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  • Nayda Cruz

Make Your Text Easier to Read: Leading, Tracking and Kerning

Make Your Text Easier to Read: Leading, Tracking, and Kerning

When designing with text it is important to do more than only copy/paste the text. As I have wrote in the previous two blogs of this series, the right use of margins and typefaces can make your text easier to read.

On this third blog I write about how managing the spacing between characters and lines can make or break your design.

Remember that characters include, not only letters, but numbers, punctuation marks, spaces, and any other special symbols.

Leading, the space between lines.

Once you set your documents margins to control the line lengths and choose the right typeface for headings, subheading, and text, you now must set the right space between lines.

The space between lines is called leading. You may be familiar with the “double space” in Microsoft Word. When designing a book, digital PDF or magazine, we don’t use “double space” as the standard.

Instead, a good practice is to set the leading between 4 to 6 points more than the size of your typeface.

For example, if your text is 28 points, your leading should be from 32 to 34 points. This way we make sure that the lines are not too close one to another.

Wrong and Right Leading

When lines are too close, the readers eyes may get tired faster. Also, if affects reading continuity because every time the reader goes form the end of a line to the beginning of another one, the eye gets confused to where the line continues.

Once you have set your margins, typefaces, and leading, the length of your document is set. Now you have a better idea of how many pages long it will be.

Tracking, the space between characters.

In the same panel as the leading you will find the tracking. Tracking refers to the space between every character of a word. Usually horizontally.

When designing with text you may need the text to fills up a space in a specific way. That’s when tracking comes handy. You can make adjustments to your text to make it flow better in the designated space.

Tracking and No Tracking

One way that I love to use tracking is for short headings. It makes the text stands out the right way. It also creates separation between two sections. This must be done with control. Doing this to long texts can affects readability.

Tracking on Title

Kerning, the space between two characters.

Finally, in the same leading and tracking panel, we have the kerning. Which is the space between two specific characters.

InDesign and Illustrator Panel

Kerning is not something you are going to do in the entire text. The smaller the text size, the less you notice the need to adjust the kerning between two characters.

That is why it is mostly the headers that require this special treatment.

One may think that if the space between a series of characters is the same the word will look perfectly balanced. Well, that is not correct. Because kerning is a matter of visual aesthetic.

Characters are different shapes. Some are straight (I, H, M), some are rounded (O, D, G), some are slanted (A, V, W), and others have concave spaces (E, F, Y).

Straight, Rounded, Slanted and Concave Character

Those differences, when combined, may create a visual illusion that there is more space between two letters than the others.

Kerning and No Kerning

Your text design is almost ready!

After adjusting the margins to have the right line length, selecting the right typeface that portrays the right message, and adjusting the spacing between lines and characters, your text design is ready for the final step.

Next week I will share with how to work with the divisions of words, paragraphs, and sections to make your text easier to read.


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