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Techniques For Managing Imported Graphics in Adobe InDesign

InDesign comes packed with a variety of options and commands to help us manage, update, and adjust our imported graphics, whether they're brought in from Photoshop, Illustrator, or from somewhere else. There's a whole bunch of great stuff I want to get to, so I'm going to jump right in!


1 - Setting Display Performance

You may have run into this if you've worked with InDesign in the past: The graphics that you import into the layout appear to be pixelated, even if they're high-resolution in Photoshop or full vector artwork in Illustrator. What gives? Well, it's actually InDesign.

You see, InDesign tries to help us out by reducing the strain on our computer's resources by displaying imported graphics in a lower quality. To bring graphics in at their full quality, choose View > Display Performance > High Quality Display. The imported images refresh, and are now displayed at their maximum quality.



2 - Editing Imported Graphics in Photoshop or Illustrator

Since InDesign is part of Adobe's Creative Suite, there is a tight integration with programs like Illustrator and Photoshop. InDesign makes it easy to open imported images into these programs, where we can make adjustments, apply additional effects, or make any other edits that we want. Upon saving our work and returning to our layout in InDesign, the graphic will automatically update. Here's how to do it:

In InDesign, select the graphic that you'd like to edit, then right-click on it and choose Edit Original or Edit With. From the Edit With submenu, choose the application that you'd like to edit your graphic in.

Here we will be editing our graphic inside Illustrator.


Your graphics application springs to life, and you can go ahead and make whatever changes you'd like, making full use of all the program's tools, commands, and options. Once you're finished, save your work and head back to InDesign. As soon as you're back in your layout, your graphic will update. How do ya like that?!


3 - Gathering Information About Imported Images

InDesign's Links panel really is the hub for all of your imported images. Go ahead and open it up by choosing Window > Links. In the panel, you'll find a list of all the images that you've imported into your layout, as well as any errors, like missing graphics or graphics that need to be updated. Often though, you'll want to find out a little bit more about the images in the layout, especially if someone else built the layout and it was sent to you.

To do so, select the graphic that you'd like more info about from the list of files in the Links panel, then click on the arrow in the panel's bottom-left corner. This expands the 'Link Info' area at the bottom of the panel. Here, we get all sorts of information about our selected graphic, like the file name and format, the color space and resolution, dimensions, and a whole lot more. To navigate through the images that appear at the top of the Links panel, just use the left and right arrows in the Link Info area's top-right corner.

InDesign's Links panel.


4 - Replacing an Imported Image with Another Image

There are a lot of options available to us in the Links panel. Use the icons in the panel's bottom-right corner to navigate to where the file resides in the layout, edit the file, etc. There are even more options in the panel menu: Embed Link (which allows us to break the link between the original file and the InDesign layout) and Reveal In Finder (which shows us where the graphic file is saved).

But there's one command I want to highlight called Relink. You'll find Relink in the panel menu and also as an icon at the bottom of the panel. What's cool about this command is that we can use it to replace one graphic with another one. Whether it's replacing an FPO (For Position Only) image or exchanging an older version of a graphic for a newer one, Relink comes in handy.

To use Relink, first select the graphic that you'd like to replace in the Links panel. Then, click on the Relink icon at the bottom of the panel (or choose it from the panel menu). In the Relink dialog box that appears, navigate to the new image that you'd like to use to replace the current image, select it, and click Open. That's all there is to it!

The Relink dialog box.


5 - Controlling Layer Visibility

Even though I've been making use of this next option for quite a long time, I'm still amazed by it. With it, we can control the layer visibility of our imported graphics right from within InDesign. In other words, if your imported Illustrator or Photoshop files are comprised of multiple layers, we can control those layers from within our layout. It's pretty cool, so let's check it out.

First, make sure that you have a fully layered Photoshop or Illustrator file imported into your layout. It's also a good idea to make sure that the layers have all been named appropriately, rather than simply being named Layer1, Layer2, etc.

Next, in InDesign, select the imported graphic and choose Object > Object Layer Options. The dialog box that appears lists the layers contained in the selected image, with eye icons allowing us to turn each layer's visibility on or off. To really see this in action, be sure to turn on the Preview option over on the right-hand side.


So go ahead and set the layer visibility as you'd like and then click 'OK' to apply your changes. 

Not happy with what you now have? No problem: head back into the Object Layer Options dialog, and make your changes. What's great about this is we don't have to keep flipping back and forth between our layout and Illustrator or Photoshop. It's all right here in InDesign!

Well there you have it: a few techniques for managing imported graphics in InDesign. Hopefully this will help you work faster when building your layouts!

Geoff Blake

Geoff Blake | Articles by this author

Geoff Blake is a book author, video presenter, designer, and visual artist. As an in demand live-on-stage software educator since 1997, Geoff has taught desktop publishing, web design and graphics courses all over North America and is regarded as an expert in Adobe's Creative Suite applications, as well as in HTML, CSS, WordPress, and related technologies. With his humorous, non-jargonny approach, Geoff produces highly regarded articles, video training and DVDs, and regularly contributes to top industry magazines and websites.

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