Guiding the Wordle Engine to Create a Cool Word Cloud

Give a Gift Designed by You!
This is the second part in my series on how to make cool gifts for bloggers using wordle.

2. Create the Wordle

To summarize step 1, go to, enter text or URL, then click on Submit. Wordle will do its thing.

To get the best image for your gift, I’d suggest guiding the wordle engine a bit. At the bottom of the Wordle results window is a Randomize button.   Hit it to get a different arrangement of the wordle cloud.  That’s not really guiding but it does give you an idea of the possibilities.

BEWARE, there is no going back! Once you Randomize, you can’t get back to the previous design.  Even if you liked that one better,the previous screen is gone forever.    There’s no going forward from a Save either. Once you Save to Gallery, you can’t change that design — you will need to re-enter the data and take your chances with other random arrangements.

A fun thing to do is fool around with the wordle controls a bit before you try to make your gift image.   But if you need to get going fast, here is a good way to do it:

2a. Select a font. Don’t worry too much about colors or arrangement at this stage. Think about what font captures the essence of the blog. For example, “Loved by the King” font looks handwritten and is a good choice for a personal blog from the heart. “King Typewriter” would work for a journalist. Try a few different varieties from the fonts menu, and see what looks good. You’ll notice that changing the font changes the arrangement of words. That’s why we select a font first.

This is an example of a holiday design, Silent Night. At this point, only the font is as I want it.

2b. DON’T SAVE! I know this is hard for us compulsive-save-button hitters who have been burned too many times by computer crashes in the middle of our projects. But if you save now, you won’t get to make more changes and we have more to do.

2c. Word positioning. Use the Layout menu item get a good arrangement. You can also “Randomize” but you lose the font setting. You might want to constrain the wordle to horizontal or vertical. I avoid the “any which way” but that is just me. On the B&W T-shirts I had printed, I found that words displayed horizontally are easier to read and hence can be in smaller font.

Keep an eye out for words that really don’t belong, or that you don’t want to see so big. In the un-cool example from my blog above, “Presented” is huge and I don’t think it really shows what my blog is about. This stuff is easy to edit out when its around the edges, harder when it’s built in the middle of the cloud. Pick an arrangement that is both pleasing and easy to edit later.

Here is the Silent Night sample with arrangement set:

2d. Don’t save! There’s one more step to finish the design.

2c. Select colors. This time keep in mind that you want colors that print well and reflect the content.  For a simple geeky T-shirt, stick with BW.  

I haven’t tried all the variations, but my instinct is that the subtle greens of “Aspargus” are going to be hard to read on a shirt. Also, if you want to print to a colored shirt, you will need to make the background of the image transparent later. Be sure now that all of the colors will visible against the background color of your gift.

Notice that changing the colors doesn’t change the font or arrangement. That is why we do colors last.

If you want to get really fancy, you can give wordle a custom colors.  Unless you’re just overflowing with good taste and artistry, I’d highly recommend a pre-made palette. You might even use a Christmas Color Palette. I have not yet tried any of these palettes with the shirt manufacturer.  Here’s is my final Silent Night wordle created with the custom palette.  (The wordle colors from the previous step might really print better but I wanted to give an example of changing the palette.) 

2e. Now, Save!  Once you are completely finished fussing with the design, you can Save the Design to the Gallery.  If you want. The advantage is that you get a web address and can come back to it or post it if you’d like. That gives you a lot more flexibility. The possible disadvantage is that everyone who cares to look can see it. The gallery fills and changes quickly so its unlikely that the recipient of your gift will see what you’re doing.  But if you’re making a wordle to go on that special someone’s thong, you might keep it to yourself.

The next step is to get your design from into a production-ready graphic.   That’s another topic but I’ll give a hint here:  Screen capture is too low resolution and it makes for fuzzy wordle T-shirts and mousepads.    I’ll write about different alternatives in the next post.

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