How Many Points Are in a Pica?

Points and Picas Are Measurements Used in Printing and Typography

Our new pica pole pin,
Pins that measure picas. Kyle Van Horn/Flickr

Points and picas have long been the measurements of choice of typographers and commercial printers. The point is the smallest measurement unit in typography. There are 12 points in 1 pica and 6 picas in 1 inch. There are 72 points in 1 inch.

Measuring Type in Points

The size of type in a document is measured in points. You've probably used 12 pt type before—"pt" indicates point. All of the popular page layout and word processing programs offer type in different point sizes.

You might choose 12 point type for body text, 24 point type for a headline or 60 point type for a huge banner headline.

Points are used in conjunction with picas to measure the length of lines of type. The letter "p" is used to designate picas as in 22p or 6p. With 12 points to the pica, half a pica is 6 points written as 0p6. 17 points is 1p5, where 1 pica equals 12 points plus the leftover 5 points.

Additional examples include:

  • 1 inch = 6p or 6p0 (6 picas and zero points)
  • 1/2 inch = 3p or 3p0 (3 picas and zero points)
  • 1/4 inch = 1p6 (1 pica and 6 points)
  • 1/8 inch = 0p9 (9 points)
  • A column of text that is 2.25 inches wide equals 13p6 (13 picas and 6 points)

The Size of a Point

One point is equal to 0.013836 of an inch, and 72 points are approximately 1 inch. You might think that all 72 point type would be exactly 1 inch tall, but no. The measurement includes the ascenders and descenders of all the letterforms.

Some characters (such as uppercase letters) have neither, some have one or the other, and some characters have both.

Origin of the Modern Point Measurement

After hundreds of years and several countries in which the point was defined in different ways, the U.S. adopted the desktop publishing point (DTP point) or PostScript point, which is defined as 1/72 of an international inch.

This measurement was used by Adobe when it created PostScript and by Apple Computer as its standard for display resolution on its first computers.

Although some digital graphic designers have begun to use inches as the measurement of choice in their work, points and picas still have plenty of followers among typographers, typesetters, and commercial printers.

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Your Citation
Bear, Jacci Howard. "How Many Points Are in a Pica?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2017, thoughtco.com/how-many-points-in-a-pica-1077702. Bear, Jacci Howard. (2017, August 25). How Many Points Are in a Pica? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-many-points-in-a-pica-1077702 Bear, Jacci Howard. "How Many Points Are in a Pica?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-many-points-in-a-pica-1077702 (accessed September 20, 2017).