In this article, we will look at some of the finer points of using master pages in InDesign. Firstly, it is possible to base a new master page on an existing one. From the Pages panel menu, choose New Master Page and, when the New Master dialog appears, choose the name of an existing master page from the drop-down menu labelled “Based on Master”.
The new master will not only inherit all of the elements on the existing master, it will also be linked to it; so that, if you make a change to the elements on the original master page, those changes will be reflected on the new one. It’s very easy to tell if a master is based on another master. The page icon of any master page which is based on another master will display the letter prefix of the parent master page.
In InDesign, master elements are not editable on any child document or master pages. However, in both cases master elements can be unlocked on the child page by holding down the Control and Shift keys and clicking on the master item.
Another simple but useful trick is to base a new master page on a document page or spread. To do highlight a document page or spread and choose Save As Master from the Pages panel menu. It is also sometimes useful to create a master page by duplicating an existing one. Just highlight the master in question and choose Duplicate Master Spread from the Pages panel menu.
Master pages created in one document can be transferred into another document in much the same way as styles and swatches. Choose Load Master Pages from the Pages panel menu then browse for the document that contains the required master(s). Please note, however, that InDesign always imports all of the master pages that the document contains. It does not offer the option of selecting only certain items as is the case with swatches and styles. If one of the master pages being important has the same name as an existing master page, a dialog box will appear offering you the option of replacing the existing master page or renaming the new one.