InDesign Basics: Insert Page Numbers and Create Sections

page numbers and sections in indesign

In this Bitesize tutorial, you will learn how to insert Page Numbers and create Sections in your InDesign document. This is an essential skill if you’re creating a book, magazine, booklet or report in InDesign.

  • Learn how to apply Page Numbers to Master Pages

  • Divide your document into Sections, which is appropriate if you’re creating a longer document, such as a book or report


level time


Step 1: Apply Page Numbers to a Master Page


Inserting page numbers into your InDesign document is quick and simple. The first thing to realise is that InDesign numbers pages according to the page numbers listed in the Pages Panel (Window > Pages). Unless you want to spend the time manually inserting individual page numbers to override this, you should understand how to define sections in your document (see Step 2, below).

For now though, let’s assume you have a document with just one uniform section, going from Page 1, the first page of the document, to Page x, the last page of the document.

Here, I set up a 16-page document, with Facing Pages. In the Pages Panel, this is what the document will look like:

page numbers sections in indesign

First things first, double-click on the default A-Master page icon in the top section of the Pages Panel. This brings up the Master page spread on screen. Remember, everything we place on the A-Master spread will be applied to the pages which have that Master applied to them. To refamiliarise yourself with Masters, click here.

page numbers sections in indesign

Because this document has facing pages, we want to insert page numbers on both the left and right pages. For now, navigate to the bottom-right corner of the right-hand page by zooming in (Ctrl + [Windows] or Cmd + [Mac]). Select the Type Tool (T) from the Tools Panel (Window > Tools) and drag to create a small text frame, resting the top of the frame against the margin.

page numbers sections in indesignSet the text orientation to Align Right from the Character Formatting Controls panel running along the top of the screen. You can also set the formatting of the page number at this stage, such as Font, Size and Colour.

page numbers sections in indesign

Then go to Type in the menu running along the top of the screen and select Insert Special Character > Markers > Current Page Number. An A Marker will be dropped into the text frame. This will adjust to the relevant page number on each page in your document.

Select the text frame with the Selection Tool (V, Escape) and go to Edit > Copy and Edit > Paste. Manoeuvre this second text frame onto the left-hand page in a mirrored position. InDesign will provide pop-up guidelines once the text frame lines up exactly with the frame on the right-hand page. Once your happy with the positioning, select the Type Tool (T) and adjust the orientation of the text to Align Left from the Character Formatting Controls panel, as before.

page numbers sections in indesignAnd you’re done! The page markers on the Master will be applied to every page that has the Master applied to it.

page numbers sections in indesignTo apply the Master to a page, click and drag the A-Master page icon and drop onto the relevant page icon in the Pages Panel.

page numbers sections in indesign


Step 2: Create Sections in your InDesign document


Larger documents like books and reports may benefit from being split up into sections. In this example we’ll create two simple sections for a short book. Section I will consist of introductory pages and be set in roman numerals, i – vi. Section II will be made up of the main pages of the book, set in standard numbers, from 1 – 10.

If you created the document example in the first step, above, use this same document if you’d like to create your own example document in InDesign.

This is how our document looks. It’s 16 pages long and has page numbers applied to it, as in Step 1, throughout. You can see that the main text of the book starts on Page 7 of the document, and that the page number marker has adjusted accordingly to mark this as 7. But we want this to be numbered as 1 in the book instead. So, let’s discover how to do just that.

sections in indesign

Firstly, select the page icon of the first page in the document in the Pages Panel (Window > Pages). Then navigate to the drop-down menu in the Pages Panel, which you can find at the top-right corner of the panel.

2.1

Select Numbering & Section Options… to open the Numbering & Section Options window.

2.2

Here, you’re presented with a range of options which affect the way your document is numbered and organised. For now, check the option Start Page Numbering at, overriding Automatic Numbering. Then navigate down to the Style drop-down menu and select i, ii, iii, iv… from the options available. Click OK.

2.3

All the pages in your document will now be set in Roman Numerals.

Now, select the relevant page icon in the Pages Panel which represents the page you want to set as the first page of the second section of your document. In this example, this is Page 7 (which is currently numbered as vii). As before, go to the drop-down menu in the Pages Panel and select Numbering & Section Options… to open the Numbering & Section Options window. Again, check Start Page Numbering at, and from the Style drop-down menu select 1, 2, 3, 4… from the options available. Click OK.

sections in indesign

A new section, beginning on page 7 of the document but numbered as 1, has been created.

sections in indesign

Great work! 

TIP: If you want to remove page numbers from some pages in your document, e.g. a title page or a blank page, click and drag the [None] Master page icon from the Pages Panel and drop onto the relevant page icon(s) in the lower part of the Pages Panel.

Develop more skills from our beginner InDesign tutorials page.