Changing frame shapes after you have made them in InDesign CC

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Changing frame shapes after you have made them in InDesign CC

One question I am sometimes asked is "once you have created a frame in InDesign, can you change the frame shape without recreating it from scratch".  The good news is there are a number of ways to change frame shapes in InDesign once you have created them, without having to go through the whole creation process again. This can be especially useful if you have existing content in there, such as linked spreadsheets, data merge content, conditional text or anything else that might take more than a few seconds to recreate.

Option One - Frame Tool Settings

Your first option when it comes to changing the shape of a frame is to simply select it and then change the settings on the frame tool itself.  For example use the polygon frame tool to create a polygon with 5 sides. If your default polygon has more or less than 5 sides, simply use the live shape features to adjust the shape (space bar, then keyboard arrows during shape creation).  With your new frame created, now select it and double click the frame tool that was used to initially create the shape. Here you can simply edit the number of sides, and the indent, then click ok and the frame now has a new shape.

This first method is great if you want to make a simple change, for example to the number of sides on the shape, but what if you want to make a more complex change?

Option Two - Object Menu Options

The second option available would be to select the shape and then from the object menu go to the convert shape options near the bottom of the menu.  Here you can change the shape to any of the following:

  • Rectangle
  • Rounded Rectangle
  • Beveled Rectangle
  • Inverse Rounded Rectangle
  • Ellipse
  • Triangle
  • Polygon
  • Line
  • Orthogonol Line

Again any content in the shape will be left untouched although there are some restrictions, for example you couldn't convert a rectangle frame containing content into a line, for fairly obvious reasons. None the less this can be a useful quick fix for changing to some of the more common shapes.

Option Three - Pen Tool Edits

The third option for changing the shape of your frames is particularly appealing to those who have used Illustrator before. You might have already noticed but your frames in InDesign are basically just vector shapes, and can be edited in just the same way as they would be in Illustrator. Simply use the white arrow and you can move and adjust the individual anchors, additionally there is even a convert direction point tool tucked away under the pen tool within InDesign. This will allow you to convert your sharp corners into smooth curves (click and drag an anchor with this tool) or convert a smooth curve back into a sharp corner (simply click once on the anchor with the same tool). 

Of course we are only touching the surface here and there are many other ways shapes can be adjusted in InDesign, including using the pathfinder capabities, but that is something we will go into on another post. Of course if you want to really get comfortable with InDesign or any of the other creative cloud tools, then you will want to take a look at our range of courses, as this would be the fastest and most cost effective way to do so.