InDesign Printing Knowledge

Adobe InDesign

When Adobe InDesign was released in the autumn of 1999, it was one of the most anticipated desktop publishing software programs, mainly because of the reputation of Adobe's other popular and user friendly software programs. InDesign incorporates an easy to use format and many tools, filters, and settings contained in movable palettes, much like Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator. When you have an application that requires additional design features, you can customize any part of InDesign using Adobe plug-in software. InDesign works easily with other Adobe software programs and there are versions for both Macintosh and Windows operating systems.

Setting Up a Project

In order to start a new project after opening InDesign, simply click "File", then "New". The "New Document" dialog box will come up which allows you to choose from 10 different preset page sizes or customize your page size and select a size ranging from 1/6 of an inch up to 18 feet square. You can also decide on the size of the margins, the number of pages to begin with, the number of columns on a page, and several others.

When your new document opens, the full page is outlined with black lines. The margin guides are represented by magenta, and the columns are represented by violet. The new document will open to fit your screen, so it will rarely be displayed at its actual size. The magnification drop down in the lower left corner of the screen will indicate the percentage that the document has been reduced or increased in order to fill the screen. This can be easily changed by clicking the drop down to select a percentage from 5% to 4000% or directly enter a percentage.

A new page showing the default colors for the borders and guides.

Organize and manage your work with the use of layers. These help to separate and organize the different components of your project such as text, background, and graphics. Create a "Master Page" in which its components can be applied to other pages. In this way, different changes can be made to each of the other pages with the Master page left unchanged. This makes your work easier and more efficient.

As an aid in designing, use the guides at the top and left to help you measure objects and accurately place them on your page. With the Preferences Menu (found under "File"), you can change the unit of measure to inches, centimeters, picas, and many others. Also with the Preferences Menu, you are able to change the grid settings, guides, text properties, and more.


The following color models are available in InDesign:

  • RGB mode - Red, Green, and Blue, or additive color, for use on the Web.
  • CMYK mode - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. The CMY are the basis of the subtractive color process and the addition of Black (K) allows for accurate color reproduction for printed media.
  • Lab - The "L" in Lab represents the luminance or lightness component, the "a" represents the green to red component, and the "b" represents the blue to yellow component.

With InDesign, color is managed with the Swatches palette. The Swatch menu allows you to create new colors, tints, and gradients. You can determine if a color will be a spot color or process color for print output or if it will be used on the Web.

In order to create a color, click on the arrow in the upper right hand corner of the Swatches palette to open the pop-up menu and then select "New Color Swatch". This brings up the "New Color Swatch" dialog box. Choose a color mode, RGB, CMYK, or Lab; a color type, process or spot; and then create the color using the slider bars under each of the color components or directly enter a value to the right of each color component.

In order to create a gradient, select "New Gradient Swatch" from the Swatches pop-up menu. The "New Gradient Swatch" dialog box appears, which looks similar to the "New Color Swatch" dialog box except that you need to choose the type of gradient you would like, linear or radial, and the number of colors that you want to use in the gradient. You can use one color and blend it from light to dark or dark to light or you can use multiple colors and have them blend from one to another.

To apply color to an object or text, you must first select the object and then select the stroke tool in the toolbox (to color the outlines) or the fill tool (to fill an object or text with color). Then select a color, tint, or gradient from the Swatches palette that you would like to apply to the object.

If your document is going to be printed on a mechanical printing press, you may need to use trapping to help eliminate gaps that may appear between colors if they do not register perfectly during the printing process. It is best to adjust for possible problem areas early in the process before the document reaches the press, where it can be much more difficult to adjust for.


Lines, curves, and shapes created with InDesign are called "paths". There are two types of paths:

  • Closed Path - This is any path in which the beginning point and the ending point are the same.

  • Open Path - This would be a path like a line that has beginning and ending points and these points do not connect.

The following tools are used to draw paths and objects in InDesign. They are similar to the tools found in Illustrator or Photoshop.

  • Line Tool - Draw straight line segments.
  • Rectangle Tool - Draw rectangles and squares.
  • Ellipse Tool - Draw ovals and circles,
  • Polygon Tool - Draw multiple sided objects.
  • Pen Tool - Draw any type of straight or curved paths with the Pen tool.

The different segments of a path are defined by "anchor points" which can be selected and dragged in order to change the shape.


InDesign offers several ways to edit the paths and objects that you create. You can add or delete anchor points and move anchor points to modify the shape. Use the Rotate tool to pivot the object on a point or change the size and proportions of the object with the Scale tool. The Scissors tool allows you to split a path or remove a segment from a path.

Use the Stroke palette to modify the edge of the stroke. There are settings in the Stroke palette to change a solid line into a dashed line. Change the starting and ending points of a line by inserting squares, circles, or a variety of arrowheads. The thickness or weight of a line can be changed as well as the cap style for the stroke. You can change the appearance of the corners of a rectangular or polygonal object with rounded effects, bevels, inset, and others.


Any text that you enter in  an InDesign document is entered into frames. These frames are created with the Text tool in the toolbox. With this tool, you create a rectangular box of any size that you want, just like the Rectangle tool. Once the frame is created, a cursor appears indicating that you can begin typing.

You can also type inside existing objects by selecting them, then going to the Object menu on the top menu bar, and selecting "Content" from the drop down menu. Under Content you have a choice of "Graphic" or "Text". The Text option inserts a cursor inside your selected object and allows you to enter text. You can also import text files from other documnets onto InDesign using the "Place" command the File menu.

InDesign gives you the ability to wrap text around an object. You can wrap it around the object itself or around its bounding box. With the Character palette, change the font, the type style and size, the kerning and tracking, and many more. The Paragraph palette allows you to justify type left and/or right, center the type, align it left or right, and more. Change the indentation at the beginning of a paragraph and instruct InDesign to automatically hyphenate words as you type. Create drop caps to give a distinctive look to the beginning of a paragraph as shown below.


In order to import a graphic or text block into InDesign, use the "Place" command in the File menu or you can drag and drop an image into InDesign if the image is of a format that InDesign can import. These formats include PDF, EPS, TIFF, JPEG, GIF, AI (Adobe Illustrator), PSD (Adobe Photoshop), BMP, PCX, DCS, PICT, and WMF for Windows. If you want to export InDesign documents, they should be exported to EPS files which can then be imported into another program like Photoshop or Illustrator.


The documents that you create with InDesign may end up being output to a desktop printer or they may be sent to a service bureau for conversion to be output by a commercial printer on offset press equipment. They may also end up as online content viewed on the Web. Certain types of graphics and formats may be suitable for one type of output but not another so it is helpful to create your documents with the final output in mind.

System Requirements


Minimum Requirements


PowerPC 604 processor or greater.

PowerPC G3 recommended.

Mac OS Software version 8.5 or later.


48 MB of installed RAM with virtual memory on; 96MB with virtual memory off.

128 MB recommended.

130 MB of available hard-disk space for installation.


CD-ROM drive.


832 x 624 monitor resolution.

24-bit high resolution display.

Adobe PostScript Level 2 or higher printer.




Minimum Requirements


Intel Pentium II or faster processor.

300 MHz or faster processor is recommended.

Windows NT 4.0 workstation with Service Pack 4, Windows 98 or later operating system.


48 MB of RAM installed.

64 MB of RAM or more.

130 MB of available hard-disk space.


CD-ROM drive.


Color monitor with 256 colors (8-bit color) at 800 x 600 monitor resolution.

24-bit color, high resolution display.

Adobe PostScript Level 2 or higher printer.



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