Finding & Fixing Disproportionately Scaled Images in InDesign

Disproportionate scaling (stretching an image out of proportion, so that its vertical and horizontal scales do not match) will result in distorted, “stretched” images. If the distortion is slight it may be acceptable, and in rare cases it may even be desirable, but most often images are stretched out of proportion unintentionally.

Disproportionate scaling of images can be a real problem in a layout. Fortunately, InDesign can make finding and repairing them a breeze.

Finding Disproportional Images

There are several ways you can determine if an image has been scaled disproportionately:

1. Links Panel: Select your image and look at the “Link Info” section at the bottom of the links panel (you may need to click the arrow button next to “Link Info” to expand this section). Look for “Effective PPI” in the list of info. If you have 2 values listed for your Effective PPI (i.e. something like 321 x 301 ppi, instead of 321 ppi) then your image has been stretched out of proportion.

2. Control Panel: Select your image with the selection tool. Double-click it to choose the image content rather than the frame. Look up in the Control Panel at the horizontal and vertical scale indicators. If they don’t match, then the image is out of proportion.

3. Real-Time Preflight: This is the most powerful method. If properly configured, your preflight will check your document for any disproportionate images as you work and warn you as soon as you mess one up accidentally. In the rare case you do need to mess up an image’s proportions on purpose, InDesign will still make a note of it for you so you remember exactly which image it is. See my article on Real-Time Preflight for more information about setting this up.

Screenshot showing a disproportionately-scaled image. From top to bottom, highlights show the Control Panel scale controls, the Links Panel Effective PPI, and the Preflight Panel error information.

Screenshot showing a disproportionately-scaled image. From top to bottom, highlights show the Control Panel scale controls, the Links Panel Effective PPI, and the Preflight Panel error information.

Fixing Disproportional Images

Once you’ve found a disproportionately-scaled image using any of the methods described above you will fix it using the control panel (the bar across the top of the InDesign workspace (Note that steps 1-3 are the same as method 2 from above):

  1. Select the image with your selection tool.
  2. Double-click it, or click the content grabber, to select the image iteself rather than the frame.
  3. In the control panel, locate the Horizontal and Vertical Scale fields. If they don’t match, then the image is stretched out of proportion.
  4. Set Horizontal and Vertical Scale to matching values. This is most easily done if you first ensure that the chain link icon next to them is enabled, forcing them to match each other when you type in a value for the first. I usually type in a value similar to the existing value so that the scale of the image does not change radically.
The scaling on the image has been corrected. Compare the highlighted areas with the previous photo.

The scaling on the image has been corrected. Compare the highlighted areas with the previous photo.

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