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Command type control using the Character and Paragraph panels

Added on Friday 19th of March 2010 05:57 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS/CS2/CS3/CS4

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows

While Photoshop isn’t the typography powerhouse that InDesign is, it’s come a long way. Don’t shy away from Photoshop when you need to lay some supporting text—we’ll show you how to take advantage of the flexibility found in Photoshop’s Character and Paragraph panels.

To help you achieve precise type control using the Character and Paragraph panels in Photoshop, we’ll:

• Expose tricks for creating and selecting type using the Type tool.

• Explain the differences between the Character and Paragraph panels and tell you when to use each one.

• Demonstrate how using both panels can maximize your typographical options.

For centuries, type and images have gone hand in hand. Traditionally, layout artists placed type alongside an image as a caption or a heading. Before image-editing applications became so versatile, combining image and type was extremely difficult. But today, people routinely produce images meshed with type using Photoshop, making the type an integrated design element. So don’t dismiss Photoshop for tidbits of typography. Embrace it!

Tip: One of the typographical challenges many designers face is making bulleted lists look great. Check out how to do this in the companion article “Create hanging indents for visually appealing itemized lists.”

Take typographic control

Photoshop contains two panels that you can control, or format, the way in which type appears in an image: the Character panel and the Paragraph panel. Although you can use both panels to format type, each controls a different aspect of its typographic properties.

To understand the differences, let’s create a display poster that uses both panels. To follow along with our example, download the file file from the URL given at the beginning of this article, extract the image runner.psd, launch Photoshop, and open the file shown in Figure A. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.)


Add type to the design

You can create type in Photoshop with either the Horizontal Type tool or the Vertical Type tool. Whenever you create type, Photoshop adds a new layer to the Layers panel (Window > Layers). Photoshop automatically names the new type layer with the first few words from your type entry.

The two ways to enter type are as follows:

• Point type. When you enter type as point type, each line of type is singular and doesn’t wrap to the next line. The line of point type grows or shrinks as you add or remove characters.

• Paragraph type. When you enter type as paragraph type, the lines of paragraph type wrap to fit a bounding box. The lines of paragraph type reflow as you adjust the size of the bounding box. Because we want the poster to contain a single-line heading, followed by several lines of body text, we’ll use point type for the heading and paragraph type for the body text.

To create the heading as point type:

1. Choose the Horizontal Type tool from the Tools panel, because we want all of the type in our poster to run horizontally.

2. Move your mouse pointer to a location near the top of the poster image.

3. Click on your image, and enter Run, as shown in Figure B. You needn’t worry for the moment about its font style, size, or alignment attributes because you’ll adjust them later.

3. Press [enter] (not [return]) to set the text.


To create the body type using paragraph type:

1. Move your mouse pointer to an area under the left side of the heading.

2. Drag a bounding box under the Run heading.

3. Enter some text, as shown in Figure C. (You’ll adjust the body copy’s type attributes later.)


Know your type selection options

Now that you’ve created your heading and body copy, you must first select each type before you can format them using the Character and Paragraph panels. The easiest way to select type is to double-click on the type thumbnail in the Layers panel. Alternatively, you can select the type layer in the Layers panel, and then click an insertion point in the point type line or paragraph type, or highlight the text by dragging the insertion point over the text you want to select.

Understand the Character panel

Once you’ve made a type selection, you can format it using the Character and the Paragraph panels. You can use both panels for point type and paragraph type. Use the Character panel to control character attributes for font, style, size, leading, kerning, tracking, color, baseline shift, and alignment.

To access the Character panel shown in Figure D, choose Window > Character. The Character panel contains a variety of options that you can use to format type. Figure D is labeled with the following corresponding letters to help explain your options: