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Frequently Asked Questions

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Kerning, Tracking, and Leading Can Help Make Your Documents More Readable

Using kerning, tracking and leading together can allow designers to make documents easily readable. Wider spacing and extra white space can be used to emphasize small blocks of important text. A quick read on the features of each.

Question: 

What are kerning, tracking, and leading?

 

Answer: 

Kerning

Kerning refers to the spacing between letters. In most digital fonts, there is a small amount of white space around each character within a rectangular character cell.  In these fonts, characters will not touch or overlap with normal settings.

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But when characters are slanted, like A, V, or W, or if they have extending arms or tails, like T, y or g, the default spacing may make them appear to have more space between them than what is between the boxier characters in the same word.

 

Kerning is a process where the spacing in between characters is adjusted to allow the two-character cells to overlap slightly so that the pair of letters can be more closely spaced, for a better appearance. 

 

Some TrueType and OpenType fonts have kerning tables built in to them, but older style AFP and Xerox fonts have to be adjusted manually by adding negative character spacing between the characters.

 

The characters in a company’s name are often kerned in building a visually appealing logo.

 

Tracking

Tracking is like kerning but refers to a more overall spacing between characters. This is often done to provide right-justification to a block of text. Spreading the distance between characters can provide emphasis to a phrase but be careful not to spread characters too far apart, as that can reduce readability.

 

Leading

Leading refers to the amount of space between lines of text and is normally measured from baseline to baseline. The term derives from the strips of lead that were put between lines of type blocks in the days of manual typesetting.

 

If there is no leading between lines of type, the ascenders from one line of text may touch the descenders from the line above, making the text hard to read. Too much space between lines can also reduce readability, as well as wasting space.

 

Recommended leading is usually 120% - 145% of the font size. So lines of text in a 10 point font should be spaced 12 – 14 points apart (or 5 to 6 lines per inch). Feathering or vertical adjustment can be used to increase or decrease the leading between lines of text so that a block of text reaches a desired height, such as ending exactly at the bottom of the page.

 

Using kerning, tracking and leading together can allow designers to make documents easily readable. Wider spacing and extra white space can be used to emphasize small blocks of important text. 

If you have questions or need help with spacing on your forms or building a logo, contact Dr. FontZ.

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