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Deke's Techniques is a collection of short Photoshop and Illustrator projects and creative effects that can be completed in ten minutes or less. The series is taught by computer graphics guru Deke McClelland, and presented in his signature step-by-step style. The intent is to reveal how various Photoshop and Illustrator features can be combined and leveraged in real-world examples so that they can be applied to creative projects right away.
Hey gang! This is Deke McClelland. Welcome to Deke's Techniques. Now, in this technique I'm going to show you a solution to what I find to be one of the most tragic problems facing the world today, which is bad kerning. Nothing irritates me on earth like bad kerning, I swear to you. I'll go into a public place with big signs and the characters are just horribly kerned. Ugh! It ruins, you know, a few minutes of my day, and I don't want that to happen to you. So I'm going to be showing you how to kern, not text-- you know how to kern text--how to kern inside of a single character.
Now, I know. You're looking at me thinking hmm, never really needed to do that Deke. Yes you have. Check it out. A 1, a 0, a 0 and a percentage sign, all kerned nice and tight together, but the contents of that percentage sign, which are ultimately a superscripted 0, a fraction character and a little 0, there are gaping holes between those little sort of subcharacters there. That's the problem because you can't go in to a percentage sign and start kerning it. That's not humanly possible. Well, actually, yes, it is.
And I'm going to show you exactly how to do it to get these professional-quality results, which will not irritate people like me. Please don't do that. Here, let me show you how it works. All right, gang! So here I am looking at my progress so far inside of this document. I've managed to establish this synthetic wood grain. I've also duplicated it in order to create a couple of additional slats, each of which sports its own unique texture pattern. Now, what I want to do is take this big white text here and go ahead and emboss it against the wood background.
However, before I do that, I want to show you this truly geeked-out technique that I think is super useful, very exciting, for those of you who are way into kerning. If you love to kern text, or more importantly, you hate the look of badly kerned text, then you will absolutely love this technique. It goes beyond any kerning thing I've ever seen. So I'm going to switch over to my document at hand. Notice that 100% is not kerned well at this point. We have way too big of gaps between the various characters, and that tends to happen when you're working with very big type.
And so the solution, of course--we all know this, right--the solution is to hand-kern the type. So you go ahead and grab your Text tool here inside of Photoshop, and you can get that by pressing the T key, and then you click between a couple of characters and then to kern them together, you go ahead and press the handy keyboard shortcut that works across a lot of Adobe applications, which is Alt+Left Arrow, or Option+Left Arrow on the Mac. And then you click between a couple of other characters, Alt+Left Arrow a few times again. That's too far, so I do an Alt+Right Arrow or an Option+Right Arrow on the Mac to scoot them back apart, and then click between the 0 and the percentage sign and press Alt+Left Arrow a couple of times to kern those together as well.
All right, so, so far so good, right? Not really. Look at the big problem here. So I've managed so far to kern the various characters together, but you can't kern inside of a character. So what do you do about the fact that we have these big gaping gaps inside of the Percentage sign, between the 0 and the fraction character and the other 0? Well, there are two solutions, one of which is to find those little subcharacters. They exist inside this and many other fonts. This is Adobe Garamond Pro, which is one of the classic, big-character fonts, and it goes so far as to include a designer superscripted 0 that matches the weight of the other characters, as well as the small 0 and a fraction character.
And then you could find all those characters, if only it was obvious where they are, you have to go to the Character Map software that's included with your operating system, or you could take advantage of the Glyphs panel in Illustrator or InDesign. It doesn't exist here inside Photoshop. But there is a simpler way to work. Check it out. I'm going to press the Escape key in order to return to my big gaping characters, like so. Then I'll switch back to a different tool, the Rectangular Marquee tool will do just fine, and I'll press Shift+Tab to bring back my right-side panels. There is my Layers panel. The Text layer is active. I'm going to duplicate it by pressing Ctrl+J, or Command+J on the Mac, just to jump it to a new layer.
Then I'll turn off the original layer-- my reasoning being I might want to come back to it later, so I don't want to mess it up. So I've got my new version of the layer. I'll go up to the Layer menu, choose Type, and choose Convert to Shape. That's going to convert my type to independent objects, to independent path outlines. Now I can modify those path outlines by hand just with the aid of the Black Arrow tool, or at least mostly with the aid of the Black Arrow tool. We'll where things go wrong, once again. They get a little tricky, once we start dealing with that Percentage symbol.
I'm going to go ahead and select that Black Arrow tool here inside the toolbox, and then I'm going to marquee around these characters, around the 1, the 0, and the 0. Just because I want to make some very specific numerical adjustments, I'm going to go up to the Edit menu and choose Free Transform Path. That's Ctrl+T, Command+T on the Mac, and I want you to remember that keyboard shortcut because I'm going to be using it a lot here. I'll go ahead and choose the command for now though, and then turn on this little Delta sign, the triangle, and that'll allow you to make relative changes. And I'm going to change the X value to 53, because I just want to scoot those characters over 53 pixels, and press the Enter key two times-- that would be the Return key a couple of times on the Mac--in order to apply my adjustment.
It gets a little tedious because we have to do this a few times, but I'm going to go ahead and marquee the 1 and the 0 this time independently of the other zero, and press Ctrl+T, Command+T on the Mac, in order to enter the Free Transform mode. Delta is still down, so this is still going to be a relative adjustment. I'm going to change the X value this time around to 39 pixels. You might say, Deke, how do you know these values? Well, obviously, I've practiced this in advance. I actually just sat there and nudged the characters around using the arrow keys on the keyboard in order to do this originally. Anyway, now I'm going to marquee the one to select it independently.
You could also just click on its path outline. I'll press Ctrl+T, Command+T on the Mac, in order to enter the Free Transform mode, select that X value and change it to 69 and press the Enter key a couple of times--that's the Return key a couple times on the Mac. Now then, I actually I want to move the Percentage character over a little bit by itself. So I'll just click on any portion of the Percentage symbol. Notice that selects the entire darn thing here with the Black Arrow tool. Press Ctrl+T, Command+T on the Mac, change the X value this time to 13 pixels. Press the Enter key a couple of times in order to accept that modification.
Okay now, how do we start kerning inside of the character? Well, the first step is to grab the Direct Selection tool. Second step is to Alt+Click or Option+Click on the Mac on these specific path outlines that you want to select. So I'm going to click off the characters to deselect them, and then I'm going to Alt+Click or Option+Click on this outline right there just to grab that outline independently of the other ones. Shift+Alt+Click or Shift+Option+Click on the interior of that little zero, and Shift+Alt+Click or Shift+Option+Click on the fraction character. All right, now, just to totally get them apart from each other, to unglue this character, I'm going to go up to the Edit menu and choose the Cut command, or press Ctrl+X, Command+X on the Mac.
Now then, I'll click off the characters to deselect them. Make sure, however, that the vector mask is still selected here inside the Layers panel. You should still see those gray path outlines. Then go up to the Edit menu, choose the Paste command-- Ctrl+V, Command+V on the Mac. That goes and pastes those characters in front of the other ones in the very same position from which you cut them. Now, I'm going to do the same thing. I'm going to click off those path outlines, Alt+Click or Option+Click on the outside of the circle, Shift+Alt+Click or Shift+Option+Click on the interior the circle. Let's now unglue it from the Fraction character by going up to the Edit menu, choosing the Cut command-- Ctrl+X, Command+X on the Mac. Then click off everybody to make sure they're deselected.
Go up to the Edit menu, choose the Paste command-- Ctrl+V, Command+V on the Mac--in order to paste that into place. Now, we can switch back to the Black Arrow tool here, and I can go ahead and marquee these two characters in order to select them. Notice they are now independent; the little 0 and the Fraction sign are now independent of the high 0 there, the superscripted 0. And I'm going to press Ctrl+T, Command+T on the Mac, and I'm going to change the X value this time to -72 and press the Enter key a couple of times, or Return key on the Mac in order to accept that modification. Go ahead and marquee or just click on the outline of the little 0.
Press Ctrl+T, Command+T on the Mac in order to enter the Free Transform mode. Change the X value to -70 this time, is what I figured out. Press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac a couple of times in order to invoke that change. I've now managed something that is really, I have to say, fundamentally impossible inside of every application on the planet, because of the nature of fonts, I've managed to kern a single character, which is an essential thing to do when you're dealing with fractions or symbols like this one, parentheses, anything that's got multiple parts associated with it.
Now my other problem that I have with this guy, I'm going to go up to the View menu and I'm going to choose Show, and I'll go ahead and choose Guides. You can also just press Ctrl+Semicolon, Command+Semicolon on the Mac. Notice that I've setup a few guides. These interior guides right there define the size of the middle slat. These farther-out guidelines here, they're pretty much following the size of the 1. Notice that pretty much from the top of the 0's down to the bottom of the 1 is actually what's going on. Notice that the Fraction character exceeds that area, and it drops down here into this other text.
It just didn't find that visually appealing. Well, because these are shape outlines, I can edit this character and make it exactly what I want it to be. So I'm going to switch back to White Arrow tool. I'm going to marquee the top of this character like so, this fraction character. I'm going to drag it down till it snaps into alignment with that guide. I'm also matching the angle of the fraction character, so I don't change that angle. All right. Then I'll do the same thing down here at the bottom. I will go ahead and marquee this guy and I'll drag it up as well so that we're snapping into alignment with the bottom guideline and I'm matching the angle of the fraction character, and that's it.
Now I'm going to zoom out, and I'm going to press Ctrl+Semicolon or Command+Semicolon again in order to hide those guidelines. I'm going to click on the vector mask thumbnail here inside the Layers panel just to go ahead and hide those gray path outlines, and press the F key a couple of times in order to switch to the Full Screen mode. Now we have--if I press Ctrl+0 or Command+0 on the Mac to zoom out, so that we can take in the entire image--you can see that I've managed to hand-kerned every single bit of this large display type by converting editable text into a shape layer here inside Photoshop.
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