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Importing and Modifying Graphics

Chapter Description

In this sample chapter from Adobe InDesign Classroom in a Book (2021 release), authors Kelly Kordes Anton and Tina DeJarld explain how to add and transform graphics in Adobe InDesign. You will learn various techniques including adjusting size and display quality and adding backgrounds, text, and layers.

Importing and sizing graphics

The most basic way to import a graphic into InDesign is to use File > Place. There are several other ways to import graphics, which you’ll try next.

Importing, sizing, and cropping

  1. Navigate to page 5. Open the Layers panel by clicking the Layers panel icon (layerspanelicon.jpg) in the panel dock, and then click the Photos layer so that the imported images will be placed on that layer. Choose File > Place and navigate to the Lesson11 folder. Select the file Blue-Hydrangea.psd and click Open.

  2. Move the loaded raster graphics icon (loadedgraphicsicon_1.jpg) into the pasteboard area just above the page and click once. This places the graphic independently of any existing frame. InDesign automatically creates a frame around the graphic and scales it to actual size (100%).

  3. This photo is much too large at actual size, so you’ll need to resize it. In this case, it needs to be scaled down. One way to do this is to type a percentage or measurements in the Control panel and InDesign will scale the graphic to those numbers, in the direction of the selected reference point. Or you can scale the graphic visually. Choose the Selection tool (selectiontool.jpg) and hold down Shift+Ctrl (Windows) or Shift+Command (macOS). Drag the lower-right handle up and to the left. Watch the Control panel’s Size and Scale (or the numbers in the gray box next to the Selection tool) until the image is about 2 inches high. Holding down the Ctrl or Command key while dragging scales both the frame and the image within. Adding the Shift key keeps the image proportions so that the image is not distorted while it’s changing size.

  4. Drag the image down and to the right of the empty frame until you see the green Smart Guides appear that show the top of this frame aligned with the empty frame.

  5. Now we want to crop out most of the leaves. To do this, change the size of the frame without changing the size of the graphic inside. Drag the lower-right corner handle in toward the flower so that most of the leaves are no longer visible. Then click the content grabber (donut.jpg) and notice that the image bounding box (shown in a contrasting color to the layer color) is now much larger than the frame, indicating that part of image is being cropped by the frame. Drag the image up and to the left so that the flower is centered in the frame.

Placing a graphic into an existing frame and using frame fitting options

The next way to use File > Place is to place a graphic into an existing frame.

  1. Click the empty frame to the left of the Blue-Hydrangea.psd image. Choose File > Place, select Butterfly-on-flower.psd, and click Open. This time the image is imported into the frame. Once again, it’s at actual size (100%) and that’s too large since the intention is to show the whole butterfly.

  2. Choose Object > Fitting > Fit Content To Frame, which seems like the right choice. But examine the result: the image is indeed within the frame, but the butterfly is distorted (stretched vertically). Confirm this by clicking the content grabber (donut.jpg) in the center of the frame (so that you are viewing data about the image rather than the frame), and then look at the scale values in the Control panel or the Properties panel. The horizontal and vertical numbers are very different, showing the distortion.

  3. To scale the image without distortion, choose Object > Fitting > Fit Content Proportionally. The image is not distorted, but now it’s too small. Choose Object > Fitting > Fill Frame Proportionally. This option sizes the image within the frame without distortion, and it crops part of the image if it’s a different shape than the frame (as in this case). However, this is still not what we want because the butterfly is too far to the right of the frame.

  4. Choose Object > Fitting > Content-Aware Fit. This feature intelligently fits the best part from the image when you place it inside a frame by evaluating various parts of the image. The butterfly and flower are now nearly centered in the frame automatically. You can nudge the content over if you’d like.

  5. Select the circular picture frame in the lower left and place the image Calla-Lilly.psd. This frame was set up to center the image at 100% size. The photo is centered within the frame, but the subject of the photo (the flower) is not centered in the original image. Select either the circular frame or the image within and choose Object > Fitting > Content-Aware Fit. The flower now fits much better in the circle because Content-Aware Fit attempts to find the subject of an image. Notice that InDesign scaled as well as moved the image.

Placing a graphic into an existing frame by dropping from the desktop

  1. Another way to import graphics is to drop them onto a page from your desktop. Switch to File Explorer (Windows) or the Finder (macOS), and open the Lesson11 folder, which contains the Starflower.jpg file.

    Resize and arrange your File Explorer window (Windows) or Finder window (macOS) and your InDesign window, as needed, so that you can simultaneously see the list of files in the Lesson11 folder and the InDesign document window. Make sure that the right side of page 5 in your document is visible.

  2. Choose Edit > Deselect All. Drag the Starflower.jpg file over the empty frame to the right of the circular frame and release the mouse button.

  3. This picture is smaller than the placeholder frame. Select the frame and choose Object > Fitting > Fit Frame To Content. Then move the picture to a pleasing position in the group as you wish. Choose Edit > Deselect All when you’re done.

Using Adobe Bridge to import graphics

Adobe Bridge is a separate application available to Creative Cloud users with an All Apps subscription. Adobe Bridge is an application that lets you browse local and networked computers for graphics and then place them into an InDesign layout. Importing files is just one of many features the application provides. If you don’t have Bridge available, you can complete this section by dropping from the desktop again, but this time change your folder view to icons.

  1. Navigate to page 1. Then choose File > Browse In Bridge to launch Bridge. Bridge automatically opens the folder in which the InDesign document is saved or in which a selected graphic is stored. If you don’t see this folder, click the Folder panel at the top of the left panel to navigate to the Lesson11 folder.

  2. Bridge provides an easy way to locate and rename files. Because you see a preview, you can locate graphics visually without knowing the exact name. Click the graphic maple-leaf-.psd once, and then click the filename to select the filename box. Rename the file maple-leaf-yellow, and press Enter (Windows) or Return (macOS) to commit the change.

  3. If necessary, make the Bridge window smaller by dragging the lower-right corner and position it so that you can also see page 1 (the cover) of the InDesign document. Drag the maple-leaf-yellow.psd file into your InDesign document and onto an open area of the pasteboard above the page and near the dark blue square. Click the pasteboard to place the image at full size and return to InDesign.

  4. Use the Selection tool (selectiontool.jpg) to position the leaf graphic in the upper-left corner of the page, on top of the empty Blue-Dark frame. Press Shift+Ctrl (Windows) or Shift+Command (macOS) and drag a corner of the frame to scale both the frame and its contents. Align the top and right edges of the graphics frame with the top and right edges of the Blue-Dark frame. Scale to a size just a bit larger than the empty Blue-Dark frame.


    A very useful feature of dragging photos from Bridge is that you can quickly change pictures in a frame while seeing the new image in Bridge and then the result in InDesign. This technique is very useful in projects where the layout repeats but you need to import different pictures. You’ll try this now.

  5. With the yellow maple leaf still selected, bring the Bridge window to the front again (if needed) and choose the file maple-leaf-red.psd. Drag and drop it right over the yellow maple leaf. InDesign retains the scaling, and now you’ve switched out the image with the new one, in position, in just a few seconds. Try it again with maple-leaf-orange.psd. Select the image with the content grabber and set the Reference Point to the center position (reference_point_c.jpg) using the Control, Transform, or Properties panel. Then rotate the image within the frame a bit to the left, to about 20 degrees. Drag and drop the red leaf again. The image is switched while both the scaling and rotation are retained.

  6. To see how the reference point affects the center of rotation, experiment with rotating the image again using different reference points, such as the upper left or lower right.

  7. Choose File > Save to save your work.

8. Editing placed pictures | Next Section Previous Section

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