When you have a document open in InDesign, click the Pages palette (or if you don’t see the palette, go to Windows>Pages and it will bring it up… usually at the top of your Palettes). You’ll notice it is divided into two sections. The one on top features your Master pages and the one on bottom shows the currect layout of your document and its included pages.
Master pages allow you to create layouts that will govern how the pages look. For example, if you had a document that included a cover page, four two-column pages for stats and a backcover page – you could create a Master page for the covers and one for the other four pages. The interior pages, rather than setting up columns manually on each page, could be done in a new Master page you create.
To create a new Master page, right click the Master Pages section of the Pages palette and select New Master. The dialog gives you a Prefix (which I would leave for it’s default), a Name (which you can change to something you will recognize, like two-column), a Based on Master dropdown (which I usually leave set for None since it’s a new Master), and Number of Pages (which you will need set for two if you are using facing pages, but one if you are not).
Once you click ok, you can go to the Master Page you just created, click it to highlight it, and now the Master page you will be working on is shown in the main window. In this state you can add anything from background graphics you want to be consistent on each similar page, to page numbers and column and margin guides. In our example you would go to Layout>Margins and Columns and set the number of columns to two (If you don’t know what the gutter size you need is, I would leave it set for the default).
Click OK and you’re new Master page should display the guides for a two-column layout. Now look back at your Pages palette at the bottom section where it shows your actual pages. By default they will have a little A in the upper left or right corner, depending on the orientation. This is the Prefix of the Master page that is being used. You can select and drag the Master page you just created to whichever page you wanted to change to a two-column and this will change the guides for that page.
Be careful not to begin working in your Master page unless you want it to carry over to all it’s subordinate pages. Click the page you want to work on in the Pages palette to begin working in it.
Something else I need to note, when you drag a Master page to one of the working pages, If it shows a vertical black bar next to the page, that will add a new page. if you drag it into the page you want to work from and that page has a stroke around it, then this will set the Master page you are using for that page.
I’ll cover how to establish page numbers and such in a later post.