Ways To Justify Text In Illustrator

In this post, I will show you how to justify text in Illustrator such that there aren’t big gaps in between words.

how to justify text in illustrator

“Justify text” is a simple function not only found in Adobe Illustrator, but you can also apply this in many other graphic editing tools like Canva. However, among so many apps, Illustrator and Indesign have the most justification options available to customize your text and designs.

Canva is great and I use that too, but when I have to justify long text and make it stand out and look good, I can’t rely on it for now. It only has one alignment option for justifying text, nothing else. The most you can do to adjust it is to use the letter spacing function.

justified text with big gaps

Otherwise, I’m unable to close up the big gaps. Or I will have to manually adjust all words, and that is too much work. In this case, I turn to Illustrator which can do everything from aligning text to outlining text and making things look prettier. If you’re ready to explore how to justify text in Illustrator, let’s dive in!

What Does it Mean to Justify Text?

“Justified text” or “to justify text” refers to aligning text left and right along the same margin line. It is the process of having the first words of every sentence in the same text frame or text box to be aligned with the left margin and the last words on the right to be aligned with the right margin of the text frame.

Left and right margins of justify text frame

The text frame is the boundary, and both the left and right sides of the box have words leaning against them.

Text frame edges

When you justify text in Illustrator, you are making the letters adjust the spacing between them to fit the text frame. They will automatically space out or close up depending on how wide the text frame is.

Why Justify Text

Text justification is not a must, and it’s not scientifically proven to help with readability. It is a personal preference when it comes to design aspects of basic layout and formatting.

Most people prefer to justify text to align all text to both sides rather than leaving it with jagged edges. This can make the content look more formal, professional, clean, and neater, especially when there are a few columns arranged on one page.

However, there is much text alignment to be done to reduce extra spaces that appear between words when text frames in Illustrator are justified. If this is driving you up the wall, read on to solve it!

Area Type Vs Point Type

Before you justify text, there’s one thing to look out for in Adobe Illustrator. That is to check if your text is Area Type or Point Type. How do you know what type of text you have on your artboard?

If you typed the text or copied and pasted text from another place into Illustrator directly, you will get a Point Type text. If you first drew a text box with the Type Tool before pasting the text into the text box, you will get an Area Type text.

If you don’t know how the text got there or maybe you’ve been told to open this file by someone else, don’t fret. Look at the handle sticking out of the text frame, at the end of it you will see a circle. Is the circle just a stroke and filled with white color or is it filled with color without a stroke?

If it’s fully colored without stroke, this means your text frame is Area Type and you can go ahead to justify it.

area type text

If it’s a circle with just a stroke and filled with white color, it’s a Point Type.

Point type text can’t be justified in adobe illustrator

This is important when you want to justify text because if your text is Point Type, it would be a text object, you can’t drag the sides or corners or bounding box of the text frame to let the text flow with the frame.

Once you try to modify the frame by adjusting the Bounding Box, your text will also be distorted together.

With Area Type, you are able to modify the size of the frame’s Bounding Box and the text size will still be the same. The words will move together with the frame as you resize it. Most importantly, you can justify the text.

Point type vs area type in adobe illustrator
Point Type vs Area Type – What’s the difference?

How To Justify Text In Illustrator

In a new document, use the Type Tool to draw a text frame. You will see placeholder text appear in the text frame. Or remove it and type in your own text. Next, open the Paragraph panel, that’s where you can find the justify options in Illustrator.

Then select your text frame, and select one of the four justify alignments in the Paragraph panel. Then highlight gaps you think are too big and adjust the tracking for the selected characters in the Character panel.

Step 1: Convert Text From Point Type to Area Type

First, select your text by clicking on it once with the selection tool. The text frame should show a rectangle shape Bounding Box with a handle that sticks out to the right. If you don’t have that, it means the Bounding Box is hidden.

With your text frame still selected, go to View in the top menu and select Show Bounding Box, or select View > Bounding Box. You can use the keyboard shortcut commands Shift + Command + B for Mac.

Keyboard shift command B

Or Shift + Ctrl + B for Windows.

Keyboard shift Ctrl B

Converting the Point Type text is easy, just bring your cursor to the circle sticking out of the text bounding box and double-click it. It will change to a circle filled with color, showing that the text is now an Area Type.

double-click bounding box handle to convert point type to area type

Or, select the Point Text frame, then, select Type in the top menu, and select Convert to Area Type.

convert point type to area type text

Once it’s Area Type, you can either select the whole text frame of body text, individual paragraphs, a bulleted list, or a single word to justify.

Step 2: Select Your Preferred Alignment

Open the Paragraph panel that can be found in the Control panel. You can see other alignment tools there as well. Or select Window on the top menu, select Type from the drop-down menu, and select Paragraph in the next drop-down menu.

open paragraph panel from Window top menu and Type drop-down menu

Or use the shortcut key commands Command + Option + T for Mac.

open paragraph panel with keyboard shortcut command option T

Or Ctrl + Alt + T for Windows.

keyboard shortcut ctrl option T to open paragraph panel

Below, I will walk through how each way of justifying text can give you amazing results. Maybe these can provide some inspiration for your work. In the Paragraph settings, you will find various ways to justify your text:

Justify With Last Line Aligned Left

paragraph text left align

Justify With Last Line Aligned Center

paragraph text justified center aligned

Justify With Last Line Aligned Right

paragraph text justified right aligned

Justify All Lines

paragraph text full justified

Select a Justification button or paragraph option you desire. After that, you may wish to save the justify text style in the Paragraph Styles panel so that you can reuse it in the future. Select Window in the top menu, then select Type in the drop-down menu and Paragraph Styles in the next drop-down menu.

Select the text frame with the justified text. Next, click the + button on the bottom of the Paragraph Styles panel. A new paragraph style is created. Select the new style tab to allow it to record the new justified text style. Label it anything you like.

The next time you want another set of text to also have the same justified style, simply open the Paragraph Style panel, select your text frame, and select the style you’ve labeled.

How To Remove Big Gaps After Justifying Text

After justifying your text, it’s time to remove big gaps or spaces between words. Here are various ways you can do that:

Method 1: Add Hyphenation

Sometimes, when you justify text, there may be gaps between the words, which can make the text look unprofessional. To avoid this, Illustrator has a hyphenation feature that you can use.

Long text will be cut off at the right margin of a text box. The cut-off text will be connected with a hyphen instead of big empty spaces.

You can enable the hyphenation feature by going to the Paragraph panel and checking the ‘Hyphenate‘ checkbox.

Once Hyphenate has been checked, Illustrator will add a hyphen to longer words. This helps to automatically adjust and balance the space between letters.

check hyphenate in paragraph panel

Method 2: Set Tracking

Adjust the spacing between characters by either increasing or decreasing the tracking value in the Character panel.

To justify text in Illustrator without gaps, first, open the Character panel by selecting Window > Type > Character.

select character from window and type menu

This time, do not select the entire text frame. For sentences with gaps that are too big, only highlight specific words to adjust the gap.

Next, go to the Character panel and increase or decrease the values in “Set the tracking for the selected characters“.

You will see individual letters spacing out to fill up the huge gaps between words. You can also bring up shorter words from the next line to fill in the space by reducing the tracking to a negative value.

For example, here’s a paragraph with some gaps that I find are too big for their own good.

text with big gaps

In this case, I want the word “In” to be shifted to the next line, so that the word “Big” can be shifted to the next line and fill up the spaces in the third line. You can do this by first highlighting the first sentence. Then, increase the tracking so that the word “In” will be pushed down to the next line. I’ve set the tracking to 50.

How to justify text in illustrator without big gaps

Here’s what the justified text looks like after increasing its tracking on the first sentence.

how to justify text in illustrator without big gaps

Method 3: Adjust Spacing

Open up the Justification options by clicking on the show Options button on the top right-hand corner of the Paragraph panel. In the Justification dialog box, first, check the Preview option to see changes in real-time.

Then, change the % values of the Word Spacing, Letter Spacing, and Glyph Scaling such that the gaps between the words are not too far apart, or adjust to your preferred design.

justification options to justify text

FAQ to Justify Text in Illustrator

Why won’t my text justify in Illustrator?

If your text can’t be justified, chances are, it’s because your text has been typed or pasted into Illustrator directly. This is called a Point Type text and it has to be converted to an Area Type text to be justified. You will have to draw a text box with the Type Tool first. Then, paste in or type your text inside the text box and select your justification alignment from the Paragraph panel.

Where is justify in Illustrator?

The justify alignments can be found in the Paragraph panel. Select your text frame bounding box, then select Window > Type > Paragraph from the top menu. Hover over the first row buttons, and you will find the following: justify with last line aligned left, justify with last line aligned center, justify with last line aligned right, and justify all lines.

illustrator justify all lines not working

You are not able to justify all lines in Illustrator because your text does not have a bounding box to give a limit to where the text should end and align. Your text is now a Point Type text and should be converted to Area Type text for “justify all lines” to work.

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