How to Use the Principle of Alignment in Page Layout

Learn the most effective methods for lining up text and graphics

What to Know

  • Alignment creates organization of page elements, gives order and balance, and makes more readable pages.
  • There are five types of alignment: horizontal, vertical, edge, center, and visual\optical.
  • You can use alignment in software by enabling guidelines and grids for precise placement.

This article explains how to use alignment in page layouts for a better design. Additional information covers the types of alignment and their function.

Benefits of Alignment in Page Design

Alignment of elements on a print page or web page serves to:

  • Create order and convey harmony
  • Organize page elements
  • Group items
  • Create visual connections

Good alignment is invisible. Most readers won't consciously notice that everything is lined up neatly. However, most viewers will notice when the elements are out of alignment.

Types of Alignment for Page Layouts

  • Horizontal alignment: In horizontal alignment, left and right margins are exactly or visually equal. Horizontal alignment can be across the page or within columns. It doesn't necessarily mean center alignment. A block of flush left/ragged-right text can be aligned horizontally. Even though individual lines of text are not perfectly aligned on each side, careful attention to the amount of white space at the end of the line can result in a visually balanced amount of margin on each side of the block of text.
  • Vertical alignment: In vertical alignment, the top and bottom margins are exactly or visually equal. Vertical alignment can be the full page or within portions of the page.
  • Edge alignment: Edge alignment lines up text or objects along their top, bottom, left, or right edges. Alignment along the left edge (called ragged right) is frequently seen with text in newspapers and on web pages because our eyes are used to seeing and reading the text in this manner. 
  • Center alignment: Center alignment may be horizontal or vertical or both.
  • Visual or optical alignment: Visual or optical alignment fixes some of the problems that can occur with other types of alignment due to the varying shapes of letters and graphics. In visual alignment, the objects may not be precisely aligned, but to the eye, they appear lined up.

Using Alignment

Lack of alignment creates a sloppy, unorganized look on the page or screen. Mixing too many alignments can have a similar effect. It's OK to break alignment when it serves a specific purpose such as to intentionally create tension or to draw attention to a specific element on the page.

For simple arrangements, items can be aligned using the automatically align options in your software. For more complicated layouts, the use of guidelines and grids aid in the precise placement of elements.

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