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10 tips to save you time with type in Photoshop

Added on Friday 18th of September 2009 08:22 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS/CS2/CS3/CS4

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


While Photoshop isn’t the typesetting powerhouse that Adobe InDesign is, you’ll still find yourself needing to add some text to your designs occasionally. And when you do, you want to have an arsenal of tips up your sleeve to get through the job quickly. So we’ve compiled ten of our best tips and tricks to help you save time while you set type in Photoshop.


Type tip #1: Kerning

When you kern type, you adjust the space between individual characters. This is sometimes necessary to achieve a desired look or to fix a gap created by a specific font. To kern text, simply position the cursor between two characters and then in the Character panel (Window > Character) adjust the kerning setting, as shown in Figure A. But if you want to kern like the pros, simply press and hold [option] ([Alt] in Windows) and then press the right or left arrow keys to increase or decrease the space accordingly.



Type tip #2: Leading

Leading is the space between lines of text. When you adjust the leading, you can space lines of text further apart or closer together, depending on your desired effect. To adjust the leading, select the lines of text you wish to adjust, then press and hold [option] ([Alt] in Windows) and press the up or down arrow keys to make the leading looser or tighter respectively, as shown in Figure B.




Type tip #3: Tracking

Tracking is similar to kerning except that tracking adjusts the space between multiple characters at one time, not just one space between two characters like kerning does. To adjust your text’s tracking, highlight all the characters you wish to adjust the spacing for and then press and hold [option] ([Alt] in Windows) and press the right or left arrow keys to increase or decrease the tracking respectively, as shown in Figure C.




Type tip #4: Reposition type

You never get your text layers positioned exactly where you want them on the first try. If you want to move a type layer, here’s an easy way to do so without having to select the Move tool. With the Type tool selected and the text layer active, simply move the cursor away from the text slightly. You’ll see the cursor change into the Move tool cursor (even though the Type tool is still selected). When you see the Move icon, just click and drag to reposition your text. Then if you want to edit the text further, just move the cursor over the text and it changes to the Type tool again.


Type tip #5: Select type quickly

When you want to select the text on a layer, you don’t have to fumble around trying to click in just the right spot to get your selection. Simply double-click on the text layer icon in the Layers panel, as shown in Figure D, and Photoshop selects all the text on that layer.



Type tip #6: Hide the selection shading

When you want to see what type will look like set with different fonts, the selection shading can sometimes get in the way of a clean preview. You can hide this shading while you choose a typeface, to make the selection process more enjoyable. First, select the text you wish to change (See tip #5!) and then press [command]H ([Ctrl]H in Windows) to hide the selection shading temporarily. When you’re satisfied with your font selection, just repeat the keystroke to restore the selection shading.


Type tip #7: Cycle through font choices

If you’re like most designers, you probably have a lot of fonts on your computer. So when you want to pick the best font for the job it’s cumbersome to have to select each one individually from the Font Family pop-up menu. The good news is you don’t have to. Instead, highlight the text you wish to change (hide the selection shading with tip #6) and then highlight the font name in the tool Options bar. Then just press the up or down arrow keys to cycle through and preview your different fonts quickly.


Type tip #8: Change font size and attributes

When working with type you’ll generally find yourself changing the font size, making text bold or italic—you get the picture. Going back and forth between the panels is cumbersome. So keep your fingers on the keyboard, select the type you wish to edit, and use the shortcuts shown in Table A to format your text with ease.


Table A:

Use these shortcuts to format your Photoshop text


Macintosh keyboard shortcut

Windows keyboard shortcut

Increase font size in 2 pt. increments



Decrease font size in 2 pt. increments