In InDesign if I have a paragraph style and every time I use that style I want a "colored" box behind it justified to the column width. How would you suggest doing this? Currently it's been done manually with predefined "boxes" for 1-Line, 2-Line & 3-Line depending on how long the heading is. There has got to be a way to automate this though. Perhaps using some sort of programmatic style sheet?

All I could find was this "Highlighting an Entire Paragraph with Color" which wouldn't work because the headings are centered but we want the background color to be the full column width.

Ideally, with a dynamic "height" so that it can be say 4pt above and below the text as well. Almost like padding would be if I were doing this on a website.

  • 2
    Why doesn't the Adobe tip work for you? This is exactly the solution I've used for years. Aug 13, 2012 at 17:13
  • Adobe Tip? Do you mean the link I posted? If so I said why. Otherwise I'm not sure Adobe Tip is referring to?
    – Ryan
    Aug 13, 2012 at 17:42
  • 2
    erm... use the tip you post and in than the underline options, for width choose "Column".
    – Scott
    Aug 13, 2012 at 18:15
  • Yes, by "Adobe tip" I meant "the link to InDesign Secrets which you posted." And Scott asked my followup question. Aug 13, 2012 at 18:17
  • Okay thanks, I've learned InDesign predominately on the job and being as complex as it is I still have much to learn. I'll give this a shot tomorrow. If one of you wants to make your response an actual answer with the "Column" part I'll accept it.
    – Ryan
    Aug 14, 2012 at 1:41

4 Answers 4


I think the best way of doing so is coloring the text box, set the paddings and then create an object style. In the object style you can configure the default paragraph style to use.


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The column part is in the Rules section, not in the Underline Section.

I'm not sure the Underline option will achieve what you are looking for if the paragraphs you are styling are going to have different line counts/heights.

It would however work really well if you are going to use it for headers with one or two lines. You can just set up specific style sheets for each case.

  • If you add a rule above to this method and set both rule weights to a high number, and play around a bit with the Offset, it will work with paragraphs of varying sizes. Jun 25, 2014 at 17:47

As of InDesign CC2015 a new feature was released called Paragraph Shading to address this very topic.

For basic usage you can click the Shading button on your Paragraph Formatting area:

Paragraph Shading

You can also have some control over this through Paragraph Styles:

Paragraph Shading Controls

  • Nice - and yes, this took Adobe too long. And it's ... a half-hearted attempt. If you also want lines, you can look in to DTPUtils great plugin.
    – Jongware
    Oct 6, 2015 at 15:12

If you are wanting to do this automatically and have InDesign CS6+ the only alternative is to create a script to achieve what you want.

If you're on a Mac you could always use AppleScript to record what you're doing and modify it accordingly to apply to every object in your project. So this would extend further on Marcoslhc's answer.

If you're not on a Mac you can create the script in JavaScript which could run on either Mac or PC. When I have time I will try to write the code out for you.

Documentation on Scripting

  • What did CS6+ add that older versions couldn't do this?
    – Ryan
    Jun 30, 2014 at 13:19
  • 1
    Nothing that I can tell at the moment other than all the documentation would appear to be extended on capabilities from CS6+ because all the documentation I am reading on is for CS6.. Until I can test on older versions I will stick with what the documentation is indicating.
    – user9447
    Jun 30, 2014 at 13:22

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