Bring Out the Best in Your Text with Letter Spacing

Bring Out the Best in Your Text with Letter Spacing
September 20, 2018 Andrew Zangre

Design, like most things, is a game of give and take—addition and subtraction. Adjusting the tiniest details, like the distance between letters, can be money moves.

Publishing and design experts have made a science out of the spacing between letters and lines; this breathing room (or lack thereof) is as fuss-worthy as the words themselves. It’s a topic worth exploring wherever you find yourself in your personal design journey.

Know the text spacing terms

There are some industry terms that overlap on the line space subject. To master these skills and become a bonafide spacing cadet, it helps to understand the lingo. Plus nothing screams “cool” like name-dropping design processes at a party or in a wedding speech.

Tracking refers to the proportional letter spacing in a selected text, as opposed to kerning which applies to two letters at a time.

  • Tracking. Tracking is a graceful nudging of all the letters in a selected area to be further apart or closer together. If you’ve seen an accordion being played, it’s a lot like that. Tracking is commonly (and understandably) confused with “kerning,” which refers to spacing between individual letters. In the PicMonkey Mobile app, we refer to tracking as “letter spacing.”  

Leading is an term to describe line spacing or line height between separate lines of text.

  • Leading. That’s pronounced like “beheading,” not like “leading man, George Clooney.” This term describes the distance between separate lines on a vertical plane. This feature is called “line height” in our mobile app. Increasing the leading on a series of lines is akin to a unified, glorious stroke of the Enter key in a word processor. Or whatever the opposite of that would be, when decreasing the leading. Tightening a corset? You get the idea.

The importance of letter spacing

We’ve previously discussed how spacing is the queen in typographic hierarchy. A little extra space is not simply a pleasing aesthetic—it’s scientifically superior, in some instances. Studies revealed that increased letter spacing translates to faster, more fluid reading in both kids and adults.

But sometimes letter spacing a design choice that’s more about creating a vibe. Throw in a quaint curve and some well-paired fonts, and even a smidge of copy can become the linchpin of a killer campaign. 

Increased letter spacing can be both stylistic and effective.

Loose leading and loose tracking demand more of the reader but add an airy, minimalist vibe.

On the flip side, there’s the alternative approach of eliminating space. Campaigns or entire brands can be defined by an intentional snugness among letters, up to and including the “chainlink” look.

Tracking, unlike kerning, moves letters together or apart all at once. Here is an example of tight tracking.

Tight or snug tracking, as seen in this design, can be bold and powerful.

Do you, boo. With the tools at your disposal, the only true offense to your audience might be the just-rolled-out-of-bed appearance of default spacing. A little effort goes a long way.

Use tracking and leading in PicMonkey Mobile

Your mobile designs can hang with the best of them. On the PicMonkey mobile app, tweaking your tracking (letter spacing) and leading (line height) takes just a few seconds and can add heaps of swag.


To adjust letter spacing (tracking) in PicMonkey Mobile:

1. Tap the text you want to edit, select the Style tab, and tap Letter Space.

2. Move the slider to the right to spread letters apart, and to the left to bring them closer together.

3. Tap the checkmark in the upper right-hand corner to apply.

 

To adjust line height (leading) in PicMonkey Mobile:

1. Select your desired text box, then tap the Style tab, and tap Line Height.

2. Move the slider to the right to spread lines apart, and to the left to bring them closer together.

3. Checkmark to apply—done-zo!

Once you’ve given your letters and lines their much-needed spacing adjustment, go nuts on any other customizations. Grab your text box with two fingers; swing it around, pump it up, shrink it down. Pop a drop shadow on that thing. It’s your text—have some fun with it!

 

Can we tag along? Download our mobile app for a little PicMonkey everywhere you go.

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Andrew Zangre

Andrew is a writer who has eaten more ice cream than you, probably. He’s traveled back and forth across the U.S. and is pleased to report that there are dogs all over the place.