InDesign Secrets: Creating a custom bullet character

September 12, 2012

In this article, we'll show 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.

Here's a step-by-step 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).

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.

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. 

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 templatedialog 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 Characterfield indicates that your graphic is going to become the default bullet character.

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.

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.

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

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

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 itSince you only created one IndyFont character, it will be the only character you see.

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, you can update all the bullets at once.

Interested in more? Check out the the LinkedIn Learning course InDesign Secrets biweekly series. Or watch InDesign CS6 New FeaturesInDesign CS6 Essential Training and InDesign FX.

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