Updated: Jan 21, 2019
When I create print or editorial layouts in InDesign, one of the first things I like to do is create guides to . . . well, guide me in the layout process.
Using columns in the document setup stage (ie: adding 3 or 4 columns to a page) is a good starting point. However, I tend to leave the columns field at 0 and create my own guides once I have my InDesign document set to go.
In this example, I have selected a simple A4 layout and added guides through the Create Guides option.
1. Scroll to the top toolbar and select Layout, then "Create Guides" from the dropdown.
2. In your Create Guide prompt window, specify how many rows and columns you'd like to work with. As a rule of thumb, I like using an even number and usually start at 6 rows and 6 columns. I also fit the guides to the margins and not the page — but that is personal preference. Play around with the selections and see what works best according to the layout you are creating.
The six rows and six columns creates a custom grid for your layout and while it may look daunting at first, this setup will save you time when you're designing.
As an example, I created a book cover and used the guides to set my main art as well as typography.
The guides not only help you line up type and images, but it also determine the distance between content on a page. Not having any kind of guide system can make your process arbitrary, which could result in an overall poor final product.
The idea behind guides is not to let them overwhelm you, but assist in the creative process. Of course you can hide the guides to see how the layout looks without them on, but always resort back to this tool as you're working and making changes.