Using Character Style Sheets in Adobe InDesign

Character style sheets can save designers real time, especially when creating long or multi-page documents. Character style sheets are simply a written format that you can use in your design however you want. Consistency is one of the principles designers should follow. Character tables help the designer so that they don’t have to manually apply the same type of formatting to a document over and over again.

Let me give you an example. You design a magazine that advertises a particular product. You want all your headlines to be a certain font, size, and color. You can write all this information in a character style sheet and then apply it to any heading with one click.

Now suppose you decide that the titles are too small and they all need to be increased by 4 points. Well, you just go to your character style sheet and change the font size there, and all parts of the text with that character style sheet change at once. The same principle works when using paragraph style sheets, but we’ll cover them in another article. Isn’t it convenient? So how do you set up these character tables in InDesign? This tutorial will take you step by step through the basic process.

  1. Create a new drawing style
  2. Set Font Style Options
  3. Change font style options for quick changes to everything

Create a new drawing style

  1. With an InDesign document open, make sure that the Character Style Sheets palette is open. If not. go to Windown type character (or use the keyboard shortcut) Shift+F11

  2. Now that your palette is open, click the button New drawing style

  3. You should get the new font style that InDesign calls by default Character style 1 † Double click on it. You should get a new window called Character style options

In the image below (a larger version of the image), the font style palette is on the right side of the screen, but it can be anywhere on the screen.

Set Font Style Options

Now you can rename your style sheet and set the type to whatever you want. In this case we chose the font Papyrus Normal, size 48pt † We then continued with the options Symbol color and set the color to Cyan. Of course you can change all the other options to your liking, but this is just an example to show you how font styles work.

Change font style options for quick changes to everything

Select the text you want to apply your drawing style to, then select a new one character style † If you look at the image, you’ll see that we’ve applied a font style to the first line of the sample text in the document.

Just as an informational note, if you change the formatting in parts of the text to which you’ve applied a character style, you’ll see () added to the style name when you click that text.

If you want to change all parts of the text to which you’ve applied a character style at once, all you need to do is double-click the character style you want to change and then change your options there.

These steps work with InDesign CS on both Windows and Macintosh. The palette and buttons may look slightly different in previous versions, but they basically work the same.

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