Leading, kerning, and tracking. What’s the difference?
“Typography is the craft of endowing human language with a durable visual form.” ― Robert Bringhurst
Typesetting is a complex process, with many elements that must work together to produce a visually pleasing final product.
If you’ve undertaken a graphic design project before, you might be familiar with the terms leading, kerning, and tracking. But just in case, we’re going to break down what each one means and why they’re necessary.
When we read a piece of text, we typically read left to right and top to bottom. We might not pay much attention to the spacing between each line of text unless it’s poorly done.
Leading simply refers to the vertical spacing of the text. If lines are too close together, text can be more challenging to read, whereas too much distance between lines can make the text seem disjointed. A good typesetter will also ensure that the space between lines is consistent throughout.
When working on leading, typesetters also need to consider descending and ascending letters; letters with taller or longer parts like ‘h’ or ‘y’ to ensure that the leading distance is adequate to accommodate both without lines of text overlapping.
Another type of space arrangement is kerning, which refers to the space between two individual letters. This one is the simplest of the three terms we’re reviewing today, but it’s vital to watch out for particular fonts with flourishes that may need more attention to ensure that they’re legible.
Similar to kerning, tracking is all about letter spacing. However, instead of relating to the distance between two individual letters, tracking determines the space between each letter in a particular word. After setting the kerning, we can use tracking to adjust the spacing between each letter of a word at once. Increasing or decreasing the tracking can lead to difficulty reading the text, so it must be arranged with care.
Together, all three elements have a significant effect on the overall appearance and readability of a piece of text, and if you’re unsure how to make typography changes correctly, it’s best to consult a professional.
If you’re looking for help or advice with your next typesetting project, we can help!
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