Tutorial No. 6 | Getting creative with Paragraph Rules
These specific Paragraph Rules tutorials were inspired – strangely enough – by the program brochure for ATypI Helsinki 2005 - Over The Edge. On page 27 (Track 2 - Friday) there’s a horizontal rule smack dab in the middle of the text. This rule was supposed to be positioned between the name of the speaker and the title of the presentation, but it ended up in the wrong place when the text reflowed or was repositioned. Through the judicious use of Paragraph Rules this mistake never would have occurred.
Why Paragraph Rules? Paragraph Rules in page lay-out software offer a plethora of design possibilities which are often insufficiently known by the average user. They allow you to quickly and easily create graphic elements that are ‘attached’ to titles and paragraphs. This means it is virtually impossible that such an element is left behind when text is repositioned, for example when text is added or removed in a text block.
Another major advantage is that those graphic elements are created automatically and very accurately, simply by applying a Paragraph Style. This means you don’t need to zoom in to painstakingly adjust elements, and you avoid a lot of time consuming repetitive manual labour. And after all this is what it’s all about: by having the computer do the donkey work you can invest more time and creativity in the actual design.
Differences between QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign The techniques explained in this tutorial can all be applied in InDesign, but some of them don’t work in QuarkXPress. That is because Paragraph Rules have what I’d call ‘physical dimensions’ in QXP, while they are perfectly ‘virtual’ in InD. The example below illustrates the difference clearly.
As you can see above Paragraph Rules in InDesign can extend beyond the boundaries of the text box, while in QuarkXPress their dimensions are limited to the text frame: the Paragraph Rule above the paragraph forces the first line of text downwards.
Another consequence of these ‘physical dimensions’ is that in QuarkXpress the vertical position of Paragraph Rules is restrained by the baseline onto which the text rests. In theory one ought to be able to position a Rule Below above the text by defining a negative Offset. Yet in QXP the negative shifting of a Paragraph Rule is limited to half the rule weight – the central axis of the Paragraph Rule can’t cross the baseline.
A 5 pt Rule Below can extend to maximum 2,5 pt above the baseline: the central axis of the rule is the limit. InDesign doesn’t have this restriction, and this is of major importance for a number of techniques I will demonstrate.
Base techniques Most of us know what Paragraph Rules are for: inserting a rule between two paragraphs. The following settings can be defined: • the rule can be inserted above or below the paragraph, or both; • the rule can be exactly as wide as the line of text immediately below or above it, or run as wide as the full column width; • thickness and colour can be specified.
To position a Rule Below nicely between to lines of text with a leading of 120 to 133% of the type size use a distance of a quarter of the leading. For a Rule Above use three quarters of the leading. Every time you hit Return a new paragraph rule is created.
If you define only a Rule Above the bottom line of a list won’t have a rule at the bottom, and conversely with only a Rule Below the top line of a list won’t have a rule above it. If you wish to have rules above as well as below every line of text – for example in a technical sheet or an enumeration – you should define both a Rule Above and a Rule Below. You have to take the weight of the rule into account: to have both rules overlap perfectly you have to subtract the weight of one rule from one of the offsets.
Whenever certain items in a list or enumeration consist of more than one line of text, it looks as if two lines of text with a rule between them are closer to each other than two lines of text without rule. The reason is that the presence of the rule optically ‘halves’ the distance between the two lines. Because of this the reader will group lines of text while you were aiming to separate by inserting the rule. That is why you have to add extra space between the paragraphs – usually half the leading will do. This means as well that you have to increase the offset of the Paragraph Rule to the baseline.
Text in a colour bar If you create an extra thick Rule Above and shift it downwards you can use this to place text in a colour bar. Of course this only works for a single line of text. To place two or more subsequent lines of text in a colour bar you must separate them with a Return.
I typically use a rule weight equal to the leading and shift it down one quarter to a third of the rule weight. It is also advised to specify a left indent for the text, lest it sticks to the left side of the bar.
If you want the colour bar to correspond with the width of the text you specify an equal amount of indentation on the right hand side. In this instance InDesign differs fundamentally from QuarkXPress. In QuarkXPress you have to indent the text at both the left and the right side, and specify a negative indentation of the same value at both sides of the Paragraph Rule. In InDesign you don’t necessarily need to indent the text – it suffices to specify a negative indentation at both sides of the Paragraph Rule.
Once you acquire some routine you can start combining different types of paragraph rules, for example a Rule Above to create a colour bar behind the text and a thin Rule Below that runs the full width of the text column. This way you can keep experimenting.
Et voilà, those were the basics. If this has all been a little too familiar for experienced designers we will look at more advanced solutions next episode, amongst which how to create colour blocks and vertical rules. And in the last episode I will fire on all cylinders and show you some techniques that exploit the possibilities of Paragraph Rules to the fullest.