Cool Custom Gifts with Wordle and WordPress Blogs

Below are several posts about using wordle to create cool gifts from a blog.  With this you can get a custom-made gift for under $15.    

Here are the topics:

Select text

Use Wordle

Capture the design

Edit the design

Order from Manufacturer

You can follow the steps in these articles to create your own gift.

Or buy a shirt with a wordle of the WordPress open source code for blogs.

Cool T-Shirt for BloggersWP Baseball Shirt

Custom Manufacturing for Your Gifts

Give a Gift Designed by You!

This post tells how to work with the manufacturer to get a custom shirt from your blogger’s wordle design. See the previous posts for instructions on how to make and edit the design. You can also use these instructions to create a custom gift based on any of your photos or graphics.

I started with Spreadshirt Designer because my web host, 1&1 gave me a free premium store there.  To get started yourself, follow this link: Custom T-Shirts. Order Now!

At the Spreadshirt web site, you need to:

1. Upload your design.   To do this, click on the “Design Tab”  and then at the bottom of the box of pre-made designs, choose “Upload a Design”.    The panel at right changes to “Upload a Photo”.    Read and comply with the Copyright Declaration, then click the button to “Choose a Photo”.  Use .png format because the wordle is too intricate for their vector process. 

2. Choose a product.  Go to the “Product” tab and select the product type.   The shirts and mousepads are easiest.   If you’ve saved your design as black writing on white background, a white shirt will work best.   Otherwise, the white will actually print on a shirt of another color.    One way around this is to use an advanced graphic program to make the background transparent. 

3. Apply design.  You can apply your design here.   You can also add in other goodies from the design marketplace.  

4. Choose sizes.   Size the graphic in the shirt display.    Then choose a shirt size (under product list).

5. Create shirt.   Hit the Add to Cart button and follow instructions to complete the transaction and create the shirt.

Congratulations!    Your custom gift is on the way!


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Crafting the Cloud – Prepping the Wordle Gift for Production

Give a Gift Designed by You!
If you’ve been following this thread on how to make a custom gift for a blogger using Wordle, you have selected text, created a wordle, and saved it in .png   Now you need to do a little graphic editing before you can send it for production.

I used the humble Paint program for this step but other graphics programs can be used as well.

The steps:

1. Crop dead space.  Get close to the word cloud on all sides.

2. Erase fine print.   Print the design.  Anything that’s hard to read on paper will print as an inkblob on the shirt.   I used the Paint eraser tool to take out all the small words.   

3. Re-shape the cloud.  Sometimes just a few words stick out from the edges of a cloud, or maybe there is a huge word that just doens’t belong.   I used cut and paste to do a little re-shaping.

4. Give credit where credit is due.   Wordle requires that you show the design was made with and the image is licensed under Creative Commons.   Open source software, such as WordPress, is licensed under GPL, and I mentioned that too.    I made a small graphic with attributions to copy onto my shirts.   I’m far from an expert and you should consult one if you’re unsure what to do.   What I can tell you for sure, is that anything under 16 point font did not print well on the shirt.

5. Save as .png file.    The best size is 2000×2000 pixels at 200 dpi — get as close as you can to that.

I’ve only done shirts in black and white so I can’t help you much with a color design.   With B&W, I did have Paint force all colors to B&W, not grayscale to get the sharpest look.    Using image-sharpening software didn’t seem to print as well on the T-shirt.

Now you have a design that is ready to take to a T-shirt vendor such as Spreadshirt Designer. I started with Spreadshirt Designerbecause my web host, 1&1gave me a free premium store there.

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Give a Gift Designed by You!

Capturing the Cloud — Getting the Gift Design out of Wordle

Give a Gift Designed by You!
The previous two posts talk about creating a word cloud gift with    The next step is to capture the design in a format for graphic editing.   

Here are three basic ways to capture the cloud.    There’s undoubtedly more, but these are free and easy.

1. Screen Capture.    Not recommended because the resolution is too low for printing a shirt — I tried it.

2. Print and scan.   Brute force, but its quick.   You must have fresh ink and clean scanner glass though.

3. Print to PDF, read into a graphics program.    The wordle creator recommends this route using freeware CutePDF and open source Inkscape.    I haven’t tried this path yet.  (Hey, I saw the recommendation after I did the print ‘n’ scan thing.)

Whatever path you take, you need to emerge from this step with a .png file, preferrably in 200dpi resolution or better.
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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.

Crabby’s Holiday Survival Guide

I want to forward a funny and useful column:  Crabby’s Holiday Survival Guide.

With instructions for making your own electronic holiday card, it might be a little dangerous for all the powerpoint addicts out there.    Please use in moderation!

The Crabby Office Lady is my former high school classmate.   How ’bout that?   I think its pretty cool.