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Character and paragraph styles

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About character and paragraph styles

A character style is a collection of character-formatting attributes that you can apply to a selected range of text. A paragraph style includes both character- and paragraph-formatting attributes, and can be applied to a selected paragraph or range of paragraphs. Using character and paragraph styles saves time and ensures consistent formatting.

You use the Character Styles and Paragraph Styles panels to create, apply, and manage character and paragraph styles. To apply a style, simply select text and click a style name in one of the panels. If you don’t select any text, the style applies to new text you create.

Paragraph Styles panel
Paragraph Styles panel

A. Style name B. Style with additional formatting (overrides) C. Panel menu D. New Style button E. Delete icon 

When you select text or insert the cursor in text, the active styles are highlighted in the Character Styles and Paragraph Styles panels. By default, every character in a document is assigned the Normal Character Style and every paragraph is assigned the Normal Paragraph Style. These default styles are the building blocks for all other styles you create.

A plus sign next to a style name indicates that there are overrides to the style. An override is any formatting that doesn’t match the attributes defined by the style. Any time you change settings in the Character and OpenType panel, you create an override to the current character style; likewise, when you change settings in the Paragraph panel, you create an override to the current paragraph style.

For a video about using character and paragraph styles in Illustrator, see

Create character or paragraph styles

  1. If you want to base the new style on the formatting of existing text, select the text.
  2. In the Character Styles panel or the Paragraph Styles panel, do one of the following:
    • To create a style with the default name, click the Create New Style button.

    • To create a style with a custom name, choose New Style in the panel menu. Type a name, and click OK.

      Tip: To create a copy of a character or paragraph style, drag the style onto the New Style button.

Edit character or paragraph styles

You can change the definition of the default character and paragraph styles, as well as any new styles you create. When you change the definition of a style, all of the text formatted with that style changes to match the new style definition.

  1. In the Character Styles panel or the Paragraph Styles panel, do one of the following:
    • Select the style in the panel, and choose Character Style Options from the Character Styles panel menu or Paragraph Style Options from the Paragraph Styles panel menu.

    • Click the style name.

      Note: Clicking applies the style to any selected text or, if no text is selected, sets the style for any new text you type. If you don’t want to apply the style, hold down Shift+Ctrl (Windows) or Shift+Command (Mac OS) when you click the style name.

  2. On the left side of the dialog box, select a category of formatting options and set the options you want. You can switch to a different group of formatting options by selecting a different category.

    If you need more information about any of the formatting options, search for the option name in Help.

  3. When you finish setting options, click OK.

Remove style overrides

A plus sign next to the style name in the Character Styles panel or the Paragraph Styles panel indicates that there are overrides to the style. An override is any formatting that doesn’t match the attributes defined by the style. There are several ways to remove style overrides:

  • To clear overrides and return text to the appearance defined by the style, reapply the same style or choose Clear Overrides from the panel menu.
  • To clear overrides when applying a different style, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the style name.
  • To redefine the style and maintain the current appearance of the text, select at least one character of the text and choose the Redefine Style command from the panel menu.

    If you use styles to maintain consistent formatting, you should probably avoid overrides. If you’re formatting quick, one-time-only text, these overrides pose no problem.

Delete character or paragraph styles

When you delete styles, the appearance of paragraphs tagged with the style doesn’t change, but their formatting is no longer associated with a style.

  1. Select the style name or names in the Character Styles panel or the Paragraph Styles panel.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • Choose Delete Character Style or Delete Paragraph Style from the panel menu.

    • Click the Delete icon  at the bottom of the panel.

    • Drag the style to the Delete icon at the bottom of the panel.

      Tip: To delete all unused styles, choose Select All Unused from the panel menu, and then click the Delete icon.

Load character and paragraph styles from another Illustrator document

  1. In the Character Styles panel or the Paragraph Styles panel, do one of the following:
    • Choose Load Character Styles or Load Paragraph Styles from the panel menu.

    • Choose Load All Styles from the panel menu to load both character and paragraph styles.

  2. Double-click the Illustrator document containing the styles you want to import.
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