In this tutorial, we are going to walk through the steps for creating table styles, using embedded cell styles for the header and body rows, and applying paragraph styles from within the cell styles to format text within those rows. This procedure helps you style and maintain your tables quickly and easily, be it for design work, research papers, business reports, or any other type of document where tables are needed.
This tutorial assumes a basic understanding of InDesign, creating tables and ideally using paragraph styles.
What are Table Styles, Cell Styles, and Paragraph Styles?
Before we get started, we should first understand what these different types of styles do.
- Table Styles: These are use for saving and reusing a wide range of properties for the table. This includes table border settings, space before and after the table, and alternating patterns for row strokes, column strokes and fills. .
- Cell Styles: These can be applied from within a Table Style and allow you to define the look and feel of specific cells within the table. Cell Styles allow the formatting of cell stroke and fill, diagonal lines and text and graphic cell properties such as inset spacing.
- Paragraph Styles: These control the formatting for paragraphs of text and can be applied within cell styles to control the look of your text within designated cells in the table.
To create a Table Style it is best to start with the Paragraph Styles, then move on to the Cell Styles, and finally create the Table Style itself.
Creating Your Paragraph Styles
Let’s start with Paragraph Styles. These apply to the text inside your cells.
- In InDesign, open the Paragraph Styles panel. This is found in the Window menu under Styles.
- Create a text frame. Add a few words of text and style it how you would like your Table Header text to look. With the text selected create a new paragraph style and call it Header Cell Text.
- Repeat step 2 only this time styling the text how you would like your Table Body text to look, and calling the style Body Cell Text.
It’s often a good idea to make the header text bold or a different size to help it stand out.
Creating Cell Styles
Now that we have paragraph styles defined, let’s move on to cell styles. This will define the look and feel of the cells that contain your text.
- Open the Cell Styles panel found under the Window menu under Styles.
- Select New Cell Style from the panel menu. This will open the New Cell Style dialog box and you can apply your paragraph style from the bottom of the dialog box. There are also additional tabs to customise strokes and fills, cell insets and diagonal lines. Call your new cell style Header Cells and apply the Header Cell Text paragraph style within it. You can also give it a coloured fill then click OK.
- Repeat Step 2, but this time call your new cell style Body Cells and apply the Body Cell Text paragraph style within it. We won’t apply a fill color this time within the cell style, so just click OK.
We now have a cell style called Header Cells containing a paragraph style called Header Cell Text, and a second cell style called Body Cells containing a paragraph style called Body Cell Text.
Creating Table Styles
Finally, let’s create the table style which in many respects brings these other elements together.
- Open the Table Styles panel one more time and from the panel menu select New Table Style.
- At the bottom of the main screen, use the dropdown boxes to select the Cell Styles we created earlier for the Header Rows and Body Rows, ignoring the other dropdowns.
- As we didn’t apply a fill color within the Body Cells, I am also going to click on the Fills section here, where I can select an alternating pattern from the dropdown found there. I will choose Every Other Row and then select Cyan with a 20% tint and Cyan with a 50% tint.
- At the top of the dialog box give your Table Style a name before clicking OK.
Using Your New Styles
To use your new style just do the following.
- From the Table menu select Create Table and then drag on the page to create a new frame containing a table.
- With the Table selected, click your table style in the Table Styles panel and you should immediately see the Fill colors of the cells change.
- Click into the cells and you should find the text is automatically formatted using the Paragraph Styles you created earlier. If it isn’t just check you haven’t got any overrides applied.
You’ve successfully created and applied table styles, cell styles, and paragraph styles. Using these can save you a lot of time and effort, especially for larger documents with many tables. Experiment a bit trying different settings as you create these and you will find they are very powerful.