by Christine Scott

Kerning is one of the most important aspects of typography. It is “the act of fine-tuning the space between characters to produce a streamlined, unified pairing.” Adjusting the spacing between two letters avoids clumsy gaps and improves legibility. Many new designers believe that equal spacing between characters will solve the issue of kerning, but that is not the case. Kerning is not so much about literal equal space as it is about perceived equal space. Here are a few things to keep in mind when kerning:

Stick to Your Chosen Typeface
When you’re in the early stages of a typographic design, be sure to choose your typeface carefully. A last-minute typeface change will consequently result in last minute kerning, which can be both time consuming and overwhelming. Different typefaces require different amounts of kerning, and rushing through the kerning process can make your final result look sloppy. When it comes to kerning, slow and steady wins the race.

Separate Yourself from the Word
When you’re in the process of kerning, it’s easy to accidentally focus on the word as a whole rather than the spacing between the letters. A trick to avoid this pitfall is to flip the word upside down while you kern. Working with a phrase that is no longer legible makes it easier to concentrate on the shapes and forms of the individual characters. White space and dark characters become more distinct, while irregular spacing between letters becomes more obvious.

Practice Makes Perfect
Tips like the above are helpful to keep in mind when learning how to kern, but only practice makes perfect. Through trial and error, you will begin to learn what letter combinations and typefaces require more kerning, and therefore, more time. Kern Type: The Kerning Game is an online game that trains your eye to spot uneven spacing between letters, making an occasionally tedious task more fun.

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