How to Use Layers in Adobe InDesign

By Techwalla Computers Editor

Adobe InDesign is a desktop publishing application that allows you to design and produce professional page layouts. Objects, such as text or images, stacked on top of one another in groups are referred to as "layers" and are used to make controlling objects on a page easier. Here is a detailed breakdown of how to use layers in InDesign.

Step 1

Set up your master pages, paragraph and character styles so that you can make changes to an entire project later on without updating or changing every page.

Step 2

Place objects on your document. If working with only one or two layers, arrange objects on the same page by clicking the topmost object and then click "Ctrl" and the object to click through the top or current layer to the object stacked beneath. Once you have clicked on the object, arrange the stacking order of the object by selecting the "Object" menu, "Arrange" and then choose a stacking order for the group: "Bring to Front," "Bring Forward," "Send Backward" or "Send to Back."

Step 3

Click the "Layers Panel" on the right side of the screen if working with many objects and layers. Create and name new layers by clicking the New Layer icon on the bottom right of the panel.

Step 4

Select similar objects, such as images, on the current layer of your document. With your cursor (it will turn into a hand icon), move the small box from the right of the current layer name in the Layers Panel to the Images layer. All objects on the page chosen for that layer should have colored highlighting to show that they are now a part of the Images layer. Repeat this process until all objects, including master page elements and guides, are a part of their respective layers.

Step 5

Arrange layers, again using the hand icon cursor, in the Layers Panel as needed so that the overall document appearance shows all of the information for that document. For example, after completing the layering process, the images or text may appear missing or hidden. By rearranging the layers, all objects appear on the document as they should for printing.

Step 6

Double-click a layer to display the New Layer Dialog box. The New Layer Dialog box is used as one way to not only name the layer but to change layer highlight colors for easy future recognition and accessibility or show, hide or lock layers. You can also hide, show or lock layers using the eye and lock icons in the two columns to the left of a layer name in the Layers Panel. Locking or hiding layers makes it possible to click from one layer into another without impacting the first layer or selecting that layer.

Step 7

Print your document when finished. If printing only one layer of many, select that layer in the Layer Panel to open the Layer Dialog box, and click on the "Print Layer" box. Another method to print only one layer is to choose that layer in the Print Dialog box.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always keep track of your cutting and pasting in InDesign as pasted text or objects are automatically attached to the current layer. If you accidentally paste onto the wrong layer, cut the item, click on the appropriate layer and paste.
  • Learn keyboard shortcuts to speed through stacking or arranging objects on a page.