Perfect Path Text in Quark and InDesign

March 11, 2004 - 2:00am ||| 0 Comments | Add new

One of my favorite tricks for getting type on a path to be perfectly centered at the top of a circle, aligned to its arc, still works in QuarkXPress 6.1 (It's been around since v4.11):

1. Create a circular text box (hold down the Shift key to create a perfect circle, but this works with ovals too).
2. Enter the soon-to-be text on a path _inside_ the text box, as usual.
3. Change the horizontal paragraph alignment for the text to Centered.
4. Go to Item —> Shape and choose the last option in the fly-out menu, Path.

Voila! The circular text box is converted to a circular text path, and the text jumps to the top of it, hugging the curve and centered.

So the other day I was working on a layout with InDesign CS (we use both programs in our studio) and needed to create the same kind of text on a path. Since you can't change the shape of frames (boxes) on the fly in InDesign as you can in Quark, I couldn't use that trick.

On the other hand, one of the amazing things about InDesign is that every frame (box) *is* a path that can be edited with the Pen tool or Direct Selection tool, or that can be used as-is for text on a path. You don't need to change the shape of the frame first.

In fact, the same text frame that contains text can also have text running around its edge. Just switch to the Text on a Path tool and hover over any frame's boundary, empty or not, selected or not. When you see a "plus" symbol appear on the tool's cursor, it has detected a path. Just click and start typing.

But I didn't need any fancy effects, I just wanted a few words to center align at the top of an empty circle. So I created a circular frame and switched to the Text on a Path tool. When I clicked at the top-most point of the circle (12:00 position), the text wasn't centered on the path. It was left-aligned by default. As I typed, the characters approached the 3:00 position. Hmm.

A problem here is that with the Text on a Path tool chosen, you're locked out of changing paragraph alignment beforehand … the alignment settings only are active when you've clicked an insertion point.

So I typed my text, then chose Centered for the paragraph alignment. Doing this inexplicably (to me, at least … there's probably a good explanation somewhere) moved the text to the bottom of the circle, centered, but reading right to left and upside down. A puzzlement.

You can use the Direct Selection tool to easily move the text around on a path, getting it into the right position, or you could rotate the circle 180 degrees to get it up there exactly.

But that inexplicable behavior got me thinking. And so here's my InDesign tip for centering text at the top of a circular path from the get-go:

1. Create a circular frame.
2. Switch to the Text on a Path tool (press on the Text tool to reveal and select it).
3. Click an insertion point at the bottom of the path (6:00 position).
4. Change the paragraph alignment to Centered.
5. Start typing, and your text center-aligns perfectly at the top of the circle.

Weird, huh? But it works!

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