How to Add Text Effects in Adobe InDesign

Graphic designer working at computer in office
Hero Images / Getty Images

Did you know that many of the same effects you can apply to text using Photoshop or Illustrator can also be done directly in Adobe InDesign? If you're only creating a few special headlines, it can be easier to just do it right in your document rather than opening another program and creating a graphic headline. As with most special effects, moderation is best. Use these text effects for drop caps or short headlines and titles. The specific effects we're addressing in this tutorial are Bevel and Emboss and the Shadow & Glow effects (Drop Shadow, Inner Shadow, Outer Glow, Inner Glow).

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Effects Dialog

Effects Dialog in Adobe InDesign
Jacci Howard Bear

To access the Effects Dialog go to Window > Effects or use Shift+Control+F10 to bring it up. You can also access the effects from fx button in your menu bar.

The actual dialog boxes and options may vary slightly depending on the version of InDesign you use

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Bevel and Emboss Options

Bevel and Emboss Options in InDesign | Click on the image to see at full size for easier reading
Jacci Howard Bear

The Bevel and Emboss Options can seem intimidating at first but the first option you'll want to change is to check the Preview box (lower left corner). That way you can see a live preview of the effect on your text as you play with the different settings. 

The Style and Technique pull-downs are probably the settings you'll want to play with most. Each one applies a very different look to your text.

The Style choices are:

  • Inner Bevel: Creates a 3-dimensional look to the face of your text
  • Outer Bevel: Makes it appear that the surface around your text has been cut or chiseled away leaving raised letters.
  • Emboss: Gives text a raised 3D effect.
  • Pillow Emboss: Another 3D raised text effect but with the edges not raised.

Technique options for each style are smooth, chisel hard, and chisel soft. They affect the edges of the text effects to give you a very soft, gentle look or something harder and more precise.

Other options control the apparent direction of light, the size of the bevels, and even the coloring of those bevels and how much of the background shows through.

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Bevel and Emboss Effects

Bevel and Emboss Effects can be quite simple but you can also create some unique looks. See the descriptions, below, for the actual settings used for each example. | Click on the image to see at full size to see details more clearly
Jacci Howard Bear

These examples include default settings for different Bevel and Emboss Styles and Techniques as well as few special effects you can achieve, as follows:

Unless otherwise noted, the examples use the default settings of Direction: Up, Size: 0p7, Soften: 0p0, Depth: 100%, Shading 120°, Altitude: 30°, Highlight: Screen/White Opacity: 75%, Shadow: Multiply/Black, Opacity:75%

  • top left: Inner Bevel, Smooth
  • top middle: Outer Bevel, Smooth
  • top right: Emboss, Smooth
  • center left: Pillow Emboss, Smooth
  • center middle: Inner Bevel, Chisel Hard
  • center right: Outer Bevel, Chisel Hard
  • bottom left:Pillow Emboss, Smooth with Size 0p6, Soften 0p4, Highlight Opacity 93%, Shadow Opacity 49%, Magenta Text on Black background
  • bottom middle: Inner Bevel, Chisel Soft with Size 0p6, Soften 0p11
  • bottom right: Outer Bevel, Chisel Hard with Size 0p11, Altitude 23°, Highlight Opacity 89%, Shadow Opacity 98%, White text on Green Background — But the text is set to a blending mode of Multiply so you see the bevel effect but not the text itself. There is also an Inner Shadow with an Opacity of 65% and 9% Noise to help define the edges.

These are just a tiny fraction of the looks you can achieve. Experimentation is the key.

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Shadow and Glow Options

The Drop Shadow options let you create both realistic shadows and some fun special looks. | Click on the image to see at full size for easier reading
Jacci Howard Bear

Much like Bevel and Emboss, the Drop Shadow options can seem intimidating at first glance. Many people may go with the default just because it's easier. Don't be afraid, though, to experiment. Check the box for Preview so you can watch what happens to your text as you play with the different options. Options for the Inner Shadow effect are similar to the Drop Shadow. Outer Glow and Inner Glow have fewer settings. Here's what the different Shadow & Glow Effects do:

  • Drop Shadow: Creates a duplicate of the text that sits behind it like a shadow and makes the text appear to float above the paper. You can control the color and position of the shadow and make the edges sharper or fuzzier.
  • Inner Shadow: Creates a shadow along the inner edges of the text. Alone or in combination with an Inner Glow it can make it appear that the text is cut out of the paper and you're looking through what's underneath.
  • Outer Glow: Creates a shadow or glowing light effect (depending on the color and background) around the outer edges of the text.
  • Inner Glow: Creates a glowing effect along the inner edges of the text.
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Shadow & Glow Effects

Here's a tiny fraction of the things you can do with shadows and glows in InDesign. See the descriptions, below, of each one. | Click on the image to see at full size to see see details more clearly
Jacci Howard Bear

Drop shadows may be a bit overused but they are useful. And, if you play with the options you can go well beyond the basic shadow.

Including the Title text, here's how we achieved each of the looks in this illustration. We're omitting the distance and X/Y offsets unless critical to the look. 

Shadow: Green drop shadow 

& Glow: Black text on black background; White Outer Glow Size 1p5, 21% Spread

Text Effects: Drop Shadow with Distance and X/Y Offsets all at 0 (shadow sits directly behind the text), Size 0p7, Spread 7%, Noise 12%. The critical part of this look is that the "Object Knocks Out Shadow" Box in the Drop Shadow Options is unchecked and the text color is set to white with a Text blending mode of Multiply (set in the Effects Dialog, not the Drop Shadow Options). This makes the text invisible and all you see is the shadow.


  • top left: Your basic, default drop shadow
  • top middle: Your basic, default inner shadow
  • top right: Default and drop shadow and inner shadow
  • bottom left: White text with pink drop shadow set to a Distance and X/Y Offset of 0, Size 1p8, Noise 7%. It creates a sort of sprayed stencil effect.
  • bottom middle: Same as the "Text Effects" in the title except the drop shadow is blue with 78% Opacity, 7% Spread, and 7% Noise. With text set to Multiply mode all you see is the shadow.
  • bottom right: Blue text with Black Stroke has an Outer Glow in magenta using the Precise Technique (Default is Softer), and an Inner Glow using Precise Technique and Edge Source (default is Center).

Make your text pop, glow, shimmer, hover or fade away by experimenting with the InDesign Shadow and Glow effects.

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Combining Text Effects

Don't go overboard, but sometimes combining effects can really make your text stand out. | Click on the image to see at full size to see details more easily
Jacci Howard Bear

There are many ways to combine text effects in InDesign but we'll stick with just a few basics already covered in this tutorial. The title text of the illustration combines a basic Smooth Inner Bevel with the default drop shadow.

On the first row of E we have:

  • Plain, unadorned E in light gray
  • E with a Smooth Outer Bevel looks almost like a drop shadow and raises the text off ​of the page.
  • E with Outer Bevel plus an Inner Shadow changes it from raised text to recessed text but with very crisp, raised edges.

On the bottom row of E we have:

  • Plain, unadorned E in green:
  • E with Smooth Inner Bevel of Size 2p0 has a slightly raised, puffy look.
  • E with Inner Bevel plus a Drop Shadow with X/Y Offsets of 0p7 takes the puffy letter and floats it above the page just a little.

This only scratches the surface but we hope you'll play around with the settings for all the Bevel and Emboss, Drop Shadow, Inner Shadow, Outer Glow, and Inner Glow effects and find new and interesting ways to combine them.

You can learn more about working with InDesign effects from tutorials for Photoshop and Illustrator. Many of the same effects and options (although certainly not all) are in InDesign and share many of the same dialog boxes