Hands off the horizontal scale tool.
I mean it, don’t touch it!

In most layout applications there is an option to change the width of text. This tool is generally called the “horizontal scale” tool. It’s meant to stretch the width of characters from their original state.

All three of these sets of letters is the same size: 29 point. The top set is set at a normal horizontal scale, the center is set at 50%, and the bottom is set at 150%. Neither option is all that attractive and obviously manipulated.

One of the ways this feature could be utilized is in the creation of logos and illustrations. Think twice before using this option with characters or words used in every day text for projects and designs. Do some testing to ensure that the characters aren’t over manipulated.

There are times when you’ll need to shrink up the text in your document to fit a specific area or to make room for something else. You might feel tempted to shrink the text by changing the horizontal scale. Try not to do this. If over done, it will be obvious to your readers that the text has been manipulated in this way.

Here are three ways to manipulate the text to free up space:

  1. Change the font size – even .5 of a point can change the text area dramatically.
  2. Tighten up the kerning – be careful using this tool, it can get obvious and difficult to read.
  3. Tighten up the line spacing – again, be careful, tighten only slightly.

If done correctly and with care, all three of these tactics can be used to free up space by shrinking the text area. Remember, you don’t want to sacrifice readability.

For a more in depth lesson on spacing, kerning, and layout, check out the Graphic Design Tutor Master Class.