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Designing with Initial Caps

DTG Magazine

A previous article on Initial Letters, by Ilene Strizver, inspired me to take another look at what we've got in the Publishers Warehouse to adorn holiday communications.

As I told my GRPH 243 class at JMU yesterday, while introducing them to Quark Xpress, page Layout programs have taken something that was once a tedious process and made it easy to make drop caps.

But I cautioned:
      If you want to do a really superb job, the automated functions of page layout programs, and yes, even word processors will never suffice.To make something really special, you need to place (import, etc.,) the letter with care, size it with care, then produce a runaround that really, really makes the initial cap do what you want it to do.

URTON INITIALS is an illuminated letter font included in this month's Publishers' Warehouse. It comes as both an actual font, and a graphic font. This makes it the ideal illuminated letters to demonstrate this month's technique.

Why load an entire font for one letter.

Since these letters are square, they're perfect for a standard placed picture block with a runaround. Be sure to scale the letter so that it occupies just the number of lines you wish, and them tweak the runaround so that the lines stay properly spaced.

In Quark I would rather use the Command/M dialog to set the scale than attempting dragging to scale. In the dialog I can quickly specify the exact depth I need. For instance, if the font in use is 12 points, set on 14 point leading, and I want a 4-line drop, then I know I need the block to be 54 points deep.

Using a graphic as opposed to an actual keyed in letter from a font offers some improvements over the software's "auto" drop-cap for more professional results. But either way will work.

In Quark Xpress the Initial Cap function doesn't allow proper kerning. (That's moving the rest of the letter closer to the cap letter.) When you kern via the built in kerning function, the second and third lines also kern and can mess up the intention of the drop cap.

Proper Initial Kerning in Quark Xpress

Designing Type Runarounds in Quark XPressI've use the Command/Click technique to add anchor points to the runaround block (dotted line)

Next I move the "urton" closer to the 'B' yet hold the other lines away form the letter block.

In Quark, I'll almost always give a "ZERO" offset in the Runarounds dialog to those sides where no runaround effect is desired.

This provides easy, quick recognition of the drop cap in terms of the word it begins.

You can't do this with regular runarounds.

Notice too, I've followed the traditional technique of capitalizing the opening phrase of the paragraph.

Using Typeset Letters for Initial Caps

initial caps in QuarkIn example #2, (left) you see I've used a single letter, keyed into a Quark text block.

That darn Quark wants to cause all kinds of problems just to get the letter to even appear in the block. Unless I go to a lot of trouble to raise the baseline, and lessen the leading, Quark will kick the whole letter out of sight.

Here, I've turned off the runaround so the letter overlays the text block. Remember that runarounds affect the objects behind, rather than in front. We'll put this important "Stacking Order" to use in a few minutes.

using paths to runaroundNow, I use the polygon tool and draw a polygon shape roughly following the contour of the letter.

Again, I use the Command/Click technique to modify and introduce more anchor points into the runaround.

Now I can configure this just as if it were a graphic, pulling the drop-word closer to the letter, while keeping the rest of the text away from the shape.

Stacking order is everything here, so to complete this set-up I bring the letter "A" to the front so it's ignored by the runarounds below it.

using an initial capOMETIMES IT SEEMS like it takes a lot of time and effort, but the results are agreeably better. If the project is not that important to you, then use the internal drop cap function.

There are literally hundreds of wonderful illuminated fonts for use in decorative settings.

Gothic capsWe've included a number of ideal fonts for drop caps, as well as dozens of initial cap examples and sample pages in the Publishers' Warehouse. When you arrive there, just check "fonts" or click on "clip art" and "Pictorials."

You've already seen Burton above, others include Caxton Initials, and Griffin Dingbats Caps as shown here.

We have many others, if you'd like us to post them, just let us know. You can pick up the fonts in the Publishers' Warehouse Loading Dock if you already read the newsletter and know the location. If no, just stop in and we'll give you the address.

Thanks for reading...

Fred Showker
Editor / Publisher: 60-Second Window, DTG Magazine, the User Group News Network, and Photoshop Tips & Tricks

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