Every major graphic design application lets you measure pages and page items in your choice of inches, centimeters, and picas. So why use picas? Believe it or not, if you design a page grid using whole and half picas, it adopts a beauty that’s perfectly suited to columns of text.
For example, try setting your page margins to several picas — try 3p6, which is 3.5 picas (there are 12 points to a pica). Then, set your column margins to 1p6, or one and a half picas. When you need to set a first line indent, try using the point size of the type, which is commonly p10 or p12. The result may surprise you with its intrinsic beauty.
You may notice that a U.S. Letter sized page is exactly 51 picas by 66 picas. This especially lends itself to being divided by picas, which means you can do less thinking about numbers and concentrate more on your designs.
Jay Nelson is the editorial director of PlanetQuark.com, and the editor and publisher of Design Tools Monthly. He’s also the author of the QuarkXPress 8 and QuarkXPress 7 training titles at Lynda.com, as well as the training videos Quark includes in the box with QuarkXPress 7 . In addition, Jay writes regularly for Macworld and Photoshop User magazines and speaks at industry events.