Why is my text highlighted in InDesign? What Color is it?

It’s frustrating when you’re working on a job and you open your file and you find a bunch of text is highlighted. There are 3 explanations. Let’s look at these now.

Text appears highlighted in InDesign because fonts are missing, substituted glyphs are checked in preferences or the Toggle style highlighter is checked on

When you open a file and text is highlighted it’s normal to get a bit panicky! Don’t fret, nothing is broken and all can be fixed.

Fonts are missing or corrupt (Pink Highlight)

The most common cause of highlighted text is fonts that are missing. When you open a document and it appears that someone has taken a pink highlighter to it, this is because one or more of your fonts are missing or have become corrupted.

This is a relatively easy fix and happens for a number of reasons.

I activate nearly all of my fonts through Creative Cloud.

It’s never a good idea to have too many fonts on the go at any one time. It slows your system and can lead to corruption problems.

When you open a file and fonts are missing they may have been deactivated within Creative Cloud.

Select the highlighted text to identify which font it is. 

Open Creative Cloud and Select Fonts

Type the name into the search bar and try and find it.

You may have to activate ‘Previously Active’

And search again. If you find that it has been deactivated this is more than likely your problem. Return to InDesign and your fonts will automatically update.

If the font you’re looking for is there but hasn’t been fixed, it could be that your font is corrupt. I have written an article on corrupt fonts and how to find them – How to find a corrupt font?

In your Windows Search Bar type in


To locate your font folder.

In the font search bar, type the name of the font. If two fonts of the same name appear, one needs to be deleted as it is causing a clash.

Look at the memory allocation. If one or both has a zero value this is a corrupt font and needs to be removed.

Uninstall this font and reinstall it onto your system through Creative Cloud. Restart InDesign and your text and fonts should now be perfect.

I wrote a post recently covering why fonts are missing in your document, which you find helpful – InDesign Missing Fonts that Aren’t Missing!

Substituted Glyphs (Yellow Highlight)

Substituted glyphs show text in your file with a yellow highlight. Not all the text will be highlighted. Usually when words are formatted in all CAPS or Small CAPS, or letters that are ligatures ‘fl’, or ‘ae’. The highlighted text is to show that within your preferences – composition – your Sub Glyphs is checked.

It is basically just an insight to tell you that some of your text has been reformatted using a preference.

This is specific to a document and not an app preference. To be honest most people only panic when they see the yellow highlight, usually a file that has been shared from another user who had toggled this preference on.

It’s easily turned off and if needs be i.e. the file is going back to the same person you can turn it back on again.

Toggle Style Override Highlighter (Cyan Highlight)

The last highlight scenario is the Cyan Blue or Teal highlight. It appears when you make a change to text when a character/paragraph style has already been applied.

It is a small [+] in the top right corner of the Paragraph or Character Style Panel.

People use style sheets for all kinds of reasons. I use them for body text in magazines and header and footer information. If you hit the [a+] and don’t have any styles attached to the particular text or have a style but haven’t altered it in any way, you will see no difference to your text whatsoever.

But if you have a style in place and you change the leading or kerning, or any aspect of the text it will now have a blue highlight.

Paragraph changes appear with a vertical bar to the left

Character changes can be seen as regular blue highlighting.  It is a local formatting script meaning the change will only occur in the text you have selected. If you change a formatting aspect within the style panel it is no longer ‘local’ but now document-wide.

As I say most people panic when they see text highlighted for no reason but it’s usually that they have hit the [a+] without even realizing it. It’s easily turned off by hitting it again. You can take it one step further by clearing all overrides within the selected text.

Any highlighted text is showing for a reason. It won’t export with the highlight showing and the only one to be concerned about is the missing/corrupt font one. (Pink)

If you export a file with missing or corrupt fonts it won’t rectify itself. In fact, your system will substitute the missing font with a system font and could totally ruin your document.

You must correct this before exporting and sending it to print.

I’ve written a lot on common InDesign issues, which might help you on your InDesign journey:

How to find a corrupt font

InDesign missing fonts that aren’t missing

Missing Text InDesign

If you are curious about other common Design problems check out our general FAQ page

Tara Cunningham

My name is Tara. I am a Graphic Designer for the last 25+ years. Designing everything from Wedding stationery to Magazines. I have been using Adobe products since I was in college and know all the tips and tricks that make life a little easier when completing a project. Hopefully you will find the answer to your question on PurpleHotKeys.com

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