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Auto Kerning Exceptions

You have your metrics done, your kerning done, now it’s time for…

…exceptional exceptions!

For a long time, I didn’t know about automatic exceptions. This could have saved me days.

Benefit Snatch days back from kerning exceptions

Automatic Kerning Exceptions


Before adding exceptions, use “save as”. Make a new version of the file. Audit Kerning exceptions doesn’t completely undo. So if you need to try a couple values, you need a file to load back to.

Let’s set up good values in Preferences.

1 Setup

Go to Preferences > Spacing.

At 1% of 1000 UPM, this is 10 units.

This is not enough for most any font. Let’s move this up.

For tightly spaced fonts, something from 1 – 2.5% might be ok. (That’s 10 – 25 units.)

In a text font you might want to go from 3 – 6% (30 – 60 units). Otherwise rounding errors will make the pixels or dots crash anyways.


If you are not sure how to calculate the value, go into here and type the percentage and your UPM.

2 Add Exceptions

Usually, it’s not a good idea to highlight many things and then push a button. That’s like pushing self-destruct.

In this case, it’s ok, since exceptions are non destructive.

❶ Open the Kerning panel.

❷ In the main area of the panel, push CmdA to select all.

❸ You will see this dialogue: Don’t freak!

Hit Add exceptions.

After you hit that button, don’t touch a thing!!

3 Audit Exceptions

Before we do anything we need to look through the list that came up in the kerning window.

When you scroll down this list, get an idea of how many good and bad exceptions you have.

If there’s too many bad exceptions, why not try tweaking your value in Preferences and trying over?

4 Remove Unneeded Exceptions

So you’ve gotten it the best you can.

The fastest way to delete extra pairs is through the Kerning panel. Open up that panel.

Here’s a perfect example of unnecessary kerning exceptions. Yes, the KA’s are close. But that’s intentional. Soo…

Highlight the orange exceptions and push Del.

5 Tweak

At this point, the exceptions are pretty good. Now it’s your chance to tweak them, if you wish.

That’s it!

Isn’t this great? This is just such a great starting point, and I didn’t know about this for the longest time.

In the next tutorial, I’ll show you some ways for you to check out your kerning classes.


Dave Lawrence California Type Foundry