Aside from being used for photography retouching, Photoshop is also a favorite graphic design tool. And in design, symmetry and accurate measurements are vital for achieving the perfect visual balance. If you’ve ever felt like you’re struggling with balance when working with this type, you’re not alone. Here’s a cheat that will help you get through this once and for all.
Have you ever tried to Free Transform a text layer and noticed its bounds seem a bit unusual? Perhaps completely inaccurate? If you answered yes, you’re correct! Here’s what text layer transform bounds usually look like:
If you look closer, you’ll see that there is an unusual amount of space at the top and bottom of the line in the image. And even some to the right. This makes transformations and centering inaccurate. So here’s what your bounds should and will look like after you use our little cheat:
Much better, right? Here’s a comparison between the average transform bounds Photoshop suggested and our “cheated” bounds.
So let’s put this problem in perspective. Here’s a sample Photoshop document. Let’s say I want to put the text exactly in the center.
I’ll start by using the Rulers (Ctrl+R) to add some guides and mark out the exact center of the document. (In case you don’t know how to do that, maybe check out some of our Photoshop tutorials?)
Now let’s try a Free Transform on the layer (Ctrl+T) and see if we can center it. When we try to center the text according to what Photoshop gives us as a center point, we know the transformation is far from accurate. There is a huge gap at the bottom of the text layer which pushes the bounds way too far. Small (but significant) bound inaccuracies can also be seen at the top and left of the transform box.
Why This Happens
For the knowledge-thirsty out there, here is my take on why Photoshop does this to Text transformations. If this isn’t your cup of tea, feel free to skip to the first solution.
In typography, full line consists of multiple parts (illustrated below).
The word “Sphinx” is a perfect example for how lines in typography work because it includes an uppercase letter, an ascender (h), a descender (p) and characters that fit within the x-height (n, x). But not all words and phrases utilize the entire height of the line. For instance, a word like “zoom” or “runner” would only use the x-height of the line.
To illustrate my theory, I created a text layer with “Sphinx,” flushed to the left. I then used free transform and placed guides around the transform box bounds. Although the bounding box doesn’t fully adhere to the current font’s line height, this could be because Photoshop has a predefined height created to work with more extravagant and uncommon typefaces.
I then duplicated the layer, and only changed the contents to the all x-height word “runner”. After Free Transforming again the bounds were the same.
What this tells us is that the way typical text transformation works in Photoshop is based on a predefined line. That, along with the default “Auto” setting for leading (line height) gives Photoshop more and more excuses to have a separate way of creating bounding boxes for text layers.
Aside from inaccuracies in height, our previous “Hello” example also showed some issues with width. So what’s the deal? Aside from keeping thing balanced with leading, typographers also have to watch out for tracking and kerning. The former being the collective space between all characters, and the latter being the spacing between a set of letters.
Because of tracking, Photoshop probably adds some extra space at the end of each word. Although not very useful for accuracy, this can be a good thing if you’re planning to add more text later on and want to have a more technical look at how much width your current block of text is taking up.
In the sample screenshot below, notice how Photoshop’s transform bounds insert a tiny space after the full stop, but not before the first letter. This fully coincides with my theory of width inaccuracies and, just like height, gives Photoshop another reason to have a more different text-transform bounding box.
Does this mean that Photoshop’s alternative way of transforming is better than the regular way? Maybe. Whether you call this a “bug” or a “feature” one thing is for sure – it’s not random, and there has been some thought put into it.