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July 2007

July 2007 - Computers



  • EMG News:
    News of July!
  • Healthy Green Artists:
    Greening Your Computer
  • Behind the Art:
    Creating a Book in InDesign
  • Myths and Symbols:
    Inhuman Double
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Digital Evolution


  • P4S5W0RD5
  • The Fairies' Harp Walkthrough
  • 1001 Wonderlands: Alternate Reality Games


  • Fiction: Game Over?
  • Fiction: Computerized Frustration
  • Fiction: Crashing
  • Fiction: My Computers


  • Movie: Men in White

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  • Creating a Book in InDesign
    Behind the Art
    by Annie Rodrigue

    Back in the beginning of the year, we had some special features about self-publishing at EMG-Zine. While I didn't find enough time in my schedule back then to write a second feature on the subject, I really wanted to cover a little bit about layout and bringing your own book to life through InDesign. A basic computer software tutorial seemed like a right fit for July's subject, so let's try to put together a very simple book that we will be able to export into a multi-page .pdf.

    Getting Your Idea On Paper

    For those of you who often read my column, you will have come to know how much I like thumbnailing and sketching on paper before starting any kind of work. Even working on a book layout requires a little bit of thinking, and it is always better to try a few of them on a piece of paper first to get the ideas flowing. When I have a sketch idea of my layout, I try to recreate it in Photoshop. I will put every visual element in a page and play with the colors until it feels like everything fits together. When testing layouts in Photoshop, I work in the same size the book will be and I also try to keep the resolution high (at least 300 dpi). This way, if I create something that I would want to use in the book, I can. InDesign allows import of .psd, .tiff, and .eps files, so keep this in mind when you save your tests. Anything could come handy later when you put it all together!

    When I worked on Faeries Through the Seasons, this is one of the first layouts that I brainstormed:

    Book Constraints

    A few things to note before creating your book file in InDesign:

    1) If you can manage to get your hands on the specs from your printing house, now is the time take a look at it. They will give you invaluable information about book size, bleed, final format, resolution, fonts, and many others. This document should be your bible. And remember that all of these specs will vary from one printing house to another. Double-check the information to make sure your basic book file complies with it. This step will save you many headaches!

    2) Keep every single file at the same resolution. If your instruction says your files should be at 300 dpi, stick to this number. Do not keep a file at 600 dpi because it is at least 300 dpi. Imagine that you have 2 image files one next to the other in your book but both have a unique resolution, when printed, one will seem to be of lesser quality simply because the other one doesn't have that same resolution.

    3) Remember to convert all your image files to CMYK before importing them in your book. You will notice that some colors will change drastically because of this: printers, unlike a computer screen cannot print recreate every single color in the spectrum. Convert your file and adjust them to fit your taste, this way you will not end up having a surprised when you receive the printed version of your book.

    4) If you have full color pages, take the time to thoroughly read the bleed instructions from the print house. Bleed is a section of your work that will be larger than the final printed page. It insures that when the print house cuts the book, there won't be white paper showing when there should be color.

    5) The print house will usually ask that you do a separate file for the cover. Create another InDesign document file of 2 pages just for your cover. Since almost all covers are full color, there will also be bleed instructions for this part. Make sure again to read the instructions and understand them correctly.

    Creating Your Book in InDesign

    The fun part! You should have your text (in .doc or .rtf format), your images (in .psd, .tiff or .eps format) and your layout thumbnails. Now we will create our basic book file in InDesign. When you open the program, you will notice that a lot of tools will be missing. They will be activated when you have opened a file or created one.

    Go to: File > New > Document (or Ctrl+N)

    This window will appear:

    Now is the time to take out your page format and bleed information. We will enter it in this window. First, you have to calculate how big your pages are by doing a simple addition. Take the page size and add the bleed. The total of the two should be entered in the page format section where you will input length and height of the page. In the last section of the window, enter the margins: the addition of the bleed and the text and image-free area of your page (both these measurements should be given to you by the print house).

    Take the time to also enter the number of pages you want your book to have. This number does not include the cover.

    Once the information is all entered, you can click OK and InDesign will create a blank book for you. Make sure you save it right away. (File > Save or Ctrl + S)

    Basic Tools

    I won't be covering every tool for this column, but I will explain the basic ones. You will be able to put out your simple book design with just these. Feel free to try the other ones out though!

    1) Select tool: The select tool will allow you to select any element in your book (image, text box, line)

    2) Text tool: The text will allow you to trace a text box in your book where you can type in or import text.

    3) Line tool: The line tool will allow you to trace a vector line in your book. You can change the color, size, orientation of your line with the select tool.

    4) Color picker: The color picker allows you to pick a particular color that you can find in your book. You can pick the color of any element, including imported bitmap images.

    5) Grabber / Zoom: The grabber and zoom allows you to browse around your document. (Note that shortcuts are [Spacebar] for the Grabber, [Ctrl] + [+] for zoom in and [Ctrl] + [6] for zoom out)

    6) Fill and Contour Colors: These two colors are for filling or text purposes. The fill color is the one that will fill shapes, and the contour color will be the lineart tracing that shape. Note that text is considered a contour, so you can only change a text color with the contour color box.

    7) Preview Mode: Switch between window mode and full view mode to get a better look at your work. I love the full view mode because not only can you see a full double page without trouble, but it will also hide all margins and image or text box to let you see the final result of your work on screen.

    Working with Template Pages

    One of the handiest tools in InDesign is the template pages. You can create as many templates as you want. You can even insert a template in another template. Basically, you only need to click in the template logo (the logo that looks like a double page) and work your layout on the double page. For example, if you wanted all your chapter pages to be the same, you would create a template page, then import that template into the selected pages. Once a template is imported in a page, you cannot move the text or image boxes on the page. If you want to alter them, you have to go back to your template page. And of course, these changes will be apply to every page assigned to the template page.

    In Faeries Through the Seasons, we had to come up with 5 different template pages. Each season was to be of a particular color and we also had a special layout for the artists' presentations. We wanted the book to look more or less like a scrapbooking book, so the back was to look like a textured canvas and we created these neat little circles at the corners to put titles in. We had to calculate the margins and bleed in Photoshop to make sure they would fit in the book when I was to import them in InDesign, so I put guide lines to help me out a little. When I was sure that my background layout was good to go, I imported it in my template page.

    Once you are happy with the layout of your template page, simply drag the double page logo of the template in the Pages window to the page logo you want the template to apply to. The letter of the template will appear in the middle of the page logo.

    When you access your page, you will now see that its layout matches the template page. You can now add the content of your page.

    Importing Images and Text

    Completing a page is so easy in InDesign when all your elements are ready to be imported. Make sure all your image files and text files are in hand. From here, all you need to do is go to File > Import (Ctrl + D) and choose the file you want to import in your book. With this same function, you can import both image files and text. Once you have chosen your file, you will notice that your cursor will change shape. It will become a brush if you import an image and become a small text paragraph for text. Simply click on your book and the file will pop up in a text box or an image box. You can then move this box around and place it where you want to in your book.

    Note that when you import image files, you can ask InDesign to preview them at 3 different levels of quality. This does not affect the printing quality of your work. It just helps you browse through your book without having for the images to load. Simply right-click a page and select the last option which will then show you the 3 different preview settings. Select the one that fits best your needs.

    To help align your work in your pages, you can create guidelines. Just like in Photoshop, simply click the top or side ruler and drag the blue line to the right place.

    Exporting Your File in PDF format

    Exporting a .pdf isn't too difficult but requires again to verify the settings the print house has given you. Check if they need the .pdf to be in single or double page, if they want certain color or margin information present and other important settings that could be modified before exporting your final document. The print house will usually require that you include your fonts with the file on your CD.

    To export your .pdf select File > Export. Name your file and select .pdf as an exporting format.

    This window will appear:

    Follow the print house instructions. Make sure that the pdf format is set to Acrobat 4 (PDF 1.3) as it is the format that will give you access to all the needed functions you need to modify to send it to the printers.

    Once the PDF is generated, be sure to put it on a CD along with the fonts that were used in your book. Fonts must always be included. If the print house were to miss any, they wouldn't be able to print your book with the right ones. The computer will switch the unavailable fonts for an accessible one.


    With just these very simple tools and a well-thought layout built in Photoshop, a full book can be put together. Of course, InDesign's got even fancier tools that will help make it even better. (For example, you can ask it to automatically number your pages very easily. You could then create a page template that will include a text box with an automated page numbering element and by using this template on all your pages, you would have a book with numbered pages!)

    To learn more about InDesign, I highly suggest Adobe's Classroom in a Book, which covers pretty much everything one needs to know about the software. They always include a CD with material you can play with while reading the book. A great buy!

    What’s Next?

    Next month, we will be covering isometric perspective and see how we can achieve it easily to come up with some convincing background designs.


    Annie Rodrigue

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