2.2.2 Add and delete vertical space in measured increments

Setting up in Adobe© InDesign

The idea of adding and deleting vertical space is measured increments is relatively easy to implement in InDesign. The idea is to pick a basic unit and base styles and spacing on that unit. When thinking about the structure of a document, it makes sense to use (as a vertical unit) the leading for the main text. So, starting from that decision, which is the Basic Character Formats in a paragraph style, we can start setting up. Using paragraph styles makes setting up the document, and later editing it, pretty simply.

InDesign paragraph style

Above is the Basic Character Formats panel of the New Paragraph Style dialogue. Circled is the leading. The style is named Text, and will be used for the body text (in this case it’s Minion Regular 11/14), and the leading, set at 14px, will be used as our basic vertical unit.

setting the baseline grid

Next is setting the baseline grid to match the leading of the base text (body text), which in the example is 14pt. Go to the Grids panel in Preferences (InDesign > Preferences > Grids). For the baseline grid, set the ‘increment every’ value to the same as the leading. Here it is 1p2, or 14 pt. The units in the dialogue will be the same as what is set in Ruler Units, but InDesign will do the conversion for you, so if the ruler units are in inches, you can just type 14pt, and it will convert.

From here, you can create the styles for headings, subheadings and whatever else you need. The key here is to keep the leading for these at incrments of the base leading. In the example, we have 14pt as our base leading, so, as an example, if we decide on a 24pt heading, we can set the leading to 28pt (2× 14):

24/28 heading

The numbers are correct—everything aligns to the baseline grid (in blue). However, the heading is much too tight on the text. What we need to do is add another increment to the spacing on the heading. This can be done two ways. The first is to simply increase the leading to 42pt (3× 14). Here’s what that looks like:

24/42 heading

Hey! No change? No, because the leading between the heading and the first line of text is still 14pt. Observe:

text above

If we add some text above the heading, the whole 42pt leading appears. Strange but true. What we do next will correct that. We’ll go back to the heading paragraph style and set the leading back to 28pt. Then, to correct for the tightness, we will add the other 14pt in space before and/or space after, in Indents and Spacing (I simply split the 14pt between the two):


Our paragraph now looks like this (and just look at it, don’t read it, because the text is still the old text):

spacing applied

The space before and after can be adjusted as you see fit, as long as that plus the leading add up to a multiple of the basic leading. This can be applied to images, pull quotes, and any other block elements by adding spacing above and or below to make up a increment. So if you have an image that is 2½ inches high, that equals 180pt so in our example with 14pt as a basic increment, we can add a point to the top and bottom to make 182 points total (13 × 14) or 13 line spaces. Here again, one would probably add an extra line space or more, but the idea remains the same. Here’s a footnote, set to 8/10.5. It takes four lines to even things back out, so you you may need to add some space on an individual basis, but again, the principle works.


This whole procedure maintains an underlying structure. It may well remain invisible to the average viewer, but the whole effect enforces a kind of correctness with the layout.