by Martin White
Typography, what’s to know? Anyone who uses a design or layout program whether for web or print will undoubtedly at some point be using the program’s font or type functions.
Type is type!
Well even as a novice, after a little digging around Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark, Indesign etc., you find menus and pallets full of options for generating, and formatting type.
Many of us understand enough to get by and rarely delve much deeper than changing font, size and colour.
Some of the other options available may seem daunting or even irrelevant to the novice or casual user, but once understood can provide invaluable tools in controlling how type appears in our layouts.
Below are some simple explanations of some of the standard text formatting options avaiable, supported by images from the tutorial video ‘Typographic Principles – Essentials’ available to view at the excellent lynda.com (subscription required.)
1. What is X-height?
The x-height is the height of a font’s main body – not including ascenders (see number 6 below) or descenders (see number 7) – i.e. the height of an ‘x’.
2. What is Leading?
Leading is the space vertically between lines of text – the name comes from the physical piece of lead that used to be used in the mechanical printing process to separate lines of text.
3. What is the Baseline?
The baseline is the line across the bottom of a font’s x-height – discounting descenders.
4. What is Kerning?
Kerning is the amount a character’s horizontal space encroaches into its neighbour.)
5. What is Point size?
Point size or Pixel size (px size if using pixel based sizes for web) is the font size in pixels or points.
6. What are Ascenders?
Ascenders are the parts of a letter which ‘ascend’ above it’s x-height – i.e. the upper staff of a lower case b, d, t etc.)
7. What are Descenders?
Descenders are parts of a letter which ‘descend’ below it’s x-height – i.e. the lower tail of p, g, or y, etc.)
Tracking is the horizontal space between each letter / character: