Indesign Baseline Grid

When making the final tweaks to a document in Adobe Indesign many designers will align the text to a Baseline Grid. This feature will ensure that the baseline of each line of text in adjacent columns line up with each other.

What is this baseline? This is a publisher's term for an invisible line which runs along the bottom of each line of text. The baseline grid is the regular pattern of such lines on each page of the document. We first need to check the leading value of our text copy before we can align the document's text to the baseline grid.

To do this we choose the Type tool and select a paragraph or so of text. Now we make note of the leading value in the top Control panel. This is located directly below the text height, so that for a text height of 11points, for example, the leading value could be 16 points. By default the leading will be 120% of the text height, so that a text height of 10 points will show a leading value of 12 points. This is also indicated by the (brackets) around the leading value. Sometimes the leading will read Auto, which is the same thing.

Having established the leading value of the body text, we go to the top Edit drop-down menu and choose Preferences. If you are using the Apple Macintosh version of Indesign you go to the Indesign drop-down menu and choose Preferences. In both cases we then select Grids and Baseline Grid. In the dialog box which then opens, go to the Increment every field and type in the document's leading value, for example 16 points. We must ensure that we enter a value in points and not in millimeters. The latter may appear as the default. We then choose the Type tool again, insert it into the body of text, and press Control (or Command on the Mac) and hit the A key to select all of the text in the "Story" (Ctrl+A).

Now we move to the Paragraph formatting option at the top Control panel and click on the icon that resembles two lined-up columns, or look for the tool tip which reads Align to baseline grid. Please note that in the CS4 version of Adobe Indesign this button was, for some reason, removed from the Control panel. In this case the user must go into the actual Paragraph panel (Window > Type > Paragraph) to select the Align to baseline grid option.

When using this feature we must be careful if also using the Space After and Space Before features of the Paragraph formatting, since this will ignore the baseline grid alignment. They are incompatible features and should not be used together.

Certain parts of document you may not wish to align to the Baseline Grid, for example, pull-quotes, and headers. In such cases we would simply pick out those lines of text one by one, after the baseline grid has been applied to the whole document, and apply the Do Not Align to baseline grid icon which is located below the main icon.

Tom Gillan has been training Indesign to corporate clients in Sydney for seven years. You can learn more about Indesign at Design Workshop Sydney.

This article was published on 11 Jun 2016 and has been viewed 588 times
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