InDesign's Tools of the Trade - dummies

By Jennifer Smith

Take a look at some tools that you’ll probably use most often when creating drawings in your publications. When you draw with these tools, you’re using strokes and fills to make designs. The following sections show you what these common tools can do to help you create basic or complex illustrations in InDesign.

The Pencil tool


The Pencil tool is used to draw simple or complex shapes on a page. Because the Pencil tool is a freeform tool, you can freely drag it all over the page and create lines or shapes, instead of having them automatically made for you, such as when you use basic shape tools. The Pencil tool is an intuitive and easy tool to use.

The Pen tool


You use the Pen tool to create complex shapes on the page. The Pen tool works with other tools, such as the Add, Remove, and Convert Point tools. The Pen tool works by adding and editing points along a path, thereby manipulating the segments that join them.

Drawing with the Pen tool isn’t easy at first. In fact, it takes many people a considerable amount of time to use this tool well. Don’t become frustrated if you don’t get used to it right away — the Pen tool can take some practice to get it to do what you want.

Basic shapes and frame shapes

Basic shapes are preformed shapes that you can add to a document by using tools in the Tools panel. The basic shape tools include the Line, Rectangle, Ellipse, and Polygon tools.

You can also draw these shapes and turn them into frames (containers that hold content in a document). You can use a frame as a text frame or as a graphic frame used to hold pictures and text. Draw a basic shape and then convert it to a graphic or text frame by choosing Object→Content→Text or Object→Content→Graphic.

The frame and shape tools look the same and can even act the same. Both can hold text and images, but look out! By default, shapes created with the shape tools have a 1-point black stroke around them. Many folks don’t see these strokes on the screen but later discover them surrounding their text boxes when they print. Stick with the frame tools, and you’ll be fine.