InDesign tutorial: Resize a page using InDesign CS6's Liquid Layouts

Pariah Burke explains how to resize a page’s dimensions in InDesign

Can the new Liquid Layout behaviours in InDesign CS6 save you time repurposing a publication for different print and digital page sizes? That’s a question Digital Arts readers have been asking us with increasing frequency. 

To answer this, we brought in InDesign and print and digital publishing expert Pariah Burke. And what better way for him to answer that question than by reworking one of our own layouts from the November 2012 issue of Digital Arts?

Whether you need to repurpose your print publication for the various tablet sizes and orientations, or you’re working with a client who changed the page size of a project at the eleventh hour, adapting layouts to different pages dimensions is becoming increasingly common. 

In some cases, as you’ll see below, that’s simply a matter of scaling everything on the page uniformly. In other cases, with different types of publications and various starting and ending page dimensions, InDesign CS6’s Liquid Layout behaviours, coupled with a few productivity best practices you should already be using, can do all the heavy lifting of page reformatting with a minimum of manual clean-up.

However, in certain cases, Liquid Layout behaviours aren’t going to be of any help at all, but with what we explain here and some practice, you’ll learn how to tell when it’ll be of help. 

In all cases, we’ll work from an A4 format (297 × 210mm or 11.7 × 8.2 in) of the Digital Arts feature layout and strive to get it down to A5 (210 × 148mm or 8.3 × 5.8in), while preserving legibility and style. The processes and steps would be the same if we started with a print layout or a design for a full-sized iPad or Android tablet, and needed to adapt it to the iPad mini or other 7-inch tablets.

Time to complete

30 minutes


InDesign CS6 or later


If all you had to do was shrink the A4 page down to A5, which is half the size of A4, you could follow these steps.

Select every page thumbnails in the Pages panel, switch to the Page tool and, from the Liquid Page Rule drop-down menu that appears in the Control panel, choose the Controlled by Master rule.

If you originally began your document in InDesign CS6 rather than in an older version, then the Controlled by Master Liquid Page Rule is already in effect on your document pages unless you changed it.


With the Page tool still active, go to the master page (or base master page if you’re using more than one) and change its Liquid Page Rule to Scale.

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Also in the Control panel, change the page size from A4 to A5. The conversion will be instant; even the type scales proportionately. Of course, that could very well be a problem if you want people to read the page.

If your type turns out large enough, then there’s no problem. With the Digital Arts layout, however, the main body copy went from 8.5pt in the A4 version down to a squint-inducing 5.9pt. Captions that started at 7pt,wound up even less legible at 4.93pt scaled. 

Unless you expect all your readers to do their best Mr Magoo impressions, that conversion isn’t going to work. You can’t simply scale the entire page down and expect it to be press- or screen-ready – no matter how temptingly convenient that might be. Instead, you’ll need to go deeper into InDesign’s Liquid Layout behaviours and settings.


Reworking a layout into a different orientation (or in any other way that isn’t as simple as uniformly scaling the page and content up or down) is often best-accomplished by employing the Guide-Based Liquid Page Rule and another new Liquid Layout addition, Liquid Guides.

When changing a layout like the page above from tall to wide, it’s important to preserve the relationship between the page elements, while making sure they automatically fit the new dimensions. The caption frame, for example, should stay to the lower right, just as the pull quote and the rules above and below it should be to the right and above the second column of body copy. Those body copy columns must begin at the left margin and move into the page. Finally, the main image must continue to dominate the layout. And all of these elements must fill the space between the margins horizontally and vertically.

Switch to the Page tool to activate the correct mode in the Control panel, and then choose Guide-Based as the Liquid Page Rule.


Keeping the Page tool active, click inside the vertical ruler, drag a guide out from it, and drop the guide on the page so it touches multiple objects, whose relation to one another you want to preserve. For instance, on the page above, I want to maintain the relative distance of the main image from the first column of body copy, so I dropped a liquid guide that touched both the relevant image and text frames. Precise placement isn’t necessary, as long as the liquid guide touches the desired objects.

As you can see, this isn’t a standard ruler guide. Its dashed appearance denotes that it’s a liquid guide rather than a ruler guide. Dragging guides from the ruler with any tool other than the Page tool will bring up the ruler guide; dragging from the ruler with the Page tool, however, creates a liquid guide whose sole purpose is to help define object relationships when resizing pages.

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Click the Landscape orientation button on the Control panel to convert your portrait page. Right away, you’ll see the result of using the liquid guide – the image frame and left text frame widen to fill the newly expanded horizontal space, while maintaining their mutual connection to the left page margin. 

All the other objects remain unchanged. By touching the two left frames with the liquid guide, you told InDesign to widen those objects to fit the new space; everything else was moved, but not reshaped.


Undo the orientation change, and add other liquid guides if your layout needs them to make other objects adapt to the new space. In my layout, I’ve added another vertical liquid guide on the right to keep the caption, pull quote and the pull quote’s rules together, and in relation to the right side of the main image, while growing inward. The result is that all those frames will widen when the page is converted to landscape, thus dividing the new wider text area equally between the first and second body copy columns.

The end result of the two vertical liquid guides will be that, when the page is converted to landscape, the big image frame will grow to fit the newly widened page, while the text column stays glued to the image’s (and thus the margin’s) left side, and the elements on the right stick together and to the right side of the image (and margin). All elements will widen to fill the width of the wider landscape page (and shrink to fit within the shorter height of the page), but they will do so away from the sides. 


Height is still an issue – the main image height now overwhelms the page and the text frames extend well below the bottom of the page. A horizontal liquid guide will take care of this.

Undo the page size changes, and with the Page tool still active, drag a horizontal liquid guide from the horizontal ruler. Dropping it atop the main image will decrease the height of its frame in proportion to the landscape orientation’s reduction in page space. 

Now we need to allow the text frames to adapt as well. Drag another horizontal liquid guide down, so it touches your text frames. Here, because the pull quote frame isn’t threaded, if resizing causes text to overset, it will have nowhere to go. I’m keeping the horizontal liquid guide below and away from the pull quote frame. This will prevent the frame from shrinking vertically as it widens; which should prevent the text from oversetting.

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Once you’ve got all the liquid guides in place touching the objects you want to grow or shrink, convert to landscape once again. With most layouts, you’ll be finished at this point. However, some layouts may need some manual tweaking – as I will, to get to the final landscape version.

Even when resizing pages instead of just swapping orientations, the Guide-Based Liquid Page Rule can be very helpful. Notice that type sizes weren’t changed; only the Scale rule will change type size.


When you need more granular control over object resizing and repositioning than afforded by the Guide-Based Liquid Page Rule, turn to the Object-Based rule. With a layout like page 31, it’s crucial to preserve the relationship between the page elements. In this case, there are two images, a sidebar, three body copy columns in two text frames, a caption text frame, a pull quote, rules above and below the pull quote, and a trio of objects comprising the header. 

Some liquid guides and the Guide-Based Liquid Page Rule could help with resizing this layout from A4 to A5, but not as much as individual object control would. With the black arrow Selection tool, select an object in or near a corner or side of the page and then, from the Window menu, choose Interactive > Liquid Layout. That will open the new Liquid Layout panel.


Set the Liquid Page Rule to Object-Based. The remaining options of the panel will become enabled. The Auto-Fit checkbox will become available when the selected content has a fitting option attached to it. When enabled, this option preserves that fitting option, refitting the content to the new frame size that results after resizing the page.

Below the Auto-Fit option, activate either, both or neither of the Resize with Page checkbox controls. These controls – Height and Width, respectively – let you tell InDesign to resize the selected object’s corresponding dimension to fit within the resized page better; if an option is disabled, the object will not resize along that dimension. For instance, if you enable Width but not Height on a graphic frame, and then halve the size of the page – as in going from A4 to A5 – then the frame will remain at its original height, but become half its original width. The Resize with Page options are available for graphic frames, text frames, native vector objects, and everything else.

Lock in place

In the Pin section, you may activate 0-2 options. These controls lock the corresponding side to its current relation to the page edge. For example, if you placed a frame 20mm in from the top of the page and 20mm in from the left, and then pinned both the top and left edges with the appropriate controls on the Liquid Layout panel, then no matter how you resize the page – up or down – or even the width and height of the frame, that frame’s top and left edges will always be 20mm in from the corresponding edge.

You’ll want to activate the Top and Left pin options for objects in the top-left corner of the page, Bottom and Right for objects in the lower-right corner, Top for objects in the top-middle of the page, and so on. Only a maximum of two options may be selected – you can’t pin opposing sides of an object or they cancel each other out.

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Now that you’ve set the constraints and options on the first object, do the same for any other objects on the page. Group any objects that must remain in their exact relationship to one another before applying any per-object settings. Grab the Page tool, resize the page and if necessary perform a manual clean-up.


Sometimes, the new Liquid Layout isn’t going to help – or, at least, not enough to make the effort of setting per-object options, creating liquid guides or changing Liquid Page Rule worthwhile. When adapting some layouts to different page sizes, it’s easier to use Layout Adjustment and manual adjustments. One such document that’s better handled this way than with Liquid Layout behaviours is the feature from the Digital Arts November issue I’ve been working with throughout this tutorial.

Although I often achieve perfect or near-perfect results after using Liquid Layout behaviours with other documents, you may have noticed that none of the methods I employed with that particular layout resulted in a press- or screen-ready adaptation. Some manual resizing, repositioning, or other tweaking was always required. 

A more complex layout like page 26, with its multiple image frames, header art, body copy spread across two frames – one two-column, one a single – plus a caption, pull quote and rules will be mangled by any Liquid Page Rule regardless of how much time you spend prepping per-object settings or liquid guides. In the end, I built the final A5 version of the page in half as much time with Layout Adjustment and manual object manipulations, as I took prepping for and then fixing any liquid layout effort.

So, when Liquid Layout isn’t helping, don’t be afraid to walk away from it. Although you won’t find a Layout Adjustment command on the Layout menu any longer, it’s still in InDesign; it’s merely hidden. To switch back to manual resizing, set your document page(s) Liquid Page Rule to Off.


Go to the document’s master page, or, if you only want to rework one or a few pages, to the master page controlling them. Change the page size or orientation using the Page tool. All the document pages assigned to that master will change to match, though their contents won’t.

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If, while reworking your layout, you also need to change the margins or number of columns, do so before resizing the master pages. Choose Margins and Columns from the Layout menu. At the bottom of the resulting Margins and Columns dialog is a checkbox; Enable Layout Adjustment. Activate that option and then input your new margin- and/or column-related settings. 

Click OK, and InDesign will then automatically adjust object positions and sizes to match the new margins and columns settings. When you resize the pages, the result will be a closer match to the new page geometry than if you hadn’t enabled Layout adjustment.


Manually reposition, rescale, or adjust page contents as needed to fit within the new layout. Yes, it will probably take a fair amount of time and effort, so remember: use Liquid Layout whenever possible. Take the manual approach only when Liquid Layout can’t help.