Before starting your designing on Adobe InDesign, you should work out your design on paper. This gives a structure to your further work on the software. The image below illustrates how that would be helpful-

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After this, there are some simple steps that take you through InDesign in a smooth way. These steps are given below:

The Interface

The tools on the left hand side are linked to the customization options at the top of the screen. The options on top of the screen will change depending on what you have selected on the left hand side tool bar. For example- text tool

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The tool bar looks like this, and the icons have the following functions:

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The Window menu is very useful in InDesign. This menu at the top of the screen is linked to the panels available to you on the right hand side of the screen.

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Step I. Set up Units of Measurement

PC : Edit -> Preferences -> Units and Increments

Mac: InDesign -> Preferences -> Units and Increments

InDesign has a wide choice of many units of measurement. For many, the unit of choice for typesetting and publication design is picas and points. These can be understood as follows:

  • point is a unit of measurement that is the standard for measuring type and is used for measuring depth of printing. One point is equal to .013836 of an inch and 72 points are approximately 1 inch.
  • A pica is a typesetting unit of measurement commonly used for measuring lines of type. One pica equals 12 points. There are 6 picas to an inch.
  • A standard US letter size page is 8.5 by 11 inches or 51 by 66 picas. (6 picas are approximately 25 mm).
  • The letter p is used to designate picas as in 22p or 6p. With 12 points to the pica, half a pica would be 6 points written as 0p6. 17 points would be 1p5 (1 pica = 12 pts, plus the leftover 5 pts).

A measurement guide is given below for a better understanding of these units and their conversion to other units –

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Some typical poster dimensions are listed below, along with selections of units and increments.

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Step II. Choosing Colors

Colors or Fills on Shapes can be selected through the “Color picker” or the “Swatch” panel.

Color picker:
Double click on the small box at the bottom of the tool bar to access the color picker.

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Step III. Creating Curvy Lines or Unique Shapes

For making a straight line curvy, the main tool used is the pen tool (icon and a typical straight line shown below)

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The next step is to drag on the Anchor point with the “Convert Direction Point tool” – then use the “Convert Direction point tool” handles to modify the line or edge as shown below-

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Step IV. Placing Images and Text

In InDesign, you have the “place” option instead of the usual “insert” option.

File -> Place -> (Select image) or File -> Place -> (Select document -word file)

If you need to strip out formatting from a word file, you can use Show Import Options.

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Step IV. Modifying Text/Threading Text

When you select the Type Tool on the left side, options in the tool bar at the top change according to the selection. You can click on character and paragraph controls. Type on Path tool allows you to type on a non-straight line.

You can edit text in Word or in the Story Editor in InDesign –

Edit -> Edit in Story Editor

In order to thread text from one text box to next –

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Step V. Pasting symbols from Illustrator into Indesign

In Illustrator : Windows> Symbols
Use the menu options from the Symbols panel to Open Symbol Library

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Step VI. Frames as Placeholders

You can also use frames as placeholders in InDesign. Draw out a frame – Select the frame and then Place the image into the framec.

(Tip* if you need a circular frame- Use the Ellipse Frame tool and hold the shift key to constrain your proportions while drawing it out – you will have a circle). From there you can use Fitting Controls to size your image to the space you have designated for it.

Object > Fitting

Step VII. Text Wrap on Image

Place your image as you would normally. Place text on top of the image where you want it. Then Select the Image (not the text) and open the Text Wrap panel ( Window -> Text Wrap)

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Adjust your text wrap options- Tip* contouring to the Alpha Channel will give you a tighter wrap.

Step VII. Finalizing your Document

You can export your document as a PDF: File -> Export

Tip: If you think you will be using different versions of InDesign (Eg. CS5 and CS6 versions) for your project, be sure to save as not only InDesign file but to save an additional copy of your document by exporting as an IDML file. The IDML file allows to work in various versions.

File -> Export -> Export as IDML file