InDesign Secrets: Creating a custom bullet character

Published by | Thursday, September 13th, 2012

In this week’s InDesign Secrets episode, David Blatner shows you how to use the free IndyFont script to create one custom font character that you can use to create a custom bullet. There is also a commercial version of the IndyFont script that allows you to make complete fonts, but for our purposes today, we only need the free version that lets you make a single bullet character.

If you want to get right to watching the technique, here’s David explaining the process, video style:

If you prefer a step-by-step visual walk-through of this technique, here’s how it’s done:

Part one: Downloading and installing the IndyFont script

Installing a script isn’t as daunting as it might sound. First, and perhaps most obvious, you’ll need to download the script, which you can do by clicking here to automatically download the .zip file, or by visiting indiscripts.com.

After the file is unzipped, installing the script simply requires dragging it to the correct folder. To discover where that folder is, open the Scripts panel in InDesign (Window > Utilities > Scripts), then right-click on the User folder and choose Reveal in Finder (or Reveal in Explorer if you’re working in Windows).

The Adobe InDesign Scripts Panel with the User Folder selected

Next, open up the Scripts Panel folder and drag the script file, indyfont_demo.jsxbin, from your Downloads folder, or wherever you downloaded and unzipped it, and put it into your Scripts panel.

Moving the IndyFont script folder from the Desktop to the Scripts Panel

There’s no need to restart InDesign or perform any other acrobatics, just return to InDesign to find the script visible in the panel.

Part two: Pasting in your vector art

Next, you’ll need a piece of vector art to turn into your new character. You’ll want it to be fairly substantive and black. I thought it would be fun to use my personal light bulb doodle, a little graphic that I draw in my notebook margin when I want to mark an idea. Here’s the vector-based version of the light bulb:

Vector-art graphic of a light bulb

Note: IndyFont requires that the vector art be defined in black. (Possibly, I learned this the hard way. )

To turn this graphic into a bullet character, double-click on the IndyFont script in the Scripts panel. In the Create font template  dialog box, enter the name of your new font. (Don’t worry, it’s still a font, even if there’s only one character.) The /bullet in the Character field indicates that your graphic is going to become the default bullet character.

Create font template dialog box with the new font name highlighted

IndyFont will automatically create a new InDesign file. (One of the beauties of IndyFont is that you get to work primarily in InDesign; the weird thing is that it’s not particularly intuitive.) On the second page of that new file, there’s a place to paste your vector art. The red line represents the text baseline, and the green vertical line can be moved left and right to accommodate your artwork. It’s important that your artwork is placed between the two vertical green lines.

Vector-art graphic opened in the InDesign IndyFont script

 

Run the script again and you’ll be asked where you want to save your font. In this case, go with the default InDesign Fonts and click OK.

IndyFont save alert with OK option selected

Part three: Applying your new single-character font

When you return to InDesign, your new character will be available in any place a standard character would be. So in David’s example, he sets his new character up as a custom bullet. So let’s say I started with this boring list of our most recent InDesign weekly ideas:

The standard bold bullets in Adobe InDesign

To customize the bullets in your list, first Alt-click on the bulleted list icon in the options bar.

The Adobe InDesign options bar with the bulleted list icon highlighted

Then, in the Bullets and Numbering section of the Paragraph Style Options dialog box, click the Add button.

Bullets and Numbering section of the Paragraph Style Options dialog box

Then in the Add Bullets dialog box, navigate to your new character. It will be in the Font Family called IF (for IndyFont) and it will be named whatever name you gave it (I named my light bulb bulbosaur). Since you only created one IndyFont character, it will be the only character you see.

Add Bullets dialog box

Click OK twice to back out of the two dialog boxes, and voilà, your boring bullet has become your interesting new character. If you’ve applied a paragraph style (in this case, I’ve turned my light bulbs a nice lynda Yellow), you can update all the bullets at once:

The final result: custom lightbulb bullets in Adobe InDesign

To see these steps in action, make sure to check out the video Making a font with InDesign using the IndyFont script on lynda.com, or embedded at the top of this post. For members of lynda.com, David’s partner in InDesign secrecy, Anne-Marie Concepción also has a member-exclusive movie in the lynda.com library this week called Finding where that color is used that discusses how to find where a specific color is being used within your InDesign document.

David and Anne-Marie will be back in two weeks with more InDesign Secrets.

 

 

Interested in more?
• The entire InDesign Secrets biweekly series
• Courses by David Blatner and Anne-Marie Concepción on lynda.com
• All lynda.com InDesign courses

Suggested courses to watch next:
• 
InDesign CS6 New Features
 InDesign CS6 Essential Training
• 
InDesign Typography

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18 Responses to “InDesign Secrets: Creating a custom bullet character”

  1. Nice write-up! Do you really draw that doodle all the time? pretty slick.

  2. Andy says:

    This is simply gorgeous. Thank you!

  3. Mari Bonjus says:

    Thank you very much!! I used it on my thesis:)

  4. Skip Coryell says:

    Thanks for the procedure. But I keep getting an error message that says: “There is no artwork in any of these outlines.”

    What am I doing wrong?

    • Kristine says:

      Your vector graphic (the new bullet) has to be 100% K, as in, full black.

      I received the same error message, until I made this change.

      My question is: so these custom bullets only display in full black then? What if I want my bullet to be a colour, 75% black, etc.?

  5. Patric says:

    I’m using the latest version and have gone through every step so far until the actual saving. When I double click the script, it just opens up the setup page again. How do I actually save it?

  6. Patric says:

    Just an addition to my previous post, the OTF export button is greyed out. InDesign is showing no errors.

  7. trey hotard says:

    I have followed your simple instructions and when it is time to double click the indy font in the scripts panel in-design, In-Design CC stops working. I have tried several times. Thoughts?

    • Kikwoka says:

      Hi Trey,

      I had this problem too, I think the problem is to do with the fact that the version up for download above is not an up-to-date version of IndyFont.

      I went to indiscripts.com and downloaded the IndyFont file from there, and then followed the steps from there. It worked!

      Hope this helps,
      Kikwoka

  8. Nhule77 says:

    I’m trying to create a custom bullet using the IndyFont download in CS6 but when the dialogue box comes up for me to fill in the info the “create” button is grayed out and it won’t let me create a new font.

  9. Karla says:

    I’m trying to create a custom bullet using the IndyFont tryout in CS6 but when the dialogue box comes up for me to fill in the info the “OTF export” button is grayed out and it won’t let me create the new font.

  10. D4Derek says:

    I’ve had the same problem with export greyed out
    Turned out to be because the vector object wasn’t 100% Black

    Hope this helps

  11. Ilaiya Bharathi says:

    What if I want a number inside the bulb. So when I write the second point, the bullet should have number 2 inside the bulb. Similarly for 3rd point and so on… Is it Possible?

  12. Matt says:

    When I click on the script to run it (Mac 10.9.1 – InDesign CS6) it only make an error noise and nothing happens. No message or anything.

  13. jeremy says:

    I have made a triangle graphic a bullet no worries. Now is there a way to use the graphic in place of a full stop at the end of say a magazine article?
    I can do it now using ‘Option8′ but this just leaves a dot, can i change this and use the triangle bullet as the default?

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