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Page Numbers in Desktop Publishing

Designing Effective Document Navigation with Page Numbering

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Don't let page numbers be an afterthought. Functional, yes, but make them an interesting part of your overall design as well. Numbers in the corners or centered top or bottom are the most common placement although centered on the side or off-centered page numbering is possible. Possibilities for dressing up the page numbers are endless.

Be Consistent.

Examples of page numbers.
© J.James
Page numbers that change locations within a document or that change styles are disconcerting to readers.

Use Corners, Top, or Bottom.

Numbers in the lower or upper corners are most common but if it works with your design, consider placement in the bottom or top center or centered to the side.

Number All Pages.

When you must omit page numbers from some pages try not to skip the numbering on more that 2-3 consecutive pages.

Put Numbers in the Margins.

Postion page numbers outside the main text of the document so that they don't interfere with the flow of text.

Use Opposite Corners.

For facing pages when page numbers appear in the corners, place them in the opposite corners for odd/even pages.

Avoid Inside Corners.

Two right ways and one wrong way to number pages.
© J.James
Position page numbers to the outside edges (or center) of pages, not the inside corners.

Make Page Numbers Interesting.

Examples of interesting page numbers.
© J.James
Try some of these design methods.
  • Set apart page numbers with rules above or below.
  • Place numbers in a box, circle, or other shape.
  • Reverse the page number out of a solid or tinted box or other shape.
  • Use one of your spot colors for the page numbers.
  • Bracket the page number with plain or decorative dingbats.

Use Roman Numerals Sparingly.

For just a few pages this could be interesting but much beyond X (10) and you lose readers with a string of I, V, X, and L. This style could prohibit the use of automatic page numbering if not supported by your software.

Spell Out Only Smaller Numbers.

Spell out the page number (one, two, fifteen...) in publications with only a few pages. For more than about twenty the numbers (words) become harder to decipher at a glance. This style could prohibit the use of automatic page numbering.

Use Automatic Page Numbering

The basic procedure is the same for most page layout programs that support automatic page numbering. On the master page create a text box for the page numbers and use a special shortcut key or choose an "Insert Page Number" command from the toolbar or menu. This places a page number marker on the master page. Format it as you would any other text. Actual page numbers appear on the foreground pages of the document.

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