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Kerning vs. Tracking — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Urooj Arif — Updated on May 5, 2024
Kerning adjusts the space between specific pairs of characters for a visually pleasing result, whereas tracking alters the spacing uniformly across a range of text.
Kerning vs. Tracking — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Kerning and Tracking


Key Differences

Kerning is applied to specific pairs of characters to correct spacing issues that can make certain letter combinations look awkward, such as 'AV', whereas tracking is applied uniformly across a section of text to affect overall text density and readability.
The main goal of kerning is to improve the visual cohesiveness of words, making them easier to read and more aesthetically pleasing, while tracking adjusts the general character density, which can enhance or detract from readability depending on how it's used.
Kerning often requires more precision and is typically adjusted by designers who are focusing on the look of individual words or short phrases, on the other hand, tracking adjustments are usually more about the legibility and overall appearance of paragraphs or larger blocks of text.
Over-kerning can make text look cramped and illegible, whereas excessive tracking can lead to text that feels sparse and disconnected.
Kerning adjustments are particularly crucial in large headings and logos where the relationships between letters are highly visible, whereas tracking is often adjusted in body text to achieve a uniform appearance or to fit more text into a given space.

Comparison Chart


Adjusts the spacing between specific pairs of characters
Adjusts the spacing uniformly across larger text blocks


To correct visual spacing issues between specific pairs
To change text density and impact overall readability


Typically used in headlines, logos, and titles
Used across paragraphs and pages for consistency


Affects the appearance of words at a micro level
Affects the legibility and layout at a macro level

Typical Adjustment

Small, precise changes
Broader, more uniform changes

Compare with Definitions


Adjusts space between specific character pairs.
Kerning is often adjusted between 'T' and 'o' to prevent visual disconnect.


Affects large text blocks.
Uniform tracking helps maintain consistency in multi-page documents.


Can be manually or automatically adjusted.
Most modern design software offers automatic kerning settings.


Can be set for specific aesthetic effects.
Loose tracking is often used in artistic typography to create airy text.


Is crucial for high visibility texts.
Kerning ensures that large print texts like billboards are clear and legible.


Involves adjusting letter-spacing uniformly.
Tracking adjustments are crucial in the design of book typesetting.


Focuses on pairs for aesthetic balance.
Kerning fixes awkward gaps that might appear in certain font pairings.


Enhances or reduces text density.
Increasing tracking in a tight text block can enhance readability.


Affects legibility and design of words.
Good kerning is crucial in professional typography and logo design.


Applied to adjust the overall appearance.
Tracking is adjusted to fit more characters into a given format in newspapers.


In typography, kerning is the process of adjusting the spacing between characters in a proportional font, usually to achieve a visually pleasing result. Kerning adjusts the space between individual letterforms, while tracking (letter-spacing) adjusts spacing uniformly over a range of characters.


The placing of students in any of several courses of study according to ability, achievement, or needs. Also called ability grouping.


The portion of a typeface that projects beyond the body or shank of a character.


The position of a magnetic tape as it moves across magnetic heads, as in a VCR.


To provide (type) with a kern.


The lateral pressure of a phonograph needle as it tracks in a groove.


To adjust space between (characters) in typeset text.


The act or process by which something is tracked.


(typography) The adjustment of the horizontal space between selected pairs of glyphs in a typeface.


(typography) A consistent adjustment of space between individual letters; letterspacing.


Present participle of kern


(education) The division of pupils into separately taught groups by perceived ability level.


Present participle of track


The pursuit (of a person or animal) by following tracks or marks they left behind

Common Curiosities

Can kerning and tracking be adjusted in all software

Most typography and design software support both, but the extent and ease of adjustment can vary.

Is tracking useful for all types of text

Yes, especially in full paragraphs or pages where uniform text density is needed.

Why might a designer adjust tracking in a document

To improve the readability or fit text into a specific space more effectively.

How do kerning and tracking contribute to branding

Proper use ensures clear, readable, and visually appealing text that supports brand identity.

When should kerning be prioritized over tracking

In headlines, logos, and any place where the visual relationship between specific letters is crucial.

What impact does poor kerning have on text

It can make text look awkward and hard to read, impacting the professional quality of the design.

Can excessive tracking affect readability

Yes, too much tracking can create a disjointed reading experience by spacing the letters too far apart.

How does kerning affect logo design

It improves the readability and aesthetic of a logo by fine-tuning the space between characters.

What is the primary difference between kerning and tracking

Kerning adjusts space between pairs of letters, while tracking adjusts spacing uniformly across a text block.

Should tracking adjustments consider the typeface used

Yes, different typefaces respond differently to tracking adjustments, affecting overall aesthetics and readability.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

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