Join Michael Murphy for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating and applying paragraph styles, part of InDesign Styles in Depth.
Now that we understand the difference between paragraph and character styles and we've set ourselves up a nice style- friendly InDesign workspace we can get started creating new paragraph styles. Every time you create a new InDesign document, it automatically includes two paragraph styles. One of them you can see here in the Paragraph Styles panel menu is called Basic Paragraph, the other one does not appear here. If I switch to the Text tool and look at the Control panel and Paragraph Formatting mode and go to the Paragraph Style menu there, I see No Paragraph Style.
This style is in every InDesign document, it cannot be deleted, it cannot be edited. Basic paragraph can be edited but I don't recommend that. When you're working with styles you want to create your own styles and not rely on these InDesign defaults. Whenever I draw out a new text frame, my cursor gets put in that frame and basic paragraph style is applied by default. That's just the way InDesign works. I don't need that frame so I'll click Delete. I have some text already on this page. So I'm going to hit the Z key to get my Zoom tool and I'm going to zoom-in to get a closer look at what I've got.
I'll hit the T key to switch back to the Type tool and put my cursor in this text. This text already has basic paragraph applied to it because that's the default. On both the Mac and Windows platforms, the settings for basic paragraph are Minion Pro Regular, 12 or over auto-letting. Its paragraph level formatting, it does not include any indents but Hyphenation is turned on by default. I want to start customizing the text on this page and create my own paragraph style. There are a few ways I can do this.
If I have nothing selected and I go to the Paragraph Styles panel menu and I choose New Paragraph Style, I open the New Paragraph Style options dialog and I can start from here. But this is basically the design equivalent of flying an airplane on instruments only. You can start plugging in values and you'll get some results but you're not going to see where you're going. So I don't recommend this. I'm going to hit Cancel. A better option is to put your cursor in some text and either choose New Paragraph Style from the panel menu or up here in the Control panel when it's in Paragraph mode, you can choose New Paragraph Style from the Paragraph Style button.
Since I'm here that's what I'll do and it opens up the New Paragraph Style dialog again. By default, Apply Style to Selection is on. That means that this new style I'm creating is automatically applied to the text where my cursor is placed. In order for me to see that I want to make sure that Preview is checked down here in the bottom-left. Now I'll start changing a few things. I'll go to Basic Character Formats and for the Font Family, I'm going to switch to Chaparral Pro just by starting to type the first few letters of the typeface in that field and it's Chaparral Pro Regular.
When I tab out of that field, you can see the change occur on the page. So I'm watching the formatting appear as I make the changes in the dialog. I can change the Leading to 16 points instead of Auto-leading and immediately see that on the page. This is a much better way of doing it, it's still not the way I prefer to do it. I'm going to cancel out of this. One of the problems with setting up a paragraph style strictly from the dialog box is you have a giant dialog box in your way. It doesn't really feel natural and organic, you're not working on the page and I think most designers feel more comfortable working on the page, I know I certainly do.
So what I like to do is select the type that I want to start playing around with. I quadruple clicked in here to select this entire paragraph and I like to use things like the Paragraph panel and the Control panel to start playing with my options. So I'll go to the Control panel in Character mode and I'm going to make that same typeface change Chaparral Pro Regular and I'm going to change the Leading to 16 point and while I'm in here, I'll go to the Paragraph Formatting Controls to the First Line Left Indent area and just Shift+click that up arrow to give myself a 1-pica indent and maybe I'm not a big fan of hyphenation, so I'm going to turn that off.
And now I've got a paragraph that's starting to look the way I want. Over here on the Paragraph Styles panel, you'll see that there's a plus sign next to the Basic Paragraph style name. That indicates that there are overrides in this paragraph. Overrides are anything that you have done to the type in this paragraph that isn't part of its style definition. Every step I just took is a deviation from what basic paragraph is supposed to be. When I hover over that plus sign, a tool tip shows me exactly what I changed, the first-line indent, the leading, the typeface and hyphenation.
At this point, I'm ready to create my own new paragraph style. Now I'll go to the panel menu, choose New Paragraph Style, and I'm going to call this style Body Copy. We'll get back to these options in a second, but first, I want to look under Basic Character Formats. And you'll notice that everything I just did is reflected in this new style. Because I have this text selected, InDesign correctly assumes that these are the formatting attributes I want included in my New Paragraph Style. So my Typeface change, my Leading change, my First Line Indent change and my Hyphenation change are all part of the style.
Everything I did on the page pays off here in my style. I'm going to go back to General and let's take a look at a few of these options when you first create a new paragraph style. Every new paragraph style, by default, is based on No Paragraph Style that's the root style lying under the hood in every InDesign document. Down here in Style Settings, this text reiterates every change I've made that differs from No Paragraph Style. In the Shortcut field, I can assign a keyboard shortcut to any paragraph style which enables me to use the numeric keypad and a modifier key to apply paragraph styles in my document with a simple keystroke.
For instance, in this case, if I wanted to choose Option+1 on the Mac or Alt+1 on Windows, I'd see Option+Num 1 and it tells me it's currently assigned now to my Body Copy style. So now I've created my first basic Body Copy style by picking up attributes from type that I massaged on the page in a way that feels comfortable and natural for me. I can click OK to save the style and now I want to apply the style to all of the other text in this frame. So I'm going to hit Command+A or Ctrl+A on Windows and let's test out that keyboard shortcut.
I'll hit Option, keypad number 1, and there you go. I've got my Body Copy style now applied to all of the text here and the Paragraph Styles panel reminds me what my keyboard shortcuts are, which is pretty helpful. This method of formatting text on a page and then incorporating what you've done into a paragraph style is really the best of both worlds. Style shouldn't get in the way of a natural design process, they're there to help you, but once you like what you see, you should commit your settings to a paragraph style.
Once the style is created you can apply it to any other paragraph and achieve consistent formatting from multiple paragraphs with a single click.
- Setting up a style-centric workspace
- Creating relationships between paragraph styles
- Using Quick Apply to apply styles
- Using GREP styles to automate text formatting
- Connecting paragraphs with Keep Options
- Creating, applying, and modifying object styles
- Maintaining links between styled tables and external data
- Applying styles with Find/Change
- Working with text variables
- Resolving missing font problems in styles
- Mapping Word styles to InDesign styles
- Export tagging styles for EPUB, HTML, and PDF