Add Fills to InDesign CS5 Shapes - dummies

By Jennifer Smith, Christopher Smith, Fred Gerantabee

You can fill (color) InDesign Creative Suite 5 shapes easily, with colors, transparent colors, and gradients. Fills help shapes achieve artistic effects and illusions of depth and add interest to a page design.


The Tools panel contains two color swatches: one for the stroke of the shape you draw (a hollow square) and one for the fill (a solid box). If the Fill box contains a color, your shape will be filled with that color when you draw it. If the Fill box has a red line through it, the shape is created without a fill.

Fill a shape

You can fill a shape in several different ways. One of the most common ways is to specify a color in the Fill swatch before you create a new shape.

  1. Make sure that the Fill box is selected so that you aren’t adding color to the stroke instead.

  2. Open the Color panel by choosing Window→Color→Color.

  3. Select a color in the Color panel.

    You can enter values into the CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) fields manually or by using the sliders. Alternatively, you can use the Eyedropper tool to select a color from the color ramp at the bottom of the Color panel.

    The Fill box in the Tools panel is updated with the new color you’ve selected in the Color panel.

  4. Create a new shape on the page.

    Select a shape tool and drag on the page to create a shape. The shape is filled with the fill color you chose.

As in the other Creative Suite 5 applications, you can create tints of a color built with CMYK by holding down the Shift key while dragging any color’s slider. All color sliders then move proportionally.

You can also choose to use color swatches to select a fill color by using the Swatches panel (choose Window→Color→Swatches to open the Swatches panel).

Create a new color swatch (of the present color) by clicking the New Swatch button. Double-click the new swatch to add new color properties by using sliders to set CMYK color values or by entering numbers into each text field.

To add or change a shape’s fill, select the shape and, with the Fill box in the Tools panel selected, select a color from the Color or Swatches panel. A new fill color is applied to the shape.

You can drag and drop a swatch color to fill a shape, even if that shape isn’t selected. Open the Swatches panel by choosing Window→Color→Swatches and then drag the color swatch over to the shape. Release the mouse button, and the fill color is applied automatically to the shape.

Make transparent fills

Fills that are partially transparent can create some interesting effects for the layout of your document. You can set transparency to more than one element on the page and layer those elements to create the illusion of depth and stacking.

  1. Using the Selection tool, select a shape on the page.

    A bounding box appears around the selected shape.

  2. Open the Effects panel by choosing Window→Effects.

  3. Use the Opacity slider to specify how transparent the shape appears.

    Click the arrow to open the slider or click in the text field to manually enter a value using the keyboard. The effect is immediately applied to the selected shape.

  4. Select Stroke or Fill in the Effects panel to apply a separate opacity to each one.