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Rotating Text with a Character Style

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When it comes to text formatting options in Adobe programs, InDesign is the undisputed king. And it’s not even close. For paragraph styles, InDesign offers 20 panels worth of options, to Illustrator’s 10, and Photoshop’s measly 7.

For character styles the panel scoreboard reads: InDesign 8, Illustrator 5, and Photoshop 3.

Despite the disparity, there are some things InDesign can’t do that the other programs can. Like character rotation. In Illustrator, you can select one or more characters and use the Character panel to rotate them independently of the rest of the text.

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Can’t do that in InDesign. But if you really want the ability to apply rotation at the character level, here’s what you can do. First, save the rotation in a character style in Illustrator.

Then, save that character style to a CC library.

Access that library in InDesign, and apply the character style to some text. Voila! You can apply rotation to characters in InDesign!

You can further modify the character style as you please, and use it in GREP styles, nested styles, etc.

If you do take it to this next level of complexity, I recommend editing the imported character style so all it does is the rotation. OK, maybe add some Tracking to fix any outrageous letter spacing.

But leave everything else up to the paragraph style so InDesign doesn’t get too confused. We are dealing in the black arts of undocumented features here, so best not to push our luck.

Other than that, the only downside is that you can’t change the angle of character rotation in InDesign because there are no controls for doing so. Instead, you have to go back to Illustrator and modify the style there, then save the new style in a CC library and bring it into InDesign, replacing the old style.

You can export to PDF and you still have live, rotated characters.

The rotated characters are preserved in Publish Online too. But don’t try exporting to EPUB or HTML unless you set up the rotated text to be rasterized first.

And finally, if you want to learn a whole lot more about sharing styles between InDesign and other CC apps, check out Steve Werner’s article on that topic from Issue #121 InDesign Magazine!

Editor in Chief of CreativePro and InDesign Magazine. Instructor at LinkedIn Learning with courses on InDesign, Illustrator, GIMP, Inkscape, and Affinity Publisher.
  • Steve Werner says:

    That is truly one of the best special type effects I’ve ever seen in InDesign! Definitely thinking outside the box. Who would guess that InDesign internally had the ability to rotate individual characters but not show the feature in the interface.

    I also noticed that Optical Kerning combined with tracking helps a bit with Wacky Words. Beats Metrics.

    Thanks for the mention of my upcoming article. (I also noticed you borrowed my use of different interface colors to compare application dialog boxes. I use that a lot.)

  • There is also a script to do that directly in InDesign:

    A very good and free script.

  • Frans van der Geest says:

    Not seeing that happen her in InDesign 2019 14.02, Dutch version.
    Styles get named correctly in Character Styles in InDesign when applied from the CC lib, they are applied to the text as well in InDesign, but no text rotation at all is applied in InDesign.
    Am I missing a step here?

  • Frans van der Geest says:

    See screen cap here:

    Nothing happening in Indy…!

  • Frans van der Geest says:

    Ah! wait! It was that damn GPU again!
    Refreshing the screen and it DID work!

    Anyway, if you use Keiths script, you can select the character you rotated and make an Character Style in InDesign from it, the rotation will stick!

  • Dax Castro Dax Castro says:

    Not sure when I might use this, but it is great to know it is possible. Another trick to add to my bag! Thanks!

  • Nadya Marimont says:

    Wow! Just wow!

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