1. Design & Illustration
  2. Adobe InDesign

Quick Tip: How to Fill Text With an Image in Adobe InDesign

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Placing an image inside a single character can give your layouts a super-professional, design-forward look. And it’s really simple to achieve!

In this Quick Tip tutorial, you’ll learn how to transform your typography into picture frames, to dramatic effect! We’ll be using Adobe InDesign for this tutorial.

You’ll often see this sort of design technique being used in high-end magazine design, to give added impact to headlines and to showcase a photo in a unique and eye-catching way. It can also add drama to book design, marketing materials and poster design.

In this tutorial we’ll set up an InDesign layout for a magazine spread, and experiment with creating our image-filled text on that. Let’s get started!

1. Set Up the Magazine Layout

Step 1

Open up InDesign and choose File > New > Document or select New > Document from the Welcome window.

Keep the Intent set to Print and up the Number of Pages to 3. Keep Facing Pages checked.

From the Page Size drop-down menu select the option at the bottom of the list, Custom... to open up the Custom Page Size window. Type ‘US Magazine’ into the Name box, and set the Width to 213 mm and Height to 276.5 mm. Click Add, and then OK, to return to the New Document window.

custom page size

Step 2

Break the chain icon in the middle of the Margins section, to allow you to insert different values for each margin. Set the Top Margin to 14 mm, Bottom to 18 mm, Inside to 14 mm and Outside to 12 mm.

For the Bleed, set the value to 3 mm on all sides except the Inside Bleed, which you should set to 0 mm.

new document

Click OK to create the new three-page document. 

new document created

We won’t be using the first page of the document in this tutorial, so navigate down to Pages 2 and 3 of the document, by scrolling down or clicking on the page icons in the Pages panel (Window > Pages).

pages 2 and 3

2. Choosing the Right Typeface

Step 1

It’s really important to choose the right sort of typeface (font) when you’re creating an image-in-text effect. 

There are three things to consider when choosing a typeface: the shape of the character you want to fill with an image; the weight of the character (whether it’s thick enough to allow the image to show through sufficiently); and the simplicity of the character (no textures or outlying bits and bobs). Let’s break it down:

  • The image-inside-text effect works best when you blow up a single character to large scale, which means that the design and shape of that single character will be hugely amplified. Look for a font that has attractive uppercase characters, perhaps an elegant serif or an italicized script.
  • You also need the character to reveal enough of the image to make a statement, so the character should have enough weight (thickness) to ensure this. When browsing font stores online, fonts tagged with ‘Display’ or ‘Slab’ will usually be a safe bet. Avoid any fonts that are too thin or light.
  • Lastly, and importantly, make sure your font is relatively simple, with each character being self-enclosed. What do I mean by that? Well, take a look at these two characters. To the left we have Bevan, a simple slab font, which would work really well for achieving the image-in-text effect. To the right, Brushstroke Plain, which would work much less well as the character is more disparate. Any fonts with grungy textures would also not be suitable, as scattered textures, separate to the main character, would not be filled with the image.
different fonts

Step 2

In this example, I’m going to be using Lobster, which ticks all of the boxes above—the uppercase characters are attractive, weighty, and have a simple, enclosed shape.

Lobster font

You can choose to download and use Lobster as you follow this tutorial, or pick a different font if you’d prefer.

3. Creating a Picture Frame From Text

Step 1

Return to your InDesign document, and to Page 2.

Take the Type Tool (T) from the Tools panel and drag to create a large text frame that extends across the whole of Page 2. Type an uppercase ‘T’ into the frame, and set the Font to Lobster Regular, Size 750 pt.

There’s no problem with keeping the color of the text set to the default [Black] for now.

text on page

Step 2

With the text frame selected (use the Selection Tool (V, Escape)), go up to Type on the top menu, and select Create Outlines.

create outlines

The text frame will subtly adjust; the text character has now been converted into a vector shape. 

vectorized letter

Step 3

With the character still selected, head up to File > Place.

Now you can start to experiment with filling your text with images. If you’re setting your text on a white or pale background, look for a photo that’s going to provide enough contrast, and vice versa if you want to work on a darker background.

Here I’ve experimented with this image of a fashionable woman, before finally deciding on an image of a blue, cloudy sky.

image in letter
place image

To adjust the size of the image inside the text, double-click to select the image directly, and then hold Shift and drag one of the corners to resize. If you want to fit as much of the image as possible in the letter, head up to the Controls panel running along the top of the workspace and click the Fill Frame Proportionally button.

fill frame proportionally
black removed

As a final touch, to ensure no color bleeds through on the edges of the letter, open the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches) and set the Fill of the shape to [None].

swatches panel


And there you have it! A super-simple method of adding a touch of visual drama to your typographic layouts! Remember the simple process:

  • Choose a suitable typeface (e.g. slab, display).
  • Convert the text character to outlines (vectorize).
  • File > Place a chosen image and resize within the frame.

Use this simple technique to build up dynamic, professional-standard design layouts, just like the example magazine spread below.

magazine spread

Feel free to share your experiments with using the image-inside-text technique in the comments below.

To find out more about filling text shapes with blocks of text to create another cool effect, check out this tutorial on creating high-impact text effects in InDesign.

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