Photoshop CC One-on-One: Intermediate
Illustration by John Hersey

Kerning and tracking characters


Photoshop CC One-on-One: Intermediate

with Deke McClelland

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Video: Kerning and tracking characters

In this moving, I'll show you how to adjust the amount of space between neighboring characters of type using a couple of formatting attributes known as Kerning, which is spelled K-E-R-N-I-N-G and tracking. And if you're not familiar with this topic, it's going to seem pretty nitpicky. However, it becomes extremely important when working with large text, such as headline and in particular logos. So I'm going to start things off, by zooming in on my text here. And you can see then I have the Rectangular Marquee tool selected.
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  1. 2m 4s
    1. Welcome to One-on-One
      2m 4s
  2. 1h 1m
    1. The best of Photoshop automation
    2. Content-Aware Fill and Color Adaptation (CC 2014)
      7m 44s
    3. Combining two layers with a layer mask (CC 2014)
      5m 37s
    4. Content-aware healing (CC 2014)
      10m 17s
    5. Introducing the Patch tool
      3m 43s
    6. Using Content-Aware Patch
      7m 17s
    7. Retouching with Content-Aware Patch
      3m 45s
    8. Using the Content-Aware Move tool
      7m 41s
    9. Using Content-Aware Extend
      2m 4s
    10. The Content-Aware Scale command
      6m 35s
    11. Scaling in multiple passes
      2m 22s
    12. Protecting skin tones
      3m 31s
  3. 32m 55s
    1. Editing the histogram
      1m 50s
    2. The new automatic Levels adjustment
      4m 33s
    3. Customizing a Levels adjustment
      4m 53s
    4. Understanding the Gamma value
      2m 7s
    5. Opening up the shadows
      2m 48s
    6. Previewing clipped pixels
      3m 40s
    7. Retouching with Output Levels
      4m 25s
    8. Making channel-by-channel adjustments
      2m 19s
    9. Faking a gray card in post
      2m 51s
    10. Assigning shortcuts to adjustment layers
      3m 29s
  4. 57m 43s
    1. How sharpening works
      1m 38s
    2. Introducing the Smart Sharpen filter
      6m 56s
    3. Understanding the Radius value
      5m 20s
    4. Gauging the best sharpening settings
      5m 45s
    5. Addressing color artifacts and clipping
      5m 49s
    6. The Remove and Reduce Noise options
      4m 22s
    7. The Shadows/Highlights options
      7m 36s
    8. Correcting for camera shake
      6m 47s
    9. Sharpening with the Emboss filter
      5m 45s
    10. Sharpening with the High Pass filter
      4m 44s
    11. Painting in sharpness
      3m 1s
  5. 1h 12m
    1. Vector-based type
      1m 35s
    2. Creating and editing point text
      8m 8s
    3. Font and type style tricks
      7m 58s
    4. Type size and color tricks
      6m 42s
    5. Kerning and tracking characters
      8m 9s
    6. Creating and editing area text
      3m 50s
    7. Selecting and formatting paragraphs
      6m 50s
    8. Setting text inside a custom path
      5m 34s
    9. Creating text along a path
      6m 12s
    10. Adjusting baseline shift
      4m 45s
    11. Creating and stylizing a logo
      6m 49s
    12. Masking text into image elements
      6m 14s
  6. 1h 9m
    1. The other vector-based layer
      1m 39s
    2. Dotted borders and corner roundness
      8m 14s
    3. Drawing and aligning custom shapes
      3m 55s
    4. Creating your own repeatable custom shape
      5m 43s
    5. Selecting and modifying path outlines (CC 2014)
      6m 5s
    6. Isolating selected layers (CC 2014)
      6m 39s
    7. Combining simple shapes to make complex ones
      6m 31s
    8. Cropping, adjusting, and merging shapes
      8m 49s
    9. Creating a soft, synthetic sparkle
      6m 22s
    10. Saving a resolution-independent PDF file
      6m 42s
    11. Turning a small image into a huge one
      8m 38s
  7. 1h 14m
    1. Depth, contour, and texture
      1m 28s
    2. Imparting depth with a layer effect
      9m 9s
    3. The power of the drop shadow
      7m 37s
    4. Modifying a layer and its effects
      6m 21s
    5. Saving custom default settings
      4m 12s
    6. Creating a custom contour
      8m 5s
    7. Introducing Bevel and Emboss
      8m 8s
    8. Multiple effects and multiple layers
      7m 45s
    9. Global Light and rasterizing effects
      8m 5s
    10. Gloss and surface contour
      6m 4s
    11. Adding texture to Bevel and Emboss
      7m 21s
  8. 34m 48s
    1. Styles store settings
      1m 38s
    2. Creating and applying a paragraph style
      3m 41s
    3. Redefining a style and styling a word
      5m 38s
    4. Creating and styling a placeholder style
      5m 43s
    5. Applying and creating layer styles
      5m 45s
    6. Loading and customizing layer styles
      5m 42s
    7. Merging and saving layer styles
      6m 41s
  9. 56m 48s
    1. Meet the transformations
      1m 55s
    2. Transformations and Smart Objects
      5m 46s
    3. Adjusting the interpolation setting
      5m 10s
    4. Rotating a layer with Free Transform
      5m 22s
    5. Scale, duplicate, and repeat
      4m 30s
    6. Creating a synthetic star field
      5m 20s
    7. Warping a logo with Arc and Flag
      5m 34s
    8. Distort, perspective, and skew
      4m 15s
    9. Using transformations to draw and correct
      7m 0s
    10. Bolstering text with layer effects
      5m 43s
    11. Adding highlights with Lens Flare
      6m 13s
  10. 43m 36s
    1. Removing the weight that the camera adds
      1m 7s
    2. The Warp and Reconstruct tools
      6m 44s
    3. Brush size, hardness, and opacity
      4m 29s
    4. The Pucker, Bloat, Push, and Twirl tools
      7m 12s
    5. Saving and reapplying Liquify settings
      4m 9s
    6. Lifting and slimming details
      9m 42s
    7. Warping legs, arms, and fabric
      5m 33s
    8. Improving a model's posture
      4m 40s
  11. 58m 46s
    1. Shoot in color, convert to black and white
      1m 55s
    2. Three ways to grayscale
      5m 36s
    3. Mixing a custom black-and-white image
      7m 31s
    4. Simulating an infrared photograph
      6m 39s
    5. Creating a sienna-infused sepia tone
      5m 38s
    6. Creating a hyper-saturated image
      5m 26s
    7. Introducing the Black & White command
      3m 16s
    8. Customizing the Black & White settings
      4m 50s
    9. Black & White meets the Channel Mixer
      7m 29s
    10. Infusing an image with tint and color
      5m 9s
    11. Grayscale and Split Tone in Camera Raw
      5m 17s
  12. 41m 34s
    1. The many ways to print
      1m 41s
    2. Using the test document
      3m 18s
    3. Print, position, and size
      5m 57s
    4. Description and printing marks
      3m 3s
    5. Establishing a bleed
      3m 44s
    6. Getting reliable color
      5m 54s
    7. Special printing options
      5m 1s
    8. Previewing an image at print size
      4m 16s
    9. Creating contact sheets
      4m 49s
    10. Creating a multipage PDF
      3m 51s
  13. 31m 9s
    1. Making Internet imagery
      1m 6s
    2. Introducing Save for Web
      4m 39s
    3. Creating the perfect JPEG image
      5m 14s
    4. Creating a high-contrast GIF image
      6m 23s
    5. The two varieties of PNG
      3m 57s
    6. Downsampling for the web
      5m 59s
    7. Adding copyright and contact info
      3m 51s
  14. 1m 3s
    1. Until next time
      1m 3s

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Watch the Online Video Course Photoshop CC One-on-One: Intermediate
10h 37m Intermediate Aug 19, 2013 Updated Sep 18, 2014

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Photoshop CC One-on-One is back, and this installment teaches you how to build on your basic knowledge and achieve next-level effects with this premiere image-editing program. Industry pro Deke McClelland shows you how to seamlessly move and patch areas of a photo with the Content-Aware toolset; stretch the brightness of a scene with automatic and custom Levels adjustments; create intricate designs with text and shapes; and morph an image with layer effects and transformations. Deke also shares his techniques for sharpening details, whether addressing noise and highlight/shadow clipping or camera shake, and converting a full-color image to black and white. The final chapters show you how to best print and save images for the web, making sure all your hard work pays off in the final output.

Topics include:
  • Performing automatic retouch, scaling, and more with the Content-Aware tools
  • Editing the histogram
  • Customizing a Levels adjustment
  • Making channel-by-channel Levels adjustments
  • Sharpening with the Smart Sharpen, Emboss, and High Pass filters
  • Working with vector-based type
  • Kerning and tracking characters
  • Creating text on a path
  • Drawing and customizing shapes
  • Creating depth, contour, and texture with layer effects
  • Liquifying an image
  • Simulating an infrared photo
  • Adjusting print position, size, and color
  • Creating the perfect JPEG image
  • Downsampling for the web
Design Photography
Deke McClelland

Kerning and tracking characters

In this moving, I'll show you how to adjust the amount of space between neighboring characters of type using a couple of formatting attributes known as Kerning, which is spelled K-E-R-N-I-N-G and tracking. And if you're not familiar with this topic, it's going to seem pretty nitpicky. However, it becomes extremely important when working with large text, such as headline and in particular logos. So I'm going to start things off, by zooming in on my text here. And you can see then I have the Rectangular Marquee tool selected.

I'm going to go ahead and draw a rectangle around the 6 like, so. And the reason I'm doing this is to demonstrate how character spacing works inside, just about every design program. The idea is that, each and every character is defined by it's font outline, as well as some spacing information known as side baring. So you've got the left baring over here on the left-hand side and the right baring here on the right-hand side. And so, the distance between the 3 and the 6 is determined by the 3's right baring along with the 6 is left bearing.

And that keeps the characters from knocking together. However, not all pairs of characters are created the same. I'm going to press Ctrl+D or Cmd+D on a Mac, in order to deselect my text. Then I'll go ahead and zoom out here so that we can see pretty much the full width of the image. And I'll press the T key in order to switch to the Type tool and I'll click in front of the three, in order to set my blinking insertion marker. And I'll enter the classic pair of characters that need special attention, which is big A, little v, like so. And also move my cursor down below the text and go ahead and drag it over so that we can see all of the text on this layer. And I'll press the Enter key on the numerical keypad in order to accept my modifications and I'll press the M key in order to once again, switch to the Rectangular Marquee tool.

And notice now, if I were to draw a kind of boundary. Let's say, around this capital A here in order to indicate roughly it's spacing information. At the v is violating the A's right bearing. And the A is violating the v's left bearing. And both of the bearings are violating each other. So, what in the world is going on? Well, I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+D or Cmd+D on a Mac in order to deselect the image again. I'll press the T key to switch to the Type tool and I'll click between the characters and you can see just how much violation is going on there.

And that's a function of what's known as Kerning. In order to see what I'm talking about, I'll go up here to the Options bar and click on this little panel icon to brig up the Character panel or as long as I have some text active. That is I've got a blinking insertion marker or some highlighted text, I can press Ctrl+T or Cmd+T on the Mac to bring up the same panel. That's T for text of course. And notice this VA icon right there. So, it's the same pair of characteristics. It's just capitalized and in a different order. And you can see that it sets the amount of Kerning between the characters. Right now, it's set to Metrics. And what means is that Photoshop is looking into the font definition and finding the Kerning information.

So, every single font out there, includes this table of pairs of characters that need custom spacing. This table is known as a Kerning Table. And the pairs are known as Kerning Pairs and AV is one of them. But there may be hundreds or even thousands of pairs depending on the font. And by the way, just to give you a sense of how important this is. I'll go ahead and switch this option from Metrics to 0. And that's going to go ahead and spread the characters out so that Photoshop is just accepting the side bearing information, which is pretty small for the A and actually cuts into the v a little bit.

And now press the Enter key on the numerical keypad in order to accept that change. And you can see that we now have so much space between the A and the v that they almost look like they're separate words. And that space is optically inconsistent with the amount of space between the v and 3 and the 3 and the 6, and the 6 and the 5. All right. Now that you understand what in the world Kerning is. How do you go about customizing it? because you're not going to always like what Photoshop or any other design program comes up with. Well, I'll go up to the File menu and choose a Revert command in order to reinstate our original text. And now I'm going to zoom in on it here and center it on the screen. And I'll go ahead and double-click on 365 with the Type tool in order to select it.

And then I'll press Ctrl+H or Cmd+H on the Mac to hide that highlight there. And for my money, I'm seeing sort of inconsistencies between the amount of space between the 3 and 6 and then the looser space it seems to me between the 6 and the 5. And I kind of like to tighten things up in general. Well, if you ever run into that, where the spacing just looks wrong, especially with big type, that's where you're going to really notice it. Then go ahead and bring up that Character panel once again. As I say, when the text is selected, you can press Ctrl+T or Cmd+T on a Mac. And then click on this down pointing arrowhead and try switching from Metrics, which a base the information inside the font definition.

Go ahead and switch it to Optical instead. Which applies Adobe's automatic Optical Kerning. So in other words, Photoshop goes ahead and actually reads the characters and decides how to space them on the fly. And as a result, it's going to customize the spacing between each and every character of type, regardless of whether it's part of the Kerning table or not. And in our case, we end up getting some tighter and I think better looking spacing. However, I'd like to space these characters closer still. And if you want to control the spacing of multiple selected characters, as I have here, as opposed to specific pairs, then you move to this next value which is the tracking value right there.

Now you can modify this value, you can select it and dial in a value. And if you wanted to space the characters together, you would enter a negative value, for example, like negative 100. If you want to space them farther apart, then you'd enter a positive value such as positive 100. The problem with working from the numbers like this. I'm going to go ahead and press the Escape key in order to restore that value to zero. Is that it's a little tricky to understand what's going on here. This value is measured in thousandths of an M. And an M, EM is as wide as the type size. So, in M in the case of this text is 192 points, which we already know is a little confusing because how many pixels is that? You know, it's dependent upon the resolution. So, it's hard to know what in the world negative 100 even means.

But it's easy to glean, whether your text is spaced correctly or not just by looking at it. So, the better way to work, if you want to space your text is to press Alt+right arrow in order to spread the characters farther apart from each other, that'd be option right arrow on a Mac. And each time you press the keyboard shortcut for what it's worth, you're modifying the tracking value in 20,000 of an M. Or you can press Alt+left arrow or Option+left arrow on a Mac in order to scoot the letters together. Again, in 20,000 of an M. If you want to move the characters in five times that increment, so you really want to spread them apart or move them together, then you ad the Ctrl key, or the Ctrl key on a Mac.

So that'd be Ctrl+Alt+right arrow on a PC. Or Cmd+Option+right arrow on the Mac. If you want to scoot the letters way together, then you press Ctrl+Alt+left arrow or Cmd+Option+left arrow on the Mac. Anyway, I ultimately want the characters to look something like this. So I came up with the tracking value of negative 20. Finally, it instruct me that the space between the 6 and the 5 appears to be a little wider than the space between the 3 and the 6. And so if you want to adjust the space between just two characters, you click between them with the Type tool so you don't want to have any letters selected.

And then, you go ahead and use those same keyboard shortcuts I showed you a moment ago. So if I want to scoot these two characters closer, I press Alt+left arrow or Option+left arrow on a Mac. And that ends up giving me a Kerning value of negative 43. Go figure. Well, I decided that was a little bit too much. So, I changed the value to negative 30 and then I press the Enter key to accept that change followed by the Escape key or the Enter key on the numeric keypad to escape the text entry mode. And that's how you adjust the amount of space between neighboring characters of type using kerning and tracking.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Photoshop CC One-on-One: Intermediate .

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Q: This course was updated on 09/18/2014. What changed?
A: Deke updated the course to reflect changes in the 2014 version of Photoshop CC. The updates are concentrated in "The Content-Aware Collection" and "Creating and Formatting Text" chapters, but there are new movies sprinkled throughout the course as well.
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