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The Savvy Photographer's Guide to Album Design: Simply Square

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Photographer Khara Plicanic shows you how to use Photoshop and InDesign to create a super-quick and easy square album that features a single image per page.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is all about making your first InDesign experience super-quick and easy. We’ll be making a simple square book that features a single image per page (making it perfect for portrait sessions!). Because this isn’t your traditional “designed” album, we’ll use an unusual combination of InDesign and Photoshop to get the job done.

First, we’ll jump into InDesign to create the photo border designs shown in Figure 4.1. Then, we’ll kick the design over to Photoshop where we’ll convert it to a pattern. Finally, we’ll use the pattern in a Photoshop action to batch process images for a simple, square album—in seconds!


FIGURE 4.1. By the end of this chapter, you’ll have the know how to knock out a simple, square book with this classically simple DIY photo border—in minutes!

An easy warm-up project, it’s the perfect introduction to InDesign. It’s short, sweet, and you’ll walk away with a finished product you can use time and time again.

Let’s get started!

Building the Border Design

Creating this border design with InDesign (instead of Photoshop) is awesome for a lot of reasons, including that it makes the designs scalable.

Because InDesign is a vector-based environment, when we create the image frame and border, they’ll be built from mathematically defined shapes (vectors) as opposed to the more organic alternative of pixels like Photoshop uses. As such, we won’t have to worry about issues with resolution and can easily edit or even resize the designs—without sacrificing quality or having to rebuild them for resolution purposes.

We’ll be creating this design for images with a 2:3 aspect ratio as captured by a camera with a full-frame sensor. If your images were captured with a cropped sensor at a different aspect ratio, you’ll need to make adjustments. I suggest working through this chapter as written first, however. Once you understand the process, you can tweak it to suit other aspect ratios as needed. Alternatively, you could crop your images to a 2:3 aspect ratio before continuing, though that is certainly a lot more work.

Create a New Blank Document

If you haven’t already done so, launch InDesign and before going any further, be sure that you have no open documents. Any open InDesign files should be closed before moving on or the preferences you’re about to change will only apply to those documents.

  1. Set preferences to inches. Choose InDesign > Preferences > Units and Increments (on a PC choose Edit > Preferences > Units and Increments) to open the Preferences dialog. By default, InDesign is set to units of measure called points. For the examples in this book, we’ll be working in inches, so in the Ruler Units section, select Inches for both the Horizontal and Vertical (Figure 4.2), and click OK.

    FIGURE 4.2

    FIGURE 4.2. You can change your unit preference to millimeters, picas, pixels, and all kinds of other options, but for the purposes of this book, inches are best.

  2. Create a new document. Choose File > New > Document. In the New Document dialog that follows, turn off the Facing Pages option (more on this option in Chapter 6), change both the Width and Height to 5 inches, and set the margins to 0 (Figure 4.3), then press OK.

    FIGURE 4.3

    FIGURE 4.3. In Chapter 6, we’ll cover Facing Pages, but turn it off for now.

  3. Save the file. Choose File > Save As. Give the file a name like Simple_Square_Border, and navigate to your desired location before choosing OK.

First steps—done! Now that we’ve got the document built, we’re ready to create the image placeholder and the actual decorative border to surround it.

Design the Image Placeholder and Border

Next, we’ll create a pair of rectangle frames: one (filled with black) to serve as a temporary placeholder for your photos, the other (with a black stroke) to be the decorative border.

  1. Create an image frame. Select the Rectangle Frame tool by pressing the F key or by clicking the icon rectangleframetool.jpg in the InDesign toolbar. With the tool active, click anywhere within the document and enter 4 inches for the Width and 2.6667 inches for the Height (Figure 4.4). Click OK.

    FIGURE 4.4

    FIGURE 4.4. By clicking (instead of clicking and dragging) with the Rectangle Frame tool, you can choose specific dimensions for the frame you want to create.

  2. Reposition the frame. Switch to the Selection tool (InDesign’s version of Photoshop’s Move tool) by pressing V or selecting it from the toolbar selectiontool.jpg. Drag the frame to position it to the center of the document. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the magenta vertical and horizontal guides automatically appear, as in Figure 4.5. (You’ll learn more about working with guides in Chapter 6.)

    FIGURE 4.5

    FIGURE 4.5. InDesign’s guides appear automatically to help with object placement even while working on the fly.

  3. Apply a black fill. With the large rectangle frame selected, click the Default Fill and Stroke icon below the Fill and Stroke swatches near the bottom of the toolbar—or press D. This gives the frame a black stroke with an empty fill, but we actually want the reverse. To change that, press Shift-X or click the Swap Fill and Stroke icon to end up with a frame that has a black fill and no stroke, as shown in Figure 4.6.

    FIGURE 4.6

    FIGURE 4.6. Once applied, InDesign’s default settings of an empty fill with a black stroke can easily be reversed by pressing Shift-X or clicking the Swap Fill and Stroke icon.

    Why are we filling this frame with black? Ultimately, when we convert this design into a Photoshop pattern, we’ll need to knock out the area within this rectangle to create a transparent opening. Filling it with black makes it easy to remove in Photoshop, as you’ll soon see.

  4. Edit the Corner Options. With the frame still selected, choose Object > Corner Options. In the resulting dialog, make sure Preview is turned on and select Inset from the Shape drop-down menu. Confirm a Corner Size of 0.125 inches for each corner (Figure 4.7), and click OK.

    InDesign makes it easy to alter the corners of any frame you create, resulting in some pretty cool effects. Pretty sweet, eh?

    Now that we’re finished with the image placeholder, we’ll create a second frame to be the decorative border.

    FIGURE 4.7

    FIGURE 4.7. With Preview turned on you can see how each corner shape will look on your frame, rather than relying only on the menu’s tiny icons.

  5. Make a second frame. Press F to return to the Rectangle Frame tool, and click anywhere within the document to make a second frame. Make this frame 1/4-inch bigger than the previous one by entering 4.25 inches for Width and 2.9167 inches for Height. Click OK.
  6. Reposition the new frame. Switch back to the Selection tool (V), and position this new frame on top of the other frame so that their center points are directly aligned in the center of the document, where you should see those magical magenta guides appear again (Figure 4.8).

    FIGURE 4.8

    FIGURE 4.8. Use the auto-generated magenta guides to align the center points of the image placeholder and border frames.

  7. Apply a black stroke. Press D to apply the default black stroke and empty fill settings to the frame.
  8. Edit the stroke. Give the stroke a touch more style by choosing Window > Stroke to access the Stroke panel (Figure 4.9). With the border frame still selected, change the Weight to 2 pts and the Type to Thin – Thin.

    FIGURE 4.9

    FIGURE 4.9. The Stroke panel lets you customize strokes in a variety of ways.

  9. Fancify the Corner Options. For a final bit of flair, choose Object > Corner Options and select Fancy from the Shape drop-down. Set the Corner Size to 0.125 inches for each corner, and click OK. When you’re finished, your document should resemble Figure 4.10.

    FIGURE 4.10

    FIGURE 4.10. The finished design with a black image placeholder and a decorative border frame.

Create a Vertical Version

Great work so far! Now we’re ready to create the vertical version of the design. Rather than starting over and making it from scratch, you can easily duplicate the page with the horizontal design and simply rotate it. No sweat.

  1. Open the Pages panel. Choose Window > Pages. This is where InDesign keeps track of every page in your document.
  2. Duplicate Page 1. Drag the Page 1 icon to the lower-right corner of the Pages panel and drop it on the New Page icon as shown in Figure 4.11.

    FIGURE 4.11

    FIGURE 4.11. Duplicating a page is as easy as dragging it onto the New Page icon.

    This duplicates the page, giving us a grand total of two pages. InDesign automatically activates Page 2 in the Pages panel—as indicated by the blue overlay that surrounds it—and updates the view in the workspace accordingly.

  3. Select both frames. Using the Selection tool (V), draw a marquee around both frames on Page 2. (You can confirm that you’re working on Page 2 by glancing down in the bottom left of the document window where you should see a small number 2). As shown in Figure 4.12, you don’t have to encompass the entire design with the marquee to select it; including only a portion of both frames is enough.

    FIGURE 4.12

    FIGURE 4.12. Click and drag over the corner of both frames with the Selection tool.

  4. Grab the Rotate tool. Press R, or click the Rotate icon in the toolbar rotate_icon.jpg.
  5. Choose a reference point. In the top-left corner of the options bar, find the Reference Point icon reference-icon.jpg, and click the center point to tell the Rotate tool you want the design to rotate around the center point.
  6. Rotate the design. Position your cursor anywhere within Page 2 and drag to rotate the design vertically (Figure 4.13). To ensure a perfect 90-degree rotation, hold Shift while dragging to restrict InDesign to angle increments of 45 degrees.

    FIGURE 4.13

    FIGURE 4.13. Using the Rotate tool in conjunction with the Shift key makes it easy to get a perfect 90-degree rotation.

  7. Save your work. Press Cmd-S/Ctrl-S to update the saved file on your hard drive. You don’t want to risk losing all this awesomeness!

    You can see the final result (shown in the wonderful Preview mode) in Figure 4.14. High-five!

    FIGURE 4.14

    FIGURE 4.14. After rotating the design, the vertical version is ready to go!

Export to JPEG

Now that the border design is finished, we’re ready to export to JPG so we can kick this over to Photoshop to create a pattern.

  1. Export the design. Choose File > Export (or press Cmd-E/Ctrl-E). In the dialog that follows, navigate to the location where you’d like to save the files, select JPEG for the Format menu, and click Save. A second window opens containing all the JPG options.
  2. Choose export options. Under Export, be sure to select All. In the Image section, set Quality to Maximum, Resolution to 300, and Color Space to RGB. Be sure to put a check next to Embed Color Profile (Figure 4.15), and click Export.

    FIGURE 4.15

    FIGURE 4.15. When exporting the design to JPEG, be sure to choose the appropriate settings.

That’s it! Now that we’ve created horizontal and vertical versions of our design, we’re ready to send the exported files to Photoshop to be converted into a pattern.

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