Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
It's easy to get text into InDesign; just click in any text frame with the Type tool, and start typing. But how do you format that text? How do you make it pretty? Well, let's take a tour through your options for text formatting. I am going to zoom in on this text frame, so we can format this text in here. The first thing I need to do, of course, is select the text that I want to format. So I'll double-click to switch to the Type tool, and then drag over this text, or you could triple click to select the entire line. If you're familiar with Illustrator, or Photoshop, or some of the other Creative Suite applications, you might be tempted to go to the Window menu, and go looking for the Character panel.
You can, in fact, find one of those down here in the Type & Tables submenu. There it is: Character, but I'm not going to choose it, because I don't need to. I already have all the features I need right in front of my face. That's right; it's up here in the control panel. When you use the Type tool to select text on your page, the control panel changes to show you all the formatting you need. Now technically, the control panel has two different modes; there's the character mode, which you get when you have that little A selected on the left side, or the paragraph formatting modes, which you get when you select that little pilcrow button.
That's the name of that character, if you didn't know; that's a pilcrow. I'll be talking about paragraph formatting in the next chapter, but for right now, I am going to stick with character formatting, so I am going to make sure that A is selected. The first item I see in the control panel here is the font. I can change the font easily by simply clicking in this pop-up menu, and choosing a different one. For example, I'll choose American Typewriter. I'm just using a font randomly here. Or you can actually select that font name, and type something else. For example, I'll type m, y, and it guesses that I want Myriad Pro.
To apply that font, just press Return or Enter. Next, you can choose a font style in the second pop-up menu. Here we see a list of all the styles in this font family. I am going to choose Bold. In InDesign, there is a lot of redundancy; that is, there's many ways to do the same thing. So I also want to point out that you can change the font formatting by going to the Type menu. Here is the same thing: the Font menu, but in this case, to change the style, I look in submenus. So I could choose Myriad Pro, and then you see another little submenu pop out, and I can choose a different value; for example, Semibold.
By the way, I just want to point out that in InDesign CS6, this Font menu has actually changed a little bit, both in the control panel, and also here in the menu bar. We now see a list of all the most recently used fonts; all the fonts I used since I last launched InDesign. They're all up here at the top of the list, so I can get to them quickly. Now let's change the size of this font. That's the third item in the control panel. I can choose something out of the pop-up menu, or type something myself. For example, I'll type 16 points. Now, you know how much I like keyboard shortcuts, so I can't help but give you a little keyboard shortcut here.
The keyboard shortcut for jumping to the first field in the control panel is Command+6, or Control+6 on Windows. That jumps right up to that font field. I could actually type a different font if I want. For example, I'll type p,a, r, and in it guesses that I want Party. Hit Return, and it changes it to that font. Or you can use the Tab key to move from one field to the next in the control panel. So I'll press Command+6, I'll choose a different font -- let's go back to Myriad Pro -- and then I'll tab to the style, tab to the size, let's make this a little bit smaller, and then tab to the next field, which is leading.
Leading is the amount of space from the baseline of the text -- that is, the line that this text is sitting on -- to the previous line. That's the definition of leading. Because this text is actually at the top of the text frame, leading has no effect, but for the rest of this paragraph, it does. So I am going to select some other text in this paragraph down here, and change its leading to show you. I'll change this to 18 points, and you'll see the leading changes, but only for the text that I changed. That's because, in InDesign, leading is a character attribute, not a paragraph attribute.
This can cause some real consternation when you're laying out your pages, because you have to remember to select the entire paragraph, or else you will get uneven leading throughout that paragraph. This can cause some real problems when you are laying out your document, because you have to select the entire paragraph to change the leading, not just some of the text. That's different than it works in QuarkXPress, and many other programs. Fortunately, you can change InDesign to work the way you'd expect: to apply leading to the entire paragraph. Let me show you how. I'm going to undo that with a Command+Z, or Control+Z on Windows, and I am going to go to the Preferences dialog box.
In Windows, that's under the Edit menu, but here on the Mac, it's under the InDesign menu, and you choose Preferences > Type. There is a checkbox in here called Apply Leading to Entire Paragraphs, and I am going to turn that on. I like to think that checkbox should be called, make it work the way you'd expect InDesign to work. I'll click OK, and I'm going to apply leading again. I'll change this to, let's say, 14 points, and you can see it changes it for the entire paragraph, no matter what is selected in the paragraph. That's the way I like to work.
Now that we've looked at how to change the spacing between lines of text, let's look at how you can change the spacing between individual characters. I am going to come back here, and triple click on this headline to select the whole line, and I'm going to come up to the control panel, and look at these two fields. The first one is kerning. Kerning lets you adjust the amount of space between two letters on a line. The second one is tracking. Tracking is the same as kerning, but it goes across a range of text, not just two characters at a time.
Technically, they're both doing the same thing: adjusting the amount of space between characters, but you usually use kerning just for two characters at a time, and tracking for a whole bunch. The first thing I am going to do here is change my kerning from Metrics to Optical. Optical kerning is a very clever technology in InDesign which actually looks at the shape of the characters, and it adjusts the spacing between them very subtly, so you get more even spacing throughout. It doesn't work for all fonts, and all sizes, but in most cases, it actually gives you a better result than what you normally get with a font.
You can actually see what optical is doing by clicking in between characters. Here, I'll click between the R and the O, and I can see in the kerning field that it's applying -7 kerning. Between the O and the U, it's doing -6; between the U and the X, it hasn't done anything. It's just zero. So optical kerning is changing the amount of space between each one individually. Now, let's say I wanted to make the whole line tighter; apply maybe -5 or -10 to the entire line. I'll do that by selecting the line, and then changing tracking.
Here I'm going to choose -10, and you can see that all the characters got -10 together. Now, I am throwing these numbers around, like -5, -10; what do those mean? Minus ten one-thousandth of an em, and the em is determined by the size of the font itself. In this case, it's a 15 point font, so 1 em is one thousandth of 15 points. So you are dealing with very small values here. Of course, font, size, kerning: these are all just the beginning when it comes to formatting text.
In the next movie, we are going to dive deeper, and explore more advanced character styling.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
117 Video lessons · 43686 Viewers
119 Video lessons · 54762 Viewers
65 Video lessons · 14925 Viewers
113 Video lessons · 83048 Viewers
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.
Your file was successfully uploaded.