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Working with text in Photoshop

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#1 UmairAslam23


    Junior Member

  • Designer
  • 10 posts

Posted 12 December 2012 - 08:32 PM

Placing text in your image is all very well and good, but you won’t win design awards until you’ve figured out how to format your text. (Well, there might be a few other steps before you win awards, too. We make no guarantees.) There are two types of formatting: Character (which can apply to one or more characters) and Paragraph (which always applies to one or more paragraphs). You can find these settings in the Options bar (when the Text tool is selected in the Tool palette) or in the Character and Paragraph palettes.

Leading. Leading (“ledding”) determines the amount of space between lines in a paragraph. Bruce, who is accustomed to PageMaker and InDesign, finds Photoshop’s leading feature intuitive because in all three programs, leading is considered a character attribute. In QuarkXPress, however, leading is a paragraph attribute. If you’re used to XPress (like David), you need to be extra careful when changing leading. If you want the leading to be consistent throughout a paragraph, you should either select every character in the paragraph before you set the leading in the Character palette, or you should apply the leading while the text layer is selected in the Layers palette (but no text on the layer is selected).

Kerning and tracking. Kerning determines the amount of space between each character. Tracking is the same thing, but over a range of text (which is why some folks call it “range kerning”). Photoshop lets you do both in the Character palette—if your cursor is placed between two characters, you can kern them; if you’ve selected more than one character, then you can track them. (Or, if the type layer is selected in the Layers palette but no text is selected, then tracking applies to every character on that layer.)

Note that the kerning and tracking values in Photoshop are based on 1/1000 em (one em in a 24-point font is 24 points wide; in a 50-point font, it’s 50 points wide, and so on).

The default kerning value for text is Metrics—these are the kerning pairs built into the font. But we almost always select the type layer (with no text selected on it) and change the kerning to Optical in the Character palette, which tells Photoshop to use its very cool method of analyzing the shape of each character and adjusting the kerning accordingly. If it’s small text, this sometimes makes it look really ugly, so we change it back to Metrics, or even possibly change it to 0 (zero).

Anti-alias settings. While some people recommend turning off antialiasing for very small text, we find that anti-aliasing almost always helps on-screen readability, so we generally leave it on. The problem is that in small text sizes, anti-aliasing sometimes leaves fonts looking a bit anemic.

Fortunately, Photoshop lets you change the anti-aliasing style. We usually set the Anti-alias popup menu (in the Options bar or the context-sensitive menu when the Text tool is selected) to Crisp or Smooth (there’s too little difference between the two to notice most of the time). However, when working with small text, we sometimes use the Strong option. It’s entirely a judgment call—if Strong is too bold, then we’ll switch back to Smooth.

Fractional Widths. Text characters rarely fit perfectly on a 72-dpi grid—for instance, a letter “A” might be 18.1 pixels wide. Photoshop offers you the choice of how to deal with these “fractional widths.” When the Fractional Widths feature is turned on in the Character palette menu, Photoshop rounds the character widths to the nearest pixel, which usually results in some characters moving slightly closer together. In large point sizes, this is usually a good thing, but in small text sizes, the characters often run into each other and it looks dorky. Note that Fractional Widths affects the entire text block, not just selected characters.

Other character styles. Photoshop offers a number of other character styles to help make your award-winning text. Here are a few others you should know about:

Faux styles. Want Hobo Bold? Or Zapf Dingbats Italic? Sorry, they don’t exist (there are no outlines that describe them), so Photoshop won’t let you use them. But Photoshop is ready and willing to fake them (see Figure 3). When you turn on Faux Italic in the Character palette menu, Photoshop obliques (skews) the font slightly. Faux Bold makes the font heavier. The effect is generally pretty good, and even lets you make a bolder bold and a more slanted italic face than might otherwise be available. (However, note that you can’t embed Faux Bold fonts in PDF files and expect them to remain vector type.) The Character palette’s popout menu also offers the Underline and Strikethrough styles, which—true to their names—place a line under or through the selected text. No, you can’t adjust the size, shape, color, or anything else of the underline or strikethrough line. Yes, we know you can do that in InDesign CS. Personally, we find these faux features particularly silly.

Figure 3: Faux italic

Scaling and moving. You can scale individual characters (or all the words on a text layer) vertically or horizontally in the Character palette, though we find that many designers overuse this and create really farout, stretched typefaces that are simply unreadable. Use with discretion. The Character palette also offers a Baseline Shift feature, which you can use if you want to move individual characters up or down (like in a math equation, the little ® symbol, and so on).
Case and caps. Want to make your text REALLY SCREAM? Then turn on All Caps in the Character palette’s popout menu. (Personally, we find All Caps rather annoying to look at.) There are other features in this menu, too: Small Caps, Super Script, and Subscript. Each of these applies to selected text unless no text is selected on a type layer. You can turn them off again by reselecting them from the popout menu. Note that unless you’re using Open Type fonts, the Small Caps feature fakes the small caps (if you have an Expert font that contains the real small caps, you’ll get better quality using that instead).
Hyphenation and justification. Hyphenation and justification (usually just called “H&J”) are two methods of making text fit into a given space by controlling the amount of space between letters and words, and by breaking certain words at line endings with hyphens. Photoshop can also stretch text in order to help it fit a particular column width. If any one of these methods is used in excess, the results are awful. So it’s important to find a good balance among them.

The H&J settings are only relevant when you have a paragraph or more of text—that is, when you’ve dragged out a text frame, rather than just clicked and typed (see “Tip: Converting Point Type to Paragraph Type,” later in this chapter). And the H&Js are always paragraph-wide formats; you can’t apply them to a single character or line within a paragraph. Let’s look at the several features in Photoshop that relate to H&J

Hanging punctuation. Photoshop hangs small punctuation—such as periods, hyphens, quotation marks, commas, and so on—outside the text block, because the human eye tends to ignore these little extrusions and the text usually looks better. This is especially obvious in justified text. If you don’t care for the look, you can turn it off in the popout menu in the Paragraph palette.
Ultimately, while it’s cool that Adobe included all these typography features in Photoshop, we do find it a little absurd because it’s so rare that you would ever want to set more than a few lines of text in Photoshop. The one exception is creating images for a PDF workflow. In fact, unless you save your files in the PDF format, the text will either be rasterized (antialiased into the background pixels) or it’ll take forever to print and create enormous EPS files.

#2 ricardofmcosta


    Junior Member

  • Designer
  • 10 posts

Posted 28 December 2012 - 11:29 PM

Very nice tip! Thank you


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