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Kerning and Tracking

All Spaced Out Type Composition

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kerning tracking character spacing

Kerning and Tracking are used to adjust space between characters.

Kerning and tracking are two related and frequently confused typographical terms. Both refer to the adjustment of space between characters of type.

Kerning is Selective Letterspacing
Kerning is the adjustment of space between pairs of letters. Some pairs of letters create awkward spaces. Kerning adds or subtracts space between letters to create more visually appealing and readable text.

Kerning information for many commonly kerned character pairs is built-in to most quality fonts. Some software programs use these built-in kerning tables to apply automatic kerning to text. Each application provides varying amounts of support for built-in kerning information and may support only Type 1 or only TrueType kerning data.

Anywhere from 50 to 1000 or more kerning pairs may be defined for any one font. A handful of the thousands of possible kerning pairs: Ay AW F, KO wa

Headlines usually benefit from kerning and text set in ALL CAPS almost always requires kerning for best appearance. Depending on the font and the actual characters used, automatic kerning without manual intervention may be sufficient for most publications.

Tracking is Overall Letterspacing
Tracking differs from kerning in that tracking is the adjustment of space for groups of letters and entire blocks of text. Use tracking to change the overall appearance and readability of the text, making it more open and airy or more dense.

You can apply tracking to all text or selected portions. You can use selective tracking to squeeze more characters onto a line to save space or prevent a few words from carrying over to another page or column of text.

Tracking often changes line endings and shortens lines of text. Tracking can be further adjusted on individual lines or words to improve hyphenation and line endings.

Tracking should not replace careful copyfitting. Use tracking adjustments carefully and avoid extreme changes in the tracking (loose or normal tracking following by a line or two of very tight tracking) within the same paragraph or adjacent paragraphs.

NOTE: The terms letterspacing and character spacing may refer to kerning or tracking, depending on the software application.

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The Desktop Document > Text Phase > Text Composition > Spacing

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