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Design is a really important aspect of marketing and blogging. But it can take so much time to create attractive designs!
Throughout the 12 years that I’ve been using InDesign and Photoshop, I’ve discovered some awesome ways to design productively that don’t compromise the design. They’re shortcuts that do exactly what I’d already been doing — but Adobe does it for me!
Here are my favorite tricks to design productively.
Align Objects with the Press of a Button
Spacing and alignment are crucial when it comes to design. A whole flier can be thrown off if one piece of text isn’t quite lined up with the rest. Sure, you can spend a ton of time trying to use Smart Guides in InDesign to get everything lined up exactly. Or you can type the appropriate X or Y location into the top of the screen for each element. But there’s an easier way!
Simply open up the Align window (if it doesn’t already show up on your screen, go to Window > Object & Layout > Align), highlight all of the objects you want to line up, and select the appropriate button for how you want them to line up. There are six options: left side, vertical middle, right side, top, horizontal middle, and bottom.
Here’s what it looks like when I line up six rectangles along the left side:
You’ll notice they all lined up to the left side of the object that was farthest to the left. If you want to align them to a specific object, click on that object before selecting your alignment.
Here I’ve selected all of the objects, then clicked on the one I want them to align to, and then pressed the align button, and they lined up to that specific object.
Distribute Spacing Evenly
Similarly, you can use the Align tool to distribute spacing between objects. For the longest time, I would do a lot of math on scratch paper or create spacer objects to place between different objects and then delete so they would be evenly spaced. But it’s so much easier than that!
Simply open the Align window and click on Distribute Spacing. You can distribute spacing vertically or horizontally — the icons are pretty clear on which one does which. The objects on each end stay where they are, and the objects in the middle space themselves evenly between the two. It’s pretty amazing! Here’s what it looks like with those same rectangles:
The nice thing about these two tools is you just have to get the objects you want into your document and press a few buttons, then you’re done! Here’s what it looks like when you have a jumble of rectangles you want to align and distribute evenly:
So much faster than doing everything by hand!
Use Pathfinder to Create Simple Shapes
While the circle, rectangle, and polygon tools in InDesign are great, there are so many other shapes you’re likely going to want. You could take the time to draw those by hand with the pen or pencil tools, but that would take a really long time. Instead, depending on the object you’re looking to create, you can use the Pathfinder tool to add or subtract objects to or from each other.
Here’s how we can make a crescent moon from two circles using Pathfinder:
If you’re interested in exploring Pathfinder, check out my full tutorial!
Utilize Page Masters for Repeating Design Elements
If you’re creating a multi-page document, you’re likely going to have repeating elements on some of your pages. You could copy and paste these onto each page… or you could create those elements once in a page master and automatically apply them to all of your pages at once.
To create a page master, go to the Pages window. If you don’t have it on your screen already, go to Window > Pages. You’ll notice a list of your pages, but above it should be a horizontal line with another section above it. You might only be able to see [None] with a white rectangle next to it, but if you drag the horizontal line down, you should also see A-Master, B-Master, C-Master, and so on. The masters are the backdrop for any of your pages.
Click on the rectangle next to A-Master to design it, then go back to Page 1 by double-clicking it to see what your A-Master looks like on the real page. A-Master is the default, but you can make as many as you want! To switch the master, drag the rectangle next to the master over the page you want to change.
Keep in mind you won’t be able to edit anything on the master once you’re on a specific page, so you don’t want to include text boxes unless it will be the same text on every single page (like the book title or your website name, for example). The exception is the page number: you can create a placeholder and it will automatically fill in the page number for you.
Here’s what it looks like if I add two horizontal pink bars to the top and bottom of my A-Master on a worksheet:
Create Templates for Commonly Used Designs
If you’re going to be creating a lot of very similar designs, create a template to design productively. Simply create an InDesign, Photoshop, or Pages document (or whatever software you’re using!) that will be the unedited “template” file. It’s not a different file type; it’s a standard file that you copy and paste into a new folder and then edit the new copy. This is useful for blog post images, social media images, ebooks, worksheets, and more!
I’ve got a Photoshop file that I keep in a specific “Template” folder on my computer, and I copy and paste it into a new folder for each blog post. Here’s what it looked like when I created the blog post header for this blog post:
See how easy that was? That gif wasn’t spend up; it was in real time. It took me way less time than if I had to recreate the entire file from scratch.
Buy Low-Cost Elements to Design Productively
And finally, the best way to design productively is to have someone else do the hard work for you. And it doesn’t have to be expensive! Websites like Creative Market and GraphicRiver have really low-cost elements that you can purchase, download, and bring into your files for really cheap.
If it would take you an hour to design an icon that you could buy for $5, see if it’s in your budget to buy the $5 version! Your hour is worth more than $5.
Designing things in less time doesn’t mean it has to look thrown together! Once you learn tricks to use design software productively, you’ll wonder how it took you so long in the first place.
P.S. Interested in learning more about InDesign? I’ve got a course for that! Save your spot in the InDesign Adventure Guide for $247.