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Quick Tip: Creating a Custom Text Box using Type and InDesign

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Setting type using InDesign doesn't have to be about drawing simple square and rectangle boxes. In this tutorial you will learn how you can use the actual type to create a custom shaped text box.

Step 1

First, create a new document or open an existing document. Select the type tool (T), draw a text box by clicking and dragging and input the letter you wish to use. I find that using a bold sans serif typeface works best, I am using Gill Sans Bold.

If you are using a word make sure you double check your spelling, because once you convert the type it cant be edited. Finally, increase the font size so that the letter fills the majority of the page.

Step 2

Select the text box that you have just created with the Selection tool, go to Type > Create Outlines (Shift + Command + O). Set the fill and outline to none. If Show Frame Edges view isn't already turned go to View > Extras > Show Frame Edges, by doing this you will be able to view the outlines of the converted letter.

Step 3

To flow text within the box select the type tool (T) and click once within the outline and a blinking cursor will appear. Now import or add your copy and format to suit your design. I prefer to use a small font size about 9pt, justified type with no hyphenation. (I am using some excerpts from Edgar Allan Poe's The Black Cat - 1843 for my body text)

Step 4

It is possible that you will end up with a few ugly paragraph breaks and multiple spaces. To adjust the frame select the Direct Selection Tool (A). For my example I needed to pull up a few anchor points on the underside of the letter. I did this by dragging the connecting line between the two anchor points. By moving a connecting line InDesign will move the left and right anchors as well.

Step 5

To move a number of anchor points simultaneously select the Direct Selection Tool (A) click once on one anchor hold down Shift and click again on the other anchor points. You will notice that the points will change to a solid blue box. Once the anchors have been selected click one of them and drag. By doing this the anchors will move in unison.

Step 6

Now that you have formatted the copy you might want to add a fill color to the box and select a contrasting color for the type. You will notice that adding a fill color will force the type to the edge of the frame.

Step 7

To amend this right-click and select Text Frame Options. Adjust the Inset Spacing to add space between the box frame and copy. After adjusting the Spacing you might need to alter the frame again as some of the text may have ran out of the box (this is indicated by a red box with a cross hair in its center). Finally adjust any negative space and balance the measure of the lines.


There you have it. How to use a letter form as a text box. You can try this technique out on different letterforms and make different typographical compositions and designs. Have fun and see what you can come up with, you may be surprised by the result.

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