Parent pages


Equitable Language: We are replacing non-inclusive language from InDesign 2022 (version 17.0) onwards, to reflect core Adobe values of inclusivity. Any reference to Master page is replaced by Parent page in our Help articles for the English, Danish, Hungarian, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian, Portuguese, and Japanese locales.

About parent, stacking order, and layers

A parent page (previously known as master page) is like a background that you can quickly apply to many pages. Objects on a parent page appear on all pages applied. Parent page items that appear on document pages are surrounded by a dotted border. Changes you make to a parent page are automatically applied to associated pages that commonly contain repeating logos, page numbers, headers, and footers. They can also contain empty text or graphic frames that serve as placeholders on document pages. A parent item cannot be selected on a document page unless overridden.

Parents can have multiple layers, just like pages in your document. Objects on a single layer have their own stacking order within that layer. Objects on a parent page layer appear behind objects assigned to the same layer in the document page.

If you want a parent item to appear in front of objects on the document page, assign a higher layer to the object on the parent. A parent item on a higher layer appears in front of all objects on lower layers. Merging all layers will move parent items behind document page objects.

Parent items (top left) appear behind page objects on the same layer (bottom left); moving a parent item to a higher layer (top right) moves it in front of all objects on lower layers (bottom right).

Tips and guidelines for parents

  • You can compare alternative design ideas by creating a variety of parents and applying them in turn to sample pages containing typical content.

  • To quickly lay out new documents, you can save a set of parents in a document template, along with paragraph and character styles, color libraries, and other styles and presets.

  • If you change column or margin settings on a parent, or apply a new parent with different column and margin settings, you can force objects on the page to adjust to the new layout automatically. (See About automatic layout adjustment.)

  • Automatic page numbers inserted on a parent display the correct page number for each section of the document to which the parent is applied. (See Add basic page numbering.)

Create parents

By default, any document you create has a parent page. You can create additional parents from scratch or from an existing parent page or document page. After you apply parent pages to other pages, any changes made to the source parent carry forward to the parents and document pages that are based on it. With careful planning, this provides an easy way to make layout changes to multiple pages across your document.

Create a parent from scratch

  1. Choose New Parent in the Pages panel menu.
  2. Specify the following options, and click OK:
    • For Prefix, type a prefix that identifies the applied parent for each page in the Pages panel. You can type as many as four characters.

    • For Name, type a name for the parent spread.

    • For Based On Parent, choose an existing parent spread on which you’ll base this parent spread, or choose None.

    • For Number Of Pages, type a value for the number of pages you want in the parent spread (as many as ten).

Create a parent from an existing page or spread

  • Drag an entire spread from the Pages section of the Pages panel to the Parents section.
  • Select a spread in the Pages panel and choose Save As Parent from the Pages panel menu.

Any objects on the original page or spread become part of the new parent. If the original page used a parent, the new parent is based on the original page’s parent.

Base one parent on another

You can create a parent variation that is based on and updates with another parent (called the parent parent) within the same document. The parent spreads based on the parent parent are called child parents. For example, if your document has ten chapters that use parent spreads that vary only slightly, base all of them on a parent spread that contains the layout and objects common to all ten. This way, a change to the basic design requires editing just the parent parent instead of editing all ten separately. Vary the formatting on your child parents. You can override parent parent items on a child parent to create variations on a parent, just as you can override parent items on document pages. This is a powerful way to keep a consistent yet varied design up to date.

Original parent and child parents (left); when the parent parent is modified, the child parents are automatically updated (right)

  1. To base one parent on another, in the Parents section of the Pages panel, do either of the following:
    • Select a parent spread, and choose Parent Options for [parent spread name] in the Pages panel menu. For Based On Parent, choose a different parent, and click OK.

    • Select the name of the parent spread you want to use as the base and drag it onto the name of another parent to apply it.

Edit the layout of a parent

You can edit the layout of parent pages at any time; changes you make are automatically reflected on all pages with that parent applied. For example, any text or graphic you add to a parent will appear on document pages to which the parent is applied.


When you override or detach a parent page object on a particular page, that object may not update to reflect changes made on the parent page.

  1. In the Pages panel, double-click the icon for the parent you want to edit, or select the parent page from the text box list at the bottom of the document window. The parent spread appears in the document window.
  2. Make changes to the parent.

InDesign automatically updates any pages using that parent.

To change the size of the parent page, select it using the Page tool, and then use the options in the Control panel to change the dimension. See Use multiple page sizes.


Use multiple views to see the results of parent edits. Choose Window > Arrange > New Window, and then choose Window > Arrange > Tile. Set one view to a page and the other view to the parent applied to that page. Then edit the parent and watch the page update.

Change parent page options

You can edit parent page options to change the name or prefix of the parent, base the parent on another parent, or change the number of pages in the parent spread.

  1. In the Pages panel, click the name of a parent spread to select the parent spread.
  2. Choose Parent Options For [parent name] in the Pages panel menu.
  3. Change any option, and then click OK.

Apply parent pages

If your document contains custom spreads (such as a 3- or 4‑page foldout in a magazine), any parent you apply should contain the same number of pages.

If your parent page has a different page size than the layout page, applying the parent page changes the size of the layout page. If the layout page has a custom page size, you can specify whether to keep the custom layout page size or apply the size of the parent page.


Parent items on a document page have a dotted border. If you cannot view parent items on a document page, the parent item may be hidden on a lower layer or the parent items may be hidden. Choose Show Parent Items from the Pages panel menu.

Apply a parent to a document page or spread

  • To apply a parent to one page, drag the parent page icon to a page icon in the Pages panel. When a black rectangle surrounds the desired page, release the mouse button.
  • To apply a parent to a spread, drag the parent page icon to a corner of the spread in the Pages panel. When a black rectangle surrounds all pages in the desired spread, release the mouse button.

Apply a parent to multiple pages

  1. Do one of the following:
    • In the Pages panel, select the pages to which you want to apply a new parent. Then press Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) as you click a parent.

    • Choose Apply Parent To Pages from the Pages panel menu, select a parent for Apply Parent, make sure that the page ranges in the To Pages option are the ones you want, and click OK. You can apply a parent to multiple pages at once. For example, you can type 5, 7‑9, 13‑16 to apply the same parent to pages 5, 7‑9, and 13‑16. (See Display absolute or section numbering in the Pages panel.)

Applying a parent to a discontiguous range of pages

Unassign parents from document pages

  1. Apply the None parent from the Parents section of the Pages panel.

    When you unassign a parent from a page, its layout and items no longer apply to the page. If a parent contains most of the elements you want, but you need to customize the appearance of a few pages, you can override parent items and edit or modify them on those document pages instead of unassigning the parent.

Copy parents

You can copy parents within the same document or from one document to another to use as the starting point for a new parent. You can also copy parents to other documents when you synchronize documents in a book or import parent pages from another document.

Copy a parent within a document

  1. In the Pages panel, do one of the following:
    • Drag the page name of a parent spread to the New Page button at the bottom of the panel.

    • Select the page name of a parent spread, and choose Duplicate Parent Spread [spread name] in the panel menu.

When you copy a parent, the page prefix of the copied parent becomes the next letter in the alphabet.

Copy or move a parent to another document

  1. Open the document you want to add the parent to. Then open the document with the parent you want to copy.
  2. In the Pages panel of the source document, do either of the following:
    • Click and drag the parent spread to the destination document’s window to copy it.

    • Select the parent you want to move or copy. Choose Layout > Pages > Move Parent, and choose the destination document name from the Move To menu. If you want to remove the page or pages from the source document, select Delete Pages After Moving, and then click OK.

If the target document already has a parent with the same prefix, the moved parent is assigned the next available letter in the alphabet.

Delete a parent from a document

  1. In the Pages panel, select one or more parent page icons.

    To select all unused parent pages, choose Select Unused Parents in the Page panel menu.

  2. Do one of the following:
    • Drag a selected parent page or spread icon to the Delete icon at the bottom of the panel.

    • Click the Delete icon at the bottom of the panel.

    • Choose Delete Parent Spread [spread name] in the panel menu.

When you delete a parent, the [None] parent is applied to any document page to which the deleted parent was applied.

Override or detach parent items

When you apply a parent page to a document page, all objects on the parent, called parent items, appear on the document page. Sometimes you want a specific page to be only slightly different from a parent. In this situation you don’t need to re-create the parent layout on the page or create a new parent. You can override or detach the parent item, and other parent items on the document page will continue to update with the parent.

Note the difference between overriding and detaching parent items on a document page:

Override parent item attributes

Overriding a parent item puts a copy of it on the document page without breaking its association with the parent page. Once the item itself is overridden, you can selectively override one or more attributes of the item to customize it. For example, you can change the fill color of the local copy. After that, changes to the fill color on the parent page itself will not update to the local copy. However, other attributes, such as size, will continue to update because they have not been overridden on the local copy. Overrides can be removed later to make the object match the parent.

Attributes you can override for a parent page object include strokes, fills, contents of a frame, and any transformations (such as rotating, scaling, shearing, or resizing), corner options, text frame options, lock state, transparency, and object effects.

Detach items from their parent

On a document page, you can detach (disassociate) a parent item from its parent. The item must be overridden on the document page, creating a local copy, before you can detach it. A detached item does not update with the parent because its association with the parent page is broken.

Override a parent item

  1. Make sure the parent item can be overridden.

    You can override a parent item only if Allow Parent Item Overrides On Selection is selected in the Pages panel menu for that item.

  2. Do either of the following:
    • To override specific parent items on a document page, press Ctrl+Shift (Windows) or Command+Shift (Mac OS) and click the item (or drag to select multiple items). Change the selected parent items as desired. The item can now be selected like any other page item, but retains its association with the parent page.

    • To override all parent page items on a document spread, target the spread, and then choose Override All Parent Page Items in the Pages panel menu. You can now select and modify any and all parent items as you wish.

    Once you override any parent item, its dotted bounding box becomes a solid line to show that a local copy has been created.


    If you override a threaded text frame, all visible frames in that thread are overridden, even if they are on a different page in a spread.

Detach a parent item

  • To detach a single parent item from its parent, first override it by pressing Ctrl+Shift (Windows) or Command+Shift (Mac OS) and clicking the item on a document page. Then choose Detach Selection From Parent in the Pages panel menu.
  • To detach all overridden parent items on a spread, override the parent page items you want to detach, and target that spread in the document. (Don’t go to the original parent page.) Choose Detach All Objects From Parent from the Pages panel menu. If the command isn’t available, there aren’t any overridden objects on that spread.

Prevent a parent item from being overridden

In some instances, you want to override all but a few parent items. For example, you may want to override parent items such as background images on a document page, but you want to prevent a page-numbering header from being overridden. By preventing the header from being overridden, you can choose the Override All Parent Items option to override all parent items except for the header.

  1. On the parent page, select the item.
  2. Deselect Allow Parent Item Overrides On Selection on the Pages panel menu.

Parent items that do not allow overrides have no frame edge when displayed on the document page. If you prevent a threaded text frame from being overridden, all text frames in that thread have the same setting applied.

Reapply parent items

If you’ve overridden parent items, you can restore them to match the parent page. When you do this, the object’s attributes revert to their state on the corresponding parent, and will once again update when you edit the parent. The local copy of the object is removed, and the parent item cannot be selected, as indicated by its dotted border. You can remove overrides for selected objects or all objects on a spread, but not across an entire document at once.

  1. Do one of the following:
    • To remove parent overrides from one or more objects, select objects that were originally parent items. In the Pages panel, target a spread and choose Remove Selected Local Overrides in the Pages panel menu.

    • To remove all parent overrides from a spread, in the Pages panel, target the spread (or parent spread) from which you want to remove all parent overrides. Choose Edit >Deselect All to make sure that no objects are selected. In the Pages panel, choose Remove All Local Overrides in the Pages panel menu.

If you’ve detached parent page objects, you cannot restore them to the parent page; however, you can delete the detached objects and reapply the parent to the page.

If you reapply a parent to a page that contains overridden parent page objects, the objects with overrides are detached and all parent page objects reapplied. This may result in two copies of some objects on the page. You’ll need to delete the detached objects to exactly match the look of the parent.

Hide parent items

Use the Hide Parent Items to hide parent page items on one or more pages in your document. Hidden parent items are not printed or output.

  1. In the Pages panel, select the pages and spreads on which you’d like the parent items to be hidden.
  2. From the Pages panel menu, choose Hide Parent Items.

To display parent items again, select the spreads in the Pages panel and choose Show Parent Items from the Pages panel menu.

Import a parent from another document

You can import parents from another InDesign document (any version) into the active document. If your destination document contains parent pages that have different names from any parent page in the source document, those pages and their document page overrides will be unchanged.

  1. In the Pages panel menu, choose Load Parent Pages.
  2. Locate and double-click the InDesign document containing the parent pages you want to import.
  3. Determine what should occur if a loaded parent has the same name as a parent in the current document.
    • Choose Replace Parent Pages if you want the parents from the source to override the destination document’s parents with the same names. If your destination document does not have any overridden items, it is safe to Replace Parent Pages on import.

    • Choose Rename Parent Pages to change the page prefixes to the next available letter in the alphabet.

Once you have imported parents from a source document, a link is set up between the source document and the destination document. When you subsequently load parents from the same source document, the association between overridden items and their parent items on reloaded parent pages is maintained. This association lets you keep parent pages in different documents consistent without putting those documents into a book.

If you want to use this method of keeping parent pages consistent, you should load the parent pages from the source document before overriding any objects on the parent. If your document has overridden items and you have never imported parents from any source, those overridden items become detached the first time you load from a source document and replace parent pages with the same name as the parent parent of the overridden items.

If you subsequently import parents from a different source document, however, and choose Replace Parent Pages, the overridden items may become detached. Any same-named parents from the new source document will be applied to the document page containing overridden items, creating two sets of objects.


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