Creating Styles

Time spent creating style sheets is an investment that will repay you many times over throughout the lifespan of the publication. Though you should set up your Styles at the beginning of the design process, it is easy to add to your Style Sheet and edit your styles as your document evolves. There are several different approaches:

Creating a Style Based on Existing Text

  1. Format the paragraph the way you want it to look.

  2. Click the Create New Style icon at the bottom of the Paragraph Styles palette: "Paragraph Style 1" will appear in your Paragraph Styles palette.

  3. Double click "Paragraph Style 1" to type a name for your Style and (optionally) specify a shortcut keystroke. If you want to add additional formatting, click the attributes list on the left and specify the options you want to add to your style. With Preview checked, you can see your formatting changes added to the paragraph.

Figure 13.3. Paragraph Style Options.

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Tip: Style Naming Conventions

  • Name your styles in a logical way. Keep in mind that it's likely you'll need to come back to a document months or even years down the road, so you'll want a style-naming strategy that is transparent. Alternatively, you may need to hand over your InDesign document to someone else to finish. So that you don't spend a long time on the phone explaining why you named your styles after your favorite Radiohead songs, keep them simple.

  • Because InDesign lists your styles in alphanumeric order, consider putting a two digit number in front of your most commonly used styles to force them to the top of the list in the Styles palette. Putting a unique two character identifier at the beginning of your style names also makes it easier to access those styles using Quick Apply by simply pressing Cmd-Return (Ctrl-Enter) then typing the first two characters to access the style.

  • Styles are case-sensitive: Body Text and body text are recognized as two distinct styles, so be precise when naming your styles, or you may end up with two versions of the style and no idea which is the real one.

Choosing and Combining Typefaces

Setting up a Style Sheet for your document involves choosing what typefaceor combination of typefacesto use. A well-constructed Style Sheet will make it easy to experiment with different font options. Here are some factors to consider when making your choices:


The more complex the document, the more important the versatility of your typeface. Choosing a font is a bit like choosing a pair of shoes. If you are planning to go to the beach, then a pair of flip-flops may be all you need. But if you're going to the beach, then rock climbing, then out for a formal dinner, you'll need footwear that's more versatilelikewise with a typeface.

A versatile typeface will have a range of weights available: light, regular, semibold, bold, etc. You'll still be able to achieve the necessary contrast to indicate hierarchy of information. When The Guardian newspaper in London went through a major redesign in the fall of 2005, it switched to using a single font familyGuardian Egyptianwith 96 different weights and widths. Obviously, the demands of a daily newspaper and its associated supplements are more than is typical, but you get the idea.

Do the extras come as Standard?

A PostScript Type 1 font has a character set of only 256; an OpenType font has thousandsup to a maximum of 65,000. Those real small caps, old style numbers, and extra glyphs might really come in handy. Another huge advantage of OpenType fonts is that they are cross-platform.

Historical Connotations

Depending on the nature of your text, you might use history to inform your choice of font. For example, a book on modernist architecture could suggest Futura, while a book of 18th Century Italian poetry may be more appropriate in Bodoni.

Same Type Designer

In a similar vein, when looking for a complement to a given typeface, start by looking at other typefaces designed by the same type designerthe rationale being that the two faces will have a related sensibility. Some fonts are designed to be used together, their pairings suggested by their names: for example, Stone Serif and Stone Sans.


Contrast is one of the most effective ways of establishing hierarchy. Choosing different fonts is just one way of adding contrast. Other parameters to mix and match are size, weight, structure, color, and formfor example, caps contrasted with lowercase, roman contrasted with italic. If you want contrast, then go for it. Don't use typefaces that are too similaryour readers won't pick up on the change, or the difference will be so subtle as to be disconcerting. Worse, it might look like you've chosen the "contrasting" font by mistake. Likewise, if you are mixing weights within the same font family, a black or heavy weight combined with a light weight will have far more impact than a bold mixed with a semibold.

Same X-Height

If you plan to use contrasting typefaces on the same linefor example, in a run-in headmake sure they have the same x-height, or adjust their relative sizes accordingly. Another example: with run-in heads, to ensure there are no jarring transitions from one font to the next.

Figure 13.4. Mixing x-heights. In example A, the run-in head (Helvetica Neue Black Condensed) is the same size (10 pt.) as the body text (Minion), creating a disparity in x-heights. In example B, the run-in head has been reduced by 1 point to equalize the x-heights of the two fonts.

Loading Styles from Another InDesign Document

If you have an InDesign file with a style sheet already created, there's no need to reinvent the wheel. You can load those styles from one document to another. You can even import styles from Microsoft Word and RTF documents. Choose Load All Styles (to bring in Paragraph, Character and Object styles from the source document), then navigate to it and click Open. Note, you will not be able to load styles from an InDesign CS2 document into a CS document; you can do it in the other direction.

With InDesign CS2 you can import specific styles and determine how to deal with any style name conflicts: Where the style name is the same in both documents, you can choose to use the Incoming Style Definition or to rename the incoming style, which will have "copy" appended to its style name. (You can rename the style later if you wish.)

Creating the Style "Blind"

Using the Paragraph Style Options dialog box, you can create as many styles as you need without having a single character on your page. With experience, you can visualize what a style will look like without needing to see it formatted on your page, which makes setting up a Style Sheet much faster.

Figure 13.5. Load Styles.

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Figure 13.6. Mapping Styles.

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Basing Styles on Other Styles

Hierarchy is a big concept in typography. Hierarchy gives your documents structure. Hierarchy is not about working for the Manit's about effective communication. Take a simple example: Your headings and subheadings will probably use the same font. For this reason you need to consider carefully the relationship between them. By basing one style on another, you create more than just a visual link between the styles. When you edit the base or "parent" style, the attributes that it shares with its "offspring" styles will also change. To establish this relationship between styles, choose the parent style in the Based On menu. The new style becomes the "child" style.

Figure 13.7. Basing one style upon another. The "child" inherits all the formatting of its "parent" style.

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