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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.
Much of the art of design revolves around drawing the eye to where you want the reader to go and one of the best ways to draw the eye to the beginning of a story or a section is with a drop cap. InDesign lets you easily apply a drop cap to any paragraph and even automatically change the drop cap styling. Now the most direct path to a drop cap is the Control Panel. Let's see how it works. I'll zoom-in on this paragraph and I want to apply a drop cap at this letter N. To do that, I'll double-click to switch to the Type Tool and then I'll make sure that the cursor is flashing inside this paragraph.
Now I go to the Control Panel, making sure that it's in Paragraph mode and I can set the drop cap here. Right now, it's set to 0, which means no drop cap. I'm going to change it to 3 and then hit Enter or Return, that's it; I've got a drop cap. Now there are a few ways to fine-tune that drop cap, however. So let's take a look at that next. To adjust a drop cap, go to the Control Panel fly-out menu and choose Drop Caps and Nested Styles. Let's move this big dialog box out of the way so we can see what we're doing.
Here at the top you can see that our drop cap is going to drop 3 lines and it's going to be 1-character long. Most drop caps are only a single character but if you want to make this longer, you can. Let's change this to 2 and you can see that the entire word No is now a drop cap. You can make this as many characters as you want really. Let's set it back down to 1 though. One problem with setting a drop cap is this really huge character ends up being indented very slightly from the left edge. That looks a little bit weird so we're going to turn on the Align Left Edge checkbox.
That tells InDesign to make sure the left edge of the drop cap is aligned with the left edge of the rest of the text. If this drop cap had a descender like the letter Q or lowercase p that descender might bump into the text underneath it. If that were the case, I would turn on the Scale for Descenders checkbox but in this case, I'll leave it turned off. In a lot of designs the drop cap, is a different color or a style, sometimes even a whole different font from the rest of the text. Here by default, the drop cap is the same style as the rest of the text, but we can override that by choosing a Character Style here from this pop-up menu.
I've talked about Character Styles in a later chapter but I've gone ahead and created a Character Style here called drop swash and when I choose that, you can see that it immediately changes the whole drop cap. Let's go ahead and click OK so I can show you one last thing about drop caps that you need to know. Sometimes a drop cap, especially if it's italic, will bounce into the characters after it. You can adjust the amount of space between the drop cap and the letter next to it by changing its kerning. That's a character format. So I'm going to change the Control Panel to Character mode and then I'll come over here and change the kerning value.
As we saw earlier in this chapter, if I make this a negative number, it makes the space between these letters smaller. It brings the O closer to the N, but in the case of a drop cap, it brings all of the lines of that drop cap closer. If I do the opposite and make it a positive number, it pushes all of those lines away from the drop cap. You can create all kinds of interesting typographic effects with drop caps; just let your imagination go wild.
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