Using Character Style Sheets in Adobe InDesign

cowboy typeface

 PaulMalyugin / Getty Images

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 color. 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 the text with that Character Style Sheet will change in one go. The same principle works in using Paragraph Style Sheets but we 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.

Create a New Character Style

Create a New Character Style screenshot


  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 select 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, (a 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.

Set the Character Style Options

Set the Character Style Options screenshot


Now you can change the name of your style sheet and set your type any way you want. In this case, we have chosen the font Papyrus Regular, size 48pt. We then went to the Character Color options and set the color 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.

Change the Character Style Options for Quick Changes Throughout

Change the Character Style Options for Quick Changes Throughout screenshot


Select the text that you want to apply your Character Style to and then simply select your new Character Style. If you look at the illustration, you will see that we 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 the 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.