How To Set Up Character Spacing and Kerning for Text Layers in After Effects?

Text layers in After Effects play a crucial role in conveying information and establishing the visual style of your animations. While font choice and size are important, proper spacing between characters (both overall and individual) is equally essential for optimal readability. This article delves into the world of character spacing and kerning in After Effects, equipping you with the knowledge to create clear and aesthetically pleasing text elements.

Understanding the Nuances: Spacing vs. Kerning

Before diving into the technical aspects, let's differentiate between character spacing and kerning:

  • Character Spacing: This refers to the overall adjustment between all characters in a text layer. Increasing character spacing creates more space between each letter, while decreasing it brings them closer together.
  • Kerning: This focuses on the space between specific pairs of letters. Kerning adjustments are typically applied to improve the visual aesthetics of letter combinations that appear too close or too far apart, even with proper overall character spacing.

Why are they important?

  • Readability: Proper spacing ensures letters are distinct and visually clear, enhancing the readability of your text.
  • Aesthetics: Fine-tuning kerning creates a more polished and balanced look, especially for large fonts or prominent titles.

Adjusting Character Spacing

After Effects offers several ways to modify the space between characters in a text layer:

  1. Character Panel:
    • Select your text layer.
    • Locate the Character panel (usually on the right side by default).
    • Look for the "Tracking" property. This controls the overall spacing between all characters.
    • Use the slider or enter a numerical value (positive for wider spacing, negative for tighter spacing) to adjust the tracking.
  2. Transform Panel: (Alternative for Overall Spacing)
    • Select your text layer.
    • Navigate to the Transform panel (usually located next to the Character panel).
    • Under the "Scale" section, you'll find separate values for horizontal and vertical scaling.
    • Adjusting the horizontal scaling slightly (positive or negative) can alter the overall character spacing. However, this method also affects the text layer size, so use it cautiously.

Mastering the Art of Kerning

Kerning requires a more granular approach, focusing on specific letter pairs:

  1. Character Panel Kerning Option:
    • Select your text layer.
    • In the Character panel, click between two adjacent letters where you want to adjust the kerning. A small "K" value will appear.
    • Use the up/down arrows next to the "K" value or type a numerical value (positive for wider spacing, negative for tighter spacing) to adjust the kerning for that specific letter pair.
    • Repeat this process for other letter combinations that require kerning adjustments.
  2. Optical Kerning (After Effects CC 2019 and Later):
    • This automatic kerning option analyzes the font and adjusts spacing between specific letter pairs based on design principles.
    • Select your text layer.
    • In the Character panel, locate the "Optical Kerning" dropdown menu.
    • Choose from options like "None," "Minimum," "Standard," or "Maximum" depending on the desired level of automatic kerning.

Tips for Effective Spacing and Kerning:

  • Start with Baseline Spacing: Most fonts are designed with a baseline spacing in mind. Use the tracking option in the Character panel to adjust this initial spacing before fine-tuning with kerning.
  • Consider Font Style: Some fonts naturally require more or less kerning than others. Script fonts, for example, often benefit from tighter kerning for optimal readability.
  • Reference Guides: Use online resources or typography guides that showcase recommended kerning adjustments for specific letter combinations.
  • Zoom In: Zooming in on your text layer in the Composition panel allows for a more precise assessment of spacing and kerning needs.
  • Preview Often: Regularly preview your animation to ensure the spacing and kerning adjustments enhance readability and visual appeal.


By mastering character spacing and kerning in After Effects, you can elevate the presentation of your text layers, ensuring clear communication and a polished look for your animations. Remember, the goal is to strike a balance between readability and aesthetics, taking into account font style, overall composition, and the intended visual message.

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