Design a Fun Invoice Template with Illustrator and InDesign

You’re a designer: your invoices need not be boring! Follow this tutorial to set up a fun yet professional-looking invoice template using Adobe Illustrator and InDesign.

Final Result

Here’s the finished invoice. It’s got a nice border reminiscent of envelopes, icons to mark the designer and the client info, a project thumbnail, nice typography and a clear layout.

Creating the border pattern

Open Illustrator and create a new A4 document with a 3 mm bleed area (click on Advanced if you don’t seee this option) (1a). The document is created with a traditional artboard and red guides to mark the bleed area (1b).
01

Create 4 horizontal stripes: one blue, one white, one red and another white one. Don’t just fill them with solid colors, they’re flat! Use light gradients instead to make them appear slightly rounded (2a). Group the 4 stripes together and place many copies until you have covered an area roughly twice as big as the artboard (2b).
Select all the stripes, hit Cmd+G to group them together then pick Transform > Shear from the right-click menu. Choose Vertical and -45° to make the pattern slanted (2c).
02

Create a rectangle as big as the bleed area on top of the stripes (3a). Shift-select the stripes and hit Cmd+7 to create a clipping mask. Now the stripes are cropped to the bleed area (3b).
Save the file as “border-pattern.ai”
03

Importing the pattern to InDesign

Open InDesign and hit Cmd+N to create a new document. Select the A4 size and set both the margins and the bleeds to 3 mm (4a). The document is created with the appropriate guides (4b).
04

In the Pages palette double-click on the A-Master thumbnail (5a). We want to create a template that can be applied to any page. Hit Cmd+D or choose Place from the File menu and select the “border-pattern.ai” file. Snap it to the bleed guides to place it in the document (5b).
05

Start organizing the Layers: the bottom layer contains the stripes and can be locked. Make a new layer and name it “page” (6a). Create a new white Rectangle and snap it to the margin (blue) guides (6b). Give it a thin black stroke too (6c).
06

Completing the master page

Create guides 1 cm off the border and write INVOICE at the top of the page (7a). Now set up guides and placeholder frames (on a separate layer) for the icons, the text frames, the project thumbnail and the table (7b). At the bottom of the page place your logo, a tagline to thank the client for his/her business and a dotted line for your signature (7c). The master page is complete (7d).
07

The designer icon

Go back to illustrator and create a new 48×48 px document. Turn on the grid and the snap features from the View menu. Create a vertical ellipse at the center top of the artboard (8a), filled with a skin-colored gradient (8b).
08

Below the head draw the neck (9a, 9b). Draw a light blue t-shirt, making sure it snaps to the neck (9c, 9d).
09

The hair (10a) snaps to the sides of the head (10b). Add some facial features (10c) and check the icon at 100% zoom. The designer icon is finished (10d).
10

The client icon

Let’s modify the previous icon to create a businessman, i.e. our client.
Create a V cut in the t-shirt and change it to a dark gray gradient to create the suit jacket (11a). Use a copy of the original t-shirt to create a white shirt under the jacket (11b).
11

Add a lapel (12a) and give it a Drop Shadow effect (12b) then mirror the other one (12c). Similarly draw the shirt’s collar (12d).
12

The tie is made with two simple trapezes filled with red gradients, darker where it meets the other garments (13a, 13b). The client icon is finished (13c).
13

Assembling the invoice

Back to InDesign create the text, images and table layers and start working on Page 1 of the document (14a). Place the icons in the document and snap them in place (14b).
14

Add text frames to contain the information regarding the designer and the client (15a). Create another text frame to contain the project details and import the project thumbnail (15b). The thumbnail has a light drop shadow to lift it from the page (15c).
Of course the text frames go on the text layer and the icons and the thumbnail on the images layer.
15

The table

Don’t forget to add the invoice number at the top right corner (16a). Now we can hide the placeholder frames and see what we have so far (16b).
16

Create a text layer for the table, double-click it then go to Insert > Table. Set it up as in image 17a. Fill the header row with a desaturated medium blue and fill the remaining rows alternately with white and light blue (17b).
17

When you select a row you can set its text style from the option bar (18a). Start adding the column title and adjust the row’s height as you please (18b).
18

The cells containing the items need to be left-aligned, the quantity column center-aligned and the money sums right-aligned (19a, 19b). Complete the table by filling in the remaining information (19c).
19

Finishing the template

Zoom out and see that the tagline needs to be aligned with the table (20a) so do that (20b). You can add another text frame below the table and enter some notes, for example payment details (20c). The template is finished (20d).
20

Conclusion

We now have a master page that contains all the elements that never change (the page border, the title, the logo, the tagline and the guides) and a regular page with all the text and image elements that need to be edited each time we create an invoice.
After a few adjustments the same template can be used for estimates so you can have a pretty neat stationery consistent with your outlook. In fact I encourage you to use a page border that matches your company colors or website.
Another nice touch is to create a female icon for women clients (and of course for yourself if you’re a woman designer). I just made a generic white male icon here but of course you should make your icon look more like yourself by matching your hairdo, skin color and clothing style.
Have fun designing your templates and may they bring you a lot of good business!

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30 Very Welcome Comments:

  • Heh – awesome :-D

    I particularly like your take on the client/designer images! Could you maybe come up with examples on how you’d make the female counter-parts of the two?

    /kind regards

  • Haha to the above comments! /\ This is a really cool idea though! It would definitely make me more happy to pay my bill if I saw this from someone I hired. Design detail into every aspect of your business is important, even in an invoice!

  • damian says:

    hihi looks nice! cool idea!

  • Marius says:

    You could have used Object > Trasnform > Move to create the pattern faster. I was thinking a few days ago to make an envelope in Illustrator with the same kind of pattern (for the border). This helps me. Thanks!

  • Bam says:

    one thing to note about inDesign is that while you can design in this environment but the actual use is for something entirely different and i think you missed the major point of it.

    you see, you could have made the invoice in illustrator and manually entered the data, but since you have this design available in inDesign you can link the design with another data file (XML or Excel or etc) to automatically generate the data for you.

    we use inDesign to generate 100s and 1000s of business cards we need or make custom letters, invoices or other promo prints companies send to their customers to show their unique name and address (it makes mass produced letters more personal)

    and of course you primarily use inDesign to make books, booklets, brochures and magazines

    but THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS >>> inDesign is not for designing… design in illustrator or photophop and place/link the files inside the inDesign template!

    • Andrea says:

      I understand your point and believe me I’ve worked in print for many years so I know exactly how InDesign is used in a production environment.
      However it doesn’t make any sense to have external text files when you only have a few paragraphs, that’s why I created everything directly in InDesign. And don’t forget that this tutorial is aimed at design individuals, especially freelancers and not big companies.

      • bam says:

        Andrea, i didn’t mean what i said as a criticism, instead it was just a pointer on the actual purpose of the software. i’m sure most freelance, independent designers won’t spend $1,000 to $1,500 buying an adobe software bundle and use it the wrong way. unless they didn’t pay for it, if you know what i mean ;)

        however, for what is included in this tutorial, an illustrator only version would work best. you can create one illustrator file to have the fixed elements (graphics) and have it linked in another illustrator file that handles manual data entry. don’t you think that’s better? and cheaper? instead of “buying” 2 softwares you accomplish it all with just one.

        don’t get me wrong i like your invoice design

      • Andrea says:

        Your suggestion is definitely interesting.
        My reason for using InDesign is because there aren’t many tutorials that use it. Also InDesign handles text better than Illustrator.
        Designers usually buy the whole Creative Suite and use InDesign for their letterhead and brochures.
        Thanks for pointing out an alternative way of accomplishing this.

  • Daniel says:

    Hi,

    Great guide, loved it! What is that font you are using? It looks very sleek.

  • Grafiker says:

    Great Design. It look awesome. Especially the little images of Client and Designer. Beautyful :) Thank you for sharing.

  • ZEDAN says:

    I hope if there is away in inDesign to sums the values and gives the total automaticly (like Excel) ffor example.

  • Gareth says:

    I am having problems :(

    I’ve made the border and saved it as border-pattern.ai but when I place it in to the indesign document it looks pixelated:

    http://drp.ly/Mso6r

    What am I doing wrong? Can we download this template, by the way?

    Many thanks,
    Gareth

    • Andrea says:

      Don’t worry, it’s just InDesign’s preview mode set to “typical display”. You can change that to “high quality” from the View menu. Your PDF will look perfect no matter what setting you use.

  • Diana says:

    Excellent tutorial, Andrea! I´ts exactly what I was looking for, no more boring invoices :)

  • madridko says:

    Great tutorial Andrea.
    I was asked for an invoice solution for a small company, I´ll create some boooring excel template (that´s what they ask for), then I´ll bill them with some clever invoice design.

    Thank you.
    mdk

  • Cat says:

    Hi

    I really love the tutorial but i m TOTALLY idiot when it comes to using Illustrator.

    Do you think you can provide me the download for the border pattern, designer and client icon? Would appreciates if you can help me? Please???

    i am using CS3.

    Many thanks!

    Cat

    • Andrea says:

      Sorry I can’t share the source files. The icons are taken from my commercial set SEO icons on Iconkitchen.com

      • Sinom says:

        Hello Andrea!

        Will the template be available for download without the icons?

        Would be much appreciated, as I don’t know much about InDesign – But I love the design :)

        Hugs

  • David says:

    Brilliant tutorial! Working on some invoices now and trying to take it a step further by exporting a PDF with blank fields and making them fillable in Acrobat, so anyone with the PDF can use the invoice. Love your aesthetic :)

  • Awesome tutorial. Thanks for putting it together

  • Chris Peters says:

    Great tutorial. Thanks for sharing your knowledge :)
    Chris
    http://nirvaha.com/invoice-template.html

  • Dewald says:

    Hi Andrea,

    Great tutorial! is there any chance that you could provide the source files without any commercial icons or stock images? Would be fantastic if you could :)

    Thanks once again for the tutorial!

    Dewald

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