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Why is the Effects Panel Grayed Out?

When you try to apply transparency effects to a text frame, you may occasionally see all the controls of the Effects panel are grayed out.

This can be caused by two things:

1. You have your cursor in the text frame.

If this is the case, press ESC to select the frame and make the effects controls available.

2. You have selected the frame and Formatting Affects Text (the T button) in the Swatches panel or the Tools panel.

In this case, press the Formatting Affects Container button, or use the keyboard shortcut, j.

To apply effects to text you must have the frame selected. Then either target the Text level in the Effects panel:

Or if the text frame has no fill, you can apply effects at the Object level and they'll appear on the text.

If you later decide to give the frame a fill, you can easily apply the effects to the text by dragging the FX icon from the Object level to the Text level.

Mike Rankin
Editor in Chief of, InDesign Magazine, and Author of courses on InDesign and Illustrator. Husband. Dad. Dog walker.
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4 Comments on “Why is the Effects Panel Grayed Out?

  1. Thanks Mike… I’ve actually noticed that with my effects panel before and never knew what was causing it. I think it was the cursor in my text area! :)

  2. I had an email exchange on this subject with one of the ID engineers a couple of years back. He explained that the problem (assuming you consider it one — I did) is with the InDesign DOM, and which properties and methods are exposed depending on what is currently targeted. It made sense, and my right index finger has become quite used to that J key. :-)

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