Get Started with Drawing in InDesign - dummies

By Jennifer Smith

When you’re creating a document, you may want drawn shapes and paths to be parts of the layout. For example, you may want to have a star shape for a yearbook page about a talent show or to run text along a path. Whatever it is you need to do, you can draw shapes and paths to get the job done.

Paths and shapes

Paths can take a few different formats. They can either be open or closed and with or without a stroke:

  • Path: The outline of a shape or an object. Paths can be closed and have no gaps, or they can be open like a line on the page. You can draw freeform paths, such as squiggles on a page, freely by hand.

  • Stroke: A line style and thickness that you apply to a path. A stroke can look like a line or like an outline of a shape.

This figure shows the different kinds of paths and strokes you can create.


Paths contain points where the direction of the path can change. You can make paths by using freeform drawing tools, such as the Pen or Pencil tools, or by using the basic shape tools, such as Ellipse, Rectangle, Polygon, or Line.

The shape tools create paths in a predefined way so that you can make basic geometric shapes, such as a star or an ellipse. All you need to do is select the shape tool and drag the cursor on the page, and the shape is automatically drawn. Creating shapes this way is a lot easier than trying to create them manually by using the Pen or Pencil tool. This figure shows shapes drawn with the shape tools found in the Tools panel.


You can change shapes into freeform paths, like those drawn with the Pencil or Pen tools. Similarly, you can make freeform paths into basic shapes. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about which tool you initially choose.

We created the stars and starburst shown in the figure by double-clicking the Polygon tool and changing the options.

Points and segments

Paths are made up of points and segments:

  • Point: Where the path changes somehow, such as a change in direction. Many points along a path can be joined with segments. Points are sometimes called anchor points. You can create two kinds of points:

    • Corner points: Have a straight line between them. Shapes such as squares and stars have corner points.

    • Curve points: Occur along a curved path. Circles or snaking paths have lots of curve points.

  • Segment: A line or curve connecting two points — similar to connect-the-dots.

This figure shows corner points and curve points joined by segments.