Character Palette

The bulk of your control over type comes from the Character palette. This palette gives you access to control over the characters in your text block including basics such as font, size, and weight, as well as important advanced controls like kerning and baseline shift. If you don't see the Character palette icon in the Options bar, choose Window > Character. There's a lot of controls here... all of them essential, so let's take a look at each one.

Font Family

Setting the font family simply means picking the font you want to use. Nothing too complex, but navigating hundreds of fonts in your Font Family menu can be time-consuming. Here are a few tips to get things done faster:

  • You can click in the Font Family field and just start typing the font name to jump through the list.

  • If a text layer is active, or even just selected, you can click in the Font Family field. Use the up or down arrows to cycle through loaded fonts.

  • Starting with Photoshop CS2, you can see the fonts in their actual face. Just click the Font Family field and you can see a font preview.

Font Style

Certain fonts will have multiple styles or weights; just look at the Font Style menu, which is to the right of the Font Family menu. Click the triangle to access the drop-down menu. This is where you can access variations like bold, italic, and condensed (as long as the font was designed that way.) This is a much better option than using the Type Enhancements buttons at the bottom of the Character palette. The Type Enhancement buttons simply thicken the character (for faux bold) or skew it (for faux italic). It is always better to use the true bold or italic versions created by the font's designer.

Font Size

Traditionally, type is measured in points. The PostScript standard (which was developed for use by commercial and laser printers) uses 72 points per inch. However, this doesn't hold up very well, as different fonts will have different x-heights.

Instead of worrying about point size, just use it as a "relative" measurement. Increase the point size to make text appear larger, decrease it to reduce the size of the text. If you need to be more precise, such as designing text for the Web, you can measure in pixels.

To switch text to pixels:


Press Cmd+K (Ctrl+K) to launch the Preferences window.


Choose the Units & Rulers tab.


From the Units area, switch Type to be measured in Pixels if you want.

Note: Finding Fonts

Here are a few of my favorite Web sites offering free and affordable fonts:

  • Chank:

  • Fonthead:

  • DincType:

  • Fontalicious:

  • Acid Fonts:


Pronounced "led-ing" as in the metal, not "lead-ing" as in sheep. Leading is the space between lines of type. The name comes from when strips of lead were used on a printing press to space out lines of text. Adjust your leading value to improve readability of your text. Leading works best when you are using Paragraph Text. By default, the leading should be set to Auto, however, adjust as needed to fit text into your design. Just be careful to avoid setting leading too tight, otherwise your ascenders and descenders will collide with negative impact on readability.


The space between individual letter pairs is called kerning. "So what," you say, "why bother?" Design pros always check their kerning. Adjusting the space between letters produces a better optical flow. Think of each word as existing in a stream; you are trying to balance out the spacing so the water flows evenly between each pair.

Taking the extra effort will produce text that is easier to read. This is especially true the bigger your text block gets. Inexpensive fonts and freeware fonts usually have the most kerning problems because it takes a lot of effort for a fontmaker to set proper kerning for every possible letter combination. Cheap or free fonts are just that... cheap or free. While you can adjust kerning using the Character palette, here's a more "organic" method:

Video Training



Click between two letters.


Hold down the Option (Alt) key and use the Left Arrow to tighten up the spacing between a character pair, or use the Right Arrow to loosen spacing.


Release the Option (Alt) key and then use the arrow keys to move to the next pair.


Hold down the Option (Alt) key and repeat kerning to taste.

Note: Good Kerning

For a more artistic example of good kerning, open the project file Surf Card.psd to examine its construction.


While kerning adjusts the space between pairs of letters, tracking affects all letters in the text block or the selection. Tracking can be adjusted to fit text into a smaller space, for example if you must fit a certain number of characters on a line without reducing point size. Conversely, you might choose a loose track to improve readability (especially if using all caps). Tracking, like kerning, is subjective and can be learned best by studying professional examples and looking for inspiration and guidance.

Vertical Scale

Need to make the text a little taller? Perhaps you want to make the text look a little skinnier or you are trying to create a stretched feeling. Well, you can adjust from 01000% if you are so inclined. Normally, this causes unintentional fluctuations in font appearance. If you are working on a shared computer, be sure to check this option before designing to avoid unintentional scaling.

Horizontal Scale

Horizontal scale can be used to compress (or expand) the width of text. By scaling down, you can pack more text on a line. Increasing Horizontal Scale can make the text appear "fatter." Normally, this scaling is less desirable, and you should try to find a font that better matches your design goals. Be sure to check if scaling is applied before designing with the Type tool.

Baseline Shift

Earlier we discussed baseline when we looked at x-height. This is the virtual line that the characters sit on. If you need to create a stairstep approach, adjust the baseline settings. Additionally, you can use this command to reposition elements such as quote marks or apostrophes for design purposes.

Text Color

By default, text in Photoshop is black. While black is a very functional color (a third of my wardrobe is black or a shade of black) it won't always work for your designs. Click the Color Swatch to load the Color Picker window. Click a radio button for the color model you want to work with, and then adjust the Color slider to taste. Click in the Color Field to choose the color you want. If you need to use a Pantone color (or at least a close equivalent), click the Color Libraries button.

Type Enhancement Buttons

Herein lies a collection of treasures as well as several booby traps. Some of these buttons are truly useful, but others are just plain bad.

  • Faux Bold: Faux is French for fake. Do not use a faux bold if a true bold is available within the font style you are using. All this button does is make the text thicker and harder to read.

  • Faux Italic: Same deal here... skewing the text to the right does not make it italic. Always choose an italic version of the font you are using from the Font Style field.

  • All Caps: If you want the text in all uppercase, just click this button instead of retyping.

    Notice the dramatic differences between choosing italic from the Font Style menu as opposed to the Type Enhancement button.

  • Small Caps: This effect is nice on titles and in certain layouts. It replaces all lowercase text with a smaller version of the capital letter.

  • Subscript: Used for scientific notation and other specialty purposes where a character is reduced in size and lowered below the baseline.

  • Superscript: Used for specialty purposes such as showing mathematical power. This reduces the character and moves it above the baseline.

  • Underline: Puts a line below the text. You may choose to manually add a line on another layer for better control.

  • Strikethrough: Places a line through the characters.

Language Selection Menu

Computers should help make the design process easier... in this vein, recent versions of Photoshop ship with a built-in spell-checker. While not every country is represented, you do have obscure options like Nynorsk Norwegian and Turkish to get you through.


Select the language you are using in the Character palette.


Choose Edit > Check Spelling to invoke the spell-checker for all visible layers. The language chosen in this setting will also affect the hyphenation of words.

Anti-alias Menu

When designing text at low resolutions, adjusting your anti-alias settings can improve readability. Anti-aliasing blends the edge pixels of text. This option is most needed when working with complex character shapes. You have five methods to choose from:

  • None: No anti-aliasing

  • Sharp: Makes text appear its sharpest

  • Crisp: Makes text appear somewhat sharp

  • Strong: Makes text appear heavier

  • Smooth: Makes text appear smoother

Understanding. AdobeR PhotoshopR. Digital Imaging Concepts and Techniques
Understanding Adobe Photoshop: Digital Imaging Concepts and Techniques
ISBN: 0321368983
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 129 © 2008-2017.
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