Customing the Adobe InDesign Document Area

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Customizing an InDesign Document File

The Document Area in Adobe InDesign
The Document Area in Adobe InDesign. Images by E. Bruno

In addition to the document page you see when you open an Adobe InDesign CC document, you'll also see other non-printing elements: the pasteboard, guides for bleed and slug areas, margins and rulers. Each of these elements can be customized by changing the color. Even the background color on the pasteboard in preview mode can be changed so it is easier to distinguish between normal and preview modes.

If you have ever dealt with a word processing application you are familiar with the document page. However, desktop publishing applications differ from word processing applications in that they also have a pasteboard. The pasteboard is that area around the page where you can put objects that you might need while you design but that will not be printed.

Modifying the Pasteboard

  • To change the size of the pasteboard, choose Edit > Preferences > Guides & Pasteboard in Windows or InDesign > Preferences > Guides & Pasteboard in MacOS. Under Pasteboard Options, enter new values for Horizontal Margins and Vertical Margins to specify how far the pasteboard extends out from the page or spread.
  • To change the color of the pasteboard in the Preview Mode, select Preview Background and choose a color.

Adding Guides for Bleeds and Slugs

A bleed occurs when any image or element on a page touches the edge of the page, extending beyond the trim edge, leaving no margin. An element may bleed or extend off one or more sides of a document.

A slug is usually non-printing Information such as a title and date used to identify a document. It appears on the pasteboard, usually near the bottom of the document. Guides for slugs and bleeds are set up in the New Document dialog screen or Document Setup dialog screen.

If you are printing to your desktop printer, you do not need any bleed allowance. However, when you prepare a document for commercial printing, any element that bleeds should extend off the document page by 1/8 inch. Pull guides from InDesign's rulers and position them 1/8 inch outside the boundaries of the document. Elements that bleed off the page snap to those guides, giving even margins all around. A separate guide can be positioned beneath the document to indicate the slug location.

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Customizing InDesign Rulers

InDesign has rulers that are located the top and on the left of the document. If you don't see them, click View > Show Rulers. To turn them off, go to View > Hide Rulers. Guides can be pulled from either ruler and positioned in the document as margins or on the pasteboard.

InDesign's default rulers measure beginning from the upper-left corner of a document. This origin point of rulers can be changed in a couple of ways:

  • Go to the top-left corner where the rulers meet. Click on the corner with your mouse and drag diagonally toward the right. When you release the mouse button, the origin point of the rulers is where you released the mouse. To reset the rulers to their default position, double-click on the top-left corner.
  • You can also customize the rulers by going to Edit > Preferences in Windows or InDesign > Preferences in MacOS and select Units & Increments. Look at the section Ruler Units. There is a setting called Origin there, where you can choose between Page, Spread or Spine. While the Page and Spread option are quite obvious, the Spine is the point where the pages will be bound.


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Changing the Colors of Non-Printing Elements

Several non-printing elements can be customized in InDesign's preferences. Choose ​Edit > Preferences > Guides & Pasteboard in Windows or InDesign > Preferences > Guides & Pasteboard in MacOS.

Under Color, you can choose a color for these items:

  • Select Margins to select a color for the page margins.
  • Select Columns to select a color for the column guides on the document page.
  • Select Bleed to set the color of the bleed guide.
  • Select Slug to set the color of the slug guide.

In Preferences, you can click Guides In Back to display the guides behind the objects on the page and Snap To Zone to change how close an object must be to snap to a grid or guide.