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How to Use the Character Panel in Adobe InDesign

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Accessing the Type Formatting Tools

Adobe InDesign’s type formatting tools can be found in both the Character panel and the Control panel. In this tutorial, we will focus on the Character panel. To access the Character panel, press Command-T (Mac) or Control-T (Windows). You can also choose Window > Type & Tables > Character. After the panel comes up, click on the flyout menu in the upper right corner and choose Show Options. This will give you access to every item in the panel.

Font Options

To choose a font for your text, click on the drop down menu to the right of the Font field. Every font family installed in your system will appear. After you have chosen a font family, click on the drop down menu to the right of the Font field. Here you will choose the style of your font such as bold, italic, condensed, etc.

Text Point Size

The Character panel offers three ways to specify text size. One is to simply enter the point size in the Size field. This option gives you the most flexibility as it allows you to enter text in .001 increments. For example, you can specify a point size of 5.25. Another option is to select the drop down menu to the right of the Size field and choose from the list of popular point sizes ranging from 6 to 72 points. The last option is to use the up and down arrows to the left of the Size field to increase or decrease the point size one point at a time.

Leading

Leading is the amount of space between the baseline of one row of text to the baseline of another row of text. To increase or decrease the amount of leading, select the text you want to modify. Like the Size field, the Leading field gives you several ways to specify leading size. You can either type a value in the Leading field, choose a value from the drop down menu to the right of the Leading field, or use the up and down arrows to the left of the Leading field to increase or decrease the leading one point at a time.

 In addition, you can choose Auto in the drop down menu. This will set your leading at approximately 120% of your selected text size. The nice thing about choosing Auto leading is that if you change the point size, you will not have to go back and change the leading as well. Auto leading automatically adjusts when you go from one point size to another.

Kerning

Kerning is adding to or taking away space between characters for a more balanced look.

To adjust the space between two characters, place the insertion point between the characters and either type a value in the Kerning field, choose a value from the drop down menu to the right of the Kerning field, or use the up and down arrows to the left of the Kerning field to increase or decrease the space between the leading one increment at a time.

You can also choose to use Optical or Metrics kerning. These options are found at the top of the Kerning drop down menu. The default setting is Metrics. This setting uses the built-in kerning of the font. If the font designer took the time to set up kerning pairs, this is a good option. 

The other option, Optical kerning, adjusts the kerning between letters based on character shapes rather than predefined kerning values.

Tracking

Tracking is similar to kerning. Instead of adjusting the spacing between two characters, it adjusts the spacing for an entire block of selected text.

To adjust the space in a block of text, highlight the text you want to adjust and either type a value in the Tracking field, choose a value from the drop down menu to the right of the Tracking field, or use the up and down arrows to the left of the Tracking field to increase or decrease the space between the leading one increment at a time.

Vertical Scale and Horizontal Scale

Vertical Scale and Horizontal Scale do just that… they make text wider, taller, narrower, or shorter. You can adjust the height or width of your text using the preset values in the drop down menu to the right of the Vertical or Horizontal scale fields, type in your own value, or use the up and down arrows to the left of the Vertical or Horizontal scale fields to adjust the scale one increment at a time.

Keep in mind that adjusting the vertical and horizontal scale of a font will distort the strokes if used to the extreme. If available, use the condensed and extended versions of a font instead.

Baseline Shift

Sometimes it’s necessary to raise a letter or word above or below the baseline. Not a problem! Highlight the text you want to raise or lower and enter a positive or negative value into the Baseline Shift field. A positive number (+3, for example) will raise the text above the baseline. A negative number will lower the text below the baseline. Use the up and down arrows to tweak the text into just the right place.

Skew (False Italic)

Not all fonts come with an italicized version. What to do?! Here’s a cheap, but effective solution. Skew the text! This also comes in handy if you need to lean text to the left. In the Skew field, enter a value between 85 and -85 until you've slanted your text at just the right angle. And, once again, you can adjust the skew level by increments of one by using the up and down arrows to the left of the Skew field.

Language

If your document is in English, choose English. If it is in Norwegian: Nynorsk, choose Norwegian: Nynorsk. InDesign uses this information to provide you with the proper spell checker and hyphenation.

Open Type

If you are using an Open Type font in your document, you will be able to take advantage of the many options in the Open Type menu. If you are not using an Open Type font, the options will be enclosed with brackets and will not be available.

All Caps & Small Caps

Need your text to be in all caps or small caps? Don’t waste your time typing it in all over again! Highlight the text you want change and choose All Caps or Small Caps in the drop down menu.

Superscript and Subscript

If you want to raise a character or symbol above or below the baseline, there’s no need to change the point size of the character and adjust the baseline shift. There’s a much easier way. Simply choose Superscript or Subscript. InDesign automatically scales the character and adjusts the baseline shift according to the values in the Advanced Type pane in your Preferences. This is very helpful for currency symbols and scientific notations.

Underline and Strikethrough

Underlining text is as simple as highlighting the text you wish to underline and clicking on Underline. If you want to customize an underline, you will find many options such as thickness, color, and stroke style in the Underline Options dialog box.

 If you want to strike through text, highlight it and click on Strikethrough. Strikethroughs can be customized in the Strikethrough Options dialog box.

Ligatures

Ligatures are letter combinations that are tied together for a tidier fit and to avoid awkward crashing. Two common ligatures are fl and fi. These are usually built in to Open Type fonts. If you are using an Open Type font, highlight the letter pair you wish to replace with a ligature and choose Ligature from the flyout menu.

No Break

Sometimes, a word will hyphenate when you don’t want it to. This is where No Break comes in handy. Select the text you wish to keep together and choose No Break in the flyout menu.

Conclusion

Now that you know your way around InDesign’s Character Panel, you are ready to take your typesetting skills to a new level!




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