Justifying like a boss in Scribus

I’ve been work­ing on a mag­a­zine project for the last cou­ple of months and sad­ly I found that there aren’t that many tuto­ri­als for Scribus, spe­cial­ly on the top­ic of jus­ti­fy­ing. So if you’re also won­der­ing how to get good jus­ti­fied text in Scribus 1.4, read on!

Let’s start with set­ting our text style right. Open up the styles edi­tor and set the para­graph style for your text (usu­al­ly the default) with these settings:

  • Minimum space width: 92%
  • Gylph exten­sion: 95% — 100%
  • Tracking: ‑2% (this is in the char­ac­ter tab)

Always let your text flushed, unless you’re required to have it ful­ly jus­ti­fied. It can save you a lot of spac­ing issues and in many cas­es just looks better.

Make sure you have hyphen­ation enabled while you type: open the pref­er­ences and go into “Hyphenation and Spelling”. If you import text, make sure to hype­nate it (Extras > Hyphenate Text).

This should give you a pret­ty good base. Now comes the fun part: going through all your text to find over­ly spaced lines, rivers, wid­ows and orphans.

Overly spaced lines refer to lines where the sep­a­ra­tion between char­ac­ters or words is notably high­er than the rest of the para­graph. Another spac­ing issue is rivers. Rivers occur when the gaps between words or char­ac­ters seem to align, form­ing a line of emp­ty space that runs through the text.

Widows are para­graph-end­ing lines that end up in the beg­gin­ing of the next col­umn or page.They can break the flow when read­ing and make your text look dis­joint­ed. Orphans are small lines at the end of para­graphs that cause too much white­space between them.
Your first task should be fix­ing the uneven spac­ing that caus­es “rivers” of white­space in your text. You can do this by adjust­ing the pre­vi­ous set­tings in the prop­er­ties win­dow (inside advanced set­tings). I sug­gest you tweak para­graph by para­graph, then line by line for the prob­lem­at­ic ones.

The next step is reduc­ing wid­ows and orphans. The key­word here is reduc­ing. While you can prob­a­bly get rid of all wid­ows by adding line breaks, you’ll have to accept some orphans. If the author is ok with it, you can split para­graphs but most often you’ll want to tweak the spac­ing set­tings on that para­graph until the orphan is gone. Just remem­ber you can’t always fix them all, don’t waste your time fid­dling with orphans if you have to com­pro­mise the read­abil­i­ty of your text to fix them.
Don’t for­get to adjust the space around your para­graphs (about 1pt is fine). Use the para­graph style for this, don’t add unnece­sary line breaks!

Check out the Wikipedia arti­cle on jus­tifca­tion for more info.

All the posts you can read
TutorialsLayouting, Scribus22.04.2020


  1. Caroline(2 years ago)

    Great tips, thank you! I real­ly appre­ci­ate this arti­cle that deals specif­i­cal­ly for some­thing open source like Scribus!

    The text does con­tain a few typos, however…

    1. Diego Gangl(2 years ago)

      Thanks for read­ing, I’ll take anoth­er look at the typos

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