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Basics of paragraph and character styles

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Learn how to create and work with Paragraph and Character Styles.

Work with Character and Paragraph styles (also called Text styles) to maintain consistency throughout your document.

Text styles help you save time and effort while you work on large documents. Read on to learn how to create, edit, load, and delete paragraph and character styles in InDesign. You can manage style overrides.

Create styles

Use Character and Paragraph styles to save time and ensure consistent formatting throughout your artwork.

Character style is a collection of character formatting attributes that you can apply to a selected range of text.

Paragraph style includes both character and paragraph formatting attributes. You can apply it to a selected paragraph or a range of paragraphs.

 Follow these steps to easily create a new Character or Paragraph style:

  1. Select text.

  2. Select Type > Paragraph styles to open Paragraph styles panel.

  3. Click Create a New Style   to create a style with the selected text format.

    You can follow similar steps in the Character styles tab to create a new Character style.

Paragraph Styles panel in InDesign
Paragraph styles panel

A. More Options B. Quick Apply C. Style Override Highlighter D. Apply Style Pack E. Clear overrides in selection F. Create new style group G. View Style packs H. Add selected style to my current CC Library I. Created Style J. Default Style 

You can also select Style Override Highlighter, Quick Apply, Clear Overrides in Selection, Create New Style Group, and View Style packs from the Paragraph Styles panel.

New to InDesign? Use Style Packs to save time and effort. Style Packs are the content-aware built-in set of paragraph styles. For more information, learn how to work with Style Packs in InDesign.

Edit styles

You can change the format of the default or new Character, Paragraph style anytime. Follow these steps to edit and apply a style to selected text or set the style for new text:

  1. Open Character and paragraph styles panel.

  2. Select the Character or Paragraph styles tab. You can see a list of available styles.

  3. Go to More Options   > Style Options...

  4. Select a category from the list of available options and make the changes.

Character style options

The following options are common for both character and paragraph styles. Add or adjust the following options to create a new style or modify an existing one:


Select Based On character style and add a Shortcut. You can also view the style settings of the selected style and Reset to Base.

Basic Character Formats

Change the Font Family, Font Style, Size, Leading, Kerning, Tracking, Case options, and Position. You can also check Underline, Ligatures, No Break, and Strikethrough.

Advanced Character Formats

Adjust the Horizontal and Vertical Scale, Baseline Shift, and Skew options. You can also select a Language.

Character styles options in InDesign
Character styles options

Character Color

Change the Character Color, Tint, Weight, Miter Limit, and Stroke Alignment. You can also check Overprint Fill or Overprint Stroke.

OpenType Features

Check Tilting Alternates, Contextual Alternates, Swash Alternates, Ordinals, Discretionary Ligatures, Fractions, and Slashed Zero. You can also select Figure Style, Positional Form, and Stylistic Sets.

Underline Options

Check Underline On to add Weight, Type, Offset, Color, Tint, Gap Color, and Gap Tint. You can also check the option to Overprint Stroke and Overprint Gap.

Strikethrough Options

Check Strikethrough On to add Weight, Type, Offset, Color, Tint, Gap Color, and Gap Tint. You can also check the option to Overprint Stroke and Overprint Gap.

Export Tagging

Select Tag, add Class, and check Include Classes in HTML, and Emit CSS. You can also see the Export Details of the selected character style.

Paragraph style options

Here are the additional options available for Paragraph Styles. Add or adjust the following to create a new Paragraph style or edit an existing one:


Select Based On paragraph style, add Next Style, and Shortcut. You can also view the style settings of the selected style and Reset to Base.

Indents and Spacing

Adjust Alignment, Indents, and Space Before, Space After, and Align to Grid options. You can also check the options to Balance Ragged Lines, and Ignore Optical Margin.


Set Tab, X, Leader, and Align On options.

Paragraph Rules

Check the Rule On, and you can select Rule Above or Below, add Weight, Type, Color, Tint, Gap Color, Gap Tint, Width, Offset, Left and Right Indents. You can also check the options to Overprint Stroke and Keep In Frame.

Paragraph Style Options in InDesign
Paragraph Style Options

Paragraph Border

Check Border to add the following options:

  • Stroke: Add Top, Left, Bottom, and Right strokes, select stroke Type, Color, Gap Color, Tint, Gap Tint, Cap, and Join.
  • Corner Size and Shape: Add a corner size and select a shape from None, Fancy, Bevel, Inset, Inverse Rounded, and Rounded.
  • Offsets: Add Top, Left, Bottom, and Right offsets, and select Top Edge, Bottom Edge, and Width.

You can also check Display Border if Paragraph Splits Across Frames/Columns, and Merge Consecutive Borders and Shading with same Settings.

Paragraph Shading

Check Shading to add Color and Tint along with the following:

  • Corner Size and Shape: Add a corner size and select a shape from None, Fancy, Bevel, Inset, Inverse Rounded, and Rounded.
  • Offsets: Add Top, Left, Bottom, and Right offsets, and select Top Edge, Bottom Edge, and Width.

You can also check Overprint, Clip To Frame, and Do not Print or Export.

Keep Options

Check the Keep with Previous, and add Keep with Next (number of) lines. Check Keep Lines Together to select either of the following options:

  • All Lines in Paragraph
  • At Start/End of Paragraph: Add the number of lines for Start and End.

You can also select Start Paragraph options from Anywhere, In Next Column, In Next Frame, On Next Page, On Next Odd Page, On Next Even Page.


Check Hyphenate to add Words with at Least, After First, Before Last, Hyphen Limit, and Hyphenation Zone. Select the slider between Better Spacing and Fewer Hyphens. You can also check Hyphenate Capitalized Words, Hyphenate last Words, and Hyphenate Across Column.


Adjust settings for Word, Letter and Glyph Spacing, Auto Leading, and Single Word Justification.

Span Columns

Select the Paragraph Layout from Single Column, Span Columns, and Split Column. You can further customize them with the following options:

  • Span Columns: You can add the Span columns number, Space Before Span, and Space After Span.
  • Split Column: You can add the number of Sub-columns, Space Before Split, Space After Split, Inside Gutter, and Outside Gutter.

Drop Caps and Nested Styles

Add or update the following options:

  • Drop Caps: Add Lines and Characters, and select Character Style.
  • Nested Styles: Add New Nested Style or Delete an existing one.
  • Nested Line Styles: Add New Style or Delete an existing one.

You can also check Align Left Edge and Scale for Descenders.

GREP Style

Add New GREP Style or Delete an existing one.

Bullets and Numbering

Select the List Type from None, Bullets, or Numbers, and customize them further:

  • Bullets: Select the Bullet Character, Add new Bullet Character, Text After options, Character Style.
    • Bullet or Number Position: Select Alignment, and add Left Indent, First Line Indent, and Tab Position.
  • Numbers: Select the Default List, create a New List, and add Level.
    • Numbering Style: Select the Format, Number, Character Style, and Model.
    • Bullet or Number Position: Select Alignment, and add Left Indent, First Line Indent, and Tab Position.

Paragraph style options may vary based on the localized version of InDesign.

Load styles

If you have a preferred text format in another InDesign or InCopy file, you can follow these steps to load styles into your current InDesign file:

  1. Open Character, paragraph styles panel.

  2. Follow any of these options:

    • Select Load Character Styles or Load Paragraph Styles from More Options  
    • Select Load All Text Styles from More Options   to load all the styles.
  3. Double-click the InDesign file that contains the styles you want to import.

    You'll see the Load Styles dialog.

  4. Select the styles you want to import.

    If any existing style has the same name as one of the imported styles, select one of the following options under Conflict With Existing Style:

    • Use Incoming Style Definition: Overrides the existing style with the imported style.
    • Auto-Rename: Renames the imported style.
    Load styles dialog
    Load styles dialog

If you have some favorite styles in a Word document, you can easily map Word Styles to InDesign Styles.


You can also use the Books feature to share styles. (See Synchronize book documents.)

Delete styles

Don't need a particular style? You can follow these steps to easily delete Character, paragraph styles:

  1. Select a style name in the Character styles panel or the Paragraph styles panel.

  2. Follow any of these options to delete a Character or Paragraph style:

    • Click Delete   .
    • Select Delete Style... from More Options  
    • Choose Select All Unused from More Options   and click Delete.
Delete Character, Paragraph Styles in InDesign
Delete Character, 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.


You can create, edit, and delete styles in stand-alone Adobe InCopy documents or in InCopy content that is linked to an Adobe InDesign document. When the contents are updated in InDesign, new styles are added to the InDesign document, but any style modifications made in InCopy is overridden by the InDesign style. For linked content, it is best to manage your styles in InDesign.

Style overrides

An override is any change made to an existing style. If there are any overrides to a Character, Paragraph style, you can see a plus sign next to the style name.

Right-click a style name and follow any of these options to clear overrides or redefine a style:

  • Select Apply "[Style name]", Clear Overrides to maintain the original style formatting.

  • Choose Redefine Style to keep the current changes and update the style.

Style Overrides in InDesign
Style Overrides in InDesign

Do you want to know the areas where the overrides are in place? Select the Style Override Highlighter   in the character or paragraph styles panel.

Tips and tricks

  • A named grid format can be applied to a frame grid in the Frame Grid format settings. (See Named Grids panel overview.) You can also use create an object style with grid characteristics. (See About object styles.)
  • If you've an open InDesign document, a newly created style appears only in the current document.
  • If no document is open when you create a style, it appears in all new documents.
  • You can use Duplicate Style to create a style nearly identical to another style but without the parent-child relationship.
  • You can associate a keyboard shortcut with Toggle Style Override Highlighter to access it easily. For more information, see Customize menus and keyboard shortcuts.

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