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Let's talk about InDesign's kerning methods, and if we include No Kerning as a kerning method, then we essentially have three different approaches. So if we were to turn off automatic kerning -- I can't really see why you would want to do that, but if you were to do that, this is how your type would look. So the kerning value is right here, and as I mentioned, auto-kerning is on by default, using one of these two methods. This is what it would look like without any kerning at all. So now I am going to show you a comparison of how the type looks with Metrics kerning.
Metrics kerning uses the metrics values that are part of the typeface design. So the type designer, as well as designing the letterforms, has also designed the space between specific letter pairs. And my own personal take on this is that if the font is well designed, then I will tend to prefer to use metrics values. It's always a good idea to compare Metrics with Optical. Typically speaking -- and it is a generalization, because it is going to vary from typeface to typeface, but typically, Optical kerning, which disregards the metrics values, but looks instead at the characters shapes, will give you a slightly tighter result.
Now, if we were to zoom in here, and I have a guide already there, we can see that the Metrics example is slightly wider than the example with Optical kerning. Now, in addition to the automatic kerning that goes on, you may, for display type, feel that you need to add in some of your own custom kerning, and this is where we get in and apply our own kerning. So to do this, we double-click between a letter pair, and the current amount of kerning is indicated right there, and we can adjust this to our taste.
Now, this one has already been adjusted, but I will adjust it a little bit more. Let's start out by getting really big. I am going to press Command+2 to go to 200%, and if that's not big enough, Command+4 will jump me to 400%. Now, as I mentioned, kerning and tracking both use the same shortcut, and that shortcut is Option or Alt and the left arrow to go tighter, or Option or Alt and the right arrow to go looser. Typically, with kerning, you are more often going tighter than you're going looser. Just how much you are adjusting the space is determined by this very important preference in Units & Increments.
It's this value right here. I prefer to have that set to 1, the very smallest amount possible, so that we have the finest amount of control. As a cautionary note, I will say that InDesign, when you install it, has a default kerning and tracking value of 20, which I think is far too coarse, so I would recommend that you change this as your application default. You can do that by just making sure that you have no InDesign document open, and then going to your Preferences and changing it.
Thereafter, it becomes an application-wide preference. Now, with that set to 1, if I did, on occasion, want to kern or track in larger increments, then I could use this keyboard shortcut, and that is Command+Option or Control+Alt, and your right or left arrows. And that will go in five times whatever is your specified increment. So that's when you might apply manual kerning on top of your chosen automatic kerning method.
Now, how does Metrics kerning compare to Optical kerning? As I said, for the most part, I find Metrics, assuming that we're working with decent quality fonts, to be up to the task, and have no reason to change from Metrics. But every once in a while, you may find Optical kerning preferable, and here is a case in point, albeit a somewhat rare one. If you're mixing fonts in the same word, then Optical kerning will typically get you a better result. Now, it's not often that we do mix fonts in the same word, but there may be occasions.
And the reason for that is that there is no such metric that exists between a Minion Pro Italic uppercase W and a Minion Pro Regular lowercase e. The metrics only exist within the same font, i.e. not within different font styles. But since the Optical values ignore the metrics, and just look at the character shapes, then we get a better result here in this second example. And then finally, it's an obvious point, but one still worth making; a cautionary tale of the potential banana skin of applying too much kerning, when you do that, you are actually going to change, in certain circumstances, the way your letters read, so don't overdo it.
So those are InDesign's kerning methods: Metrics, Optical, and when necessary, Custom manual kerning.
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