Use the Erase background option to mask barlines in Sibelius


Often in published scores, we encounter text that extends beyond the barline, like in this example:


When entering an example like the above in Sibelius using Expression text, however, we initially get an unsightly collision of the text and barline:


Fortunately, this can easily be corrected. If you only have a handful of these situations in the score, you can modify them on a case-by-case basis in Sibelius 7 by selecting each offending text item and opening the Inspector (Home > Inspector). Simply switch on the Erase background option:


Your score will now look like this:


Don’t worry about the red color of the text, or the red border — these signify that Magnetic Layout is enabled for this item, and that Sibelius detects a collision with the barline (of course, we already knew that). The color or border won’t print. Still, if this bothers you, simply switch off View > Magnetic Layout > Collisions. (You can also disable Magnetic Layout for that expression by going to Layout > Magnetic Layout > Object > Off (or access the contextual menu by right-clicking the expression and choosing Magnetic Layout > Object > Off. Be aware though, if you do this, you may have to manually position the expression.)

If you use Sibelius 6, or if you have many of these items in your score in either Sibelius 6 or 7, you can create a new text style which takes on the Erase background property.

First, open the Edit Text Styles window (Sibelius 7: Text > Styles > Edit Text Styles; Sibelius 6: House Style > Edit Text Styles). Since we’re working with expression text, choose “Expression” from the menu, click New Text Style… (or just New… in Sibelius 6) and click Yes when prompted “Are you sure…”. This brings up the Staff Text Style dialog.

By default, Sibelius will name your new style “Expression (2)” but you can rename it to something more useful, like “Expression (opaque)”.

Click the Border tab and switch on Erase background. You can set sizing options below. (Sibelius 7 offers some additional options to choose the background color and default frame size.)


If you’re working in Sibelius 7, you can take advantage of the powerful hierarchical styles option (see this video for more information; start the video at 7:18). Your new “Expression (opaque)” style can inherit all the properties of your main “Expression” style. In the Font tab, where it says Based on, choose “Expression” from the list:


Then, go through each tab and systematically uncheck all the boxes so that the options are greyed out, except for the Erase background option that you had already selected. This way, if you later decide you wish to change the size or font of your expressions, you need only do it once, in the parent “Expression” style, and your “Expression (opaque)” style will automatically inherit any changes.

Once you OK out of the Staff Text Style and the Edit Text Styles dialogs, you then must “choose it to use it.” With your selection made, in Sibelius 7, go to Text > Format, and choose your newly created “Expression (opaque)” style from the ¶ menu. In Sibelius 6, open Window > Properties and choose the style from the Text section of the window.


Of course, once you’ve created this text style, and any others like it such as “Technique (opaque)”, they will be included in any House Style that you export, so that you can import them into other documents without having to newly create these custom styles for each of your scores.


  1. Derek Remeš

    Thanks for the post. I’m using the “blank background” option for text that I am placing over manually placed lines (for analysis). The problem is that the line still shows up when I export as a PDF. That is, the blanked out background of the text shows up. Any suggestions?

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