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Create Unusual Shaped Paragraphs in Apple Pages

Check out our Pages: For Mac, iPad & iPhone course!

Pages has some neat and interesting layout features. For example, by default, when you add text to the body of your Pages document, it will wrap around the shape of an object added on top. But there are cases where you want the opposite. Meaning to have text follow a specific shape instead of wrap around a shape like this:

Final

The logic is simple, but the process in Pages is a bit awkward:

  1. Create the shape that the tell will fill.
  2. Set the fill of the shape so that it can receive text.
  3. Add the text within the shape.
  4. Format the shape to work with the rest of your document.

1 - Create the Shape

This step may be super simple, or a bit involved depending on the shape you want the text to fill. It's really simple if the shape you want is already in the Shape pop-up menu in the tool bar, like a triangle, square, circle, etc.

Pic 2

Chances are that you may want a more complex shape. For that you can create your own using the Pen Tool. From the Shape pop-up menu in the Toolbar, choose "Draw with Pen”. A couple of pointers when you draw with the pen tool.

I like it better when the shape is closed. At least in my head it makes it clearer to understand the boundaries.

Avoid angles that would cut through text lines. Take a look at these two examples and read through the numbers to see what I mean.

Pic 3

2 - Fill the Shape

This step is a bit awkward, but what I found is that if you draw a shape with the pen it will have no color fill. That on its own is not bad, since in most cases you’d want to have no background color. The problem is that if the shape has no fill, you cannot get the insert cursor within the shape! So, with the shape selected, go to the Style Inspector and set a fill, any fill for now. If you don’t want any fill in your final version, you can either remove the fill after you add the text or make it transparent. Either way you’ll get the same result. In my example I’m adding a color to make it easier for me to see the fill before I remove it later in my process.

Pic 4

3 - Add the Text

To add the text, you should be able to just double-click inside the shape. When you do so, you should see the blinking cursor in the middle of the shape. If you don’t see a blinking cursor, most likely it’s because the shape has no fill. Make sure that Step 2 was performed.

Once you see the blinking cursor, you can start typing your text or paste it from somewhere else. In my example I’m using dummy text from this online text generator:

http://www.malevole.com/mv/misc/text/

Depending on the length of your text, the typography you’re using and the size of the shape, chances are that you may need to tweak some of the text properties.

Pic 5

When formatting the text, make sure all the text is visible! If you see a little square with a plus (+) sign at the bottom edge of the shape, that means that some text is not being displayed. You’ll need to tweak things around to fit all the text… and make sure you proofread your content to ensure nothing is missing!

Some things I had to tweak for this text to work:

  • Text Inset (under the Text inspector in the Layout tab). Usually you’d want something closer to zero so the text gets as close to the edge of the shape as possible.
  • Font and font size (under the Text inspector in the Style tab).
  • Justify the text alignment.
  • Spacing, specifically the paragraph spacing (under the Text inspector by disclosing the Spacing area).
  • Resize the shape slightly. In my case, once I had it close to what I wanted, I made the shape a tiny touch smaller.

Pic 6

4 - Format the Shape

Now that the text is the way we want it, it’s time to finish up with the shape. In my case I don’t want anything from the shape visible except the text within. So I’ll get rid of the background color and the stroke around the shape.

Make sure the shape is selected and from the Style inspector, let’s work with the fill. We can do two things, and probably the easiest is to set the background to be transparent. Click the fill color notch and select the very last option that reads “No Fill”. 

Pic 7

This will make the shape transparent, so if there is anything else behind, we will see through it.

Let’s do the exact same thing for the Border. Simply click the color notch for the border and choose “No Border” from the pop-up.

Pic 8

Mind you that this may affect slightly the text within. If it changed too much, go ahead and tweak the text or the shape to ensure you don’t see the text overflow warning (the plus [+] sign at the bottom of the shape). You might still see a faint border while the shape is selected. Click away to make sure you don’t see any border.

Pic 9

To wrap up my example I’m going to add a golden ball to the right of my Pac-Man text. If you add another object, you may see your text wrapping around the new object if they get too close.

Pic 10

This is because by default the new object is set to cause text to wrap around. Also note that this interaction is causing the text inside my shape to overflow. In my case I’m turning this wrapping off by selecting the new object (my golden ball), and in the Arrange inspector change the “Text Wrap” from “Automatic” to “None”.

Pic 11

Now the golden ball floats on top of my text shape without having any negative or unexpected interaction.

Pic 12

So there you have it. If you have a hard time arranging the text within the shape, play around with the inspector properties for both the text and the shape. It may take a little experimentation to get it right.

Check out our Pages: For Mac, iPad & iPhone course!

Francesco Schiavon

Francesco Schiavon | Articles by this author

It all started with a TSR-80 in the late 80s. At that point it was more a toy than anything else. Since then, my interest in computers materialized with a PS/2 80 while I was in university in Mexico. Before I graduated I already had a couple of Macs, an LC-II and a Centris 660 AV, which was the catalyst to becoming an expert in both QuickTime and using the Mac. During my MBA, and later while attending the Vancouver Film School (VFS), I really learned to learn. Being a professional student at that point I started in the teaching realm as a Teaching Assistant, moving quickly to a part-time instructor position at VFS and soon after a full time position. Also while teaching, I've held a number of managerial positions for web development companies like Blastradius, Donat Group Inc. and later Rouxbe.com as well as working as a freelance consultant, mostly related to digital video deployment. My first tutorial for MPV was made soon afer the company started. Since then I've made a number of tutorials ranging from using OS X to advanced video compression techniques with Compressor and Adobe Media Encoder. Today I teach part time at the Art Institute of Vancouver, create courses for MPV and am always open for business as a freelancer.

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