InDesign Frame and Shape Tools

Draw rectangles, ellipses, and polygons using various tools in Adobe InDesign

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 have a flyout menu indicated by a small arrow in the lower-right corner of the tool. To access these additional tools, click your mouse button until the flyout menu appears, then select the desired tool.

Instructions in this article apply to Adobe InDesign 2020.

Indesign Frame Tools vs. Shape Tools

The tools work the same way but 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. The Rectangle, Ellipse, and Polygon tools draw shapes to fill or outline with color.

To access these tools using a keyboard command, use F for frames, and use M for shapes.

How to Use the Frame Tool

To use any of the frame tools, select the Frame Tool in the Toolbox, select a blank space in the workspace, and then drag the pointer to draw the shape.

The Frame tool

Holding Shift while you drag constrains the frame tool in the following ways:

  • Hold Shift while drawing with the Rectangle Frame Tool to create a perfectly square frame.
  • Hold Shift while drawing with the Ellipse Frame Tool to create a circle frame.
  • Hold Shift 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. 

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 selecting a frame tool and dragging the mouse in the workspace.

    Drawing an ellipse frame in InDesign.
  2. Select the frame you drew.

    Selecting the ellipse frame in InDesign.
  3. Go to File > Place.

    The Place command
  4. Choose an image, and select Open.

    The Open button

Select the Image and Select Automatic Placement

  1. Go to File > Place without drawing any frames.

    The Place command
  2. Choose an image, and select Open.

    The Open button
  3. Select anywhere on the workspace. The picture is automatically placed into a rectangular frame that is sized to fit the picture.

    An image has been imported into a frame.

Resize a Frame or Resize a Graphic in a Frame

When you select 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 select the same image with the Direct Selection Tool, instead of selecting the frame that contains the picture, select the picture inside the frame. You'll see a reddish-colored bounding box, which is the bounding box of the image.

Bounding box of an image in InDesign.
  • 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 while dragging to resize the image and frame proportionately.

Resize a Frame With Text

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

  • Select the frame that contains the text and double-click 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 the text, double-click a handle to expand the frame until it displays all the text.
Text frame in InDesign.

Use the Shape Tools

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

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

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