Working with Objects in InDesign

InDesign allows you to compile many different types of files and media into one singular document. With the variety of media types used in the program each piece of the design is created as an object in InDesign. At first this can be confusing for beginners, but once you understand how the objects work it makes manipulating items much easier.

Each object gives you the ability to manipulate the object itself, i.e. the bounding box containing the media, and also the media inside of the object. You might think of an object as a box in which to wrap a gift. You can change the appearance of the box with wrapping paper and bows, but you can also change the appearance of the gift inside the box if you wish to.

Creating Objects

Choosing Objects from toolbar

Choosing Objects from toolbar

An object can be any shape. The first step to creating an object is to decide what shape you want. For drawing standard shapes you will use the Frame tool. Initially it shows the Rectangular Frame tool, but if you right click on the icon you will get a pop-out with options for an rectangle, ellipse, or polygon.
If you choose one of these shapes you can then click and draw a shape. If you want to have a square or circle, hold down the shift key while drawing your shape. It will constrain the proportions to create a symmetrical shape.

Once you have drawn your object you then have the ability to manipulate it as you wish. You could leave it as a graphic shape, perhaps giving it a color. Or you could add text or a graphic image inside of the shape.

Three object shapes with three different types of content: color, text, and image

Three object shapes with three different types of content: color, text, and image

Solid Colors

To add colors to an object, you use the Swatches window. If it isn’t visible you can always go to WINDOW > COLOR > SWATCHES. The swatch window will be added to your tools on the right side of the screen. From here you can create new swatches or select existing ones.

Swatches

Text

To add text to an object you will need to use the type tool. In the toolbar on the left it is the icon with the capital T. Once you select the type tool you can then click on an object and it becomes an area for adding text.text tool

Images

If you wish to add an image to an object you will need to place the image into the object. This is done by going to FILE > PLACE… (or using cmd + D). You will then see a window to browse your computer and choose an existing image from your hard drive. The object will show the image you choose as a linked file. It’s important to understand that the image will be linked to your document, not permanently relocated into the document. This is important if you decide to later delete or move files on your computer. If you delete or move the linked file InDesign will no longer show the image.

Manipulating content within objects

This is where beginners start to get confused with InDesign. You have mastered creating objects and adding different media types, but then you need to adjust the content within an object.

Text

When you want to manipulate text in InDesign you must use the type tool. To get into the text box you can choose the type tool and then click inside a text object, or you can double click on the text box while the select or direct select tool is active. Double-clicking with the select tools will automatically change you to the type tool and allow you to edit the text as needed.

Images

Working with images within objects is probably the most confusing thing you will do at first. I promise if you pay attention to a few things you will have it mastered in no time. When you hover over an image that has been placed into an object you will see a small double circle in the center of the image.

selected object in InDesign
This area allows you to move the image within the object. If you click on the double circle you will notice that the image outline changes to yellow letting you know that you are now working with the image itself, not the image object. If you move, rotate, or resize the image, the image object will stay the same size, shape, and orientation but the image within it will adjust. Conversely, if you want to move, rotate, or resize the image object you will need to click somewhere on the image, but not on the double circle. When you do this the image will have a blue outline.

To simplify, the color out the outline when you select lets you know if you’re working with the image object or the image within the object.

Blue outline = image object selected
Yellow outline = image selected

Scaling Images within an object

Often you will drawn an object on the page and place an image within it that is much larger than the object. When you place the image you will see a small section of the full-size image. Obviously you want the image to fit within the object you created. You can adjust this manually by clicking in the double circle area and then grabbing the bounding box and resizing. InDesign also has some automatic tools available. If you right click on the image there will be a menu item labeled “Fitting”. Inside are some options for automatically adjusting the image size.

  • Fit Frame Proportionally: will detect whether the image is more similar to the object shape (the frame) in width or height and adjust the image accordingly to fit.
  • Fit Content Proportionally: will detect the long edge of the image and shrink the image so that the entire image fits within the frame.
  • Fit Frame to Content: will adjust the size of the object (frame) to match the size of the image
  • Fit Content to Frame: will adjust the image to fit the exact size of the object, possibly stretching and distorting the image.
  • Center Content: centers the image within the object

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