Using a Grid for Typography Design

Working with type can be challenging for designers. But an easy way to overcome any issues is to use a grid in your design layout. This is especially true in book cover design, which is the type of design that I usually do. In this blog, I am going to go over some of the reason why grids work so well for type design and I will also show you an easy way to preset your grid if you don’t already know how.

I am sure that many of you do a variety of different design in all shapes and sizes. You will hear me use book cover design a lot in this blog post. Not only because it is what I do, but also because it has a particular shape that using a grid is almost essential for.

One of the first pluses of using a grid in design is working with odd shapes. EBook covers are generally long and narrow so there is a limited amount of real estate in which you need to fit the title, subtitle, author’s name, and any other type that has to be on there. Plus you don’t want to totally cover the image either, at least I don’t anyway. I don’t think that covering most of the image makes a good design. I feel that the image tells a story too. It is part of the message which is why you or your client chose it in the first place. So I do my best to position my typography in such a way that the important parts of the image show. Designing my book covers using a grid allows me to do that very effectively.

Another plus is alignment. With a grid, you are able to get type or even images exactly in the center of your design. My feature image is a good example of that. I created it specifically for this blog post. I have centered the word using the capital T. A grid also works to align objects left or right too. You could do it by eyeballing if you wanted to, but a grid is going to give you exact measurements and also give you a cleaner looking design. That is what you want when you are designing professionally for clients.

There is another advantage that I want to point out and that is the readability of the type when a design is made smaller. I am not sure how important this is to other types of design, but it is critical for book covers, especially eBooks. Once an author submits their books to a self-publishing website like Amazon, the site displays them at a very small size. Some are even the size of a thumbnail. If the typography is just sloppily thrown on the cover in the design process it can be virtually impossible to read at a smaller size. That won’t do anything for an author’s sales! But using a grid for the typography layout will give you the best possible shot at having legible words when scaled down. Picking the right font for the job helps too, but that is a blog post for another day.

If you create a particular type of design a lot like I do, it is best to preset your grid dimensions. That way you can use it anytime you want with the simple click of your mouse. There are several types of software that you can do this with. The biggest one being Adobe, which is what I use. Some people use InDesign or Illustrator, but I prefer to use Photoshop. I sometimes like to add special effects with brushes and other things and this program offers all of that. I am going to show you how to preset your grid in Photoshop. If you are using InDesign or Illustrator, or even Gimp, which is the free version of Adobe Photoshop, the method is probably similar. All you would need to do is Google the process.

In Photoshop you would click on Edit in the top menu bar. Then you would go all the way to the bottom to Preferences. Then to Guides, Grids & Slices…

Once you have selected this, an option a box will pop up. There you will see Guides, Smart Guides, and then Grid is the third one down. In this option, you can set it up anyway that you want according to your personal preference and what you are designing. You can select the color of the lines in the grid, which I have set to a light gray. You can choose the type of line, which could be straight or dashed. Mine is straight. Then the most important selection would be the size of the grid. I make my book covers 1600 pixels wide by 2400 pixels high. I have the grid set to have a grid line every 400 pixels with subdivisions of 4. I find that this works the best for me. But it is all personal preference. You can have it set up for inches and even centimeters.

After you have your setup complete, you click ok and then it is saved. Now when you start a new design all you have to do is go to View in the top menu bar and then down to Show. Go over to the left and then down to Grid and click it. The grid that you preset will show up on your design. You can make it disappear the same way.

It is that simple. Now you see why using a grid when designing typography is easier that doing it without. You also have a preset grid all ready to go when you need it. So design away!


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