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Adobe Illustrator has long been a popular vector–based drawing program, but for many the learning curve is steep. In Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals, author and leading industry expert Deke McClelland shows users how to get in to the Illustrator mindset and overcome this learning curve. He covers the application's key features in a new way, making it simple and easy to master Illustrator. Deke teaches viewers how to use the core drawing and shape tools, the transformation and reshaping features, text, and the Pen tool. He also explains how to export and print. Even if learning Illustrator has been a struggle in the past, this training can help make sense of it. Exercise files accompany the course.
In this exercise, we are going to discuss kerning, which is an obscure sounding but very important text formatting feature inside of Illustrator. And to get a sense of what's going on with kerning, we need to go ahead and zoom in on our type. So I'm going to press Shift+Tab in order to hide those right-side palettes and then I'm going to press Ctrl+Plus or Command+Plus on the Mac in order to zoom in here, and this way we can see the entire width of our title and our byline, both of which are formatted, thanks to the previous exercise. I am still working inside of that document, that same document I opened in the previous exercise which is called Formatted title.ai, found inside the 08_type folder.
If you look closely at the textures, especially at the title, THAT SOCK, you're going to notice that the space between individual characters does not appear to be consistent. Now I'm going to tell you it is actually consistent. We have no kerning applied at this point in time, which means that we have consistent spacing between characters, but it doesn't look that way. So notice that the T and the H look like they are relatively spread apart from each other, then the H and the A look closer together, the A and the T could maybe stand to be closer together, who knows. The S and the O are fairly far apart. The O and the C look good, but then the C and the K are a little spread as well, and this is a function of what's known as side bearing. So some really obscure weird stuff, but every single character of type has a left bearing and a right bearing that spreads it apart from the other characters.
So for example, here between the C and the K we have the C's right bearing, it's invisible, and then we have the K's left bearing meeting up with each other. Now those right and left bearings are designed to match with each other to give you good looking text most of the time, but there are all sorts of pairs of characters that may come into contact with each other that don't look right where the automatic right bearing and left bearing are concerned, and these are known as kerning pairs as we will see. Now as I say the kerning of our text here inside the document is all set to 0 and that's because we brought the text in for Microsoft Word which is not a kerning savvy application by default, there are ways to make it little smarter, but we have no kerning whatsoever applied to our text, and that is a bad thing.
So let's see how to fix that. I am going to go ahead and click on my type to select it with the Black Arrow tool. We can modify all of the selection at a time. We don't have to select the title independently of the byline. Then go ahead and press Ctrl+T, or Command+T on the Mac to bring up the Character palette. Now notice that all of the options inside the Character palette right now for me. That's because I'm not seeing quite all of the options. All of them are blank except for the Kerning value right here, and that's because we have already modified all the other values independently for the title and the by line, so they don't match each other. So that's why they are blank. You could set them to something else to make them match if you want to. We are not going to do that.
We are going to notice here that the Kerning value is set to 0 as I set it was. And I'm going to click the down pointing arrowhead, and notice that inside Illustrator CS4, we now have three options available to us. One is Auto, which is the same as Metrics for Standard Western fonts. For Japanese and Chinese fonts it's different, and I'll explain that in just a moment. And then we have Optical, which puts Illustrator in charge. So Auto will go ahead and apply the special kerning information that's built into the font, and if you are working with an Adobe font as we are. We are working with Adobe Caslon and Trajan Pro.
Those fonts have great metrics built into them. You can stick with the metrics and everything is going to be fine. But if you start working with fonts from other vendors and there are all kinds of other vendors out there, you may find that the Metric kerning doesn't look all that great and that's when you would switch over to Optical and put Illustrator in charge. Now what's the difference between Auto and Metrics-Roman Only? Well, if you are working with a Japanese, or a Chinese font, or any non-western font, then Metrics is going to apply the metrics only to the Roman characters which are often built into those fonts, and then leave the Japanese and the Chinese characters and all those guys alone, or they are going to apply different kerning values to those characters.
So a little obscure, if you are working with western fonts, you don't need to worry about it. You just ignore this option and switch over to Auto. But as I say Optical is another option, so you can either trust the font metrics, or you can put Illustrator in charge and tell it to look at all the characters and do a thing. Optical also takes a little more processing time, but we are going to do it just so we can see what the text looks like. So this is Auto, just to give you a sense here, we will go ahead and switch to Auto and you can see that the characters come closer to each other in most cases, and they start to look a lot better as well. So the distance between the S and the O, and the O and the C, and the C and the K, look more uniform, and just for the heck of it, let's try optical, and that shifts things around just a little differently. And actually, Adobe always argues to the contrary, but I think in this case, Optical looks better. They are always saying their metrics are so great, don't mess with them. But you know what? Do what you want to do; whatever you think is looking better on that page.
Now if you still think, some thing is not quite looking right, you can adjust the pair kerning manually, and you do that, by the way, by double-clicking inside the text to set the blinking insertion marker. So you just want that blinking insertion marker going, you don't need to have any text selected, just the blinking insertion marker between the two characters that you want to adjust. Oh, by the way, let's check out what the Kerning value is by pressing Ctrl+T or Command+T on the Mac, and notice that automatically the Kerning value is set to negative ten thousandths of an em. So Illustrator has just slightly moved those characters together. If you want to move them further together, you would press Alt and Left arrow or Option+Left arrow on the Mac, and notice this value is changing incrementally by 5, just as we saw for the Tracking value, and in fact this is the exact same keyboard shortcut that we applied for Tracking.
So the only difference between our shortcuts where kerning and tracking are concerned is that tracking occurs when you have characters selected, multiple characters selected, and kerning is modified when you just have the blinking insertion marker there. So I'll press Alt and Left arrow a few times, Option+Left arrow on the Mac. If you wanted to go farther, you can press Ctrl+Alt+Left arrow or Command+Option+Left arrow on the Mac. I don't want to go that far, so I'll spread the characters out a little bit by pressing Ctrl+Alt or Command+Option+Right arrow, like so, a couple of times and this looks pretty good to me.
So a Kerning value of -40, where this particular pair is concerned, and then you can take a look at the other pairs as well as much as you want. Now typically what you do is you just turn on Auto or Optical Kerning and that's going to change all of the text inside of your document, make it look very, very good, and then you go to your title text, you typically don't do this with your smaller text. But your title text, you might look at it, and say oh, I just want to tweak this pair of letters here, and maybe this pair of letters over here, and that kind of thing, and then you are done. So you don't want to do too much hand kerning, but again, it's to taste. You can spend all day if you want to.
All right, I'll press the Escape key in order to switch back to the Arrow tool and I'll press Ctrl+T or Command+T in order to hide that Character palette. In the next exercise, I'm going to show you how to take the formatting attributes that are assigned to the byline and use them to automatically format the text inside the poem.
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