Create captions in InDesign

A caption is descriptive text that appears below an image. InDesign provides several methods for creating captions that display the image metadata you specify. InDesign provides a special caption variable that displays the specified metadata of an image. If a text frame containing the variable is next to or grouped with the image, the variable displays the metadata of that image. You can generate a caption from an existing image or while placing it, and you can create a text frame that contains a caption variable.

Caption generated from image metadata
Caption generated from image metadata

Generate a caption from an image

When you generate a caption from an existing image, you can generate either a static caption, which can be modified only manually, or a live caption, which is updated if the image or the image metadata changes. For example, if you move a live caption next to a different image, the caption displays metadata from the different image.

When you choose Generate Live Caption, a new variable is generated automatically based on the current caption settings. For example, if the Description metadata type is selected in the Caption Setup dialog box, a variable called “Live Metadata Caption: Description” is created.

  1. To determine the content and appearance of the caption you generate, choose Object > Captions > Caption Settings, and specify settings. See Specify caption setup options.

  2. Choose Object > Captions > Generate Live Caption or Generate Static Caption.


When you generate a live caption that displays a long string of text, such as a Description, the caption does not break across lines because it is a variable. If a caption is compressed into a single line, consider converting a live caption to a static caption. To convert a live caption to a static caption, select the live caption and choose Object > Captions > Convert To Static Caption.

You can also generate a static caption while placing an image. In the Place dialog box, select Create Static Captions, and then place the caption text frame after placing the image.

Specify caption setup options

Use the Captions Settings dialog box to determine the content and formatting of captions you generate. These captions affect only future captions you generate, not existing captions.

  1. Choose Object > Captions > Caption Settings.

  2. Choose the metadata you want to include, and specify the text that appears before and after the metadata.

  3. To include multiple rows of metadata, click the plus sign icon.

  4. Specify the following options, and click OK.

    Text Before / Text After

    The text that appears before or after the specified metadata.


    Choose the metadata option, such as Description or City, from the list.


    Specify where to place the caption in relation to the image.


    Specify how far apart the caption text is from the edge of the text frame next to the image.

    Paragraph Style

    Specify a paragraph style to apply to the caption text. If you want the caption to include automatic numbering, such as “Figure 1,” “Figure 2,” and so on, include the numbering in the paragraph style. See Create running captions for figures and tables.


    Specify to which layer the caption belongs.

    Group Caption With Image

    Indicate whether the image frame and caption text frame are grouped.

Create captions using variables

When a text frame containing a caption variable is adjacent to or grouped with an image, the caption variable displays the metadata of that image.

Caption variables
Caption variables

A. Text frame with caption variable not next to image B. Text frame moved next to image 
  1. If necessary, define the caption variable you want to use. See Define caption variables.

  2. Create the text frame to be used for the caption.

  3. With the insertion point in the text frame, choose Type > Text Variables > Insert Variable, and then choose the caption variable you want to include. Insert as many caption variables as needed.

  4. Move the caption text frame next to an image frame, or group the caption text frame with the image frame.

If the caption variable is blank, edit the image metadata, and then use the Links panel to update the image. To edit image metadata, see Edit metadata in image files.

Define caption variables

Caption variables are updated automatically when a text frame containing a caption variable is moved next to an image. By default, the Name metadata is used for the variable type when you choose Type > Text Variables > Insert Variable > Image Name. You can edit the Image Name variable, or you can create new variables that specify image metadata.

  1. Choose Type > Text Variables > Define.

  2. Choose New to create a variable or Edit to edit an existing variable.

  3. For Type, select Metadata Caption.

  4. Choose an option from the Metadata menu.

  5. Specify text that appears before or after the metadata, and then choose OK.