Kern This

Kerning, or adjusting the amount of space between two letters is essential to correctly presenting display type for production. The usual goal is to correct uneven spacing between certain pairs to reach overall evenness between all letters. This does not necessarily mean making all the spaces close together or far apart. The key is optical evenness.


What’s wrong with this picture? There are several areas to correct.

A Beginners Guide to Kerning like a Designer

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 8.34.51 AMTry this kerning game as an introduction or practice only.

You should always kern Display Type (headings, subheads, titles, logotypes). You typically would not kern Text Type (body copy). Exceptions within Text Type where you should kern might include the following examples;

  1. adjusting the space around punctuation such as the EM dash (close but not touching)
  2. position of the letter following an initial cap letter at the beginning of a story
  3. space around figures (numbers) and fractions.

The easiest way to adjust this horizontal space in Illustrator is to do the following:

  1. select the type tool from the tool window
  2. click between the two letters you wish to adjust
  3. hold down the option key
  4. use the right and left arrows on your keyboard to push letters farther away or closer together.

You can adjust how much distance is assigned to the arrow increments by going to;

Menu Bar >> Illustrator >> Preferences >> General >> Keyboard increment

Open this PDF •kern this, or this compressed file archive

  1. Save as a PDF
  2. Open in Illustrator
  3. Set first line in Garamond or other serif typeface
  4. Set line two in a novelty typeface like Herculenum
  5. Set the third line in a Sanserif typeface like Helvetica
  6. adjust using the above keyboard commands 

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