Using Baseline Grid to typset books?

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This topic contains 8 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  jlehtinen 2 years ago.

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  • #68953

    Hi there

    I was curious to your opinion on using the baseline grid for the layout of books, 200 pages etc.

    I just revisited one of the first books that i typeset when i was a real novice to indesign. I think that the book looks good, the chapter titles and subheadings, tables, grids etc. But i have been asked to revise the text and so i have been looking at the method that i used then and i am triying to apply some of the things that i have learnt since, the main one being using the baseline grid, but i ran into a few problems.

    For example, with the subheadings, in my naievity i didn’t start them on a new line but just used the mm increments in ‘space before’ in the ‘paragraph’ window, because i thought it looked good. I think a new line for a subheading with baseline grid is too much space, and to have the text on the very next line is too close, i prefer the look when i didn’t used the baseline grid, but i like the uniformity that using the baseline grid brings.

    So yeah, i guess i’m not here looking for a solution, more like some advice on how to approach this kind of scenario based on your experience.

    Thanks again for your help

    Best wishes

  • #69008

    Andy–I’m in book publishing and have been for going on 25 years. We never use baseine grid. It maybe okay for novels and things like that, but if you have heads and extracts and poetry on different leading, you end up with uneven spacing. And if a head falls at the top of the page, it really screws things up.

    I work with picas and points instead of mm (but it’s the same concept): Use specific space before and after. And you never want the text below a head to adjust.

    I personally HATE the lock to baseline grid, and personally think it’s a lazy way of doing things. I can’t tell you the number of jobs I get from designers that use it. And I change the file. Each and every time.

    So long as you use specific leading, specific spacing above and below for even lines, and set your baseline grid in your file preferences, there is no need for lock to baseline grid. An exception may be on a chapter opener where the number of lines varies due to the leading of the chapter title, and then it’s okay to use lock to baseline grid for the first paragraph.

    Other than that–I never use it.

  • #69020

    Eugene Tyson

    When I first delved into typesetting we had a really narky and strict old compositor of a teacher, who had use baseline grids and exact measurements to build a page. I have to say it looked magnificent, but any change to the type threw the entire thing out of balance.

    I think it’s important to stick to grids, don’t break your grid, and most of all keep it looking consistent.

    Once you get it right – it’s magical.

  • #69024

    Thank you so much for sharing that Dwane. It is really interesting and helpful to know your approach. Being a novice it is quite hard to sometimes navigate all the do’s and the dont’s of typesetting and publishing, there are so many opinions and they can all seem valid to someone starting out.

    With no formal training I quite often just use my eyes, look at other books see how they have done it and try to figure it out myself. Same goes for indesign, i have just tried my best to get good results by checking different articles here and there (indesign secrets is by far the best resource), watch tutorials on youtube and etc. And with the first book not using the baseline grid i think i did a pretty good job. So when i found out about using baseline grid it kinda threw me off a little with what i had done before, but at the same time i can see the benefit of using it as it does set a visual order/formalisation to the way the page looks, which i think can help aesthetically.

    So it is really useful and beneficial to hear advice from someone with your experience, thanks again!

  • #69075

    Cool, thanks for the clarification Dwayne!

  • #69127

    Hi, I agree with you all they are a pain from a publishing point of view but from a design point of view for brochures and documents with 2-3 columns per page they can really help to make a layout more balanced and easy to read.

    It depends on what you are creating, clearly not much use with books and long documents!

  • #78784


    I can see why someone would hate locking to the baseline grids. Especially since the last row of the page moving up and down by a few pt on every page really doesn’t matter much on printed books, as with the bending paper pages and small type it’s more or less unnoticeable.

    When I see that happen on PDF ebooks, however, it drives me absolutely crazy and feels so amateurish that I basically gag each time I turn a page. So lately I’ve ended up using the baseline grid for body and the first lines of headings, but lowering the baselines of headings to roughly match the ascender to that of the body text for perfect spacing between the heading and the body, and to align the headings with the body when they occur at the top of the page.

    My latest job was a scientific book with lots of indented quotes, three levels of headings, and references at the bottom of roughly two thirds of the pages. The references had a rule above them, which made the wandering bottom row really noticeable. The layout was a trainwreck until I switched locking to baseline grid on. It took a lot of careful adjusting to get right, but after that was done, the book flowed through quite beautifully, requiring only a few manual adjustments before I sent it off.

  • #69025

    Thank you as well Eugene, that is really useful as well! The link you included is great!

  • #69061

    Glad to help, Andy. However–I just noticed there was a typo in my first post to you.

    I meant to say we never use “lock to baseline grid,” NOT we never use baseline grid.

    We always use baseline grid, but we never lock it.

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