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Making a Text Highlighter


Roger wrote:

In MS Word, you can make text look as if it’s been highlighted with a highlighter marker. It’s a handy feature when you’re trying to emphasize text in, let’s say, an article. Can I do that same type of thing in InDesign?

Absolutely! Just press the Highlighter button! (Sorry, just kidding.) The trick to making a highlighter effect in InDesign is the Custom Underline feature, which you can find by choosing Underline Options from the Control panel menu when the panel is in character formatting mode. Or, even faster, you can open this dialog box by Option/Alt-clicking on the Underline icon in the Control panel. Don’t forget to also check the Underline On box to activate the underline.

Unfortunately, when you select some text to apply this effect, it’s often difficult to accurately view the effect you’re trying to achieve (even with the Preview option selected). So, when creating an effect like this, it’s often a good idea to choose Window > Arrange > New Window for [filename] — this way you can work on the highlighted text but also see the effect in another window on your screen.

Anyway, once you have some text selected and the Custom Underline dialog box open, you can give the text a thick, yellow (or any color) underline. Then adjust the Offset to set the highlight in the position you want vertically. Try using black as your highlight color to create a redacted look or set the line type to dots and fill the gap with the same color to create rounded ends.

InDesign underline options dialog box

Here’s a sample of this highlighting effect (before and after):

text without and with highlighting in InDesign

Now here’s the important part: After you make one of these, save it as a character style! (Just Option/Alt-click on the New Character Style button in the Character Styles panel, then give it a name and click OK.) As long as the character style attributes are set to only apply this custom underline effect, you’ll never have to go through the trouble of making one again — just copy that character style from this document to wherever else you need it.

We are refreshing our oldest and most popular posts with updated information and screenshots. This post on making a text highlighter was originally published January 3, 2007. For the most current comments scroll to the bottom of the page.

David Blatner

David Blatner

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at
David Blatner

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66 Comments on “Making a Text Highlighter

  1. David, do you know if there’s a way of tuning the way we highlight more precisely? For example, I have some code in my text and I want it to be highlighted. I want a left and right padding to be present and also the corners of the highlighting rounded. Is there a way to do it?

  2. David, you are the best. I used your Lynda tutorials to learn InDesign and every question I google, you’re there! INDESIGN KING.

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