Create A Logo, Quickly, in InDesign of All Things

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In honor of the upcoming (perennially awesome) PEPCON (Print and eProduction Conference) in Austin at the end of the month, I’ve decided to remember how to use InDesign. I’ve also been thinking about how lovers of great Photoshop and Illustrator techniques (often synonymous with “fans of Deke”) may be interested in showing off their images with InDesign’s layout features, especially as a subscription to the Creative Cloud now makes access to ID essentially free.

But to ease into the layout program after a diet of mostly graphics and photos, I thought I’d start with this tutorial, extracted from Deke’s Up & Running with InDesign course at, on how to make a quick and easy logo. Deke uses some familiar tools, like the Rectangle shape tool and Pathfinder, that will help PS and AI users acclimate to the InDesign environment.

Learning InDesign (2011) by Deke McClelland

In the mood to read rather than watch? Don’t have access to the sample files? Here’s an illustrated step-by-step recounting of how I adapted this tutorial to create my own personal logo from scratch inside InDesign:

1) Draw a rectangle with the aptly named Rectangle tool and fill it with your signature color.

The Rectangle tool in InDesign looks very similar to the one in Photoshop. (The other rectangle with an X through it is the Rectangle Frame tool. Ignore that one for now; frames have slightly different properties than standard shapes.)

So, choose the right one in the toolbox as highlighted below, and click and drag out the shape to something resembling a square. It doesn’t have to be exact because you can adapt it to your text letter later. (For reference, mine is roughly 3p6 square.) Then click your swatch of choice to fill it with your desired color. (Mine is a little thing I like to call Colleen Red.)

2) Create a text frame with your signature letter in it.

Grab the Type tool (with the familiar T icon) and drag out a text frame of similar size. (If you’re new to InDesign, you can do this off to the side so managing stacked objects doesn’t get too confusing). Set your desired typeface, type size, and color in the Control Panel, then type your initial of choice.


3) Move the letter over the rectangle.

I like to shrink my text frames to match their contents (in other words, no extraneous white space inside the frame to confuse me when I’m positioning things). To do this, right-click on the text frame and choose Fit Frame to Content.

With the black arrow tool (aka the Selection tool), drag the text frame over the rectangle so that interesting bits of the letter (which will eventually be cut off for artistic effect) extend beyond the shape. At this point, you can drag the handles of either the rectangle’s bounding box or the text frame in order to position things as you like.

Tip: If you need to select an object (for instance your rectangle) from underneath another object (the text frame), Command-click (Ctrl-click) to move between stacked objects.

4) Convert the text to outlines.

With the text selected, choose Type > Create Outlines. This converts your letter to a shape. If you’ve spent any time with Deke, you’ve seen similar commands in Photoshop and Illustrator. While converting to outlines means that your type is no longer editable, it also means you can move the anchor points around to stylize the shape if you wish.

Note, I’ve changed my layer/selection color to green from the default blue in the image below so you can see the outlines. Then I clicked the letter with the white arrow (Direct Selection) tool so you can see it’s now a shape.

5) Change the fill color if necessary.

At this point, I decided that the use of inverted colors was a little threatening to my optic nerve, so I changed the fill of my letter to white by setting the swatch in the Control Panel.

6) Find the intersection with the Pathfinder command.

But before you do, select both objects (the rectangle and the path outline) by shift-clicking the rectangle (presuming your outline is still selected.) Or you can use the black arrow tool to draw a marquee around the whole shebang, thus selecting everything in its wake.) Press Command-C (Ctrl-C) to copy everything for later.

Then go to the Object menu and choose Pathfinder > Intersection. The result clips off the areas of my C that were hanging beyond the rectangle.

7. Paste the original back in and subtract the intersection from the original.

From the Edit menu, choose Paste in Place to put the original back in play. Then choose Object > Pathfinder > Subtract to cut out the outline from the original.

In order to “free” all the various sections so that you can color them to your desire, choose Object > Path > Release Compound Path. Now all the sections are available to color independently.

In my case, I decided to bring back that inverse cyan color to fill in the center of the C. I just clicked in the center of the C with the white arrow tool and chose my “Colleen Anti-Red” swatch.

Note: if seeing this particular step in action would be useful, skip to the 3:4 timestamp in Deke’s video.

7) Group the pieces together.

Select all the shapes (I think marqueeing around your entire graphic with the black arrow tool is the easiest way to grab everything), and then press Command-G (Ctrl-G) to group them together. Then you can resize and move your new logo into place as you like.

There you have it, a nifty logo created on the fly in InDesign, where you can swiftly add other self-deprecating text to develop your visual message.

By the way, if you’d like to join me, Deke, and a whole host of fun, friendly, and knowledgable InDesign types in Austin, David and Anne-Marie have supplied the TXDEKE code for a discount off your registration.

And if you’d like to watch all of Deke’s InDesign course, but aren’t a member of, you can get a free week’s trial by going to

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