Deke’s Techniques 024: Hand Kerning Inside a Single Character of Type

Hello, dekeAroos! It’s Colleen here, graciously posting this week’s Deke’s Techniques while the Deke himself recovers from his Iron-John-meets-Woodstock experience at the Bonnaroo Music Festival. Yes, while Deke lovingly reacquaints himself with indoor plumbing, air conditioning, and clean sheets, I bring you today’s technique on another marvel of modern civilization, the properly kerned character. Here’s my official description from

If you, like Deke, recoil at the site of badly kerned text, this week’s type-geek technique is just for you. Sure, adjusting the spacing between full-fledged characters is fairly straightforward in Photoshop: Click between two characters with the type tool and press the Alt (or Option) key along with the left and right arrow keys as needed. Simple, intuitive, effective. But what about the internal workings of a single character, such as the percentage symbol? It’s actually made up of three sub-characters: a small superscript zero, a fraction-slash, and a small baseline zero. Figuring out how to kern between those three components is just the kind of challenge Deke likes to take apart. And taking apart the percent character is the key to this technique.

So imagine that you have this “100%” text (against a background of 100% wood-free wood Deke created in last week’s free episode). It’s easy enough to kern the number characters closer together, but when you do, the percent symbol looks oddly loose, as you can see indicated by the cyan circle below. The percentage symbol uses about twice the space as the other characters. Also, the fraction character (the slash) is extending beyond the top and bottom of the respective small zeros, as indicated by the magenta lines.

By changing the text to outlines, separating out the paths of the component pieces of the symbol, and nudging them, Deke is able to create this much more aesthetically pleasing version:

Every week there is a new free technique from Deke, in which you get to benefit from Deke’s obsessions as well as his creativity and Photoshop and Illustrator experience. Members of the Online Training Library also have access to additional exclusive techniques. In fact, this week Deke will show you how to take this painstakingly kerned text and emboss it into the wood background.

Are there similar detail-level design problems that vex you into the wee hours? What are your typographic pet peeves?

Great to see you, clean and properly spaced, my dekeLovelies!

Next entry:Deke’s Techniques 025: Putting Wings on a Horse

Previous entry:Deke’s Techniques 023: Creating Synthetic Wood Grain


  • Suggestion for new topic

    Not sure where I should have posted this but I have a suggestion for a new topic. First let me say that I joined this site just after is started and am simply amazed every week.

    I would like to know how to make a specific type of picture/art. I know how to make it as a brush, png, jpg or whatever else I can think of. I just don’t know where to start to make the picture. Here is a link to a couple samples - and

    If this isn’t something you would teach, would you please tell me what to search for and I’ll go off happlily googling.

    Carol (aka Fudge)


    this is a message for Deke McClelland: I’m just finished with one of your photoshop courses (Photoshop CS3 one-on-one the essentials), and I am really enthusiastic about the way you teach and explain things.  I think if all teachers (of all subjects) where like you, I seriously doubt there still be ignorant people around in this world. smile - You look like a very enthusiastic person, and (at least in this course) you encouraged me in this learning process (which to me is a very uncommon and extraordinary gift in a teacher)

Share your feedback, work, homages, questions, wisecracks, advice, critiques, riffs, derision (within reason), frustrations, and love of all things graphical. Log in (or register) to lend your voice.