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Turning Polygons to Starbursts in InDesign

Every now and again we hear from someone asking, “Where’s the Starburst tool?” The answer is: Use one of the two Polygon tools (hiding under the frame tools). Normally, when you draw a polygon, you get a boring hexagon. (Well, it’s not boring if you’re a bee, I guess.) To turn it into a dodecahedron or a starburst, you have two choices:

  • You can double-click on the Polygon tool to open the Polygon Settings dialog box. There you can choose the number of sides and the star inset. Increasing Star Inset means InDesign adds additional points, insets them, and makes what appears to grocery-shoppers everywhere as a starburst.
  • The second option is to hold down the arrow keys on your keyboard while you’re dragging out a frame with the Polygon tool. Up and down arrow keys change the number of points; left and right arrow keys change the inset value.

Note that If you use a Mac, and you’re using CS3 or earlier, you have to actually be dragging with the mouse (it has to be moving) in order for the arrow keys to work. In CS4, they fixed this so that it works like Windows: You can pause, keeping the mouse button down (or trackball button, in my case) and use the arrow keys.

Anne-Marie wrote a blog post a couple years ago about a method of converting one kind of starburst into another — that is, if you already have a 10-sided polygon and you want to change it to a 20-sided polygon. That’s a pretty cool tip, but in CS4, Adobe made it even easier. In what appears to be a completely undocumented feature, you can select one or more polygons on your page, double-click the Polygon tool, and change the settings. When you click OK, all the selected polygons get changed to the new settings. Nifty!

David Blatner

David Blatner

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at
David Blatner

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10 Comments on “Turning Polygons to Starbursts in InDesign

  1. I understood that a dodecahedron is a solid (ie., three-dimensional) figure having twelve pentagonal faces. At least that?s what it says in Dictionary when I select the word and right-click on it.

    Perhaps you meant a dodecagon? (I love being a pedant!) :-)

  2. @Perry: I knew that… a long time ago. Obviously that knowledge had fallen out of my brain. Thank you for the correx!

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