Character Formatting Options

This section looks at the basic options available in the Character Formatting Controls on the Control Palette or on the Character Palette.

Figure 3.17. The Character Palette.


Font and Font Style

Because InDesign is a type snob (in a good way), it won't allow you to make "faux" type styles. There's no I or B icon you can click to make your text italic or bold. Instead you need to choose the real italic or real bold weights of that font from the Type Style pull down. Alternatively, the shortcuts: Cmd+Shift+I (Ctrl+Shift+I) or Cmd+Shift+B (Ctrl+Shift+B) will select the real italic or bold weights for youso long as you have the real italic or bold weight of the font installed.

Using Italic Type

Italic typesso named because they evolved in Italy (in early 16th Century Venice)are designed to complement their roman siblings. They are distinct fonts in their own right and not just slanted versions of the roman. Italics are typically used to clarify a word, differentiating it from the rest of the text. Italics are commonly used for the titles of films, book, magazines, or for foreign phrases or terms, and often to indicate emphasis.


To quickly access the font menu on the Control palette press Cmd/Ctrl+6. From there, you can type the first few letters of the font you're after to go directly to it, or at least close to it, on the font menu.

Figure 3.18. Real italics vs. slanted type. A is Minion Pro italic; B is Minion Regular slanted to 12°. Note the difference between the a, e, and f.

Italics are lighter than their roman counterparts, and their slant can make the type look hurried. Because the characters are more decorative, they can also draw too much attention to themselves. For these reasons, avoid long passages set in italics. Italics are unique but if overused that uniqueness is lost.

Using Bold Type

Bold weights are typically applied to headings, subheads, and running heads to establish hierarchy. In many booksthis one, for examplebold is also used for referring to figures. If you are using bold weights for emphasis in body text, do so sparingly. Bold text can attract too much attention, breaking up the continuity of your text.

Figure 3.19. Different ways to add emphasis. Clockwise from top: Italic, Bold, Highlight (In Underline Options an 11 pt yellow "underline" offset 2.5pt to sit behind the type), and using color.


Small Caps

Small caps have the following uses:

  • For acronyms and abbreviations. Because small caps are smaller than full size capsslightly larger than the x-heightthey are less obtrusive and do not overwhelm the upper and lower case type as full size capitals would.
  • As a transition from a drop cap to the regular body text size (See Chapter 10: "First Impressions: Creating Great Opening Paragraphs")
  • For abbreviations like AM and PMwith no letter spaces or periods (though it more contemporary to use lowercase: 3pm, 7pm, etc.).

The problem with Small Caps is that unless you are using an OpenType font or an Expert Set (a font of supplementary characters), you'll end up with fake small caps. Fake small caps are regular caps that have been scaled down in size, rather than redrawn characters designed to work in proportion with the regular caps. Because all their proportions are reduced, their weight tends to look too light and spindly and their strokes will not be the same thickness when set alongside regular caps.

Figures 3.20A and 3.20B. Small Caps. A has the abbreviations in small capsslightly higher than the x-height; B has them at full-caps size.

Figure 3.21. Small Caps: real vs. fake. Example A uses real small capsthe weight of the character strokes is uniform. Example B uses "fake" small capsregular caps sized at 70 percent.


All Caps

You know those people who type their emails in ALL CAPS? Annoying, aren't they? Continuous text set in all caps is hard to read because the shapes of the words all look alike and are differentiated only by their length. We recognize words as shapesthe descenders and the ascenders of upper and lowercase text are essential to our ability to identify letters. Also, text set in all caps within body text tends to look disproportionately large when set among upper and lowercase text; hence the need for Small Caps. Just as shouting doesn't make your message any clearer, setting text in all caps doesn't make your message any more compelling.

None of this is to say don't use All Capsjust use them thoughtfully. All Caps can be effective in headlines and subheads. Because there are no descenders, you should tighten the leading. Depending on the typeface, you may want to loosen the tracking for a sophisticated and understated look or tighten the tracking for a more solid, contrasty look.

Figure 3.22. All Caps Treatments. The lack of serifs in the sans serif examples allows tighter tracking of the letters, which, in combination with the blockiness of the letter shapes, gives a more solid look, suitable in some instances but not in others. Loose tracking makes the serif versions more elegant. Context is everything.

Figure 3.22A. Text set in ALL CAPS is more difficult to read because, without ascenders and descenders, all of the word shapes are the same. Compare the more interesting word shapes created by upper and lowercase to the rectangles created by using ALL CAPS.


Superscript and Subscript

Superscript is typically used for ordinals in numbers or for footnotes. Subscript is used in chemical formulae. In Text Preferences, you can change the size of both relative to the point size of your text. You can also changetheir position relative to the baseline of the text. For best results set the Super/Subscript size to 60 percent, the Superscript position to 33 percent and the Subscript position to 0 percent.

Figure 3.23. Superscript/Subscript Preferences.

Figure 3.24. Uses of Superscript and Subscript.



In days of yore, when records came on vinyl and people typed on machines called typewriters, underlining was de rigueur for giving emphasis. But that was only because typewriters couldn't do it any other way. Underlining, as every type manual will tell you, should not, in these days of typographic sophistication, be used for emphasis. The underline collides with the descenders of the word and looks downright ugly. However, underlining has become more sophisticated and is, dare I say it, perhaps making a comeback. These days you can change the weight of the underline and its distance from the baseline. Even so, underlined textno matter how fancy the underlineis always going to be mutton dressed as lamb. That said, there are some nifty tricks you can do with underlining when applied as part of a style definition. But that's another storysee Chapter 13, "Stylin' with Paragraph and Character Styles."


Really can't resist underlining? Try adding a paper colored stroke to the underlined type. This prevents the underline from slicing through the descender shapes.

Figure 3.25. Underlining Options: Example A uses a generic underline; in example B, the type has a 0.75 pt paper-colored stroke, which keeps the underline away from the descender of the "y." In example C, in addition to the paper-colored stroke, the color and weight of the underline have been adjusted. Choose Underline Options from the Control palette menu in the Character Formats.



You might use strikethrough to indicate which text will be deleted as a document moves through revision cycles, or once in a blue moon if you're working on a legal document that requires you to indicate revisions. Alternatively, you might want to make a "highlight" character stylesee Chapter 13, "Stylin' with Paragraph and Character Styles."


Switch between the Character and Paragraph formatting views of the Control Palette by pressing Cmd+Option+7 (Ctrl+Alt+7).


Baseline Shift

What can one say about the humble and oft-misunderstood baseline shift?

First, here's what it should not be used for: Never, under any circumstances, use Baseline Shift to adjust inter-paragraph spacingthat is the function of leading and/or paragraph spacing.

  • Baseline shift is for fine tuning. It can be used to create effects in type, but mainly it's used for finessing when you feel that certain characters need shifting relative to the baseline of other characters on the same line. To apply a baseline shift, use the Control Palette (nudge arrows move in one point increments) or the Options box of the Character Specifications dialog box.

Baseline shift can be used for the following:

  • Adjusting the position of bullets, ornaments, and inline graphics
  • Creating fractions, although OpenType fonts and the Make Fraction Script have made this use largely redundant
  • Tweaking the position of symbols like $, ®, ©, and ™
  • Adjusting the position of parentheses, braces, and brackets relative to the type they enclose, especially when used with All Caps. (Again, OpenType fonts make this less necessary)
  • Creating type effects


You can quickly access the preferences for these styles by Option/Alt-clicking their icon, which will take you to the Text Preferences dialog box.

Figure 3.26. Using Baseline Shift to "illustrate" a word.

Why Do Some Fonts Look Bigger than Others?

Take a selection of fonts, set them in the same size, and you'll find that some look bigger than others. What gives? The explanation for this goes back to the days of handset type when point size referred not to the size of the letter itself but to the size of the metal block on which the type was cast. Some typefaces occupied more space within their block than others. These days, point size refers to the size of the bounding box that surrounds each letter, but it is still the space in which the type lives that we actually measure, not the letter itself.

For this reason, let your eye guide you, not the point size. And an obvious point, but one still worth making: When evaluating your type, print test pages rather than relying on what you see on your screen.


Horizontal and Vertical Scale

Get caught using these options, and the Type Police will come knocking on your door. Mess with the proportions of your typeface and you are trampling roughshod over the life's work of some of the world's finest artisans. OK, so maybe I'm being a bit dramatic, but faking a condensed typeface (one with a narrower horizontal scale) or an expanded typeface (one with a wider horizontal scale) will make the character shapes look spindly and the overall effect look amateurish. It's better to choose a real condensed or real expanded typeface. It's like the difference between My Way sung by Frank Sinatra or by some random bloke doing a karaoke version after a few too many pints. Condensed faces include Times Roman and Garamond Condensed. Expanded faces are more typically used for display instead of body type, and are more likely to be sans seriflike Helvetica Neue Expanded or Univers Extended.

Figure 3.27. A real condensed font vs. a fake condensed font. ITC Garamond Light Condensed (A), and ITC Garamond Light (B) with horizontal scale set to 72 percentnote the lighter weight of the letters due to the scaling.

Having said all that in such a dogmatic way, I'll now put in a disclaimer about retaining the right to contradict myself. For every rule, there will be examples of ways it can be creatively broken, and distorting type is no exception. The point I'm making is if you want to break this or any typographic "rule," then do so consciouslyand carry a big stick.

Text and Display

Body text or body copy is the small type (typically in sizes between 8-12 pt) that makes up the majority of a book or article and carries the bulk of the message. When choosing the size of your body text, you can probably go smaller than you think. Text that is too small is difficult to read in large quantities; on the other hand, text that is too large looks amateurish and clunky. While 12 point type is InDesign's default type size and looks about right on screenchances are it will look too big in print. Start out with 10 point text, then increase or decrease as necessary according to the characteristics of the font (and the needs of your audience).

Display type is the big type (typically 18 points and above) that grabs the reader's attention and appears as signposts (in the form of heads and subheads) throughout a book or article.

While size usually indicates the type's intent, it is not always the case. Display type can sometimes attract attention by being understated.

Part I: Character Formats

Getting Started

Going with the Flow

Character Reference

Getting the Lead Out

Kern, Baby, Kern

Sweating the Small Stuff: Special Characters, White Space, and Glyphs

OpenType: The New Frontier in Font Technology

Part II: Paragraph Formats

Aligning Your Type

Paragraph Indents and Spacing

First Impressions: Creating Great Opening Paragraphs

Dont Fear the Hyphen

Mastering Tabs and Tables

Part III: Styles

Stylin with Paragraph and Character Styles

Mo Style

Part IV: Page Layout

Setting Up Your Document

Everything in Its Right Place: Using Grids

Text Wraps: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Type Effects

InDesign Type. Professional Typography with Adobe InDesign CS2
InDesign Type: Professional Typography with Adobe InDesign CS2
ISBN: 0321385446
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 186
Authors: Nigel French © 2008-2020.
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