Tiny Tutorials is a new feature on the Design Cubicle which will focus on short and handy design tutorials and tips.
In my very first ‘Tiny Tutorial’, I will be discussing techniques and tips I’ve learned along the way to improve justified type, such as how to tweak the word spacing, letter spacing and glyph scaling in Adobe InDesign to improve appearance, consistency and readability.
While well set justified type can look extremely beautiful and classy, the complete opposite can be said for not treating it with the proper care. When type is justified, the word spacing, letter spacing and glyph scaling (see below for meaning) is adjusted to fit the type in its constrained area, usually resulting in large gaps, windowing (too much letter spacing) or inconsistency of each line of type. Continue reading on how to improve this.
Before we get started, let’s learn some terms:
- Word Spacing is the space between words that results from pressing the spacebar. Word Spacing values can range from 0% to 1000%; at 100%, no additional space is added between words
- Letter Spacing is the distance between letters, including kerning or tracking values. Letter Spacing values can range from 100% to 500%: at 0%, no space is added between letters; at 100%, an entire space width is added between letters.
- Glyph Scaling is the width of characters (a glyph is any font character). Glyph Scaling values can range from 50% to 200%.
Changing the type to justify
After laying out your type in InDesign within it’s specified area, change the default left alignment to justified located on the top controls when the Type tool (V) is selected.
Change the Justification settings
With the text selected, open your ‘paragraph’ palette and click on the tiny downwards triangle in the top right of the palette (see image below). Select ‘Justification…’ from the list.
Change the settings in the Justification window to the following:
You should see an immediate improvement after making the changes and hitting ‘OK’.
Change the hyphenation settings
Located in the same drop-down menu as the ‘Justification…” settings, select ‘Hyphenation…’. While these settings are entirely subjective, adjust the Better Spacing/Fewer Hyphens bar based on your preference — Better spacing in return for more hyphens or vice versa. You might even want to try adjusting the other settings in this window as well.
Adding Flush Space
When you justify your type you will notice that it justifies every line of type, including the last. Using flush space for the last line can make a tremendous difference in the appearance of the formatted paragraphs by getting rid of the extra white space by flushing it to the left. This also readjusts the type before it it, thus improving the consistency.
To add flush space:
With the Type tool (V) selected and cursor placed to the right of the last character of the last line of type in a paragraph, choose Type > Insert White Space > Flush Space. This will left align your type.
Check those Violations!
You can also have InDesign check your letter spacing and word spacing for problems by selecting InDesign > Preferences > Composition on a Mac or Edit > Preferences > Composition on Windows. Put a check next to H&J Violations and press OK. The darker the shade of yellow the more serious the problem.
Bingo! — a much improved justified text block! While I’m sure there are various ways to improve justified type, the above method has seemed to work well for me over the years and produce recognizable differences.