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Tracking and kerning

From: After Effects Apprentice 06: Type and Music

Video: Tracking and kerning

In this movie, I am going to cover tracking and kerning. I have created some titles to play with. The first is Baskerville Italic, second is Birch, and the third is Copperplate. I will select the Copperplate, and there is an option in the Character panel to increase and decrease tracking. When I increase tracking, extra space is added between all of the characters evenly. You will also find a condensed font like Birch can also be more readable when some space is added between the characters.

Tracking and kerning

In this movie, I am going to cover tracking and kerning. I have created some titles to play with. The first is Baskerville Italic, second is Birch, and the third is Copperplate. I will select the Copperplate, and there is an option in the Character panel to increase and decrease tracking. When I increase tracking, extra space is added between all of the characters evenly. You will also find a condensed font like Birch can also be more readable when some space is added between the characters.

On the other hand, a font like this Italic font can look a little strange if you increase tracking too much, and that also goes for calligraphic or scripted fonts. And I think that's because when you're handwriting, you generally don't leave big spaces between all the characters. So when you are increasing tracking, I would take into account whether you are really helping to make it more readable. Sometimes with scripted fonts, it looks better if the letters are closer together, so I am going to set Tracking back to 0. To the left of Tracking in the Character panel is the Kerning controls and this sets the spacing between two characters in the font as opposed to the entire title.

Now before I show you how to fix some of the problem spacing, such as the r and i here, or the large gaps between the words, let's talk about kerning pairs and what comes bundled with the font. When you are talking about a font like Baskerville, Helvetica, and Copperplate, and those major fonts from big companies, generally speaking they spend a lot of time working on kerning pairs. For instance, with this Italic font, the spacing between the F and the O look pretty good. So someone went to the trouble of making a custom kerning pair to make those work together.

On the other hand, it looks like they didn't do such a great job with the r and the I; I think this is a little bit tight. And of course, it's impossible to come up with every single variation. Now After Effects to use these built in Kerning pairs, the Kerning menu needs to be set to Metrics, and that's the default. But more recent versions of After Effects includes another option called Optical. When you choose Optical, After Effects will look at the shape of the characters and try to figure out a good way of fitting them together. And sometimes it actually looks better, particularly for display fonts, or inexpensive fonts, where there wasn't a lot of Kerning pairs built-in.

Unfortunately, no matter which option you choose, there will always be a few characters you're still not happy with. Although the r and the i are a little bit better, there's still a big space here, and the f and the o are not as good as they were before. So at the end of the day, you will often find yourself fixing kerning pairs on your own--and thankfully it's pretty easy to do. Now one option is to just place your cursor between two characters and start scrubbing the value. When you start scrubbing, sometimes you will get a bit of a jump.

I am going to set it back to the default, which is Metrics. So I would like to open up the r and the I, so I place the cursor between the two characters, press the Option key on Mac, and then press the Right Arrow key. Every time I press the arrow key, if you watch the Character panel, you will see its jumping in 20-unit increments. That's actually quite a large amount of space, and unfortunately, After Effects doesn't allow you to set how big an increment is when you press the Arrow key.

I can fix these spaces by pressing Option+Left Arrow key. Hit Enter. With the Copperplate, it's just a couple of letters here and there that I think I would tighten up. I find when I have characters like a P or an O, the shapes they create can sometimes need tightening up. So my approach is to use tracking to adjust the overall spacing and then go in with Kerning and try to even up the kerning pairs. When I'm done, I might even increase Tracking a little if Kerning has tightened up the characters too much.

And so as long as the end result is that the spacing is even, it doesn't so much matter how you get there. Now you might be thinking that all this kerning and tracking is time consuming and there is no way you could do this with every single word, especially if you are on the tight deadline. But let's say you're working on a movie title or a TV show, and you have a few weeks to work on the job. In that case, it's worth spending a few minutes on each title making sure they're absolutely perfect. So of course, any extra time you spend kerning and tracking, it has to be proportional to the time you are spending on the entire job, but I believe that little extra effort will make your titles look more professional.

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This video is part of

Image for After Effects Apprentice 06: Type and Music
After Effects Apprentice 06: Type and Music

49 video lessons · 17824 viewers

Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer
Author

 
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  1. 3m 35s
    1. Overview
      1m 35s
    2. Using the exercise files
      2m 0s
  2. 14m 51s
    1. Setting up
      2m 20s
    2. Entering, editing, and styling type
      5m 49s
    3. Using strokes
      3m 6s
    4. Working with paragraph text
      3m 36s
  3. 23m 21s
    1. Setting a title
      2m 31s
    2. Creating a text animator
      6m 54s
    3. Selecting by character vs. percent
      3m 0s
    4. Animating position
      2m 4s
    5. Animating more properties
      3m 31s
    6. Exploring text transitions
      2m 47s
    7. Randomizing order
      2m 34s
  4. 22m 49s
    1. The Cascade recipe
      2m 15s
    2. Exploring offset plus selection shapes
      4m 16s
    3. Working with ramp selection shapes
      4m 26s
    4. Using character anchor points
      4m 40s
    5. Further refinements
      7m 12s
  5. 9m 0s
    1. Working with selections based on words
      4m 16s
    2. Anchor point grouping
      4m 44s
  6. 15m 46s
    1. Using a vertical blur treatment
      3m 58s
    2. Animated tracking
      5m 46s
    3. Working with text on a path
      6m 2s
  7. 14m 56s
    1. Per-character 3D overview
      5m 45s
    2. Enabling per-character 3D
      4m 4s
    3. Exploring per-character 3D rotation
      5m 7s
  8. 18m 37s
    1. Separating fields
      3m 48s
    2. Exploring wiggly options
      4m 28s
    3. Animating wiggles
      3m 18s
    4. Rendering with alpha channels
      7m 3s
  9. 45m 29s
    1. Adding audio
      4m 8s
    2. Audio levels
      4m 27s
    3. Spotting hit points
      5m 33s
    4. Timing to audio
      5m 25s
    5. Spotting dialogue
      7m 32s
    6. Timing dialogue to music
      6m 45s
    7. Mixing audio
      7m 53s
    8. Exploring audio refinements
      3m 46s
  10. 23m 9s
    1. Applying text presets
      5m 50s
    2. Browsing presets in Bridge
      4m 35s
    3. Editing presets
      6m 49s
    4. Saving presets
      5m 55s
  11. 16m 27s
    1. Working with Photoshop text
      4m 58s
    2. Keyframing source text
      4m 21s
    3. The Buzz Words preset
      7m 8s
  12. 20m 43s
    1. Exploring faux styling options
      7m 42s
    2. Tracking and kerning
      4m 56s
    3. Using smart quotes
      4m 8s
    4. Using hyphens and dashes
      3m 57s

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