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What Is Kerning In Photoshop + How To Adjust It

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When working with text in Photoshop, Kerning allows you to change the space between individual letters in your text. It serves as a great way to stylize your text or better position things if you have multiple text sizes. Inside Photoshop, there are a few easy ways you can adjust kerning using both keyboard shortcuts or the Character Panel.

To adjust the kerning of your text in Photoshop, go Window > Character to reveal the Character Panel. Click between the letters you wish to edit, then type in a kerning value in the kerning option of the Character Panel. Alternatively, press Alt or Option + Left/Right Arrow Key to adjust this value.

Throughout this post, you will learn the best ways to adjust kerning in Photoshop, as well as discover the differences between tracking and kerning. By the end of these tips, you’ll be a text spacing master! Let’s get started.

What Is Kerning In Photoshop?

Kerning is the act of adding or removing space between two particular letters in a line of text. By increasing the kerning value, space will be added between two specific letters while leaving other letters in the word unaffected. The opposite is true with decreasing the kerning amount.

To give you an example, here is a default line of text I created in Photoshop. All of the letters are equally spaced apart, and the kerning is currently set to 0.

Now I will click between these two letters to set the position I want to kern.

After adjusting the kerning value in the Character Panel to a positive value, the two letters on either side of my selected point have moved apart.

If I set my kerning value to a negative amount, those two letters will move closer together or even overlap.

The great thing about kerning is that it only affects the letters on either side of your cursor. This makes it easy to change the look of your text or position it without changing the entire line of text.

In the example below, you can see how I used kerning to spread the word out on either side of this model.

How To Kern Text In Photoshop

To kern text in Photoshop, click between the two letters you wish to adjust on your text layer. Once the cursor is placed, press Alt + Left/Right Arrow Keys (PC) or Option + Left/Right Arrow Keys (MAC) to increase or decrease the kerning value.

Before you can kern anything in Photoshop, you need to start by creating a new piece of text. By accessing your Text Tool (T) and clicking on your canvas, you will create a new text layer to work with.

New to making text? Check out this complete guide to the Text Tool in Photoshop!

With your text created, click between the two letters you want to change the kerning of. The blinking cursor will represent where the kerning adjustment is going to take place.

For the fastest way of kerning your text, use the keyboard shortcut Alt + Left/Right Arrow Keys (PC) or Option + Left/Right Arrow Keys (MAC) to adjust the kerning amount. For more dramatic results, hold down the left or right arrow keys to quickly change the amount.

If you don’t like using keyboard shortcuts and prefer the good ol’ fashion way, then the Character Panel is another great option. To access this panel, go to Window > Character or find it in your Photoshop workspace if it’s already there.

With your text later selected and your cursor placed in the correct position, hover your cursor over the Kerning Option inside the Character Panel.

A double-sided arrow will appear, indicating you can click and drag left or right to adjust the kerning of your letters.

You can also type in a specific kerning value in the box if you have an exact amount you want to use.

Using any of the tips here, you can quickly kern text in Photoshop, but I highly suggest using the keyboard shortcut. It may take a bit to remember, but it offers a much faster workflow so you can move on with your project!

How To Reset The Kerning Amount In Photoshop

To turn off or reset the kerning between two specific characters, first place your cursor between the two characters. Then open the Character Panel by going to Window > Character. In the Kerning Option, type in 0 in the provided box, or select it from the dropdown menu. Now your kerning is reset.

Since there is no keyboard shortcut for this process, the Character panel is the only solution. If you don’t see this panel, go to Window > Character to reveal it.

Now go to the Kerning Option found in this panel and click on the value box beside it. Type in 0 to set the kerning amount back to normal.

You can also click on the dropdown menu and choose 0 from the provided list instead.

Your kerning value will be reset either way, and your specific characters will go back to their default values when you first created the text.

Before Reset
After Reset

What To Do When Kerning Is Not Working

If kerning is not working in Photoshop, it is because there is no kerning point selected in your text. To place your kerning point, click between your desired characters to place your cursor. Now you can adjust the kerning value to affect the characters on either side of your cursor position.

To give you a more detailed example, I have created a piece of text below that I want to add kerning to. Unfortunately, even though my text layer is selected, the Kerning Option in the Character panel is greyed out.

However, after I click on my text and place my cursor to define the kerning point, the Kerning Option in the Character Panel becomes active. That is because Photoshop now knows what characters I want to kern since my cursor has been placed correctly.

Now I can adjust the kerning amount of my characters using either of the methods we discussed earlier. Easy peasy!

Kerning Vs. Tracking – What’s The Difference?

Kerning adjusts the spacing between two individual characters, while tracking adjusts the spacing uniformly across an entire word or section of text. Thus, the difference between kerning and tracking is kerning adjusts individual character spacing, while tracking adjusts spacing across an entire word.

Kerning is the most basic way of adding spacing to your text since you can individually adjust every character. As you’ve learned so far, you can add or remove space between two characters simply by adjusting the kerning value. This can work very well to format your text spacing with superior control.

On the other hand, tracking applies the same amount of spacing uniformly between all the characters in your text. Rather than adjusting the spacing in one area of the text, tracking works in broad strokes to move every character apart evenly.

This can save you a lot of time if you want equal spacing between every letter, or you need to spread out a bold font.

How To Use Tracking And Kerning Together In Photoshop

You can use kerning and tracking together in Photoshop to gain the ultimate control over the spacing of your text. Using the Character Panel, you can find everything you need all in one place.

First, you need to create your text. Accessing the Text Tool (T), click on your canvas to create a new piece of text.

To start things off, it’s best to adjust the tracking amount to give you a baseline spacing before you do any kerning. Opening the Character Panel, look for the ‘VA’ icon with the double-sided arrow below it. This is the Tracking Option.

Just like with the Kerning Option, you can click and hold over the Tracking Icon to increase or decrease the amount of spacing between every letter on your selected text layer. Dragging your cursor left will decrease the spacing, while dragging right will increase the spacing.

If you want to only adjust the tracking of a single word, you can highlight it on your canvas just as you would while working in a word document. However, now the tracking settings will only be applied to your highlighted word.

With your tracking set, you will have a uniform amount of spacing between all of your text. Next, it’s time to use your kerning adjustments to change the spacing between individual characters.

Clicking to place your cursor between two characters you want to kern, go to the Character Panel and adjust the kerning amount as needed. You can also use the keyboard shortcut you learned earlier of Alt/Option + Left/Right Arrow Keys to adjust the kerning value.

When you are changing the kerning, the tracking amount you set previously will not be affected. In addition, the spacing will only change between the two characters that you are kerning, so you don’t need to worry.

After going through both the tracking and kerning settings in Photoshop, you have successfully added spacing to your text with ease. Using these two settings together provides the ultimate way of refining your text and changing the position of different characters. Just remember that if you only want your tracking adjustments to take place on a specific word, highlight it first!

Happy Kerning,

Brendan 🙂



Photo of author
I'm a Canadian photographer and photo retoucher turned founder of bwillcreative.com. Around here I help you to decode the mystery of photo editing with no-fluff videos and written guides to help you achieve your creative goals. Outside of shooting photos and my passion for educating, you'll find me mountain biking or on the trails with my dog, Sunny!

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