Join Nigel French for an in-depth discussion in this video Extreme drop caps, part of Type Tips Weekly.
- [Instructor] This movie is about drop caps, specifically about more extreme drop caps. Drop caps have been used for centuries as a way of denoting the beginning of a chapter or an article and these days, you see them in magazines and they're used as a graphic device. They're a time when a designer can really cut loose and no rules apply. You can take that first letter and just make it into a graphic element.
I'm going to begin with a relatively straightforward drop cap, nothing fancy about this one. So we have on the left, my control document and on the right, my work in progress. To apply a drop cap like this, and let's just zoom in so we can see that a bit better, put my cursor in the text, come to my paragraph formats, and here I can specify the number of lines. And then the number of characters, typically, and in this case, one.
Now you'll see that it also became red and the font changed. That's because there is a character style applied. Another place where we can add this formatting is from the control panel, drop caps and nested styles. Number of lines, number of characters, and character style. If you don't have a character style already set up, then you can come here to create one. Of course, if you want to apply this kind of formatting consistently, you should capture it as a paragraph style.
I'll set this back to how it was and I can now apply this paragraph style which includes all of that formatting and we get it all with a single click. Moving now to the next page in both of my documents, perhaps we don't want a typical drop cap, we would also like the first character to stick up above the text. I would need to select that character and then just increase its size.
I literally want to make it twice its current size. I'll come to my character formats and then just double the size of that. All pretty straightforward. But on the next page, we're going to run into some difficulty with this technique. Rather than have the first character sink into the text, we want it to be an initial cap that sticks above the text. As you would expect, I will select that first character and I need to change the weight of this character because when I make it really big, it's just going to look rather clunky, so I need to choose a light weight, I think.
I'm going to go with this Source Serif Pro Extra Light. I'll just select that character and then choose that font right there, I can come and change its color, and now bump up its size, Cmd or Ctrl + Shift + >. And you can see the problem that I'm running into. As that type gets bigger, it pushes the text in column one further down.
My solution is to come to my object menu, text frame options, and look at these rather obscure, often misunderstood options, baseline options. When you have this set to ascent, which is the default, you'll always have a space above the top of caps and the top of the text frame. Change this to, in this case, leading, and the problem is solved, it uses the leading value of the paragraph text and it sticks the first character up above the text frame.
Another example is hanging the drop cap to the left of the text frame. You can see that I'm starting out with just the regular drop cap. Now my task is to move that big character to the left of the text frame. You might be tempted, if you've been doing this for a while, to put a space in front of the S, change it to a two character drop cap, and then kern the S back on itself. That doesn't quite work because you just can't get the characters to the right of the drop cap to be completely flush.
So instead, I am going to select that drop cap character, cut it, that means that I now need to set this back to not having a drop cap, that can just go back to that paragraph style, and then I'll click and drag to make a text a frame into which I will paste the drop cap. Cmd + Opt + C, or Ctrl + Alt + C will fit my frame around my content. And then I'm going to drag from the solid square at the top right to in front of the text and that is going to anchor that drop cap.
I now need to specify the anchor position. I can do this manually by eye, but I'm going to prefer to do it numerically. You saw that when I moved that, the drop cap disappears. Let's address that problem first of all. This is to do with the baseline grid that the drop cap character is on, but there is no baseline grid outside of the margins, or it's not aligning with the grid increment. I need to just remove that from the baseline grid.
Then to specify the anchor position, I'll hold down Opt or Alt and click on that anchor icon. I want the anchored object reference point to be the top right and the reference point can stay where it is. For the Y position, I'm going to make this relative to the cap height with a Y offset of zero, and that should line it up with the cap height of the text that is to its right.
And now for the X offset, I will just increase that to whatever looks good, I'm going to go with six points, maybe that's a bit much, let's go with three points. And that's my anchor position. Now if I were doing this repeatedly, I would then want to go on and capture this as an object style so that I didn't have to worry about repeating that work the second and subsequent times. Let's move on and now take a look at this example.
This involves putting a text wrap around the letter. Again, it requires cutting the letter into its own separate text frame. If you are working with a book that has many chapters and you are considering this approach, then just know that it's going to be a lot more work for you. But if you're just working on a particular article and it's a one time only thing, then by all means go for it.
Rather than this fairly straightforward approach here, maybe we can go a little bit further with this and really introduce a more radical text wrap into the equation. I'm going to come to this, I want to make sure that I have a Q, obviously you need to do this with an interesting first character. So if your first character is an I, this approach is going to be rather underwhelming. This is only going to work when you have an interesting character shape to work with.
I'm going to cut that character into its own text frame and then I will change its color and increase its size and potentially also change its font, 'cause I want a Q that has a nice tail to it. My text has disappeared due to the baseline grid, let's take that off the baseline grid. That wasn't the problem, let's just make sure that this text frame is big enough to accommodate my letter.
Now I've got to change the typeface, and I'm going to go with Kepler Standard Display. When you see a typeface that has the word display after it, that indicates that it's intended for use at large sizes and that the shape of its letter form is going to be a little bit more elegant, so that's why I'm going for that one. I'll now press Cmd or Ctrl + Alt + C to fit my frame around my content and then I need to get that a little bit bigger and I'm going to scale that up by pressing Cmd + Shift and dragging down to the right.
All right, so let's get this into position. You'll note that here I'm just using a single column of text and that's because I think a text wrap as extravagant as this would present too many spacing issues with two columns. To perform the text wrap, I could go in one of two ways. Firstly, and this is the fairly obvious way of going about it, I would wrap around the object shape, I would then need to open up my text wrap panel which is under the window menu, text wrap, and increase the amount of offset.
You'll see the offset line there appearing outside of the frame edge. Then I can come to my direct selection tool and I can shape this line. And I can, if necessary, come to my pen and I can add in extra anchor points and pull that around. That works fine, in fact it's working better than I would expect in this particular instance.
It does tend to get quite fussy if you are doing it on a laptop. An alternative approach is this. Let me just set this back to no text wrap and then I'm going to come to my layers panel, and you can see I've got an extra layer here. We need to create a copy of this Q and add it to another layer. Let's turn that layer five on, I'll rename it.
And then to copy an item to a layer, hold down the Alt key while you move this square that represents its selection. Now with the copy selected, I am going to come through the type menu and create outlines so that is no longer a font, that's a vector shape. I need to release the compound path so that we avoid the text going into the interior shape. I'll come down to paths and release compound path.
Now I've got these two shapes and if I wanted to combine them into one, I would come to my pathfinder and click on this first option that combines them into a single shape. Now as a single shape, I can come to my wrap around object shape, come back to my text wrap panel and just nudge up that amount and I don't have to worry about coming and fiddling with the text wrap outline.
Although having said that, you will notice that I have got a bit of a problem down here. I said that I didn't, in fact I do need to just do a little bit of adjustment. I'm going to come and choose that particular anchor point and move that up. A little bit of back and forth there to get it just right. Now of course you may be thinking, well, that doesn't look very good with that great big ugly Q without its counter, so all we need to do is come to the layers panel and we can turn off that layer and expect to find the original Q beneath it, and I don't find it.
The reason for that is that when I select it, you can see there's overset text there, that's because I then just need to follow up with one final step and have this ignore the text wrap. Let's look at another thing that we might consider. Maybe we want to take our drop cap and make it so big that it bleeds off the edge of the page. Once again, it's going to very much depend upon the character that you are working with. I've changed the font here to a very condensed font called Balboa, and I'm using a J.
All I need to do now is simply increase the size of that. And then if you do find that your character, your now massive character is interfering with your text a little bit too much, which it is in this case. I'm going to come and select it and just add in a very small amount of baseline shift. Just a couple of other examples that I'll show. I won't demonstrate, you can extrapolate from what we've seen already, how to create these.
You might consider taking that first character and putting it in a frame all by itself and once again this is anchored just like the S that floated out to the left edge of the frame. Or you might consider putting that first character in a frame with a stroke around it. Or some sort of effect like this. Let me just do this one to finish up. I'll start out with just a regular drop cap and then I'm going to draw myself a square over that.
Currently no stroke, black fill, I'll press Shift + X to switch those values, I'll come and get my pen tool and then click on the anchor point at bottom right, converting that into a triangle. Let's now move that over that point. Let's make its color paper, come to the effects, and I'll give that a drop shadow, which I want to tone down quite a lot, I'm going to go with 35%.
And reduce the amount of distance, et cetera. You can adjust these settings to your liking, but there is the effect. You may find, as I'm finding here, that we're also seeing the shadow on the left and on the top. To fix that, grab your shape, hold down the Opt or Alt key to duplicate it, and remove the effect from the copy and then just make that one big enough and position it accordingly so that it covers the shape that does have the shadow applied.
So there we've seen just a number of the infinite number of options that you have when working with a decorative drop cap.