Adobe InDesign CC Selection, Type, Line-Drawing Tools

Master these essential tools to speed up your InDesign projects

Designer team sketching a logo in digital design studio on computer, creative graphic drawing skills for marketing and branding
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Many of the tools in the Adobe InDesign Tools panel are used more often than others. The tools used most often include the selection, type, and line drawing tools. Mastering these essential InDesign tools goes a long way toward producing a professional-looking document.

Tools Panel: Home to Essential Tools

By default, the Tools panel is located along the left edge of the InDesign screen, although its position can be modified. It contains icons for single tools and tool groupings. Hover the mouse cursor over any icon to see its name.

An icon with a small arrow in the lower-right corner represents a group of similar tools. Select it to see the tools and choose the one you want to use. For example, select the arrow next to the Rectangle Tool to show the Ellipse Tool and the Polygon Tool.

Selection Tools

The first two tools in the Tools panel are selection tools. The black arrow at the top is called the Selection Tool. The white arrow beneath it is the Direct Selection Tool.

Tools panel showing the two selection tools

To select an entire object or group to work on, choose the Selection Tool in the Tools panel, then select the object or group. Every path and anchor point of the object or group is selected.

To select a part of a path or object or an individual anchor point, choose the Direct Selection Tool.

Select Some or All Objects

To move elements such as an image, headline, and story to a different position on a page or from one page to another in your document, press and hold the Shift key and select each element you want to move with the Selection Tool. Then, drag the objects wherever you want.

To select multiple elements in a document, choose the Selection Tool and drag across the items you want to select.

To select every object on a page, use a keyboard shortcut. Press Control+A (Windows) or Command+A (macOS).

Select Grouped Objects

To group items in InDesign, choose the Selection Tool and either press the Shift key while you choose each item you want to include in the group or drag a bounding box around all the items for a group. Then, select Object in the menu bar and choose Group. A light blue bounding box surrounds the group.

Three items groups inside a bounding box

When you select any of the objects of that group with the Selection Tool, InDesign selects them all and treats them as one object. If you have three objects in the group, instead of seeing three bounding boxes, you see one large bounding box around them all. The group can be moved or modified as one element.

If you want to move or modify only one object within the group, select the Direct Selection Tool in the Tools panel and choose the object. Then, it can be repositioned independently of the other items in the group or modified. However, it is still part of the group.

Select Objects Under Other Objects

Complex documents may have overlapping objects. When you want to select the object that is beneath another object:

  1. Choose the top object with either the Selection Tool or the Direct Selection Tool.

  2. Go to Object and choose Select. Choose the option you need. For example, choose the yellow box and select Next Object Below to choose the red circle or Last Object Below to choose the blue polygon.

    Next Object Below menu item in Select/Object menu for Indesign

The Type Tool

Use the Type Tool to insert text in an InDesign document. Select the Type Tool and draw a box on the page that serves as a frame for the type. Don't worry about getting the size right; you can adjust the frame as you go. After you enter the text, go to Type in the InDesign menu bar and select a size and font.

If you click inside a shape you've drawn with one of the Shape Tools and start typing, the type flows to fit the shape.

Using the Type Tool in three ways

The Type Tool has a small arrow in the corner. Choose the arrow to reveal related type tools such as the Type on a Path Tool. Select Type on a Path and choose a path you've drawn with the Pen Tool. As you type, the text follows the path you drew.

The Line Tool

The Line Tool is used to draw straight lines, but you can vary them in several ways.

  1. In the Tools panel, select the Line Tool.

  2. Click and hold any point on the page, then drag the cursor across the page.

    To draw a line that is constrained to exactly horizontal or exactly vertical, hold the Shift key as you drag the cursor.

    Examples of different types of lines
  3. Release the mouse button.

  4. A simple utilitarian line that extends from the point at which you first started to the point at which you released the mouse appears on the page.

  5. To set the thickness, color, and other attributes of the line, select the line you just drew if it isn't still selected and open the Properties tab at the right side of the screen.

  6. Choose a line thickness and color (the stroke color) among other settings.

  7. Select from the drop-down menu of options that include variations of the line style, including double, triple, dashed, dotted, and wavy lines.

The Pen Tool

The Pen Tool is a powerful tool that requires practice to master if you haven't worked with it before. If you are already proficient in a drawing program such as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW, then the use of the Pen Tool is familiar.

If you're not comfortable with the basics of working with the Pen Tool, visit the Adobe Draw with the Pen Tool page.

To draw straight lines with the Pen tool, click twice on the page to generates a line with two anchor points, one at each end of the line. Use the Direct Selection Tool to select one of the anchor points and move it without moving the other anchor point.

Variations on open curves using the Pen Tool

The pen's real strength (and the learning curve) lies in its ability to draw curved lines. To generate a curve, click and drag down (or up) when beginning and ending the line. The anchor points have two handles you can drag to control the slope and position of the curve. You don't have to stop with just two anchor points. Add additional anchor points with handles to add to the complexity of the curve.

The thickness, color, and other attributes of the curves you draw are assigned in the Properties tab, just as with the Line tool.

Simple curves are open paths. To make closed paths, bring the last anchor point of a curve back to the beginning anchor point.

The Pen Tool works hand-in-hand with three more tools that come in handy when working with complex paths. They are nested with the Pen Tool on the Tools panel:

  • Add Anchor Point Tool: Select the tool and choose a path to add anchor points. Don't select an existing anchor point, choose the path itself.
  • Delete Anchor Point Tool: Choose the tool and select an existing anchor point to delete it.
  • Convert Direction Point Tool: Select the tool and choose an existing anchor point. Hold the mouse button, which causes the handles of that anchor point to appear. If you drag the mouse at this point, you change an existing curve. If a handle is visible, when you click on the handle and drag it, an existing curve is changed.

The Pencil Tool

The Pencil Tool in the Tools panel may seem like the least sophisticated drawing tool, but you can use it in several ways.

Draw a Freehand Open Path

  1. Select the Pencil Tool.

  2. Press and hold the left mouse button, then drag it around the page.

    Having fun with the Pencil Tool
  3. Release the mouse button when you have drawn the shape.

Draw a Closed Path

  1. Drag the Pencil Tool, then press Alt (Windows) or Command (macOs).

  2. Release the mouse button, and InDesign closes the path you drew.

Join two paths

  1. Select the two paths.

  2. Select the Pencil Tool.

  3. Press and hold the mouse button, press and hold the Control (Windows) or Command (macOS) key, then drag the Pencil Tool from one path to the other.

  4. Release the mouse button and the Control or Command key. Now you have one path.