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Improve your typography design skills with Kerning and Leading

Improve your typography design skills with Kerning and Leading

2020-01-25 | Design

In this article we will talk through what kerning and leading is, how to use it and some great fonts you can use in your future projects.


Kerning put simply is the space between two letters, it is vital for designers to know when the space between letters should be closer or further away from one another. If your letter are too closely bunched together and in the wrong context this can make text illegible and very hard to read. On the flip side, if your text is spaced too far apart this can actually make the words disjointed and it can become difficult to distinguish between the different words in your typography.

Some simple kerning rules to follow:

The kerning of your type with depend mostly of the font you initially choose to use in your graphic design work. As a general rule wider more bolding fonts will tend to sit closer together than their thinner counterparts.

One major aspect to remember when creating your typography is that not all letters were created equally. This means that all letters kern in different ways, some letters are innately wider than others, this means that if you were to kern all of your letters the same, you would find inconsistencies in your type spacing. Combat this by carefully looking and your typography and adjust each letter as to make them all look uniform and consistent.

As well as letter spacing, it is very important that you also pay close attention to the kerning of your words. Many fonts, especially non premium fonts often turn out to be poorly spaced between words, this can be a hassle but can again be counteracted by spacing each word appropriately.

Kerning will also depend on the context of your product/design. Using a thinner more widely spread font spacing will generally create the idea of elegance and luxury, the same can be said for scripted fonts although these tend to sit closer together. Generally a bolder font with minimal kerning between letters will illustrate power, dominance and attract attention.

Some examples of fonts for each of these scenarios:

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Leading, similarly to kerning is all about spacing, but this time the onus is not on the letters spacing it is how the lines are spaced out vertically. Leading is very important also as lines spaced incorrectly can lead to illegible typography if the text is vertically spaced to closely or too far apart.

Some simple leading rules to follow:

Leading with large amounts of text will generally need to have more leading between the lines to make the text easier to read, this is generally true especially with body copy and large paragraphs of text. Heading fonts are generally larger and can benefit from less leading than smaller text.

Just like Kerning you must consider the font that you are using when leading you typography. Some fonts will have much longer letters dropping down onto the line below than other, this can cause letter to collide with one another which can make text difficult to read and line hard to distinguish.

Leading will generally effect the weight of a section of text or the weight of the entire page. If your page seems to heavy then add extra leading, otherwise if your design seems sparse and too spacious you can bring the leading down to add some depth to the design.

One final tip is that leading can be use to actually reduce the height of your page or document. You must always take into account if the design of the page will allow for adjustments in the leading but if it can then fitting all of your text on one page may be possible with less leading.

Which software should I use for creating the best typography?

It is highly recommended that you create your typography designs in a vector based application like adobe Illustrator rather than photography editing software like adobe photoshop. This is because vector based programs do not export the type as pixels, which means your typography can then be scaled to any size and weight without loosing any existing quality.