We all know that I love saving time, especially when it comes to my blog. I definitely don’t want to sacrifice quality, but I don’t want to spend a ton of time doing the same thing over and over again.
There’s one InDesign tool that I’m always using to save time: step and repeat.
While it may sound like a military command, Step and Repeat is actually a really useful tool for graphic designers.
So, what the heck is Step and Repeat?
Step and repeat is easily one of my favorite tools in InDesign, right up there with Pathfinder. It’s a way to create repeating objects at set distances apart. It takes the original object or objects and copies them however many times you’d like.
You can set the controls to repeat an object horizontally at set distances and / or vertically at set distances, as well as in a grid pattern. It makes pattern-making and general repetition super easy in InDesign.
How to Use Step and Repeat to Save Time in InDesign
To use Step and Repeat, you’ll need to open up a document and create an object you’d like to repeat. In this tutorial, I’m going to create a grid of squares to fill in with photos.
1. Draw the shape you want to repeat.
First I drew the square I wanted. I colored it in with black so it was easy to see, but the color didn’t matter to me; the boxes were going to have photos in them anyway.
However, it’s important to note that the settings will remain the same for all of the repeated objects. If you draw a black square, Step and Repeat will create black squares. If you draw a hot pink circle, it will repeat hot pink circles.
2. Edit -> Step and Repeat (Or Command + Option + U)
While the object is selected, go to Edit -> Step and Repeat (or use the shortcut Command + Option + U). A screen will pop up with the options.
3. Change the Repeat + Offset values as needed.
I typically change the Offset variables first, because it can give you an error if the variables are too large for the repeat value. It won’t let you repeat so much that it goes off the page.
Decide on what you want the vertical and horizontal offsets to be. In this case, I want the offsets to be the exact same size as the square itself. I don’t want a gap in between any of the squares. But I don’t want them to overlap each other, either.
I can see in the top menu of InDesign that the width (W) and height (H) are 14p1.2 each. (I use picas, but you can use pixels or inches if you’d like.) So, I plug 14p1.2 into both the Vertical and Horizontal Offset values.
I also wanted to create a grid, so I checked that box. I thought I’d want two rows and 3 columns, so I entered those values.
Voila! Exactly what I wanted.
4. Adjust as needed.
Once I saw this, I realized I actually wanted a square, so I wanted three rows and three columns. Rather than undoing Step and Repeat and redoing it with a bigger grid, I decided to highlight the bottom row and repeat it. You can select more than one object and repeat them, no problem.
I simply unchecked the “Create a grid” box, because I just wanted to repeat the selection once. I also removed the horizontal offset value, because I wanted it to appear directly beneath the selected boxes.
I then changed the colors so I could see the boxes together…
… and then placed picture using File -> Place (or Command + D).
Ta-da! Easy, right? Much better than copying and pasting the box eight times.
Have you ever used Step and Repeat?
This is awesome. Every blog post, I’m literally amazed that you know so many technical graphic design tools!
Thanks, Chelsea! 🙂 That means a lot!
Cynthia @craftoflaughter says
You are such an endless pit of information! I love that you are so willing to share
Thanks! No sense keeping it all to myself 🙂
Sara Strand says
This makes me want to take a class!
You should! InDesign is seriously the best.
Jess Rey says
Nice! You know everything tech wise! I am always learning something new when I visit your site.
🙂 Thanks, Jess!
Shann Eva says
Such a cool tool. Another great tutorial!
What a nice shortcut for Photoshop
Isn’t it?! This one is for InDesign though 😉
Thank you Caitlin for sharing your information – I’m new to InDesign and fumbling around with it. Your tips are very helpful!
Caitlin Honard says
I’m so glad I could help! Let me know if you have any questions as you learn. 🙂