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Using InDesign: Pros and cons

From: Print Production Essentials: Packaging

Video: Using InDesign: Pros and cons

While Adobe Illustrator is the most commonly used desktop program for creating packaging art, if you're an InDesign user and you don't know Illustrator well, do you need to learn Illustrator? Well for a lot of carton work you can get by using InDesign. And of course, one of the advantages would be if you're accustomed to InDesign, you have your familiar tools in InDesign and you don't have to learn a new set of tools when you learn Illustrator. This is sort of a nicety: in InDesign, if you want to crop an image, you just change the corners of the frame holding that image.

Using InDesign: Pros and cons

While Adobe Illustrator is the most commonly used desktop program for creating packaging art, if you're an InDesign user and you don't know Illustrator well, do you need to learn Illustrator? Well for a lot of carton work you can get by using InDesign. And of course, one of the advantages would be if you're accustomed to InDesign, you have your familiar tools in InDesign and you don't have to learn a new set of tools when you learn Illustrator. This is sort of a nicety: in InDesign, if you want to crop an image, you just change the corners of the frame holding that image.

In Illustrator, to crop an image, you have to create a separate object and then turn that object into a mask. It's a little bit of extra work. Now there's some overlap between Illustrator and InDesign, InDesign has layers just like the Illustrator it has transparency options and opacity controls, blending modes and so forth, and of course you are going to need a dieline to build your art work too, you could either place that dieline as you would other work in InDesign or even though you got an Illustrator It's easy enough to go into Illustrator, open up that dieline file, select everything and copy it.

And then you can paste it into your InDesign file. And then it's treated as objects, and that means that you can change the color, you can change the stroke weight and so forth. You can manipulate it just like anything you would have drawn in InDesign. Small thing, but a nicety. In InDesign, any time you create a swatch, it's global. Now, if you're an InDesign user who's never used Illustrator, that doesn't mean anything to you. But it means that any time you change a swatch, any object that has that swatch applied to it, whether it's a fill or a stroke, it's going to change its appearance. It's a little bit of extra work in illustrator to turn a swatch global.

Now there are some disadvantages to InDesign. You have a slightly smaller work area, 216 inches, 18 feet on a side, as opposed to Illustrator's maximum size, which is 227.5 inches, roughly. Chances are, unless you're creating a really enormous carton, this is not going to be a problem for you. Since InDesign's not a drawing program and Illustrator is, there is some limitation to the drawing tools that are available to you in InDesign, and you'd have a smaller set of effects. Really all you can do are shadows and glows and so forth, whereas you have all sorts of interesting distortion, and transformation, and fancy effects in Illustrator that you don't have in InDesign.

You can't convert objects to guides. Again if you are an InDesign user and you've never used Illustrator this won't ring a bell with you, but a nice thing in Illustrator is that any object can be converted to a guide, whether its a rectangle, or a star, or a circle, now of course you have smart guides InDesign just like you have in Illustrator and that will get you a long way toward doing what you want to do. But it is a little bit of extra nicety in Illustrator, the fact that you can turn any object to a guide. And then you can turn it back to an object when you're through using it as a guide.

InDesign lacks an outline view. Now, outline in Illustrator means that you just see the edges of things. It's sort of an X-ray view. It can be really helpful when you're building something complex. So, InDesign doesn't have it, if you've never used Illustrator, you probably won't miss it. Your zoom in InDesign is limited to a paltry 4,000%, but that's still pretty good. Illustrator lets you go up to 6,400% that can be nice when you're working with little tiny details. And you want to make sure something snaps exactly to a dieline.

But that doesn't mean that you can't use it, so if you are an inDesign user and you don't want to learn Illustrator, you're still going to be able to make perfectly good packaging art. Just make sure before you embark on this well that's expectable to the printer and that's going to be creating the cotton if they demand that you use illustrator well you know what, it might be time for you to learn illustrator. And I think if you're an InDesign user, you'll find that it's really not that foreign, and it's wonderfully flexible and creative.

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Print Production Essentials: Packaging

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Claudia McCue
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