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In this series, David Blatner and Anne-Marie Concepción, co-hosts of the web's top resource for InDesign tips and tricks, InDesignSecrets.com, share some hidden and sometimes surprising workflow tips that will make working in InDesign more efficient and more fun. The course covers built-in timesaving features such as Quick Apply and auto-expanding text, but also little-known tricks, such as using the eyedropper to copy and paste character and paragraph text attributes and making accurate selections by selecting through or even into objects.
New techniques will be added to the collection every other week, so check back early and often. Find more tips and tricks at indesignsecrets.com.
One of the problems with any written language like English is that you can't put very much of it in a small space without it getting all jumbled up and difficult to read. That's why they say a picture is worth a 1000 words, but pictures are not very good at relating precise information, like a long email address. Fortunately, InDesign lets you create QR codes. A kind of barcode which lets you encode a lot of precise information in, well, a picture. To make a QR code in InDesign, simply head up to the Object menu and choose Generate QR Code.
Next, choose what type of QR code you're trying to create, here in the type popup menu. You could choose a web hyperlink like a URL, or just type some plain text, a text message that actually sends a message like a SMS message in your cell phone, send an email, or encode an entire business card. But in this case, we're going to stick with a web hyperlink. And I'm gonnna to type, http://. Or, I'll just type lynda.com. There we go. Click OK, and InDesign loads my QR code up onto my place cursor. Now all I have to do is click or click and drag.
InDesign creates a graphic frame and puts the graphic of my barcode inside that frame. If I need to change this barcode later, all I have to do is have it selected on the page, go back to my Object menu and choose Edit QR Code. For example, we might want to change its color. I'll click the Color tab at the top, and you can see that you can choose any one of your color swatches. The only rule you need to pay attention to when it comes to applying color, is that you want high contrast. QR scanner apps on a cell phone or a mobile device rely on high contrast. So you probably wouldn't want yellow on a white background.
Just not enough contrast. You want a nice dark color on a light background, or a nice light color on a dark background. I'll click OK, and you'll see that now it's set to blue. But that's still a little bit boring. What if we want to spice it up a little bit, really make it eye catching? Well, you can do that if you convert it into actual editable objects. And to do that I'm going to use Illustrator. I'm going to double-click on this graphic frame to select the image inside the frame. And then I'm going to copy it to the clip board with the Cmd or Ctrl+C, then I'm going to switch over to Illustrator, and I'm going to paste it with a Cmd+V or Ctrl+V on Windows.
And you'll see that this graphic is now represented by lots and lots of little squares and rectangles. I'll click out here in the blank area, and I can see each one of those rectangles and squares because I'm in outline mode. You can turn that on and off in Illustrator by going to the View menu and choosing Preview or Outline. I like seeing things in outline mode because I know exactly what I have. Now that they are all individual objects, I'm going to select all of them again by pressing Cmd+A or Ctrl+A on Windows. Copy them to the clipboard, switch back to InDesign and I'm going to paste them in here. But before I do, I'm going to move this object off to the clipboard.
I'll double-click again to select the frame itself, and then I'm going to move this off to the paste board because I don't need it right now, but I might need it later. So just in case, I like saving it. Now I'll deselect everything and paste. All of those objects are now pasted inside InDesign. I'll zoom into 200% by pressing Cmd+2, or Ctrl+2 on Windows. And we can really see this barcode clearly now. So instead of a plain blue background, I want to put a gradient in here. To do that, I'm going to come up to the Control panel and click on the Fill icon button, and then I'm going to choose, from the Panel menu, New Gradient Swatch.
And I'm going to make a new gradient swatch that's going to go from blue to purple. I'll just type in the name here. Say, it's going to go from, let's say 100% cyan, and then I'll click on this color stop down here. Set this to a different CMYK value, pull out all the black. And instead, I'm going to make this go from 100% cyan and 100% magenta, kind of a purple color. And then click OK. You'll see that not only did it make that color swatch, but it applied it to each and every one of the selected objects. All those little rectangles and squares. That's kind of an interesting effect, but I'd rather have the swatch go across the entire QR Code.
So, to do that, while this group is still selected, I'm going to choose the Gradient tool and then I'm going to drag over this. And I'm just going to drag from the bottom to the top. And you'll see that now that one gradient is going across the entire group of objects, from blue to purple, or purple to blue, however you look at it. Now that's clearly a lot more dramatic. Much more eye catching. But we can do even more. For example, I'll go to the Object menu and choose Ungroup. Now, we have all of those separate little objects. And they're not grouped together anymore. Then I'll go back to the Object menu and I will Convert Shape and then Ellipse.
Now, each one of those rectangles or squares is in oval or a circle. But you know what? QR scanners still read it. It's still a valid QR code. Isn't that cool? Let me undo that with a Cmd+Z or Ctrl+Z on Windows, and I'm going to show you a couple more things that you could do. Instead of using a gradient inside of here, I'm going to place a picture. And to do that, I'll go back to the Object menu, choose Pathfinder and then choose Add. What that does is it takes all of those separate objects and it combines them into a single path. This path is called a compound path.
And once you have a compound path like this in InDesign, you can put things inside of it, like a another picture. So I'll go to the File menu and choose Place, and then choose a picture from my list of links here. This looks like a nice one. Click Open, and it places that picture inside that frame. Once again the rule is, as long as you have high contrast, the QR Scanner app is going to be able to read it. The last thing I'm going to do here is place a graphic in the middle of the QR code. I'm actually going to obstruct part of the QR code. I'll go to my Selection tool. Go to my File menu and choose Place.
Now I'll choose a graphic, I'm going to choose the spiral graphic at the bottom here. And I'm not going to replace the selected item, I want a new graphic frame. And I'm simply going to click and drag right in the middle of this. Then I'l fill this with a color, maybe paper, there we go. I can center this on top of my QR code, and you'll see that I've obstructed part of the QR code, but you know what, it's okay. Because there's redundancy built into the QR code so that even if you cover up part of it, it still works. You can't cover up too much though. Probably no more than the size of one of these squares in the corner.
In fact, this might be a little bit too large, so I'm going to come in here and scale this down with Cmd+Option+Shift+Drag, or Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Drag on Windows. As long as its small and you're not covering up too much of it, the QR scanner app can still read it. In fact, the most important rule of all when making QR codes of any kind, is to test them. The more you change the barcode, the more difficult it will be for the scanner to get the message. But little changes work great, and all the changes I've made to these codes work great in all the scanner apps that I've tried.
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