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What Is Kerning, Tracking, and Leading?

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Read Time: 4 mins

Wondering about kerning, tracking, and leading? Designers are very detail oriented. We know the importance of space in design, especially when dealing with typography. And you can learn how to fine-tune the spacing of your work by studying some basic typography terms.

Got a minute? Master these terms by following along with our quick lessons! Learn more about kerning, tracking, and leading in this video from the Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

What Is Kerning in Typography?

So, what is kerning in typography? The kerning definition in typography is both a term and a process. It not only refers to the spacing between two letters, but is also defined as the process of adjusting these spaces manually. Kerning is best used when adjusting logos, headlines, and typographic compositions.

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"The goal of kerning is to have equal distance between two characters so the final word looks balanced and evenly spaced. Most typefaces are designed with a set kerning between specific characters, but some aren't kerned by default." Instructor Laura Keung.

Interested in learning how to do kerning in different software? These resources are for you:

What Is Tracking in Typography?

Now let's talk about what is tracking in typography. Also known as "letter-spacing", Tracking refers to the overall spacing of letters (and not just two characters), allowing you to adjust the spaces in any text uniformly.

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"As opposed to kerning, character tracking applies to a whole word, or characters in general. Depending on the font, you might need to add horizontal space to a block of text to fix the line breaks and avoid odd-shaped rags, orphans, and widows. The key with tracking type is to find a good balance." Instructor Laura Keung.

If you'd like to read more about the typography tracking definition, tracking vs. leading, and other design terms, check out these articles:

What Is Leading in Typography?

Last but not least, let's learn about leading in typography.  To add more space between the lines of a paragraph, you'll need to adjust the Leading. Increase the number for a quick double-spacing effect or for more readability.

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Leading determines the distance between multiple lines of text. This ensures that the lines aren’t touching and that there’s enough space to read the lines comfortably. Instructor Laura Keung.

It depends on the typeface you're typesetting the text in, but as a general rule of thumb, the darker the typeface, the more leading you need. 

Learn more about the leading definition in typography and how to do it in different software:

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Learn More About Typography

Here we've covered the typography tracking definition, the kerning definition in typography, and answered the question, "What is leading in typography?" The start of your design career begins with more knowledge. Learn from our experts to help build your skills over time! Check out these tutorials to learn more:

Editorial Note: This post has been updated with contributions from Maria Villanueva. Maria is the Associate Editor of the Tuts+ Design channel.

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