I was playing a kerning game where the goal is to see if you can kern a word by eye and then compare your kerning with that of the designer.

I was doing... ok. Until I got to: enter image description here

I kerned is as such: enter image description here

Not perfect, but not horrible.

The 'correct' kerning was: enter image description here

A comparison; blue being the 'correct' kerning: enter image description here

I can see that I could have made the 'Xyl' tighter, but why is there so much space in the 'one'? It seems that there's a gap there.

Even when typing "Xylophone" I see the gap from the kerning.

What's the reason for this spacing? Why did the designer choose to create these kerning pairs?

  • What do you mean by 'so much space in the one'?
    – DA01
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 22:59
  • 1
    We still need more cowbell!!!!
    – Scott
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 0:17
  • @DA01 the 'one' at the end of Xylophone seemed too loose to me. Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 0:19

3 Answers 3


Look at the red below:

enter image description here

We do have some good questions on this such as:

The way I would come up with the kerning in this example is to use the given tracking. Example of this here:

enter image description here

Do note that the kerning is subjective in nature and is typically ones opinion. There are several articles on the subject but some would argue the best practice of choosing how to kern is to flip the type:

enter image description here

There is a great article on this called: "how to kern type perfectly"


What's the reason for this spacing? Why did the designer choose to create these kerning pairs?

Kerning pairs are bits of data in the font file itself. There may be many, many pairs, there may be none. The rendering software may adhere to the kerning pairs, it may not. It's a bit of a crapshoot.

Furthermore, you will likely end up kerning and tracking type different based on the size. At 12pt vs. 72pt, for instance. The larger the type, the more you can get away with tighter tracking.

As for your question, I believe you're asking why the overall tracking of the 'solution' is looser than your solution which appears you tightened up. My only guess is that the game wants you to focus on kerning, rather than tracking and, as such, the first and last letters remain in the same position.

  • You cannot "tighten up" in that game, the first and last letters are fixed.
    – yo'
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 17:48
  • @tohecz the examples the OP gave have the first and last letters moved.
    – DA01
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 17:51
  • I supposed it's caused by the fact that OP cuts the screenshots himself. If you see the comparison, there the first and last letter are correct.
    – yo'
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 18:19
  • @tohecz ah, you might be right. Could have been a screen shot mis-match.
    – DA01
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 18:20

I'll show another picture than what Gramps shows. It has something to do with how our eye seperates words: by lightness (darkness on the picture since it's all inverted) of the space between the letters. Now see the picture, which is just the spaces coloured in your example:

enter image description here

The space between Xy happens to be almost twice bigger in area than the one between lo. In the "correct answer", the space is still bigger in area, but it's much less significant; it is given by the fact that you need to balance more things than just the appearance of the space, very importantly you don't want the letter to "blend together", so you can't move them closer to each other:

enter image description here

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