HOW TO: Learning the Basics of Paragraph Styles in inDesign CS6

Alyson FachaFront-end Web Developer
When designing and editing page layouts in inDesign, fonts can become messy without the help of paragraph styles. How many times have you re-read through a document you created and noticed a sentence in the middle of a paragraph happened to be a different font-size? How much time have you wasted scanning a ten page document adjusting styles manually? Paragraph styles can help speed up the process of editing font styles and decrease the amount of display errors in your document. In this tutorial I will go over the basics of paragraph styles in inDesign CS6 to hopefully help your future page layout projects.
  1. First, open the inDesign CS6 application. Once it has launched, select document under Create New.Create-New-Document.png
  2. A new document window will appear, for this tutorial edit a one 8.5 X 11in page with 1in margins and no bleed. Click OK.New-Document.png
  3. Once the document has loaded, put some filler text on the page using the type tool. To do this, select the type tool on the right toolbar. Click anywhere on the document, drag to the desired width and release to create a text box. For this tutorial make sure to include a header, subheader, paragraph, quote, and a caption. If you do not want to write content, right-click the text box and select Fill with Placeholder Text. I went ahead and did this for my paragraph, quote, and caption sections. Filler-Text.png
  4. If you are working in the Typography workspace find the paragraph styles panel in the right toolbar. If you do not see it go to Window > Styles > Paragraph Styles.Right-column.pngWindow.png
  5. Select Paragraph Styles to open the panel. You will notice [Basic Paragraph] is the only style selected. This acts as the default. With the arrow tool selected, in the right toolbar, click in on the header text box. In the Paragraph Styles panel click the Create New Style icon. It is the square shaped icon next to the trash can at the bottom of the
  6. Once the icon is clicked, you will notice a new paragraph style option was created called Paragraph Style 1. Double click to open a window that will allow you to edit this style. Rename the Style Name to Header or something that makes sense to you. Header.png
  7. In the left column select the Basic Character Formats section under General. This is where you can choose what font family you would like, font style, font size, leading, etc. I suggest choosing a font-family that has multiple font style variations. This becomes important when creating paragraph styles for different types of text (i.e. header, subheader, paragraph, etc). For the header I suggest choosing a heavier font style. In addition, a large font size. Think of the header like a title. It is meant to get the readers attention so you want it to be the largest and most noticeable. Furthermore, If you would like to preview these changes before selecting OK, check the Preview box in the bottom left corner.Header---basic-10.13.55-AM.png
  8.  Feel free to explore the rest of the options in the left column. To continue with the rest of the tutorial just click OK after choosing basic character formats you like. After clicking OK, you will notice the Header style you created is now an option in the Paragraph Styles panel.

  9. For fun, with the arrow tool selected click your subheader text box. Then, in the Paragraph Styles panel click the header style you just created. You will notice the subheader now has the same styles as the header. How cool is that?Subheader.png
  10. Now lets create the desired paragraph style for the subheader. Follow steps 5 - 8 as you did for the header. I suggest choosing a font size that is slightly smaller than the header. In addition, a font style that is not the heaviest nor the lightest on the page to direct the reader to the subheader after reading the header.Subheader---basic.png
  11. Follow the same steps for the paragraph text box. Most likely the majority of text on a page will be paragraph text, thus I would focus on making the text legible. Pay close attention to the size and leading (vertical space between two lines of text).Paragraph.png
  12. Create a new style for the quote. I went ahead and made mine bold and italic so it would stand out from my paragraph style. In addition, increased the font size slightly.Quote.png
  13. Lastly, follow the same steps for the caption text. I suggest making this the smallest and lightest font so it does not distract readers from the main point of your content, but is still legible to add extra information to images, etc.Caption.png

You have now learned the basics of Paragraph Styles! I hope repeating the process and playing around with the styles have helped you put it to muscle memory and resulted in a beautifully organized inDesign document. The example built with this tutorial is below.Finished-Document.png
Feel free to expand beyond this tutorial. With my example I decided to add more content and an image. Now that I have my paragraph styles set up I don’t need to manually edit my new text boxes. I just write my content and select one of my paragraph styles. It’s that simple. The time I saved by creating paragraph styles I was able to put towards designing the page layout.

Alyson FachaFront-end Web Developer

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