InDesign: Producing Simple Animations & Animated PDFs

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Although InDesign CS6 is primarily used for desktop publishing, it actually has some fairly sophisticated animation tools built into it.  In this tutorial I will demonstrate how to animate a shape along a path and how to make a shape animate on click.  One problem though, is that InDesign can’t directly export these animations onto a PDF.  But don’t worry, as I will show you how to get around this problem and produce your own interactive, animated PDFs.

Before we begin, make sure you have the right menu windows ready by going Window > Interactive and selecting Animation, Media, Buttons and Forms and SWF Preview.

Animating a Shape Along a Path

Here we’ll be animating a star along a wavy path:

1) Open a new document and select the Polygon Tool on the side toolbar.  Click onto the canvas and on the pop-up window enter in these settings:

animated pdf

2) Set the star’s Stroke to none and its Fill to yellow.  Then using the Selection Tool, move the star just on the outside edge of the page like so:

animated pdf

3) Click off the star and select the Pencil Tool (N).  Draw a wavy line starting from the center of the star.

animated pdf

4) With the Selection Tool, select both the star and pencil line.  Open up the Animation menu and at the bottom press the Convert to motion path icon.

animated pdf

5) Using the SWF Preview menu, you can preview how the animation will look through the little window just by pressing the play icon.

animated pdf

6) You can adjust the speed the star moves at by selecting it and going back into the Animation menu.  Under Duration increase the number.  Also in Event make sure On Page Load is ticked – this will start the animation straight away.

animated pdf


Animating On-Click

In this part I’ll show you how to make a shape animate when you click on it with the mouse.

1) Select the Polygon Tool again, set the stroke to none and fill to black, then click anywhere on canvas and enter in these values:

animated pdf

2) With the shape still selected, open the Buttons and Forms menu.  On Type drop-down menu select Button and click on the + next to Action and select Animation.  This will activate the shape as a button.

animated pdf

3) Next, open up the Animation Menu and select Spin from the Preset down-drop menu.

animated pdf

4) Finally on Event(s) tick off On Page Load and select On Click (Self).

animated pdf

The shape is now ready.  You can preview the results via the SWF Preview window.  Next we’ll look at how to export this document along with its animations.


How to Make Animated PDFs

PDFs produced by InDesign won’t include the animations included in this tutorial.  However I will show you a way around this.

1) First Export the document into a SWF by going File > Export.  In Format select Flash Player (SWF) and hit save.  On the next window hit OK to confirm the exportation.

2) Open up a new InDesign document and set it at at the same size (or ratio) as the document you produced the animation in.

3) Go File > Place and select the SWF you exported from the file directory.  Stretch it to fit the page if need be (make sure to fit content to frame).

animated pdf

4) Make sure the SWF frame is still selected, then go to the Media Menu and tick Play on Page Load.  This automatically plays the SWF when a user opens up the PDF.  Otherwise they would have to click on the page to start it.

animated pdf

5) Now it’s time to export this document to a PDF.  Go File > Export and set the Format as Adobe PDF (Interactive) and hit save.  Then on the next Export to Interactive PDF window hit OK.

There you go, you’ve created an interactive and animated PDF.  Open up the file in Adobe Reader to see the results.

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If you’re interested in learning more about Adobe InDesign, then we offer a range of high quality courses at different proficiency levels, in numerous cities across the UK.


3 replies on “InDesign: Producing Simple Animations & Animated PDFs

  • Rob Anderson

    I’ve followed these instructions scrupulously twice arrived at the same result. I’ve ctreated the animated SWF file as instructed, but InDesign doesn’t recognize it when I try to import it (remains greyed out). Any thoughts?


    • Giedrius Morkunas

      Hi, Rob,

      Thanks for the question. When you import it into InDesign, you won’t see the .swf (flash file) contents. Also, this tutorial was created on a previous version of InDesign (CS6) so maybe the settings have changed.


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