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Getting Rid of Rectangular Images in InDesign using Photoshop
David Smith on Thu, August 25th 0 comments
Learn how to use Photoshop to create wrap-around graphics for use in InDesign. Use this tutorial to transform your page layout and make it more dynamic.

It's a fairly common sight: documents that contain images boxed up neatly in rectangles, text wrapped around it. Common, and a bit dull I think: 

Boring Layout

Boring Layout.

Instead, a layout like this is far more dynamic and interesting:

Dynamic Layout

Dynamic Layout.

Lets look at how we can create it. 

Step 1 - Preparing the Page. 

In Adobe InDesign, I have created a new A4 document with margins of 10mm Top, Left and Right and 14mm at the bottom and a bleed or 3mm on all sides: 

The document.

The document.

I need to add one Rectangular Frame and one Text Frame that will overlap substantially like so:

Frames Added

Frames Added.

As the two frames overlap this will at some stage make selecting one frame over the other a little tricky. To facilitate this I first create a new layer in the Layers panel by clicking on the add new layer button at the bottom of the panel. 

Layers Panel, 2 layers

Layers Panel, 2 layers.

Double-click on the top layer (Layer 2) and rename that layer "Text". Do the same for Layer 1, only rename that layer "Images".

I'll keep the Images layer selected and with the Rectangular Frame tool, draw a frame, bearing in mind that the image the frame holds will be set off the page margins, so I will draw like this:

Offset Frame

Offset Frame.

In the Layers panel I now select the layer named Text and using the magenta-colored margins as a guide, draw a text frame with the tech frame tool that fills the page. By separating the two frames onto different layers it will be much easier to manage the document's layout. I will start now by locking the Text layer so that I can select the Frame on the Image layer unimpeded. 

Locked Layer

Locked Layer.

To place my image into its frame I first select it then press Command-D. In the Place dialog box I can search for my image and place it in the frame:

Placed image

Placed image.

It's a little on the small side so I'll adjust its size and position in the Frame using the Direct Selection tool (keystroke A) to bring up the brown-bounding box around the image. With the Direct Selection tool I can use the handles to adjust size and position until it looks like this:

Brown box edited

Brown box edited.

TIP: Holding Shift as I adjust will keep proportions constrained and holding Option re-sizes from the centre, which can be a real time-saver.

I still have a rectangular image however, so let's get rid of the background in Photoshop. 

Step 2 - Editing in Photoshop

I am going to edit the linked image I've just placed in Photoshop so that the edits I make appear on this page. From the Links panel select the placed image.

Link Panel image

Link Panel image.

If I right-click on the image in the links panel and from the menu choose Edit With > Adobe Photoshop CS5, Photoshop will open with the my original image loaded, ready to edit. Using this method makes it easier to open images that are not set to open with Photoshop by default in your OS. 

The obvious workflow would be now to create a layer mask around the figure to hide the background. This is not however the most practical method for use in InDesign for three reasons:

  1. If the mask is removed or switched off at any point in the future to reintroduce the background for another project, the InDesign document I'm creating now would be updated and any future prints or exports would include the background. 
  2. Any image that contains an Alpha Channel (transparency) becomes much larger when it is saved, making it less efficient to store or share. 
  3. Alphas can also cause problems with some printing or PDF settings in InDesign.  

Instead I will use a Clipping Path in Photoshop to hide the background in InDesign but leave it unchanged in Photoshop.

To start the process I'm going to make a selection of my figure using the Quick Selection Tool: 

Quick selection

Quick selection.

The Quick Selection tool works by combining the Magic Wand and the Magnetic Lasso tools, so when you start selecting a color range it will automatically detect the edges of the color range and magnetically lasso to it. This is a huge time-saving tool if you know how to use it. Two things are important to remember when using the is tool:

  • The tool uses a brush to select, therefore the size can be modified using the [ and ] keys to resize on-the-fly (as you work). This is useful when trying to select narrow sections of your image, and to save time on bigger areas.
  • The tool will auto-detect the edges so as I work, the rough-looking edges will smooth themselves out. I don't need to try and carefully select them myself.

Like all selections in Photoshop if the tool selects areas I didn't intend I can press and hold Option and use the tool to deselect these areas instead. My marching ants look like this:

The Selection is made

The Selection is made.

Now that I've finished making the selection, I'm going to tidy up small details using Refine Edge Select > Refine Edge. For this image I'll use a white background to view the selection and just tweak any problem areas using the Feather and Size parameters. 

Refine Edge

Refine Edge.

Tricky areas such as hair can be better handled using Smart Edge Detection and if necessary paint over tricky areas using the Smart Edge Tool. It's a really powerful way to have Photoshop analyze and modify the selection further. 

Smart Edge

Smart Edge.

I'm happy with the selection all the way around so I click OK.

Tip: Sometimes it's smarter to select the background around a subject then invert the selection Select > Invert Selection instead, if the background is less detailed that the subject.


Step 3 - Creating a Clipping Path

Normally paths are generated using tools like the Pen tool, however in Photoshop they can also be created from selections. 

In the same panel group as the Layers Panel there is a Panel named Paths. I've selected it as that is where my Path will be created and saved. 

To create my path from the selection I need to click on the icon at the bottom of the Paths panel called 'Make work path from selection'. 

Path Panel & Buttons

Path Panel & Buttons.

A new working path is created. This has to be converted into a regular path in order to work with InDesign. I do this by double-clicking on the Working Path name and renaming it "Figure": 

Re-name path

Rename path.

The path named Figure is now a regular path, simple as that. 

To further convert the Figure path into a clipping path for InDesign, I need to open the Path Panel's options pull-down menu and choose Create Clipping Path... 

fly out menu

Pull-down menu.

A dialogue box appears asking me to chose a path. I've chosen my "Figure" Path. 

choose path dialogue

Choose path dialogue.

This has no edited effect on the Photoshop image if we now save the image in Photoshop.

Tip: Photoshop will try to save as a .psd, but you can still save it in other formats such as .jpeg and it will work. 

I can now close Photoshop and re-enter InDesign. As if by magic (well, not really) the image I placed no longer has a background. 

Step 4 - Adding the Text

I can also use the Clipping Path to wrap text by opening the Text Wrap panel from the Windows menu (Windows > Text Wrap) and with the image still selected choose 'Wrap around object shape'. When I add the text there won't be much padding between the image and the text so I think I'll set a padding size of 4mm around the Text Wrap.  

text wrap settings

Text wrap settings.

When I unlock the layer named Text and fill the text frame with placeholder text it looks like this:

Text in place

Text in place.

All that remains is to apply Paragraph and Character styles appropriate to the document and the transformation is complete.

The finished result

The finished result.

You'll find much in the Core InDesign CS5 101 tutorial,  and there's plenty to explore in these Photoshop tutorials here.

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