Baseline Grid

Additional Resources:

Why use a grid? That’s a fair question and I get where you’re coming from. Grids give you an opportunity to design in the fast lane, they make your design semi-autonomous, which may turn a lot of you off (keep an open mind or you’ll miss out). Essentially they give you a tool to create with an underlying consistency and allow you to think less about basic design principles and more about finding a design solution. This allows you to design at a more advanced level, being more able to think about advanced concepts like page rhythm. They also give you a structure to place your page elements on.

Some designers don’t need this, they are few and far between.


Grids can’t give you basic typographic knowledge—what typefaces to use, how big the type should be, how much leading is correct or when the kerning is even. There is a really big difference also between simply applying type and applying it well. So, what does a grid actually do? It creates harmony and unity between virtually all of the elements on the page, from the smallest line of photo credit to the size and placement of the supporting photographs, main body copy text to the headline/title—and don’t forget the white space! Spend the few minutes necessary to establish a good grid structure early in your design process, it will pay enormous dividends in the end.

To Set up inDesign’s baseline grid and align it with inDesign’s Document grid do the following:

Do this on the Master Page, not page one.

First make your choices of typeface and leading for the main body copy. You can make these choices by first reading and understanding the content of the “story” you are using (the message) and the audience you are trying to reach with it.

At a minimum, change the leading from the default setting by increasing it to the next even whole number. (you might want to increase it more than this, if so do it by increments of even numbers).

Use the new leading amount, measured in points, to determine both the document and the baseline grid size.

Open the settings for both grids by going to the pull-down menu found under Indesign>>Preferences>>Grids

  • Set the Baseline grid first relative to the top margin and the increment setting to the same number as you leading.
  • Set the Document grid next. Gridline both horizontally and vertically the same as leading. The be sure to make the subdivision setting at 1. OK and close.

From Layout pull-down menu, go to the margin settings. Layout>>Margins and Columns

  • Set the top, right and left margins to be any increment or multiple of your leading (for example if the leading is 14 you margins could be 3 times 14, or 42 pts). Click Preview to see the results.
  • Adjust bottom margin to the closest gridline, up or down, by changing the setting for the bottom margin only. If you have checked Preview, then you will see the bottom margin line move. OK and close when it reaches a grid line.

Adjust your text box so that the first line of text falls on a gridline.