Rounded Corners

How to Round Corners in InDesign (prior to CS5)

For a contract job with a large local retailer, the Creative Director asked me to come up with ways to make the lives of the art directors a little easier. Part of the new branding requires a colored box with only one rounded corner. Also, the coupons need to have a Japanese dotted stroke with one rounded corner. In CS5 and up, this is no problem. All you need to do is draw a rectangle, select the corner you want to round, hold down the shift key (if you do not hold down the shift key, all the corners will round), then drag toward the center of the rectangle and voila! You now have a rectangle with one rounded corner. It’s not quite so simple in previous versions of InDesign. What do you do if your company hasn’t upgraded its Creative Suite software? Like most Adobe apps, InDesign has more than one way to skin that rounded corner cat! Let’s examine a couple, shall we?

Use the Pathfinder to round corners

Rounded Corner with Pathfinder Tutorial imageIn this example, you will draw a rectangle. Now, select the rectangle, hold down the shift and option keys if you are using a Mac or the shift and alt keys if you are using a PC. Drag the selection and your rectangle will duplicate. While the option (or alt) key duplicates the rectangle, holding down the shift key keeps the duplicate on the same plane as the original. Make sure the two rectangles overlap slightly. With the second rectangle still selected, go to Object>Corner Options… from the InDesign menu. This should bring up the Corner Options window. Under Effects, choose Rounded (should be last in the list). Make sure the Preview button in the lower right hand corner is checked. Now set the radii of the corners in the Size box. As you can see from the illustration, I am using picas, but you can use any unit of measurement with which you feel comfortable. You may need to play with the Size settings until you get the corner radius you need. After you get the corners the right size, click OK. You should now have two overlapping rectangles, one of which has four rounded corners. Now, deselect the rounded corner rectangle, select the standard rectangle again, and option/alt + shift drag again. Make sure it aligns right with the rounded corner rectangle. Click the top center anchor point (make sure you are using the black arrow or selection tool) and drag down to make this rectangle shorter than the rounded corner rectangle. You should now see a shape that resembles a rectangle with one rounded corner. For the final step, drag a marquee over all three rectangles, then go to Object>Pathfinder>Add. The three rectangles merge into one object. Whew! That was a lot of work, wasn’t it? Yes, but it does the job. However, you do have another option.

Use the Rounded Corner Script

Rounded Corner Script TutorialThere has to be an easier way, right? Yes, there is, but it sure is difficult to find! First, draw a standard rectangle as you did in the previous example. With the rectangle selected, go to Window>Automation>
Scripts in the InDesign menu. From the Scripts menu, scroll down until you find the one named CornerEffects.jsx. You may have to hunt a bit to find it. Double click on CornerEffects.jsx and the CornerEffects dialog box pops up. Under Corner Type, choose Rounded. Under Options: Offset, set the radius of your corner. Since there is no Preview button, you may have to guess at this setting. Under Pattern, choose fourth point if you wish to round the upper right corner as we are doing in this example. If you are rounding the lower left corner, then you would choose second point. In other words, the script counts its corner points in a counter-clockwise fashion. If you are a lefty and you draw your rectangles starting from the upper right, you would choose first point to round the same corner as we are in this exercise. Got it? Good. Now press OK and there you have it! Your rectangle now has a rounded corner. Wasn’t that so much easier than using the Pathfinder? The script method does have a downside, however. Since there is no Preview, you may have to try several times to get the corner radius just right. Don’t try to Undo it, either. Remember, this is a script, so there may be quite a few steps involved to achieve the effect. So you may end up hitting Undo quite a few times before you get back to the original rectangle! I have learned through trial and error it is best to duplicate the standard rectangle several times and use the script on each until you get the desired result. Since the script is so fast, this is a relatively painless step. Yes, it is a hassle, but a necessary one nonetheless.

Resizing a rounded corner rectangle

Resize a rounded corner tutorial imageOnce I showed the Creative Director the script, he was thrilled. However, he wanted to know if it could hold the radius if you resized the rectangle. Yes, it can (and so can the Pathfinder method) as long as you resize proportionally. However, what if you need to stretch (or reduce) the rectangle either horizontally or vertically? Oh oh. Since you are resizing disproportionally, the corner gets distorted. If you click on the box with the white arrow (direct selection) tool, you’ll notice that one of the corner anchors is no longer equidistant from the corner point in relation with the other point. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about this but there is a way to fix it. Draw a guide through the “good” point. Make sure your guides are visible or this won’t work! If your guides are visible in your settings but you still don’t see them, you are probably in Preview mode. Switch to Normal view (View>Screen Mode>Normal) and you should be fine. Now, draw a square (rectangle tool, hold down the shift key to constrain to a circle) starting from the corner point of the corner you are trying to fix, stop and release when you get to the edge of the rounded corner rectangle. Now draw another guide perpendicular to the first one to the bottom edge of the square. You should have two intersecting guides. Delete the square, for it has done its job. Once again, choose the white arrow (direct selection) tool, and select the rounded rectangle box. While holding the shift key, select the offending anchor point and drag it to the guideline to which it is closest. (In this case, this would be the horizontal guide, step six in the illustration.) The direction line is probably way too long, so click on its endpoint and, once again holding down the shift key, drag until it no longer extends past the top edge of the box. There you have it! Your rounded corner box has been resized and the rounded corner is proportional.

Did you like this tutorial? Have any ideas you would like to share or is there an area which isn’t clear? Please, leave your comments below.

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