Draw Shapes in an InDesign CS5 Publication - dummies

By Jennifer Smith, Christopher Smith, Fred Gerantabee

Create shapes such as rectangles and ovals in any InDesign Creative Suite 5 document with the shape tools — the Line, Rectangle, Ellipse, and Polygon tools. The steps for creating a shape using any of these tools are similar, so after learning how to use one of the tools, you’ve basically learned to use them all.

Draw a rectangle

  1. Select the Rectangle tool in the Tools panel.

  2. Click anywhere in the page and drag the mouse diagonally.

    When the rectangle is the dimension you want, release the mouse button. You’ve created a rectangle.

Draw lines, polygons, and ellipses

Create lines, polygons, and ellipses by following the same basic steps for creating a rectangle.

  1. Click the Line, Polygon, or Ellipse tool.

    To access the Polygon or Ellipse tools, click the Rectangle tool and hold down the mouse button. A menu that contains all the basic shapes opens.

    Release the mouse button. The menu remains open, and you can mouse over the menu items. Click the Polygon or Ellipse tool.

  2. Click anywhere in the page and drag the mouse diagonally.

    When the line or shape is the dimension you want, release the mouse button.

To draw a square shape, use the Rectangle tool and press the Shift key while you drag the mouse on the page. The sides of the shape are all drawn at the same length, so you create a perfect square.

You can also use the Shift key with the Ellipse tool if you want a perfect circle — just hold down Shift while dragging the Ellipse tool. Release the mouse before the Shift key to ensure that this constrain shape trick works!


A polygon is a shape that has many sides. For example, a square is a polygon with four sides. To choose the number of sides you want for the polygon you create, simply double-click the Polygon tool, and in the Polygon dialog box that appears, enter a value in the Number of Sides text field.

To create a star instead of a polygon, enter a number in the Star Inset text field for the percentage of the star inset you want the new shape to have. A higher percentage means that the sides are inset farther toward the center of the polygon, creating a star. For a star, enter 50%; for a starburst, enter 25%.

After entering the Number of Sides and Star Inset values, click OK and drag to create the polygon.

Create a shape with exact dimensions

Dragging on the page to create a shape is easy, but making a shape with precise dimensions using this method requires a few more steps.

  1. Select the Rectangle tool or the Ellipse tool on the Tools panel.

  2. Click anywhere on the page, but don’t drag the cursor.

    This point becomes the upper right corner of the future shape. After you click to place a corner, the Rectangle or Ellipse dialog box appears.

  3. In the Width and Height text fields, enter the shape’s dimensions.

  4. Click OK to create the shape in the size you specified.