How to Adjust Spacing Between Letters Using GIMP

The key to kerning with GIMP

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It is possible to adjust the spacing between letters in GIMP, a process known as kerning. In addition to the built-in kerning option, you can also adjust text in an existing web banner or company logo design with GIMP using a workaround.

Instructions in this article apply to GIMP version 2.10 for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Kerning in GIMP vs Other Programs

Often when you add text to an image in GIMP, the spacing between all the letters will appear fine as it is. At larger font sizes, however, the spaces between the letters of a word may appear inconsistent. To an extent this is subjective, but often, particularly with free fonts, the spacing between some letters will very obviously need to be adjusted.

GIMP is a very powerful image editor that also offers enough text controls to allow users to produce designs such as single side leaflets and posters. However, it is ultimately an image editor, so its text controls are a little limited. It is recommended to use a vector-based application like Inkscape for creating logos since they give you greater flexibility for text editing printing options.

How to Use the Kerning Option in GIMP

You can adjust the kerning of text that you add in GIMP:

  1. Open a blank document in GIMP and select Tools > Text.

    Open a blank document in GIMP and select Tools > Text.
  2. Click on the canvass and add your text. Adjust the font and size of the text in the box that pops up.

    Click on the canvass and add your text.
  3. Click inside the text box and press Ctrl + A to highlight the text.

    On Mac, use the keyboard shortcut Command + A to highlight the text.

    Click inside the text box and press Ctrl + A to highlight the text.
  4. Adjust the Kerning (the value under the text size and left of the color box) to increase the spacing between each letter.

    Adjust the Kerning (the value under the text size and left of the color box) to increase the spacing between each letter.
  5. To add space between two individual characters, click between them and increase the Kerning value.

    To add space between two individual characters, click between them and increase the Kerning value.

How to Adjust Spacing Between Letters in GIMP

If you already have a raster image containg text that you can't edit, you can still adjust the spacing between letters. The first step is to look at the text and decide which pairs of letters need the space between them adjusted. One way to do this is to look for a pair of letters that visually appear to have the correct gap between them, and then look at which other pairs of letters will need to be adjusted so that they have spacing that balances with your selected pair. You may find that squinting a little to make the letters indistinct will help you to see where gaps may be larger or smaller than the ideal.

If you want to increase the gap between a couple of letters:

  1. Open the image and select Layer > Duplicate Layer.

    Open the image and select Layer > Duplicate Layer.
  2. Go to Tools > Selection Tools > Rectangle Select.

    Go to Tools > Selection Tools > Rectangle Select.
  3. Hold down the Shift key and draw boxes around each letter.

    Hold down the Shift key and draw boxes around each letter.
  4. Right-click the bottom layer in the Layers palette and select Add Layer Mask.

    If the Layers palette isn't visible, go to Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Layers to bring it up.

    Right-click the bottom layer in the Layers palette and select Add Layer Mask.
  5. Click Selection and select Add.

    Click Selection and select Add.
  6. Go to Select > Invert.

    Go to Select > Invert.
  7. Right-click the duplicate layer in the Layers palette and select Add Layer Mask, then select Add when the Add Layer Mask dialog pops up.

    Right-click the duplicate layer in the Layers palette and select Add Layer Mask, then select Add when the Add Layer Mask dialog pops up.
  8. Select the Move Tool, and then make sure Move the active layer is selected in the Tool Options palette.

    Select the Move Tool, and then make sure Move the active layer is selected in the Tool Options palette.
  9. Click on the bottom layer in the Layers palette to make your selected letters active, then click on the page and use the right and left arrow keys on your keyboard to adjust the space between the letters.

    Click on the page and use the right and left arrow keys on your keyboard to adjust the space between the letters.
  10. Right-click on the duplicate layer in the Layers palette and select Merge Down to combine the two layers into one.

    Right-click on the duplicate layer in the Layers palette and select Merge Down to combine the two layers into one.

This has only adjusted the space between two letters, so you'll now have to repeat the previous steps to adjust the spacing between the other letters that need editing.

This really isn't a very fluid way to adjust the letter spacing of letters within text, but if you're a die-hard GIMP fan who only needs to adjust letter spacing on a very occasional basis, then this may be easier for you than trying to get to grips with a different application. However, if you have to carry out this kind of work with any kind of regularity, you will be doing yourself a huge favor if you download a free copy of Inkscape or Scribus and spend a little time learning how to use their much more powerful text editing tools. You can always export the text from there into GIMP later.