Gaebel Rulers and Line Gauges
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Measurements in Printing
We have all looked at rulers used in printing and wondered about some of the unusual units of measure indicated on the ruler points, picas, agates and ciceros to name a few.
I hope that you find this interesting and educational.
A point is a measurement of .0126 or approximately 1/72 or an inch. In other words there are approximately 72 points to an inch. All type is designated in points (10-point Caslon, 24-point Baskerville, etc.). Points are always used to specify the size of type. Typefaces may be set in sizes from four to 144 points, but are generally used in six to seventy-two points. Line spacing is
also specified in points (two points of leading, etc.).
Next is the pica. A pica is used for linear measurements of type (a pica gauge is a printers measuring tool). There are 12 points to 1 pica and approximately 6 picas to 1 inch. The length of a line is specified in picas, as well as depth of a type area.
For example, a given block of copy is to be set 20 picas wide by 36 picas deep. Inches are never used in type measurement.
An agate line is a measure used by newspapers to sell advertising space. There are 14 agate lines to an inch. An agate line refers to the space occupied by one line of agate type in one column. The width of the column can vary from paper to paper. A 60 line ad can take several forms: 60 agate lines in one column, 30 agate lines in 2 columns, etc.
A cicero is a continental (European) unit of measurement for type, equal to 12 Didot points, or .178 inches, roughly comparable to a pica. Named after the type cast for a 15th century edition of Ciceros works.
DECIPHERING TYPE SIZES - PICAS AND POINTS FOR MEASURING TYPE AND SETTING TEXT
X-Height is not the average height of all the X-Men
Effective use of type means knowing how to measure type. Traditionally, type size is esignated in points and is set to specific pica widths and depth (column width and height -- 1 point = 013837 in. & 12 points = 1 pica). Two common misconceptions are that 72 points (6 picas) = 1 inch. (72 points = .996264 inches) and that a letter at 72 points is 1 inch tall (possible but not
usually true). The letters in the graphic (below) are set at 72 points. The box surrounding the characters is 1 inch high.
In the above example, the line that the type sits on is the baseline. The tail (descender) of the lower case g extends below the baseline. The tallest character in this specific typeface is the $ (dollar sign). The distance between the top of the tallest character in this typeface ($) and the bottom of the g is roughly 72 points. As you can probably tell, none of these characters are
1 inch (or even .996264 in.) tall.
Points are used not only to measure the type itself, but the space around it. Setting leading (line spacing) requires a basic understanding of points and type measurements. Points and picas may also be used to set margins, specify column widths, and spaces between columns as discussed in Plunge into Picas.
PLUNGE INTO PICAS - USING POINTS AND PICAS FOR PAGE LAYOUT
Stop inching your way into desktop publishing. The current measurement system of choice for
typesetting and publication design is picas and points. If your work involves complex, multi-page designs such as books, magazines, newspapers, or newsletters, working in picas and points can be a real timesaver. And if you plan to work in the newspaper or magazine publishing industry, you'll likely be required to stop thinking in inches or millimeters for page layout. So why not start now. In fact, you're already half-way there since if you use type you already work with points.
Newsletter layouts frequently involve small pieces that are difficult to measure in fractions of
inches. Picas and points provide easily for those tiny amounts. Have you heard of the magic of
thirds in design? Quick, divide an 8.5 inch by 11 inch piece of paper into thirds horizontally. Now, find 3.66 inches on the ruler.
It's not easy. But 11 inches is 66 picas so each third is 22 picas. Much simpler, but that's just the beginning.
Points are the smallest unit of measurement. Type and leading are measured in points with 72 points to the inch.
Use picas for measuring column width and depth, margins, and other larger distances.
Picas and points have a direct relationship to each other. There are 12 points in a pica.
If you're a metric maven you may have a bit more trouble with the conversion to picas, but for those of us raised on inches it's simpler. There are 6 picas to an inch. A standard US letter size page is 8.5 by 11 inches or 51 by 66 picas. (6 picas are approximately 25 mm)
The letter p is used to designate picas as in 22p or 6p. With 12 points to the pica, half a pica would be 6 points written as 0p6. 17 points would be 1p5 (1 pica = 12 pts, plus the leftover 5 pts).
Your software can take away some of the math for you. For instance, with picas as your default measurements in PageMaker, if you type 0p28 (28 points) into the control palette when setting indents or other paragraph settings it will convert it to 2p4 automatically.
If you're converting existing designs to pica measurements, you may find it necessary to know the size of fractions of points (for example 3/32 of an inch converts to 6.75 points or 0p6.75). This chart [offsite link] includes fractions from 1/32 to 1 inch expressed in picas, points, and decimals too.
If you want to create dummy layouts for a design, remember that depth is measured in picas. So if you want to know how much vertical space a 48 point headline occupies divide 48 by 12 (12 pts to the pica) to get 4 picas of vertical space.