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
NicoElNino/Getty Images

Most Adobe InDesign CC users find themselves using some of the tools in the Tools panel more often than others, but just about everyone uses 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 bottom right corner represents a group of similar tools. Select it to see the tools and choose the one you want to use. For example, selecting the arrow next to the Rectangle Tool shows the Ellipse Tool and the Polygon Tool.

Selection Tools

Tools panel showing the two 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.

In general, when you want to select an entire object or group to work on, choose the Selection Tool in the Tools panel and then select the object or group. Every path and anchor point of the object or group is selected. When you want to select just a part of a path or object or an individual anchor point, choose the Direct Selection Tool.

Selecting Some or All Objects

Say you want to move 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 while clicking or pressing on each element you want to move with the Selection Tool. Then you can drag the objects wherever you want.

You can also select multiple elements in a document by choosing the Selection Tool and dragging across the items you want to select.

If you want to select every object on a page, you don't need to use a tool. Use a keyboard shortcut instead: Control+A (Windows) or Command+A (macOS).

Selecting Grouped Objects

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

Three items groups inside a bounding box

Now, if 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, choose 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.

Selecting Objects Under Other Objects

In complex documents, you may have overlapping objects. When you want to select the object that is beneath another one:

  1. Choose the topmost object using either the Selection Tool or the Direct Selection Tool.

  2. Go to Object in the menu bar and choose Select. Choose the option you need. In this example, you would 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

Using the Type Tool in three ways

Use the Type Tool to insert text in your 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, select a size and font by choosing Type in the InDesign menu bar.

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

If you look closely at the Tools panel, you can see that the Type Tool has a small arrow in the corner. Choose the arrow to reveal related type tools — in this case, the Type on a Path Tool. This tool does exactly what its name implies. 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

Don't underestimate the simple Line Tool. The tool is used to draw straight lines, but you can vary them in several ways. Here's how:

  1. Select the Line Tool in the Tools panel.

  2. Click and hold at any point on the page.

  3. Click and drag the cursor across the page while holding down on the mouse button.

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

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

You'll see a simple utilitarian line that extends from the point at which you first started to the point at which you released the mouse, but you aren't done yet. You still need to set the thickness, color, and other attributes of the line.

To do this, select the line you just drew if it isn't still selected and open the Properties tab at the right side of the screen. There you can choose a line thickness and color (the stroke color) among other settings. You can also vary the style of the line. Select from the drop-down menu of options that include variations on a line, including double and triple lines and dashed, dotted, and wavy lines.

The Pen Tool

Variations on open curves using 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.

Users who are not already comfortable with the basics of working with the Pen Tool benefit from visiting Adobe's Draw with the Pen Tool page.

You can draw straight lines with the Pen tool by clicking twice on the page to generates a line with two anchor points, one at each end of the line. Using the Direct Selection Tool, you can select one of the anchor points and move it without moving the other anchor point.

However, the pen's real strength (and the learning curve) lies in its ability to draw curved lines. Curves are generated by clicking and dragging down (or up) when beginning and ending the line. Now the anchor points come equipped with 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. Adding additional anchor points with handles adds 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, but you can make closed paths by bringing the last anchor point of a curve back to the beginning anchor point, forming a closed path.

The Pen Tool works hand-in-hand with three more tools that come in handy when you are 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, you also change an existing curve.

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. Click on the Pencil Tool.

  2. With the left mouse button pressed, 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. Press Alt (Windows) or Command (macOs) after you start dragging the Pencil Tool.

  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. Drag the Pencil Tool with the mouse button pressed from one path to the other while you hold down the Control (Windows) or Command (macOS) key.

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