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Leading Like a Pro

Creating a print project that pops takes more than having the best printer on the block. It also requires stellar design and text that is well thought-out and easy to read.

Have you ever wondered how those professionally designed print pieces look so incredibly clean-cut and crisp? To get that clean, easy-to-read look, professional designers make use of the big three in typography: leading, kerning, and tracking. Although all of them are important, leading can make or break a design.

Leading Like A Pro

What is Leading?

Simply put, the term 'leading' (pronounced LED-ing) refers to the amount of spacing between lines of text. (Fun fact: The term originated from hand-typesetting where thin strips of lead were placed into the forms to increase the distance between lines of text.) When you want to save space on a page or use up more space on a page, adjusting the leading is the way to go. Leading can also be used to change the aesthetics of your design, whether your text is the hero of your design or informational only. Mastering this design element will allow you to create balanced, well-formatted text that helps sell your product or service.

First Things First

When you type text into a word processing or graphic design program, you will generally get a pleasing result. Sometimes, though, the spacing may feel a bit "off." This can be especially true if you're using a variety of sizes, fonts, or other character adjustments. When you type the same word in a few different fonts, you will quickly see the difference between how the spacing works for individual words, both horizontally and vertically. No fonts are exactly the same, which can cause awkwardness in your design. The cure for that awkwardness is formatting.

Awkward Typography example

General Formatting

Formatting can be applied at either the character level or the paragraph level. Paragraph-level formatting includes text alignment (left, right, center or justified) as well as spacing before or after paragraphs. Examples of character-level formatting include the style and choice of font, size of the characters, and the leading.

Good Typography Example

Application of Leading

While leading is considered a character-level attribute, it should generally be applied at the paragraph level to your text. This is because applying it only to a few lines of the text within a paragraph will only change the lines highlighted -- which leaves you with an uneven final product.

Changing the fixed leading in InDesign can be accomplished in a few simple steps:

  • Go to 'Edit,' then 'Preferences' in previous versions of InDesign, or 'Preferences' in InDesign CC
  • Choose 'Type' from the left-side of the list
  • Under 'Type Options,' choose 'Apply Leading to Entire Paragraphs'
  • Select 'OK'

All finished! Now, every paragraph that you begin will inherit these same options, giving you very consistent and clear paragraphs that are easily read by your audience. InDesign is a very smart program, so even if you don't set a leading value, you'll find that it defaults to auto leading -- which is 120 percent of the current font size. Realistically, that translates into a space between lines of 12 pts if you're using a 10 pt font.

Want to learn more about how leading and character formatting can make the text in your next printing project really pop? Give us a call to get started!

Learn Adobe InDesign CC for Print and Digital Media

by Jonathan Gordon, Rob Schwartz, Cari Jansen

Used by graphic designers worldwide, Adobe InDesign CC is a layout powerhouse. But that power is easy to harness, as you'll soon learn. These real-world projects teach you to think like a designer and master the details that set your work apart.

Hone your InDesign skills as you:
• Produce an advertising poster
• Design a magazine for print and tablet delivery
• Build interactive forms
• Create a comic book page
• Add controls for video, animations, and more to a digital media publication

This study guide uses more than 11 hours of video integrated with text to help you gain real-world skills that will get you started in your career designing publications for print and screen using InDesign CC. It lays the foundation for taking the Adobe Certified Associate (ACA) certification exam and helps prepare you for an entry-level position in a competitive job market.

Purchasing this book gives you access to valuable online extras. Follow the instructions in the book's "Getting Started" section to unlock access to:
• The Web Edition containing instructional video embedded in the complete text of the book with interactive review questions along with product updates
• Downloadable lesson files you need to work through the projects

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