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InDesign text: Pro vs Amateur [3/3]


In this mini-series we’re looking at working professionally with text in InDesign. If you’ve read the previous posts and watched the videos you’ll know how to create Paragraph Styles to give you creative control over your text. 

In the final part of this mini-series you’ll learn:

  • How to quickly adjust multiple paragraphs at once
  • How to tell if any of your text is inconsistent
  • How to fix problematic text with just one click

Editing Paragraph Styles

Following on from the previous post where you learned how to create and apply paragraph styles, now you’ll be ready to edit them. To edit a paragraph style simply right click on the style’s name in the Paragraph Styles panel. A context-sensitive menu appears that includes “Edit [name of style]”. Choose that option. As you’ll see in the video, that opens up a large dialogue box. The long list of options in the left column covers pretty much everything you could wish to do to your text. So long as the “Preview” box is checked at the bottom left of the dialogue box, you can change any setting you wish – and see it immediately applied to any paragraph that uses that style. This is the secret to working with text in very long documents. If you’ve ever worked on a long text document without paragraph styles you’ll know how crucial this InDesign feature is.

How to tell is your text is consistent

Getting text that’s consistent, particularly on a long document, is at best challenging if you’re not using paragraph styles. If you are using them there three ways (at the time of writing) to tell if your text matches the paragraph style it’s supposed to be using. The first way is to look for a “+” symbol next to the name of the paragraph style (in the paragraph styles panel). If there is one there, it indicates that there is an “override”. If you hover your cursor over the “+” it’ll tell you what the override is. The second way is to look at the “Clear Overrides in Selection.” If the button is greyed out (not clickable) then you know there isn’t a problem. The newest approach is to activate the Style highlighter, which you can do by clicking on the “[+]” icon towards the top right of the paragraph styles panel. 

How to make your text consistent

Here are two ways to remove overrides on your selected text:

  • Hold down the alt key and click on the name of your style in the paragraph styles panel. 
  • Press the “Clear Overrides in Selection” button.

For full details, watch this three minute video:


These videos are from “Intuitive InDesign 3: Concise, Creative Text” which is the newest course available as part of a Designtuitive Annual Subscription.

Watch the preview below:

InDesign Text: Pro vs Amateur [2/3]


In this mini-series we’re looking at working professionally with text in InDesign. If you read the previous post you’ll know that Paragraph Styles are what separates a professional approach to text from an amateur one. 

In the second of this 3 part mini-series you’ll learn:

  • The difference between Character and Paragraph formatting
  • The four steps you need to create Paragraph Styles
  • How to apply Paragraph Styles to your text

Two strange little buttons

When you’re working with text you might have noticed two strange little symbols at the top left of the screen. These are actually buttons. They give you access either to InDesign’s Character or Paragraph Format Controls.


The one that resembles a letter “A” is normally selected by default (it’s appears slightly darker if it is). This gives you access to so-called Character Formatting Controls. But what is a character format? It’s anything you could apply to a single character (or letter). Here are some examples:

  • Font
  • Colour
  • Size

It might not look any good, but you could select an individual character and change its size or colour. So that’s what the commands under that button do. 

In contrast, the commands you can access under the button that looks like a reversed letter “P” will affect the whole paragraph in some way. Here are some examples:

  • Alignment of the paragraph
  • An indent at the start of the paragraph
  • Hyphenation not applied to the paragraph

Good news and bad news

InDesign breaks what you can do to text into these categories. The bad news is that it can be quite complicated applying all the text features you might want to, especially as many are scattered across several parts of InDesign. But the good news is that virtually everything you might want to do with your text is combined in one place: the Paragraph Style. 

Why Paragraph Styles are the way to go

Paragraph Styles are by far the best way to control your text, for these reasons:

  • All the controls are in one place
  • You can tell if there is any inconsistency
  • Everything is quickly and easily editable

How to create Paragraph Styles

Follow these four steps to create a paragraph style

  • Select a paragraph (four clicks does it quickly)
  • Apply character formatting (for example font, size etc)
  • Apply paragraph formatting (for example indents, hyphenation)
  • Capture what you’ve done as a Paragraph Style (Paragraph Style panel menu>New Paragraph Style).

Watch this five minute video for full instructions:

In the final part of this series you'll learn how to edit your Paragraph Styles and fix any text which isn't consistent.

InDesign Text: Pro vs Amateur [1/3]


In this 3 part mini-series we’re going to be looking in depth at how to get more professional results with text when using InDesign. 

In the first of this 3 part mini-series you’ll learn:

  • How professional designers work with text in InDesign
  • How to be 100% certain your text is consistent
  • How to get more creative with text in InDesign

If you want more professional results when working with text InDesign, I’d suggest that essentially means three things: 

  • More confidence
  • More creativity 
  • More consistency. 

It means that you can be confident that you’ve applied all the creative features that you want, that you can change them, and that those changes will be applied consistently throughout your document. And if, for some reason, they become inconsistent, you’ll know about it.

There is one InDesign feature that gives you all of that: Paragraph Styles. Watch this 3 minute video to learn more:


In the next part of the series you’ll learn how to create Paragraph Styles.

How to prepare InDesign documents for commercial printing: a comprehensive guide

This post is about preparing InDesign documents to be printed. It’s a long and detailed post, and designed to be worked through (but not necessarily in one go). If you want to work though it as you read, you can download the actual files I’ve used, along with a 60 page pdf book of an extended version of this article to read and work through at your leisure.

.indd? .psd? .ai? .eps? .jpg? Which file types are used for which purpose?


If you're new to design, or simply have been given some files to work with, which ones are used for which purpose? Here follows a very brief post attempting to simplify a very large subject.

Files with an .indd suffix are created in InDesign, which is the program most widely used to create documents that will be printed, such as magazines, newspapers, brochures and newsletters. It's this file that you'd open in InDesign if you wanted to change any aspect of the file that you've been sent.

Images that are placed within the InDesign file usually come from two different sources. Some are most likely photographs, usually created in Photoshop, and will very often be .jpg files. Other file types created from Photoshop include the .tiff file and the .psd.

What all of these file types have in common is that they are images made out of pixels (also called bitmap or raster images, because they've been rasterised: converted into pixels). What separates them are their different attributes. Jpgs are very effective at compressing images in the same way that mp3 files compress audio files to make them smaller. Tiffs compress in a less effective way, but do so without throwing away any information from the image, so are often regarded as being of higher quality (which is not necessarily true). PSD files are Photoshop's native file format and enable you to use some of Photoshop's very flexible features (like Layer Masks, Smart Objects, Smart Filters). Other bitmap file formats that are primarily used for web graphics (as well as jpgs) are the .gif and the .png file format. Mostly you wouldn't need to open bitmap images, but would do so in Photoshop if you wanted to change the images (for example to make it black and white, or adjust its colours).

The other source for images that are placed within Indesign is Illustrator, which creates images not make out of pixels, but mathematically determined points called vectors. These files are much simpler than bitmap images and are perfect for things like logos, diagrams and maps. The files created from Illustrator are usually .ai files and .eps files. Again, you normally shouldn't need to open these, but you would do so in Illustrator if you wanted to adjust the colours in a logo or change the text on a diagram.

The other file type you'll have come across is the pdf, which can be created by a variety of programs for a variety of reasons. The most likely reason you'd encounter one in a design context is that it is either sent as a proof (so you can see how the job will print out) or that it's created as the final document for a printer to print from. 

Hi Res images and Bleeds. Two things printers talk about that you should understand too.


Hi-Res Images... er, what does that mean?

When a printer says "We can't print that, the images aren't high res", what does that mean? In short it means that whilst the images you've used might well look fine on your screen, they'd probably look terrible if they were printed out. Why? In short it comes down to the number of pixels in the image. You're probably familiar with the term pixels - if not, it means the tiny squares of colour that make up a digital image. That is essentially all a digital photograph is - many thousands of tiny squares, each one capable of having its own unique colour or shade. For an image to look good on a screen it needs to have roughly 72 pixels for every inch of the image. However for an image to look good on the printed page, it needs to have roughly 300 pixels for every inch of the image. This is number of pixels per inch is referred to in Indesign and Photoshop as PPI, although old-school printers and designers often call it DPI. It's also known as Resolution. So a High Resolution (or Hi Res) image will have around 300ppi, and that is what the printer is wanting.

My printer is asking me about a bleed. What does that mean?

If you are asking a printer to quote to print your flyers, posters or newsletters they might ask you if there any bleeds, or whether you have added bleeds. Whilst this is a perfectly obvious question for a printer it understandably can cause confusion or even mild alarm. This post will explain what a bleed is and what the printer is asking.

If you’re accustomed to printing documents on your in-house laser or inkjet printer you’re probably used to leaving a white border around the edge of your document, because in all likelihood such printers can’t print to the edge of the page. There is no such restriction in commercial printing, where documents are typically printed on larger sheets of paper and then trimmed down to size afterwards. For that reason you can fill the whole page with colour, or an image, or have any element go right to the edge of the page. The printer will want to know if you want that, partly because it might affect how it's printed (and the cost involved), and also whether this is something that you have set up properly.

If you want anything in your document to go all the way to the edge of the page, make sure you’ve added bleed guides (when using Adobe InDesign; usually a value of 3mm is used) to your document either when you first created it, or subsequently by choosing File>Document Setup. Where you want anything to go right to the edge of your document, make sure you extend the frame over the edge of the page until it meets the (red) bleed guide. Extending elements such as images or background colours over the edge of the page allows for any movement or inaccuracy of the blade of the guillotine that's used to trim your page after it's been printed, meaning that you won't be left with a white gap at the page edge where they should appear.

So when a printer asks "Is there bleed?" or "Does anything bleed off?" or "Are any images full bleed?" they want to know so they can make sure it's printed the right way, and to make sure you set the document up correctly before you send it to them.

For our complete guide to preparing InDesign documents for print, click here. 


Why can't I track my text back to the previous line? Why is InDesign messing with my text when I'm trying to sub it?

There's a really clever InDesign feature that, whilst clever, makes many people fume. People who have subbed text for years (edited the words to get them to fit) clearly know a thing of two when it comes to getting it to not only fit the space, but for it to read well and look good too. If they've come from a background of using QuarkXpress they will be used to looking at a paragraph line by line, sending the occasional word over to the next line using a soft return (Shift+Return: works in InDesign too).

But when they start using InDesign many of them find that the tricks they'd previously used don't work, and it drives them crazy. In a nutshell this is because a clever InDesign feature, called Adobe Paragraph Composer, is trying to do their job for them. Unlike QuarkXpress, InDesign's default behaviour is to look at a whole paragraph at a time when calculating where to break the lines. So the way it makes the lines flow in a paragraph is often what a sub might have done by use of soft returns. The problem lies when a sub wants to edit that text - it simply will not behave as expected. It's possible to change that behaviour for a particular paragraph by going to the dropdown menu at the top right of the screen (in the Control Panel, when the paragraph is selected) and by choosing Adobe Single-line Composer instead of Adobe Paragraph Composer.

InDesign will now examine the paragraph line by line, like QuarkXpress used to. In my experience of helping magazines and newspapers move from QuarkXpress to InDesign, setting up Paragraph Styles to use the Single-line Composer instead of the default Paragraph composer makes life a lot easier for the editorial staff.

Why can't I select my text? Why has the baseline grid ruined my text? How do I make the most of InDesign's many text options? If you've ever asked any of these types of questions, our mini pdf guide to InDesign text issues is written for you. Find the answers to these questions and half a dozen more. Submit your name and email below to access it free from our resource library (then check your email):

Why can't I see InDesign's Baseline Grid?

If you can't see InDesign's Baseline Grid there are a number of possible reasons why. The first thing to check is whether you've asked for them to be visible: check that View>Grids & Guides displays Show Baseline Grid.

If the grid is still not showing, the next thing to check is that you're not currently in Preview Mode, (useView>Screen Mode>Normal) as that will hide anything that won't print, including the Baseline Grid.

If the grid is still not showing, then zoom in, and eventually it should appear. This is because by default it won't display if you are viewing your page at less than 75% magnification. If you have a small screen you might want to change InDesign's preferences so that the grid will appear when you're looking at the whole page. To do this, choose InDesign>Preferences>Grids (Edit>Preferences>Grids on PC) and lower the View Threshold value to around 50%.

Why can't I select my text? Why has the baseline grid ruined my text? How do I make the most of InDesign's many text options? If you've ever asked any of these types of questions, our mini pdf guide to InDesign text issues is written for you. Find the answers to these questions and half a dozen more.

Why Has My InDesign Text Suddenly Got Huge Gaps Between Every Line?

If your text has suddenly acquired huge spaces between its lines (technical term: Leading), the chances are you've adjusted text that's supposed to be sitting on a Baseline Grid. This grid is used to align text neatly across columns, and when set up and used well will work beautifully.

But if the text is changed from how it's been designed to appear, the baseline grid can cause havoc. This is because it assumes that the leading of the text will be the same as its Increment Every value.

To see what this value is, choose InDesign>Preferences>Grids (Edit>Preferences>Grids on PC) and look at the Increment Every value. The leading of your text should be no greater than this value, because if it is, it will snap to the baseline grid, but to only every other line.

So a quick way to fix the problem is to select all of your text and adjust its Leading value so that it's the same as the grid's Increment Every value. Better though, in the long run, is to learn about Paragraph Styles and how not to override them. If you'd like to learn how to do that, download our free guide mentioned below.

Why can't I select my text? Why has the baseline grid ruined my text? How do I make the most of InDesign's many text options? If you've ever asked any of these types of questions, our mini pdf guide to InDesign text issues is written for you. Find the answers to these questions and half a dozen more.