Automatic Numeric Badges in InDesign

At Black Pixel, we’re constantly sharing product ideas with our clients. It’s important to be able to do this consistently and efficiently while maintaining a polished and professional appearance. I found a way to do this with product features by adding numeric badges and captions using InDesign and a free custom font called Numberpile.

Here’s an example of what it looks like:

Simply by dragging and dropping, I have numbered badges that increment automatically. I can include these badges in paragraphs by typing a number between parenthesis, such as (1), (2), and all the way up to (199).

Download this sample InDesign file and try it for yourself. Everything is already configured for you. Read below for instructions on how to recreate the configurations.

Step 1: Get the Numberpile Font

A sample of Numberpile’s alphabet.

Numberpile is one of many fantastic free fonts by Ray Laramie, the designer behind Typodermic Fonts. At first glance, Numberpile looks like a font made of numbers inside circles. It is — but with ligatures it is so much more.

According to the font’s website, “If your application supports OpenType standard ligatures, you can type circled numbers by surrounding them in parentheses. For example: typing (100) will convert automatically to a circled 100.”

My testing indicates this is valid for whole numbers 1 through 199. The one exception, which might be a bug in the font, is that typing (99) will return a badge with 88.

Step 2: Set up InDesign Styles

In a new or current InDesign document, create a Character Style using the configurations below. We are telling InDesign how we want our number badges to look. I’ve named this character style Numberpile Digit.

Font Family: Numberpile
Font Style: Regular
Baseline Shift: -1pt
Character Color Fill: RBG Blue
Character Color Stroke: RBG White

Next, modify the paragraph style used to write our labels. In my case, it’s the default [Basic Paragraph] style.

GREP Style Apply Style: Numberpile Digit
GREP Style To Text: \(\d+?\)

If you’re not familiar with GREP Styles, I highly recommend you take the time to learn about this powerful text tool. The code in this case literally means: Apply Numberpile Digit to any one or more numbers between parenthesis.

You can now test this by creating a new text box and typing in it. Be sure that you’re using the paragraph style you just modified and [None] is selected in the Character Styles panel. Type any whole number from 1 to 199 between parenthesis to see it turn into a Numberpile badge.

We create a new paragraph style for our drag-and-drop number badges. I’ve named this paragaph style Numberpile List.

List Type: Numbers
List: Create a new list called Numberpile List
Format: 1, 2, 3, 4…
Number: (^#)
Character Style: Numberpile Digit
Mode: Continue from Previous Number

Here’s the trick: create a new text box using this paragraph style and press the spacebar once. You should see a badge immediately appear to the left of the space. We are cleverly reappropriating a number list as a sequence of automatically updating badges. I highly recommend taking this text box and adding it to a library, such as a CreativeCloud library. That way, you’ll be able to quickly drag, drop, and reuse this object.


This should keep your annotations quick, simple, and consistent. If you haven’t already downloaded the sample file, you can recreate the settings using these steps above.