Creative Sketchbook, Chapter 1, Activity 2


Activity 2.1.2: Topsy Turvy Printing

      • Choose a font which you like, or a mix of fonts and type out a page of text. Larger letters will be best. You can mix letter sizes if you wish.
      • Print out your page then turn the page upside down and print again so that you have a second layer of printing on the same page but the other way up.
      • Paste pages into notebook and add colour, or use the spaces between the letters to create patterns using paint or oil pastels to add colour.


Ooh, this was such fun! Some fonts work better than others when printed upside down, and with a bit of practice you can print precisely where you want, over the top of existing print, which produces some interesting effects, or in the white spaces between the lines. You can use the text to make patterns which don’t really look like words or letters at all – I think this was I enjoyed the most.

It works really well with the margins off for one layer of print (I like the background covered in small text), and you can play around with the second layer (in a different size or font) so you’ve got a smaller square or rectangle, and set it centrally, so it’s more or less symmetrical, or offset it to one side, or just use the top or bottom of the page. If you think about it carefully, you could use two different, but loosely connected, pieces of text, so the meaning kind of meshes together – rather like those rounds where people are singing different words and tunes, but it makes a unified whole. Or maybe you could send messages between the lines…

I’ve really enjoyed working on 2.1.1. and 2.1.2, especially as I’m not very technical, and I’ve always been a bit wary of computers, seeing them merely as ‘a tool of the trade’ – a bit like a typewriter, but with some advantages!. I especially loved the way you can print texts on top of each other, or layer them with different papers, and I adored trying to put text on top of photos in 2.1.1, and using one repeated letter to create patterns that don’t look like writing at all. There are so many things I could have tried, but didn’t, or I shall never move on to any other activity, but on the whole I’m quite pleased with my efforts.

However,  I seem to have fallen back into the trap of thinking that one A4 page in a Sketchbook must be used for one exercise, which is a shame, because with a bit more consideration I could have presented much of the work for these two activities in a more interesting way, by dividing the page up into smaller spaces, and tearing or cutting larger printed sheets into smaller areas to work with. Then related pieces could have been viewed together across a page, or two pages, (like the decorated patterns made with letter ‘a’s in 2.1.2). And smaller pieces would have left room for notes on the page. Also, instead of sticking every A4 sheet into the sketchbook, I could have left some loose, in a box file or a folder, for stitched books for Chapter 10.

But I was so intent on printing that I forgot about anything else, like decorating the paper, and presentation, and let the size of the page dictate what I was doing. The little A6 book I used to try out ideas for my zig zag book in Module 1 Chapter 10 was easier to cope with, and I think having a project  focused my approach and helped me ensure I had a clear idea in mind of what I am trying to do, and then I was able to enlarge or embellish  things as I went along. When I went back to Chapter 8 (which I’d abandoned because I was having problems with it) I kept in mind the things I’d learned while working on Chapter 10, and I was really pleased with my Matisse pages, and felt I’d achieved something by moving right away from my previous ‘school exercise book’ approach, so I’m disappointed with myself for not keeping that up.

Anyway, that gives me something to aim for in future work. Meanwhile, here are the pages in my Sketchbook for 2.1.2. The page below was painted with purple emulsion, and printed with a text that looks like writing (Shoreline, downloaded for free). Then I stuck a smaller sheet of deli paper over the top, turned the whole thing the other way up and reprinted over the existing lines of print surrounding the deli paper, and the deli paper (but there are a couple of single lines at the top and bottom). It’s Caliban’s ‘Be not afeard’ speech, from The Tempest, but it’s not very legible. However, I rather like it – it looks kind of old and a bit distressed.


This is one of my husband’s old worksheets, from when he was teaching – we’re using them as scrap paper because the backs are clear, and they seem to be going on for ever. I used green paints and crayons to cover the paper very scruffily, and chose green because it tied in with the recycling message!


This next one is Kathleen Jamie’s The Creel (again – I do love that poem) printed in a font that looks like writing (note to self: just because you like something doesn’t mean you have to use it all the time – be more adventurous!). To be honest it looks a little messy.


Below is Carl Sandburg’s ‘Little Girl be Careful What You Say’. I wanted to try and incorporate hand-written letters as well as printed font, and I didn’t want anything too heavy for the background, so I used a blue crayon, and tried to get a smudgy effect, but I’m not sure it’s quite what I was aiming for.


If I did this next one again I’d do it differently – a paler background perhaps. And the border is a bit startling – it should have toned in with the text I think. And the bigger text could have been even larger, or a darker colour. Or both.


Again, I’d do this next one differently if I did it again. It needs a ;painted background. And it might have been nice with the smaller text printed over the bigger, just for a change.


The page below is a disaster, but I’ve included it anyway. I found this in our stash of plastic bags (you may have noticed I tend to hoard things – carrier bags, paper, books, empty jars and pots, scraps of wool, thread and fabric…). I like it, because it has words on it, and I thought maybe I could print over the top, so I cut a piece out, stuck it to a sheet of paper, and ran it through the printer. But the ink wouldn’t dry, and the glue wouldn’t stick. So I blotted it with blotting paper, and my small, red, printed words blurred, which is OK, but they are not very noticeable. And it needed something doing to it, so I tried ironing it. I thought the heat might distress it – I certainly felt distressed! Anyway, it actually stuck to the baking parchment!!! So at that point I added a lot more glue (but it’s still come unstuck again) and decided to leave well alone.


I love the font on this next one, all kind of scratchy. And I like the black lettering on the lemon background, and it makes a pleasing shape, but the decoration is bit unambitious. And I wonder if I could re-arrange the letters so they look more like mirror or shadow images? Something for the future maybe. It’s from an Alice Oswald poem, and references another poem by Emily Dickinson.


I did try to do another print-out, with a more interesting background around the lettering. I wanted something as scratchy as the letters, but it didn’t pan out as I wanted, and I made a mess of it.


Now this I love. Lots of ‘a’s printed in a slightly grungey looking old English type script,  (Faith Collapsing, from Free Fonts) to make a wonderful pattern. It was worth fiddling around with to get this! But the background isn’t quite what I wanted – I was aiming for a kind of peeling, faded poster look, but the yellow, red and gold is too bright.


I loved the pattern so much I photocopied it, because I doubted my ability to reproduce it, and created this, with felt tips, which looks almost like musical notes… And kind of Tudor I think… I know self-praise is no recommendation, but I think this is fantastic. Is there an easy way to reproduce it on fabric? Or, better still, to reproduce the printed letters, then use Procion dyes to colour them? Presumably I’d have to get something to thicken the dye?

old english 1

And this, trying to use the outer edges of the letters to create a pattern in the negative spaces between the rows with wax crayons. It would have better if I’d spent a little more time and care on it, but it gives the general impression of what I hoped to achieve, and I find it quite pleasing.

old english 2

And finally, this is a page with the same printed design, but trying out different ways of using paints and a gold marker pen. I’ve included a wavy edging drawn with a black highlighter, which is simple but effective, and on one row I used red paint to colour negative spaces within the letters (but not the main space of the ‘a’). I know some of these pictures may look a bit samey, but I enjoy taking one piece of text, or one image (like the castle in 2.1.1) and trying to use it in different ways.

old english 3

I had a bit of  ‘what if’ moment here… Same font as before, but using upper case, printed on tracing paper, then printed on the reverse side, upside down, aligned over the first printed letters.


And that led to this, printed on the reverse, the right way up, so it appears back to front.. Isn’t that amazing!


Or you can layer tracing paper over the top of another printed sheet,  which is an easier way to place it where you want. I had a brainstorm, and this one isn’t upside down, but I’ve included it anyway. However, I think it looks better tipped on its side – it could almost be strips of some kind of embroidered or lacy edging.


This is a piece of paper coloured with tea, and printed with Tea for Two, and overprinted (upside down) with the secrets for making a good cup of tea. But I didn’t line it up properly, and didn’t get the effect I wanted, so I tried printing it again, on the same sheet which, on reflection, made things worse. But you learn from mistakes.


This next one is The Computer’s First Christmas, by Edwin Morgan, with some seasonal words printed over the top. But I rather liked the effect of the white spaces, caused because each line of the poem is only two words long, so when you cover the entire page you get this effect. The font was selected because I wanted it to look like digital text.


And because I liked those white background lines, I printed a topsy turvy page , and it came out looking a bit like blocks of bricks, so I started using a felt top to try and colour in the gaps, but it’s quite difficult, because they are not as straight as they appear, and it doesn’t add anything at all to the page – if anything it makes it look worse. So I’ve left it like this.


Then I had another ‘What if’ moment, and wondered what would happen if I printed part of the poem in a large font, then printed the entire poem, repeated over and over again,  as a border all around the page, printing it out edge by edge. Strictly speaking it’s not really topsy turvey. But because it’s long and narrow it seemed to lend itself to something like this. And it’s fun!

CompXmas 1







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