Using Master Pages in Adobe InDesign CS

Images by E. Bruno

 A master page is a special page which will not print unless you tell InDesign to do so. It's a page where you can set a basic layout and then all of the other pages that you will add to your document and which are based on that master page will look the same.

To set up Master Pages we work with the Pages palette. If you read the Work Area tutorial, you will know how to find it. So open your Pages palette now if it isn't open already.

You can see that the Pages palette is divided in two. The upper part is where your master pages are, while the lower part is where the actual pages of the documents are.

Let's have a look at the upper part.

  • You have a master page called A-Master
  • You have a page above the A-Master called None.
  • If you were to drag a page from the master page to the lower part of the palette, you would get a new page based on that master.
  • If you drag from the page called None, you will have a totally blank page which isn't based on any master.
  • If you drag the page called None to the New Page button, what do you get? Surprise! You get a new master page called B-Master.
  • If you carry on doing that, you will get a C-Master, D-Master and so on.
  • You can also get a new master by clicking on the arrow on the top right of the palette to open the Pages palette menu and then choose New Master.
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More Ways to Add Pages

Setting Master Pages with Pages Palettes
Setting Master Pages with the Pages Palette. Images by E. Bruno; licensed to

There are other ways to add pages.

  • Instead of dragging the master pages down to the lower part of the palette, where the normal pages are, you can either just click on the New Page button or you go to the Page palette menu and choose Insert Pages.
  • You can then choose the number of pages you want to select, where to put those pages (after or before which already existing page) and which master to base them on.
  • If you have multiple masters, and you are adding pages by clicking the New Page button instead of the Insert Pages option in the Page palette menu, the new pages will be based on the last master chosen in the Insert Pages option.For example, let's say that you have Master A and Master B. You just went to the Insert Pages option and you have added 10 pages based on Master B. If you now want to add another page by using the New Page button at the bottom of the Page palette, your new page will also be based on Master B.
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Changing Items on Master Pages

Now let's say that you only have one master, the A-Master. You have a box for a picture on each page and the picture will be different on each page (even though it's placed in the exact same position and that is why you have put it in your master page). If you just click on that box on any of the pages in the document, you will see that you cannot edit it (unless you are working on your master page). So what's the point, you say. Well, you have several options here that allow you to make changes to all of these twin pages.

  • If you want to change just one item on any page that is based on a master page, press Control+Shift (Windows) or Command + Shift (Macintosh) as you select the item on the page. You can now do what you want with that item.
  • If you want to be able to change all of the items on a spread, click on a spread first and then go to the menu of your Pages palette and choose to Override All Master Pages Items.