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Create a Hip Magazine Cover in Adobe InDesign


Most people get their news online nowadays, and as a result, magazines are focusing more on high quality art and photography to catch a buyer’s eye. The photo surely makes the cover, but the overall design of the cover is just as important.

The primary components that complete a cover are the title or masthead, cover lines and a date or volume. In this tutorial, you will learn how to use Adobe InDesign to setup a print-ready document and use a couple valuable techniques for placing text to create your own stylish and hip magazine cover layout.

darling magazine cover tutorial example

My Finished Magazine Cover

Step 1

Choose your cover image. Good resources for finding stock are DeviantArt, stock.xchng and Creative Commons image search. My pinup girl was taken by Chris Willis and is available through the Creative Commons for non-commercial use. Choose an image that is high resolution, and fills the frame, is visually stunning and not too busy. Create a new folder for your project and save or copy your image there.

Step 2

Launch InDesign and choose “Document” from the Open New dialog, or go to “File > New > Document.” Choose the [Default] document preset, which should set your Page Size to A4. Uncheck “Facing Pages,” as we will only need one page, and click the “Advanced” options link to expand the Bleed and Slug fields. Enter “3 mm” into the Top Bleed field. The rest should set themselves to 3 mm automatically.

Not all printers require bleeds, but it is a good practice to set one just in case. The bleed not only helps you ensure your text does not fall off the edges of your cover, but also keeps the printed version from displaying an ugly white border.

step 1

Prepare your document

Step 3

Make sure you are using the Printing and Proofing workspace to ensure you have all the tools you need. The workspace menu is located in the upper right of the CS5 window, near the search field.

step 2

Select the printing and proofing workspace

Step 4

Your new document displays a purple and pink border to indicate your margin and bleed. These guides can be turned on and off at will by hitting Command+; (MAC) or Ctrl+; (PC). Leave them on for now.

step 3

Check your guides

Step 5

Choose the Rectangle Frame tool from your toolbar. Place the crosshair at the upper left corner of the document bleed line (the pink one) and drag downwards to the lower right corner to create a rectangular frame along the bleed line.

By drawing this frame, you will be able to place your background photo into the document.

step 4

Select the Rectangle tool to draw your background frame

Step 6

Click “File > Place” and navigate to your project folder. Select your image and click Open. The image may not fill your frame properly on insertion, so click “Object > Fitting > Fill Frame Proportionally.”

Step 7

Create a new layer for your text. Click the Layers button in your Panels tab to view the Layer window, or click “Window > Layers. ” Right-click and choose “Create new layer.” Call it “Text” to keep things organized, and click “OK.”

step 6

Create a new layer

Step 8

Select the Type Tool from your toolbar and use your left mouse button to click and drag to create text boxes in your layout. If the “Type on a Path Tool” is visible by default, right-click it to access the Type Tool.

step 7

Type Tool

This tool works similar to its Photoshop counterpart. Choose a font and type within your text boxes. I chose Walrus Gumbo for my masthead, which you can download here. Highlight the text to adjust kerning, color and font size using the main text options panel.

Step 9

To create the outline effect I used, right-click the text layer and choose “Duplicate.” Select the bottom text layer, and then highlight the text using the text tool. Click on “Window > Stroke” to open the Stoke options panel. Set your desired weight and change the color to red.Opacity can be changed by clicking on the Effects panel.

I set my red background text layer to Color Dodge with Opacity of 86%.

step 9

Stroke and Effects options

Step 10

Proceed to add your cover lines, date or volume to your layout using a complimentary font in a high-contrast color. Experiment with positioning and hierarchy to get the look you want. I used Harabara for my cover lines, which you can download here.

For added emphasis, create a new layer below your text layers and use the Rectangle Tool to create blocks of color behind your cover lines. Use the object options toolbar at the top of your screen to change the background color of your rectangles.

step 10

Using the Rectangle Tool

Step 11

To add interest and style to my cover, I chose the Rotate Tool to rotate my color boxes and right-hand cover line text. Use the main Selection Tool (black arrow) to select an object, and then access the Rotate Tool by right-clicking on the Free Transform Tool in your left-hand toolbar. Left-click the object and drag in the direction you wish to rotate.

step 11

Using the Rotate Tool

Step 12

Using the Rectangle Tool, create a black bar along the top of the layout, leaving a small gap between the bottom and your Masthead. This area can be used to highlight other features of the current issue. Choose a text color that doesn’t compete with the rest of your cover line text.

step 12

Top bar text

Step 13

Create a new layer called “QR.” Create a rectangle in the lower-right area of your layout and give it a fill color. Create an “XL” custom QR Code using this online generator and save it to your project folder.  In the past, a barcode might have gone here, but QR Codes are far more interesting! Select your rectangle and click “File > Place.” Browse to your QR Code, select it and then click “Open.”

step 14

Placing the QR Code

Step 14

Click “View > Overprint Preview” and turn off your guides to get a look at your final design.

From here, you can save your file and then use “File > Export” to save it as a JPG for sharing on the web, or PDF for printing. If you need to send the file as an InDesign format, it is best to use “File > Package” to ensure the final file contains the fonts and other elements used.

step 15

And you’re done!

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