Create Text Style Sheets in Apple Keynote

Posted on by Larry

Last week, I presented a webinar showing how to use Apple Keynote to create animated text. This popular session highlighted how we can animate text more easily and quickly in Keynote than using either Apple Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro; without the complexity of learning Motion or After Effects.

NOTE: Here’s the webinar: Animate Text Using Apple Keynote.

One of the questions asked during the presentation was whether we could create styles for text in Keynote. The answer is: “yes, but with limitations.” Here’s how.

NOTE: Animated text movies created in Keynote can be used in any Mac or Windows video editor. These include Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, Apple Final Cut Pro, DaVinci Resolve, Grass Valley Edius, and many others.


Keynote supports creating and modifying three different style types:

For any of these three types, we can modify existing styles or create new styles.

List illustration courtesy of Apple Support.

NOTE: Creating/modifying styles in Keynote is the same as in Pages.


By default, all text created in PowerPoint is assigned a paragraph style, based upon the slide template. For example, text associated with a single bullet is a paragraph.

To modify text, select it on the slide or slide layout, then click Format to display the Formatting sidebar (top red arrow below). Using the settings in this pane, modify how the text looks.

When you modify text in Keynote, either on a slide or slide layout, an asterisk appears next the paragraph style name. (For example, next to the word “Title” above.)

The good news is that this generally works fine, but when a paragraph style is applied to text, all the text then has the same size, color, font… etc. In other words, you can’t use this to assign only a single attribute, such as a drop shadow, to title or bullet text without all the text in that paragraph looking the same.

NOTE: Paragraph styles do not store bullet settings or bullet style attributes.


A character style is a set of font attributes—such as size, color, and styling like bold, italic, and strikethrough—that determines how specific selected text looks. When you style text to look a certain way, you can then save that look as a custom character style so that you can easily apply it to other selected text in your presentation, without affecting non-selected text in the same paragraph. (For example, you could bold a single word without bolding all words.)

However, character styles also seem to include other attributes:

In other words, while I can apply a character style within a paragraph, that character style can’t be isolated to a single attribute. I can’t add a drop shadow, for instance, without also changing the color or font of the text.


Drop shadows are essential to improve text readability. However, after multiple tests, I have not found a way to save only drop shadow attributes to a character style. Doing so would allow us to add a drop shadow without changing the font or color.

You can save drop shadow attributes using either paragraph or character styles, however doing so also saves and applies font, font size, alignment and color attributes to whatever text is selected.

There seems to be no way to apply a drop shadow setting without other text  style elements also changing.


A list style determines whether bullets or numbers are applied to a paragraph and, if so, what they look like.

Just as paragraph and character styles don’t include bullet styles, List styles do not include paragraph or character styles. They just affect the look, size and spacing of the bullets themselves.

Bullet shapes include:

NOTE: If you select Text bullets, then apply a drop shadow, or other effect, to the text, that same drop shadow is applied to the bullet. Most often, that drop shadow, as illustrated here, will look weird. You can not apply drop shadows to text without them also applying to bullets accompanying the text.


NOTE: You also use this same menu to delete unwanted styles.


While these styles make it easy to style text similarly, it is not possible to, for example, add a drop shadow, without also changing the font, font size and color of the font.

From my perspective, because it is not possible to separate formatting elements, for example apply drop shadows or specific text colors, without also changing other elements of the selected text, such as font or font size, I find these styles to be less helpful than they could be.

Still, these exist, they tend to work reliably and, if you are looking for ways to make your text look more consistent, these are a good place to start.

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2 Responses to Create Text Style Sheets in Apple Keynote

  1. Dave McCollum says:

    Larry wrote:
    “While these styles make it easy to style text similarly, it is not possible to, for example, add a drop shadow, without also changing the font, font size and color of the font.”

    This is incorrect. You can create a character style that only changes the drop shadow (as you wanted).Having saved the custom style, you can, of course, assign it to one of the function keys as a shortcut. Then, you can select a character, or characters, even the paragraph bounding box, and apply the custom drop shadow style, all without changing the font face, size, etc.

    Thanks again for the webinar, Larry. Perhaps, another webinar could cover more advanced animation techniques and examples in Keynote, particularly for objects and images.

    • Larry says:


      Thanks for your comment, but I can’t replicate your results. I spent a half-hour when writing this tutorial trying to find a way to only change the drop shadow. Whenever I did, either the font or font color would change as well.

      I got the same results whether the font was black or a color. It was very frustrating.


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