The main reasons to use parent pages are to ensure consistency throughout the publication and save time when producing the document.
Maintaining consistency throughout a publication provides cohesiveness and builds reader confidence. Fonts, sizes, styles, colors, and positioning are the primary components that contribute to continuity. When considering what to use on InDesign parent pages (previously known as “master” pages), designers look for patterns that can be replicated. Typical candidates for parent page items are:
- page size
- number of columns
- column widths for body text
- position of body text
- linked text frames
- position of page numbers (folios)
- position of headlines
- sidebar columns, widths, and position
InDesign parent pages make the production process much simpler and faster, especially when used with style sheets. You can create multiple parents. I recommend constructing a default parent that has most or all of the elements you need on the majority of your regular document pages.
InDesign Parent Page items will appear on all pages to which it is applied. This is particularly useful when you make changes. Rather than editing each individual document page, you merely edit the Parent and all of the associated document pages will automatically have that change.
New InDesign documents already have a default parent page, which you can modify as needed. Or you can make an entirely new default parent. You can duplicate that default parent. Or you can base other parent pages on the default one: these are called “Child Parents”. Whenever a Parent is modified, the same modifications appear on the Child Parent.
Parent page items on a document page are locked and cannot be edited on a document page unless overridden. For example, let’s say you want to change the chapter title for a series of pages. The parent would contain a default title that you could override on the document pages. Alternatively, you could create Child Parents for each chapter, and each of those would have the appropriate chapter title.
Another key advantage is that automatic page numbering can be configured on parents. What a time-saving feature! Can you imagine having to number each page manually? InDesign rescues you from this tedious task.
Type > Insert Special Character > Marker > Current Page Number
Creating Parent Pages
The Pages panel displays all of the parent and document pages. This panel should open by default the moment you open or create a document. If not, you can find it by selecting Windows > Pages. It is paired with two other panels: Layers and Links. The parent pages are above the double line, while the document pages are below the line.
Adjusting the Default Parent
The default “Parent A” page can be used as is or adjusted. Double-click on “Parent A”. Make whatever adjustments you want. Save the file.
Creating a New Parent
- Select New Parent in the Pages panel menu.
- Prefix – A new prefix will automatically be assigned (“B “, “C “, etc.). You can change this to anything you want, using up to 4 characters.
- Name – Use something that will help identify the kind of page it is. For example: Chapter Opener, Feature Story 1, or Front Matter.
- Based on Parent – You can base the New Parent on an existing Parent (to create a “Child Parent”) or choose None.
- Number of Pages – I usually input 2, but you can insert as many as 10 for the parent spread. That seems like an inordinately high number, but you may want to use the option someday!
Duplicating a Parent
There are 2 ways to copy a Parent:
- Select the parent name in the pages panel, then select Duplicate Parent Spread in the menu.
- Select the parent name and then drag it to the New Page button.
Creating a Parent from an Existing Page (or Spread)
Sometimes you get very involved in designing on a document page and don’t realize that you should be designing on a parent. I’ve seen this happen often with my students. There’s an easy solution, thankfully. Again, there are 2 ways to create a parent from an existing document page or spread:
- Select both of the spread page icons (or a single page icon) in the pages panel, then select Save As Parent in the menu. This method doesn’t work with just one page in a spread.
- Select both of the spread page icons (or a single page icon) and then drag to the parent section at the top of the pages panel (above the double line). This method doesn’t work with just one page in a spread.
Child Parents are parent pages that are based on another parent. Parent items that get modified will automatically be updated on the Child Parent. You decide whether or not to base one parent on another when creating a New Parent. With existing parents, you can always change what they are based on. Use one of the following methods:
- Select the parent name in the pages panel, then select Parent Page Options in the menu. Edit the “Based On” field to be another parent, then click OK.
- Drag the parent name you prefer onto the other parent you want to change.
Child Parents can be edited and thus differ from the parent upon which they are based. Elements can be added or subtracted, resized, enhanced, styled differently, etc. Unlock Parent items by pressing Ctrl+Shift (Windows) or Command+Shift (Mac OS) and clicking them. If you have difficulty overriding Parent items, check to make sure Parent Overrides is enabled (Pages panel > Parent Pages > Allow Parent Overrides on Selection).
Applying Parent Pages
When you create a new document, the A-Parent will automatically be applied to all of the pages. To apply a different parent to a single page, drag the parent page icon in the pages panel to a page icon. Be sure there is a black border surrounding the individual page before releasing the mouse.
If you want to apply a parent to several pages, go to Layout > Pages > Apply Parent to Pages… Select All Pages or type in the page range you want (Ex.: 2-5).
The method you use to create new pages determines which parent will be applied.
- New Page button in the pages panel OR Layout > Pages > Add Page – the new page will be based on the same parent as the active page, added directly after the active page.
- Insert Pages from the pages panel menu OR Layout > Pages > Insert Pages – choose the parent to apply as well as where the new pages will be added.
I made a video tutorial that explains the benefits of parent pages, how to create them, and how to use them.
- My 10+ years of teaching InDesign at the college level
- Adobe InDesign Classroom in a Book
- Real World Adobe InDesign CC
- InDesign CC: Visual Quickstart Guide