Mastering the Basics : InDesign

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Many of us subscribe to the entire Adobe Creative Cloud suite of products because we need several of the applications. And while you may be well versed in applications like Lightroom, Photoshop, Illustrator or others; you probably haven’t had a chance to explore all the applications available in the suite. So here is you chance to take a quick peak under the covers of Adobe InDesign to see if you could be taking advantage of the program you already have on your desktop.

InDesign is the Adobe CC application to specifically address desktop publishing and typesetting needs. It is a powerful tool used to create such deliverables as posters, flyers, brochures, magazine or newspaper pages, books and ebooks. And the good news is that it is easy to use right out of the box (or off the internet) especially if you are already familiar with Adobe applications.

Getting Started

Open InDesign to see the same familiar starter page, which allows you to Open an existing design or Create New one. Choosing Create New opens the New Document dialog box. Across the top you can see and use Recent or Saved formats, or choose your document layout based on Intended Use (Print, Web and Mobile) with subsections for document size and Layout Templates for many common deliverables.

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Choosing a template is the fastest way to create an InDesign document, but may not cover all you want to do with your document. So instead create a custom document by choosing your Intended Output and Size, and then look to the right side of the dialog box. This is where you will set up the width/length of the document, orientation, number of pages (you can always add more later), use of facing pages (using two pages for layout similar to book or magazine), number of columns and the spacing between them (called column gutter), and set your document margins. Click Create to get started on your new design.

Add Frames

Images and text will be placed inside frames on you page. You can create a text frame by choosing the Text Tool from the toolbar, select an area in the document to place the text, and start typing. Or you can create a frame as a placeholder and then add the text. Again select the Text Tool, but now click and drag to create a frame for to hold the text.

The Frame Tool in the toolbar allows you to create placeholders for images and graphics. Using this tool allows you to create rectangular, elliptical and polygonal frames.

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Shape Tools (rectangle, ellipse and polygon) create frames that are unassigned, meaning they can exist independent of text or graphics and are used for backgrounds and formatting elements.

Format Text

Add text using the Text Tool inside a predefined frame, or simply by clicking anywhere on the document. The Properties for the text will appear in the right panel including Font, Size and Style. Properties can be changed on existing text by highlighting the text to be changed and using the Properties panel.

Adobe CC comes with a large number of fonts built-in, but many more choices are available for use through the Adobe Cloud. Select the Font pull-down from the Property menu to see the installed fonts. Choose the Find More panel on the top of the dialog box to find all available fonts for use (your highlighted text will appear in the sample text to let you easily preview the style). Click the Cloud icon on the right of a desired font to download it to your desktop for use.

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Add Images

In the layout of your document or text, create a placement frame with the Frame Tool. With the new frame selected, go to File – Place and select file with the desired image and Open. The image is imported into the frame at 100%. Resize the image by using the Select Tool and clicking on the image. A small circle called the Content Grabber will appear in the middle of the frame and a small brown fame will appear around the artwork. Use the corner grab bars to resize and the Content Grabber to move the image inside the frame.

Add Formatting

Create background elements using the Shape Tools. The Selection Tool will allow you to move the shape around and resize. The Properties panel allows you to select the Fill colors, Stroke Size and Color and Opacity amount. Selecting multiple objects will let you control their alignment. The Quick Action – Convert Shape allows for modification of the original design - so convert a square into a circle for example.

Additionally, it is in the Properties panel that you will control the order of appearance for the shape. Use the Quick Action – Arrange to Bring to Front, Bring Forward, Send Backwards or Send to Back relative to other shapes, text and images on the page.


To output the document for use outside of InDesign, choose File – Export, choose file name, destination location and Format. Adobe PDF will be your most popular choice, but take a quick look at your other options. The Export Adobe PDF dialog box will walk you through your options.

To share your InDesign project, you will need to package all the placed images, text, fonts, etc. Do this through File – Package.

While this brief tutorial in no way explores all the powerful options available in Adobe InDesign, I hope it at least gives you confidence to start to use this powerful tool for your desktop publishing needs.

Photo credits: Darrati10, Ghassan Safi, Grounder, Rawpixelimages.

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