Kerning Process - Questions

dogukaya's picture

Hello everyone i'm new at here and typography world. Now im working on a typeface design. It's name is Fil
Link :

I've redesigned it and now i want to make metrics and kerning adjustments. But i haven't got any idea where should i start. I looked for in typophlie to many topics but my now my head is really confused about this preocess. I'm using both macintosh and pc.

Firstable What is auto-kerning? This can be a magical solution for me bacause im a kind of new as i said and i'm sure you all agreee with me adjusting metrics is a little bit boring in the end of design part. Actually Kerning is also is a part of design but i want to be a typographer in a way like step by step or font by font. I cant learn whole process in a short time.. I used Fontographer and Fontlab, Fontographer is like very basic for this job but it have a non-working autokerning tool i think..Is there something like that in fontlab or any other apps. i want to learn is there another auto kerning tools like this any application or any tip. I found iKern service but you should know i'm a student. And Kernmaster is also not for a student i think.

Ok if theres no autokerning i have to make it with my hands..
_Simply and generally what's the process?
_Metrics vs Kerning? explainings for a very beginner, tips?
_Metrics. How you decide this values
_Kerning. Shoul i adjust this for every pair in the font or there re some chars and mostly these are need kerning.
_How many pair need this. Yes it depends but im tryin to understand.
_Can i use kerning values of a font that is very similar to mine. How.
_If I started to adjust values how should i check them, Is there any method for this. I found KernKing txt. This is a right way?
_OpticalKerning values in Adobe applications, can i export and use them? any patch, or downloadable script link?
_Any good writings about this issue in external websites??

Thank you all :)

Thomas Phinney's picture

You MUST get the spacing right before you start kerning. If you don't, you'll eventually have to throw out all your kerning and start over again. Walter Tracy's

Automation? Igino Marini's ikern is the best auto-spacing and auto-kerning tool out there. Adobe InDesign's auto-kerning is second, and only useful insofar as the initial spacing of the key letters is good. Nothing else I've seen is really worth considering.

If you are not using something truly automated, you need to learn about class-based kerning and use that.

blokland's picture

Thomas:‘Nothing else I've seen is really worth considering.

Bachman Turner Overdrive: ‘B-B-B-Baby you just ain't seen n-n-n-nothing yet.


hrant's picture

Try doing it by hand first. You will soon discover if you've
got it or not. I think most people got it, but for some it's
just not how their mind works. If you don't got it then either
pay somebody (not necessarily up-front - it could be a share
of the sales) to do it for you, or use an automated method.

BTW, do you know about ISType?
It's going to be in June this year.


blokland's picture

Hrant: ‘I think most people got it, but for some it's just not how their mind works.

I reckon that Hrant is speaking in tongues here, because I have no idea what he is talking about. Kerning is a refinement of the spacing, which is necessary because the grapheme systems in use for representing the Latin script are to some extent inconsistent. This inconsistency is caused by the fact that within the grapheme systems, like for instance roman type, characters with a different morphological background are combined. Also the rigid rectangle-based movable type paradigm is something that requires (‘optical’) corrections.

If one is able to design and space the stuff, kerning should be no problem then. Perhaps defining kern classes and enumerating pairs is considered tedious work, but kerning is just directly related to spacing and therefore by definition easier to generate than the spacing itself. What makes kerning complex, is that it should be done in such a way that it is reproducible. Whenever changes and/or enhancements are made to a font, new or additional kerning pairs with the same (sort of) values as that of the existing ones should be easy to generate in a fully controlled manner. Automated/parametrized kern generation makes this work easier and the outcomes more consistent.

If one thinks that manually, i.e. optically, kerning is better than automated/parametrized kerning, then it should be not too difficult to define what exactly makes manually kerning better. The outcomes can be used then to change the parameters in such a way that the automated/parametrized kerning results are identical to that of manual kerning.


William Berkson's picture

I like the overall look of this, but I think you've got some problems in letter design that are going to cause problems in spacing and kerning. If the internal space isn't harmonious, then the spacing and kerning is never going to look right. For example, I think the leg on your L is too long compared to the other characters. The L is one of those characters that perhaps Frank was referring to that you can't totally solve, but shortening the leg a little would help. Also I wonder aesthetically about the difference between your M and N, with totally different structures, and the narrowness of the M. Also your numbers need work; they are not as good as the letters.

So I think, like Thomas, that working on the spacing, but simultaneously adjusting the characters, is the way to start. Because of its design, with single case, straight sides, bent arms on the VWXY it may not need a lot of kerning, maybe none at all.

blank's picture

OpticalKerning values in Adobe applications, can i export and use them? any patch, or downloadable script link?

Optical Kerning is to typography what a herpes outbreak is to a nunnery. Don’t use it for anything, ever.

I like the overall look of this, but I think you've got some problems in letter design that are going to cause problems in spacing and kerning.

Bingo. Don’t waste time kerning your first type designs. You’ll spend weeks spinning your wheels to even out proportion and spacing problems that you don’t understand. Work on them for a while, learn what you can, and then stick them in a drawer for five years.

butterick's picture

i'm sure you all agreee with me adjusting metrics is a little bit boring in the end of design part

Drawing letters is the lowest form of type design.

hrant's picture

Frank, sorry - that was actually 'Mericun slang.
"Some people got it, and some people don't got it."
Which I believe is true of everybody in any given aspect.

Some people are not good at spacing. With enough effort
virtually any such person can become passable at it, but
if their mind doesn't "enjoy" it it might be better to rely
on somebody else, or an algorithm.

> kerning is just directly related to spacing

This is actually why I would ideally like
to think of it not as a "refinement" of it.
I would even like to be able to consistently
think of the black/white within letterforms
as integral to their spacing/kerning, which
is difficult however. It's like zen.

> it should be not too difficult to define what
> exactly makes manually kerning better.

But how do you quantize eyeballing?

> Drawing letters is the lowest form of type design.

In fact it's not type design at all - it's lettering.

There is indeed no type design without spacing, which
is fully half the heart of individual letterforms even.


nina's picture

i'm sure you all agreee with me adjusting metrics is a little bit boring in the end of design part

No, actually. :-)
Spacing and kerning is when a font starts coming together, and really working... To me, it is like zen: slowly, iteratively ironing out the wrinkles, smoothing the bumps in the pattern just enough, and learning, learning to see. And that's why I'd very much disagree with James: If you want your first one(s) to be a learning experience, learning to space and kern them can teach you very much. (If on the other hand your main motivation is getting the thing out there, do look at algorithms, or other people; because really learning to do this takes some time :-), and like Hrant says, not everyone enjoys it equally.)

William Berkson's picture

By the way, a way of learning this is to compare the evenness of color of words set in your new font to the same words in some existing fonts that you admire as well crafted. Then adjust your letters and spacing until it's as good as the model. You could compare yours to flat sided sans like DIN, for example.

Again, I do think this can work and encourage you to go on.

blokland's picture

Hrant: ‘I would even like […] think of the black/white within letterforms as integral to their spacing/kerning’

The more I measure Renaissance type, the more I am convinced that the proportions of Jenson’s and Griffo’s roman types, and their derivatives by Garamont and consorts, were the result of standardizations and systematization’s in the production process of movable type, and that Jenson even ‘designed’ his famous roman on a grid. The spacing was defined by the grid and the length of the serifs preserved the spacing. Although not specifically on this part, I already placed some info on this topic.

With a standardized system for the widths a punch cutter could theoretically control the spacing of his type ‘from a distance’, and hence the quality of the complete production. If the justifier/caster was aware of such a system and the type was based on it, the widths could be simply distilled from the design itself. The simplicity of such a system could be an explanation for the fact that there is no documentation on this matter preserved from the early days of typography.
        As we all know, an incorrect spacing can ruin a typeface. The simplest possible method which might have been used by casters that I could reconstruct, is to take the n (designed on a grid) as a basis and to put just a little bit space at both sides of the serifs (the length of the serifs being based on the unit arrangement system). The resulting width can then be used for a large range of other letters and other groups of letters can be placed on widths based on parts (ranges of simple units) of the n. For instance I could distill this from Garamont’s Gros Canon Romain type and the related Moyen Canon Romain from Van den Keere in the inventory of the Museum Plantin-Moretus, which are attributed to the sixteenth century (there is no documentation on the casting of these specific types and the dating is therefore a bit uncertain; I am trying to get the C14 method applied to the alloy, but it seems that there is not enough carbon in it).

Hrant: ‘But how do you quantize eyeballing?

The power of the human eye is purely relative to the anatomy of the things perceived. In Art and Illusion (Oxford, 1987 p.255) Gombrich notes on this phenomenon: ‘The stimulus patterns on the retina are not alone in determining our picture of the visual world. Its messages are modified by what we know about the “real” shape of objects
        So, a lot that we (think/want to) see is based on conditioning. Conditioning is based on conventions and conditioning preserves conventions. Thus the snake bites its own tail; to be able to use one’s ‘eye’ like Fournier advocated, one has to be educated to look at type in the same way. What is considered to be harmonic, rhythmic and æsthetic in type is merely the result of conditioning, i.e. cultural habituation.
        The ‘eyeballing’ in case of type is purely relative to the underlying model. Sometime ago my Dean said that some matters [in art] can’t be defined and I replied that if these can’t be defined they simply don’t exist.


William Berkson's picture

>that if these can’t be defined they simply don’t exist

Plenty of things exist that aren't defined, like love. Also many things in science that were once not measurable were later measured, like voltage. They didn't just come into existence when people figured out how to measure them. Definition and measurement are not conditions for existence. For example, has anyone successfully defined you or me? :)

blokland's picture

William: ‘Plenty of things exist that aren't defined like love. Also many things in science that were once not measurable were later measured, like voltage.

I am not a physiologist, neither a psychologist, nor a physicist, but I am a type designer and a (senior) lecturer in type design for more than 25 years now. And I do know that in case of type we are talking about formalized, standardized, and systematized grapheme systems, which were inventions by mankind and not –as far as I know– provided by any God or by nature itself.
        What type designers do, is making variants on themes, where the themes can be more loosely interpreted with an increase of point size. Much, if not everything of the métiers of the type designer and typographer can be dissected, anatomized, and described into details, including idiom. So far most attempts to mystify the ‘eye’ of the type designer I have seen, were more related to marketing than to actual knowledge. Of course, I could be wrong though.

William: ‘For example, has anyone successfully defined you or me?

In the chapter titled Introduction on Taste of A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757), Edmund Burke states: ‘On a superficial view, we may seem to differ very widely from each other in our reasonings, and no less in our pleasures: but notwithstanding this difference, which I think to be rather apparent than real, it is probable that the standard both of reason and Taste is the same in all human creatures. For if there were not some principles of judgement as well as of sentiment common to all mankind, no hold could possibly be taken either on their reason or their passions, sufficient to maintain the ordinary correspondence of life.’ This may not exactly define you and me, but at least it suggests that to some extent we have a lot in common.


dezcom's picture

So are you saying we are all the same or are you saying it does not matter if we are different--there is "enough" the same in all of us that differences are irrelevant?

dezcom's picture

The following is a post that I have been trying to upload since Typophile went nuts over the past 2 days. Therefore, it would make more sense if read just after Nina's post above instead of today:

Frank, The digital type variation on the unit system is indeed a grid, albeit much finer than what we typically call a grid. The proportion categories of the roman alphabet have been around for centuries so I can easily see how the "system" you refer to in your theory is quite plausible. While I can certainly agree that an analysis could bring about some repeatable mathematical process, I don't, for the time being, see that this would be faster than what Hrant calls "eyeballing"--at least not for me. If your latest software, now in beta, can remove all the calculations for the user and "know" a very good outcome, this could certainly change my mind. I guess my fear is that it would not do what I want and require adjustment, anyway. There are several ways to set spacing/sidebearings and the kerning needs to work in consort with the spacing method. Hopefully, there is an "open marriage" possible where by the user (marriage councilor) can keep harmony among all parties.

I agree with Nina's assertion about spacing and kerning being part of the whole design journey. I find that there are glyph drawing corrections required and part of the "tinkering process" that we call type design. The act of spacing and fitting places a focus on what may be weaker combinations that need to be revisited in the drawing--or even {calt} substitutions of alternates. I would be nervous about turning kerning over to a software process and missing this vital part of the process without having the ability to reteach the software to follow what I might think of as a better path. Yes, Nina, it takes some time--I seem to be getting slower rather than faster at design with the more I learn ;-). This experience is invaluable though. Turning over the space/kern process to software without the ability to understand what is being done, can leave you blind to what the results should be.

At any rate, I have come to agreeable terms with kerning and learned not to try and hurry through it any more.

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