InDesign Frame and Shape Tools

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Indesign Frame Tools vs Shape Tools

By default, Adobe InDesign CC displays the Rectangle Frame Tool and the Rectangle Shape Tool in its Toolbox, which is typically located to the left of the workspace. These tools both have a flyout menu indicated by a tiny arrow at the bottom right corner of the tool. The flyout menu groups the Ellipse Frame Tool and  Polygon Frame Tool with the Rectangle Frame tool, and it groups the Ellipse Tool and Polygon Tool with the Rectangle Tool. Toggle among the three tools by moving the pointer over the tool in the Toolbox and then clicking the mouse to bring up the flyout menu.  

The tools all work the same way, but they draw different shapes. Don't confuse the frame tools with the Rectangle, Ellipse and Polygon shape tools. The Frame tools create boxes (or frames) for graphics, while the Rectangle, Ellipse, and Polygon tools are for drawing shapes to fill or outline with color.

The keyboard shortcut for frames is F. The keyboard shortcut for shapes is M.

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Using the Frame Tool

The Frame Tools
Using the Rectangle Frame, Ellipse Frame, Polygon Frame Tool. Image by J. Bear

To use any of the frame tools, click the frame tool in the Toolbox and then click in the workspace and drag the pointer to draw the shape. Holding the Shift key down while you drag constrains the frame tool in the following ways:

  • Hold down the Shift key while drawing with the Rectangle Frame tool to create a perfectly square frame.
  • Hold down the Shift key while drawing with the Ellipse Frame tool to create a circle frame.
  • Hold down the Shift key while drawing with the Polygon Frame tool to create a shape with all sides of the same length.

The frames created with the Rectangle Frame, Ellipse Frame or Polygon Frame can hold text or graphics. Use the Type tool to make the frame a text frame. 

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How to Place an Image in a Frame

Place an Image in a frame using one of these methods:

Draw the frame and then place the image:

  1. Draw a frame by clicking a frame tool and dragging the mouse in the workspace.
  2. Select the frame you just drew.
  3. Go to File > Place.
  4. Choose an image and press OK.

Select the image and then click for automatic placement:

  1. Go to File > Place without drawing any frames.
  2. Choose an image and press OK.
  3. Click anywhere on the workspace, and the picture is automatically placed into a rectangular frame that is sized to fit the picture.
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Resizing a Frame or Resizing a Graphic in a Frame

Selecting images in a frame
Select the frame or the object in the frame. Image by E. Bruno; licensed to About.com

When you click on an image in a frame with the Selection tool, you see a bounding box that is the bounding box of the image's Rectangular frame. If you click on the same image with the Direct Selection tool, instead of selecting the frame that contains the picture, you select the picture inside the frame, and you see a dotted bounding box, which is the bounding box of the image itself.

  • Resize only the frame but not the placed image by choosing the Selection tool and dragging a corner or handle of the frame. 
  • Resize only the image by dragging the handles of the picture with the Direct Selection tool.
  • Resize both the image and the frame by selecting the frame and choosing Auto-Fit in the Control panel, or ​​select a corner of the frame and hold the Shift key down while you drag to resize the image and frame proportionately.
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Resizing a Frame With Text

Frames can also hold text. To resize a text frame:

  • Select the frame holding the text and double-click on any handle to reduce or expand the frame automatically so the text fits inside it.
  • If the frame is too large for the text that it holds, double-click a handle to snap the frame to the end of the text.
  • If the frame is too small to display all the text, double-click a handle to expand the frame until it displays all the text.
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Using the Shape Tools

Shape Tools
Draw shapes with the Rectangle, Ellipse, and Polygon Tools. Images by E. Bruno & J. Bear; licensed to About.com

The shape tools are often confused with the frame tools. Click and hold on the Rectangle Tool to view a flyout menu to access the Ellipse and Polygon tools. These tools are for drawing shapes to fill or outline with color. You draw them the same way you draw frames. Select the tool, click in the workspace and drag to form the shape. As with the frame tools, the shape tools can be constrained:

  • Hold down the Shift key while drawing with the Rectangle Tool to create a square.
  • Hold down the Shift key while drawing with the Ellipse Tool to create a circle.
  • Hold down the Shift key while drawing with the Polygon Tool to create a shape with all sides the same length.

Fill the shape with a color or apply a stroke to outline it. 

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Your Citation
Bear, Jacci Howard. "InDesign Frame and Shape Tools." ThoughtCo, Oct. 16, 2017, thoughtco.com/indesign-cs-frame-and-shape-tools-1078494. Bear, Jacci Howard. (2017, October 16). InDesign Frame and Shape Tools. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/indesign-cs-frame-and-shape-tools-1078494 Bear, Jacci Howard. "InDesign Frame and Shape Tools." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/indesign-cs-frame-and-shape-tools-1078494 (accessed January 21, 2018).