Creative Uses for Paragraph Rules in InDesign, Pt 2

By LaurenMarie

Last time I shared a creative way to use paragraph rules in InDesign to make headers stand out; we looked at how to use them to put a block of color behind the words. This time, I was going to show you how to use both a Rule Above and Rule Below to create an effect, but when I was examining a few options, I realized that there was a much easier way to create the effect without using two rules.

Like the other style with the blocks of color, this will require some manual tweaks for each header.

I’ve set the width to column this time, unlike the previous example. I also needed to adjust the offset to get the rule where I wanted it to be vertically.

If you understood the way we did the last headers, this is very similar in that you must adjust the indents. With this style, though, unlike the last one, you’ll need to use soft returns (shift+enter) to get header text on a new line. If you use a hard return (regular enter), then you’ll get that black rule above every line.

Experiment with Rules

You can find new and interesting things to do with paragraph rules just through experimenting with all these different options. The ones that really make a difference are the Width, Offset and Left and Right Indent fields.

Here’s an idea for using a double rule:

Yes, ok, maybe that particular example is not altogether jaw-dropping, but have you ever thought about using two rules to create an overlapping effect like that?

If you want settings for this particular rule style here they are:

Note that the Rule Below overlaps the Rule Above. Stacking order matters here!

Ultimately, the point I want to demonstrate with these last two articles is that paragraph rules can be a powerful way to create interesting headers. You don’t just have to use them for the traditional solid rule above or below. Did you know there are also about a dozen different stroke styles you can choose from? Dashes, dots and even wavy lines and diamonds can add a different touch to your type.

Do you need more help with InDesign? Feel free to leave a comment below, contact me or head over to and sign up for their InDesign Tutorials. It’s only $25/mo for unlimited access! This is a resource I use myself and I highly recommend it. You can get a free 7 day pass to, now too! Just follow that link.

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