Learn how to improve readability and visual appeal of your text by adjusting the overall spacing, and the space in between two characters.

Tracking and kerning are essential elements of design that can have a great impact on the readability and visual appeal of your documents. Tracking refers to loosening or tightening a selected block of text, while kerning is the process of adding or subtracting space between specific pairs of characters. 

In InDesign, you can use the Character panel to track and kern your text easily. To open the Character panel, choose Type > Character.

Tracking and kerning

Track text to appear tight or loose overall  

Tracking (sometimes called letterspacing), controls the consistent space between letters across a block of text, and affects a word or text block overall.

Tracking is frequently applied to headlines and logos. Loose tracking with positive tracking values, when applied to capitals and small capitals, can make them stand out; negative tracking can be used stylistically to enhance a headline.

A small amount of positive tracking applied to body text can make it look airy and improves readability, as the extra space allows individual character shapes to be easily recognized when the text is read. Negative tracking is rarely used in body text as it can reduce legibility.

Track text to appear tight or loose
Positive tracking

To adjust tracking, first select the text. In the Character panel, select a Tracking value from the dropdown menu, click the up/down arrows, or type a value (in thousandths of an em).

Tip: To track text quickly and visually, highlight the text; press Option (Mac) or Alt (Windows) and press the left or right arrow keys on the keyboard. 

Adjust tracking

Kern those letter pairs

Sometimes adjacent letters can have too much or too little space between them, affecting readability and creating distracting gaps in your line of text. InDesign offers three options for kerning text: Metrics, Optical, and Manual.

Of these, Metrics and Optical Kerning are automatically determined by InDesign.

Kerning text

Let InDesign do the work for you

Both automatic kerning options are found in the Character panel. Metrics kerning is the default setting, and is based on the kerning tables built into the typeface. InDesign automatically adjusts specific pairs of letters as intended by the type designer.

Optical kerning adjusts the space between letters based on their shapes. This option is useful if Metrics kerning produces unsatisfactory results, or if you wish to use multiple type styles or sizes in one line.

Character panel

Manually kern letter pairs

In display type or large headlines, some pairs of letters may need a little extra attention. To kern manually, place your cursor between two letters, and change the Kerning value in the Character panel.

Tip: To kern quickly and visually, place your cursor between any two letters; then press Option (Mac) or Alt (Windows) and click the left or right arrow keys on the keyboard.

Manually kern letter pairs
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