How to Insert Page Numbers on Master Pages in Adobe InDesign CC 2015

Simplify numbering a lengthy document using automatic numbering

When you're working on a document such as a magazine or a book with many pages in it, using the master page feature in Adobe InDesign to insert automatic page numbering simplifies working with the document. On a master page, you designate the position, font, and size of the page numbers. You can also use it to add any additional text you want to accompany the page numbers such as the magazine name, date, or the word Page. Then that information appears on every page of the document along with the correct page number. As you work, you can add and remove pages or rearrange entire sections, and the numbers remain accurate.

These instructions apply to all currently supported versions of Adobe InDesign.

How to Add Page Numbers to a Master Page

After opening an InDesign document, click Pages in the column at the far right of the screen to open the Pages panel.

The Pages tab in InDesign

Double-click the master spread or master page icon that you plan to apply to your document. The master page icons are located at the top of the Pages panel, and the document page icons are located beneath.

By default, a blank document obtains a single master page, often called A-Master. You are welcome to add additional master pages if your design calls for it — click the new-page icon at the bottom of the panel. Each new master increments the letter, so you'll end up with B-Master, C-Master, etc. Each set of masters can apply individually to pages within the document.

Customize the page as you need by adding page numbers or other content like running heads, chapter titles or author names.

Use the Type tool in the toolbar at the left of the screen to draw a text box on the master page in the approximate position where you want fixed content, like page numbers or chapter titles, to appear. Make the text frame long enough to contain the longest line that will appear there. If your document contains spreads, draw separate text frames for the left and right master pages. Use the Selection tool to fine-tune the placement of the text boxes that hold the page numbers.

The Text Tool

Position the insertion point where you want the page number to appear and then choose Type in the menu bar followed by Insert Special Character > Markers > Current Page Number. A placeholder appears on the master page in place of the number — if you're using spreads, it'll be an A/B placeholder symbol. Format the page number marker and any accompanying text that appears before or after the page number marker. Select a font and size or surround the page number with decorative dashes or symbols, the word "Page," the publication title, or chapter and section headings.

Applying the Master Page to a Document

To apply the master page with the automatic numbering to the document pages, go to the Page panel. Apply a master page to a single page by dragging the master page icon to a page icon in the Pages panel. When a black rectangle surrounds the page, release the mouse button. 

By default, InDesign uses a recto/verso page logic, so the left and right pages in a spread are governed by the left/right page spreads in the master.

To apply a master page to a spread, drag the master page icon to a corner of the spread in the Pages panel. When a black rectangle appears around the correct spread, release the mouse button.

You have a couple of options when you want to apply a master spread to multiple pages.

  • Select the pages that you want to contain page numbers in the Pages panel. Press Alt in Windows or Option in MacOS as you click a master page or spread. 
  • You can accomplish the same thing by clicking Apply Master To Pages in the Pages panel menu or selecting a master and entering the pages numbers you want to apply the master to in the Apply Master pop-up window.

Return to your document by clicking any page icon in the Pages panel and verify the numbering looks like you planned it.


Elements on the master page are visible but not editable on the document pages. You'll see actual page numbers in the document. To create different numbering schemes for sections of your document, use the Section Marker command. 

If you don't want the first page of your document to be numbered, drag the [None] master page to the first-page icon in the Pages panel after the numbering has been applied.

Pagination within a single document is different from pagination within an InDesign Book. In a Book, all the documents in the collection are paginated by the Book, and individual documents may be excluded from pagination within the Book.

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Your Citation
Bear, Jacci Howard. "How to Insert Page Numbers on Master Pages in Adobe InDesign CC 2015." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Bear, Jacci Howard. (2021, December 6). How to Insert Page Numbers on Master Pages in Adobe InDesign CC 2015. Retrieved from Bear, Jacci Howard. "How to Insert Page Numbers on Master Pages in Adobe InDesign CC 2015." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 18, 2022).