Kerning

Carefully spaced glyphs should fit together well in words and sentences. Some glyph combinations, however, need specific adjustments to look good. Usually, glyphs with a lot of white space (such as A and V) need to be moved closer together. In contrast, glyphs that collide (such as f and ?) need to be moved further apart. Kerning is the adjustment of the distance between glyphs.

Note that left to right kerning is stored separately from right to left kerning. When working with a font that includes glyphs of both directions, make sure to select the correct writing direction before kerning. See Entering Text: Writing Direction for details.

With the Text tool active, kerning between glyphs is highlighted in light blue for negative kerning and yellow for positive kerning. These colors can be changed in the Appearance settings.

Kerning Modes

Edit View has three kerning modes: no kerning , kerning , and locked kerning . Cycle between the modes by clicking the icon located in the bottom-right of the Edit View canvas.

No kerning  disables the preview of kerning in Edit View. The kerning shortcuts are also disabled in this mode. Kerning  previews kerning pairs in Edit View. Locked kerning  works like the normal kerning mode but disables the spacing shortcuts, preventing accidental spacing changes while kerning.

Info Box

In Edit View, the Info box (View → Show Info, Cmd-Shift-I) displays the kerning between the current glyph and the immediate glyph on each side. When no kerning is set, the gray placeholder Kern is visible.

Click a kern field, enter an adjustment value, and confirm by pressing Return or by exiting the kern field. Clear a kern field to remove the kern between the two glyphs. Activate the Text tool to see a small Info box for the preceding glyph. The box provides the name of the preceding glyph, its lock status, and kerning group name:

See Kerning: Kerning Groups for details on the Group fields in the Info box and Kerning Group Exceptions for working with the kerning  locks.

Editing kerning in the Info box can be handy for quick adjustments. When kerning many glyph pairs, consider using the kerning shortcuts.

Kerning Shortcuts

The kerning shortcuts can be used with the Text tool. Type the two glyphs in Edit View, then place the cursor between them and hold down the Option and Control keys to change the kerning value between the current and the left glyph with the Left Arrow and Right Arrow keys ( and ). Hold down Option and Command to change the kerning between the current and the right glyph ( and ). Hold down Shift for steps of 10.

ShortcutAction

Opt-Ctrl-Left

increase kerning on left side

Opt-Ctrl-Shift-Left

increase kerning on left side by 10 units

Opt-Ctrl-Right

decrease kerning on left side

Opt-Ctrl-Shift-Right

decrease kerning on left side by 10 units

Cmd-Opt-Right

increase kerning on right side

Cmd-Opt-Shift-Right

increase kerning on right side by 10 units

Cmd-Opt-Left

decrease kerning on right side

Cmd-Opt-Shift-Left

decrease kerning on right side by 10 units

Kerning Groups

Many glyphs with similar forms should have the same kerning values. Kerning groups capture these similarities and reduce the number of pairs that need to be set manually. Kerning then applies not just to pairs of glyphs, but to groups of pairs of glyphs. For example, B, D, E, F, H, and so on may form a left side kerning group. Also, V, W, , Ŵ, , and so on might share both the left and the right kerning groups. For example, if A and Ä are in the same kerning group, kerning A to V also kerns the ÄV pair. Additionally, if V is in a group with W, AW and ÄW will also be kerned by the same amount. All members of a kerning group have the same kerning values unless a kerning exception is defined (see Kerning Group Exceptions).

A glyph can have two kerning groups: one on the left and one on the right. Glyphs written from top to bottom have a top and bottom group instead.

The name of a kerning group is written into the Group fields in the Info box (View → Show Info, Cmd-Shift-I). Edit the kerning groups of multiple glyphs in the inspector in Font View, or select multiple glyphs in Edit View. Group names can contain the letters a–z and A–Z, the digits 0–9, and an underscore (_), period (.), or hyphen (-). Rename kerning groups in the Kerning Window.

It is common to name kerning groups after a base glyph. For example, R, Ŕ, Ř, and Ŗ may all have the right kerning group R. The left kerning group might be named I or H. However, it can also be named stem or any arbitrary name.

Another example: the glyphs c, d, e, o, and q could share a left kerning group named o. In that case, kerning To will also kern all other group members. However, while To might look good, kerning by the same amount will probably look too tight. There are two solutions for this issue: either ö could be placed in a different left kerning group than o, or kerning group exceptions could be used for ö.

Show all kerning group members in the background by choosing View → Show Group Members. The group members are only shown for the current glyph and the one placed before it on the canvas. Only members of the respective kerning group are shown. For example, when editing the P glyph, only its left kerning group members are shown in the background. This display option is helpful to spot possible collisions.

Kerning Group Exceptions

A kerning group exception overwrites the kerning values of a group for a specific pair. For example, if o and ö have the same left kerning group, the kerning value of To might be too tight for .

Create a group exception for by selecting the Text tool, then place the text cursor between T and ö. In the Info box (View → Show Info, Cmd-Shift-I), open the lock  of the ö to mark it as an exception. Now, editing the kerning value between T and ö will not affect any of the other glyphs having the same left kerning group as ö. However, keep the lock of the T glyph locked  so that the new Tö kerning exception also applies to other group members of the right T kerning group, for example, Ťö, Ţö, and Țö. Close the kerning lock to remove an exception.

Kerning Window

Open the Kerning Window by choosing Window → Kerning (Cmd-Opt-K). It provides a list of all kerning pairs for the currently selected writing direction. See Entering Text: Writing Direction for details on changing the writing direction.

Viewing Kerning Pairs

Enter a search term in the search field to filter for kerning pairs containing it. Click the search icon  to configure the search options. Choose how the search term should be applied (kerning pair contains, is exactly, begins with, ends with, or does not contain the term), which pairs to show (is a group or is not a group), on which side of the pairs to search (left or right), or whether or not to show only glyphs that are selected in Font View. Choose Reset to reset all options back to their default.

Kerning groups are shown in blue with an at-sign (@) before their name, while single glyphs are shown in gold. Click a column header (Left, Value, Right) to sort by that column. Click again to reverse the sort order. Sorting by value is helpful to spot particularly small or large kerning values.

Click a kerning pair to display it in Edit View. The current glyph pair in Edit View, if any, will be replaced by the selected pair. Use the Up and Down arrow keys to walk through the kerning pairs of the font. When selecting a row containing one or two kerning groups, only a single example is shown. Insert all kerning pairs belonging to the selected row into Edit View by choosing Show All Glyphs from the actions  menu.

Editing Kerning Pairs

Double-click an entry in the Kerning Window to edit it. Edit a value to adjust the kerning between a pair. Edit a group name to rename the group. Renaming a group will prompt whether to change the group name for only the selected kerning pair, or rename the group across the entire font. Since left and right kerning groups are separate, renaming a group in the Left column will not affect any entries in the Right column and vice versa.

Copy the selected kerning pairs with Edit → Copy (Cmd-C). Select all kerning pairs by choosing Edit → Select All (Cmd-A). Switch to another font master and paste the copied pairs with Edit → Paste (Cmd-V). If pasting would overwrite existing kerning pairs, Glyphs will show a warning. Choose Overwrite to paste the copied pairs and overwrite any the conflicting kerning pairs. Choose Keep Existing to paste only non-conflicting pairs.

Delete all selected kerning pairs by pressing the minus  button in the bottom-left of the Kerning Window.

Maintaining Kerning Pairs

Kerning pairs can become obsolete when glyphs are removed from the font, or a kerning group no longer has any members. Delete all obsolete kerning pairs by choosing Clean Up from the actions  menu.

Choose Compress from the actions menu to reduce the number of kerning pairs in the font. When a few glyphs were kerned with each other before the kerning groups were set, the singleton kerning pairs can be converted into group kerning with the Compress action. Compressing kerning changes kerning pairs between two glyphs or between a glyph and a group such that kerning groups are used wherever possible. Kerning exceptions are kept unless the exception has the same kerning value as the group kerning (meaning, it’s not a real exception). The Compress action might need to be run multiple times to compress all kerning pairs fully.

For example, consider a kerning pair Tm, which is a kerning between the glyphs T (right group: @T) and m (left group: @n). Compressing once will turn it into the kerning pair @Tm. Compressing a second time will turn it into @T@n. Now, this kerning pair applies to all glyphs in the @T right group and the @n left group, such as Ť–m, T–n, Tŋ, and Ťŋ. However, it will keep exceptions such as Tň, provided it has a different value than Tn.

Manual Kerning Code

While kerning is implemented as an OpenType feature, it does not appear in the Features tab of the Font Info window. Instead, it is added as an implicit feature. However, an explicit kern feature can also be added for performing contextual kerning.

In File → Font Info… → Features, add a new feature named kern. The kern feature typically uses positioning (pos) rules to change the distance between glyphs.

Contextual kerning matches more than two glyphs and can be helpful when dealing with punctuation or spaces. For example, the f might get some extra spacing to the right when it is followed by a space glyph and a glyph that extends far to the left on the top, such as T or V.

pos f' 50 space [T V W Y];

Kerning groups can be reused in feature code. The name of a left kerning group is prefixed by @MMK_R_ while a right kerning group is prefixed by @MMK_L_. For example, the left kerning group @H has the feature class @MMK_R_H and the right group @quote has the class @MMK_L_quote. Note that the R and L in the prefixes are with respect to the other glyph of the kerning pair: a left kerning group is used on the right (R) of a pair while a right kerning group is used on the left (L) of a pair.

For example, consider the glyph sequence LquoterightA (L’A). With pair kerning, the quote might get pulled into the white space of the L and also in the white space of the A, making the L and A collide on the baseline: L’A. A contextual kern can fix this situation by pulling the quoteright into the white space of the L (-50) while pushing the A to the right (70):

pos @MMK_L_L' -50 quoteright' 70 @MMK_R_A;

Manual kerning code can also make use of Tokens, which allow the glyph positioning to be based on Number Values of masters or the sidebearings of glyphs.