Indesign Master Page Elements

by Design Workshop Sydney

Using Indesign Master Page Elements when designing multi-page documents in Adobe Indesign will greatly speed up the design process, and save you time in the long run. We show you how to utilize the master page function in all our Adobe Indesign training courses.

What are Indesign Master Page Elements?

Each new document you create in Indesign has an A-Master applied by default to each page. You can see this at the very top of the Pages panel on the right-hand side of your Indesign workspace. If you are opening an existing document it’s always a good idea to check that there are no other master pages in the document, for example a B-Master or a C-Master. Indesign Master Page Elements behave much like headers and footers in Microsoft Word. Anything added to this A-Master will appear on any page marked with the letter A. All pages are marked with a small A by default, but you can change these easily, as we shall see below.

What should I add to a Master Page?

Initially the only element that you’ll have on your master page are the non-printing magenta-coloured margins. But anything that you subsequently place here will duplicate on each of the local pages to which that master page has been applied, for example header and footer elements, page numbering, or items like logos and coloured side bars.

How do I create a Master Page Element?

First open up the top-right Pages panel and double-click on the A-Master label to enter the master page editing environment. You will be presented with a double-page spread. We may wish to create automatic page numbering on each of our local pages. Therefore, go to the bottom left of the left–hand page on the spread. Now use the Type tool to add a text box on the bottom of this page. Next right-click inside the box and select Insert Special Character > Markers > Current page number. You could also add some professional-looking spacing by choosing Add White Space followed by M-Space from the right-click context menu. Add a vertical line using the key above the Enter key on your keyboard. Add another white space and the title of the newsletter or brochure. Lastly use the Selection tool to copy this text box to the other page of the spread and use the Type tool to adjust the order of the elements.

Other features to add to a Master Page

In the example shown here we have added a few circles to the top of a page to indicate document chapters or sections. Here we used the Ellipse tool and applied a metallic-silver Pantone 8400 spot colour as a stroke colour, and a fill colour of None. You could also add the company logo. You could also add a coloured sidebar to one edge of the page, to indicate sections or chapters. we would simply use the Rectangle tool with a coloured fill and no stroke. Or you could use the Gradient Feather tool to add a more subtle colour-to-transparent fill.

How to apply a Master Page Element to a local page

By default anything created on the A-master will appear on each local page, but if you don’t want these on a particular page you simply drag and drop from None onto the local page. Or you can go into the Master Page options on the top right and choose Apply Master to Pages. In this way we can add master page elements easily to a number of pages, or sequences of pages. As we start to use master pages the time-saving advantages become obvious, and you’ll never go back to clunky methods like copying and pasting.

More tips and techniques can be found at There are many tutorials and forums for designers to discuss topics and the latest Indesign features. See also many examples of our own clients’ work on our Facebook page.
Other related Indesign Blog Posts: