1. To export a template to a PDF file for digital purposes you open the export panel by going to ‘File’ in the upper left hand corner and choose ‘Export…’.

  2. A new window pops up where you can choose a name and location to save your PDF file.

  3. Set the format to ‘Adobe PDF (Interactive)’ and hit ‘Save’.

  4. A new window pops up where you can set the document preferences to your liking.

  5. Choose ‘Export’ to create the PDF file.


ALL SET TO GO

A magazine template is a relatively easy way of designing a professional magazine. With a ready-to-use layout all you have to do is customize the template. We sincerely hope the ten steps in this blog will help you design a professional magazine in no time at all!