Five Ways to Improve your Layouts Instantly…
You began creating your layout in InDesign with so much enthusiasm, but despite your hard work it’s still looking, well, a bit ‘meh’.
Panic not! Here are 5 ways to spice up your designs super quickly and easily, and make them look instantly more attractive, polished and professional!
1. Make your Margins Wider
Never underestimate the transformative power of a generous margin around the edges of your page(s). It really is the simplest tip for making layouts look instantly more visually appealing, and giving text and graphics more breathing space.
Adjust your margins in InDesign by going to Layout > Margins and Columns, accessible from the top menu. Try increasing your existing margins by an extra 5 mm, and see your layout look more attractive pronto!
2. Limit your Colour Palette
Colour has the power to transform the mood of your designs, but introducing too much colour can make a layout appear cluttered and messy. Try to limit your use of colour to no more than three colour swatches to a page—you’ll be amazed how bold and punchy your design can become!
Another colour tip to make your posters and brochures look ultra-dramatic and to draw attention to headers and logos is to use just one colour on an otherwise monochrome layout. In the example below, white and black tones allow the red text to really pop and draw the eye.
Edit colour in InDesign using the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches). Learn more about using colour in InDesign with our handy beginner’s guide to colour.
3. White Space is your New Best Friend!
Whenever you design your layouts remember this mantra: less is (almost) always more (I say almost because ornate layouts can look lovely in the right context; see Tip 5 below…). Even layouts that have a lot going on—text, graphics, colour, the lot!—will always benefit from a bit of breathing space.
This is what graphic designers call ‘white space’, which is effectively space on the page that’s empty of visual content. It doesn’t necessarily need to be white in colour; just a blank bit of background with nothing on it. This helps focus the eye on the content you want to draw the viewer’s attention to, and it makes the layout much less stressful to look at.
Introduce more white space on your layout by cutting down on the quantity of content or resizing elements to create more room on the page. Try to stick to a maximum of two main focal points on the layout, like in this example, where the image and header are the only things seeking your attention.
4. Tweak your Typography…
…Is your text looking a little lacklustre? Adding a Drop Cap to the start of your opening paragraph or increasing your Leading (the space between lines of text) may be subtle changes, but they can work wonders for improving your designs. Setting your headings and sub-headings in different Weights (Bold, Italic, Light, Black etc) can also create visual separation in text-heavy layouts.
Another tip used by design professionals is to apply Optical Margin Alignment to paragraphs of text. This creates ‘Hung Punctuation’, shifting punctuation marks outside the boundaries of a text frame, creating a more uniform block of text. InDesign will also subtly move any overhanging serifs on letters, so your text looks more perfected and polished.
You can find the Optical Margin Alignment option in the Story panel in InDesign (Window > Type & Tables > Story).
5. Get Fancy with a Border!
Minimal layouts can look beautiful—clean, uncluttered and easy on the eye. But what if your layout’s looking more bare than minimal? Sometimes, a little touch of something fancy can lift your layout and transform it into something special.
The easiest way to give your layouts a touch of the ornate is to introduce a Border. Borders frame your content, drawing the eye inwards, just as a picture frame helps to focus the eye on the image it contains.
Create a border in InDesign by using the Rectangle Tool (M), accessible from the Tools panel. Use your margin lines as guides for getting the border perfectly sized; then adjust the look of the border using the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke) and Corner Options (Object > Corner Options). Here, I’ve used a ‘Thin-Thick-Thin’ Stroke Type and a ‘Fancy’ Corner Shape.
Take note of these five tips when you create your own layouts—you’ll be amazed how a few subtle tweaks can transform your designs! And remember, above all, have fun with creating layouts. Design is meant to be fun; so feel confident with experimenting and breaking the rules (in moderation!).
Enhance your layout designs with some fresh font inspiration for magazines, books, or print design; or check out our beginner InDesign tutorials page for more tips and tutorials!