I've seen a few of these around and I love the effect.

An Example

I'm a developer, but proficient with basic Photoshop. I've played around with masking an area and entering the text within but it never formats right, so I assume this is done very carefully by hand or there's a better way?

I've also seen images of this style but inverted (the text makes up the image content, not the background).

Thanks if anyone can give some insight in advance!

Edit: To clarify, the image is made up completely of text lines. Formatting/coloring creates the actual image within this massive block of text.

Edit 2: Updated with another closeup example. You can see how the text actually wraps the full page, yet breaks to give space for the design before continuing.


  • Photoshop may not be the best choice for such images. That said: even when zooming in, all I see is a gray grainy noise. Can you add a close-up?
    – Jongware
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 22:26
  • @RadLexus On my Ubuntu laptop, so the screenshot isn't the best but it should be able to give an indication. Updated OP. Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 22:44
  • 1
    It can be done with off-the-shelf software such as Illustrator (lots of manual work I think) and InDesign (although probably barely). I once wrote a program to do something like this - and nothing more. Could that have been done here? What file type is the original?
    – Jongware
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 22:47
  • Not sure on the filetypes, but the final images are printed to canvas or large print (A3+). I was leaning towards something like InDesign but I have no experience with it, so wasn't sure if it was possible. Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 22:49

1 Answer 1


I would do this in a page layout program. I am doing this in InDesign but should be the same in other programs.

Create a text box that fills your background. Then fill that box with lots of text from where ever and take out the paragraph breaks.

Set the font to 5 pt. and the paragraph alignment to "Justify with last line aligned center". Set the text color as a spot color.

Decide what you want for your graphic and make that a solid vector. Copy that vector and paste into InDesign.

shape over text

Select the shape, open the text wrap options (Window -> Text Wrap). Select "Wrap around object shape". Add a small distance to all sides.

Here is a very basic example shown up close.

around a corner

Then export spot colors to just get the text.

Here is an example with text in the middle of the shape. This is a very basic example but you can create much more complex shapes/paths.

Another example

  • Awesome, thankyou so much! Would it also be possible in InDesign to create the whole image in text? As in the second example, where the design isn't actually a vector shape but is text with negative spaces and colouring to create the illusion of a picture? Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 17:33
  • @textdesign1 I don't really understand your first sentence but you do not need a vector. If you have an image with a transparent background, place that into the InDesign document. Select the image, make sure the "Contour Options" type (In the Text Wrap Panel) is set to "Detect Edges". You can also just draw a path around your image set to no fill, no stroke and add the text wrap around that. You can also do an alpha channel text wrap as well.
    – AndrewH
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 17:47
  • Sorry for the confusion, I'm not really sure how to phrase it. I've uploaded another up-close example (http:/imgur.com/tEehedH) that shows how the text breaks onto whitespace, and then continues after the whitespace. The whitespace, along with the different color text, is what builds the picture within the text. I'm thinking it may be some sort of plugin/action, or is it really done manually? Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 18:19
  • @textdesign1 My example was a solid path but you could create more complex shapes/paths. I have uploaded another example to show the middle of a shape filled with text. The complexity of the text design is only limited to the path you create.
    – AndrewH
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 18:26

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