Create animations using Adobe InDesign

In collaboration with Gauri Arankalle / Panicker

Have you ever wondered why we remember the cartoons we watch but forget all textbooks we read? Imagine how easy it will be to teach and learn new concepts if they were animated!

Adobe InDesign, with great interactive features, empowers you to make your content engaging. You can not only move objects across a page, but also make them grow, shrink, fade, rotate, and spin. InDesign offers you the flexibility to use the available presets to create animations, modify their properties, and customize the paths along which you want to move your objects. Add to this the ease with which you can publish the content online.

Here’s a simple learning module created in InDesign. Keeping the target audience (restless little kids) in mind, we have used a variety of simple animations to make learning fun.

Click here to view the published document with animations.

Want to know how we animated these objects? Just follow these steps!

Create a document

  1. In Adobe InDesign, select File > New > Document to create a document. In the New Document dialog box, choose Web as the Intent from the drop-down menu. In this example, we have taken the page size as 800×600 pixels. Click OK.
  2. After opening the document, choose Digital Publishing from the workspace switcher in the Application bar.
  3. Add the text and graphics to your document.

Use and customize motion presets

Choose Window > Interactive > Animation to open the Animation panel. You can add motion presets, edit settings, and modify the properties of the animated object, such as opacity and transformations, using this panel. Now, let’s look at the following example to understand how we can use a motion preset and customize its properties.

  1. Select the object you want to animate using the Selection tool.
  2. Enter a name for the object you want to animate in the Animation panel.
  3. In this example, the ball bounces when you click the page. To achieve this, choose Bounce > Bounce Vertical from the Preset drop-down menu.
  4. Choose On Page Click from the Events drop-down menu.

Note: After you choose a preset, the On Page Load option is selected by default. To avoid the selection of multiple events, deselect undesired options.

  1. Click the Preview icon () in the Animation panel to see the outcome.
  2. When you select the object to which you have applied a motion preset, the motion path starting from the center of the object appears. To edit this path, select it using the Selection tool. Now, use the Direct Selection tool to adjust the end points of the motion path.
  3. Enable the Show Animation Proxy () option at the bottom of the Animation panel to display the proxy at the end of the motion path.
  4. Let the duration remain 3.125 seconds (default).

Note: The prefix Custom appears in the default preset name if any setting in the Animation panel is modified.

Now, let’s look at another example where we have applied multiple animations to the same object. For instance, we have animated the wings of one honey bee, saved this animation as a preset, and then applied the saved preset to animate the wings of other honey bees on the page. Later, we have animated the honey bees to fly along a customized motion path. The order of the animations was controlled using the Timing panel.

Save a custom motion preset and apply it on multiple objects

  1. Group the wings of each honey bee.
  2. Select the wings of the honey bee on the page.
  3. Choose Disappear from the Preset drop-down menu in the Animation panel.
  4. Choose On Page Click from the Events drop-down menu.
  5. Set the Duration of the animation to 0.125 seconds.
  6. Select the Loop option in the Animation panel.
  7. Under Properties, select From Current Appearance from the Animate drop-down menu.
  8. Choose Fade In from the Opacity drop-down menu to gradually increase the opacity of Wings_1 as it flies in from the bottom of the page.
  9. Choose Save from the panel menu to save the current motion preset.
  10. Specify the name of the motion preset as Wings_Animation in the Save Preset dialog box.
  11. Now, to apply this motion preset to animate the wings of other honey bees, choose Wings_Animation from the Presets drop-down list.

Note: Saved presets are listed above the default presets in the list of available presets.

Create a motion path

  1. Group the honey bee with its respective wings.
  2. Name the group as HoneyBee_1 in the Animation panel.
  3. Draw a motion path using the Pen tool as shown in the screenshot below.
  4. Select the drawn path and HoneyBee_1 using the Selection tool while holding the Shift key.
  5. Click the Convert To Motion Path () icon in the Animation panel to transform the drawn path into a motion path. The path created using the Pen tool loses its stroke color and weight after you convert it into a motion path. Additionally, the motion path appears as a green line with small dots and an arrow at one of the end indicating the direction of the path.Note: When you click the Convert to Motion Path icon, the path aligns itself with the center of the selected object.
  1. Choose On Page Click from the Events drop-down menu.
  2. Adjust the duration of the animation in the Animation panel. In this example, we have set the duration to 1.5 seconds.
  3. Choose the Ease In And Out option from the Speed drop-down list.
  4. Under Properties, choose To Current Appearance option from the Animate drop-down list.
  5. Change the orientation point of the animation proxy to direct the object along the motion path. In this example, we have adjusted the angle to 59 degrees in the Rotate box.11. Select the Hide Until Animated option.

Reorder the animated objects using the Timing panel

  1. Go to the Timing panel (Window > Interactive > Timing) to adjust the order of the animations. Objects with the same event selected from the Animation panel are displayed together in the Timing panel. You can choose the desired option from the Event(s) drop-down menu. Here, we want the honey bees to fly in one after the other. To do this:
    • Select Wings_1 and HoneyBee_1 in the Timing panel.
    • Click the Play Together () icon in the lower-right corner of the panel.
    • Repeat these steps for the remaining honey bees.
  2.  Click the Preview icon in the Animation panel or the Timing panel. The preview opens in the EPUB Interactivity Preview window.

Publish the document

You can save your document as an InDesign file (.indd), export it in SWF format (File > Export), or publish it online by clicking the Publish Online icon () in the Application bar. For more information, see Publish Online.

Some tips that come handy while animating objects in InDesign

  • You should accurately name the objects that you want to animate in the Animation panel. This helps you to easily arrange the order of animations in the Timing panel.
  • To reapply the same animation settings to other objects, you can save a custom animation as a preset. Choose Save from the Animation panel menu.
  • When you choose options from the Event(s) drop-down menu in the Animation panel, more than one event can be selected for a particular animation. To ensure that you select the desired option, deselect the default option.
  • To export animations to a PDF document, follow the steps below:
    1. In InDesign, export the animations in SWF format.
    2. Launch Acrobat.
    3. In Acrobat, choose File > Create > PDF From File.
    4. Browse and select the saved SWF file.
    5. Click Open.
    6. Preview the animations in Acrobat and save the file on your computer.

The examples in this blog post are simple illustrations to get you started with animations in InDesign. Play with the presets and properties in the Animation panel and the Timing panel and explore endless possibilities! Share the links of your documents with us in the Comments section.