Using Baseline Grids

Let’s dive in. If you missed the theoretical introduction on baseline grids, you may want to review it first. It’s a quick read. In this section I’ll give a few pointers on getting the interval right, some specifics on how to set up an InDesign document, and I’ll likely keep it pretty vague discussing baseline grids on screen media.

Using Type, set in Premiéra

Adhering to an appropriately adjusted baseline grid irons out small mistakes and makes the large ones you really should know about much more evident. Here’s a text frame with some bobbles in the vertical spacing, and the same text frame aligned to the document’s baseline grid. Note how when the leading or line spacing is slightly under the set increment of our grid, the line of copy is still forced to the next spot down. Near the bottom of the text frame, the leading is greater than the baseline grid’s increment, so again, the line is kicked down to the next indicated spot for a baseline on the baseline grid. If you’re wondering how to make it align, here’s how: Select the text frame, then ‘Align to baseline grid’ at the bottom right corner of the Paragraph panel.

Align to baseline grid

Above: On the right, lines of copy are kicked down to the next marked baseline on the grid.

To turn the grid on and off, either use View > Grids & Guides > Show/Hide Baseline Grid, or I’d suggest using a keyboard shortcut. You can assign your own if the default doesn’t make sense to you. While you’re at it, assign a similar shortcut to access the baseline grid settings. The dialog you’re looking for is at Edit > Preferences > Grids (Windows) or InDesign > Preferences > Grids (Mac OS).

Baseline grid dialog

Tip: Open this dialog without any documents open, put in some values. Close. It’s now your default baseline grid setting.

Finally, a few general design concerns: Baseline grids should relate to the overall composition of the piece you produce. If it’s a print piece especially, find a measure and grid increment that relates well to the physical size of the medium. This may be, but isn’t necessarily a dimension derived from the larger document. Don’t be too dogmatic about it though, use your eyes and adjust as needed.

InDesign is quite capable of rendering baseline grids set to increment in fractional units. There’s nothing special about the 6 pt setting above. If 5.718 pt works better, use that.

Grouping bits of pertinent info

Letting your body text land on every other or every third grid increment is advisable. When testing your grid, make sure to account for cases such as multi-line bulleted list items.

That’s all for now. Using Type continues here Thursday. Our supporting typeface is Thomas Gabriel’s Premiéra. I’ll add more to this bit on baseline grids if there’s demand for it. Is this helpful? Let me know.


  1. Posted January 24, 2013 at 9:07 PM | Permalink

    I am very interested in learning more about the uses of baseline grids and guidelines for creating a pleasing, legible aesthetic with type, including tips and examples. Thank you for the info thus far!

  2. Posted January 24, 2013 at 10:38 PM | Permalink

    quality stuff. i’ve recently been expanding my horizons with graphic design. i have sort of a sordid history with the field. i got into it through self motivation and mentorship, having come from pen and pencil illustrations. and i’m learning that it all comes back to the type. so these articles are great so far!

  3. Peteherb
    Posted January 25, 2013 at 3:20 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for starting to unpack some of this, it makes for interesting reading. Layout & type are always areas that need improvement & refreshers, & this is the only place I’ve read someone discussing baselines lately. I’ll be back for more! 🙂

  4. Posted January 29, 2013 at 2:55 PM | Permalink

    Yes, your article is very helpful. Please continue. Thanks.

  5. Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:17 PM | Permalink

    I started using grids only using round numbers, the same for the body copy. After seeing typographers presenting their typefaces with odd numbers both for leading and body, I realized that there were no rules really and like you said “if it works better, use that.”

    Here is a nice tool to make baseline grids with greater control than only using InDesign.

  6. Matheus
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 12:22 PM | Permalink

    Very nice article! Thank you!

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