How to Adjust Text in Inkscape

Graphic designer at work
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We're going to show you how to adjust text in Inkscape, the popular free vector line drawing app. Inkscape is a versatile application with a reasonable degree of support for working with text, though it's not a desktop publishing app. If you need to work with multiple pages of text, you'd be well advised to look at software like the open source Scribus or, if you're happy to purchase commercial software, Adobe Indesign.

If you're designing logos or single page designs, then Inkscape will probably offer you most of the tools that you need to present the text effectively. It's certainly more able in this department than GIMP, which is such a popular and flexible tool that it isn't unusual for this to be used for complete graphics projects rather than pure image editing.

The next few steps will show you how to adjust text in Inkscape taking advantage of the flexible tools that the app offers to help you present text in the best way possible. 

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Adjusting Text in Inkscape

We're going to concentrate on four of the tools that give you the flexibility to adjust how lines of text, words and individual letters interact with each other. When you select the Text tool from the Tools palette, the Tool Options bar above the page changes to display the options specific to the Text tool. Most of these will be perfectly familiar to anyone who has ever used word processing software, however to the right of the bar are five input fields with up and down arrows to make it easy to make incremental adjustments to values in these fields. I'm only going to concentrate on the first four of these.

Note: The Horizontal Kerning and Vertical Shift controls can only be applied to text that isn't flowed within a text frame; however, line, character and word spacing can be applied universally to text within a text frame.

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Change the Line Spacing or Leading of Text in Inkscape

This first tip is really only of use for multiple lines of text, perhaps the body copy on a poster or single side promotional leaflet.

We earlier touched on the fact that Inkscape is not a fully fledged DTP application, however, it does offer a reasonable degree control that means you can achieve many things with text without having to turn to another app. Being able to adjust the line spacing or leading between many different lines of text offers the power to make text fit into a fixed space without changing the font size of the text.

With the Text tool active, you'll see the tool to adjust line spacing as the first of the input fields in the Tool Options bar. You can either use the up and down arrows to make adjustments or input a value directly. Increasing the line spacing can make text seem lighter and less overwhelming to the reader, though often space constraints mean this isn't possible. If space is tight, decreasing the line spacing can ease things, but you should be careful not to decrease it too much as text will start to appear dense and legibility can be affected if you reduce the spacing too much.

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Adjust Letter Spacing in Inkscape

Adjusting letter spacing can be useful for making multiple lines of text fit into a constrained space and also for aesthetic reasons, such as changing the appearance of text in a heading or logo.

The control for this feature is the second of the input fields in the Tool Options bar. Increasing the value will space out all the letters equally and decreasing it squeezes them together. Opening up the spacing between letters tends to make text look lighter and more sophisticated – you've only got to look at cosmetics and toiletries to see how often this technique is applied.

Reducing letter spacing is probably most used 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.

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Adjusting Word Spacing in Inkscape

Adjusting the spacing between words can be another way to tweak text in order 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 quite an adverse effect on legibility.

You can change the spacing between words within a block of text by entering a value into the third input field or by using the up and down arrows to adjust the values.

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How to Adjust Horizontal Kerning in Inkscape

Horizontal kerning is the process of adjusting the spacing between specific pairs of letters and because this is a very targeted tool, it is only available for use on text that doesn't flow within a text frame.

You can use kerning adjustments to make spaces between letters look more visually 'correct' and this is a technique commonly applied to logos and headlines. This is purely subjective and if you look at the accompanying image, you should see how the spaces between the individual letters have been adjusted so that they appear more balanced.

To adjust the kerning, you need to highlight the letters that you wish to adjust and then change the value in the fourth input field. If you've used the kerning tools in some other applications, the way that kerning operates in Inkscape may seem slightly unusual. If you highlight a single letter, regardless of whether the kerning is increased or decreased, the highlighted letter will adjust the kerning completely independently of any letters to the left of it.

For example, in the example in the image, to increase the space between the 'f' and the 't', you need to highlight the 'Craf' and then adjust the kerning. If you just highlight the 'f', the space between the 'f' and the 't' will increase, but the space between the 'f' and the 'a' will decrease simultaneously.