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Creating Character Level Opacity in InDesign

QuarkXPress likes to brag that it can control transparency at the color/character level while InDesign can only control effects on of all of the text, stroke or fill. If you try to change the opacity or add an effect when you have text selected the effects panel will be greyed out.

Create an inline anchored object

Normally when creating outlines of text it is recommended to select the text frame with the selection tool, but if you create outlines of your text while you have it select (type menu > create outlines) it will be come an inline anchored object. This will allow you to now apply whatever effect that you wish to ?word or letter? since it is now an object.

Now that the text is an object you can apply effects to the former text (now an object).

Keeping the text editable (In CS4)

The main problem with this creating outlines is that you will no long be able to edit the text. To prevent this from happening you can create a copy of your text and apply a condition and hide it. If you ever need to edit the text you can delete the anchored object and turn on the hidden text to get it back.

Obviously this is not the simplest method for applying effects, but hopefully this will help you out. Maybe on April 12th we will find out that this work around is no longer needed.

James Fritz
James graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee in 2003. After a short stint designing catalogs he started working as a freelance designer for C2 Graphics Productivity Solutions. Soon he was promoted to a full time instructor/designer and subsequently become an Adobe Certified Instructor Design Master. Currently James is the Director of Content, Creative at where he is also an author.
James Fritz

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5 Comments on “Creating Character Level Opacity in InDesign

  1. One area where QuarkExpress is better than InDesign. And no, I’m not not (and have been) a Quark user. I hope Adobe is about to remedy this, as Quark got it just right: Opacity is a color-level attribute and should be able to be used where ever you can specify a color.

  2. I’ve tackled this a couple different ways. Although I’ve always like how InDesign automatically anchors the outline text.

    1. Enable Drag and Drop Text Editing. Command+Option drag the desired text to create a new text frame containing a copy of the text.

    2. Command+Option+C with the new text frame selected to fit the text frame to the selected text, which tucks it up to the baseline.

    3. Cut the text frame and paste immediately before the original text.

    If I’m replacing the original text, I simply delete it. I can also use the Conditional Text option to keep it around just in case. HOWEVER, if I’m working in CS3 and I do not have that option available to me I proceed with the following steps:

    4. Create and apply an object style to the anchored text frame with the following Anchored Object Custom options:
    a) Anchored Object Reference Point: bottom-left
    b) X Relative To: Anchor Marker
    c) Y Relative To: Baseline
    d) Prevent Manual Positioning (for good measure)

    I also add any effects at the time.

    5. Create a Character Style that uses a text fill of None. Apply that to the original text. The original text magically disappears, fully revealing the anchored text frame. Granted this isn’t the most dynamic, especially if the original text already had a manually applied character style, but meh.

    April 12th! April 12th! April 12th!

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