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Illustrator Insider Training: Type and Text

Kerning, tracking, and optical kerning


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Illustrator Insider Training: Type and Text

with Mordy Golding

Video: Kerning, tracking, and optical kerning

When working with type, we always have to be paying attention to two aspects of the type: the actual letter itself and also what we refer to as the whitespace, the actual space that appears in between letters and in between lines. Now in the previous movie, we already spoke about the space between lines, something that we refer to as leading. However, in this movie I want to focus on the actual space that appears between individual characters. For example, let's take a closer look at the headline over here that says "Say it with flowers." I'm going to press Command+Spacebar or Ctrl+Spacebar, and then just click and drag to zoom into this part here so I can kind of focus on just the word over here, Say it, for now. Let's kind of focus on this area right here.
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  1. 6m 13s
    1. Welcome
      1m 24s
    2. Art, typography, and Illustrator
      4m 23s
    3. Using the exercise files
      26s
  2. 38m 30s
    1. Knowing Illustrator's limitations
      5m 47s
    2. The three type objects in Illustrator
      11m 18s
    3. Area type, point type, and the bounding box
      4m 35s
    4. The difference between type and text
      3m 42s
    5. Unicode: consistent type for all
      4m 23s
    6. Bringing text from Microsoft Word into Illustrator
      8m 45s
  3. 39m 51s
    1. Understanding font types
      6m 28s
    2. Using the Glyphs panel
      8m 30s
    3. OpenType support and automatic glyph replacement
      9m 43s
    4. Previewing fonts as you use them
      5m 0s
    5. Converting text into editable vector paths
      6m 19s
    6. Using the Find Font feature
      3m 51s
  4. 49m 4s
    1. Setting up the document
      12m 26s
    2. Basic character settings and keyboard shortcuts
      7m 28s
    3. Kerning, tracking, and optical kerning
      13m 6s
    4. Using horizontal and vertical scaling
      4m 38s
    5. Using the Baseline Shift and Character Rotation options
      7m 28s
    6. Using underlines and strikethroughs
      2m 5s
    7. Working with small caps, superscript, and subscript
      1m 53s
  5. 46m 36s
    1. Basic paragraph settings and keyboard shortcuts
      6m 47s
    2. Setting tabs and leaders
      11m 51s
    3. Setting indents and spacing
      9m 6s
    4. Understanding hyphenation and justification settings
      10m 28s
    5. Understanding the composers in Illustrator
      8m 24s
  6. 16m 7s
    1. Threading text across multiple objects
      8m 17s
    2. Adding multiple text columns in a single object
      3m 29s
    3. Specifying an inset for area type objects
      4m 21s
  7. 32m 53s
    1. Text styles in Illustrator
      7m 6s
    2. Defining and modifying character styles
      10m 40s
    3. Defining and modifying paragraph styles
      5m 0s
    4. Understanding the style override
      5m 3s
    5. Sharing styles across documents
      2m 10s
    6. Changing default type settings
      2m 54s
  8. 37m 9s
    1. Aligning text margins and indents optically
      3m 53s
    2. Creating non-breaking text
      2m 36s
    3. Changing case
      1m 39s
    4. Using smart punctuation
      5m 12s
    5. Selecting type objects easily
      3m 20s
    6. Understanding hidden text codes
      2m 20s
    7. Checking spelling
      3m 3s
    8. Using language support to your advantage
      3m 41s
    9. Changing text with Find and Replace
      3m 54s
    10. Finding substituted fonts and glyphs
      3m 55s
    11. Wrapping text around objects
      3m 36s
  9. 16m 47s
    1. Setting type along a path
      10m 22s
    2. The difference between open and closed paths
      6m 25s
  10. 10m 57s
    1. Understanding legacy text
      4m 23s
    2. Updating legacy text
      6m 34s
  11. 1m 16s
    1. Next steps
      1m 16s

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Illustrator Insider Training: Type and Text
4h 55m Intermediate Feb 29, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In this installment of Illustrator Insider Training, author Mordy Golding shows how to create type that’s both beautiful and communicative, whether it’s destined for logos, brochures, signs, infographics, or simple documents. This course covers core typography concepts, such as working with Unicode and OpenType fonts, applying character and paragraph settings, managing text with styles and text threads, placing text along a path, and wrapping text around graphics.

Topics include:
  • Understanding the three type objects in Illustrator
  • Importing text from Microsoft Word
  • Using the Glyphs panel
  • Converting text into editable vector paths
  • Kerning and scaling characters
  • Setting indents and spacing
  • Threading text across multiple objects
  • Sharing styles across multiple documents
  • Understanding style overrides
  • Changing text with Find and Replace
  • Wrapping text
  • Setting type along a path
  • Updating legacy text
Subjects:
Design Typography
Software:
Illustrator
Author:
Mordy Golding

Kerning, tracking, and optical kerning

When working with type, we always have to be paying attention to two aspects of the type: the actual letter itself and also what we refer to as the whitespace, the actual space that appears in between letters and in between lines. Now in the previous movie, we already spoke about the space between lines, something that we refer to as leading. However, in this movie I want to focus on the actual space that appears between individual characters. For example, let's take a closer look at the headline over here that says "Say it with flowers." I'm going to press Command+Spacebar or Ctrl+Spacebar, and then just click and drag to zoom into this part here so I can kind of focus on just the word over here, Say it, for now. Let's kind of focus on this area right here.

Now I want to start actually editing this type. I have my Selection tool active so we already know that the easiest way to get into this text object is to simply select it and then double-click on it. So now I have my blinking cursor or my insertion point now in between the characters a and y. Now when a type designer goes ahead and creates a typeface, they actually create a certain width for that particular character. In fact, if I click and drag to select the a, you can see over here how this entire area became highlighted.

We refer to this area as the slug, or the actual amount of space that this character can kind of take up. But I'm also seeing the width here for this letter. Now let's take a look at a different letter inside of this sentence, over here this lowercase w. If I were to go ahead now and click once here and then just click and drag to highlight the w, you can see that the slug is a lot wider than we had with the a, because the letter w is a wider letter. Now back in the olden days of typewriters, most fonts that were created were what we refer to as monospace fonts, monospace meaning one space.

Every single font and every character within that font always have the exact same width. So, for example, the letter w and the letter i both took up the same amount of width, and that would cause usually wide gaps in between the letters. So you can see over here the i is very narrow while the w is very wide. That's because these fonts are what we call variable-width fonts. And again, that's because each of the characters here had their own width defined. And that's something that a type designer does when they actually start creating the letters for a font.

So let's go back to this example over here of the a and the y. You can see that the two slugs are here. When Illustrator starts assembling these individual characters into words, Illustrator is simply taking this area right here, this character and this width, and putting this one right next to it. However, you can see that visually there is a little bit of whitespace that appears in between the a and the y. Same thing over here in the uppercase S and the a. There is the width of the S over here, which has some little bit of space over here and then there is the a, which has a little bit of space over here.

But that creates a wider space that appears in between the two even, though the widths of those letters are really right up and butt up against each other. So one of the techniques that a type designer might work with is something called kerning. Kerning is a way to adjust, either to add or remove space that appears in between each of these characters. So if I have my blinking cursor right here for example, I can go over here to where it says AV, and that's where I actually create my kerning setting, in between these two different characters.

And you can see that right now Illustrator has it set to 5 with parentheses around it, which means again, I did not set that setting. Illustrator set that setting. And that's because right now if I click on this pop-up here, I can see that the Kerning is set to Auto, and that is something that's actually derived from the font itself. Many type designers include kerning information, basic kerning information, inside of the typeface, and Illustrator is just picking up on that and adding that here into this particular application of type.

But let's say I want the S and the a to sit closer to each other. I don't want there to be that much whitespace in between the two. So what I might do is come here and actually choose a lower setting. I'm actually going to click on this little down arrow here. And notice that as I reduce these settings here and let's kind of going here into negative territory, down here at let's say -20, you can see now there is a lot less space now between the S and the a. In fact, I can kind of reduce this number down to let's say -50 as an example and hit the Tab key to accept it.

And now you can see that the S and the a are really close to each other. There's still a lot more space between the a and the y, but what I'm doing is I'm removing space between these two characters. And again, this is what we refer to as kerning. Now I may decide that I want these to be larger. I can increase that value. The keyboard shortcut that I might use to actually make this happen is with my blinking cursor in between these two characters, I would hold down the Option key on my keyboard. Again, I'm on Mac now, but if you're on Windows, that would be the Alt key.

And if you remember, this is the same keyboard shortcut we used when we started working with leading. We used the Option key along with the Up and Down arrows. But here we don't want to add space between lines in a vertical fashion. We want to adjust the horizontal space between these two characters. So I'm going to hold down the Option key and then use the Left and Right arrows on my keyboard to both remove or adjust a negative value of leading, or use the right arrow to go ahead and add leading. Now right now, I can see that I have a blinking cursor inside of my Character panel here.

So I'm just going to click over here to make sure that I'm bringing the focus now between these two letters and I'll hold Option+Left arrow. And that allows me to have tighter kerning, even so that the letters actually collide with each other, or hold down Option and then use the Right arrow and the Right arrow goes ahead and opens up that kerning and adds extra space. Now of course, I haven't actually added a space here which is important because, for example, during spell-check I may go ahead and want to make sure this actually says the word "Say" and that I shouldn't actually have an S and then a space and then an a and y. So if I do want to add space but I don't want it to be a physical space character, this is the way to do it.

Of course, I can see that value right here where it says 170. I'm actually going to go ahead now and just triple-click or quadruple-click so that I see all of my text selected right now. I'm going to reset this back to Auto so now the kerning is back to the way that it was before. Now kerning is something that I do when I actually adjust the amount of space between two individual characters. Like in this case, I was adjusting space between the S and the a or the a and the y. However, I may want to have spacing either opened up or closed across a range of text.

So, for example, if I take let's say the entire word width and highlight that and now I use the same keyboard shortcut, Option+Left arrow or Option+Right arrow, you could see now that the Kerning is still set to Auto here in this value, but there is a setting here called Tracking which is now being adjusted. Notice when I hold down the Option and the left arrow, you could see negative values in the Tracking value. Tracking is when I'm actually applying either negative or positive space across an entire range of characters.

So again, kerning is individual characters or just a space between one character and another, whereas tracking is when I'm adjusting that value over a range of characters, meaning at least two or more. I could of course use both of these. For example, I'm going to go ahead now and press Command+A or Ctrl+A to select all the text here. And I may like to have my text that appears with a little bit more of a tight kind of feel to it. So I'm going to hold down Option+Left arrow and now you can see that I have a -20 tracking applied to all of my text.

It looks really great for the word "Say" and for the word "it," but when it comes to the word "with," I kind of see that the i is actually colliding or touching the w and I don't want that to happen. So what I might do here is just simply click once to insert my cursor between these two and now hold down Option+ Right arrow and hit it just maybe once and now you can see that there's actually a space between the w and the i. They're not touching each other anymore. So what I've just done is I've applied a little bit extra kerning to the w and the i, but overall, the word "Say it with flowers" has all been made tighter with a -20 value for Tracking.

Now as a type designer, I would normally spend a lot of time in headlines and logot ype trying to get my text to be kerned just right so it looks great visually. However, I kind of zoom out just a bit over here. I'm going to hit Command+Minus just to zoom out a few times, and I have some body copy here. In fact, let me go ahead now and click in the body copy and zoom in just a little bit more. Actually, I am going to just scroll up over here. I want you to see exactly what I'm trying to focus on at this moment. I'll actually take my Type tool here and click and go ahead now and hit Command+A to select all of my text.

So with this text selected right now, I could adjust my Tracking value to adjust the amount of spacing that appears across the entire paragraph of text. But because I have so much text here in this paragraph, I'm not really going to start going in between each individual character and start kerning it. I mean, that will be a lot of work. More importantly, every time that I'm working with text, the reason why I'm using text is because it's so easy to change it. Let's say my client changes their mind and they now have some new copy, or they have some adjustments they want to make to that type.

I'm going to have to now re-kern and adjust all that type every time they want to make a change. I mean, I don't know about your clients, but the way that my clients work, I would be kerning all day long. So I need a way where I could make my type look great without me having to focus on each individual character and kern them individually. Well, the good news is that Illustrator does give us that capability. If I go to where the Kerning setting is and I click on the pop-up here, you'll see that it's currently set to Auto, but there's another option here called Optical kerning.

Optical kerning, I'm going to go ahead and choose that right now, basically looks at the letterforms of all the text inside of that selection and applies kerning automatically to them. This is different than the Auto kerning that's already put inside of the typeface by the type designer. What Optical kerning actually does is it throws out the values that the type designer used and it simply looks at the letterforms of each of the characters in your font and makes them so that there's always just a little bit of spacing between them, but it usually makes it nice and tight together.

In my experience, I found that Optical kerning is a little bit tighter than just regular Auto kerning. Perhaps more importantly, when you turn Optical kerning on, it means that that font is constantly being kerned automatically by Illustrator in this fashion. So anytime I make a type change, well, that type is automatically kerned as I add that type to the document. It's almost like having Illustrator just say, "You know what? You worry about just getting the text in the document. I'll handle all the kerning." Now of course, even if I have Optical kerning turned on, I could go ahead and click on individual spaces and adjust kerning manually.

But overall, it's a great way to like automatically kern all of your type professionally inside every document, even small text that you might never think about kerning, like body copy or legal text. It really makes a difference overall inside of your document. Now before you go ahead now and turn Optical kerning on for all of your documents--which, by the way, I'm just about to do for the most part-- I will tell you that there is a downside to using Optical kerning. There are certain situations where you actually may want text to actually touch each other. Two examples are, well, maybe you're using a script font or a handwritten font and you want those maybe cursive letters to actually join and connect with each other.

If you use Optical kerning for those kinds of typefaces, Illustrator will actually add a little bit of space between all the characters so it won't look correct. Another example is working with underscore characters. Many times people use underscore characters when creating forms so that people can fill in maybe a blank, for example. So I'm just going to put my cursor here right before the word scent and I'm going to hold down my Shift key and then use the underscore character and add a few characters. And you see now how this actually spaces between these. Let me zoom in on these just a little bit more.

You can see now it looks like dashed lines and not one solid connected line. Well, if I go ahead now and I select all this and I turn the Kerning from Optical back to Auto, now you'll see that Illustrator closed that up and I get a solid line. So again, it's important to realize that I could use Optical kerning, but there may be situations where I want to turn that Optical kerning off. And here you can see that I've applied Optical kerning throughout the rest of my text, but I simply highlighted one area and set that one area to Auto. So that's an overview of what kerning and tracking does inside of Illustrator and also some of the benefits about working with Optical kerning.

Of course, there are plenty of other settings that we can apply to our text here inside of Illustrator. In the next movie, we'll talk about something called Horizontal and Vertical Scaling.

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