Even though Adobe InDesign is great for self-publishing, it’s tough to become familiar with all of its tools and making basic edits.
1. Creating a document
After launching InDesign, create your first document (File>New>Document). You need to know whether your document will be printed or digitally published, and then you can enter your desired size for width and height according to your project.
Selecting the number of pages right away is not super important because you can add more as you work.
However, it is very important to decide whether you prefer landscape or portrait orientation, and if you want a facing or single page layout, because changing this while you’re in the middle of your project will be more complicated.
You can set a number of columns for your pages, and also margins and bleeds, which are especially useful in projects for print but not as much for digital ones.
Margins and bleeds will ensure the whole document will look right during printing, without blank borders or important elements being cut off.
2. Planning the layout
If you want to plan thoroughly, you should have a sketch or general idea of how your pages should look before even opening InDesign. After creating your document, you will be able to shape your layout following your sketch. It will be much easier than doing everything from scratch!
Using the rectangle and the frame tools, define all your general areas which you will be able to fill with color, images and text. If you want, you can also use ellipses, polygons and draw custom shapes with the pen tool to make your layout more dynamic.
Try moving the shapes around with the selection tool to choose the best placement for your elements.
3. Adding images
Images should be ready before importing them into InDesign because you will not be able to edit them in any way (besides cropping and resizing them) in your InDesign document.
You can use images to add illustrations and photos to your documents or make beautiful backgrounds for your publications.
To bring the images into your document, use the Place command (File>Place). Use the selection tool to move them and adjust them into the frames you created.
4. Using text
You can drag the text tool over the desired areas of your document to add text, or simply fill with text shapes you created by clicking on them with the tool selected.
You can change the document’s fonts, size, color and alignment from the menu panel in any moment, so take the time to experiment with all the variables you have at your disposal depending on your project.
If you want to check placement and style of your text before the final draft, you can use the placeholder text fill option (Type>Fill with Placeholder Text).
5. Some other useful tools
The eyedropper tool is one of your best InDesign tools. With it, you can copy and paste from one part of your document to the other in a cinch.
The measure tool is likewise very handy if you want make sure your document is precise. Drag it from one point to another to know the details, such as position, distance, angle, width and height, of any object.
The transform tools are also quite useful to scale, rotate and distort objects in your document. Don’t forget to hold the Shift key to make all your transformations proportional.
Practice makes perfect!
InDesign is an advanced software for creating custom publications both for digital platforms and for print. Given the level of customization InDesign offers, it can be difficult to achieve the result you are after when you first start using it.
The more you play around with InDesign, the better you’ll become at it!
Edited in InDesign CC. Sample image by Alfred Borchard.