I'm looking for a free software (maybe even open-source) which can handle similar effect to Paragraph Shading in InDesign - which is working magnificent.

InDesign example:


Heading 2 is based on Heading 1 and only Font Size is changed. This is what I'm after.

Affinity Publisher example:


Publisher is not to shabby. It has Decoration option which is great to the point when Font Size change. It's passable though.

What else I've tried:

  • Scribus - not even close. There is highlight without any padding/inset.
  • InkScape - no options.
  • Gimp - as above.
  • Krita - as above.
  • LibreOffice Writer/Draw - Writer has nice hackish solution by adding borders with the same color as highlight with inset. BUT. Adding images, page backgrounds and cropping them in Writer is pure nightmare. Worth mentioning is a fact that this do not work in Text Frame but it works ok in... Shape. So it's a no go. Draw dosen't have this options.
  • Google Slides - yes, I've tried it.


I've also checked Gravit, Canva, Vectr and gazillion more different apps. I'm stunned that such simple option is so hard to achieve. Even in CSS it's not straightforward.

Am I missing something obvious in here?

  • Before Paragraph Shading was added to InDesign you could just make a thick Underline and adjust its offset instead. Maybe that's possible in one of the applications you mention? Like this.
    – Wolff
    Apr 12, 2020 at 22:04
  • 1
    What about an underline + spaces (perhaps non-breaking or "thin" spaces)? counteracted down vote -- guessing, that this may read as essentially shopping list question - although a very specific item to be "shopped".
    – Scott
    Apr 12, 2020 at 22:16
  • 1
    @cgslav I did not do the downvote but it seems to me you may have stepped on some toes when you bashed some users' favourite tools. The fact that you did not manage in Inkscape, does not mean it is not possible. Mainly you are not explaining what you need: One-word-headlines? Real publications? For print? For digital media? Your range of tests is amazing but I cannot even guess what your project is. Or is all this theory and you need a free tool which is just as wonderful as professionally made InDesign? I want a free Porsche... Apr 14, 2020 at 7:07
  • 2
    Nearly all the software you mentioned is capable of creating similar results, but many of them do not have paragraph styles at all - so that's a dead end. Instead of expecting software to work the way you want it to, you need to be a bit more flexible and learn how to use the tools it does provide. I don't want to be overly critical here, but expecting beginners to be able to use complex design software it asking bit much, the software just wasn't designed for that purpose. Most ordinary (non-designer) people have difficulty enough using a simple word processor.
    – Billy Kerr
    Apr 14, 2020 at 11:08
  • 2
    Also your not really explaining your goal. Seem to me that equating scribus and krita on the same page is weird, the dont even work on the same principles. I mean if your goal is to just make raster images use imagemagic.
    – joojaa
    Apr 15, 2020 at 8:49

2 Answers 2


Your goal is a bit opaque. Being able to do this in krita is not useful for DTP like scribus is because its pixel based. Also i dont think the HTML version is too complex. So what is the purpose of the comparison.

I mean you could easily do this in open ended software like Tex. Postscript can do this. You can also do this within the normal usability parameters of something like blender or maya. Just that those would't fulfill your expectations of easiness because they are generally geared to be harder to use due to extensibility and dont fill your expectations. Due to the software you have picked you could also use stuff like imagemagic etc etc.

Its a stunningly simple effect.. sure however its still just any of the millions of possible effects. Why would this particular effect be any more important than:

enter image description here

These were all auto generated. Software implement what they implement if you want something that you can extend use something designed to extension. I this critical for any of those applications? No, even InDesign couldn't do this for ages! So roll back 3 years and even InDesign couldn't. Nice sure...

This is just the border of what you can expect traditional top down software model to do for you. It very common that the answer to the question do X in Y is unsatisfactory due to the randomness of feature sets. The best you can do is accept the software you have.


You might consider trying Scribus again and using spaces to control your horizontal colour padding to any precise custom value. You have a large range of different spaces available for this, and the "advanced settings" in the Text Properties tool.

The horizontal padding in your InDesign example is not symmetrical right versus left. Assuming that is intentional. If you need even more control, please edit your question re how and why.

In your question you are showing a classic vertical padding. The vertical padding given by Scribus is rather close to the InDesing examples you are showing and is "nicer" than the Affinity Publisher or Google Slides examples you show as inacceptable for you.

If you want to have total control and you want to achieve special padding, then you will not find automatic settings in Scribus. Python plug-ins can be created, as Scribus is open and if this is really important to you, it can be done. Somebody has to spend the man-hours (like Adobe has done), to copy such specific features.

  • The sidebearing of that final '1' distorts the InDesign result. Using Lining numbers there avoids this.
    – Jongware
    Apr 14, 2020 at 7:59
  • Scribus will not allow to control top/bottom padding. Please stay on topic and do not assume things about me, ok? I've spent to many years in graphic design to learn about "different spaces", that's purely offensive.
    – cgslav
    Apr 14, 2020 at 22:27

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