The spacing between adjacent characters in a text string, as in a title in other words adjusting the spacing between pairs of letters to make them more visually appealing is known as kerning.

It is normally applied to individual pairs of letters in titles or other capital types. Kerning isn't usually done with body text, because spacing between characters in body text sizes isn't usually noticeable or distracting.


Both kerning and tracking are types of letter spacing, but kerning is applied selectively to only a few specific letter pairs. Spacing in body text or more than just a few letters is done with tracking.

How is Kerning Done?

While many programs come with automatic kerning, it's often better than doing it manually. You will probably use the Characters panel to kern (or the equivalent in your software). Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop, for example, have a Character panel. In these programs, you open the Characters panel, click between the two characters you want to kern to open the Type tool. Then change the values in the Kerning tool in the Character panel.

You can also create a kern with a keyboard shortcut: choose between the two characters you want to kern and hold the Option key on Mac or Windows on the Alt key and use the left and right arrows to adjust the spacing between the two letters.


Kerning Hints

  •  Be careful when identifying titles that use ligatures. These double or triple letter strings are single characters and cannot be identified as individual letters. Depending on the level of kerning used on other characters in the same title, spacing can become visually awkward.
  •  Use excessive kerning or excessive kerning to create frequently spaced or overlapping characters, perhaps to a newsletter or as part of a logo.
  •  Editing kerning tables (in software that offers this feature) lets you show the same groups of letters in a font repeatedly when they appear multiple times in a publication such as a brochure or newsletter.
  • Text set on all covers almost always requires some kerning.