Creating custom backgrounds

Written by Dale Benfield

Using Photoshop, you can design new and exciting backgrounds that will be unique to your yearbook because your designers created them.

1. Go to File > New.

2. You must know the dimensions of a double-page spread. It is better to make it larger than needed. For our size 9 book, we create the background with the following dimensions:
Width: 18.5 inches
Height: 12.5 inches
Resolution: 300 (important to make it 300)
Color: RGB color (8 bit) – if your book is black and white, use grayscale
Background contents: white

This will make a 55-megabyte document. Please watch your file size. Make sure your computer, and Walsworth, can work with it.


3. Click the foreground color on the toolbar and choose the color you want for the background of your document. The color I used is R:129, G:0, B:0.

4. With the Paint Bucket tool, fill the blank document.

From here, you have a world of options, such as adding shapes, colors, photographs, text or illustrations. I will be adding both text and illustrations to the following background.

5. Open up any photographs or illustrations you want to add to your background. These are the illustrations I have used for the background.


6. Using the Move tool, drag each item onto your created background document. Each item will be placed on a new layer automatically.

7. Manipulate and arrange the items any way you would like. Here are some common manipulations:
Ctrl + U = Hue/Saturation (changes the color)
Ctrl + M = Curves (changes density)
Ctrl + T = Free transform (rotate, resize)

I will use each of these three items multiple times by duplicating the layers, as well as a line of text to finish the background.

8. After your elements are placed on your background as you want them, you can alter their transparency by adjusting the opacity in the layers palette.

9. Once you have finished altering all the elements, save your background. A .psd is fine as it will retain layer information. Otherwise, save the file as a .jpg to flatten the image and compress to a manageable file. Because of the large file size as a .psd, this step may take up to a couple minutes. Be patient.

10. Then in InDesign, open your spread and press F12 (or Window > Pages) to bring up the Pages palette. Double-click on the “A-Master” and draw a rectangular frame over the entire spread.

11. Place your created Photoshop document in the frame.

12. Click on the background with the Selection tool and go to Object > Arrange > Send to Back so your background is not covering your folio.

13. Using the Pages palette, click back on your numbered page and place your content as normal.

Now you have a unique background for your spread. As you teach your designers to keep their eyes out for unique design elements, remind them to keep their eyes open to the possibilities for backgrounds.


4 Responses to “Creating custom backgrounds”

November 30, 2009 at 4:02 pm, SuhhMannThuhhhhhh(: said:

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November 25, 2012 at 5:33 pm, yrbk staff said:

is there a way to download custom backgrounds onto the backgrounds menu?

November 30, 2012 at 3:12 pm, sierra sr. said:

how do you design a custom cover without an account???

April 16, 2014 at 12:53 pm, Me said:

I understand how to create a background, but how do you upload an image as a background on Walworth to use? All it allows you to do is upload an image which when inserted into the page becomes blurry and is then not capable of being the background. Please get back to me soon if you can?

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Dale Benfield