Book page layout design – the basics for self-publishers
Book page layout design.
Book page layout design is a vast subject with a great deal of information publishing. I am distilling it down to be “simple & professional” information, but continue to expand your knowledge. It is said that rules are made to be broken and that is true. However, you can learn valuable lessons from years of practical experience.
Start with a single page and a two-page spread for a coffee table book layout. Later, create Parent pages (previously called Master pages) and transfer elements to create Paragraph Styles, Character Styles, Swatches, and Object Styles.
Additional information on books other than coffee table books is in Chapter 4, Getting Started. Parent pages are in Chapter 5, Interior Pages.
Get ready to toggle
The Toolbox is on the left side when InDesign is open. Right click on the last icon which is the View Tool. The views to choose from are Normal, Preview, Bleed, Slug, and Presentation.
I am constantly toggling between Normal and Preview when designing books. Notice the differences in the feature image above.
“Normal” view showing bleeds, margins and columns. The part of the image that bleeds has an oblong circle. This is a single right-hand page which is why the gutter bleed on that side is set to 0 inches.
Toggle to “Preview” to see the page as it will trim.
Make sure that if an image is to bleed, page bleeds are set in the document. Go to File > Document Set-up. A bleed extends not just to the end of the page, but into the bleed area. The page size does not change. After printing, the area that bleeds trim off.
The subject matter of the book may be all the inspiration needed, especially if the book designer is showcasing an artist or a photographer’s work. Art and photographs should stand on their own. Body text is set so the type is small, simple, and utilizes lots of white space. Never bleed art images or photographs unless the artist or photographer advises you of their preference to do so, as for specific pages or spreads that bleed on all sides. They generally do not want their art or photography to trim in any way.
Designers have a lot more leeway when it comes to other types of coffee table books. Perhaps they are designing a book about a city or town, the history of anything, or a collection of some sort. Is the book meant to be scholarly, fanciful, or something in between? This makes a difference in how to approach the design.
A designer can select an image provided to them and use it as a theme
It may show up as line art, a badge, scaled to different sizes, in color, in black and white, screened, framed — the list goes on. Design the effect!
In a book of my design, the subject is mead, which is made from honey. I use a little bit of honeycomb line art that was screened back and in color. Use this type of effect sparingly, as it should add interest and not overwhelm.
In Book Design: Simple & Professional, distinct spreads are in use, setting off the parts of the book: Plan, Design, Print, and Sell. A simple color was used and then texture added to it. This did not work. I looked around for another less boring and more inspired solution, always keeping in check my tendency to over design.
Inspiration and clients
A client usually provides graphics or images to draw from for inspiration. Never use cheap, junky clip art. Also, many clip art services charge to extend a royalty fee which is as much as $50 per image or more. While I do create many illustrative elements, I sometimes feel that the overall book page layout design needs more. This book is not about how to use Adobe InDesign. A book such as that would require very simple design. But a book about how to design any book needs more design substance.
Illustrations and photographs
I am not an illustrator myself, so I bought a collection of Japan-themed graphics from DesignCuts.com. The creator does not charge a royalty for either personal or commercial use. There are quite a few icons, symbols, and textures available that I am not using in this book. Instead, I am using the same color palette throughout, and a feeling of the Japanese esthetic. I do not want the book to look like it is specifically about designing Japanese books!
There are other styles of graphics in the package that I will work into other books as part of my Simple & Professional series.
Photographs are on the opening spread for each chapter. They all came from Unsplash.com and are royalty free. The photographers are all given credit — thank you — but it is not something that Unsplash requires under current rules. I would always rather opt to use original art illustration, or photographs that are not sold commercially.
When picking out photographs to use for a book or any project, make sure to select those with a similar color and value, especially if they are to appear on the same or adjacent pages. Use of any element should blend well with the rest of the book. It is quite permissible to tone images in Photoshop, to have similar color.
Look to other books for inspiration
Something may catch your attention and inspire you to use it in your book. There is nothing wrong with adopting a similar color scheme or using the same typefaces. Perhaps you love the book’s dimensions and margins. Maybe you go crazy for the light blue cloth cover wrap with gloss black foil stamping. Never use someone else’s art without permission, and never plagiarize. That is theft, not inspiration.
Be sure to give credit next to images from sources other than yourself or the author. You may cite the credit might in the copyright text, a footnote, or in acknowledgements. If you have questions about when and how to give credit, use The Chicago Manual of Style book or website. The book is an essential asset in any book designer’s library.
Plan one basic Parent page first, and then duplicate and modify it as you will for a few basic set-ups. The layout for a coffee table book is much the same as a photography book, or an art book. Do not get too complicated as less is usually more.
You can work in inches, millimeters, or picas. We will not add all means of measuring here, but your changes can be made by going to File > Preferences > and selecting Units and Increments. This is important to know as when Star Print Brokers provides spine width or cover wrap
measurements, it is in millimeters, so if I am working in inches or picas, I change over to millimeters for cover wrap, spines, and dust jackets.
Open Document Set-up
Make sure that the “Facing Pages” box has a check mark. That way, page one will be a right-hand page as it always is in a book. All books have an even number of pages. Every leaf has two sides. If you end up with an odd number, add a page. The “Bleed and Slug” area is below “Margins.” You may need to click on the down arrow to see it. A 0.125 inch, 3 mm, or 0p9 pica bleed should go in the Top, Bottom, and Outside.
It is permissible to start a chapter on either a right or left-hand page. My preference is to start chapters on a right-hand page, but if you are watching page count closely, you can start a new chapter wherever the previous chapter ends. Remember the first chapter must always begin on a right-hand page.
The basic single page
Book layout design is all about creating a style using basic principles and paying attention to page layout. See Chapter 1, Design Fundamentals. When designing a single page, consider the sizes, body text width, column and gutter widths, page margins, headers or footers, page numbers, captions and credits, and color scheme of the typeface(s).
Once you are happy with the basic layout design, create the Parent page using page margins, columns, page numbers, and header or footer placement. You are not wedded to the design. The beauty of creating Parents and Styles is that you can change them globally. Documents in a book can synchronize so each document does not have to change manually. It saves so much time, and books always take longer to complete than you think they will.
The two-page spread
A spread can be set-up like the beginning chapter spreads in this book. Left and right pages may have a different design from each other. If designing a novel, each spread will have the same format.
I use spreads most often for chapters. This book is a good example. You may see the footers in the hard copy of my book. The left-hand page remains the same for much of the book. It simply contains the page number and book title. The right-hand page has the chapter name and the page number. I then create a new Parent page for each chapter. In addition, there is the two-page spread for the beginning of each chapter. Since some pages are supposed to have no footers, headers or page numbers, I include a blank page Parent with only the margins set.