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Paragraph Styles are so called because they only apply to whole paragraphs of text. You cannot make one word italic with a Paragraph Style. That’s what Character Styles are for.

The rule for deciding which to use is to default to Paragraph Styles until they can’t do what you want them to. Never use Character Styles unless you’re styling a word within a paragraph. Otherwise, forget they exist.

Our First Paragraph Style

Now we’re ready to create our main stylesheets to do things like create space between paragraphs, change text sizes, fonts, colours and more.


Paragraph Spacing

When reading text, it’s ideal to have a visual indication of the end of a paragraph and the start of the next. This is either achieved with a first line indent or a space after the paragraph — never both.


Size and Leading

In your Paragraph Styles, you can define the size of the text and its leading. These settings are found in Basic Character Formats in your stylesheet’s settings. If you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to leave the leading to Auto. This establishes a 120% value. So 10 point type will have a 12 point leading.


Text Colour

In some instances, you want to change the colour of your text. You can do this in a stylesheet, along with all the other properties. It’s found under the Character Colour pane in your stylesheets settings.


There are many, many more properties in the Paragraph Styles Options dialogue. We’ll explore most of them over time.

Setting Base Styles

Formatting text in InDesign can either be a headache or a pleasure. We’ll give you the tools you need to make styling text quick and error-free.

In this unit, we’ll style text across the whole document with minimum effort, using Paragraph Styles. Paragraph Styles allow you to change a lot of separate text across a long document by simply editing the definition of the style.

Before we can start formatting the document text, we need to create a few base paragraph styles.

Edit Basic Paragraph


In all InDesign documents, there’s a Basic Paragraph Style. It’s the default stylesheet that applies to all text as it’s brought into InDesign. It’s a good idea to change its font and size to the size of your planned Body Copy style.

Create a Base Sans

Paragraph Styles inherit properties from parent paragraph styles. We’re going to create underlying serif and sans-serif styles. Each will have only minimal styling, including the font selection and not much else. The base serif style is the Basic Paragraph Style. We’ll create a new stylesheet for the Base Sans.


This makes it that you can change a font across a whole document by changing only this one stylesheet. As an example. If all of your titles are styled in Proxima Nova (a sans-serif font).


You’ll base all of your sans-serif styles on your Base Sans. If your client (or your teacher) then asks you to change all titles to a different font, you only need to change the Base Sans. Because all others have it as a parent, they’ll all change.