by Ilene Strizver
Chances are, the software you use every day offers some truly useful features that you seldom take advantage of. Typical of these underrated functions is baseline shift. True to its name, this feature shifts a character (or group of characters) up or down relative to the baseline, in tiny increments. Generally speaking, baseline shift settings use positive numbers to shift characters up, and negative numbers to shift them down.
Baseline shift is a great tool for fine-tuning your typography. Try using it to:
- create fractions manually. Use baseline shift to raise the numerator in diagonal fractions.
- optically position symbols, such as register, copyright and trademark (®, © and ™).
- adjust the position of bullets, ornaments and other font-based graphics.
- be expressive with type by raising and lowering individual characters to create a jumpy, jittery effect.
- tweak the position of parenthesis, braces and brackets relative to the type they enclose.
Most software provides several ways to access baseline shift. Learn the keyboard shortcuts; it’s the fastest way to try different adjustments when you’re unsure of the final value. Fractional values can also be inserted manually in a dialog box or palette.
Note that baseline shift does not change the actual line spacing of a character. When making overall changes in the leading, the baseline-shifted position will be preserved proportionally.
- Editor’s Note: Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer and writer specializing in all aspects of typographic communication. She conducts Gourmet Typography workshops internationally. Read more about typography in her latest literary effort, Type Rules! The designer's guide to professional typography, 3rd edition, published by Wiley & Sons, Inc. This article was commissioned and approved by Monotype Imaging Inc.