InDesign tutorial: Using styles in InDesign

What you’ll learn in this InDesign Tutorial:

  • Using Paragraph and Character styles
  • Applying object styles

This tutorial provides you with a foundation for working with Adobe InDesign panels. It is the first lesson in the Adobe InDesign CC Digital Classroom book. For more Adobe InDesign training options, visit AGI’s InDesign Classes.

Adobe InDesign Tutorial: Using Styles in InDesign

Earlier in this lesson, you formatted text by applying a paragraph style. You can use styles to easily and consistently format paragraphs, individual words or letters, as well as entire text frames and tables. Here you will apply styles to both paragraphs and individual characters. You’ll get a more detailed look at creating and using styles in Lesson 4, “Using Styles to Save Time.”

Applying paragraph styles

Paragraph styles are applied to all the text between two paragraph returns. Whether several sentences or an individual word, InDesign applies styles to the text between two paragraph returns that were entered by using the Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS) key on the keyboard when the text was entered, even if the paragraph consists of only a single word.

1 Select the Type tool () from the Tools panel, then on the left side of page 3, click anywhere inside the word January located in the first line of the frame on the left side of the page.

2 In the Paragraph Styles panel, choose Calendar Month to apply the correct formatting to the word January. Repeat the process to format the words February, and then March to format these words using the same paragraph style. Because these words have a keyboard return before and after them, they are considered to be a paragraph for the purpose of applying styles.

3 Using the Type tool, click and drag to select the text located between the January and February headings, then click the Calendar Event style in the Paragraph Styles panel. Repeat this process to select all the text between February and March, and also all the March events, applying the Calendar Event style to this text.

Format the text using the Calendar Event style from the
Paragraph Styles panel.

Notice that the Calendar Event style applies several attributes to the events in a single click, styling the date bold, the name red, and the web address in italic. The Calendar Event style includes several styles that are grouped together into what InDesign refers to as a nested style. A nested style applies several formatting attributes to text within a paragraph in a sequence you can define. You will learn more about nested styles in Lesson 4, “Using Styles to Save Time.”

Applying character styles

You can also apply styles to individual words or characters within a group of type, formatting only the type you want to change. For example, you can apply common formatting attributes such as bold and italic. Character styles are the foundation for the nested styles that you applied to the event listings in the previous step. Here you will apply a character style to individual words.

1 Double-click page 2 in the Pages panel to display page 2 within the workspace.

2 Using the Zoom tool (), increase the magnification so you can easily see the first paragraph, which starts with the text Your wheels.

3 Select the Type tool () from the Tools panel and select the word wheels at the top of the first paragraph. You can select the word by clicking and dragging using your mouse or by double-clicking the word.


When using the Type tool, double-clicking a word selects the word, triple-clicking selects the line, and quadruple-clicking (four clicks) selects the paragraph.

4 Click the Character Styles button () in the dock on the right side of the workspace to open the Character Styles panel. Choose Italic from the Character Styles panel to apply the Italic style to the selected word.

A Character style applies only to selected text.

Apply styles across a story using Find/Change

You’ve seen how you can use Character Styles to easily apply formatting changes to selected text. In the text you are working in, you will change every instance of the word wheels to be italicized, combining character styles with InDesign’s ability to find and then change text formatting.

1 Using the Type tool (), click once within the wheels story, then right-click (Windows) or Control+click (Mac OS) anywhere within the text frame on page 2 of the document. Choose Find/Change from the contextual menu that appears—it’s near the top of the many choices available in the Contextual menu. The Find/Change window opens.


Contextual menus offer a quick way to access commands that apply to the part of the document in which you are working. The commands change based upon the location of the cursor, the tool you are using, and the object selected. In the previous step, the contextual menu options relate to text because the text tool is selected and the cursor is within a text frame.

2 In the Find/Change window, click in the Text tab and type wheels in the Find what text field, then choose Story from the Search drop-down menu. This tells InDesign to search all the text within the current story to locate the word wheels. A story is defined as all the columns and text frames that are linked together.

3 In the Change Format section at the bottom of the window, click the Specify Attributes to Change button (). The Change Format Settings window opens.


Be careful not to select the Specify Attributes to Find button, which is an identical button located above the Specify Attributes to Change button.

Click the Specify attributes to change button to modify text attributes in specific
words or phrases.

4 In the Change Format Settings dialog box, choose Italic from the Character Style menu and click OK. This changes the format of all text that is found, applying the Italic style to any text InDesign finds within the story.

Choose Italic from the Character Style drop-down menu.

5 Click the Change All button. A window appears indicating that five instances of wheels have been found and formatted using the style attributes you specified. Click OK, then click Done to close the Find/Change dialog box.

InDesign notifies you of replacements it makes using the
Find/Change option.

Applying object styles

You can use Object styles to apply formatting to entire objects rather than individual pieces of text or paragraphs. For example, you can use object styles to format entire text frames and picture frames. You can use object styles to quickly and consistently apply borders to objects, or effects such as a drop shadow. Object styles can combine character and paragraph styles so you can apply multiple formatting attributes to a frame and the contents of the frame in a single step. While doing this, you’ll also practice importing text and repositioning objects in a page layout.

Here you’ll place some text into a text frame and then apply an object style to the frame so that the entire frame is formatted in a single click.

1 In the Pages panel, double-click page 1. Once the page is displayed, you might need to decrease the magnification to see the full page depending upon the size of your monitor and screen resolution. If you can’t see the full page, change the display magnification by choosing a smaller percentage from the Zoom level drop-down menu located in the Application bar.

2 If you can’t see the text frame located to the right side of the page in the pasteboard area, choose the Hand tool () from the Tools panel, then click and drag from the right to the left until the text frame is visible.

3 Select the Type tool () from the Tools panel, and then click to insert the cursor inside the text frame on the pasteboard. Next you will import text that was created using a word processor.

4 Choose File > Place to import text into this frame. In the Place dialog box, navigate to the Links folder within the id01lessons folder and select the file Sidebar.txt. Confirm that Show Import Options is not selected, and then click Open.

5 Choose the Selection tool () from the Tools panel and confirm that the text frame on which you have been working remains selected. If necessary, click the frame to select it.


You can switch from the Type tool to the Selection tool and select the current text frame in a single step by pressing the Escape key on your keyboard when editing text within a frame.

6 Choose Window > Styles > Object Styles to open the Object Styles panel. In the Object Styles panel, choose Sidebar from the list to apply these attributes to the selected frame. The entire frame, including the text, is formatted.

You can use Object styles to apply background colors, effects, and multiple text styles to a frame in a single click. This makes applying formatting, and keeping your document design consistent, as easy as a single click.

Object styles format entire objects, including text within objects.

7 Using the Selection tool (), click the middle of the frame and drag it to the column on the right side of the first page, aligning the right edge and bottom edge of the frame with the right and bottom margin guides.

Continue to the next InDesign Tutorial: Working with graphics in InDesign >