Setting Margins, Columns and Guides in Adobe InDesign CC

Setting the Margins and Columns on a New Document

When you create a new file in Adobe InDesign, you indicate the margins in the New Document window, which you open in one of three ways:

  • Click New on the Start Workspace.
  • Use the keyboard shortcut Control > N on a PC or Command > N on a Mac.
  • From the File menu, select New > New Document.

In the New Document window is a section labeled Margins. Enter a value in the fields for the Top, Bottom, Inside and Outside (or Left and Right) margins. If all the margins are the same, select the chain link icon to repeat the first value entered in every field. If the margins differ, deselect the chain link icon and enter the values in each field.

In the Columns section of the New Document window, enter the number of columns you want on the page and the gutter value, which is the amount of space between each column.

Click Preview to see a preview of the new document showing the margins and column guides. With the preview window open, you can make changes to the margins, columns, and gutters and see the changes in real time on the preview screen.

When you are satisfied with the values, click OK to create the new document.

Changing Margins and Columns in an Existing Document

Example of perfectly proportioned margin
One example of perfectly proportioned margins.

If you decide to change the margins or column settings for all the pages in an existing document, you can do so on the master page or pages of the document. Making changes to the margin and column settings of only some of the pages in a document are done in the Pages panel. Here's how:

  1. To change the settings on only one page or spread, go to the page or spread or select the spread or page in the Pages panel. To make changes to the margin or column settings of multiple pages, select the master page for those pages or select the pages in the Pages panel.
  2. Select Layout > Margins And Columns.
  3. Change the margins by entering new values in the fields provided. 
  4. Change the number of columns and choose the Horizontal or Vertical orientation.
  5. Click OK to save the changes.

Setting Up Unequal Column Widths

Margin column ruler guides
Margin, column, and ruler guides.

Whenever you have more than one column on a page, the column guides that are in the middle of the columns to indicate the gutter are paired. If you drag one guide, the pair moves. The gutter size remains the same, but the width of the columns on either side of the pair of guides increases or decreases as you drag the gutter guides. To make this change:

  1. Go to the spread or master page you want to change.
  2. Unlock the column guides if they are locked at View > Grids & Guides > Lock Column Guides.
  3. Drag a column guide with the Selection tool to create columns of unequal widths.

Setting Up Ruler Guides

Horizontal and vertical ruler guides can be placed anywhere on a page, spread or pasteboard. To add ruler guides, view your document in Normal View and make sure that the rulers and the guides are visible. Tips to keep in mind when using ruler guides include:

  • Click on a horizontal or vertical ruler and drag to the page to place a page guide. Drop the guide on the pasteboard to cover the pasteboard and the spread. 
  • Select a guide and hold down Alt on Windows or Option on MacOS to toggle between vertical and horizontal guides.
  • To create horizontal and vertical guides simultaneously, hold Ctrl (Command on Macs) and drag to the place you want the rules to intersect.
  • Double-click a specific place on one of the rulers to create a spread guide without dragging.
  • If your document contains several layers, select the layer you want the ruler guides to show on. 
  • Select a guide and enter values for X and Y in the Control panel to reposition a ruler guide numerically.
  • Choose View > Guides & Guides > Show/Hide Guides to toggle the ruler guides on and off. You can also click the Preview Mode icon at the bottom of the Toolbox to show or hide the guides.