Create 5 High-Impact Typography Effects in Adobe InDesign

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Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

InDesign is the best Adobe tool for creating traditional and expertly crafted typography. Designers often are quick to jump over to Illustrator or Photoshop if they want to create more unique and contemporary text effects. However, with a little know-how you can create cutting-edge, creative text effects without ever having to leave InDesign.

This tutorial shows you how to create five striking typographic effects using tools and tricks available to you in InDesign. You can follow these tutorials individually, then tweak the steps to make your own unique styles.

Page Setup

For all of the effects below, we’ll be using an A4 layout. But feel free to skip this step if you’ll  be incorporating a particular text effect into a document you've already created.

To create a new A4 layout, Open InDesign and select File > New Document. In the New Document window set the Intent to Print and set the No. of Pages to 5. Deselect Facing Pages. Under Page Size, select ‘A4’ and set the Orientation to Landscape. Leave the Margins at their default value and set the Bleed to 0 mm all the way round. 

New Document window

Click OK, and your document's ready to use.

new document

1. Create a Text-Inside-Text Effect

Final typography effect

Step 1

For this effect you will need to use two Fonts. 

The first Font will form the enclosing text, and needs to be heavy enough to contain a body of text. Molot is a great choice as it’s also an Upper Case style, giving the typography added impact. 

The second Font will fill the characters of the first Font. It doesn’t need to have a particular style or weight, but try to select a typeface that fits with the look of your design. In this case, I’ve gone for the distressed-looking Alpha Echo, or why not try the grungier Destroy?

Step 2

Select the Type Tool (T) and drag to create a text frame 252 mm in Width and 62 mm in Height. Position this centrally on Page 1 of the document.

Whichever word you want to fill with text, create text frames for each individual character (see below).

Type ‘I’ and, from the Character Formatting Controls panel along the top of the screen, set the Font to Molot Regular, Size to 250 pt, Orientation to Align Left (if you choose Align Center, this has a tendency to unhelpfully Anchor the frame once converted to outlines). Maintain the default [Black] text Fill.

Select the text frame and Edit > Copy and Edit > Paste. Change the character to ‘N’ and manouver the frame to the right of the first character. 

text frame for each character

Pull down a Guide from the top Ruler (View > Show Rulers) to create a baseline for the characters to sit on. You can also pull out horizontal Guides from the left-hand Ruler to create guidelines for equal spacing between characters.

Repeat the above process for the other characters. In this case, ‘S’, ‘I’, ‘D’, and ‘E’ to form the word ‘INSIDE’.

Type full word

Step 3

Select the first character’s text frame and go to Type > Create Outlines. Repeat for each text frame. Each character is converted to a vector outline.

Create outlines

Step 4

Select all the outlined characters by dragging your mouse across the page.

Open the Swatches Panel (Window > Color > Swatches) and set the Fill to [None]. Deselect the characters by clicking once outside of the page.

Swatches panel

Step 5

Select the Type Tool (T) and hover over the first character in the word (here, ‘I’). You will see the icon change from a type icon with straight brackets to a type icon with curved brackets.

Click once and the vector shape will be transformed into a text frame. Switch to the Selection Tool (V, Escape) and select the first character, here ‘I’. A small white square has appeared at the bottom-right of the shape. Click once on the square and click again in the next character (here, ‘N’) to connect the two characters with text threads. 

Go to View > Extras > Show Text Threads to view how the characters are connected. Repeat the process above until all the characters are connected to one another.

Threading text

Step 6

Select the Type Tool (T). In the Character Formatting Controls panel, set the Font to Alpha Echo Regular, Size to 8 pt, Leading to 8pt, Orientation to Justifiy with Last Line Aligned Left.

Click once inside the first character and go to Type > Fill with Placeholder Text. You can also insert your own text to create an artistic effect with extra meaning.

Fill with placeholder text

Switch to Preview View by tapping ‘W’ to view the effect and adjust Sizing, Hyphenation, Tracking etc until you are happy with the result.

Preview View

Step 7

You can create more contrast for your typography by setting light-colored text against a darker background.

Select the Rectangle Tool (M) and drag to extend across the whole of the page. Set the Stroke to [None] and the Fill to C=100, M=90, Y=22, K=72 (or another dark, contrasting Swatch of your own choice). Right-Click (PC) or Ctrl-Click (Mac) and Arrange > Send to Back.

Highlight all the text inside the outlined characters and set the text Color to [Paper]

And you're done! This sort of typography effect best suits a large-scale setting, perhaps as part of a poster or banner.

typography final result

2. Create a Block-Color Text Effect

This is a simple yet high-impact text effect to introduce some visual interest and pops of colour in an otherwise solid block of text.

Final typography - block color

Step 1

On Page 2 of your InDesign document, select the Type Tool (T) and drag to create a text frame around 194 mm in Width and 57 mm in Height.

Type a phrase about 4 sentences in length and set the Type to All Caps (found next to the Font Size drop-down menu in the Character Formatting Controls panel running along the top of the screen). Set the Orientation to Justify all Lines and Uncheck Hyphenate in the Paragraph Formatting Controls panel.

Center the text frame on the page.

Minion pro text frame

Step 2

Select a Font with a bit of personality - depending on your choice of colors, this effect can have different impacts. Here, I’ve going for a fun, craftsy feel, and will choose a Font called CabinSketch to evoke this.

Step 3

Apply CabinSketch Bold to your block of text. Pull out different sections of text and play around with the Size and Leading, creating a larger chunk of text in the middle of the block. Here, the Font Size varies from 17 pt up to 50 pt.

CabinSketch text frame

Step 4

Pull out a vertical Guide from the left-hand Ruler to around 64 mm. Pull out a second vertical Guide to around 185 mm, and drag a third Guide to around 230 mm. These will mark out sections where you can apply different colors.

Guides to mark color

Step 5

Create four new CMYK Swatches (Window > Swatches, then click the New Swatch icon). In this example I’ve gone for four complementary ice cream-style shades. 

orange swatch
pink swatch
blue swatch
green swatch

Step 6 

Highlight individual parts of the text within the guidelines and apply color in vertical blocks. Don’t worry if individual characters fall across guidelines; slightly imperfect application of color will give a jaunty, folk-like look.

applying color in blocks

Finished! This is a great effect to brighten up informal items like cards and invitations. It also looks great with a Letterpress printing technique.

finished typography with block color

3. Create a Vintage-Style Effect using the Type on a Path Tool

Step 1

Go to Page 3 of your InDesign document. Use the Type Tool (T) to create a new text frame, but move this to the side of the page, in the Pasteboard. Stick with Normal View (tap ‘W’) so it can still be seen.

Choose any paragraph of text you would like to apply the effect to. Type, or Copy and Paste, this text into the text frame. For now, maintain the default Font, here Minion Pro, set the Size to 40 pt and the Orientation to Align Center.

Step 2

On the page itself, select the Line Tool (\) and, while holding down Shift, drag to create a horizontal Line 113 mm in Length. Position this centrally on the page at Y position 50 mm.

Step 3

Select the Type on a Path Tool (Shift + T; found in the Tools Panel, in the drop-down menu from the Type Tool icon). Hover the cursor over the far-left of the Line until the icon changes to reveal a ‘+’ symbol. Click once to transform the Line into a Path for text.

Highlight and Copy the first line of the paragraph of text using the Type Tool (T), then switch back to the Type on a Path Tool (Shift + T) and Paste the text onto the new Path you have created. 

Step 4

Switch back to the Selection Tool (V, Escape) and change the Stroke Color of the Line to [None].

Repeat the above steps for the next few lines of the text paragraph, situating each line on its own Path. You can set the original text paragraph directly behind the Paths to help line up the text and create even Leading.

Step 5

Now you can start to create some different effects. You are no longer bound by the arrangement rules of text within a text frame, but can move different paths into organic and quirky positions to create a sense of movement in your text block.

Why not try using the Ellipse Tool (L) to create a long oval with a Stroke and Fill of [None], which you can then divide in two halves using the Scissors Tool (C). Position the lower half at the bottom of the paragraph and use the Type on a Path Tool (Shift + T), as before, to add the final line of text.

Move the top half of the oval to the top of the paragraph and reset the top line of text along this new curved Path. Go to Object > Paths > Reverse Path to flip the text to run along the top of the curve.

Step 6

Create new paths and move individual words or phrases onto them, altering the Font Size, to create new arrangements of sentences like in the example below.

Change the Font, Sizing and Style (Regular, Bold or Italic) of various phrases and words to create a desired effect, creating new Paths if you need to. Here I used Garamond and Fournier MT to give an old-fashioned, letterpress-style appearance to the text. 

Pull the Paths closer together, even allowing some of the letters to overlap a little, to give a more solid look to the text.

Step 7

Introduce color by going to the Swatches Panel (Window > Swatches) and creating new CMYK Swatches (click the New Swatch icon). Select a base color (here, I went for a deep red, C=0, M=92, Y=90, K=47) to apply to the bulk of the text, bringing out a couple of words and phrases in accents of pale brown, yellow, blue, pink and black.

Step 8

Place your typography against a contrasting background to highlight the colors of the text.

Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to create a frame that extends across the whole page. Set the Fill to C=2, M=48, Y=86, K=10 with a Tint of 10%. With the frame selected Right-Click (PC) or Ctrl-Click (Mac) and Arrange > Send to Back. 

Then go to Object > Effects > Gradient Feather and set the Type to Radial. Reverse the Gradient so the pale tone starts from the center of the page.

Your typography’s looking awesome, very vintage! This sort of effect would look great on promotional materials, such as posters or brochures, which need to catch the eye. It would also be great for inclusion as part of a print version of a quirky book.

4. Enhance Text with a Dramatic Drop Cap

Final Drop Cap effect

A Drop Cap is a very simple but incredibly effective typography technique for giving emphasis to an introductory paragraph. You can incorporate the steps here into your own document, perhaps a book chapter or magazine article. For now, we’ll stick with our A4 layout.

Step 1

Go to Page 4 of the A4 document. Use the Type Tool (T) to drag a text frame 115 mm in Height and 140 mm in Width. Center this on the page, using Guides dragged from the Rulers if needed.

Set up the text frame

Step 2

For a dramatic Drop Cap to stand out, you will need to contrast a striking, stylised typeface (for the Drop Cap) against a classic, bookish typeface. 

For the main text here, I’m using Fournier MT. Garamond or Baskerville would also be good choices.

For the Drop Cap, I’ve selected a calligraphic typeface, Chantelli Antiqua, to give a historical flourish. After all, Drop Caps were originally used in Medieval manuscripts.

Step 3

Return to the text frame and click once in the frame with the Type Tool (T). Set the Font to Fournier MT Regular, Size to 12 pt, Leading to 15 pt, Justify with Last Line Aligned Left, and allow the text to hyphenate. Paste in your own chosen text or, for now, go to Type > Fill with Placeholder Text.

Insert placeholder text

Step 4

Highlight the first letter of the paragraph. Go to the Character Formatting Controls panel, running along the top of the screen, and set the Drop Cap Number of Lines to 10.

Set the Drop Cap

Step 5

Change the Font of the first letter to Chantelli Antiqua

Change Font of Drop Cap

Introduce a new Swatch in the Swatches Panel (Window > Color > Swatches) for added contrast and impact.  Here I set the Color of the Drop Cap to C=80 M=40 Y=50 K= 10

Change Swatch of Drop Cap

Step 6

To give an extra professional touch to the paragraph, highlight the first 4 or 5 words of the paragraph (excluding the Drop Cap) and select the All Caps icon from the Character Formatting Controls panel.

Select the text frame with the Selection Tool (V, Escape) and go to Window > Type & Tables > Story to open the Story panel. Click in the Optical Margin Alignment check-box. The text will subtly shift position, and look more pleasant to the eye.

Optical Margin Alignment

Step 7

Good typography is all about the details. You will notice that the line of text sitting just below the Drop Cap character is sitting a little close to the bottom of the Drop Cap. 

Highlight the Drop Cap and go up again to the Character Formatting Controls panel. Locate the Baseline Shift menu and set the value to 9 pt. The Drop Cap will shift upwards, creating more space between it and the text of the paragraph.

Baseline Shift

And you’re done! This is a super simple technique for adding a professional touch to more formal documents, such as books, magazines and brochures.

Final Drop Cap typography effect

5. Add a Surreal Twist to Your Typography

This is a cool, contemporary effect that’s more decorative than functional, but is really easy to create.

final surreal twist typography

Step 1

Navigate to Page 5 of the A4 document. Select the Line Tool (\) and drag across the page from the top left down to the bottom right. Don’t stretch it right to the corners of the page, the angle should only be gentle. 

line tool

Edit > Copy and Edit > Paste this Line and Right-Click (PC) or Ctrl-Click (Mac) > Transform > Rotate 90 degrees CW. Position this second Line crossing the center of the first Line, extending from the bottom left of the page to the top right. Extend the edges of the Line so they reach to the edges of the page.

guides using line tool

Step 2

In the Layers Panel (Window > Layers) double-click the ‘Layer 1’ default name and rename this ‘Guides’. Lock this Layer in the Layers Panel.

guides layer

Click the Create New Layer icon and rename this second Layer ‘Typography’. 

Typography layer

Step 3

Remaining on the ‘Typography’ Layer, use the Type Tool (T) to introduce a new text frame about 215 mm in Width and 20 mm in Height. Type a single line of text, here ‘Surreal Typography’ and set the Font to Gill Sans Regular (we’ll be using Gill Sans throughout), Size to 75 pt and Tracking to 20

Switch to the Free Transform Tool (E) and hover over one of the corners of the text frame until a rotate icon appears. Rotate the frame and align against one of the Lines you created in Step 2.

First text frame rotated

Step 4

Using the Lines as Guides for positioning the text, repeatedly create new text frames and adjust their position on the page. Vary the Weight (SemiBold, Regular, Light etc) and Font Size to create contrast and difference. 

You can flip the orientation of some text frames for a mirrored effect by Right-Click (PC) or Ctrl-Click (Mac) > Transform > Flip Horizontal.

Flipped text frame

Continue to create new text frames, inserting different text as you go. Switch the visibility of the ‘Guides’ Layer off and on as you go to view the final effect.

Text frames rotated and positioned
Normal View
Preview View

Step 5

Once you’re happy with the arrangement of your text frames, you can drop in some color. Highlight individual phrases or words and set new CMYK Swatches for these from the Swatches Panel (Window > Color > Swatches). Be sparing with your application of color for a professional look. Here I've used just three complementary colors.

Final typography effect - surreal effect

Awesome! That’s great work. This typography effect is mostly just for fun, so why not print it on a decorative poster or card to show off your new typography skills?


The typography tips in this tutorial have been put together to show you how versatile, creative and fun typography can be in InDesign. In your next design project, try to use a special typography effect in InDesign to add a touch of creative professionalism to your work.

Have any more InDesign typography tips of your own? Mention them in the Comments below!