InDesign FX: Making a design pop with 3D arrows

Published by | Thursday, August 9th, 2012

In the context of design, “pop” is a sought-after quality that makes page elements come alive, infuses them with energy and freshness, and grabs attention

So how do you make a design pop?

One way is to take a simple element used to direct the viewer’s gaze and give it a three-dimensional look. We’re using the example of an arrow because we often use an arrow to direct someone toward something in graphics such as an advertisement or signage.

In this case, instead of having a flat arrow sitting on top of other objects, we’re making the arrow look like it is wrapping around those objects, and in doing so, giving the whole design a feeling of depth.

Example of a straight InDesign arrow and an InDesign arrow that wraps around an object.

To make 3D arrows in Adobe InDesign, you don’t need any special drawing skills. All you need are the Pathfinder commands to combine simple shapes like ellipses, rectangles, and triangles to make 3D arrows in just about any size, shape, and direction.

InDesign 3D arrow wrapped over the top of an object.
InDesign 3D arrow wrapped around an object.

InDesign arrows wrapping towards the center of a circle.

As I show in the video, the basic idea is to start with an ellipse centered on the edge of an object where you want the arrow to wrap around. Then use the Pathfinder tools to combine the curve from the ellipse with a rectangle to form the line of the arrow. The arrow’s tip is made from a triangle, and you can tweak the position of points to make the tip as barbed as you like.

How to make an arrow that wraps around an object with shapes in InDesign.

One of the best things about this InDesign technique is that most people find they can do it quickly once they get the hang of it. So you can easily experiment with different looks by rotating the arrow, shearing it, or adding gradient fills, drop shadows, or bevels—you name it.

I also have another member-exclusive video in the library this week called Creating Personal Buttons. In this new video, I show how to use blending modes and effects to create the look of a metal button you can “pin” anywhere on your design to give it more personality.

Example of a button pin effect created in InDesign.

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 Secrets
• InDesign CS6 Essential Training 
• InDesign CS6 New Features 
 Deke’s Techniques

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