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Using "negative" Unicode characters to render letters with colored background

Graham Hannington
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Mar 20, 2023

Jira markup supports setting the foreground color of an inline phrase ({color}) but not the background color.

As a (very limited!) workaround—in particular, for single-letter colored labels—I'm using "negative" characters from the Unicode block "Enclosed Alphanumeric Supplement". Of course, there are many other characters in the Unicode character set that you can also use in Jira, assuming the font that Jira uses supports them. Here, my focus is characters that can be used to render letters with a custom-colored background.



Jira markup (using color values selected in the Jira UI):


where 1F181 is the hexadecimal code point for the "negative squared" capital letter R.

The "foreground" color is applied to the "negative background" of the letter.

In Jira, you can either enter the character reference, such as 🆁, while editing in "Text" (Jira markup) mode, or copy'n'paste the actual character from elsewhere (for example, from a web browser).

You can use this technique to build entire words:




But, in my opinion, that gets onerous real quick.

There are also "negative circled" letters:


In the examples I've seen, these are smaller than the "squared" letters.



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