Graphic design isn’t always about fancy, creative, artsy stuff. In this quick tutorial I’ll show you how to replace the basic bullets in Adobe InDesign using character and paragraph styles.

For this project, I needed to replace the basic bullet character with underscores. As you can see in the first image, we’re dealing with a basic form for an eye doctor. They just need a space next to a list of options where they can put a check mark or initials.



The first thing we wanna do is go in and create a character style and name it “bullets” or something else to symbolize that this style is for your new bullets. Settings aren’t important at this point, but you can go ahead and set the “horizontal scale” to a higher percentage as we want the underscore to be longer than the default. We’ll come back to these settings later.




Next, create a new paragraph style and name it “bullets” or whatever you named your character style.



In your paragraph style, find “bullets and numbering” on the left side list of options. In the settings for bullets and numbering click add and select the symbol you’d like to use, in this case I’m using an _ (underscore). In the same dialog box, change your character style to the new one you created in step 1.



For this example, go back into your bullets character style and adjust the settings for horizontal scale to increase the length of the underscore. If you’re using a different symbol you may need to adjust a different setting accordingly and this is a great way to do that. For example, if you want a larger bullet but you don’t want to increase the text size with it, you can do that using a character style under the option “Basic Character Formats”.


You may be thinking: “this seems like such a long process for such an easy job.” Granted, I could just go in an adjust things manually for this job since it’s so simple and get the same result quicker, but in the long run, using character and paragraph styles will save you a ton of time, especially if you’re like me and work in a print shop where we set up a lot of similar forms. Just save your styles and reuse them!

Final layout:


Using character styles is a great way to customize different elements in your layout. I strongly urge designers young and old to learn about character and paragraph styles in InDesign.

Thanks for learning with me! I hope to provide more quick and to the point tutorials in the future!

Please leave a comment or contact me directly if you have a question or suggestion. Also, if there is something you’d like to learn about in Adobe InDesign or a suggestion for a tutorial, please feel free to hit me up! Thanks again!