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Designing Effective Posters

Getting Started with InDesign

Getting Started

This section describes Adobe InDesign version CS6.  If you have a different version of InDesign, the user interface may look a little different but the procedures for creating posters are essentially the same. It is similar for both Windows and Macintosh platforms.

If you have questions or need further assistance, please contact Allison Martel, Digital Technologies Librarian, at

For information and tutorials about the latest features of Adobe InDesign, see


Creating a new InDesign document

To create a new inDesign document, you can click Create New Document on the splash screen that appears (unless disabled) when InDesign launches.

new document menu


Or you can choose File menu > New > Document:

The New Document dialog box appears. Enter in values for the page size, margins, and number of columns. The following example shows values typical for a poster.

Note: If the measurement units in the above dialog box are something other than inches, you can change the units to inches by choosing InDesign menu > Preferencess >Units and Increments. 

units and increments


Moving around in the display

To zoom in on part of the document, use the zoom tool (zoom). Or choose Ctrl + to zoom in; Ctrl - to zoom out

While you are zoomed in, use the Hand tool (hand tool) to move around the image.

Press spacebar to access the hand tool when using another tool (except the text tool)


Working With Guides

Guides are useful for aligning the elements in your poster. Guides are lines that appear on the screen but do not print. To add guides, first make sure the rulers are visible (View menu > Show Rulers).  Then click in a ruler and drag to where you want to place the guide.

To hide or lock the guides, choose View menu > Hide Guides or Lock Guides.

Working with Text

Creating Text

Click and drag with Text tool to create a text box (also called a text frame). Then type, or copy and paste text from another application (such as Word).

Text box

Formatting Text

To change the formatting of text, first select the text, then change the values in the Character and Paragraph palettes. To display these palettes, choose Window menu > Type & Tables > Character and Window menu > Type & Tables > Paragraph.

Window Menu -Type & Tables

Change character formatting such as font, size, and line spacing using the Character palette. To change paragraph attributes such as justification, indents, and spacing between paragraphs, use the Paragraph palette.

Character and Paragraph palettes

Moving and resizing text frames

Click on the Selection tool (selection tool) in the Toolbox.

Text frame

To resize text frame, click and drag the text frame handles with the Selection tool. To move the text frame, drag the edge of the frame with the Selection tool

Adding bullets to paragraphs

To add a bullet to a paragraph, click in the paragraph, then click on the paragraph palette menu button to open its palette menu. Choose Bullets and Numbering..



In the Bullets and Numbering dialog box, choose Bullets from the List Type dropdown menu, and enter values for the other options in the dialog box. Then click OK.


bullets dialog box 

Working with Paragraph Styles

It is not necessary to use paragraph styles, but they can help you to ensure that the formatting of your text and headings is consistent throughout the poster.

To Create Paragraph Styles:

Format a paragraph the way you want.

Choose Window>Type & Tables > Paragraph Styles

Choose New Paragraph Style from the Paragraph Styles palette menu.

Enter a name for the style In the New Paragraph Style dialog box, and make any additional changes you want to the paragraph style.

Click OK.

To apply a style to a paragraph:

Click anywhere in the paragraph. Then click on the style name in the Paragraph Styles palette.

Working with Images and Graphics

Working with Images and Graphics

Inserting an image or graphic:

Choose File>Place. Then browse to the file and choose it. 

Note: If you don't want to delete anything in your document that is currently selected, be sure that "Replace Selected Item" is unchecked.


Resizing an image or graphic:

Click on the object with the selection tool (selection tool) to select it. Then choose Object menu > Transform > Scale.



In the dialog box, change the values for Scale X and Scale Y to resize the image. 

Adding a drop shadow:

Select a graphic or text frame. Choose Object menu > Drop Shadow. Adjust the settings in the Drop Shadow dialog box to you liking, and click OK.

Grouping multiple objects

First, press shift while clicking on objects to select them.

Choose Object menu > Group. You can then manipulate the group as if it is a single object.

Changing the color of an object

Display the Swatches palette (Window menu > Swatches) Select the object

Click on the Fill box or Stroke box in the Tools palette

To change the color of the stroke or fill, click on a swatch in the Swatches palette.

Note: "Stroke" refers to the line around the outside edge of an object that defines its shape. The "fill" is the area inside the shape.

To change the thickness of the stroke choose Window menu > Stroke, then change the Weight field in the Stroke palette.

Exporting and Printing your Poster

Exporting Your Poster to PDF Format

Many print shops prefer (or require) that you submit print jobs in portable document format (.pdf). To save a copy of your poster as a pdf, choose File menu > Adobe PDF Presets >.  In most cases [High Quality Print] is a good option for saving a file that you want to print on a high-quality printer.

export pdf

If you do not plan to print the poster yourself, see "Print Your Poster" in the Design Process and Printing section of this guide.