Scribbler School [Guest Post!]: "I Learned Graphic Design While Writing Novels"

"Scribbler School" is my new occasional post series where I share my ruminations and ramblings on any and all aspects of writing, partially inspired by my good friend Alyssa's Noveling 101. There's no rhyme, reason, or semblance of sequence other than some honest thoughts. While I don't pretend to be teaching surefire writing methods—heck, I'm still that awkward kid in the back corner of the classroom and probably will be for a very long time—I'll use what little creative fairy dust I've picked up on my journey so far and great literary examples to try and help others out. (And, as you can see, some pretty amazing alliteration.)
For this first edition of "Scribbler School", we have a special guest—Alyssa from The Devil Orders Takeout! She and I are good friends (obviously) as well as graphic design buddies! This basically means we share a passion for procrastinating on our WIPs by making pretty images.

We're each guest posting on each other's blogs today as we both look into our own specialties when it comes to design as a writerly skill. I'll be talking about book cover design, so be sure to check that out here!

And without further ado, I'll have Alyssa take the stage with her brief tutorial on quote posters. *shuffles out*


Hi, I'm Alyssa from The Devil Orders Takeout, and I'm thrilled to deliver my take(out) on graphic design here on Christina's blog! By the way, I lied in the headline. I am rather an amateur in graphic design, but procrastination in writing led to many quote posters.

winner takes all
why this post exists.
also, thanks to anqi's

First of all, what are quote posters and why are they important?

Quote posters are essentially quotes arranged in pretty fonts and colours so you can stare at them and gush over your own gorgeous writing, while not actually writing. Common elements include a wide range of fonts, spaced out words, and much re-reading quote in dramatic voice.

Quote posters, whether they are physically on your wall, are mainly for inspirational purposes. Look at how prettily your words can be arranged. Feel all the angsty and philosophical feels. You can definitely write a whole book of these. If you actually remember to stop making these and go back to writing.

How to make quote posters: a three-step process

You may be thinking: but I'm a writer. I can't design for the life of me. (Okay, I know plenty of talented writers cum designers, but you may be like me.) First of all: now is the time to learn, no? Secondly, no worries. For those aesthetic-blind couch potatoes like myself, I have designed a three-step, worry-free process! For extra prettiness and procrastination, add one more step.

For all of the below, I used GIMP, a free program. However, I believe Picmonkey and Pixlr are also viable and free options. Rich persons may choose Photoshop, or preferably donate to me.

1. Choose the quote.

What? One of the steps isn't even graphic design? Yes indeed. Although your manuscript is no doubt thousands of perfect sentences, you do need to pick and choose here. It's always wise to keep a quote bank hanging around, but here are some tips from picking a quote to play with:
  • not too short, but not too long — 10-15 words are ideal
  • a little philosophy or metaphor would not go amiss
  • do not rely on context, e.g. character names and relationships
Once you've selected a quote, then bold the words that you want to emphasise. Here's an example:

Slightly longer words are ideal for this purpose, because what you'll do is center these words on their own line. By the way, this quote is from Christina's very own On the Midnight Streets. Which is awesome and you should read it while gazing at this quote poster.

2. Lay out the words in the desired fonts.

There's no hard and fast rule for this, but do keep in mind not to cramp more than five words on one line. If your font size is below 15 px, that's a good indicator it's too small. Remember to make your bolded words larger, so that the viewer knows what's important!

Also, don't use more than three fonts, otherwise it can get distracting. Try to pick one sans serif font, e.g. Helvetica, Gill Sans, and one serif font, e.g. Times New Roman. To see if they go together, test the letters a, g, and e; those can tell you pretty quick whether the fonts match.

Let's see Christina's quote begin to flourish:

As you can see, I decided not to use 'down' as an emphasis word and use 'old' instead. Changes are perfectly okay in the process. Remember to space out your letters so that they more or less go along straight lines!

3. Change the colours. (optional)

Like with fonts, do not use too many colours. I normally use three: one for the background, one for normal words, and one for emphasis words. The 'normal' colour is normally a different shade of the background colour, while the 'emphasis' colour is wildly different; for example, if I use a cool colour for the background, the 'emphasis' colour is a warm or vibrant colour.

Remember also that the colours should reflect the theme of your work. If you're writing a snarky YA novel, maybe bright splashes of red and yellow are better than dark greens. On the Midnight Streets is a steampunk novel about politics and rebellion, so I used blue for the background/normal colour and crimson for the emphasis words.

I say this is optional because many quote posters out there, especially those on Etsy, are monochrome, a fancy word meaning 'black and white' so I seem knowledgeable about graphic design. However, if you're not planning to print it, colours add to the inspirational-ness of the quote!

4. Add decorations. (optional)

The quote poster is actually presentable now — if you look back at the first quote poster, "the element of almost" from my novel, I didn't do this step. However, you can add some decorations to spice your poster up and waste more time instead of fixing that plot hole on page 392.

For this step, remember to make use of paintbrushes that your software provides! I used the circle, square, acrylic brush and star paintbrushes, which are pretty basic. If that's too plain, you can download more from sites like DeviantArt; just be sure to follow the artist's guidelines.

The decorations shouldn't be random, however. Okay, the stars around 'promises' were a little whimsical, but see how "half-finished" is sliced in half, and "old" is crossed out with greying paint.

Just one reminder: don't skip both steps 3 and 4, otherwise your poster won't be very nice and time-wasting. These are my tips on quote poster-making — do you make quote posters, and what tricks do you have? Share with us in the comments! I'll be here to answer any questions.


alyssa carlier
Alyssa Carlier (@AlyssaC_HK) is a high school student in Hong Kong. She doesn't have a day job, but at night she breathes ink and paper and Kindle. In between bouts of writing, she dabbles with laboratory bacteria and blogs at She sends exclusive content to her newsletter subscribers, because who doesn't like bonus takeout?

And that's all, folks! What do you have to say about Alyssa's pointers (I mean, they're pretty awesome)? Is this useful to you as a writer?

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  1. This is amazingly cool. I'm seriously considering making some of my own--I've made a few things on PicMonkey before and it's always worked well for me. Thanks for the idea--I never thought about making quote posters before!

    1. Thanks, Alex! Quote posters are really good for procrastination -- ahem, inspiration. Sometimes a collection of quote posters can catapult you through writer's block. I'm not familiar with PicMonkey, but I've heard it's quite handy. Besides, this sort of thing is more for yourself to gaze at, so nothing too fancy :P

  2. That's a great idea, Alyssa! So pretty!!! I have one question: Do you and Christina know each other irl or over the internet? Both your graphic design posts were very pretty :D

    1. Thanks, SharM! Christina and I are, unfortunately, on different sides of the world and only know each other over the Internet. I'm glad you liked our graphic design posts :D

  3. Oooh, awesome! I don't make quote posters much, but I like looking at them, and now if I have any desire to make one in the future, it is within my power. Mwahahahahaha!


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