InDesign FX: Drawing with the Pathfinder commands

Published by | Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

This week’s free InDesign FX video really takes me back in time. Way back to the days before I’d ever even used a computer, when I was first learning how to draw. My tools then were just a pencil, a piece of paper, and those “How To Draw” books. The greatest thing that I learned from those books was that a drawing of any subject can begin with the simplest of shapes. With an oval, I had the beginnings of a lion. With a triangle, I had the start of a rocket. In every case, the trick was to learn how to see the simple shapes hiding in a complex subject.

In this week’s video, I show how you can apply this same idea to drawing in InDesign by using the Shape tools and Pathfinder commands. To illustrate this idea, I create a precise gear shape using nothing more than a couple circles, a few triangles, and the Pathfinder Subtract command.

A gear shape created with basic InDesign shapes
A gear shape created with basic InDesign shapes

While you probably won’t find yourself drawing gears every day unless you need to render a lot of bicycle illustrations, the gear is great practice for recognizing how to create whatever shapes you need with Pathfinder commands.

I also demonstrate in the video how you can use InDesign Pathfinder commands to create design elements that fit together. In this case, two frames that follow the same curves to convey the sense of an ocean wave.

Two InDesign frames that convey the sense of an ocean wave

If you want to take this technique a step further, making cool shapes is not all you can do with the Pathfinder panel. You can also use it to solve a problem that occurs if you try to put text in a frame that has been transformed. Here, the text appears flipped, along with the frame that contains it.

Backwards text in an InDesign frame that has been transformed

This is a job for the Add command! Using the Add command, you can create a new, untransformed shape so the text displays correctly.

Using the InDesign Add command to create text that displays in transformed images correctly

For members, I also have another new video this week in the online training library called Transform Again Tips and Tricks. In that video I discuss how to use the Transform Sequence Again command to repeat a number of transformations and create effects like this awesome retro zoom effect.

InDesign retro zoom effect

See you here again in two weeks with another InDesign effect!


Interested in more?
• The complete InDesign FX weekly series on
• All InDesign courses on
• All courses by Mike Rankin on

 Suggested courses to watch next:
• InDesign CS5 Essential Training
Creating Long Documents with InDesign
 InDesign Styles in Depth
InDesign CS4: 10 Habits of Highly Effective Pros


Share this:Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on LinkedIn0 - start learning today

Tags: , ,

One Response to “InDesign FX: Drawing with the Pathfinder commands”

  1. Marry says:

    Awesome! Great effects!
    I believe every freelance designer should take a look at this.

    Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply