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Exercise 04: Creating body copy with the Type tool

Body copy is the content of an article, a book chapter, an essay on a web page, and so on. Body copy should be set within a text box in all of the Creative Suite programs. Body copy is usually set in rectangles, and the production artist controls how many columns of text populate a page grid.

The artist should be interested in creating legible body copy. Legible body copy is not too big, too small, too lengthy, too short, too light, or too dark. For a considerable amount of body copy (a full article, for example), the copy should be set in columns between 3.5 and 4 inches in length or 35 to 65 characters. This is the point at which many readers begin to read back over the words that they have already read. A 3.5-inch line of body copy encourages the reader to move to the next line of type at about the time that she is ready to move her eyes from right to left.

Assessing body copy is easy: squint your eyes while looking at the printed body copy. The overall grayscale value of the printed rectangle (body copy) should be about 40 to 50 percent. It should not read as stripes of black against the page. In this exercise, we will consider adjustments that can be made if the copy is too light or dark.

  1. Create a new vertical guide at the end of the last s in Systems.
  2. When you click and drag instead of clicking once and entering text, the Type tool will create a text box. Create a text box at about 7.25 inches (vertically), between the two vertical guides. You can set a guide at 7.25 inches. In the example we have used a paragraph of “dummy” (or placeholder) text that graphic designers have been using since the 1500s. The text begins with the two words “Lorem ipsum,” and is often simply referred to as Lorem ipsum (e.g., “Put some Lorem ipsum in there for now, we should be receiving the copy in a couple of days”). Lorem ipsum is used as placeholder body copy when the actual text is not available, as its letters are more or less evenly distributed. Looking at “dummy text inserted here, dummy text inserted here” repeated enough times to create a block of body copy draws attention to itself with a noticeable pattern. (Fig 4.12) At the time of writing, lipsum.com was offering Lorem ipsum by the word count, paragraph count, and byte count. Included in the download area of the wiki is a text file with the Lorem ipsum text used here, but if you can see the wiki, then you have access to the Internet. Assuming lipsum.com is still available, you should generate two paragraphs of text there.

    Fig 4.12

    Fig 4.12 Lorem ipsum text is easier on the eye than four repeated words.

  3. Copy and paste the Lorem ipsum text from the web to your new text box. We used Gill Sans Regular, set in 11 points.
  4. The body copy pasted into the new text box should be left-justified by default. If it is not, use the Control or Character panel to set the justification to the left. The straight alignment of letters at the left of the text box creates a virtual line that extends to the headline, as the left of the text box is aligned with the S in Systems. By the property of continuation, a line is made from the S to the body copy on the page. While this “line” created by the left margin is not as literal or heavy as the black line made in Exercise 2, it is just as relevant to the layout. It provides an intersection with the black line to further define the grid on the page.
  5. Leading is the space between lines of type. The body copy is set at 11 points, and the leading is set at 15.2 points. This is traditionally referred to as 11/15.2. Insert the Type tool into any area of the body copy and then press Command+A on the keyboard to select all of the type within this type box. With all of the type selected, press Option and the down arrow key to open the leading. (Fig 4.13)

    Fig 4.13

    Fig 4.13 In these images, the leading has been adjusted and the text box has been resized in consideration of the margin space at the right and bottom of the composition. Notice how opening or loosening the leading creates a slightly lighter grayscale value when you squint your eyes and look at the block of text.

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