What’s a Pica?

By LaurenMarie

A Pica Ruler! If only...When I was looking at designing my first big print piece, I decided it was time to learn more about the grid and about the measurement system of points and picas.

I started reading about picas and it immediately clicked with me: even our screen resolutions are based on this system! Haven’t you ever thought that 72 ppi was a rather random number? Well, there are 72 points in one inch, 72 pixels per inch. Hmm…maybe there really is no connection, but it sure seems coincidental.

The System

There’s a lot of history that went into making the pica system of measurement the way it is today. If you’re really curious, Size.com has a pretty extensive article on it.

All you really need to know to use this system is:

1 inch = 6 picas
1 pica = 12 points
1 inch = 72 points

By the way, for those in Canada, 1 pica = 4.0894 mm, according to the Size.com article.

Noting the System

If you want to talk about measurements in picas and points, you can note it like this: 1p6 (as InDesign, QuarkXPress and I do). 1p6 means 1 pica, 6 points, which is one and a half picas (because there are 12 points in 1 pica and half of 12 = 6).

  • 2p0 means “Two picas.”
  • 3p2 means “Three picas, two points.”

Confused? Subscribe to the Creative Curio feed because Friday you’ll see how to implement points and picas and why this system is so great!