Photoshop has a 'custom vector shape' tool, allowing me to draw all kinds of stock shapes like stars, hearts and whatnot without having to do so myself with the pen tool. Is there a similar possibility in InDesign? I'll want to use the resulting shape as a frame.

I'm looking for an easy solution that my InDesign 101 class can follow and use without having to resort to either Photoshop or Illustrator.

4 Answers 4


Id doesn't have the kind of built-in shape libraries that Ps has, but there's another way to go that should fit your needs.

What works well, based on my own travails teaching InDesign, is to introduce them to Create Outlines on the Edit menu. It even has an easily memorable kbsc, Ctl-Shift-O/Cmd-Shift-O.

Wingdings and Webdings are distributed with the OS, so taking a dingbat character, turning it into a shape and showing that a) it's a path, like any other shape; and b) you can put text or a graphic in it, makes for a memorable lesson.


Go to File > New > Library and create a new library. Then you'll now have a library panel that you can add to the UI like any other panel in InDesign. You can then create a custom shape and simply drag it into this panel and it'll be added to your library.

I just gave this a go in CS4 and it works just fine. I was able to create a new object, open a new document and be able to drag my text frame into that new document. So you'd be able to create whatever shape you want and save it as an object.

Here's the Adobe help article that I found on the topic.


Update: If you're looking for library resources I found this site that has some download resources.


From the looks of it there aren't a lot of InDesign library resources online, but this is 100% what you need to achieve what you're doing. If you need shapes there are definitely vector resources available for Illustrator out there that would be very easy to copy and paste into ID. I know you were wanting to avoid that, but it really is the best available option.

The only library CS4 has is a button library, but it shows you can save complex vector shapes in there to use later, which is exactly what your students would need. I'll admit I didn't know about this feature and will now be fully integrating it into my workflow. Seems kinda goofy that the library isn't actually an option under the window menu.

  • that's a nice feature, but not quite what I was looking for. I'm talking beginners who wouldn't know how to draw a heart with the pen tool. That's why I'm looking for stock shapes. I'll clarify the question.
    – Vincent
    Mar 20, 2014 at 11:17
  • @Bakabaka So in that case you need to find the art that goes into the library, put it there yourself and give it to the users. But can not for earth of me understand how your students couldn't be able to draw a heart with the pen tool. I mean it took me 30 minutes to teach the use of pen tool to 70-80 year old seniors group. I will grant you one concession tough: the foundational lecture on how to start a computer and use mouse took 60 hours teach.
    – joojaa
    Mar 20, 2014 at 12:19
  • @joojaa I don't have 30 minutes to spare in a 4-hour InDesign course, espcially if a function exists that is as easy to use and as versatile as the Photoshop custom vector tool. And there's a difference between being able to use the pen and to use it to create nice-looking shapes.
    – Vincent
    Mar 20, 2014 at 12:34
  • @Bakabaka Updated my answer with an IDML library resource and some additional info.
    – jbwharris
    Mar 20, 2014 at 12:58
  • 1
    @Bakabaka when teaching your class maybe consider making your own IDML library file and distributing it to the class. That way they would have custom shapes and whatever else at their disposal, they just need to open the library on their machines and they're in business.
    – jbwharris
    Mar 20, 2014 at 13:28

One way is to find a typeface that has the shape you want as a character. Type it on its own in a text box, then choose Type > Create Outlines (Shift+Ctrl+O or Shift+Option+O) to turn it into a vector shape.


You can create a shape in Illustrator copy it and paste it into InDesign.

  • I'm sorry, Evan, but I was looking for a solution within InDesign, as per the question.
    – Vincent
    Mar 20, 2014 at 11:13

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