InDesign Typography
Illustration by John Hersey

Using paragraph rules creatively


InDesign Typography

with Nigel French

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Video: Using paragraph rules creatively

Paragraph rules provide us with a great way of breaking up and differentiating different parts of our text, and also an interesting way to give emphasis to our heads and subheads by having them reverse out of a solid color rule. Now, the basic premise of a paragraph rule is, as its name suggests, that it is attached to the text itself, which means that if you move the text, the rule will move with it. So you don't have to draw yourself a line and then when your text reflows, chase after that text with the line, which would get very tedious and would be prone to all sorts of errors.
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  1. 4m 4s
    1. Welcome
    2. Using the exercise files
    3. Customizing the workspace for type
      2m 18s
  2. 9m 25s
    1. What is Typekit? (CC 2014.1)
      1m 56s
    2. Choosing and syncing fonts (CC 2014.1)
      3m 6s
    3. Syncing problems (CC 2014.1)
      1m 43s
    4. Typekit resources (CC 2014.1)
      1m 5s
    5. Using the Font menu (CC 2014.1)
      1m 35s
  3. 55m 41s
    1. Working with text frames
      8m 26s
    2. Using a primary text frame (CS6 and later)
      3m 59s
    3. Understanding text flow methods
      6m 25s
    4. Understanding text threads
      3m 40s
    5. Understanding Smart Text Reflow
      2m 27s
    6. Mocking up pages with placeholder text
      5m 47s
    7. Placing multiple text files
      3m 50s
    8. Using Auto-Size text frames (CS6 and later)
      4m 1s
    9. Copying and pasting vs. placing
      2m 25s
    10. Cleaning up text with Find/Change
      5m 46s
    11. Using the Story Editor
      3m 41s
    12. Spanning columns
      5m 14s
  4. 48m 34s
    1. Choosing your type
      6m 46s
    2. Understanding text essentials
      6m 37s
    3. Scaling type
      2m 27s
    4. Using italic and oblique type
      4m 33s
    5. Working with condensed and extended type
      4m 26s
    6. Setting type in all caps
      3m 46s
    7. Setting type in small caps
      4m 21s
    8. Underlining type
      4m 11s
    9. Using superscript and subscript
      4m 35s
    10. Applying baseline shift
      4m 8s
    11. Combining typefaces (CC 2014.1)
      2m 44s
  5. 16m 6s
    1. Understanding type anatomy
      3m 25s
    2. Exploring serif and sans serif
      2m 48s
    3. Comparing points, picas, and ems
      8m 34s
    4. What's in a name?
      1m 19s
  6. 16m 27s
    1. Setting leading
      4m 56s
    2. Avoiding auto-leading
      4m 12s
    3. Leading shortcuts and preferences
      4m 7s
    4. Using autoleading with inline graphics
      3m 12s
  7. 21m 25s
    1. Defining kerning and tracking
      2m 5s
    2. Understanding kerning methods
      5m 10s
    3. When and how to kern
      5m 53s
    4. When and how to track
      8m 17s
  8. 48m 42s
    1. Working with quotes, primes, and apostrophes
      8m 16s
    2. Using dashes
      5m 24s
    3. Using ellipses
      2m 56s
    4. Working with accents and special characters
      4m 1s
    5. Using space characters
      4m 15s
    6. Working with ligatures
      4m 29s
    7. Setting fractions
      3m 56s
    8. Using lining and proportional numerals
      2m 49s
    9. Using alternates, swashes, and ornaments
      5m 2s
    10. Working with optical sizes
      4m 40s
    11. Stylistic sets (CC 2014.1)
      2m 54s
  9. 57m 20s
    1. Understanding alignment
      3m 47s
    2. Working with left-aligned type
      3m 24s
    3. Working with justified type
      7m 5s
    4. Using Optical Margin Alignment
      3m 39s
    5. Determining column width
      4m 53s
    6. Working with center alignment
      5m 36s
    7. Working with right alignment
      1m 22s
    8. Aligning to or away from the spine
      1m 50s
    9. Understanding the Paragraph Composer and Single-line Composer
      3m 44s
    10. Combining alignments
      9m 20s
    11. Using hanging punctuation
      2m 13s
    12. Working with vertical alignment
      10m 27s
  10. 14m 9s
    1. Using first-line indents
      2m 26s
    2. Using indent alternatives
      2m 3s
    3. Working with left and right indents
      4m 0s
    4. Using last-line indents and outdents
      1m 26s
    5. Using paragraph spacing
      4m 14s
  11. 23m 19s
    1. Setting hyphenation
      6m 14s
    2. Working with line breaks and discretionary hyphens
      4m 48s
    3. Balancing ragged lines
      1m 36s
    4. Using the No Break feature and non-breaking characters
      2m 52s
    5. Using frame, column, and page breaks
      3m 42s
    6. Defining Keep Options
      4m 7s
  12. 37m 53s
    1. Understanding tabs
      8m 58s
    2. Considerations for table text
      3m 55s
    3. Table tips and tricks
      11m 55s
    4. Creating a bulleted list
      6m 50s
    5. Creating a numbered list
      3m 46s
    6. Creating a multi-level numbered list
      2m 29s
  13. 23m 12s
    1. Understanding drop caps
      11m 3s
    2. Navigating tricky drop caps
      5m 14s
    3. Using a nested character style with a drop cap
      3m 59s
    4. Other uses of drop caps
      2m 56s
  14. 1h 11m
    1. Understanding paragraph and character styles
      7m 13s
    2. Creating, applying, and editing styles
      7m 3s
    3. Removing overrides
      4m 58s
    4. Creating and applying character styles
      5m 4s
    5. Creating and applying nested styles
      12m 30s
    6. Using GREP styles (regular expressions)
      4m 8s
    7. Creating and applying sequential styles
      6m 19s
    8. Using paragraph rules creatively
      11m 48s
    9. Mapping Word styles
      6m 12s
    10. Working with anchored objects and object styles
      6m 24s
  15. 25m 30s
    1. Applying a text wrap
      6m 7s
    2. Making items ignore a text wrap
      1m 46s
    3. Using text wraps for flexible layouts
      3m 2s
    4. Working with difficult text wraps
      8m 39s
    5. Inverting text wraps
      2m 7s
    6. Setting text wrap preferences
      3m 49s
  16. 29m 33s
    1. Choosing a page size and setting margins
      6m 33s
    2. Setting up columns
      2m 53s
    3. Dividing a page into rows
      3m 27s
    4. Setting up a baseline grid
      5m 40s
    5. Handling baseline grid problems
      3m 37s
    6. Baseline grid tricks
      7m 23s
  17. 44m 26s
    1. Working with type outlines (CC 2014.1)
      6m 50s
    2. Creating an interlocking effect (CC 2014.1)
      3m 31s
    3. Fusing letterforms (CC 2014.1)
      7m 15s
    4. Type and gradients (CC 2014.1)
      4m 57s
    5. Type and transparency (CC 2014.1)
      1m 50s
    6. Type on a path: Circles (CC 2014.1)
      4m 48s
    7. Type on a path: Calligram (CC 2014.1)
      6m 16s
    8. Vertical type (CC 2014.1)
      2m 58s
    9. Type and image: Gradient (CC 2014.1)
      1m 38s
    10. Type and image: "See-through" type (CC 2014.1)
      1m 8s
    11. Type and image: "Disappearing" type (CC 2014.1)
      3m 15s
  18. 12m 19s
    1. Looking at screen documents
      4m 2s
    2. Setting size, leading, and line length onscreen
      3m 13s
    3. Exploring typefaces designed for the screen
      3m 36s
    4. Accessibility: Contrast and color
      1m 28s
  19. 28s
    1. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course InDesign Typography
9h 20m Intermediate Aug 03, 2012 Updated Nov 12, 2014

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Explore the numerous type options, type-related features, and type-specific preferences of Adobe InDesign. Using practical, real-world examples, instructor and designer Nigel French dissects the anatomy of a typeface and defines the vocabulary of typography. The course moves from the micro to the macro level, addressing issues such as choosing page size, determining the size of margins, adjusting number columns, and achieving a clean look with baseline grids. This course takes you from laying out a page to delving into the hows and whys of typography.

Topics include:
  • Understanding text threads and text flow methods in InDesign
  • Using Copy and Paste vs. Place
  • Choosing and combining typefaces
  • Understanding leading and how it relates to type size and column width
  • Comparing points, picas, and ems
  • Learning the proper use of white space and break characters
  • Understanding the finer points of kerning and tracking
  • Working with punctuation, special characters, ornaments, and ligatures
  • Aligning text
  • Applying global formatting with paragraph, character, and object styles
  • Refining spacing with indents
  • Creating drop caps
  • Avoiding common problems associated with justified type and text wraps
  • Setting up margins and columns
Nigel French

Using paragraph rules creatively

Paragraph rules provide us with a great way of breaking up and differentiating different parts of our text, and also an interesting way to give emphasis to our heads and subheads by having them reverse out of a solid color rule. Now, the basic premise of a paragraph rule is, as its name suggests, that it is attached to the text itself, which means that if you move the text, the rule will move with it. So you don't have to draw yourself a line and then when your text reflows, chase after that text with the line, which would get very tedious and would be prone to all sorts of errors.

So let's take a look at the different things that we can do with a paragraph rule. So in the heading that I have here, I have a Rule Above and a Rule Below. So it's not just an either/or, but you can have both. I am going to come up to my Control panel, and down to Paragraph Rules, and you can see that I have a Rule Above 1 point, this is its Color, this is its Offset, it's position relative to the baseline of the type.

And then I also have a Rule Below, which is turned on, same Weight, same Color, different amount of Offset, that's the result. Note that for both the Width of the rule is set to the text, i.e., it's going to be as long as the line of text is. Now some other examples. This one here, the COLUMN WIDTH RULE, I'll use the keyboard shortcut this time to jump to my Paragraph Rules, which is Command+Option+J, or Ctrl+Alt+J. And here we see I have a Rule Above on.

Now, to make that rule sit behind my type, firstly I have made it a heavy white, it's 12 points. That's relative to a point size of 12 points. You'll notice that I have put the type in All Caps so that we get a visibly equal amount of space above and below the type. And I have adjusted the Offset of the rule, like so. And of course, I have changed the Color of the type to paper so that it reverses out of the rule.

These can be tricky to set up, but once they are set up, then all we need to do is define them as a Paragraph Style, which you can see is what I have done right there. So if this were to start out like this, as a basic paragraph, all I need to do is click on the style name to apply all of those formats to the text. Next we have a slight variant of that, a TEXT WIDTH RULE. And if we look at its formats, we can see that the only difference here really is that the Width is set to the Width of Text.

Now, when I do that, I find there is a bit of a problem in that the Width of the rule is fit too tightly around the type. So to give it a bit of extra breathing space, I have added in these parameters right here, a Left Indent of -2 points and the same on the Right. Now, look what happens if I set those to 0, we can see that especially on the right, that rule is far too close to the E, so that's the purpose of that Right Indent, to move the Right Indent out beyond the Width of the Text, we need it to be a negative amount, and the same amount on the left.

In addition, on the left-hand side you'll see, if you look up on the Control panel right here, I have indented the text itself by 2 points to compensate. So however much you make this negative, make the Left Indent a positive amount. In this next instance we see a RULE ABOVE AND BELOW combined in a single paragraph, so we have the Rule Above, which is the Color, the solid color that the text is reversing out of. This is at 12 points, same amount of Left and Right Indent as before, and then for the Rule Below, we have it set to 1 point and the Width of the Column.

In terms of the Offsets of these rules, if you apply a positive Offset to a Rule Above, it will go up above the baseline. If you apply it to a Rule Below, positive Offset, it goes down below the baseline. Now, you could try and remember that, but I wouldn't even bother, because the easiest way to do this is just by putting your cursor in the Offset field and then pressing your Up Arrow, and you can see it moving right there. I have got my Preview checked, which is essential, or your Down Arrow, and you can just dial in the right amount of space.

There's another instance of a Rule Above and Below, and in this case the Rule Below is the heavier of the two, and it is the one that is actually above the Rule Above, and I know that's a little bit counterintuitive, but that's just how it is, Left Indent and Right Indent. In this case--and of course these values will vary according to your Column Width--but in this case we have 110 points each, narrowing the width of that rule.

I mentioned this usage of Rules Above and Below when we were looking at tables, so here I have a Rule Above and Below, useful for some sort of form or reply coupon where you want to indicate with shading the field into which you want your user to type. So let's just take a look and see what we have here. We have a Rule Below, which is set to Paper, and this has a Weight of 12 points, that's relative to a type point size of 10 points, so it's covering the whole of this, and it is obscuring the tinted rule that would otherwise go across the whole column. And if I turn that off, you can see what I mean.

Without that Rule Below set to Paper and at the Width of the Text, it would look like that. Somewhat counterintuitive is the fact that if you are combining Rules Above and Below on the same line like this, the Rule Below will actually be above the Rule Above in the stacking order, as we see here. We can also do things like this, if you'd like to have a LOZENGE RULE that your type reverses out of, then this is achieved by a combination of a Rule Below and a Rule Above, where the Rule Below is actually a series of dots.

Making the two line up can be a little bit tricky, there is some trial and error involved. But as I said before, you get it right once, and then you save it as a Paragraph Style. If I turn off the Rule Above, you can see how this is created. So the Rule Below is just a series of dots, combine that with the Rule Above, and that's our result. And in this result where we're getting into the realm now of stupid paragraph rule tricks, I'm not sure I could ever find a usage for this, but it is interesting to note that you don't need to have the Rule Above and the Rule Below be the same color.

And then just to address this check box here, the Overprint Stroke, look what happens when we choose to have different colors, and in this case I am using a Right Slant Hash rule for the Rule Below, and we choose to Overprint the Stroke. Now, at the moment I do not have my Overprint Preview turned on. But when I turn it on, you can see that the cyan combines with the yellow to give us this additional color of the green. As I said, I'm not sure how I could ever really use that in practice, but you never know, one day perhaps.

Another useful thing we can do with rules is we can use them as our head styles for info boxes, like so. And let's just see, this is a box head style, so if I apply a box head style right there and then this is the box text. But we could go one further than this, and you saw me in the earlier movie address the issue of sequential styles. If I now come to my Object Styles and then apply the fact box Object Style to that, we get all of that formatting in a single click.

If you are going to use this technique, you will need to make sure that in order to have your paragraph rule flush with the top of the text frame, that the following is true, that the frame itself has no top inset, it is inset on the left, right, and the bottom. And that the paragraph rule specification is set to Keep In Frame. And that's going to make sure that when you add a rule to your type, that if necessary the rule will push the type down rather than stick up out of the top of the text frame.

So if I turn that off, you can see everything moves up. But we want things contained within our box and presumably within our type area. You may be wondering, is there nothing that you cannot do with paragraph rules? And actually, yes, there are quite a few things you can't do with paragraph rules, so don't expect miracles from them. They work great when applied to single line paragraphs, they do not work when applied to multi-line paragraphs. So, for example, right now I have this Paragraph Style applied to this text.

If I were to apply that style to this text, the whole thing goes pear shaped. So some workarounds for you should you need to work with this style of highlighting, or if you want to put a box around a paragraph of text. This is achieved using a Character Style. I highlight Character Style, and it's actually achieved with an underline. Same sort of principle, we make the Weight a heavy weight, and then we adjust the Offset of the line.

This allows us to apply a rule, or in this case a highlight, to a specified range of text, rather than as a paragraph rule would to the whole paragraph. I covered this particular scenario when we were working with tables. If you want to put a box around a paragraph, or if you want to reverse out a paragraph from a solid field, then what you need is a single column, single row table. And taking that one step further, you can also use tables to apply a vertical rule to a paragraph, which is not something that you can do with Paragraph Rules.

If we take a look at this text right here, we see that this is a single row, single column table, and that I have applied different settings to the four sides of the table border. I'm going to triple click on my Preview proxy to uncheck all of those four sides, and then when I click back, we see that on the left side we have the red 12 point Straight Hash style applied, but for all three other sides, there is nothing applied, all the Weight of the rule is set to 0.

So that's just a sometimes useful work-around if you ever need to use a vertical rule with a paragraph. So many things we can achieve with paragraph rules, some things that we can't, and some work-arounds to make up for those shortcomings.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about InDesign Typography .

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The exercise files provided aren't working in my version of InDesign (CS4, CS5, or CS5.5). What should I use?
This course was recorded using InDesign CS6. For InDesign users working with CS4, CS5, or CS5.5, IDML files are provided.
Q: Where can I learn more about graphic design?
A: Discover more about this topic by visiting graphic design on
Q: This course was updated on 11/12/2014. What changed?
A: We added 18 new movies, primarily in the "Using Typekit" and "Type Treatments and Effects" chapters. These movies describe new and enhanced typography features in the latest release of InDesign CC, and are indicated by the "(CC 2014.1)" tag in their names.
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