InDesign: putting text on a circle or around a circle

…Without going around in circles yourself!

Anyone creating artwork for vinyl records or CDs is eventually faced with the challenge of putting InDesign text on a circle. It’s easy enough to get it there, but how do you move it around the circle or flip it? And what are those weird lines for? In this post I’ll show you how to get your InDesign text around a circle and get it how and where you want it. Ideal if you’re creating labels for vinyl records or CD or DVD faces – or for any other circular design, for that matter.

How to get your text around a circle

In an InDesign document, first of all use the ellipse frame tool (in the same section of the toolbar as the rectangular frame tool) to create the circle you want the text to go around. You don’t have to get the size exactly right just yet, as you can resize it later – along with the text.

Choosing the Ellipse frame tool
Selecting the Ellipse frame tool
A circle that we will add text to
A circle that we will now add text to (within the green bounding box)

Now select the text on a path tool. It’s in the flyout menu behind the normal text tool. Or press Shift + T.

Choosing the Type on a path tool
Choosing the Type on a path tool

Place the cursor on the circle, roughly where you want your text to start. When the + icon appears, this means the text will run around the circle. You don’t have to get the cursor in the precise position, as it can be changed later.

A plus icon appears next to the cursor
The cursor now has a plus icon next to it.

Now type or paste your text. You now have some text running around the edge of the circle.

Text around the outer edge of a circle
Text has now appeared around the edge of the circle.

If the circle isn’t the right size, you can resize it in the usual ways by dragging one of the corner handles, including with modifier keys. Assuming you want to keep it a circle, and not make it an oval, hold down Shift as you drag. But note that the text remains the same size! To proportionally resize the circle and the text, ⌘ + Shift + Option-drag (Windows: Ctrl + Shift + Alt-drag) a handle.

Note that there seems quite a big gap between the text and the edge of the artwork. This is because the artwork includes print bleed.

Positioning your text around the circle

You may be wondering what those two bars in front of your text are. These control where your text starts and ends. The first one controls where the text should end, and the second one controls where it should begin. Why is it the second one that controls the start position? Because the text runs around the circle! For longer text, the end will therefore appear in front of the beginning, as we look at it in the normal way.

These two bars control where the text starts and ends
Two vertical bars near the start of the text

Move this second bar clockwise around the circle to make the text start further around. Similarly, if you only want your text to run around part of the circle, for instance to keep away from other graphic elements in your design, you can move the first bar anticlockwise to define its end point.

Note the small arrow icons that appear next to the cursor. These mean the bars are ready and waiting to be moved.

The cursor shows that the text is ready to be moved around the circle
Note the cursor has changed. You can now move the text around the edge of the circle.

You could also rotate the circle plus its text using the rotate tool. You’ll need to make sure the centre is the rotation point in the Properties panel.

Rotation point set to centre in the Properties panel
If you use the Properties panel, ensure the rotation point is set to be the centre.

But it’s often quicker and easier to use the text start and end bars.

The ‘Type on a path’ options box

Go to Type > Type on a path > Options for some useful options that enable you to manipulate your circular text.

InDesign’s Type on a path options menu item
The Type on a path options menu item.
InDesign’s Type on a path options dialogue box
The Type on a path options dialogue box

Effect

This governs how your text runs around the circle. The default is the ‘Rainbow’ option – text that runs around the circle so that the bottom of the letters are ‘sticking’ to it. The others are best used sparingly, if at all! The ‘Gravity’ option doesn’t apply to text on circles – only text on paths you’ve drawn or created with the pen tools.

Align

This is a useful option, as it governs how the text aligns to the path (circle): You have a choice of:

  • Baseline (the imaginary line upon which most of the characters ‘sit’)
  • Centre (the characters’ vertical centre is aligned to the path)
  • Ascender (the top of the ascenders, for instance the ‘d’ in the word ‘ascender’) touch the path
  • Descender (the bottom bit – descender – of characters such as ‘g’ and ‘y’) touch the path

Note the To path menu doesn’t apply to text on circles. It’s for when you create a path using the pencil or pen tools.

Flip

If you’re here because you’re creating labels for a record or a CD/DVD face, and want to run the small print around the circle’s inside edge, this is probably what you’re looking for. Up to now, our text is running around the outside of the circle. Tick the ‘Flip’ box.

Text set to flip in the Type on a path options dialogue box
Setting the type to flip around the circle using the Type on a path options dialogue box

Tip

There’s actually an easier way to do this that doesn’t involve as much pointing and clicking. See the really tiny bar at roughly 180° to where your text starts?

Drag this bar to flip the text inside the circle
I told you it was tiny!

Using the selection tool, just drag this tiny blue bar inside the circle. The text now flips onto the inside. (Similarly, dragging the bar back outside the circle flips the text back outside the circle again.)

The text now runs along the inside of the circle
The text now runs around the inside of the circle.

You can now use the larger two bars to reposition it so it’s where you want it.

Spacing

When text runs around or inside a circle, the spacing between some or all characters may be weird. If so, edit the Spacing value in the same dialogue box.

When the text runs around the outside of the circle, increasing the spacing value decreases the space between letters and decreasing the value increases the spacing. No, I’ve no idea why, and this seems very counterintuitive. But when the text runs inside the circle, this command works as you’d expect it to do.

Tip

You could also use the tracking and kerning functions, where the values definitely DO work as you’d expect. I prefer to use this method over the spacing function, as certain letter pairs tend to need kerning anyway.

InDesign text running along the inside of a circle – manual kerning
Manually kerning the text that runs along the inside edge of the circle.

Where it can get complicated

It’s easy to put InDesign text on a circle and tweak it so it’s how you want it.

But when using text on multiple circles, as I do on labels for this label (ha!), selecting and editing them gets really complicated. It’s often impossible to select and edit the one you need.

A complex example with lots of text running around circles
A complex example, containing several circles with text around them.

If this is also the case with your project, you can use the general Object > Lock (⌘ + L, Windows Ctrl + L) function. Or perhaps even better, show/hide/lock/unlock layers in the Layers palette.

InDesign’s Layers panel
Place multiple circles on different layers, and lock/unlock them as you need them.

InDesign text on a circle – conclusion

Hopefully that’s now clear, and there’s nothing stopping you putting InDesign text on, around and inside circles! It can appear baffling when you first come to do it, but it’s really easy when you know how!

Any questions about InDesign text on circles? Fire away in the comments box below!

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