How Many Picas in an Inch?

A pica is a unit of measurement used in publishing

The two units of measurement commonly used in typography and the printing industry are the pica and the point. There are about 6 picas in 1 inch. There are 72 picas in a foot. There are 12 points in a pica.

Uses for Picas

A pica is a typesetting unit of measurement commonly used for measuring the width of lines of type. One pica equals 12 points and is approximately 1/6 of an inch. Picas are used when designing magazines, newspapers, ads and newsletters.

All of the common page layout software on the market supports the use of picas as a unit of measurement.

To Be Exact

More precisely, a pica is 0.166 inch or 4.2154 millimeters. Six picas equal 0.9957 inches, but for graphic design and desktop publishing purposes, six picas rounds up to 1 inch.

Pica Notation

The letter "p" is used to designate picas such as in 22p or 6p. With 12 points to the pica, half a pica is 6 points, which is written as 0p6. 17 points is written as 1p5, in which 1 pica equals 12 points plus the leftover 5 points. Additional examples include::

  • 1 inch = 6p or 6p0
  • 1/2 inch = 3p or 3p0
  • 1/4 inch = 1p6
  • 1/8 inch = 0p9
  • A column of type in a newspaper that is 15 picas wide is 2.5. inches wide.
  • A letter-size sheet of paper is 8.5 by 11 inches or 51p by 66p.

Origin of the Pica Measurement

The pica as we know it today was introduced in the U.S. in 1879 by Nelson Hawks. Although he believed he invented the pica, a similar measurement with the same name was developed in France as early as the mid-1700s by Francois Ambroise Didot.

 

Originally, picas and points were used to measure metal type and the space that appeared between the individual metal characters and between the lines of set type, which was called leading. The measurements made the transition to electronic typesetting and are still used by commercial printers and typographers today.