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Pixels To Print: InDesign Paragraph Styles vs. Character Styles

Adobe InDesign is most often the program of choice for creating layouts, templates, and multi-page designs for good reason.  The program includes tools and functions like a Master Page, automatic page numbering, guides and easily set margins, and the good ‘ol Character Styles and Paragraph Styles.  Each of these tools help in some way to make universal changes rather than just change the page you are working on, allowing for the design and editing process to be much more efficient for large, multi-page documents.  

When working on text-heavy projects especially, Character Styles and Paragraph Styles will be your saving grace.  Both work as tools to create shortcuts for editing similar text with just one click, which end up being a major time saver for designers.  While they are both some of InDesign’s most notable features, it is important to know the difference between the two to be able to make the most of their capabilities.

Paragraph Styles

A Paragraph Style is a way to set a “template” to your paragraphs, including things like indentations, justification of the text, and spacing.  They are applied to every separate body of text that starts with the Paragraph symbol. While Paragraph styles have the option to format text characteristics, you are still able to add separate paragraph styles to each paragraph afterwards.  It is recommended to create Paragraph Styles before you create Character Styles so as to not confuse your edits.

To create a Paragraph Style:

  1. Go to Window > Styles > Paragraph Styles

  2. Click the plus symbol in the bottom right of the window to create a new style

  3. Name your style (Body Paragraphs, for example), and double-click your new style to set the parameters

  4. Set the general Character Formats for your paragraphs

  5. Adjust the Indents and Spacing, Justification, and any other specifications that you’d like to add

  6. Go through your document and select each paragraph that you’d like to apply your new style to, or if you’re starting from scratch, select the Paragraph Style so that your following paragraphs will all be formatted based on your Paragraph Style

Character Styles

A Character Style, similarly, is also a way to set a “template”, but in this case it will be to the individual characters.  This would include things like font, font size, style, text color, and underline and strikethrough of a text.  They are applied to every word or phrase that is selected throughout your document. Character Styles are great for editing different hierarchies of text, like a header versus body text characteristics, for example.  

To create a Character Style:

  1. Go to Window > Styles > Character Styles

  2. Click the plus symbol in the bottom right of the window to create a new style

  3. Name your style (Headings, for example), and double-click your new style to set the parameters

  4. Adjust your basic character formats, like fonts, size, kerning, leading, etc.

  5. Select your desired text color, and make any additional character changes.

  6. To apply to specific areas of text in your document, highlight or select the text or text box, and click on your new Character Style.

The great part about these Styles is that if you need to make an edit to them, simply reopen the Style window and change what you need to.  This change will automatically be applied to every paragraph or character that already has the style attached to it! We designers know the impact that time saving tools can make on our lives (and deadlines), so when we spot a tool that can do just that, we will most definitely share it with you! Now let’s get to creating beautiful and efficient designs, shall we?!

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