enter image description here

I can't figure out why the text is not in dead center of my black screen. Looks a bit up. It have been entered with the align tool, but for a reason or another, to me it looks a little bit up.

  • As a test, change your upper line to the same font weight and width as the bottom line (and the same top-alignment as the current top line) and you should see that it looks perfectly centred.
    – JMD
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 22:17
  • Well, I took it into PS and your centerline is not between the two lines as I would have expected (it's right through the top of the bottom line). It seems that you centered vertically based on a bounding box around the text.This may be addressed in comments below, but a lot of the time the descenders add pixels to the height of the text bounding box, but don't add "visual weight". If you think it's too high, shifting it 40 pixels down put the centerline between the two lines.
    – Rob Craig
    Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 17:51

5 Answers 5


This is an optical illusion.

The weight of the lower text is pulling your eyes even when not focusing on it. Its a concept called "optical center," which is well documented. The mathematical center will never look properly centered. This is where knowing software isn't the same as knowing design.

here's a quick demo.

Demo of opctical center.

this article covers it pretty well.


Page (and screen) layouts often start out mathematically on a grid or geometric pattern of some sort. But nearly all designs need 'optical adjustments' so that they look correct.

In your case, the type is likely mathematically centered, but not optically.

If you feel the type is a bit high, nudge it down.

  • 11
    The Ruler Rule: "When the eye and the ruler don't agree, the eye rules." :) Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 18:20

I can't really tell from your picture, but I've encountered similar problems and I don't think you're imagining things. If you want the short version, Illustrator centers text based on the bounding box, not by the width or em height of the font.

enter image description here

The various rectangles in my example are sized to be exactly the em height (blue), total height (green), and width (pink) of the text. You can see that though the border around the text fits neatly in the green rectangle, the text inside the bounding area is not vertically centered. It's not even quite horizontally centered.

Whenever I have to vertically center text I create a rectangle that is the same height as the actual text (not the bounding box!) and I center that. After that all you have to do is line them up with smart guides. (There are probably better ways to do it, though)

  • This is basically what I posted, but +1 for the picture. Note the center gadgets for the text box are aligned with the center of both your green and blue guides.
    – Yorik
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 20:12

If a box containing text is taller than the text it contains, then the text will appear higher up in the frame when the box is centered.

Ensure the box height is as close to the bottom of the text as possible before using auto-centering.

  • But you guys see it higher? Or it's just me? Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 17:25
  • No I did not look critically nor measure: I took you at your word that is was higher. You used a tool to auto-center. The normal usage of the tools (boxes taller than the type and a centering tool which naively uses the center gadget as the center point) causes that.
    – Yorik
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 18:03

I think this is an optical illusion mostly.

When I need to align text similar to this I usually copy the text, paste in front, convert to outlines then group. This way the bounding box isn't being used. I then use the align tools and lock the Group. Afterwards I position the live text then unlock the outlines and delete.

I'm sure there are many ways to get to the same conclusion. -Andy

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