Setting Up Master Pages in InDesign Proposals

Once you’ve set up your document, your next important step is designing master pages.

In InDesign, you control headers, footers, and any repeated page matter such as sidebars or watermarks with master pages. Once you have your master pages set up, you can simply add pages to your document and drag and drop master pages to apply them to each page. Just as with the initial set-up of the document, spending time on the front end will save you time on the back end.

For this tutorial and a few others in this series, we’ll use the (anonymized) template of a proposal from a diner restaurant to LAX regarding opening a location in Terminal 4. Peak Composition was recently hired to develop this template design for a Los Angeles-based diner’s proposal writer for this pursuit, so these templates have been developed to meet a real RFP to connect real vendors and clients.

Step 1: RFP Review Redux

You should already have a good idea of what’s in the RFP and what requirements your proposal will need to meet in order to be compliant. But you should probably check out the RFP one more time as you set up your master pages and design the headers and footers for the body of your proposal.

Things to look for in the RFP:

  • Information to be included: Are there rules on what should or should not appear in headers and footers? What is the title of the proposal? Are there required sections? What are the names of the sections? Make sure you use the exact same wording as what’s in the RFP on your proposal — taking liberties with the name of the proposal or its sections can take your proposal out of the running if reviewers find the inconsistencies enough to believe you didn’t (or can’t!) follow instructions.
  • Font and margin requirements: Does the RFP require a specific font, like Times New Roman? How wide do margins need to be? These elements may come into play as you set up headers and footers, so having this information handy can make sure the writing and proposal review processes go smoothly later on.
  • Formatting requirements: Will the proposal be submitted electronically in PDF format? Printed? If printed, should pages be printed on one side or double-sided? What line spacing requirements are in the RFP? Each of these constraints will play a role in how you set up your master pages in InDesign.
  • Client needs and branding goals: While these considerations overlap with overall design principles for effective proposals — which we’ll cover in a later tutorial — they can be part of your initial RFP review as you’re preparing to set up master pages. Are there requirements about the use of logos, colors, or other issues that may affect your headers and footers? Does your organization have general branding or marketing goals that you need to keep in mind as you design master pages? Add these items to your list of issues to consider in your master page design.

Step 2: Getting InDesign Ready to Use

Once you set up a document (see this post for more on initial set-up in InDesign), you can begin putting together your master pages.

In InDesign, you can have as many master pages as you find to be useful. For our purposes in this tutorial, we’ll be creating a two-page master spread for a document that will be printed on facing pages. (This is essentially the same as creating different headers and footers for odd and even pages, as you might do in Word.) This decision is rooted in the RFP, which requires a printed proposal (as well as a PDF of the proposal submitted on CD-ROM) printed double-sided. Even if you’ll be creating one set of headers and footers for a proposal that will be printed single-sided, you can still follow this tutorial, but you can skip over the parts related to making the second page/set align with the first.

Let’s do a couple things with InDesign to make it as usable and accessible as possible before we move forward.

First, set up your tools sidebar in InDesign so you have easy access to your most used tools. Go to Window and click on Pages. If clicking on Pages makes a little Pages window appear on top of your document in InDesign, go ahead and click at the top of the Pages window and drag the window to the right sidebar. Drop the Pages window wherever you like in the black sidebar. I like to have mine at the top of the sidebar, but it doesn’t matter where it goes. Once the Pages window is docked in the sidebar, you can simply click on the button to open up the Pages window and see the full set of master pages and document pages in your document.

InDesign dock area
The dock area of InDesign holds various Windows (tools) for easy access.

Second, now that you have your Pages window in this easy-to-access location, you can configure how the thumbnails of your pages and master pages appear. With the Pages window open, right click on the master pages field and select “Panel Options…” From this dialogue box, you can choose how your master pages appear in the Pages window. You could arrange them vertically as they are here, or horizontally; you could increase or decrease the size of the thumbnails; and you could opt to put the master pages panel at the bottom of the Pages window rather than the top.

Pages in InDesign
With the Pages window open, you can manage master pages, document pages, and how thumbnails for pages appear.

If you right click in the pages panel of the Pages window and hover over “View Pages,” you can also determine how pages in your document appear in the Pages window: horizontally, vertically, or customized.

Step 3: Creating Master Pages

To make sure you can create a two-page master spread (or set of pages), make sure you have “Facing Pages” checked in the Document Setup dialogue (File –> Document Setup).

To create a new master page, open the Pages window, right click in the master pages panel, and click on “New Master…” With this dialogue box, you can choose the prefix that will identify where the new master page is applied in your document — the prefix will appear on the thumbnails in the page panel in the Pages window. You can also rename the master page to indicate what it will be used for. To reuse elements of another master, choose that master in the “Based on Master” dropdown list. Enter “2” into the “Number of Pages” field to make a two-page master, and keep the Page Size on Letter with portrait orientation. When you’re done making changes, click on OK — you’ll see the new master spread show up in the master panel on the Pages window.

Creating new master pages in InDesign
The New Master page dialogue box gives you options for ever master page you create, from how many pages in the spread to the size of the sheets.

You now have a master page! Up next, we’ll discuss designing the master spread to use in your proposal.