Better Yearbook Headlines: What's the Difference Between Kerning and Leading, Anyway?


While you may not be interested in becoming a master designer (nor sh0uld you feel you have to), there are some design-specific terms that you should familiarize yourself with to improve the design of your publication. Two of these terms that most frequently affect your yearbook headlines and copy are the often confused kerning and leading. While they’re not direct players in the fonts you choose, you can use these two concepts to change the look and feel of your fonts throughout the pages of your book. Below, I’ll explain the big differences between these important aspects of your design, and how to use each of these design concepts best within your yearbook headlines and beyond!

Leading Refers to Vertical Lines

Leading is an aspect of your yearbook design that can make your text more readable. It refers to the vertical spacing between your lines. Keep in mind that the leading of your documents is measured from the baseline where letters “sit.” Think back to your early days of elementary school, when you practiced writing your letters on the composition paper with the dotted lines. The baseline of your font would be that lower line where the bottom edge of most letters–a, b, and c, for example–sit. If the font you choose has certain letters that descend beyond that bottom line, like q, g, p, and j, you’ll need to increase the leading. You should also change the leading of your text if more or less spacing simply makes your copy easier to read.

Leading Example (Photo Credit:

Kerning Refers to Letter Spacing

The kerning of your font refers to the amount of space between each of the letters in a line of text. This can vastly change the look of your yearbook headlines. Designers use kerning to change the amount of space a particular letter takes up on a page so that visually, every letter is using the same amount of space. For example, this difference would be especially noticeable if you put a “w” next to an “i.” Naturally, the “i” is much smaller than the “w.” But your yearbook headlines look more balanced when these two letters utilize the same amount of space, thus the kerning of the “i” is often increased.

Kerning Example (Photo Credit:

Set a Policy for Optimal Yearbook Headlines

Both the leading and kerning of the fonts you have access to in your TreeRing account are automatically adjusted for optimal readability. But if your committee has a habit of creating images for your yearbook headlines in external programs, you’ll want to set a policy to avoid vast differences from page to page of your publication. To avoid confusion, most yearbook coordinators actually don’t allow for changes to the leading and kerning of their fonts once the style guide is complete.


If you do decide to change the leading and kerning within your font choices, make sure you create a rule within your editor so that your committee can easily select the right font with a click of their mouse. Then note the changes you’ve made within this font preset to your style guide, so that it can be recalibrated on other computers if needed. The process to adjust these two design concepts will depend on the type of editor you use, but here are handy guides for how you can change this setting in Word, InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator.

An Eye for Design

Design is heavily subjective. When it comes to leading and kerning, there isn’t one right way to modify a font. It all really comes down to your eye for design, and how you’re using each font within your publication. Where your yearbook headlines are concerned, the leading often doesn’t even come into play, because these page titles are typically only one line of text. So if you want to play around with the fonts you’ve selected before your style guide is finalized, don’t be afraid to spend some time adjusting the kerning and leading within your design software. And when you just want to know you’ve got it right, TreeRing has you covered–our fonts are ready to use, straight out of the box!