Baseline grid freebies for Inkscape and opinions on design tools

I created these six downloadable templates that will help you construct better vertical rhythm using Inkscape. I also touch the subject of FOSS design and why I’m considering leaving Inkscape for Sketch 3 (but not for Adobe’s Creative Cloud.)

Inkscape baseline grid template

I wouldn’t normally use Inkscape for designing publications; the fantastic TeX and its derivatives are great if you like to combine code and design like I do.

But a while ago I worked on a bunch of documents that were extremely graphics-heavy, and I wanted to have absolute control over the placement and the dimensions without much fuss. They didn’t have a lot of text, which is why I started with Inkscape.

After a while of nudging things to and fro I started yearning for a baseline grid.

Why not InDesign or even Illustrator? What’s up with Inkscape?

When I made these templates, I was still using Linux as my sole operating system. Recently I purchased a new laptop with both development and design in mind, and now I dual boot OS X and Linux.

Unfortunately Adobe hasn’t blessed Linux users with support for most of its software. Thus Linux isn’t largely used or known for design, though a lot of progress has been made in the UX front during the past few years especially by the GNOME project.

In my opinion, Inkscape is unfortunately still the only decent choice for vector illustration on Linux. Its user interface could be improved, but it’s stable and the feature set is extensive.

Creating the templates

It turned out that getting paragraphs of text to stay on a grid isn’t that easy with Inkscape.

Inkscape does have a good regular grid system, but I wanted a grid with horizontal lines only. The trick I used was to set the grid’s horizontal spacing to some obscenely large value. It’s a hack, but it worked well for this purpose.

Now I had a grid and I could snap single-line text objects onto it, but multiple lines still kept drifting. Since Inkscape measures font sizes in pixels and line heights in ratios, tweaking the line height to match the grid was a bit tedious.

I opened up a spreadsheet and compiled a table of font sizes and their corresponding line heights for the 16-point grid. The font sizes are based on a classical typographic scale that I often like to use for print work.

Now there’s a consistent vertical rhythm and no drifting!

  1. Type some text onto the canvas.
  2. Pick a font size in points from the table on the right hand side.
  3. Find and enter its corresponding pixel size and line height.
  4. Position the text and snap its baseline onto the grid.
  5. Get a cup of coffee, you’re done!

The templates are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence. Tell me if you find them useful!


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