What is a baseline grid, and why do you need one? A baseline grid consists of horizontal guide lines that keep lines of text consistent from page to page. Hold up a book and look at one of the pages against a lit background. The lines of type on both sides of the page should align neatly back to back. When your text is aligned on a baseline grid, it’ll line up beautifully throughout your whole book. You’ll also be able to easily align images with your text. This excerpt from Book Design Made Simple should answer all your questions.
Baseline grids are always set to the size of the leading. If your main text has 14 pt leading, then your baseline grid is set to 14 pt. Sometimes if a book has very complex headings, subheadings, bulleted lists, etc., the baseline grid may be set to one half of the leading (say, 7 pt instead of 14 pt). This allows half-linespaces between headings and lists and can save space while still adhering to a baseline grid. But in most books, the baseline grid is simply set to the same point size as the leading.
Setting up your baseline grid
Open your Grid Preferences by clicking Edit>Preferences>Grids (Windows) or InDesign> Preferences>Grids (Mac). In the Baseline Grid box, choose a light color from the Color drop-down menu. See the settings below.
In the Start box, type “0 in,” and in the Relative To box, select Top of Page. This Start box setting is perfect for books with running feet (such as this book); however, if your book has running heads, you’ll change your Start box setting (see below).
In the Increment Every box, type the size of your leading (i.e., 14 pt). Leave everything else in this dialog box with the InDesign defaults.
Click OK, and a baseline grid will appear on your A-Master. If the grid doesn’t appear automatically, you may need to show it by clicking View>Grids & Guides>Show Baseline Grid and switching to Normal view. Now you’ll see horizontal lines 14 pts apart across your 2-page spread from top to bottom.
Your baseline grid will only be visible in Normal view, not in Preview. Press W to switch views while the Selection Tool is in use and nothing is selected.
Adjusting your baseline grid for running heads
Running heads are always placed two baselines above your main text. If your book has running heads, it’s best to start your baseline grid one line above your top margin.
First click Layout>Margins and Columns, and write down your Top Margin figure. Then go back into Grid Preferences and write down the figure for your leading in points (from the Increment Every box). Convert points to inches by dividing the number of points by 72 (1 inch = 72 points). Then use this formula to calculate your final figure for the Start box:
top margin –1 line of leading = figure for the Start box
For example: top margin (0.85”) minus 14 pt (0.1944”) = 0.6556” (type “0.6556 in” in the Start box). Click OK, and now you should have one baseline above your top margin for your running heads to sit on.
Now look at your bottom margin and see where it falls in relation to the baseline grid. If you find that the bottom margin is slightly above a baseline, adjust the margin so it’s slightly below instead. Otherwise your text won’t flow onto that line. To do this, click Layout>Margins and Columns, check both the Enable Layout Adjustment box and the Preview box, then increase or decrease the Bottom Margin until it falls just below the closest baseline. Click OK.
Aligning your text to the baseline grid
Switch back to any 2-page spread by double-clicking one in your Pages panel. Now you’ll see your baseline grid, but notice that none of the text is lining up on it yet. You’ll need to change a setting in your Basic Paragraph style.
Double-click Basic Paragraph in your Paragraph Styles panel to open it. Select Indents and Spacing on the left. From the Align to Grid drop-down menu, choose All Lines, then click OK.
Look through your pages and see how they look when aligned to the baseline grid. Your main text should look fine, as will all text set with the same leading value as your baseline grid. However, not all of your text will look fine with that leading value. This includes text with smaller leading values (such as your copyright page, endnotes, index, and so on), as well as text with larger leading values (for example, titles and headings).
If you notice some text that shouldn’t be aligned to the baseline grid, you can open the relevant paragraph style and, under Indents and Spacing, change Align to Grid: to None.
The chapter goes on to describe situations where you might want to lift your type off the grid, such as for some headings or for equations. This is called baseline shift, and you can adjust it on the Control panel at the top of your screen (see example to the right).
Baseline grid in text frames
We are often asked how to set up more than one baseline grid in a document or on a page. Sorry, folks, but it’s not possible—yet. However, if you have smaller type in separate text frames (i.e., captions or sidebars), you can add a baseline grid that’s specific to those text frames.
Select a sidebar text frame, for example, then open the Text Frame Options dialog box (Ctrl/Cmd+B). Choose the Baseline Options tab, add the leading value to the Increment Every box (in the example to the right, 10.5 pt), and click OK. Now create a new object style based on this text frame and save it as sidebar. And, finally, update your sidebar paragraph style so that the text Aligns to Grid. Voila!
Anytime you want, you can make the baseline grid disappear while keeping your margins and guides visible. Simply go to View > Grids & Guides> Hide Baseline Grid.
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