Beginner's Guide to the Principle of Alignment in Graphic Design

Hand holding piece of white puzzle on blue background. Business and team work concept.
Azri Suratmin / Getty Images

One of the principles of design, alignment refers to lining up the top, bottom, sides, or middle of text or graphic elements on a page.

Horizontal alignment includes:

  • Flush-left (also called left-justified or ragged right)
  • Flush-right (also called right-justified or ragged left)
  • Centered
  • Fully justified

With vertical alignment, elements can be aligned vertically — top, bottom, or middle (center), for example. Baseline alignment would be aligning text to the baseline, including adjacent columns of text.

The use of grids and guides can aid in the placement and alignment of both text and graphics. You can also practice the use of alignment and grids simply by rearranging apps on your smartphone.

Full justification of text (fully justified alignment) can create uneven and sometimes unsightly white spaces and rivers of white space in the text. When forced justification is used, if the last line is less than 3/4 of the column width the extra space added between words or letters is especially noticeable and unattractive.

Finally, consider using flush-left alignment. If full justification is necessary, careful attention and minute adjustments to the line or column widths, changing the font size of the entire document, and adjusting hyphenation can make a word and character spacing more consistent.