A Way With Words

with 1 Comment

Jan WalkerI love words. As a writer and editor, I’ve spent my career carefully choosing, arranging and rearranging words – creating pleasing combinations that are informative, entertaining, compelling and inspiring. As an artist, I quickly discovered that words could be just as useful in creative design as pictures and graphics. It’s the same principle, really… choosing and arranging words that tell a story.

One way to do that is to create a “word cloud.” Word clouds allow you to group a collection of words on your page to call attention to your subject. Back in the day, you’d have to type out your words, choose a font, vary the sizes and move each word into place manually. Tedious, perhaps, but worth the trouble.


Today’s tip will show you a fun and easy way to create word clouds instantly using a fun and very handy automated program that does all the work for you!


Ready to get started?

1. Log on to Wordle.net. Once you’re there, click on the Create icon at the top of the page.

2. With your layout in mind, decide what kind of words you’d like to work with. You might choose a random list of words, a poem, a verse, or – as I did, a list of words that describe my subject.


3. Type your words into the dialog box. If you want some words to be larger than others, type them more than once. I found that repeating the same word four times produced the largest size that looked right on my layout. I chose one word to be larger than all the others. Typing the same word three times will give you a slightly smaller word… and so on. Don’t worry about typing the words in any specific order. You can even copy and paste a block of text. The program will randomize the words for you.

4. Once you’ve typed in your words, click the Go button under the dialog box, and Wordle will begin offering you random word cloud designs using your words, each time you click on the Randomize button.


5. Up above the design field, you’ll see a row of options: Edit, Language, Font, Layout, Color. These option menus allow you to customize your word cloud somewhat. You can choose a white or black background, for instance. You can choose from a variety of fonts, decide on the orientation of your words (vertical, horizontal, or a mix of both -- you can even create a wild random splatter of words!), make your words all lower or upper case, and change or create your own color palette. The program is very intuitive to use, so you should have no problem with Wordle.


To change the color palette of your word cloud, click on Color, then Custom Palette (to assign tonal ranges) and then click on Edit Custom Palette (to choose colors).


6. Once you’ve hit upon just the right look for your word cloud, do one of the following:

  • Do a screen capture, OR
  • Use the print option to print your cloud from the Wordle website and scan it at a high resolution, such as 600 ppi, before moving it onto your scrapbook page.

I tried both methods and found that taking a screen shot worked fine for me, even though I had to increase the size of the word art when I moved it onto my page. Increasing the size resulted in a small amount of pixelation, but it wasn't noticeable because I changed the Blend Mode of the word cloud.


7. With the selection tool of your choice, trim loosely around the edges of your word cloud, click Select > Inverse and get rid of the rest of the screen capture. If you like, you can get rid of the white background, using the Magic Wand or Quick Selection tool and keep just the words. For my page, I left the background there because I knew I was planning on using a blend mode on that layer, so it didn’t make any difference.

8. Drag your word cloud onto your layout and decide what size you’d like it to be, and how you want to arrange it on your page. You might choose to leave the opacity of the word cloud at 100% or you can reduce the opacity for a more subtle look.


And that’s all there is to it!

Have fun using this great time-saving tool, but be warned… Wordle is extremely habit-forming! You might just find yourself Wordling the night away…

Download a PDF version of this "A Way With Words" tutorial.

Windows: Right click on the link and choose "Save Target As" or a similar command.
Mac: Click on the link to download the file.

One Response

  1. Bonnie Brannon
    | Reply

    Thanks much for this tute. I play w/Wordle regularly, and your are right: it’s addictive 🙂

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