InDesign FX: Perspective drawing and 3D shapes

Published by | Thursday, April 19th, 2012

This week’s free video reminds me of one of the key points I always try to make clear right from the start when I’m speaking about InDesign effects: always be sure you’re using the right tool for the job. When it comes to drawing tools, especially ones that can be used for creating 3D effects, Illustrator and Photoshop have InDesign beat by a mile. So if you have Illustrator and Photoshop at your disposal, and you need to create a detailed 3D graphic quickly, don’t hesitate to use them. But, if you don’t have those applications handy, or you just need a relatively simple 3D object, you can draw one from scratch using InDesign and a little knowledge of perspective.

To be truthful, “drawing” might be a bit of an overstatement. Really you’re just using InDesign to create lines of perspective that you can trace with a few clicks of the mouse. No artistic skill is required. In this tutorial I demonstrate both one-point and two-point perspective drawing.

One point perspective is useful for creating the effect of looking straight at an object that recedes to a single point on the horizon. Think of standing in the middle of a straight section of road or train tracks. Even though the sides of the road surface or tracks are parallel, they seem to converge in the distance.

To create the lines of perspective, I start with a triangle. It may be just three black lines, but with your imagination, you can start to see it as that road or train tracks leading to the horizon.

Start of a single-point persepctive InDesign drawing.

To make these three black lines into the surface of an object, use the Pathfinder tools to subtract a rectangle from the triangle. This rectangle will serve as the top surface of your 3D drawing.

Start of a single-point persepctive InDesign drawing.

Rectabgle extracted using InDesign Pathfinder tool.

With the top surface in hand, flip and copy the rectangle to make the front, and then vary the fill color and the height of each object to make anything from a pizza box, to a tall tower.

Examples of three 3D drawings made with InDesign.

Our other option, two-point perspective, is useful when you want to simulate looking at the corner of an object. To create this effect, the sides of your object each need to have their own horizon point that they seem to recede towards. So instead of using one triangle as a guide, use two.

The start of a two-point perspective InDesign drawing.

After locking the triangles, use the Pen tool to trace the lines of perspective to create the sides of your 3D object.

Tracing the lines of two-point perspective to create the sides of your InDesign 3D object.

From there, it’s just a couple steps, including the addition of some Satin effect, to create lime Jell-O. Who wants dessert?

Green two-point perspective 3D object created in InDesign.

For members, I also have an exclusive InDesign FX video this week called Drawing 3D Banners in which I show how to create a folded banner effect. This effect has been rather trendy lately and you may have seen it in action in print or on the web.

Example of 3D folded banner created in InDesign.

This is another effect that requires no special artistic skills, just a little patience and a desire to make something fun.

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


Interested in more?
• The complete InDesign FX course
• 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

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2 Responses to “InDesign FX: Perspective drawing and 3D shapes”

  1. As a person who loves to do as much as possible from the familiar comfort of InDesign (and can’t really draw well enough to switch to Illustrator), I really appreciate this one, Mike!

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