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A Simpler Rounded Rule Technique

Hot on the heels of Episode 49, I received an e-mail from Adi Ravid, an Adobe Certified Expert in Israel, who pointed out a much better method for creating rounded Paragraph Rules. Shortly thereafter, my friend Birgit Stolte in Germany popped up on iChat to remind me that she had already mentioned the same tip to me some time ago. I’m embarrassed to admit that not only didn’t I think of this technique myself, but I completely forgot that I’d been told about it before.

Adi was nice enough to let me share his description of the technique here on the blog, so here goes:

1. From the Stroke panel menu, choose Stroke Styles, then click the New… button.

Creating a new Stroke Style

2. In the New Stroke Style dialog box, choose Dash for the rule type.

3. Set the Length of the dash to be the same as the Pattern Length (both 2 picas in this example).

4. For the Cap, click the middle icon (Round Cap).

New stroke options for rounded cap stroke

5. Give the rule a name and click OK.

Now, at the bottom of the Stroke Type menu (wherever it appears in InDesign), you’ll have a new option for your rounded cap stroke.

New rounded stroke in Stroke Type menu

After that, all of the techniques I discussed in Episode 49 still apply, but instead of using two rules to get a rounded cap, you only need one, which opens up possibilities for combining rounded cap rules using rules above and below, and underlines (where the new stroke is also an option) to create double and triple rounded stroke effects like these.

Double and triple rounded rule effects in InDesign

An added tip of my own: If you always want to have a round cap rule available from the Stroke Type menu, create your new Stroke Style using the method above when you have no documents open. Every new document you create from that point will include this stroke option.

Download a sample of this technique (InDesign Interchange file | 136 KB)

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23 Responses to “A Simpler Rounded Rule Technique”

  1. Hi Michael,

    One additional technique, that doesn’t require creating a custom rule or leaving the paragraph rules dialog pane, is selecting a dotted rule from the rule type pull-down and assigning the same color to both the rule and its gap.

    This also works with a single word or phrase within the paragraph by using the technique on an underline. Then you can create a “lozenge” to highlight one word, a figure number, or create a character style nested in a paragraph style to add a unique run-in header.


  2. Excellent point, Steve. This just keeps getting simpler!

    For the “lozenge” effect with an underline, you’d need to also apply the underline to the space before and after the “highlighted” text — preferably a larger white space like an En space — to give it the appropriate amount of padding on its left and right sides and have the round cap clear the text itself.


  3. Another excellent podcast Michael.

    Something I use a combination of rule above and below for is when a header paragraph designed to have a tinted BG (paragraph rule) could run over two lines.

    Using the application of Rule Above and Rule Below, allows for display of the Rule Above for a single line paragraph (hiding the Rule Below), and when the paragraph runs over two lines the Rule Below appears as the BG colour for the second line.



  4. Now would there ba a similar technique for creating “folder tabs”. Have a client that did a design with tabs, if the corners were straight or rounded I could use this even if it was round on top and square at bottom, but unfortunately they did it with : _/––– \____ (excuse crude alpha graphics) and rounded corners just to complicate things. I cannot figure out how to get it efficient.

  5. Lukas — It’s really tough to tell what you’re asking from the phrasing of the question. Can you e-mail me a JPEG of the effect you’re trying to achieve?

  6. I just started learning from your indesign podcasts. I am hooked. My question now is all the cs2 podcasts apply to the cs3 indesign? I do infact feel for you when you tryed to import Quark to indesign cs2. I tryed with a catolouge at one time I had to open as to get it in then re attach the pictures to make it right, but still to many steps. Thank you for all the great advise I do plan on getting Adobe Certified. I dont know any other designers arround me that are even credible that way. That or there beeting them selfs up by not applying indesign in their lives.

  7. Wow, Michael- between this episode and the great alternatives in the comments, I have to say that this one was worth the wait! Your podcasts, along w/ indesign secrets are always one of the highlights of my week. I’m excited to see what you have in store for episode 50. Thanks for all you do!

  8. I was going to mention the dotted rule with the same color gap, but someone already beat me to it.

    I have found another handy use for paragraph rules as well and that is for highlighting. You can do different paragraph styles using rules or character styles using the underline command for words within a paragraph for different colors. It makes a great highlighter. I have also used this technic for finding instances of a paragrah style that I could not find easily. (especially if it is someone else’s document that you are working with) You can attach a large and bright rule to the paragraph style and then quickly scroll through your document to find it.

  9. Hi Michael,
    I’m allways “on the lookout” of your podcast, they’re very interesting.
    But, this time, this method doesn’t work at all with my French indesign CS2 version. The yellow color go under the 2 others colors! And this is the same way on the other CS2 of my team.

  10. Stephane —

    This must be something unique to the French version (or possibly to other language versions). I have tested the same techniques in the U.S. English version of InDesign CS2 and the behavior is exactly the same: Rule Above at the back, Rule Below on top of that, Underline on top of all.

    Anyone else out there having the same issue in a different language version?

  11. Eugene Tyson says:

    Mmmm. International English version here. Works a treat. Helped someone out yesterday with a problematic file where objects wouldn’t ungroup after being grouped. Turned out to be a plugin was causing it, turning off the plugin resulted in normal InD behaviour.

    Could be something similar?

  12. Hi Mike,
    just for information: on June 19th (in this thread), i said it doesn’t works with a mac and a French CS2 (i don’t know why at this time!).
    So this week, i had open your file on a PC this time and with a CS3 version. 😉 FORTUNATELY, it’s look pretty good.

  13. Michael, great episode – i love it when the fundamentals are so versatile. I have a question re a problem i have been experiencing and i’m not sure if it is my software or whether i’m missing the obvious. One of my clients supplied me with text for a book i am laying out for them. They were kind enough to supply me with a MS Word file including page breaks but also had double paragraph breaks to separate paragraphs. These i had to reduce to single para breaks. I used find and replace GREP – find’\r\r’ replace with ‘\r’. Unfortunately this removed the page breaks (~R) as well? Do you know why this could be?

  14. Lasso —

    I tested out your problem and the same thing happened on my end. Here’s what it boils down to: since all break characters are “end of paragraph” characters, the \r metacharacter matches all break characters (line, column, frame, page and standard carriage return). This happens with both Text and GREP searches. While you can specifically search for any of those break characters using its unique metacharacter (~R for Page Break, for example), the \r can’t distinguish between any specific break type.

    My recommended workaround for your particular problem is to first do a search for the page break character (~R) and use Find/Change to insert something unique like a bullet character (or even some text like PAGEBREAK that couldn’t possibly appear anywhere else in your text) in front of it. Then, do a second find change for all of the double returns using the \r\r method. The page break characters won’t be matched because they’re preceded by the unique text you put in. Once all of the double returns have been removed, do one more search to remove the unique character or text you put in before the page breaks.

    It’s not perfect, but it’s the only way around the problem.

  15. Michael,
    Thank you for taking the time, i appreciate the effort – sounds like a plan!
    Christiaan, SA

  16. Eugene Tyson says:

    I thought ~b was for carriage returns? Would that search work?

  17. Eugene, you are the man! That worked perfectly. A search for ~b~b removes all of the standard returns but leaves all of the page breaks intact. Thanks a million!

  18. Eugene Tyson says:

    Hey that’s great, glad to be of service 🙂

  19. Thanks for all these episodes and threads on paragrah rules, I use them frequently, but as I see now, I just scratched at the surface. Great stuff. However, keep in mind that paragraph rules are deleted when you apply “Create Outlines” to the text. So if for any reasons you have to convert all your text to outlines, all paragraph rules will disappear (also applies to fill colours of text frames as well as some other niceties)… as far as I know. If there’s a way to convert text to outlines and keep the paragraph rules (or keep the _appearance_, at least when exported as an EPS), I’d be glad to hear about it 😉

  20. Marc Blackburn says:

    I have noticed that there is a little problem with the method of creating custom rounded rules as shown.

    Though it’s not overtly advocated, the screen shots show leaving the Corners field to Adjust dashes and gaps. I have found that at specific line length to rule weight ratios this can result the join between dots becoming visible. The dots show some cleavage.

    The effect is more pronounced and probably easier to replicate if Adjust gaps only is selected. I can’t see any problem with None, but I assume Adjust dots is the safest choice.

    PS re “This just keeps getting simpler” Isn’t it simpler to to define a rounded corner rule than to have to select both rule and gap colours each and every time?

  21. Is there any way to create a custom stroke style with a different cap on each end, e.g. a rounded cap on one end and a butt cap on the other?

    I’m trying to use the underline function to highlight text and I want the highlight rounded on one end and flat on the other.

  22. Nikhil — Unfortunately, there’s no way to define a non-uniform cap for the ends of a stroke. Both sides must be the same. you can fake it for a Paragraph Rule, combining rule above and rule below settings, but paragraph rules will not serve as underlines.