How to Kern in Illustrator: Expert Tips and Tricks

How to Kern in Illustrator

Kerning pertains to the practice of modifying the distance between specific character pairs in a piece of text to enhance its aesthetics and comprehension. Adobe Illustrator offers robust tools that allow you to deftly kern text for your design projects.

Understanding Kerning

Kerning refers to adjusting space between individual characters for optimal visual balance and legibility. It focuses on the relationship between two characters at a time. Tracking deals with overall letter-spacing in a text block, affecting spacing between all characters. Kerning only changes spacing between specific pairs.

Certain character pairs can create awkward spacing that negatively impacts readability. These “kern pairs” often involve irregular shapes like “To” or “AV”. Kerning adjusts their spacing to maintain balance.

Getting Started in Illustrator

When working with text in Illustrator, choose the right tool. The Type Tool primarily creates and edits text. The Touch Type Tool allows more intuitive manipulation.

To kern text, highlight characters needing adjustment. Modify the kerning value in the Character panel to achieve desired spacing.

Access the panel via Window > Type > Character. The kerning value defaults to Auto. Manually adjust it by inputting a numerical value or using the arrows.

Use paragraphs for better readability. Utilize formatting like bold text and bullet points to emphasize information. Maintain a clear, knowledgeable tone to ensure comprehension.

Working with the Character Panel

The Character Panel enables adjusting text parameters like size, spacing, and kerning.

To begin, select text with the Type Tool and open the panel via Control-T. Adjust font size by changing the value. Modify letter spacing by changing the Tracking value.

Kerning methods include:

  • Optical Kerning – Adjusts space based on character shapes. Helpful when default kerning is insufficient.
  • Metrics Kerning – Relies on values provided by the font designer. Usually preferred for standard fonts.

Understanding Character Panel options significantly impacts typography design quality.

The Kerning Process

Manual kerning allows precise character spacing adjustments. Highlight characters needing changes. Modify the kerning value in the Character panel.

Auto kerning uses default settings. Enable it by choosing “Auto” in the Kerning dropdown menu. This depends on font design and may not be perfect.

Keyboard shortcuts facilitate kerning. Holding Alt + arrow keys decreases/increases kerning. Shortcuts allow precise control when adjusting.

Advanced Techniques

Fine-tuning kerning is crucial for balanced, professional logos. Use the Type tool and Character panel for precision. Keyboard shortcuts quickly adjust kerning between characters.

For blocks of text, use tracking to systematically adjust spacing and apply consistent kerning. Adjust the tracking value in the Character panel to fix issues and enhance balance. Experiment to achieve the most suitable result.

Troubleshooting Issues

Fonts can have varying kerning behaviors. Customize values for each font in the panel. Use the Direct Selection tool to fine-tune individual characters and achieve balance.

To fix space/alignment issues:

  • Adjust baseline shift to match characters’ baselines
  • Optimize tracking for entire text selection
  • Utilize the Direct Selection tool to refine spacing

Pay close attention to formatting when kerning. Utilize available tools and resources to fix issues and create balanced, readable text.

Additional Tools

Text boxes control text size, shape, and layout within a bounding box. Create them by dragging with the Type Tool. Reposition with the Path Tool. Enhance typography with effects like drop shadows and glows, retaining simplicity.

The Shape Builder tool merges and manipulates shapes. It’s useful with vector graphics and closed paths. Access it via Shift + M. Effortlessly combine, subtract, or create new shapes by dragging across areas. The Shape Builder streamlines complex designs while maintaining organization.

Expanding Your Skills

Tutorials provide in-depth kerning instruction covering topics like shortcuts and auto-kerning. Learning both Illustrator and Affinity Designer broadens your skillset.

Understand Illustrator’s Terms of Service to ensure proper usage and avoid issues. Knowledgeable Stack Exchange members can provide clarification on kerning and design.

Constant practice with tutorials will build confidence in text kerning. Remember to place the cursor between letters and use shortcuts or values to adjust spacing.


Effective kerning improves readability and aesthetics. Proper spacing ensures fonts complement overall designs. Mastering kerning enhances designers’ typography skills for various projects.

Tools like Illustrator’s Touch Type and Character Panel allow efficient, precise kerning. Feel free to experiment with different methods to achieve desired outcomes. As you practice techniques, kerning proficiency will improve, boosting design skills.

Kerning is an important, often overlooked aspect of design. Mastering it ensures professional, legible, appealing typography.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you adjust kerning in Illustrator?

Select the Type Tool, click between characters needing adjustment, and hold Option/Alt while pressing Left/Right arrow keys to decrease/increase kerning. You can also manually adjust the kerning value in the Character panel.

How do you apply kerning to multiple characters?

Select the characters with the Type Tool and change the kerning value in the Character panel. Use the tracking option to apply the same adjustments to multiple characters.

What’s the difference between kerning and tracking?

Kerning adjusts space between two characters. Tracking uniformly adjusts space between multiple characters.

How do you use optical kerning?

Select text with the Type Tool, open the Character panel, and choose “Optical” Kerning to apply automatic adjustments based on character shapes.

How can you fix kerning issues?

Manually adjust problematic pairs with the Type Tool and Character panel. Or use optical kerning to automatically adjust spacing based on shapes.

What’s the keyboard shortcut for kerning?

Hold Option/Alt while pressing Left/Right arrow keys to decrease/increase kerning between two characters.

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