Adjusting Text Line Spacing and Letter Spacing in GIMP

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Setting Text in GIMP

GIMP is a popular free open-source image-editing application, but its Text Tool isn't designed for working with text in a significant way. This shouldn't come as a surprise because GIMP is intended to be used for editing images. However, some users prefer to work with text in GIMP and if you're one of these users, GIMP's Text Tools offer a reasonable degree of control for working with text and allowing you to fine-tune the appearance.

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Working With GIMP Text Tools

If you add body text in GIMP, you should be familiar with a few tools.

Open the Text Tool by clicking Tools menu bar and selecting Text. Click on the document and draw a text box. If you prefer, go to the Toolbox and choose the upper case letter A to create a new type layer. When it is selected, you can just click on your image to set the point where you start typing or click and drag to draw a text box that will constrain the text. Whichever you do, the GIMP Tools Options panel opens under the Toolbox.

Use the floating palette that appears on the document above the text you typed to change the font, font size or style. You can make these same formatting changes and others in the Tool Options panel. Also in Tool Options, you can change the color of the text and set the alignment.

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Adjusting the Line Spacing

When setting a volume of text in a fixed space, you may find that it doesn't quite fit. 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 that action would reduce the size of the text and make it difficult to read. 

GIMP offers options when working with spacing of text that you can use 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 improve legibility and have a positive aesthetic benefit. However, in some cases, space constraints mean that you don't have this option and you need to reduce the leading a little to make it fit. If you choose to reduce the leading, don't overdo it. If the lines of text are too close together, they become a solid block that is difficult to read.

To adjust line spacing, highlight the type block on the page and use the leftmost drop-down menu on the floating palette to enter a new leading amount or use the up and down arrows to adjust the leading. You'll see the changes you make in real time.

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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. It changes the space between individual letters.

Just as you can adjust line spacing for aesthetic reasons, you can also change the letter spacing to produce more attractive results. Most common letter spacing can 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 become indistinct and the body text starts to resemble a word search puzzle rather than a block of text.

You can reduce the letter spacing as another way to fit the text fit into a restricted space. Don't reduce the letter spacing too much or the letters may start to run together. However, using this adjustment along with line spacing and changing the actual font size often allow you to reach the most legible compromise.

To make adjustments to letter spacing, highlight the text block on the page and use the rightmost drop-down menu on the floating palette to type in an amount of extra letter space or use the up and down arrows to make adjustments. Just as with line spacing, you'll see the changes you make in real time.