Drop caps with \lettrine

According to Wikipedia a drop cap or initial is a letter at the beginning of a published or written work, chapter or paragraph that is larger than the rest of the text. I have to admit however that the following initial is not a LaTeX creation, but it nicely illustrates what I am talking about.

Initial example from Wikipedia

A historiated illuminated initial

Note: The image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.

So let me show you how to create drop caps in LaTeX. First, we need to load two packages, one for scalable fonts (type1cm), removing the LaTeX restriction on font size. And secondly the actual drop cap package (lettrine):

\usepackage{type1cm}
\usepackage{lettrine}

Creating a dropping capital is now straight foward using the lettrine command which takes two mandatory and an optional argument:

\lettrine{O}{nce} upon a time...

By default, the capital will span two lines and letters of the second argument will be printed as small capitals.

dropcaps-latex

Result of the lettrine example.

With little effort, we were able to produce a remarkable result. But with some tweaking, the package can do even better. For that we will need some optional arguments provided by the package, including:

  • lines: Number of lines the drop cap spans
  • findent: Controls the horizontal gap between the drop cap and the text
  • nindent: Shifts indented lines starting with the second
  • slope: Adapts the slope of the text lines to match letters like A, V, etc.
  • ante: Produces text before the drop cap
  • image=true: Loads an image (requires graphicx) as drop cap

Please see the documentation for a complete list of options and further details.

Using these options, I will now show a few examples and the result.

Example with A:

\lettrine[lines=3,slope=4pt,findent=-3pt]{A}{t vero} eos et accusamus et iusto odio dignissimos ducimus qui blanditiis praesentium voluptatum deleniti atque corrupti quos dolores et quas molestias excepturi sint occaecati cupiditate non provident, similique sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollitia animi, id est laborum et dolorum fuga.

Example with W:

\lettrine[lines=3,slope=-4pt,nindent=-4pt]{W}{ho} are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain. These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish.

Complete code example with an image:

\documentclass[12pt]{article}
\usepackage[english]{babel}
\usepackage{graphicx, type1cm, lettrine, blindtext}
\begin{document}
\lettrine[image=true, lines=3, findent=3pt, nindent=0pt]{image.jpg}{n} the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain.
\end{document}

All the text was copied from this website and the PDF result can be viewed here.

Some known problems remain, including that “lettrine” does not work in the center environment, within lists and when a drop cap is produced at the end of a page, it might hang into the footer. But since drop caps are generally used at the beginning of a chapter or paragraph, these issues will not affect you in most cases.

Finally, I would like to remark that the small capital style of the text after the drop cap can be changed. The following command will set it to be normal text:

\renewcommand{\LettrineTextFont}{\rmfamily}

By default, lettrine uses \scshape for small capitals.

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