Graphic designers need a dedicated tool set for their work, whether they create publications for the online or print market. Those with talent can make use of Photoshop and Illustrator to create beautiful posters, brochures, and other creations. But this can be a lengthy process, and in the competitive design industry, these programs might not be enough.
Adobe InDesign is an application used to create “documents,” anything from book covers to greeting cards. Adobe created it with design professionals in mind, and it was sophisticated and professional enough to become the standard in the industry. But it wasn’t always this way.
The History of InDesign
InDesign’s roots lead back to PageMaker, a rudimentary version of what we have now. Its interface was clunky — that’s saying a lot, even for Windows 98. The final product was often a garish mess, and more importantly, its competitor QuarkXPress had way more features.
Quark attempted to buy Adobe and discontinue PageMaker. Adobe, however, would not have it. Instead, it began to work on what would become InDesign. This tool quickly turned the tables, overtaking QuarkXPress and the rest of the design industry. Today, we have a tool that’s come very far, from an unwieldy program to a streamlined and feature-rich one.
But though Adobe InDesign is full of great features, its scope is enormous. It can be difficult to get the hang of. Open it up and you’ll see a hefty UI with a bunch of confusing buttons. Even if you already know how to use the program, you may still find yourself lost at times.
Luckily, the internet is enamored with InDesign. Thus, it’s loaded with all sorts of articles, videos, tutorials, and other resources to help people get the hang of this program. We’ve compiled just a few of the very best out there, so take a look and see if you can’t learn something new.
Whether you’re a veteran designer or just bought InDesign, tutorials are necessary to expand your knowledge. It’s good practice to play around with new programs a bit and see what you can discover on your own, but this program is incredibly complex. Trying to accomplish something without help may leave you feeling overwhelmed.
Luckily, there are tons of resources out there to help users from all skill levels. Here are just a few of them:
- Adobe InDesign Tutorials: This section has to begin with Adobe’s own set of lessons. With both video and text-based guides, most of them fairly short and simple, it’s easy to kick off your InDesign career. Ranging from beginner to expert, there are 30+ tutorials. This should keep you busy for a while. Don’t forget the User Guide for a few less interactive but more expansive articles, too.
- InDesign Skills: Though intended solely for beginners who need to develop essential design skills, InDesign Skills provides a helpful set of articles. These “bite-sized” tutorials are super easy to follow and laid out very well. Even if you’re an expert, you should give this page a glance. You may learn something new.
- Adobe InDesign Tutorials on Tuts+: Are you looking for something more specific, like how to make a resume or a classy Christmas card? Tuts+ tutorials show you how to recreate a specific document so you can develop your skills through direct learning. These are an intermediate set of tutorials, so they assume that you already have an understanding of the program. However, they do have a few beginner’s guides as well.
- InDesign Training and Tutorials on Lynda: Along with paid courses, Lynda offers over 300 episodes of video tutorials, tips, and secrets (click over to “Weekly Series”). Some of them are locked behind a paywall, but there are quite a few available for free for users to watch. All are less than 10 minutes long, so if you’re short on time but hungry for more advanced explanations, this is the place for you. There are also guides on Photoshop and Illustrator, so designers who have the full roster of Adobe products may find this site of particular interest.
- Layers Magazine: if you’re experienced with InDesign, you need guides that are tailored to the advanced features you use. These video tutorials cover a broader range of techniques, though they’re still just as simple to follow and understand. There’s a ton of them too, so this resource is definitely bookmark-worthy.
Tips and Tricks
Sometimes tutorials aren’t great. They can be dull for those who just want to pick up some new skills, but too difficult for those who are still learning. Luckily, along with the plethora of InDesign tutorials online, there are just as many smaller tips and guides to be found. These little instructionals strike a balance, and are appropriate for all users.
- FluxConsulting: Need a quick cheat sheet? It’s too easy to skip over the basics, and you may end up taking the hard route when there’s a simple solution you just never learned about. Worry no more. This page has quite a few short tips and shortcuts.
- InDesign Tips I Wish I’d Known When Starting Out: It’s amazing how easy it is to forget the most fundamental of your knowledge. Even expert InDesign users occasionally find themselves learning about a nifty keyboard shortcut or a hidden use for a tool. Luckily, this guide covers all those bases. A great read whether you’re new or just brushing up.
- 4 Time-Saving InDesign Tips: Nobody wants to waste time, much less graphic designers. With clients banging at your door and flooding your email, it’s hard to forget that you need to move fast. Fittingly, this article is a quick read, and the time saved by implementing these suggestions is well worth it.
- MacProVideo: A lot of websites throw in a few tips into one article and call it a day, but there’s a small collection of tricks to be found here. Ranging from intermediate to advanced, all of these are very useful learning tools. Unfortunately, the site rarely updates and some of these articles are on the ancient side, but still worth a quick scroll-through if nothing else.
- InDesign Secrets: Last but certainly not least, InDesign Secrets is a wonderful site providing a constant flow of articles, tutorials, and little bits of advice. Unlike many other InDesign websites, this one posts frequently, so you’ll never want for new information. There are just too many useful resources to list here, so poke around yourself and see what you can learn.
Books are a great resource whether paperback is your preferred medium or you’re just after the quality guaranteed in an official title. If you have a lot of time to invest and wish to learn more than a simple article can teach you, you’ll want to turn to these publications.
- InDesign CS5 for Dummies (2010) by Galen Gruman: No list of this nature is complete without a “for Dummies” book. They simply speak for themselves. This is the choice for absolute beginners who may have a bit of difficulty with technical terms and jargon that most authors assume you already know. See Adobe InDesign for Dummies for its outdated equivalent, in case you’re interested in the series. They’re much older, but many of the tips still hold true, and information is always presented in an easy-to-read format.
- 10 Essential InDesign Skills (2016) by InDesign Skills: if you liked InDesign Skills’ simple tutorials, perhaps you’ll like its ebook. Though normally $10, it’s sometimes offered free with a newsletter subscription, so it’s hard to pass up. This book is created for beginner to intermediate users, just like its guides, and appears to cover the entire design process in a well-presented format.
- Real World Adobe InDesign CC (2013) by Olav Martin Kvern, et al: Tailored for professionals, this publication is the expert’s resource for working with InDesign. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but it accomplishes the feat of both being detailed and easy to understand. It’s hailed as the best of the best by a variety of sources. For masters of InDesign, a book that cuts to the chase is an indispensable tool.
- InDesignSecrets e-Magazines: For something a little different and easier to digest, check out these e-magazines. The topics covered are all interesting and fresh, as is all the content on this website. Individually or with a subscription, these zines offer a great read and contain everything from tutorials to tips.
- A Designer’s Guide to Adobe InDesign and XML: Harness the Power of XML to Automate your Print and Web Workflows (2007) by James J Maivald and Cathy Palmer: XML, in basic terms, is a way to easily tag and move elements in and out of documents. This is more useful than it sounds. Imagine you were working on a project that required a consistent layout across all documents. Unlike some languages, XML isn’t too hard to learn, especially with this book’s help. It’s not currently available at its official site, so you’ll need to turn to other shopping sites to obtain a copy. But overall, it is well worth learning this versatile markup language in the context of InDesign.
In a program as dynamic as this one, it’s easy to hit a snag. Sometimes a quick Google search will net you a simple solution. Other times, you might encounter an obscure issue that no one seems to know about. Forums provide a community where you can get answers to personal questions, share tips, or just have a bit of fun:
- Official Adobe InDesign Forum: Adobe’s help forum isn’t the most extensive one out there. There’s just one board for questions and answers. However, it doesn’t take too long to get a response, and you may get an answer from real Adobe staff. With its speedy community, and its status as the official forum, you can’t go wrong here. However, for a real discussion and not just assistance with issues, you’ll need to turn elsewhere.
- InDesignSecrets Forums: Once again, InDesignSecrets offers a tiny little place where you can discuss InDesign, get help, and find plugins. It’s not highly active — if you need answers immediately, save it for somewhere else — but unlike Adobe’s forum, it has boards for specific topics. That way, whoever clicks on your topic will know what they’re talking about, and you can share your own knowledge where it’s needed. There’s also an area for discussing and linking to add-ons. Overall a nice little forum that promotes helpful discussion.
- Graphic Design Forum: Though not specifically for Adobe InDesign, topics on the program are more than welcome. This is a large, active forum with tons of boards and members, and definitely a website worth visiting, even if you only have a fledgling interest in graphic design.
- Adobe InDesign Forum: This forum is a part of the CreativeCow community, which is designed for media production professionals.
- Adobe InDesign Forum: This is a sub-forum at Tek-Tips.com, which houses many forums for people who work in IT.
Expand Your InDesign Knowledge
There are piles upon piles of InDesign resources scattered across the web, and these are some of the best. After reviewing these articles and books, you’re certain to walk away with greater knowledge than before. Coupled with the helpful InDesign community, you can’t go wrong.