Join David Blatner for an in-depth discussion in this video Create and control layers, part of InDesign CC 2018 Essential Training.
- [Instructor] I know people who never work with more than one layer in their InDesign document. They manage all of their objects just using Send to Back and Bring to Front. Now, there's nothing wrong with that technically, other than it will eventually drive you insane, especially in a complicated layout. No, it's much better to create at least a couple of layers in your document, and then use them to organize your objects. Every document starts with one layer called Layer 1. You can see that by opening your Layers panel.
You can find that either in the Window menu or over here on the right side of your doc. I'll simply click Layers. There's Layer 1, and all of my objects are currently on that layer. Let's start organizing this document by creating more layers. You can do that in a couple of different ways. You could go to the Layers panel menu and choose New Layer, then give that layer a name. I'll call this text. Now I'll press Return or Enter to close the dialog box. Now, another way to make a new layer is to click this little New Layer button down at the bottom of the panel, but when you do that, it just gives you a generically named layer.
In this case, it's just called Layer 3. So, that's not very interesting, so I'm going to delete that by selecting it and then clicking the little trash can icon down here. Now, instead, when I make a new layer, I prefer to hold down the Option or the Alt key when I click the New Layer button. That forces InDesign the New Layer dialog box, and I can give it a name. In this case, I'll call it images. Okay, now we've got three layers, so how do I get my objects onto those layers? I'm going to work on the first page of this document which I'll get to by pressing Shift + Page Up.
That went from page two to page one. Now I'll select this image over here, and you'll see that, in the layers panel, this little blue square lights up. That little blue square is a proxy for whatever is selected on the page right now, and I can drag that little blue square up from this layer onto my images layer. When I let go of the mouse button, we can see that the blue square turned into a green square, and the object changes color as well.
Now, the object itself didn't change, but the frame edge highlighting did. The edge highlighting always reflects the color of the layer. The images layer is green, and so the object highlights with green. Again, the color change does not effect how this document will print or export to PDF. It only changes it on screen for reference. All right, let's go ahead and select these other images just by shift-clicking on them, and I'm going to move all of those onto the images layer.
Now I'll select the text frame and move that up to my test layer. At first, it might not seem like much has changed, but if I move this text frame over to the right, you'll see that it's now behind the images, right? And of course, that's because the text layer is sitting below the images layer. So I can move all of the images down by dragging the images layer all the way down until I see this thick bar between Layer 1 and text. There we go.
Now all the stuff that's on Layer 1 is in the back, all the images are in-between, and text is on the top. Now, I do need to point out something here. In the last movie, I showed how you can select an object on your page, then go to the Object menu and choose from the Arrange submenu. Like here, I could choose Send Backward or Send to Back, but it's important to remember that all of these commands in the Arrange menu refer just to the current layer, so Send to Back doesn't mean send behind all the objects on the page, it just means send to the back of this particular layer.
I just wanted to be clear about that. Now, the Layers panel actually gives us even more control over our document. For example, I can click on the eyeball icon in the left column of the Layers panel to hide a layer. In this case, all the objects on Layer 1 simply disappeared. Now I click again, and they come back. In a complicated layout, when you're trying to manipulate certain objects, being able to hide all of the distracting objects is really helpful. Now, another thing you might want to do in a complicated layout is lock the layers.
For example, I'm going to click in the second column in the text layer. That puts a little padlock icon there, and that layer is now locked. Now, there's no way to select anything on a locked layer. For example, I'll come over here and try and click on this text frame, and you'll see I can't do it. It clicks right through it and selects the images underneath. Okay, couple of more Layers panel tricks that you should know. One is if I want to select all the objects on a particular layer, like this images layer, all I have to do is click once on that little proxy square in the right column.
That selects everything on that layer, so that's really helpful, but remember, layers are spread-wide, not page-wide or document-wide, and that means, if this were a Facing Pages document, then clicking on that proxy icon would select all the objects on the whole spread, the left and right pages, not just the page we're looking at, and it does not select anything on other pages in the document. The second trick that I want to point out is that if you double-click on a layer, you can open the layer options dialog box, and this offers all kinds of options.
For example, I could change the name, the color, or even various behaviors. For example, I'm going to turn off the Print Layer checkbox. Now, this means this layer will display on screen, but if I print or export a PDF, those object just won't be there. The images will just disappear. In this case though, I want to leave that turned on. Now, whether you use lots of layers or only one, the layers panel has one more super important trick up its sleeve. It lets you see and manipulate your stack of objects inside each layer, and you can do that by clicking this little triangle next to the layer name.
Every object inside this layer shows up here in this list, and we have the same controls that we had for layers, like being able to lock or hide a single object, and this also gives us fine control over the stacking order, because we can actually just drag these up and down inside this list, and they reorder on the page. As you can probably tell, I'm a fanatic for having total control over each and every object on my page. After all, without control, how can you manage your design? I encourage you to use this Layers panel, especially when you're working with complex layouts.
- Creating a new layout
- Inserting pages
- Adding text
- Inserting graphics
- Applying color and transparency
- Drawing and editing frames and paths
- Formatting objects
- Formatting text
- Creating styles for uniform formatting
- Building tables
- Adding links and interactivity
- Printing and exporting InDesign documents