Dense Text Lettering

Colorful Dense Text LetteringMy inspi­ra­tion for this project came from the won­der­ful book, Hand Let­ter­ing, by Marci Don­ley & DeAnn Singh.  The authors call this tech­nique “Writ­ing Between the Lines”, but I think “Dense Text” describes it bet­ter.  I tried it with my mid­dle school­ers and the results were fan­tas­tic!  You’ll find so many appli­ca­tions for this fun let­ter­ing style.… use it to write out a favorite verse, quote, or poem, make greet­ing cards for birth­days and other hol­i­days, or sim­ply fill your art jour­nal with a beau­ti­ful mes­sage.  I’ve also seen this tech­nique described as “Slow Jour­nal­ing”.… check out the Daisy Yel­low blog for some great exam­ples.  Call it what­ever you like, but be sure to try it!



  1. Choose the text you want to write out.
  2. With a pen­cil, lightly draw a ½” bor­der along each edge of your paper.
  3. Next, lightly draw some wavy guide lines across your paper. (If you’re copy­ing a spe­cific text, divide it up by how much you want to write on each line.  That way you’ll know how many lines to draw!)
  4. Now add your text lightly in pen­cil, fill­ing the space between each line, using basic san serif let­ters in all cap­i­tals (a.k.a. “stick let­ters”) . Touch both the upper and lower lines with your let­ters.  (To make your text fit on each line, you’ll be mak­ing some let­ters wider or nar­rower as needed.)
  5. Trace over your let­ters with Sharpie, but do not trace over the lines!
  6. Erase your guide lines, bor­der, and any other pen­cil lines that are still showing.
  7. Use water­color pen­cils to add color inside the closed shapes of each let­ter. Then fill in around your let­ters with con­trast­ing col­ors.  It’s okay to leave some areas of white if that works with your design.
  8. Finally, blend your col­ors with a damp brush.  You only need a small amount of water when you work with water­color pen­cils, blot­ting your brush on a paper towel each time you rinse it.  And be care­ful not to let com­pli­men­tary col­ors mix, or you may end up with “mud”!  (Com­pli­men­tary col­ors are col­ors that are across from each other on the color wheel: red/green, blue/orange, yellow/violet… try mix­ing these col­ors when you want a vari­ety of inter­est­ing browns!)

Can you think of a good name for this let­ter­ing style?


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11 Responses to Dense Text Lettering

  1. Shawna November 21, 2012 at 7:51 am #

    Hi Cheryl,
    I just love all the art that you post, so cre­ative. My daugh­ter went to an art high school so I know how impor­tant art is, espe­cially for those that need that cre­ative out­let. Any­way, I was just stop­ping by to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

    The Pic­ture Book Teacher’s Edi­tion
    Shawna recently posted..Fluffy The Secret Santa by Kate McMullanMy Profile

    • Cheryl Trowbridge November 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

      Happy Thanks­giv­ing to you, too, Shawna! I enjoyed look­ing at your site — very help­ful for teach­ing with children’s literature!

  2. laura minala November 25, 2012 at 5:50 am #

    i kinda thought of a good name and that is wordart

  3. MrsSkojec November 25, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

    Hi, Cheryl. This is a nice twist on one I did with one of my classes. We did
    just their names, but I like the idea of doing a poem or bible verse. Thanks.
    Your posts are such fun!

  4. Susanne April 14, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    Another great post! I would try it with some haiku (small japan­ese poems con­sist­ing of three lines with 5/7/5 syl­la­bels. Look for them, I’m sure there must be Eng­lish trans­la­tions and Eng­lish (or Amer­i­can?) poets, too.

    • Cheryl Trowbridge April 14, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

      Great idea to do this with haiku, Susanne! Thanks for shar­ing that!

    • Cheryl Trowbridge April 14, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

      Great idea to do this with haiku, Suzanne! Thanks for shar­ing that!

  5. Hadassah Lerner May 4, 2013 at 1:21 am #

    This is won­der­ful! I know my chil­dren will enjoy it. Thank you so much for the step-by-step details.… I can learn and do along with the ‘class’.…

  6. Wendy May 7, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

    Hi Cheryl: Your posts are so inspir­ing! Thank you so much for all your awe­some ideas. I have used some of them in my art classes I teach for a home­school group. I hope I linked back cor­rectly from my blog!


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