Design with Character: Character Style Sheets in InDesign

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Use Character Style Sheets to Save Time

Use Character Style Sheets to Save Time
Use Character Style Sheets to Save Time. Illustration by J. Bear; licensed to About.com

Character Style Sheets can be real time savers for designers especially in the creation of long or multi-page documents. Character Style Sheets are simply recorded format that you can then use in your design at will.

Consistency is one of the principles that designers must follow. Character Sheets help the designer so he doesn't have to apply manually the same type of formatting over and over again throughout the document.

Let me give you an example. You are designing a magazine promoting a certain item. You want to have all of your titles with a certain font, a certain size and a certain colour. You can record all of this information in a Character Style Sheet and then apply them to each title with a click.

Now, let's say that you decide that the titles are too small and they all have to be made 4 points bigger. Well, you just go to your Character Sheet and modify the size of your font there and all of the parts of text with that Character Style Sheet will change in one go. The same principle works in using Paragraph Style Sheets, but I will take those up in another article. Isn't that useful? So how do you set these Character Sheets in InDesign? This tutorial takes you step-by-step through the basic process.

  1. This page Use Character Style Sheets to Save Time
  2. Create a New Character Style
  3. Set the Character Style Options
  4. Change the Character Style Options for Quick Changes Throughout
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Create a New Character Style

Create a New Character Style
Create a New Character Style. Illustration by E. Bruno; licensed to About.com
  1. Once you have opened your InDesign document, make sure that your Character Style Sheets palette is open. If it isn't. go to

    Window > Type >Character
    (or use the shortcut Shift + F11).

  2. Now that your palette is open click the "New Character Style" button.
  3. You should get a new Character Style that InDesign calls "Character Style 1" by default. Double click on it. You should get a new window called Character Style Options.

In the illustration, below, (larger version of illustration) the Character Style palette is on the right hand side of the screen but it could be floating anywhere on the screen.

  1. Use Character Style Sheets to Save Time
  2. This page Create a New Character Style
  3. Set the Character Style Options
  4. Change the Character Style Options for Quick Changes Throughout
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Set the Character Style Options

Set the Character Style Options
Set the Character Style Options. Illustration by E.Bruno; licensed to About.com

Now you can change the name of your style sheet and set your type anyway you want. In this case I have chosen the font Papyrus Regular, size 48pt. I then went to the Character Colour options and set the colour to Cyan. You can obviously change any of the other options at will, but this is just an example to show you how Character Styles work.

(larger version of illustration)

  1. Use Character Style Sheets to Save Time
  2. Create a New Character Style
  3. This page Set the Character Style Options
  4. Change the Character Style Options for Quick Changes Throughout
04
of 04

Change the Character Style Options for Quick Changes Throughout

Change the Character Style Options for Quick Changes Throughout
Change the Character Style Options for Quick Changes Throughout. Illustration by E. Bruno; licensed to About.com

Select the text that you want to apply your Character Style to and then simply click on your new Charcter Style. If you look at the illustration, below, (larger version of illustration)you will see that I have applied the character style to the first line of sample text in the document.

Just as an informative note, should you change the formatting on any parts of text where you applied a Character Style, you will see a (+) added to the name of the style when you click on that text.

If you want all of the parts of texts where you have applied the Character Style to change in one go, all you have to do is to double click on the Character Style you want to change and then change your options there.

These steps work with InDesign CS on both Windows and Macintosh. The palette and buttons may look slightly different in earlier versions but they work basically the same.

  1. Use Character Style Sheets to Save Time
  2. Create a New Character Style
  3. Set the Character Style Options
  4. This page Change the Character Style Options for Quick Changes Throughout