What's the easiest way to superimpose glyphs in InDesign?

I'm wanting to superimpose letters from one typeface with shapes from another typeface and to regularly use them as symbols in the text. So a solution that also allows these combinations to be saved and re-used easily would be a bonus.

  • 1
    screenshot please – Vinny Feb 17 '20 at 7:53
  • 1
    Different options. Screenshot please. – Lucian Feb 17 '20 at 8:32
  • Sounds like you are talking about inserting an inline graphic in text. Adobe calls it an "anchored object". Does this article Using anchored objects help? – Billy Kerr Feb 17 '20 at 10:16

The manual approach in @Vincent's answer might prove to be the simplest way to do this, but it is possible to somewhat automate this using GREP Style. Depending on the typefaces used and how many different symbols you need etc., it can quickly get very convoluted though. I'll just show a simple example to get you started.

Let's assume that your body text is in Minion Pro, but that you sometimes want to add the tilde from Comic Sans above an o.

If we can make a Character Style for each of those two characters which positions the tilde correctly above the o, we can use GREP Style on the Paragraph Style to automatically apply those character styles whenever the combination o~ occurs in the text.

Kerning is applied between characters and can't be saved in a character style so we have to use negative Tracking on the o to move the tilde left and (in this case) also a little positive tracking on the tilde to move the characters after back in place. Baseline Shift can be used to raise the tilde, and perhaps you also want to change the Font Size.

Now we can select the o and create a new character style called "o before tilde" and we can select the tilde and create a new character style called "tilde after o".

In the paragraph style used we can now create two GREP styles. One to apply "o before tilde" on every o that comes right before a tilde and one to apply "tilde after o" to every tilde that comes right after an o.

Now whenever you enter (or paste in) a tilde after an o, the correct styling will automatically be applied.

  • Thanks! It's complicated but I think this does it! – Jakub Jul 16 '20 at 19:20

Type the two characters after each other, then put your text cursor in between them. In the Character palette, enter a large negative kerning value until the two glyphs overlap the way you want them. Tweak the baseline shift on either of them if you need vertical adjustment.

As far as automating this, I'm drawing a blank, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were an option to output a group of characters including style at the press of a keyboard shortcut. I just haven't found it yet.

  • This seems to be the best solution so far. It's still only a partial solution so far without automation. – Jakub Jul 16 '20 at 9:13
  • @Jakub It is possible to enter your two subsequent characters as a new Text Variable (Type > Text Variables > Define...), in order to easily put it anywhere in your text. This will, however, not include the kerning and different typefaces. You'd have to do some grep to then replace that styling, if it is at all possible. – Vincent Jul 16 '20 at 10:12
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    @Jakub Unfortunately, it’s not possible to properly automate this. In each font, each glyph has a bounding box and (ideally) anchors which help the software decide where to place diacritic marks when creating composed glyphs – but those bounding boxes and anchors are unique to that font. There is no automatic way to calculate how much you need to tweak kerning and baseline shift to work for any given pair of glyphs from different fonts Wolff’s answer gets you some of the way, but each set of GREP style rules handles only one pair of glyphs, so it’s still quite inflexible. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 16 '20 at 16:05
  • @JanusBahsJacquet, you're right. With many pairs it's bound to get extremely cluttered with styles. Would be easy if the fonts were monospaced. – Wolff Jul 16 '20 at 20:06

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