Mastering Kerning in Illustrator (How to adjust, shortcuts and guide)

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Typography in digital design is an art and Adobe Illustrator is a powerful tool in the hands of a designer.

Adobe Illustrator's ability to manipulate typography, including kerning, is a vital aspect of creating effective and visually pleasing designs.

What is Kerning in Adobe Illustrator?

Kerning refers to the process of adjusting the space between characters in text, a process which is of paramount importance in design.

In Adobe Illustrator, kerning adjusts the space between two individual characters, optimizing readability and visual balance.

How to Adjust Kerning in Illustrator?

Adjusting kerning in Adobe Illustrator is a straightforward task that requires a few simple steps.

To adjust kerning in Illustrator, select the Type tool, highlight the characters you want to kern, then modify the kerning value in the Character panel.

Step 1: Select the Type Tool

Select the 'Type' tool from the toolbar or simply press 'T' on your keyboard. This will enable you to edit text on your canvas.

Step 2: Highlight the Characters

Highlight the characters between which you want to adjust the kerning.

Step 3: Modify the Kerning Value

On the top bar or in the 'Character' panel (Window > Type > Character), input the desired kerning value. Negative values bring characters closer, while positive values increase the space.

How to Change Kerning Values in Illustrator?

Changing kerning values in Adobe Illustrator is a simple process involving the Character panel.

In Illustrator, kerning values can be changed in the Character panel by selecting the text and entering a new value for the kerning field.

What are Adobe Illustrator Kerning Shortcuts?

Adobe Illustrator offers a variety of keyboard shortcuts to speed up your design workflow, including those for kerning.

The kerning shortcut in Illustrator is Alt + Left/Right Arrow (Windows) or Option + Left/Right Arrow (Mac) to decrease or increase kerning.

What is Optical Kerning in Illustrator?

Optical kerning in Adobe Illustrator is a feature that adjusts the spacing between characters based on their individual shapes, rather than their default spacing set by the typeface.

In Adobe Illustrator, optical kerning is a type of automatic kerning that adjusts the spacing of characters based on their shapes for visually pleasing results.

  • It is particularly useful when dealing with typefaces that have irregular shapes or poor default kerning.
  • Optical kerning can be activated by selecting the text and choosing 'Optical' from the kerning options in the Character panel.
  • It's worth noting that while optical kerning can be a time-saver, professional typographers may prefer to manually kern characters for the greatest level of control.

How to Kern Letters in Illustrator?

Kerning letters in Adobe Illustrator is a task that requires precision and an understanding of typography.

To kern letters in Illustrator, use the Type tool to select the characters, then adjust the kerning value in the Character panel for precise control.

How to Fix Over-Kerning or Under-Kerning in Illustrator?

Over-kerning refers to when the space between characters is too wide, while under-kerning is when characters are too close together. Both can negatively impact the readability and aesthetic appeal of your text.

To fix over-kerning or under-kerning in Illustrator, select the affected text and adjust the kerning value in the Character panel until the spacing is visually balanced.

  • Start by highlighting the affected characters with the Type tool.
  • In the Character panel, increase the kerning value for under-kerned characters or decrease it for over-kerned characters.
  • Keep adjusting until the characters appear balanced to the eye - there's no exact science to it, as different typefaces may require different kerning adjustments.

Is There a Way to Automate Kerning in Illustrator?

Yes, Adobe Illustrator provides options to automate kerning to some extent, helping you maintain consistent spacing across your text.

In Illustrator, you can set kerning to 'Auto' in the Character panel, which applies the kerning specified by the font designer.

  • This 'Auto' setting uses the kerning tables that come embedded in most professional typefaces. These tables contain pre-set kerning values for specific character combinations.
  • While this automated option can save time, it may not always provide the optimal result for every typeface or design context. As such, manual adjustment might still be necessary for the best visual outcome.

What's the Difference Between Kerning and Leading in Illustrator?

Kerning and leading are two fundamental aspects of typography in Adobe Illustrator, but they serve different purposes.

In Illustrator, kerning adjusts the horizontal spacing between two characters, while leading is the vertical spacing between lines of text.

  • Kerning focuses on the space between individual characters to improve readability and aesthetic balance in a line of text. It can be adjusted for individual character pairs using the Character panel.
  • Leading, on the other hand, is concerned with the vertical space between lines of text. It affects the overall legibility of a body of text, especially in multi-line paragraphs. Leading can be adjusted in the Character panel as well, but it applies to all lines of a selected text block.
  • Both kerning and leading are crucial for creating well-designed, easily readable text in your Illustrator designs.

Kerning in Various Design Applications

The principles of kerning apply across various design applications, though the specific processes may differ.

In Adobe's suite, including Photoshop, After Effects, and InDesign, the kerning options are similar to those in Illustrator.

  • You can find kerning settings in the Character panel in Photoshop and After Effects, and in the Control panel in InDesign.
  • Premiere Pro and Canva also support kerning adjustments, allowing users to fine-tune typography in videos and web-based design projects respectively.

In office tools like Google Slides, PowerPoint, Word, Excel, and Google Docs, kerning options are more limited.

  • Word, for instance, allows for kerning adjustments via the Font dialog box, but it's not as intuitive or precise as in dedicated design software.
  • Google Docs and Google Slides have limited support for kerning; you can adjust the size of the spaces between letters, but not specific kerning pairs.
  • PowerPoint allows for character spacing adjustments, but like Google Docs, lacks specific kerning pair adjustments.
  • In Excel, kerning adjustments are not natively supported, given its primary focus on numerical data and formulae.


Adobe Illustrator provides robust tools for typographic manipulation, making it a powerful ally for any designer.

Understanding and effectively using kerning in Adobe Illustrator is crucial for creating visually pleasing and effective designs.


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