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#34 Setting Up Drop Caps and Nested Styles

Look at the first paragraph of a story in just about any magazine. Usually, at least the first letter is enlarged and embellished in some way to draw your eyes into the paragraph. In graphic design, this is referred to as a drop cap. In addition to the drop cap, the first few words or the first line might look different, often with all caps or small caps, although a font switch is becoming more common. InDesign refers to this as a nested style.

Although they appear to be applied to specific characters, both drop caps and nested styles are paragraph formats. The benefit of this is that you can use a paragraph style to apply both formats with a single click—and the formats are not dependent on any specific text. You can edit text and even delete the first character of a paragraph, and the drop cap style remains. The nested style formatting might be set up to change the font of the first four words, for example, or to change the font and size of all the words in the first sentence. Again, editing the text will not remove the nested style formatting.

Creating Drop Caps

To create a drop cap:

  1. Click in a paragraph with the Type tool to select the paragraph.
  2. In the Paragraph panel (Type menu) or in the paragraph options in the Control panel (Figure 34a), locate the Drop Cap Number of Lines dropcapnumberlines.jpg and Drop Cap One or More Characters dropcapnum-chrctrs.jpg fields.
    Figure 34a

    Figure 34a The Paragraph panel provides control over how many characters are treated as drop caps and how deep they drop into the paragraph.

  3. In the Drop Cap Number of Lines field, enter the number of lines you want the drop caps to drop into. For example, if you enter 3, the drop caps become large enough to drop down into the first three lines of the paragraph.
  4. In the Drop Cap One or More Characters field, enter how many characters you want to become drop caps.

Generally, you will only see one-character drop caps, but sometimes the number is adjusted based on the context. For example, it might be modified so the entire first word of a paragraph becomes the drop cap (and therefore you have to set the value for each paragraph). Or, if you usually use one drop cap but the first character is an open quotation mark, you might adjust that paragraph to have a two-character drop cap.

Once you have created drop caps for a paragraph, you can still select those characters and apply additional character attributes. It's pretty common to see a font or color change in a drop cap.

Creating Nested Styles

The Drop Caps and Nested Styles dialog box (Figure 34b) lets you create a drop cap, apply a character style to it, and apply a character style to the beginning of the paragraph—for example, to change the first sentence to all caps—all in one place. You can also apply character styles to specific lines—such as every third line—in a paragraph using line styles. To set up this formatting, first create any character styles you will need for the drop caps, nested styles, and line styles. Then click in the paragraph and choose Drop Caps and Nested Styles from the Control panel menu or Paragraph panel menu.

  • Drop Caps area: Set up the drop cap in the Lines and Characters fields. To apply additional formatting to the drop caps through a character style, choose it from the Character Style menu.
  • Align Left Edge check box: Certain characters, often in sans serif fonts, might appear to be out of alignment with the rest of the paragraph. If this is the case, check Align Left Edge.
  • Scale for Descenders check box: In tight leading situations, some drop-cap characters may overlap text below in the paragraph. If this is the case, check Scale for Descenders.
  • Nested Styles area: To specify formatting for the beginning of the paragraph, click New Nested Style. Select the character style for the text first, and then use the next three fields to specify how much text to apply it to. For example, you might apply a bold font to the first three words in a paragraph. Or, you might apply a different color up to an em space. You can create more than one nested style for a paragraph, which is helpful for formatting single-line paragraphs in a table of contents, for example.
  • Line Styles area: This area works much the same as the Nested Styles area. To get started, click New Line Style. Select a character style to specify the formatting for the line. Then, specify the number of lines for that formatting. To create a pattern of formatting, such as every other line, create additional line styles.
    Figure 34b

    Figure 34b The Drop Caps and Nested Styles dialog box lets you easily apply formatting within paragraphs, including drop caps and style changes such as small caps or bold.

Note that you do not have to use drop caps, nested styles, and line styles: You can specify only what you need.

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