InDesign Table Styles: step by step tutorial

by Stefano Bernardi 5 minutes to read

Note: This is Part 3 of a three-part series on InDesign tables. Part 1 is about the three ways to create a table in InDesign. Part 2 is on how to import a linking spreadsheet that you can update from Excel.

InDesign table styles

Let’s learn how to use InDesign Table Styles with a quick exercise. We are going to create the styles we need to lay out the table we’ve seen in the previous post “How to link a file Excel to InDesign”.

Please download the Excel table from here.
Import an Excel file into InDesign: table in Excel

Let’s create the InDesign Table Style by clicking on the icon Create New Style in the Table Styles menu in the panels to the right.
(If you can’t see the menu, turn it on by clicking on Window > Styles > Table Styles.
Import an Excel file into InDesign: create new Table Style

Place the table into InDesign with the InDesign Table Style we just created (remember to check “Show Import Options” when you select the file).
Import an Excel file into InDesign: table with alternate pattern

The first thing we are going to do is apply an alternating pattern to the table rows.

Double-click on Table Style 1 to edit the new InDesign Table Style.
Import an Excel file into InDesign: edit Table Style

Click on Fills and set Alternating Pattern to Every Other Row. Make sure that the row colors are set like in the screenshot. One color is set to Black 20%. The other is set to None. Then click OK.
Import an Excel file into InDesign: set alternating pattern

Here is your table.
Import an Excel file into InDesign: alternating background pattern

InDesign lets you use Table Styles and Cell Styles to lay out your tables. Table Styles and Cell Styles allow you to set different attributes to your table. We just saw how to apply an alternating background pattern, which is something you can achieve with a Table Style. There are other layout settings that you can’t achieve with Table Styles where you can decide to use Cell Styles.

For example, you cannot use a table style to change the border color of interior cells. Instead, create a cell style and include it in the table style.

Now we are going to create the Cell Styles for the Header and the Body of the table.

I’ve already created two Paragraph Styles that I am going to link to the Cell Styles. If you want to create them too, below are the properties. Otherwise you can download this ZIP file and keep following the guide with it.

header-text: Myriad Pro + Bold + size 11pt + color: C=15 M=100 Y=100 K=0 + all caps

body-text: Myriad Pro + size 11pt

Let’s create the Header Cell Style

Create the first Cell Style by clicking on the icon Create New Style in the Cell Styles menu in the panels to the right.
(If you can’t see the menu, turn it on by clicking on Window > Styles > Cell Styles.)
Import an Excel file into InDesign: create new Cell Style

Double-click on Cell Style 1 to edit the new InDesign Cell Style.
Import an Excel file into InDesign: edit Cell Style

In General, change the name of the Cell Style into “header-row” and set Paragraph Style to “header-text.
Import an Excel file into InDesign: change name and set paragraph style

 Click on Text and set Cell Insets to 3mm to Top, Bottom, Left, and Right.
Import an Excel file into InDesign: change cell insets

Click on Stroke and Fills, and set all the strokes to 0pt. Then select ONLY the bottom cell stroke, and set it to 1pt, color = red, type the first solid one, then click OK.
Import an Excel file into InDesign: change strokes

Want to get better at InDesign?

Sign up today for free and be the first to get notified on new tutorials and tips about InDesign. Immediately get a useful InDesign Shortcut Cheat Sheet sent to your inbox.

Let’s create the Body Cell Style

Create the second Cell Style and in General, change the name of the Cell Style into “body-row” and set Paragraph Style to “body-text”.
Import an Excel file into InDesign: change name and set paragraph style

Click on Text and set Cell Insets to 3mm to Top, Bottom, Left, and Right.
Import an Excel file into InDesign: change cell insets

Click on Stroke and Fills, and set all the strokes to 0pt, then click OK.
Import an Excel file into InDesign: change strokes

 

Let’s update the Table Style

Now we change the Table Style so that the table uses the two Cell Styles we created.

Double-click on Table Style 1 (Table Styles menu). In General, change the Cell Styles properties Header Rows to “header-row” and Body Rows to “body-row,” then click OK.
Import an Excel file into InDesign: change Header Rows and Body Rows

This is what the table looks like right now. We want to set the first line as header.
Select the first row, right-click and select Convert to Header Rows.
Import an Excel file into InDesign: convert to header rows

Let’s adapt the columns so that the table looks a little bit better.Import an Excel file into InDesign: table with the style

Next time you import a table, you will be able to use the InDesign Table Style we just created.

The only operations you will need to do are:

  • Convert to header the rows you want as header
  • Set the width of each column

InDesign table styles — templates

Here you can download the file InDesign (.idml file format) with the table and all the Styles we just created: download InDesign table styles template

Must-know InDesign Keyboard Shortcuts

Command  OS X Windows
Insert a table in InDesign Alt + Cmd + Shift + T Alt + Ctrl + Shift + T
Insert rows to a table in InDesign Cmd + 9 Ctrl + 9
Insert columns to a table in InDesign Alt + Cmd + 9 Alt + Ctrl + 9
Place a file (image, spreadsheet, etc) into InDesign Cmd + D Ctrl + D

Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with future posts or major updates. If you have questions feel free to post them in the comments. If you liked the post, I'd really appreciate you sharing it!

Stefano Bernardi
Stefano Bernardi

Stefano has worked on numerous mid to large–sized InDesign projects for Alstom, DeLonghi, Philips, and many others before starting Redokun in 2015.
As Redokun’s Co-Founder, Stefano spends most of his time helping customers to optimize their InDesign work-flow. He also holds in-house InDesign courses for companies in the Venice, Italy area.

19 Tips To Optimize Your InDesign File For Translation (Free eBook)

Free InDesign eBook
A short guide for InDesign users who work on multilingual projects. It'll give you an exhaustive look into the issue of creating an InDesign document ready for translation.

Get your multilingual projects done faster with Redokun. Free for 14 days.