Kern Like A Pro: A Guide for New Designers

Designers have a way to make things look their best. One of the things that they must all keep in mind while creating adding text to designs is kerning. In type, kerning, which can also sometimes be called mortising, is the process of adjusting the space between character sets in a way that achieves the most visually pleasing result. Good kerning can help pull a design together, and can help improve overall legibility.

While in your average day-to-day usage of fonts, you don’t pay much thought to the distance between the letters you are using, improperly kerned typography in designs are easier to notice, and can often be a distraction. Plenty of designers will kern typefaces manually, especially when it comes to text based logos, or typographical designs in which the words take center stage.

Luckily, by paying attention to a few elements, new designers can come quickly learn how to perfectly create legible, well-placed typography in their work.

Below are some things to keep in mind in relation to kerning when working with type for your designs.

Use a quality font – This may seem obvious, but professional typefaces are usually kerned with more care right out of the box than free fonts thrown together by aspiring typographers on the fly. Foundries that create their reputation on the quality and usability are constantly releasing quality typefaces in myriad styles to suit your needs. While typically license-able for a small fee, premium fonts also usually boast advanced features that make a final design unique and polished. Need a place to start looking? check out our collection of premium type in our Font of the Week posts.

Be aware of the Visual Space – Non-designers are typically more concerned with the message they want to send than the way they want to send it. But kerning is a visual art form, so thinking of the document in terms of visual space can make kerning easier by making it easier to spot places where spacing may be different, or off altogether. If it’s available to you, try using Photoshop to create a bounding box around the area your text will go. Look at that box in terms of the rest of the document to determine how large the type needs to be to remain legible. Work with that to draft a direct, concise version of your message.

Look at things Differently – Designers have lots of tricks to simplify the design process. Amongst the tips and tricks designers look to when dealing with kerning, there are a few that are common practice. First, turn your text upside down. Turning your text on its back can provide a new perspective that will help you see where the issues are. Adjust the type kerning and then flip it back to see if everything looks the way it should. It’s also helpful to study the kerning of your text in sets of three letters at a time. While the kerning is focused on the space between two characters, looking at the text in sets of three letters can provide a larger photo of how the letter you are adjusting behaves in reference to the elements around it. You can also invert the colors on your design to get a new look at the way the elements are working together over all

Save Kerning for the End – Kerning doesn’t affect the design that you are working on, instead, it is affected by the design. The kerning needs of any piece of text may be different depending on placement, and often, placement is flux throughout the design project. Once your placement has been completely established, you can turn your attention to the minute details of the overall piece, including perfecting the spacing between letters.




Category: Tutorials