Iâ€™m willing to bet you already know what kerning is — you just donâ€™t realize it.
While you might not recognize when kerning is done well, you certainly see it when itâ€™s done poorly.
Kerning is adjusting the space between letters, and either increasing or decreasing the distance to ensure better readability or appearance.
Interestingly, itâ€™s not always best to have equal spacing between each letter. Each letter has different shapes and curves, so sometimes kerning actually helps the letters look less conspicuous. For instance, a â€œclâ€� can sometimes appear to be a â€œdâ€�, so you might use kerning to space them further apart.
Kerning refers to the space between letters to ensure better readability. Since not all letters are created with equal curves and shapes, you might need to increase or decrease the distance between one letter and another, to create more legible text. Kerning improves the appearance and design of your text, which might otherwise look awkward.
No matter what your job title, itâ€™s important to understand the power of kerning. Kerning can help you create better designs, produce more visually appealing copy, or construct better presentations. Kerning is one of those actions that can push your deliverables from ordinary to exceptional.
If you donâ€™t know how kerning works, donâ€™t worry. Here, weâ€™ll show you how to use kerning in Photoshop, Word, and Illustrator. Plus, weâ€™ll provide examples of bad kerning, so you know what to avoid when using kerning for your own text.
Kerning is the adjustment of distance between two letters. Youâ€™d use kerning if you felt a word looked funky because the letters A and B were too close together. Tracking, on the other hand, is adjusting the spacing equally between each letter, to either spread apart or bring together an entire word.
Kerning in Photoshop is incredibly easy, once you figure out where the â€œKerningâ€� tool is. If youâ€™re designing a presentation or email template in Photoshop, and your words look a little sloppy, this is an easy way to clean up your text to improve the appearance.
1. First, ensure your cursor is in between two letters. Next, select the â€œCharacterâ€� panel, as highlighted by the red arrow below (If you canâ€™t find it, try searching â€œCharacterâ€� within the Photoshop search tool).
3. Within the â€œCharacterâ€� panel, youâ€™ll see a V/A (with a little arrow below the A). Thatâ€™s the â€œKerningâ€� tool. Itâ€™s automatically set to â€œOpticalâ€�. Click the down arrow to see your options for kerning.
4. For instance, I chose the number â€œ75â€�. If youâ€™re unsure how much space you want between your letters, test out a few different options. The negative numbers make your letters closer together, and the positive numbers create more space between the letters.
5. Now, thereâ€™s a nice â€œ75â€� point space between my â€œKâ€� and â€œEâ€� (of course, this is probably an example of bad kerning â€¦ ).
Important note: Thereâ€™s a quicker option to use the â€œKerningâ€� tool in Photoshop. If you click in between two letters, you can hit â€œOptionâ€� and then hit the â€œRightâ€� arrow. This will create more distance between letters.
If your writing copy in Microsoft Word, or using Word to design a poster, you might want to use kerning, especially if your font is bigger and the letters look awkward.
Fortunately, itâ€™s easy to do.
2. Next, click â€œAdvancedâ€� within the Font panel.
3. Under the â€œAdvancedâ€� section, youâ€™ll see â€œKerning for fontsâ€� with an empty box to the left of it. Check that box. Then, input a number (I put â€œ20â€�, which youâ€™ll see circled). The number you choose will depend on how much space you want between the letters.
4. Thereâ€™s now â€œ20â€� points of kerning in between the â€œKâ€� and the â€œeâ€�.
Finally, letâ€™s take a look at kerning in Illustrator. Since many designers and marketers use Illustrator for clients or for personal projects, itâ€™s important to know how to apply kerning to your letters.
Kerning in Illustrator is an almost identical process to how youâ€™d do it in Photoshop (which makes sense, since theyâ€™re both Adobe products). Nonetheless, hereâ€™s how you do it.
2. Similar to Photoshop, there will be a â€œV/Aâ€� tool, with a little arrow underneath the â€œAâ€�. Thatâ€™s the kerning tool. With your cursor placed between two letters, increase or decrease the number beside the kerning tool — as you can see, I set mine to â€œ200â€�.
3. Now, I have a (admittedly, very ugly) space between my â€œKâ€� and my â€œEâ€�.
Iâ€™ve probably already shown you plenty of bad kerning examples throughout this piece, with my own attempts at kerning on various software.
But if youâ€™d like to see more, donâ€™t worry — weâ€™ve got some hilarious real world examples, to show you just how important (good) kerning is.
Here are a couple examples of bad kerning:
1. Bus sign gone wrong.
2. What’s up with this spacing?
3. I think fixing this sign would be worth the investment.
4. Watch out for bad kerning, too.
5. This gives me a headache.
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