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How to: Kerning Text in Illustrator

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Read Time: 4 mins

In the following tutorial, you will learn how to change the spacing between letters in Illustrator using kerning and tracking.

We'll use the Knicknack font from Envato Elements to better exemplify kerning in illustrator and learn the options that you have when you need to change the space between letters in Adobe Illustrator.

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Are you interested in learning more about working with fonts in Illustrator? Don't forget to check out these resources as well:

What You'll Learn in This Illustrator Tutorial

  • What is kerning?
  • What is tracking?
  • How to adjust the kerning in Illustrator
  • How to change the space between letters in Illustrator
  • How to combine kerning and tracking to adjust the font spacing in Illustrator

What Is Kerning?

Using Kerning, you can meticulously adjust the spacing between two characters.

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What Is Tracking?

Using Tracking, you can adjust the spacing between all the characters in a string of text.

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How to Change the Spacing Between Letters in Illustrator Using Kerning

To adjust the kerning in Illustrator, you need to go to the Character panel.

You can either go to Window > Type > Character or use the Control-T keyboard shortcut to open this panel. As long as you have a piece of text selected, the Character panel can also be accessed from the control panel. All you have to do is click that underlined Character text, which will open the Character fly-out panel.

Select a piece of text and make sure that the Type Tool (T) is active. Click between two of those letters and focus on the Kerning box. Edit the existing value, thus adjusting the spacing between those two letters. When kerning is set to Auto (Metric kerning), the value appears between parentheses.

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Metric kerning (Auto) is the default, and it uses the kerning settings that come with most fonts. These settings specify the spacing values for particular combinations of letters, the most common being LA, P., To, Try, Ta, Tu, Te, Ty, Wa, WA, We, Wo, Ya, and Yo. 

Optical kerning adjusts the letter spacing in Illustrator based on the shapes of the characters. This can be useful when you're using a font that lacks built‑in kerning, or if you use several typefaces or sizes in your text.

Manual kerning is in your hands. Just click between two letters in your text and adjust the kerning value as you wish.

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Alternatively, you can use a keyboard shortcut to adjust the kerning in Illustrator. Select your text and press Alt-Right Arrow to increase the kerning or Alt-Left Arrow to decrease the kerning in Illustrator. Now that you learned the basics of kerning text in illustrator, let's see how tracking works.

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How to Change the Space Between Letters in Illustrator Using Tracking

Select a piece of text, focus on the Tracking box, and edit the existing value to easily adjust the letter spacing in Illustrator. Additionally, you can deselect your text and set a tracking value for text that you're about to add.

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As with kerning, you can use a keyboard shortcut to adjust the font spacing in Illustrator. Select your text and press Alt-Shfit-Right Arrow to increase the tracking or Alt-Shift-Left Arrow to decrease the font spacing.

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You can also set custom tracking settings for specific characters from a word. Use the Type Tool to select one or more characters from a word, and adjust the tracking value in the Character panel.

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Tracking and kerning go hand in hand, so feel free to combine these settings to meticulously change the space between letters in Adobe Illustrator.

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Congratulations! You're Done!

Now that you know the basics of tracking and kerning text in Illustrator, feel free to use these techniques in your future projects.

You can find some great sources of inspiration at Envato Elements, with interesting solutions to improve your design portfolio.

Want to Learn More?

We have loads of tutorials on Envato Tuts+, from beginner to intermediate level. Take a look!

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