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InDesign tutorial: Adjusting character spacing: kerning and tracking in InDesign

What you’ll learn in this InDesign Tutorial:

  • Using a baseline shift
  • Changing the spacing before and after paragraphs
  • Using Tabs

This tutorial provides you with a foundation for working with Adobe InDesign spacing. It is the third lesson in the Adobe InDesign CC Digital Classroom book. For more Adobe InDesign training options, visit AGI’s InDesign Classes.

Adobe InDesign Tutorial: Adjusting character spacing: kerning and tracking in InDesign

Just like you can adjust the space vertically between lines of type, you can also adjust the space between either a specific pair of characters or between a range of characters. Adjusting the space between two characters is kerning, while adjusting the space between a range of characters is tracking.

1 Make sure that all of the text in the list of stories is still selected, then click to place the cursor in the Tracking value () portion of the Control panel, then type 10 and then press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS) to increase the tracking.

Tracking is measured using a fraction of an em space. A full em space is the width of the letter M of a particular font in a particular size; in other words,, an em space varies depending upon the size and font you are using. In this case, the value 10 represents 10/1000ths of an em space.

Changing the tracking.

Next you will use the word Tech in the lower-left corner of the page to serve as a logo for the start of the High Tech Corner section. You will kern the letters closer together, and then use baseline shift to further adjust some of the letters to create a visual effect with the type.

2 Using the Type tool (), click between the e and the c in the word Tech in the same block of text where you are currently working. Click to select the kerning value () which is currently set to 0 and type -120, being certain to include the minus symbol to indicate a negative value. Press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS) to set the kerning.

Changing the kerning.

Using a baseline shift

The baseline is the horizontal line upon which the bottom part of characters rests. Some characters, like lowercase q or p fall below the baseline, but most characters sit upon the baseline. You can use baseline shift to change the vertical position of individual characters. This is useful for trademark and copyright symbols along with fractions and footnotes or endnotes. Here you will use baseline shift to style the text to gain an understanding of how to access these capabilities using InDesign.

1 Select the letters e and c of the word Tech and change their size to 10 using the Font Size drop-down menu in the Control panel.

2 Select only the letter e and in the Baseline Shift value () in the Control panel type 6 pt, and then press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS). The e is shifted upward, 6 points off the baseline.

Apply the baseline shift to the letter.

3 Choose File > Save to save your work.

Changing paragraph attributes

The text formatting you applied earlier in this lesson impacted only the text you had selected. In this part of the lesson, you will work with attributes that are applied to an entire paragraph, including text alignment, spacing, and tabs. Because these attributes apply to an entire paragraph, you do not need to select any text; all you need to do is place the mouse cursor within the paragraph that is to be formatted. The adjustments you will make are found in the paragraph controls section of the Control panel.

Horizontally aligning text

For most Western languages, text reads from left-to-right, and aligns to the left side of a text frame. You can change the alignment of text so that text aligns to the right side of the frame, is centered, or aligns along both sides of the frame (justified), or have InDesign adjust the alignment depending upon whether the text is on the left or right side of a publication.

1 Click the Pages button () to open the Pages panel. Double-click page 2 to navigate to it, which also centers this page in the workspace.

2 On page 2, click anywhere in the line of text that reads Average Cell Phone Usage. You don’t need to highlight the line of text; simply place the cursor in this line.

3 In the Control panel, click the Paragraph Formatting Controls button () to access the paragraph portion of the Control panel.

The paragraph formatting controls.

4 Click the Align Center button () to align the text to the center of the text frame. The text is now centered. Keep the cursor in this text.

Changing the spacing before and after paragraphs

Adding space before or after paragraphs makes each paragraph stand out, and creates a clear transition between ideas and sections. A common mistake is to apply additional returns between paragraphs. Applying additional returns quickly adds space, but the space cannot be easily refined, or made to be consistent between all paragraphs in a single step. Using the space before and space after option provides more control over spacing between paragraphs than just inserting an additional return.

In this section, you will adjust the spacing between the headline and the list of city names. You will start by placing some extra space after the text Average Cell Phone Usage.

1 Using the Type tool (), click anywhere within the line of text that reads Average Cell Phone Usage.

2 In the Control panel, locate the Space After text field (), type .0625, and then press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS).

3 Choose File > Save to save your work.

These tutorials are created by and the team of expert instructors at American Graphics Institute.