How to Use the Principle of Alignment in Page Layout

Lining Up Text and Graphics

Create order, visual connections with alignment.

Alignment is the placement of text and graphics so they line up on the page. It's one of the principles of design that help us create attractive, readable pages. Use alignment to:

  • create order
  • organize page elements
  • group items
  • create visual connections

Good alignment is invisible. Most readers won't conciously notice that everything is lined up neatly but they will feel it when things are out of alignment.

There are several types of alignment that can work together to create a pleasing layout.

  • 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 rag (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.


  • center alignment
    Center alignment may be horiztonally or vertically aligned, 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.

Mixing too many alignments can have a similiar effect. However, it's also OK to break alignment when it serves a specific purpose such as to intentionally create tension or draw attention to a specific element on the page.

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

View these examples and discussion of alignment that show the underlying grid or guidelines that tie the elements together.Some of these examples come from reader redesigns of our Makeover Projects.


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