Kerning workflow

Morpheus10's picture

hey guys
These are for people who design type entirely by themselves( i mean no teams).
Whats your kerning workflow?
Do you guys use auto kerning?
Which kern pairs you usually kern?
Do you guys exclusively kern manually?
Do you guys use python scripts?
How good is fontlabs auto kern feature?


blank's picture

Whats your kerning workflow?

• Finish drawing and spacing the outlines.
• Print a complete set of kerning proofs (every character juxtaposed against every relevant character) and identify any spacing problems that can be fixed without kerning.
• Fix spacing problems
• Export fonts to UFO files
• Build OpenType kerning groups in Metrics Machine
• Build kern pair lists in Metrics Machine (every character juxtaposed against every relevant character)
• Kern every pair in the light weight in Metrics Machine.
• Print a complete set of kerning proofs and identify all pairs that need to be fixed.
• Make fixes (I may do a few rounds of this, tweaking spacing and outlines of problem letters along the way)
• Create necessary kerning class exceptions for accents that crash into other letters.
• Repeat for the black weight
• Interpolate kerning for the semibold weight, proof, tweak
• Interpolate kerning for other weights
• Import one set of kerning classes to all fonts (to ensure that they match)

Do you guys use auto kerning?

No. I hate kerning, but I learn too much and fix to many problems during the process to not do it. I will try DTL Kernmaster once DTL releases a version that supports UFO.

Do you guys use python scripts?

I’m pretty sure Metrics Machine was written entirely in Python, so kind of ;)

How good is fontlabs auto kern feature?

Fontlab does not have automatic kerning, it has automatic spacing. Fontographer has automatic kerning. Both are abysmal.

Morpheus10's picture

Thanks a lot DT. and can i get a standard list of Characters that have to be kerned? right now i am following the TXT file which i have attached.
And what if you are working on a PC. is there any other tool like Metrics Machine for Windows?


blank's picture

…and can i get a standard list of Characters that have to be kerned?

This is pretty simplified, but:
• A-Z and a-z must kern against A-Z, a-z, and all punctuation. Don’t try to avoid oddball pairs like XJ, because any pair you can imagine exists between Dutch, Eastern European place names, and Chinese transliteration.
• 0-9 (Proportional figures only) must be kerned against 0-9, currency symbols, and all punctuation.
• All punctuation should be kerned against quotation marks. Do not forget about Czech quotes!
• Some people even kern shit like ® and ™ against letters and punctuation. I don’t bother because the weird marks like that look pretty bad no matter how they’re used.

Think about usage when you build your pair lists. For example, ampersand never kerns because it always has a space on either side, and backslash is only used in monospaced fonts. Brackets don’t get kerned because they make crazy shapes and spaces anyway. Æ and Þ also have a limited number of real-world kerns.

…is there any other tool like Metrics Machine for Windows?

Nope. Kerning in Fontlab is possible, you just need to build lists of strings of transpose characters (AAABACADA…). Some designers prefer that method to Metrics Machine.

eliason's picture

For example, ampersand never kerns because it always has a space on either side

? H&FJ, B&O, A&P...

blank's picture

Craig, I clearly did not drink enough coffee before lunch.

Té Rowan's picture

Of course, if you're a Jaguar fan or owner, you'll definitely want to kern XJ to perfection anyway.

dezcom's picture

Do not ever ask FontLab to automatically kern, space, or make classes. It will take longer to fix the mess it made than just do it straight off the first time.

Morpheus10's picture

thanks guys for all your replies. I have been following Letters of Credit (section 10, page 74) for spacing.
The book mentions a nice way to space glyphs and i was pretty comfortable with the spacing I've achieved. Is there anything like that for kerning? Do you just believe your eye to make the best judgement or do you use some kind of technique ( or just remember the kerning value for a pair and apply the same value for similar pairs).
I've asked this question in a previous thread "when do you actually start spacing?". Most of them said they space as they design. is that your workflow also.Should i design all( approx 260) glyphs and then space and kern?

.00's picture


Your kern pairs text is useless. In order to kern a glyph you need to look at it in context to at least 3 glyphs.

"The spacing between two letters can never wrong, add a third and now you have a problem." —Ed Benguiat

JamesT's picture

I think you'll find that if you design and then space/kern, you will end up designing again. I usually work on design for a little while, then go to spacing then take what I've learned from that and apply it to the design, then back to spacing.

Also, I've found it helpful to use test words instead of just looking at kerning pairs (or trios). I have a lot more familiarity worth words than I do with random series of letters and this really helps me work on rhythm in my design.

Andrew Osman's picture

Novice question:

Is it possible to build in kerning over a space?


(Edit: The difference was more prominent in Lucidia Grande.)

dezcom's picture

Yes, kerning to space glyph is quite common.

eliason's picture

But he's talking about kerning past the space. On kerning triplets, see

dezcom's picture

"kerning past the space

I couldn't see that from his example. Im assumed he was talking about the [N I] vs the [T T} which is easily adjusted by kerning both sides of the T to the space.

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