How to Make Text Adjustments in Inkscape

You Can Master Any Text with These Five Options

Graphic designer at work
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Inkscape, the popular free vector line drawing app, lets you adjust not only regular attributes for text like the font style, size, and color​ but also five other traits related to spacing. You can do it all from the text tool's options panel.

Changing the spacing values for letters and words gives you finer control over how words appear on the canvas. For example, if you want a word to stretch across the title area of a poster, you can change the letter or word spacing to give it an elongated effect without enlarging the font size or stretching the text.

The five spacing options let you change the spacing between specific characters and specific words, rotate individual characters on an axis, and shift text up or down away from the rest.

Change the Spacing Between Each Letter

Fingertip touching point of butter knife
Adjust the spacing of your letters or words.  

Adjusting the letter spacing changes the amount of empty space between each character of a word. When applied, it affects every single character in the text box, whether there's just one word, a sentence, or an entire paragraph.

Reducing letter spacing is used mostly as a technique for making text fit into a limited space, but there may be occasions when you want to squeeze letters together to produce a strong visual text effect.

  1. Select the Text Tool.

    Inkscape Text Tool selected
  2. If you don't already have text, click and drag in your document to draw out a text box, or just click where you want text, and start writing. For a text box, click inside the box to start writing.

    Inkscape with text box drawn
  3. Decide which letters or words should be changed. If you click in the text box, it'll change the letter spacing for every character. To adjust letter spacing for two or more characters only, highlight those characters.

    Inkscape with text highlighted
  4. Locate the Spacing between letters option in the toolbar directly above your document. The default icon shows a dash between the letters A and D.

  5. Use the up and down arrows following the value field(should be 0.00) to increase and decrease the spacing. This method can be tedious since it moves in one-hundredths of a pixel by default.

    Increment letter spacing in Inkscape
  6. If that's too tedious, or you'd prefer to jump to a certain value, click in the value field, and type it in.

    Letter spacing on Inkscape

Be careful to avoid reducing the letter spacing so much that you enter into negative numbers, or you'll create a backwards effect.

Change the Spacing Between Each Word

Adjusting the spacing between words is another way to tweak text in Inkscape to make it fit into a constrained space. You could adjust word spacing for aesthetic reasons with small amounts of text, but making changes to larger volumes of text will likely have an adverse effect on legibility.

  1. Select the Text Tool.

    Inkscape Text Tool selected
  2. Click and drag to draw out a text box or click where you want to start writing. If you went with the box, click inside it to start writing out your text.

    Inkscape with text box drawn
  3. Click and drag to highlight the words that you want to adjust the spacing of. If you want to modify everything, simply click inside the text box.

    Inkscape textbox with words
  4. Locate the Spacing between words option from the toolbar directly above your document.

  5. Use the up and down arrows to adjust the space. Like with letters, this can be pretty slow and tedious.

    Word spacing incremented on Inkscape
  6. Enter your own value to automatically jump to the spacing you want.

    Set custom word spacing in Inkscape

When you increase or decrease the spacing between words, the first word doesn't change its position but is instead used as an anchor for the other words. If you need the text to be sprawled out from one particular place, be sure to place the text box exactly where you want the text to start, and it will stay put no matter the word space values.

Change the Horizontal Kerning Value

Horizontal kerning is the process of adjusting the spacing between specific pairs of letters. You can use kerning adjustments to make spaces between letters look more visually "correct," a technique commonly applied to logos and headlines. 

  1. Select the Text Tool.

    Inkscape Text Tool selected
  2. For kerning, you can't use a text box. Instead, click where you want your text, and type it in.

    Text entered in Inkscape
  3. Highlight the letters you want to adjust. If the cursor is put between two letters without highlighting them, the kerning adjustment will move every letter located to the right of the cursor. Highlighting moves those letters only.

  4. Locate the Horizontal kerning option in the toolbar directly above your document. The icon is two letter As next to one another.

  5. Use the up and down arrows to change the value. Increasing the number will move the text right. Decreasing it will shift it left.

    Inkscape horizontal kerning incremented
  6. Finally, you can always enter a value yourself. Negative values will push the text left of its starting position.

    Inkscape horizontal kerning value entered

For example, consider the word HOUSE. To increase the space between the O and U, select USE and change the kerning value to a greater number. Highlighting just the O or just the U, and adjusting the kerning for those letters, will push them closer to the H and the S, creating a non-uniform look.

Shift Characters Vertically

Inkscape lets you change the vertical position of any highlighted character(s). You might do this if you're after a cascade look where the letters appear to fall up or down the page, or maybe you're going for a unique perspective design.

  1. Select the Text Tool.

    Inkscape Text Tool selected
  2. You can't use a text box with kerning. So, click where you want your text, and write it in.

    Text entered in Inkscape
  3. Place the cursor to the left of the character(s) you want to shift vertically. You can also highlight the character, which is necessary if you're shifting specific characters. In other words, placing the cursor after H in HOUSE will move the OUSE up or down, but highlighting H will move just that letter.

  4. Locate the Vertical kerning option on the toolbar right above your document. The icon is two letter As with one slightly higher than the other.

    Inkscape vertical kerning incremented
  5. Use the arrows to move your text up and down. This one is the opposite of what you'd think. Increasing the value pushes the text down.

    Inkscape vertical kerning value entered
  6. If you have an exact value in mind, enter it in the field.

If you highlight more than one letter, and they're both currently at a different vertical position, they will shift according to their original places. For example, if the H in HOUSE is already five pixels above the O, shifting HO up five pixels will place the H 10 pixels above USE, and the O five pixels above.

Change a Character's Degree of Rotation

The final spacing option in Inkscape's text tool is for rotating. This option maxes out at 180 degrees and can be applied to single characters and whole words.

  1. Select the Text Tool.

    Inkscape Text Tool selected
  2. Click anywhere and write in your text.

    Text entered in Inkscape
  3. Select which character(s) to rotate. Placing the cursor to the left will rotate the single character to its right, whereas highlighting rotates just those characters.

  4. Choose Character rotation on the text toolbar above your document. The icon shows a skewed letter A.

  5. Use the arrows to alter the rotation. Higher values rotate clockwise, and lower/negative values move counter-clockwise.

    Inkscale rotate characters incrementally
  6. You can enter the degree of rotation yourself in the field too.

    Inkscape enter character rotation

Rotating beyond a certain point might mash the letters together, depending on the value of the character spacing.