Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
In this exercise we're going to discuss the two main ways to adjust the amount of space between neighboring characters of type, here inside a Photoshop. And their names go by Kerning and Tracking, and just so as you know, if you're new to this topic I'm going to be throwing a fair number of vocabulary words at you. So just keep a keen ear out for them. I'm still working inside this image called Gratuitous effects.psd, and I am going to go ahead and zoom in on 365. So it's taken up a bunch of room onscreen here.
Now here is how things normally work. How various letters are spaced away from each other, that spacing information is defined inside the font. And then the various applications: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and so on, just go ahead and follow the instructions included in the font. And that spacing information is designed to make the characters legible at small sizes, but once you increase the size of your characters, you may notice that either the characters need to be spaced closer to each other, or you may notice spacing anomalies, where there appears to be more space between, say the 3 and the 6 than their does between the 6 and the 5.
Depending on how override you want to get about this. Now, where headline text is concerned you may want to spend a little bit of time massaging the character spacing. When you're talking about logos and corporate identities then Kerning and Tracking become very important. So, let's examine how it works on the first place. Everything is dependent upon this stuff called Side Bearing. Every single character includes this, but the 3 includes a little bit of right bearing, which is the space that 3 needs, so it doesn't feel violated by neighboring characters.
And so there is a little bit of right bearing, right there. And then that meets the left bearing associated with a 6, and together the right bearing of the 3 and the left bearing of the 6 add up to the amount of space between those two characters. And that's the way it works with most pairs of characters whether they are letters or numbers or symbols as you type away inside of Photoshop and the other applications. But there are some pairs of characters that look as if they are spaced way too far apart from each other when the standard bearing is observed.
For example, this is the stereotypical example. I'm going to go ahead and select the Type tool and click in front of the 3, in order to add some text. And you can't see it's slightly off- screen there, but I do have a blinking insertion marker going off here to the left-hand side. There it is. And now I'll enter a capital A and a small v, like so. And notice how these guys invade each other's territory, the A is slipping under the space occupied by the v, and the v is slipping over the space occupied by the A.
So what in the world is going on? Well, I'm going to go ahead and select Av, like so, by dragging across those letters, and they appear inverted when they are highlighted which is a big mess, and it gets in the way of seeing what the heck is going on? So I am going to press Ctrl+H or Command+H to hide that highlighting. The letters are still selected so you have to take care. You don't want to press the Escape key, for example, because you'll lose them. However, we can't see what's going on inside of the Image window. All right, now I am going to bring up the Character panel either by clicking on this Final icon in the options bar, or I could click on this A here in the column of icons or, because I have text selected I get access to a new group of keyboard shortcuts;, and it's Ctrl+T or Command+T for Type, which brings up the Character panel.
By the way, Ctrl+T or Command+T normally invokes a Free Transform command. There has to be text active for Ctrl+T or Command+T to bring up the Character panel instead. Now notice the options we have available to us. We've got font, we've got type style, we've got type size which Photoshop, and the other Adobe apps call Font Size, but normal people call it Type Size. Next door we've got Leading, and Leading is the amount of vertical space between rows of type in a paragraph.
You might hear it called Line Spacing inside of another program, but it's called Leading inside of the design applications. Next we've got these two spacing values, one of which is Kerning as you can see here, and the other of which is Tracking, and I'll explain the distinction in just a moment. But notice that they both include Av in their icons because A and v are the classic Kerning pair. Anyway, right now, if I click the down- pointing arrowhead I can see that I'm observing the Metrics. That is Photoshop is looking into the font file, and it's finding the list of so-called Kerning pairs, which are pairs of characters that have to be specially kerned, that is specially spaced when they appear together and Av is one of them.
Now I can override that information and if I assign a Kerning value of 0, so I am overriding the Metrics information, then I am spreading the A and v way apart from each other. So I'm observing the small amount of right bearing, that's associated with a capital A because it leans, after all. And a small amount of left bearing that's associated with lowercase v because it leans as well, so it's always going to want to be close to its neighbors. And I am applying this to ride on top of each other and what that means is as I zoom out here, and I'll go ahead and hide my Character panel, that it looks like the v, and the 3 are sufficiently close to each other, but the A and v almost look like they are part of separate words so that's no good.
So that's why we need Kerning inside of the various design applications. And in order to reapply that Kerning you click the down-pointing arrowhead and you switch back to Metrics, like so, and then Photoshop goes ahead and reapplies that information that's built-into the font file's Metrics, and that's where that term comes from. All right, I am going to go ahead and get rid of the A and the v, like so, just select them, get rid of them. And this time let's press Ctrl+A, or Command+A on the Mac, to select all of 365.
And then I'll press Ctrl+H, or Command+H on the Mac, in order to hide that selection so once again I can see what I'm doing. Now, you can switch between Optical, apparently Optical is active for 365 here, or Metrics. So Metrics goes ahead and observes the information that's built-into the font file. Optical will override that, and it will tell Photoshop to actually examine the character forms. So this is a more intensive operation for Photoshop, but it examines the character forms, and it decides how the characters should be spaced, independently of any information that's built into the font, sometimes it's more accurate.
And what I would suggest you do if you're looking at a sequence of characters, and they just look wrong then try switching for Metrics to Optical and see what happens. And in our case things get spaced together a little more closely. But let's say I want to space the characters more closely still. Well, there are two varieties of spacing here. If you're spacing a bunch of selected characters you use the Tracking value and if you are spacing just a pair of characters then you click between them and you override the Kerning option. So I am going to go ahead and adjust the Tracking, and you can do so by entering a Tracking value, which is a little bit confusing, because when you are changing the Tracking value manually you are entering a value that is measured in thousandths of an em space.
Basically an em space is a space that is as wide as the type size is tall. So our type size is 192 points and em space would be 192 points wide, and then we're talking about thousandths of that, so 192 divided by a thousand. So in this case we're talking about .19 points. So that aside, because you don't want to get too wind up about that. What you really want to do is just adjust this value from the keyboard. That is using a special keyboard trick. And the keyboard trick is Alt+Left Arrow to move the characters together or Alt+Right arrow to move the selected characters apart.
On the Mac that's going to be Option+Left Arrow or Option+Right Arrow. If you want more information than that you can adjust that value in five times the normal increments. So notice by default it's -20 or +20 depending on whether you pressed Left Arrow or the Right Arrow. If you want to adjust the value in five times an increment, it's Ctrl+Alt+Left Arrow, or Command+Option+Left Arrow on a Mac. It'd be Ctrl+Alt+Right Arrow to move the characters apart or Command+Option+Right Arrow on the Mac.
Anyway, -20 is just fine for our purposes, and then I might click between the 6 and the 5, which to me look like they are still a little bit farther apart than the 3 and a 6. And now I could adjust the Kerning value, notice the Tracking value is not dimmed because I don't have any characters selected. When you just have a blinking insertion marker like this you override the Kerning value, and I could press the exact same keyboard shortcuts. I could press Alt+Left Arrow or Option+Left Arrow on the Mac in order to move those characters together. And you might look at that and say, hey Deke! I thought that I was moving the characters together by 21 thousandths of an em space, and I have changed this value or at least you have, looking at the screen here to -44 so what happened? Well, my Optical value, I wasn't seeing what it was previously, but it must have been -24, and now by virtue of the fact that I have subtracted another 20 from it, it's down to -44.
Well, you know what? I'm going to override that value, and I am going to say -30, and I actually like that effect quite fine. So I'll go ahead and close my Character panel there, and I will press the Enter on the keypad or Ctrl+Enter or Command+Enter on the Mac, and I end up getting this result right here. So this is the before version of the text, so I'll press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac, and wow! They were so far apart from each other on the Mac. And now if I press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z, again you can see that they are closer together.
And they look a little more consistent as well. Now this is one of those things that you have to decide whether it's important to you or not. You're going to find pairs of characters that are just screaming to be kerned. And once you really get into it, the funny thing is you go out into the real world and you look at signs and you go, oh my gosh! Look at that horrible Kerning. Look at those characters so far apart from each other, what were those people thinking? Anyway, it is quite the fastidious thing to get into, if you want to. In the next exercise, I'm going to show you how to create Area text inside of a rectangular boundary.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
119 Video lessons · 49720 Viewers
117 Video lessons · 36995 Viewers
113 Video lessons · 81101 Viewers
65 Video lessons · 10317 Viewers
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.
Your file was successfully uploaded.