Adjusting Text Line Spacing and Letter Spacing in GIMP

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Adjusting Text in GIMP

GIMP is a great image editing application, but its Text Tool really is not designed for working with text in a significant way. This shouldn't be a surprise as it isn't intended to be used to edit large blocks of text, unlike a DTP application like Scribus or even the vector line drawing app Inkscape. However some users are most comfortable working with GIMP and if you're one of these, GIMP's Text Tool does offer a reasonable degree of control for working with text and allowing you to fine tune the appearance.

If you're going to be working on projects that regularly involve setting even moderate amounts of text, I would strongly advise that you spend some time learning to work with Scribus or Inkscape, however if GIMP is your favored tool and you only occasionally work with text, then GIMP's Text Tool may be sufficient for your needs. 

For instance, setting a little bit of text on a single side promotional leaflet could be handled reasonably well in GIMP. While GIMP doesn't offer particularly fine tuned controls for making targeted adjustments to text, the universal adjustments that are available do offer a reasonable degree of control over multiple lines of text.

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Working With Text for the Body Copy

If you're adding small amounts of body text in GIMP, there are a few tools that you'll want to be familiar with.

The Text Tool is represented in the Tools palette by the letter T and when selected you can either just click on your image to set the point where you start writing or click and drag to draw a text box that will constrain the text. Whichever you do, the GIMP Text Editor will open when you first click.

In GIMP, you have to enter your text into the Text Editor, though you will see the text appearing on the image in real time also. This may seem a little clumsy to Photoshop users who are used to typing directly on the image, but Photoshop used a similar system for its earlier versions.

If you already have the text that you want to enter in a text file, you can press the open button and this will import the content of a selected text file into the Text Editor. You can also click the Use Selected Font checkbox to make the text appear in the font that you are using, though it displays in a fixed size and doesn't change if you adjust the font size in the Tool Options palette. Clicking the Close button hides the Text Editor, but clicking on the text layer again with the Text Tool selected will reopen the editor so that the text can be edited if necessary.

If you draw a text box and there is more text than will fit in the text box, the overflow will not be visible.

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Adjusting the Leading or Line Spacing

When setting a volume of text into a fixed space, you may find that you encounter difficulties with making it fit in an attractive and legible way. The most obvious way to adjust multiple lines of text is to change the font size, however this may not be the preferred option, particularly if you need to reduce the size of the text to a size that may be difficult for some to read.

Thankfully GIMP offers two other options when working with text that can help you to adjust how text is displayed on the page. The first of these is leading which is also known as line spacing. Increasing the space between lines of text can help legibility and also have a positive aesthetic benefit. However, in some cases, space constraints will mean that you don't have this option and you actually need to reduce the leading between lines a little to make it fit. If you choose to reduce the leading, do be careful that you don't overdo this. If the lines become too close together, they can start to become a solid block that is difficult read fluently.

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Adjusting the Letter Spacing

GIMP offers another tool that can also be used to adjust how multiple lines of text display, which changes the space between letters.

Similarly to adjusting line spacing for aesthetic reasons, you can also change the letter spacing to produce more attractive results. Most commonly letter spacing will be increased to produce a lighter effect and make multiple lines of text appear less compact, though this should be used with care. If you increase letter spacing too much, the spaces between words will become indistinct and the body text will start to resemble a word search puzzle rather than a block of text.

You can reduce the letter spacing as another way to help make the text fit into a restricted space. You do need to be careful not to reduce letter spacing too much as the letters may start to run into each other, however using this adjustment along with line spacing and changing the actual font size will often allow you to reach the most legible compromise.