We were super excited to welcome back the incredibly talented Khara Plicanic. As an award winning creative with expert knowledge in Photoshop, there was no better person to deliver a masterclass of typography in Photoshop. Take a seat and get ready to learn from a true master!

Learn the Basics of Working with Type

The basics of working with Type means Typography. Kerning is the space between pairs of letters. Tracking is the space between a whole line of Type. Leading is the space between lines of Type.

Standard Ligature

A ligature is a combination of letters. It could be two or more that form one single character. For example, as we can see below, a Standard Ligature is often a lowercase F with a lowercase I. They are all in the Baker Street font. Similarly, FF ligature with the crossbar joining and FFI ligature with the character shown below.

Discretionary Ligatures 

Discretionary Ligatures are fancy ligatures that go above and beyond just the simple basics. The standard ligatures are often done for readability and not just because it looks nice, whereas the discretionary ligatures are for fun and to play with. For example, as shown in the image below, the TEI has a fun discretionary ligature where the T goes over and forms the dot.

Contextual Alternates 

If a typeface has built-in Contextual Alternates and is edited in Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator, it forms a fancy letterform. Notice the fancy endings of the letters in the image below. For example, 'a' would be good as the last letter of a word, however, it wouldn't work in the middle of a word because it would mess up the spacing. The 'c' can be used at the beginning of a word.

Stylistic Alternates

Stylistic Alternates simply mean the other versions of the same letter. For example, the same font as the one above (Diplomatic) offers different lowercase 'd' variations.

Different Versions of a Typeface

Some fonts or typefaces include different versions. In a specific Minion Pro typeface, this is a standard and capital 'b', as shown in the image below. However, the Minion Pro comes with several fonts: a bold version, an italic version, and small caps. They all have distinct characters.

When working in Photoshop, it creates Faux Bold and Faux Italic for some fonts. For example, in the Minion Pro, the original designer created a bold version of Minion Pro in white. If you take a regular Minion Pro Bold and apply Faux Bold on Photoshop, it creates the red character as shown in the image below.

So when the designers create these different fonts that are part of a typeface family, they are creating each character in a special way for use in these different circumstances. When you fake it, you will not get the same results. This feature also allows you to see if you are working with a real font (created by the original designer) or a fake font (modified version).

Swashes, Flourishes and Ornaments

Swashes are the fancy squiggles that some letters might have, like the 'g' and 'h' shown in the image below. Flourishes are a kind of ornament.

Ordinals, Old Style Numbers, and Fractions

Ordinals mean that when you type out the number, one followed by ST, you have ordinals enabled and get a superscript. It automatically reformats it and the little ST gets raised up as shown below. So 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc automatically appear.

Old Style Numbers have fluctuating baselines. For example, the 8 moves above the 1 and 7, and below they're all equal. This means it blends in better with the text. It's great for designing invitations while using old-style numbers.

Fractions are used with a slash. For example, 1/4.

Work in Photoshop

To create a Headline Type, go to Type Tool, click on the screen and type. This will create a run-on line of text. The only way to get a break to the next line is by hitting return.

The Body copy or Paragraph text is where you take the type tool and instead of clicking, click and drag right. Draw a box and put your text in the box.

Pro tip: If you need to get into the text itself or manipulate the text box, not transforming the whole type layer, use the type tool and click within the text. That will pop the box back open, and then you can reshape the box.

Understand Kerning

Kerning is the space between different letter pairs. Sometimes when kerning is not done well, you might read a different word. For example, instead of saying kerning, it looks like it says 'keming' in the image below.

To fix that, click to place the cursor in between the 'r' and the 'n'. Open the Character panel by going to window Character. The V/A represents kerning, it shows the space between two letters and one pair of letters. Set it to 0, the image below showcases the difference. Also, it adjusts pairs of letters so increase or decrease it as per your liking. 

Most professionally designed fonts are going to have kerning built-in, meaning that when the designer creates them, they're going through and checking the various letter pairs that are known culprits for causing kerning problems. However, it depends on the style of a typeface.

Understand Tracking

Tracking is the horizontal space of entire words or lines and it affects the whole line. Dragging the tracking negatively will put the letters on top of each other. Set it to zero to get some spacing.

Understand Leading

Leading refers to the space between lines of type. It’s pronounced as led or led-ing and not leading as in leader. The two 'a's stacked on top of each other on the settings panel are for leading. Set it to auto to check the designer’s settings.

Work with Ligatures and Alternatives

Use the Losta Masta font and type 'Fancy'.

Enable Discretionary Ligatures to get ‘more fancy’.

At the end, enable Stylistic Alternates to add ‘even more fancy’.

Using ornaments and swashes, add ‘shut the front door’.

Add Bounce

Type the word 'bounce' and use an image or an object in motion as background. Highlight the 'b' using the type tool. On the character panel, use the baseline shift to move letters or words from the baseline. To raise the letter up, highlight it. Click right on that icon and drag it to the right to bounce it up.

Next, highlight the 'u' and bring it down. Similarly, move the 'c' lower. Use the ball as the 'o' by using the Character panel and dragging it out of the way. Then add shadows to make it look realistic. This is how you can use Kerning and Baseline Shift for a creative effect and not just a pure, graphical, and straightforward type setting.

Typeface Examples 

Example 1

Photoshop has a Type tool. Look out for the Vertical Type Tool, which is used for Japanese Type that is read vertically.

Hold shift and rotate. Then resize and press command T for free transform. Use swashes to add details.

Pro tip: To fill a selection, layer or type with your current background color, click command, delete or command backspace or alt and delete on PC. Click in the box, highlight it. On the control panel, pick a color and choose super bold to change the typeface.

Example 2

Use Silver Crown to create save the date. Select in the layers panel, highlight the layer. Open the Character panel and turn on the standard ligatures. You'll notice these are grayed out. It implies that there's nothing coded for these different things in the font.

However, it does not mean they don't exist. Create a special pair for the 'l' and 'o' in Chloe, and a special pair for the 'k' and the 'y'. See how it swoops down. Open the glyphs panel for other ligatures.

Highlight and double-click the glyphs panel manually. Insert the 'l' and 'e' and check the difference and shown below.

Similarly, change the numbers using the glyphs panel and select the ones that best fit and match with the letters.

Pro tip: It's nice when the numbers can follow the same wave as the letters have, otherwise they would all be perfectly straight across.

Example 3

As shown in the Diplomatic Typeface, there is a little break between the 'b' and the 'r'. There are crossbars on the 't's that are very close to each other.

Open up the Character panel and the kerning pairs. Click on optical space to break between the stem on the 'n' and the 'e'. Move it to 0 so that the 'b' connects to the 'r'. Click Standard Ligatures to join the crossbar on the 't's. Use the swashes and flourishes from the glyphs panel.

Depending on how the font is coded, you might also see a pop-up where it shows you the different stylistic alternates for that character. In this case, there are two 'b's. Choose any by double-clicking to insert it. Hold down Option and hit the left arrow to snuggle the 'r' right up to the 'b'.

Example 4

Using the Secretary Typewriter Font, write 'making lemons into lemonade' as shown in the image below. Put in ligatures, fancy swash and stylistic alternatives. Make a new type line with the type tool. Go to the glyphs panel and type in. Click on ornaments and choose the swirly doodles. Double click to apply.

Add swashes and flourishes by clicking on x on the sidebar. This will automatically give you plenty of options to choose from. Size them up and add them to the letters.

Example 5: 

See the image below for reference. Duplicate the word by pressing command or control J. Highlight the sample color from the book and then recolor it. Change it from the condensed stroke. Drag it below the original type layer. Pick numerous catchwords. Open this in the glyphs panel and find all the other catchwords. Add layers and dotted lines, then pick ornament doodles and create a layer mask for the foot.

Congratulations, you have mastered typography in Photoshop!