InDesign Basic Template Example: 1.5″ Square Adhesive Labels

I recently redesigned a template for 1.5″ adhesive labels. This is a rather common task, but it occurred to me it would be a good teaching opportunity. I’ve included my sample templates for download. Feel free to try them out.

Step 1: evaluating the original template

I started by downloading the InDesign template from the label manufacturer website. Unfortunately, it consisted of nothing but a placed PDF with broken link on page 1 showing boxes where each label belonged. No page guides, and the margins didn’t even line up with the boxes (they were at the InD defaults of .5″). The template used facing pages, which doesn’t make sense for a label sheet, and it didn’t use the master page, so that if I wanted more than one page I’d have to do a messy copy/paste. But at least the boxes did show me where the labels really were on the page (at least, I hope so) so that I can accurately build my own template file.

Step 2: Margins, Columns, Guides

Working in the original template at first, I fit the margins to the boxes and figured out what they were using (.5″ top and bottom, 25/32″ left and right—not sure why, but that’s what it was). I did this going to Layout: Margins & Columns, enabling Preview, and then adjusting the margin values until the margins perfectly lined up with the boxes. In addition, in CS6 you can now do multiple mathematical operations, so I could enter things like “.75+1/32″ for the margin and InDesign would figure it out the decimals for me.

For the Columns, I had to do more math. I wanted to be exact. The labels are 1.5”, and there are 4 across. Now that I had the margins and the total width of the page, by doing some basic math I could derive the gutter width. It was a bit much for even the new CS6 cells to handle, so I typed the function into an Excel sheet and got:
(page-margins)-(colums)/3 gutters=each gutter

As for the rows, I used Layout: Create Guides. This is a very useful feature that, surprisingly, many InDesign users don’t know about. It’s similar to setting up columns, only you can go horizontally as well as vertically. I used a similar calculation for the gutter here, and ended up with 6 rows and .2″ as the gutter width. At least my crazy math checked out in the end—this all gave me an exact cell size of 1.5″ square.

(You might ask why don’t I just use the align panel, smart guides, or something like that? Sometimes I actually like playing with math, and I like to know that my template is actually really giving me exact, 1.5″ squares that matches the original template from the manufacturer. So in this case I used the mathematical approach.)

Step 3: Print Sheet & Single Label Documents

Once I had all my measurements I made a new print sheet document from scratch and quickly set it up. The master page has all the columns and row guides. But what about the actual label designs?

In this case, all labels on each sheet will be identical. So rather than having to update copies of a label multiple times, or recopy it every time I update the first, I prefer to design the actual label as a separate, 1.5″ square InDesign file, and place the file into the print sheet, copied 24 times.

There are many advantages to this workflow. Each label exists as a single 1.5″ file. It can be easily repurposed and used on its own in “unganged” form. If it has been updated, then when working in the corresponding print sheet file you will receive a warning indicating that the link has been updated—all you need to do is update your links, and the print sheet is ready to go. And if you want to make a new print sheet to work with a new label file, just save a copy, then relink to point to a different label, and it’s ready!

As for the single label file, it’s basic but effective. It uses 2 paragraph styles: a header, which will always be 1 line, and then a body paragraph, which is formatted so that up to exactly 9 lines of type can fit in the box. In addition, an object style is applied to the text frame that vertically centers the type. This sample version uses the Myriad Pro font, which is included with the Creative Suite, to avoid any licensing issues.

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