The Make a Mag template is part of a zip archive that contains the template and some InDesign libraries. You’ll need InDesign to work with this, but there is an InDesign Markup ‘IDML’ version of the template in case you’re not running the latest version of InDesign. The zip archive expands to a folder with the following items:

  • The Make a Mag spread template (as an InDesign template and also in IDML form for older versions of InDesign)
  • Two InDesign library documents, one for ‘layout parts’ and the other for whole page structures.
Magazine page design…

Once the Make a Mag zip archive is downloaded and unzipped, here’s the page design process in a nutshell:

  1. Open the InDesign template, open the two Library documents, and try dragging layout parts or whole page layout structures from the small floating library windows into your pages.
  2. Make sure everything – and I do mean EVERYTHING – snaps to the grid! That is the secret to making this work.
  3. To get an image into your page, use the Selection Tool to select one of the grey boxes, choose File > Place and pick an image to fill it. Use Object > Fitting > Fill Frame Proportionally to scale it to the box.
  4. To edit and add text, choose the Type Tool and click into a type box.
  5. The ready-made library items are nothing more than text and picture boxes (‘frames’ in InDesign speak) and can be moved around and resized.

When using the template with people completely new to InDesign it can be helpful to mention a few things in advance:

  • InDesign is basically a content assembly tool; you use it to bring in words and pictures and make arrangements on the page.
  • There are only three tools that matter 99.9% of the time: the ‘regular’ Selection tool (don’t use the white-filled one!), the Text tool (this makes new text boxes and edits text in existing ones), and the Rectangle Frame tool (to keep things simple always use the one with the X inside, never use that other frame tool).
  • Everything that goes onto an InDesign page lives in a box, which InDesign calls a ‘frame’. Want a picture on the page? Make a box (or select one that’s already there) and ‘place’ a picture into it. Use the File > Place menu command, never copy-paste images into InDesign.
  • Think of images on the page literally like pictures in frames: grab the frame to move the whole thing around the wall… er, page. Reach into the middle and click that small circle symbol to grab the picture INSIDE the frame and move that around without moving the frame itself.
  • The page is the WHOLE white area! The pink/purple lines are the margin inside the page, which helps people control their design better.
  • For the Make a Mag printing process, don’t put anything into the margin area! We don’t have time to print on larger paper and trim it down, so we stick to what our nearest printer can do easily.

When the layouts are done, everyone should export them as PDFs. Give the files useful, individual names, choose the PDF (Print) export format, and then pick the High Quality Print preset.

Note: if you are creating the whole document yourself you can skip the ‘PDF Assembly’ stage, just make all your make-a-mag pages in the one InDesign document, and make sure your page count is a multiple of four (such as 12, 16, 20, 24, and so on) or the print imposition process will NOT work.

PDF assembly…

To assemble all the different PDFs into something that can be printed as the final ‘imposed’ zine, have an InDesign document ready. This should be A5, facing pages, with enough pages for the mag (and no more) already set up. The page count should be a multiple of four (such as 12, 16, 20, 24, and so on) or the print imposition process in the next step will NOT work!

  • Choose File > Place, hit the Options button (if necessary) and click the Show Import Options checkbox, then pick the first PDF.
  • In the PDF Import Options dialog, pick All for the Pages option (or the appropriate page range if there’s a blank page to avoid), click Okay, then click in the top-left corner of each InDesign page to place the PDF pages one by one.
  • Unless you’re very confident with your placement accuracy it’s worth clicking each one in turn and checking its X,Y coordinates to ensure it’s 0mm and 0mm on the left-hand pages and 148mm and 0mm on the right-hand pages.
Magazine printing…

The final print process requires being connected to a printer that can print duplex, or double-sided. These instructions assume you have an A4 printer and have used the A5 template (so you can fit two A5 pages into one side of A4 paper). To print with imposition, choose File > Print Booklet. Click Print Settings and make sure (1) the correct printer is selected, and (2) in Setup, the Paper Size is A4 and orientation is landscape.

Now, in THIS dialog, click the Printer button (ignore InDesign’s warning), and pick Finishing from the popup menu that initially says Layout. (Note: different printers will use different names for this; you may need to explore the options.) Make sure it’s set to print 2-sided and binding is on a ‘short edge.’

Click Print to close this dialog. Then, in the window you get back to, click to the General pane, set the number of copies to print (perhaps just one to check everything first), and click OK. Finally in the Print Booklet window…

  1. Use the Preview pane to make sure it seems right,
  2. Click Print,
  3. Go grab the pages as they come out of the printer.
Assembling the printed spreads…

Fold each spread. To avoid people mucking up the folds too badly, get them to position the page corners and then hold them down, then slide a finger out and crease the fold from the centre outwards to the top and bottom edges.

  • Assemble a mag page set and sanity-check the running order.
  • With the cover face up, slide into a long-arm stapler. The staples usually come out maybe 3mm in from the stapler’s front edge, so sit the mag page fold back a bit.
  • Staple, staple… done!