How to Add Text Effects in Adobe InDesign

Skip Photoshop or Illustrator if you just need a few quick special effects

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Many of the same text effects from Adobe Photoshop or Adobe 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).

Although these effects have been available for many years, long predating the Creative Cloud suite of apps, the specific procedures we show were developed with Adobe InDesign CC as of 2019.

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Effects Dialog

InDesign effects library

To access the Effects Dialog go to Window > Effects or use Shift+Control+F10.

This box controls opacity, stroke, fill, and text, as well as a class of effect to apply. By default, the effect is Normal.

These affects govern the content within the frame. Therefore, for text to demonstrate these special effects, you must select the frame — not highlight the text.

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Bevel and Emboss Options

InDesign Effects settings

The Bevel and Emboss Options can seem intimidating at first. 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

Embossed text in InDesign

The Bevel and Emboss effects, when applied to a text frame, make each individual character or word within the frame demonstrate the selected effect. Explore the various options to customize the look-and-feel of the text to meet the needs of your overall design.

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Shadow and Glow Options

InDesign drop shadow

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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Feathering Options

Feathering in InDesign

Three additional transparency-related effects may prove useful — basic, directional, and gradient feather. A feather is the technical term for fading around the edges of an object. A basic feather governs all text within the frame, in essence "lightening" the text from the outside in. A directional feather does much the same thing, except the effect appears to come from a specific angle on the page. A gradient feather varies in intensity from top-to-bottom or side-to-side within the frame as a whole.

Preview Your Work

Pro tip: In the Effects box, click Preview at the bottom to see real-time updates to the selected object a you adjust the settings.