Pica (typography)

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Unit system typographic unit
Unit of length
Unit conversions
1 pica in ... ... is equal to ...
   typographic units    12 points
   imperial/US units    1/6 in
   metric (SI) units    4.2333 mm

The pica is a typographic unit of measure corresponding to approximately ​16 of an inch, or ​172 of a foot. One pica is further divided into 12 points.

To date, in printing three pica measures are used:

  • The French pica of 12 Didot points (also called cicéro) generally is: 12 × 0.376 = 4.512 mm (0.1776 in).
  • The American pica of 0.16604 inches (4.217 mm). It was established by the United States Type Founders' Association in 1886.[1][2] In TeX one pica is ​1272.27 of an inch.
  • The contemporary computer PostScript pica is exactly ​16 of a inch or ​172 of a foot, i.e. 4.233 mm or 0.166 inches.

Publishing applications such as Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress represent pica measurements with whole-number picas left of a lower-case p, followed by the points number, for example: 5p6 represents 5 picas and 6 points, or 5​12 picas.

Cascading Style Sheets defined by the World Wide Web Consortium use pc as the abbreviation for pica (​16 of an inch), and pt for point (​172 of an inch).[3]

The pica is also used in measuring the font capacity and is applied in the process of copyfitting.[4] The font length is measured there by the number of characters per pica (cpp). As books are most often printed with proportional fonts, cpp of a given font is usually a fractional number. For example, an 11-point font (like Helvetica) may have 2.4 cpp,[5] thus a 5-inch (30-pica) line of a usual octavo-sized (6×8 in) book page would contain around 72 characters (including spaces).[6][7]

The typographic pica must not be confused with the Pica font of the typewriters, which means a font where 10 typed characters make up a line one inch long.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Legros, Lucien Alphonse; Grant, John Cameron (1916). Typographical Printing-Surfaces. London and New York: Longmann, Green, and Co. pp. 57–60. 
  2. ^ Hyde, Grant Milnor (1920). Newspaper Editing: A Manual for Editors, Copyreaders, and Students of Newspaper Desk Work. New York and London: D. Appleton and Company. pp. 226–227. 
  3. ^ "Syntax and basic data types". W3.org. Retrieved 2016-10-21. 
  4. ^ Pipes, Alan (2005). Production for Graphic Designers (4th ed.). Laurence King Publishing. pp. 48–49. 
  5. ^ Montagnes, Ian (1991). Editing and Publication: A Training Manual. p. 343. 
  6. ^ Dahl, Fred (2006). Book Production Procedures for Today's Technology (2nd ed.). Inkwell Publishing Service. p. 21. 
  7. ^ Jackson, Hartley Everett (1942). Newspaper Typography, a Textbook for Journalism Classes. Stranford University Press. pp. 36–37. 
  • Bringhurst, Robert (1999). The Elements of Typographic Style (2nd ed.). H&M Publishers. pp. 294–295. ISBN 0881791326. 
  • Pasko, W. W. (1894). "Pica". American Dictionary of Printing and Bookmaking. H. Lockwood. p. 436.