Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Custom Bullets - How to Make Them

A pink footprint and a wine glass
from Carly's photos 

Hi! - I was wondering if you had any advice for creating custom bullets? - What is the best size? Resolution? File extension?
Carly Loewenthal,

Any image or graphics would do, I think. It all depends on how you are going to use your bullets. 

To create a custom bullet in you document, go to Text Inspector click on List tab, then click on the Bullets and numbering drop-down menu and scroll down to Custom Image.  Click Choose and select an image to make it into a custom bullet. Or you can drag the image from Desktop to Custom Image well. I've just tried Carly's 'hippie church' photo with the pink footprint and another one with the wine glass, they both work fine.  I've used PNG format that you get when you use Screenshot (Command+4 and drag crosshairs over the image on screen). 

You can also use JPEG format that digital cameras produce or PDFs that you can make from your pages document. 

General rule: use smaller, lighter files with lower resolution for web projects (72 dpi, you can check resolution in Preview) and higher resolution (300 dpi) for print projects (cards, posters etc.). 

On your Mac, have a look at the images in iChat Icons on your hard disc: HD>Library>Application Support>Apple>iChat Icons. You will see a selection of images there – flags, flowers, fruit, guitars, planets. They are .gif files, very small in size,  4 kb, but still usable as bullets in a print project. From the Gems collection I’ve used with good results the Ruby Heart – for bullets in Private Ads of the Classifieds section in my magazine when we did a Valentine's special. If you are planning to use any of the files there duplicate, but don’t remove them from the folder as this is an Application Support folder for the whole of your computer.

I've used a photo of a Christmas candle for bullets in an article on how to avoid holiday stress and a photo of a red poppy for a list of Remembrance Day (Veterans Day) events. Just a few days ago I designed images for a Q&A page in a magazine that can be used as bullets to outline Questions and Answers in the body of the text.

If you simply put a photo into the Custom Image window of the Bullets window, it will come out as a square bullet.

To make photos look round you can, in a Pages document, put your image inside a round shape: insert an oval shape, in Graphics Inspector choose 'Image Fill' and select the photo (put it onto Desktop while working on the project). Alternatively, put the photo itself in a Pages document, and Mask With Shape>Oval. This may take longer, but you have more flexibility in moving the image inside the mask – with the photo of the pink footprint I've avoided clipping the big toe. Make a screenshot of the round image (it will go on your Desktop) and choose it as custom image for bullets.
You can also remove background with Instant Alpha (if it's not in the toolbar of your document, use it from the Format menu). That way you get just the footprint without the tarmac it's painted on. Make a screenshot of the Alpha image and choose it for the Custom Image.

Update (January 2012): in OS 10.7 Lion, you can make Alpha images in Preview. Click on Tools, choose Alpha and remove background. With this new enhancement Alpha images can be created for separate use across different applications and on the internet.

Bulleted text below is an image, click on it to enlarge.

Photos are copyright material and belong to Carly Loewenthal, used with permission.


  1. Thank are awesome. Got all of my photos into ovals and hung on the Christmas Tree. Merry Christmas.

  2. Faith West4:37 pm

    What if you just want to have a check box as a bullet so people can check off from multiple choice question?

  3. Checkboxes are under Image Bullets. In Text Inspector, click on Bullets and Numbering dropdown menu and choose a checkbox from Image Bullets.

  4. Thank you! Very helpful!!


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