InDesign is an amazing tool to utilize, whether you’re a blogger, a small business owner, or a social media manager.
But, just like with any new software program, it can be really intimidating the first
few hundred times you open it. That’s the downside of a program with so many amazing features: it’s hard to know which ones to start with!
So, for all of the InDesign beginners out there, don’t be intimidated by InDesign! Here are the 7 tools you should start with.
1 | Selection
The most basic tool in InDesign is the Selection tool. It’s the black arrow tool, and it’s the one that’s automatically selected when you first open the program.
This is what you’ll use any time you need to select an object (or objects) in your document. You can either click on an object directly, or click and drag over one or more objects to select them.
Once you have an object selected, you can move it, change the color, change the shape, etc.
If you’re having trouble, there are two things to check:
- Make sure you’re using the black arrow tool, not the white arrow tool. That one will select things quite differently.
If you’re clicking and dragging, make sure you’re not initially clicking on an object. If you start over an object, it’s going to select that one object and move it wherever you’re dragging the mouse, rather than selecting anything you’re mousing over.
2 | Object
Next, there’s the object tool. In your toolbar, it’s the one that looks like a plain rectangle. If you click and hold that icon, you can also choose an ellipse tool and a polygon tool.
For starters, focus on the rectangle tool. Click on it in the toolbar so it’s highlighted, and then click and drag to create your rectangle on your workspace. It’s pretty straightforward, like drawing an object in Microsoft Word (or even Paint!).
Once you’re done drawing the object, it will be selected automatically. If you want to draw another rectangle, just repeat the process. No need to click away from the selected object!
If you click once (rather than clicking and dragging), a dialogue box will pop up asking you for dimensions. If you type in dimensions, it will create a rectangle for you with those specific dimensions. Pretty handy!
3 | Color Palette / Swatches
Now that you have your objects, let’s add some color! There are two main places to select your color(s) from: the color palette in the sidebar and the Swatches window.
After you have your object selected, go to the toolbar and find the color palette. It’s at the very bottom, and has a square overlapping a square with a hole in the middle. The square is the fill of your object, and the square with the hole in the middle is your outline, or stroke.
First, let’s go over the fill. Double-click the solid square and a color box will pop up. You can select your color using the big color box and slider, or you can type in specific CMYK, RGB, Lab, or Hex values if you know them. Click okay, and the object is now filled with that color!
Conversely, you can choose to color it in with your Swatches window. Typically it’s going to be on the right side of your window. If you don’t see it, go up to Window > Color > Swatches and it will appear.
InDesign pre-fills some common colors for you (paper, black, cyan, magenta, yellow, red, green, and blue), but you can also create a new swatch by clicking the post-it note icon at the bottom of the window, or by selecting the hamburger menu and choosing “add a swatch.”
To use the color, select your object, make sure the solid square is on top of the square with the hole in it, and select the swatch you want to use!
Swatches are really nice for saving a color you’re going to be using all the time — like your brand colors!
4 | Stroke
Now that we’ve filled in your object, let’s add some outlines! To do this, select your object and go to the Stroke window. If you don’t see it on the right side of your screen (I like to keep mine right by Swatches), go to Window > Stroke.
Once you’ve got your Stroke window, go to the top box, which says Weight. This value determines how thick your object’s outline is. You can either type in a value or select from the dropdown menu.
Once you have a stroke, use the square with a hole in the middle to give it a color. Make sure it’s on top of the solid square; whichever one is on top is the one your color will be applied to.
If you want to change the look of your outline, you can do that in the Stroke window, too! Go down to the dropdown labeled Type: and choose a new style. Play around with them to see which one gives you the vibe you want.
Making a really attractive worksheet here, guys.
5 | Eye Dropper
Next up is the eye dropper tool! You might recognize this guy from programs like Microsoft Paint, but he’s beefed up a bit in InDesign!
Rather than simply helping you pick an exact color, the eye dropper tool in InDesign allows you to copy every single style applied to an object: the fill, the stroke, the drop shadow, etc.
Simply select the new object (the one whose style you want to change, not the one whose style you want to duplicate) and choose the eye dropper tool from the menu. Then, click on the object with the styles you want to copy, and bam! Styles applied.
If you’re just looking to select a color, you can do that from the color palette tool. Double-click on the fill or stroke box (whichever one you want to be the color you’re selecting) and locate the eye dropper next to the hex value box. Click and hold until you’re hovering over the color you want (don’t lift your finger off of your mouse / trackpad until you’re over the color) and click OK to apply it!
6 | Text
Designs typically aren’t all objects and colors, though, right? For most of your projects, you’re going to want words on them!
Well good news, adding text is just about as easy as adding objects! Simply click on the text tool in the toolbar (it’s the one that looks like a T), draw a box where you’d like text to appear, and start typing!
To format your text, highlight whatever words you want to stylize, and choose your font at the top of the screen. For the most part, it’s set up just like Microsoft Word.
Just like with objects, you can choose the color and stroke of your text! Just keep in mind that you can change the colors of your text and the text box. When you’re changing the color of your text, you’ll see a T in the color palette boxes, and when you’re changing the color of your text box, it will just be a square.
The text will only appear within the constraints of the text box. So if you make your text too big, or if it’s too long, some words might disappear. To fix this, either make the text box bigger or your font smaller!
7 | Align
And finally, align. You can use this to align different objects and create equal spacing between objects.
To open Align, go to Window > Object & Layout > Align. Select the objects you want to align or distribute, and select whichever button you want to use! For the most part, you have to let the icons tell you what each button will do, so play around with it.
I really like using Distribute Spacing near the bottom of the window. You can distribute the spacing horizontally or vertically. It’s super convenient — no more guessing, eyeballing, or doing a ton of math to figure out if your objects are evenly spaced!
Using a combination of align and distribute is sure to clean up your design really easily!
See? There’s no need to be intimidated by InDesign. It’s quite user-friendly! You just have to know where to look.
If you’re interested in getting more in-depth knowledge about InDesign, check out my course, the InDesign Adventure Guide! You’ll learn all about how to use InDesign as a blogger and business owner. Plus, you’ll walk away with a completed worksheet and ebook that you can immediately use to monetize!