How to Kern and Set Type In Cinema 4D

October 29, 2010

If there was ONE feature request I want in Cinema 4D, it’s to have the ability to kern type properly. Right now, If I want properly kerned typography, I have to set my letters in Illustrator, Export as version 8 and merge that file into my scene. Then, if there is a change in the type or the setting, I have to repeat the process. Very tedious. Luckily, I found a work around using Mograph and the plain effector that works OK in a pinch. Not a perfect solution, but useful if you only have a word or two to kern.

Quick side note. If you have never learned to kern type properly, be sure to give it a try. Typography is such a huge part of Motion Design, so it’s important to learn how to make your type more readable and beautiful.

Tutorial Focus:  
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  • I was having the same issue recently, thanks a lot 🙂


  • Very clever Nick! Hopefully we’ll have more type control in the future.

  • Hey Nick…do you have any idea why certain fonts just don’t load in C4D? For instance, I can’t drop Gotham Black in. I have to create the text in Illustrator and merge the paths. Drives me nuts!

  • Hey Nick,

    Ones in a while when I want to do some kerning but I’m lazy to hop into Illustrator (I’m just testing something) I use the following method:

    1. Imagian I want to increase the space between the E and the S of “YES”
    2. Type the following * = space: Y*E**S
    3. Then use the horizantal spacing and decrease it to the amount you want.

    It is a bit dirty and if you want to do it more precise then illustrator is always better in my opinion.

    Like you always say, there is no 1 single right way, there are multiple ones.

  • infinate? jk!

    good reference, though. seems like too much trouble to use an effector when you can just export the splines from ai. if you did build it in c4d couldn’t you just break the letters apart and manually move them closer?

  • Glad that you decided to post about this topic Nick. I have previously posted about this issue on Maxon’s site about this quite some time ago – since R10.

    • Yeah, it’s kinda ridiculous it’s not in there yet. The people that code it don’t really understand that there are a ton of super picky designers using their tool now. Cinema 4D isn’t just an architectural visualization tool anymore.

  • Hi Nick,

    thanks for sharing, but why not just get rid of the shiddy mograph text object in the first place?

    Make a Text spline with your Word/Title or whatever, convert it and move the letters along the axis? Way more flexible and faster on top of that.

    Greets from Germany

    • The text object still won’t let me kern properly. Plus, I need things to stay editable.

    • I get your needs of the text beeing editable ( maybe parametric is the better word here 😀 ),
      but in the time you type your new text in the mograph text object and rearrange your fallow i made the new text and kern it in half of the time.

      i cant think of a function that the mograph text object
      provides which cannot be solved.

  • That is freaking brilliant. I am SO picky about kerning, and this has been driving me crazy forever in C4D. Thank you!

  • thanks Nick! I can use this for my new project! U are using a beautiful font as well

  • Very good shot again Nick ! u saved my life ! ;-)I can use further now.

  • I think that using the text tool in splines menu and the check the separate letters and make them editable would be more easy.

    • There are two main problems with making the type editable as a solution for kerning. 1: you have less control over the rippling of the spacing. For example, if I move the second letter, the rest of the letters don’t automatically follow along. 2: Making it editable is exactly what I want to avoid. My favorite thing about cinema is the procedural non destructive aspect of it. Making something editable locks me in, and that just isn’t part of my “change it at any time” workflow.

    • In the 1st I think if you select for instance in a 4 letter word like “TEXT” if you want to move the “E” closer to the T, you can select all “EXT” and slide left so moving all along.
      In the 2nd you are right.
      But all in all if Maxon introduced kerning per letter it would be the better solution as you mentioned in your tutorial.
      Keep up the great work!

  • If your are not going to put an effector on the text, why not just make the type editable. Making it editable will kern it just as well as in illustrator.

  • Well, You’re totally right about Typography and how important it is for motion graphics but do you know any resource to learn more about it ?
    Thank you in advanced

  • Very useful! I’ve been round tripping so much from AI just to ken, thank you so much!

  • Whoah, this is a really messy hack. For shame, Nick.

    • I wish there was a better way. Anybody have a better idea?

    • I don’t know how helpful this could be, but…

      I was just thinking about the Mograph Selection tool, and I have used it before with clones.

      Well, guess what? I just tried this, and it works! You can select characters WITHIN the Mograph Text Object, and apply a plain or other effector.

      I just tried this with the default word text. Selected ext and applied the plain effector, and adjusted the x axis in the effector without having to mess with falloff at all, and ext moves towards or away from the t.

    • Update: I can name each selection tag I’ve added to the text object in the properties window. Each plain effector (or other effector) has a selection field, which can contain the name of the selection tag of your choosing. You can have multiple selection tags assigned to each text object, with a different plain effector controlling each selection.

  • There is one option more Nick. You can just type inf and inite and use move tool to kern… 5 sec ^^. Thanks for tut anyway :)Regards.

  • Hey Nick, off topic but still curious; when you were saving out of illustrator it appeared as though you had some kind of plugin similar to quicksilver in the save as dialog. What was that?

  • Interesting technique, Nick!
    But in this situation I use spline text + extrude nurbs. Then all you have to do for kerning is to select letters in point mode and move them where you want them.

  • Alternative method, in the past when I needed to keep the text as a single Mograph object (say, when other effectors are being applied): I spaced the text slightly too wide and used a step effector to pull the characters back, and adjusted the step spline to tweak the kerning. The advantages are:
    1) Your kerning isn’t dependant on the type’s position in space, you simply kern it and forget about it
    2) You can still adjust/animate letter spacing as a whole without getting weird ripples as the characters move through the effector
    I agree it would be best handled as an option within Cinema though – ideally the text field would be a smaller replica of the text itself, in the correct font, and you could kern the type directly.

  • Thanks Nick for the work around… Speaking of type. Imagine the day when AE and C4D can actually use the typefaces glyph palette. That will be the day! As bad as most of these programs are with type just try setting type in Combustion.


  • I purchased the software Fontlab to solve this flaw in C4d. I searched the manual just to get what I needed, I open up the font I want to use, type the words and kern manually and generate a suitcase font and load the font into C4d. It’s definitely not faster (obviously!) but it’s a pretty underated software. I also can go into the font using fontlab and rotate the characters and export and characters will type out rotated.

  • Yeah, I agree Cinema could use some kerning tools. The more disappointing thing is Cinema’s poor font handling in general. Most of the fonts I have installed don’t even work. Making the user locate the outline fonts is just plain archaic, particularly if you have 4,000+ fonts installed.
    If, when you’ve located the font, you’re lucky and it works (Opentype container for a Trutype) it seems that Cinema ignores the in built kerning pairs – and just forget about ligatures, glyphs and contextual alternatives.
    Truth is, Cinema is a 3d app. If you want full control over your type you have to generate it somewhere else.
    A visit to can’t hurt 🙂

  • Sweet!

    Looks like using that plain effector could also make some pretty cool text effects, right? Like a letter per letter swoop-ontp-the-secene thing.

  • It would be handy to be able to kern in C4D, but where do you draw the line? Then you need to add correct handling of point based type with accurate leading, tracking, baseline shift, etc…

    In fact we should be able to have all the features of open type as well. Especially elements such as ligatures and alternatives. Shouldn’t we?

    At the end of the day, if you are serious about typesetting you will probably be creating a multitude of type designs before you settle on the result you are after. If that is the case, you’ll be setting the type in an app. like Illustrator anyway.

    If you really want to create your type in C4D, then why not drop each letter as a spline into a Fracture object and then use the same MoGraph features? You can extrude a fracture object so you’ll have all the settings for extrusion and bevels etc, you can kern each spline by moving it and you can use MoGraph.

    • Also, don’t forget you can link to AI artwork through XRefs if you just want a way to update your illustrator created text in C4D easily.

      • Ohhhhh, nice one, Tim. I haven’t tried that yet. That may solve quite a few problems. Still think it’s silly to have to own adobe products to set proper type in Cinema.

    • You CAN set proper type in cinema, not the elegant way but it definately works with build in BASIC functions.

      In 7 years using cinema, i have never used illustrator for setting type.

  • Hi Nick thanks for the tut!
    Do you have any tips for books or something about typography?

  • Alternatively, I used to make the text editable, and then adjust each letter. Also there is the horizontal spacing option. But this works a lot better.

  • Why dont you simply make two words? one “Inf” and the other “inite” and then you can position them as close as you want 🙂

  • Clever indeed. I’ve always just hit “C” and adjusted the letters manually. BUuut, yeah I guess it doesn’t work so well if the text ends up changing.

  • Really?!
    Another work around?!
    C’mon, Maxon. Are you listening???
    It’s time to kick it.

  • as far as I know none of 3d software currently available offers “kerning per letter” option.

    The real thing, seriously bugging me in c4d is that you simply can’t see interactively changing text in the scene while switching through fonts. This is the real pain.

  • There is another way to do this, using a similar technique but with more control and faster I think …

    Use the Mograph Text Object like before but before adding any effectors, select the Text Object and use Menu > Mograph > “MoGraph Selection”.

    Then you will see a red dot for each letter. Then click and ‘brush select’ over the dots of the letters you want to move. The dots will turn yellow for selected letters.

    With the Text Object selected AND the Mograph Selection Tag selected (which will automatically appear), create a Plain Effector and use the controls leaving falloff at Infinite. The effector will be automatically restricted only to the letters you selected earlier.

    • Ahhh I was about to post this one aswell – lucky I read the comments before!
      Yes I saw the tutorial, and thought about selections and made one like you described.
      It is a quick way to change single letter kerning but still have the possibility to change the horizontal spacing and so on!

  • Oops just noticed Steven Jenkins mentioned same method above 🙂

  • I could be wrong about this but if you used an illustrator 8 file for the text and brought it into Cinema as an xref, I think any changes you needed to make to the file would automatically update in the Cinema project.

    Illustrator is by far a stronger application for creating and handling text. Using to two programs in combination is probably the most powerful way to handle the problem. Sorta playing to each programs strengths.

    I haven’t actually tried this out. I just noticed helloluxx tweed out a tip today about xrefs and illustrator files. I’m just kinda thinking out loud in text form that this would be a good solution to the problem you wrote about here.

    • I haven’t tried that yet. It’s a great idea.

    • That IS a good idea. Although I like the idea of having text still living in Text Object, so I can link to effectors. I’m surprised the video didn’t show “Make Object Editable (Pressing C while the Text object is selected)” as another alternative to kern.

    • You’re right Chang. Using the xref would not be as flexible with effectors as using a MoGraph text object. You would not be able to place the effectors in the words, letters or lines categories.
      I’m really surprised that in 12 revisions of Cinema that a kerning function has not been added. Obviously that would be the ideal solution. Avoid workarounds entirely.
      I’ve only been using Cinema a couple months now and the kerning problem is one of the first things I noticed.
      Changing the text to an editable object is a workaround too. But again you lose some flexibility in the effectors. It’s also a destructive way of working. You could not just go back and change a word in the text of a paragraph anymore.

      Maybe we’ll see kerning added to the next moGraph update. Fingers crossed!

  • yeah, that mograph selection thing is a great solution, lots of people beat me to it though =)

    re: using illustrator files, even as xrefs, problem with that is you have a lot less control. Like you can’t plug effectors on per letter or per word basis and so on.

  • Would love to see some typography stuff. How and when to use the different kerning and whatever they’re called options.

  • There is a “simple” way:
    Make a Mograph Text object -> type what you want -> assign a Mograph selection and select the letters/objects you wish for (green dots) -> assign a plain effector that uses the selection you just made and tweak the x-axis. You can create as many Mograph selection as you like by copying the tag (ctrl+drag the tag in PC)

  • You can also kern in photoshop and export to an ai file which you can open in c4d

    the solution with the plain effector is bit too cumbersome for me..

  • Even this method seems like too much work Nick. Now I haven’t read through all of these comments, so this might have been said before, but I have always just made the Mograph text editable (“c”).

    This splits the word into multiple Mograph letters that you can still adjust depth, edges, etc. on (so not completely editable) – and at the same time, simply move back in forth on whatever axis you want to kern to perfection. Sure, they’re not in one perfect package any more, but they still are a series of children to the one null.

  • I’m running into the same kind of text layout issue. I’m trying to change font weight for certain characters and at the same time fix kerning issues. I’ve been messing around for a while now with Xpresso, COFFEE, and Mograph selection tags and but I’m finding Xpresso to be limiting in it’s ability to set these parameters and my limited coding knowledge is holding me back with COFFEE. I was wondering If anyone out there with COFFEE, C++, or Python experience has ever sat down and tried to develop text layout tools?

  • Nick, playing with all those falloffs is so silly. Use MoGraph Set Selections!

    You can use MoGraph Set Selections on individual letters, or groups of letters, and assign a Plain Effector(s) to them. Keep the falloff set to Infinite, and just adjust the Position Transform setting.

  • to me, basically, Chris Chestnut has the better answer, because you’ll have the possibility to increase or decrease your “horizontal spacing” in one single object. you just don’t have to be switching between programs

  • i am using the moselctiontool, quite better workflow for me…

  • Nick, this is pretty cool but I’ll stick with the “from Illustrator to Cinema” method. I get so much more control And it seems to get the job done faster..

  • Kerning for any 3D project is fairly difficult when you have to take weight, bevels and caps into account at an early stage. Providing you have a basic insight into the absolute importance of kerning then the illustrator route is fine but as Nick points out – if you get this part wrong in any way or alterations are required further down the line then things become a real pain. I wonder if anyone has seen the appalling kerning on the titles for “Constantine” (Francis Lawrence – 2005) Some of the worst i’ve seen personally. Check it out….

    Jonathan S., Glasgow.

  • interesting article abt typography

    plus get his Typograph PRO font (seen in the video)!!!! 😀

  • hey guys,
    i just discovered
    that allows you to kern in c4d. it’s free.


    Best kerning solution from the wonderful media box studios.

  • I tried the Kerning Effector and the Kernimator, both work fine if you’re looking for a quick adjustment, but if you do 3d type for a living they get cumbersome, and once you get into revisions they become more work than help. It’s very hard to keep text centered with the Kerning Effector, and you have to guess what letter is what number to adjust it… And the Kernimator is flush left only as well, and forget about texturing you type.

    So I came up with a kerning solution that uses the HUD system, so you can kern directly in the viewport, it’s very intuitive. I’ve been production-testing it for months and it’s rock solid:

    Kern MoText in single line, multiple lines, centered, flush left and flush right with a subtle and intuitive interface directly in the viewport. Adjust Y and Z position, scale and rotation on every axis for each letter.

  • quiero aser un video de free step

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