Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2: Working With Text And Graphic Frames

This article is the second part of the Getting To Grips With InDesign Series. We will be covering the following topics:

  • Creating, editing and resizing text frames.
  • Creating and editing graphic frames.
  • Placing graphics into an existing frame.
  • Resizing frames.
  • Converting graphic frames into text frames.
  • Converting shapes.
  • Working with frames and the Pathfinder Tool.
  • Wrapping text around a graphic.
  • Aligning multiple objects and scaling grouped objects.

Don’t forget to take a look at the first “chapter“: Document Basics and Master Pages.

If you like this article, please do spread the word by tweeting, stumbling and digging. There are plenty more InDesign articles on their way, so keep an eye out for them!

Creating, Resizing and Reshaping Text Frames

Open up your document. I am going to be using the document from the last post of this Getting To Grips Series, so feel free to do the same! I’ve actually deleted everything from the original document, but have kept the page layout, bleeds etc the same. This just saves setting it up all over again!

When working with publications such as newspapers and magazines, you’ll find that you will most probably have to work with text frames, therefore they are very widely used and powerful feature offered in InDesign. Text frames are created using the Type Tool, and can be edited in various different ways. The size, location and shape of a frame determines how the text is displayed on the given page.

We’re going to create our own text frame right now. Create a new layer in the layers palette. We’re going to use layers so that we can easily hide all of the text at once without having to manually select it and then hide it. To create a new layer, just click on the new layer icon in the layers palette – if you can’t see it, go to Window > Layers to open it up, or press the F7 key. Rename the layer to Type. The layers are very similar to those we use in Photoshop and Illustrator, so there’s no need for a detailed explanation!

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

With the new layer selected, select the Type Tool. Click and drag a new text frame from our page margin on the left hand side, to the page margin on the right hand side.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

Type something of your choice into the new text frame. I’m going to type “Spyre Studios Rocks!”. If you have finished with this particular text frame, you can automatically adjust it to fit it’s contents. Hover your mouse cursor over the bottom center handle (the little square we use to resize the frame) and double-click. This will automatically make the height of the frame the exact same size as the type that fills it.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

We can also reshape a pre-existing frame. Select your frame again (with the Selection Tool). With the frame now selected, change tools and use the Direct Selection Tool rather than the Selection Tool (the white arrow rather than the black arrow). This tool is similar to the Selection Tool, apart from it lets us edit/resize more accurately, for example, the Selection Tool can select a path, whereas the Direct Selection Tool can select the anchors that make up that path.

With the Direct Selection Tool selected, the four handles in the corners of your frame should have turned into even smaller handles. You can drag these little handles around, reshaping the size of your text frame. The content inside it will automatically fit to this shape, as seen in the screenshot below. Copy and paste your text a few times, and try reshaping your own frame.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

Creating & Editing Graphics Frames

In this section we’re going to be learning how to draw graphics frames, place graphics into your frames, edit existing frames, and replace a frames contents.

First of all, make another new layer and call it “Graphics”. Select the Rectangle Frame Tool from your tools palette. This tool is basically like a standard rectangle shape tool, but allows us to place graphics directly into it. With the tool selected, and us still viewing our graphics layer, drag out a rectangle shape where you would like your image to be displayed.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

Select the Selection Tool, and with the graphics frame still selected, go to File > Place and select an image you would like to insert into your page layout. I’ll be using one of my own photographs.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

You’ll see from the screenshot above that the image has been placed into our graphics frame at its full 100% size, which is clearly far to big for our tiny little frame. By enlarging the graphics frame itself using the Selection Tool and its handles, you’ll notice that it just displays more of the photograph it contains, rather than changing the actual size of the graphic.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

You can also change the shape of the graphics frame by selecting the Direct Selection Tool and then dragging the frames handles – just like we did earlier with the text frames.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

Revert back to what we originally had a couple of screenshots ago, as we’re now going to learn how to resize the image that the placeholder contains, rather than just resizing and reshaping the frame itself.

Doing this is incredibly easy. Instead of using the Selection Tool to resize the photograph, we will be using the Direct Selection Tool. Select the Direct Selection Tool and hover your cursor over the graphics frame. A white hand should appear; by clicking and dragging, you can move the frames contents around.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

When clicking on the frames contents using the Direct Selection Tool, you probably noticed another bounding box come up (the purple line seen in the screenshot below).

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

By clicking on this bounding boxes handles and then dragging, we can resize the frames contents. Remember to hold the Shift-Key to keep the image in proportion.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

The title “Graphics Frame” is pretty much just another way of describing a crop box, as you may now have realised. The frame can give you the ability to resize graphics at any time, without losing any detail, as well as having the power to easily change the shape of the image. Using the Direct Selection Tool, change the shape of the frame.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

Now we’re going to duplicate our frame and replace its contents, a good tip to know if you’re going to be using a lot of images on your pages and want to keep the same style throughout.

Select the frame with your Selection Tool and, whilst holding the Alt-Key, drag your frame onto another area of your page.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

After resizing and moving your graphics frame using the Selection Tool, we can replace the frames contents with a new image. To do this, all you need to is repeat the step we took to put the original image in. Click on your frame using the Selection Tool, and then go to File > Place and select your new image. I’m going to use a colored version of the same image. Use the techniques we used earlier to resize the frames contents. You can also fill the frame with the graphic by going to Object > Fitting and selecting one of the many options, although this is sometimes only suitable for frames with 90 degree corners.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

You can also change the frames shape using the Pen Tool. To do so, all you need to do is select the graphics frame using the Selection Tool, and then select the Pen Tool and click on the frames path to add a new anchor point. Still using the Pen Tool, you can then drag these anchor points out, making them curve in the process. For more on the Pen Tool, check out this guide on

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

Wrapping Text Around a Graphic

Wrapping text around a graphic is probably something you will have to do on a regular basis if you are planning on going into the desktop publishing industry. Unlike simple word processing applications, InDesign offers much more control over what you wrap around your graphics. You have the ability to wrap your text around the frame, or the frames contents, as well as giving your wrap an offset.

We’re going to be wrapping some text around one of the graphics frames we made earlier. Before we start, we need some more text. Using the skills we learnt in the first “Getting to Grips with InDesign” tutorial, insert some text into one of your pages. I’m going to use some Lorem Ipsum dummy text.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

Resize one of your graphics frames and its contents so that it is of a suitable size for what we’re about to do, and place it into the middle of your new text.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

Select your graphics frame with the Selection Tool and then go to Window > Text Wrap to open up the Text Wrap window.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

With the graphics frame still selected, select the Wrap Around Bounding Box option. This will wrap the text around your photos bounding box (the actual size of the image) rather than the graphics frame.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

Select the Wrap Around Object Shape option, and the text will wrap around the Graphics Frame rather than the frames content.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

This option is clearly too squashed due to the odd shape of the frame, but is easily fixed. In your Text Wrap window, you’ll notice several fields where you can put a digit in. The field we’re going to be using is the “Top Offset” field, which will basically add a cushion between the graphics frame and the text. Filling this field in will automatically change the others. I used an offset of 6mm to give me the following results, but you may want to play around with the setting to get a result that suits your frame shape.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

You can also play with various settings which allow you to only wrap the text in certain areas of your image, for example, you could make the text wrap on only the side that is away from the spine by selecting the Side Away From Spine wrap to option.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

Working with Frames & the Pathfinder Tool

The Pathfinder Tool is a powerful editing tool that allows you to subtract shapes from other shapes, add shapes together and so on.

Select the Rectangle Tool and draw a shape over your text as seen below. Fill it with a color of your choice.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

With the Selection Tool selected, select your type and copy and paste it in place to make a duplicate copy of it. With the Selection Tool still selected, click on your new text frame, and whilst holding the Shift-Key, select your new (blue) rectangle. This will select both of your objects at the same time. Go to Object > Pathfinder > Exclude Overlap. This will fill the text area with blue, but subtract the blue rectangle that we already had. Try it out yourself to see what I mean! Also, try giving the other Pathfinder options a go – this is usually a tool you need to experiment with unless you know exactly what you want!

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

I have lowered the opacity of my new shape, and readjusted my type a little to fit its new background. Remember, this isn’t meant to look good – it’s purely to teach you how to use the different InDesign tools.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

We’re now going to add a new image into our page, using another frame. This time we’re going to be converting a shape (created using the shape tool) into a graphics frame. Click on the Rectangle Tool and hold your click until a new group of tools appear. Select the Ellipse Tool and whilst holding the Shift-Key, drag out a circle onto your page.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

With the Selection Tool selected, select your new circle shape. Go to File > Place, and find a graphic to place in to the circle. InDesign will recognize that you are treating the shape like a graphics frame, and will automatically change it into one for you. Change the size of your graphic inside the frame using the Direct Selection Tool like we did earlier on.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

Our text is currently wrapped around our graphic, instead of our graphics frame. Change it so that it wraps around our frame, and give it an offset of 3mm.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

Rotating Graphics Frames & the Images Within Them

There are a couple of ways in which you can rotate a frame in InDesign; either from the control panel, where you have a more control over the precise angles you rotate a frame by, or by using the Rotate Tool, where you can literally click and drag, much like the Transform Tool in Photoshop. Select one of your graphics frames, I’m going to be rotating the frame that contains my black and white Beetle model photograph. With it selected, the control panel at the top contains a bunch of fields, drop-down menus and icons. Locate the Rotation Angle field, and enter a digit, I’ve entered 45 degrees, as seen in the screenshot below.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

Frames can also be edited using the Rotate Tool which can be found in the Tools panel. To use this tool, you simply need to select it, and then click and drag around an image. If you’re not sure of the exact degree you want your frame to sit at, this is the tool to use.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

Rotating the graphic within your frame is just as easy. Instead of selecting your whole frame, use the Direct Selection Tool to select just your frames content. Once you have selected the graphic, use the Rotate Tool to rotate it within the frame. You can also use the more precise Rotation Angle field in the control panel.

Aligning & Scaling Multiple Objects

It’s always handy to be able to align objects to certain areas, whether it be a spread, a singe page or a frame. I’ve purposely moved one of my images so I can teach you how to precisely center it into the middle of the page. To get your alignment window open, go to Window > Object & Layout > Align.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

Select your image with the Selection Tool, and open up your alignment window. We have several options. The first one we need to go to is actually half way down the window, and should default to Align to Selection. Change this to Align to Page.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

Click on both the Align Horizontal Centers and Align Vertical Centers to align our frame directly into the middle of the page. By using different drop-down modes (i.e. page, spread, margins etc) we can get different results.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2

To align multiple objects at the same time, it’s just a matter of selecting them all, and repeating the process. To select them all, select the first object with the Selection Tool, and then select the others whilst holding down the Shift-Key.

We can also group items together to not only align them, but to scale them down (or up), helping to keep everything in proportion with the other elements of the design. Select your two images using the Selection Tool and Shift-Click method, and go to Object > Group. Your objects are now grouped together. With the Selection Tool still selected, you should now be able to rotate, scale and align these items together, using the techniques demonstrated throughout this tutorial. This is especially handy with objects such as icons that are equally spaced, and similar objects.

Getting To Grips With InDesign Part 2


So there we have it, the end of the second part of the “Getting To Grips With InDesign” series. You should now know how to work with frames, and understand why they are used as much as they are. They offer a quick and simple way to crop and resize images without having to actually edit them in another application such as Photoshop.

We’ll be back soon with part three, which will cover how to import text, and working with typography in InDesign. See you soon!


  1. says

    I remember when PageMaker/Quark would crash a lot doing text and graphic frames because of the massive amounts of information. InDesign has much better stability now.

  2. says

    Yeah, but how do you keep it from crashing every five minutes? InDesign does not play well with footnotes.

  3. says

    @Kevin: Are you really experiencing that problem? I never have! What are you running it on and with what specs? Also, what version of ID are you running?

  4. says

    Hey Callum, Could you tell me which free pdf maker is perfect for using with indesign? i need to print my files as pdf and i dont have any idea about it.

  5. says

    Hey Heam, just Cmd/Ctrl-E from InDesign and choose PDF and you have a pretty perfect PDF exporter from ID!

    Great description of handling text and images in InDesign – something I do a lot of! Thanks!

  6. says

    thx Rob ,
    I got another problem , i have a pictures in my master page and then a text for number,
    I want to show page number in front of the picture but i can not do that and the picture comes up :(

    Could you please tell me what i have to do ?

  7. says

    I didn’t know if InDesign CS3 had Text Wrap box or not, but I discovered it in CS4 version and it’s really very successful because it offers you a lot of properties you can use. And there were no crash at all with InDesign at all, only when I do another stuff while InDesign processing. I love InDesign, and thanks for the simple but detailed article, well done.

  8. Flash says

    I want to start learn InDesign very soon. Any good book to recommend.
    Thanks. Also how much is it different from PS or Corel Draw

  9. says

    @Flash: Completely different, it’s a multi-page application, so is used to piece together other elements designed using other applications to create flyers, magazines, newspapers, books or PDFs/eBooks.

  10. Rach says

    Re: CS4: Text-Wrap ‘Detect Edges’ at odds with relinking.

    There is no help that I can find on the details of how, once a ‘detect edges’ text-wrap has been edited to satisfaction, an image can be relinked/re-sized separately from the edited text-wrap path.

    No manual or blog that I have read has addressed this.

  11. Claire says

    I was wondering whether there’s an easy way to automatically vary the color of the text that is overlaid on top of an image that has dark and light areas. In other words, I would like the text that is on top of the dark portion of the image to be white, and the text that is on top of the light portion of the image to be black. Right now I can only do this manually which can be very time consuming. Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks.


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