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Author David Blatner provides in-depth training on InDesign CS5, the print and interactive page layout application from Adobe, in InDesign CS5 Essential Training. The course shows how to create new documents with strong and flexible master pages, precisely position text and graphics, prepare documents for print, and export designs as interactive PDF or Flash SWF files. Exercise files are included with the course.
There is a debate among designers as to how important it is to align your baselines across columns or even across pages. For example, on this spread, if I zoom in on here, you can see that these baselines don't align. This one is lower, then higher, then lower again. We can see that really clearly if we drag this ruler guide over one of these baselines. Now you can see that it's totally off. There are a number of ways to fix this, but one of the most common is to force your paragraphs to snap to an underlying baseline grid.
Now every document has a baseline grid automatically and you can see it by going to the View menu, choosing Grids & Guides, and then choosing Baseline Grid. In this document, we can see that the grid is gray. You see those gray lines showing up behind the text? You can customize that grid by going to the Preferences dialog box. On the Mac, you go to the InDesign menu, on Windows it's under the Edit menu, and you choose Preferences > Grids. This document's baseline grid is set up to be a light gray color. I can change it to any color I want. I'll choose Pink.
You can tell InDesign where you want it to start. In this case, it's starting at the top margin of each page. And how much to increment. This is really the important value. You want to set your increment to your basic body text leading. In this case, most of the text in this document is set to 12-point leading. So I'm going to make sure this is set to 12 points too. The last item, View Threshold, has to do with when can you see that baseline grid and when can you not see it. I'll show you what I mean. I'll click OK. You can see that my baseline grid turned pink and right now I'm looking at this at 200% view.
I can see that up here in the application bar. If I set this back to 100%, I can still see that baseline grid, but if I go back to 50% it disappears. That's the View Threshold kicking in. I have to be 70% or closer in order to see that baseline grid. Let's go back to 200% view, so we can see what happens when we turn on the Align to baseline grid feature. I'll switch the Type tool by double- clicking and make sure the cursor is flashing inside of a paragraph. Then I'm going to go up to the Control panel and click on the Align to baseline grid feature.
That's the one that looks like two columns that are lined up. When I click on that, you can see that the entire paragraph gets snapped to that baseline grid. Every line sits on the grid. So now these lines match with these lines. That's because it's part of the same paragraph. If I wanted these to be aligned on that grid, I'd have to select those paragraphs too. Let's go ahead and do it. Now everything on this page is snapping to the grid. Well, everything except for this blue text. Let's go move that. Let's go ahead and apply it to this paragraph.
I'll place my cursor in there, turn on Align to baseline grid, and something bad happens. What happened here? Well, the leading in this paragraph is 15 points. I can see that over here in the right side of the Control panel or if I go to Character Mode. That's a little bit easier to see in Character Mode. I can see over in the left side this is 10-point text on 15 points of leading. That is, InDesign is trying to put 15 points of leading between this line and this line, but it can't do it because the baseline grid is 12 points apart.
So InDesign says, "well, I'll give you the next best thing and I'll jump to the next baseline grid," so I'm getting text on every other baseline grid instead of each baseline grid. Now I could change the leading for this whole paragraph to 12 points, but that would make the text too close in this paragraph. So I want to strike a happy medium here. I would like the first line to be aligned to the baseline grid and then I'll go ahead and leave the rest of the lines to fall where they may. To do that, I make sure the paragraph is selected or the cursor is flashing in it and I go to the Control panel flyout menu and choose Only Align First Line to Grid.
This only works if the rest of the paragraph is already aligned to that grid. There we go! Now the first line is aligned to the grid and the other lines are just kind of falling beneath it at that 15-point increment. In general, I feel that ensuring consistent baselines is important, but not so important that I'm really going to lose sleep over it if some of my baselines don't line up. But if you really care about snapping all those lines into place, the Baseline Grid feature definitely helps.
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