Using Text in Digital Art

I can’t resist photographing lettering when I am out and about, and love to incorporate these “text-photos” into my digital art like the image “Boys Room” and “Getting the colour back #1” below.

Shooting lettering and textures on boats in Weymouth Harbour, Dorset, UK.
I love to incorporate pieces of text into my images like “Boys Room” (above) which draws text from at least 3 different photos shot on my iPhone.
The lettering in this image comes from two sources; a hotel vacancy sign and a photo I shot of some ad hoc signage I spotted during a local school visit. The images were blended together using Procreate on my iPad Pro.

I have a huge Text and lettering folder on my iPad library which houses all kinds of lettering both printed and handwritten.

Screenshot of my text library in my camera roll.

I incorporated this original sign (below) shot with my iPhone into the image beneath it.

I particularly love hand-written or carved signs which always possess a unique character not just the lettering itself but the old surfaces they find themselves on…usually locally sourced!

The letter stickers are peeling away here rendering the letter forms into much more angular and sharper shapes.

These charming signs are great to look at in their own right but I also love to take them one step further juxtaposing letters, graffiti and words to form new meanings.

Try shooting text in your local area.

The great thing about photographing signs, particularly hand-written signs is that every sign you capture is going to be unique down to the location, the person or people who created it and the local materials it is created from.

It’s also a great way to explore your local area or wherever you happen to be and it’s very easy to capture sharp and vibrant photos on today’s smartphones.

You’ll want to capture all the lovely textures in your signs so below are a few tips on shooting signage to get you started.

Tips on shooting lettering and signage

Getting a sharp image

When you take the photo, you want to capture as much detail as possible so tap on your iPhone screen so tap and focus on the part of the phone screen where the lettering part of the image is or a high contrasting part of the image to ensure the result is nice and sharp. Use the focus reticle on the iPhone screen.

To get a sharp shot, use the focus reticle (the yellow square icon) to focus on a contrasting part of the image like the edges of the lettering (shown above.)

Shoot in the open shade

Bright cloudy days tend to be the best for shooting lettering. Try to shoot your signs and lettering in the open shade or wait for a cloud to come over so you get nice evenly distributed light.

Shooting in direct sunlight

Direct sunlight can cast distracting shadows over your lettering however if you have carved letters or letters in relief, you can use the harsh shadows to your advantage. The shadows will give more definition to your letters.

Strong sunlight can add more shadow to carved letters enhancing the shape.
Shadows caused by direct sunlight can enhance letter forms.

Incorporating text into your digital images

If you want to incorporate text into your work, there are a couple of ways you can do this:

  1. Use an app Procreate (shown below) or Superimpose X to blend your text with other layers using blend modes like Screen or Difference.
Blending text using the Screen blend mode.
  1. Isolate the text, by cutting the background out using the selection and masking tools in either Superimpose or Procreate
Blending text using the Difference blend mode. I also used the Automatic selection tool in Procreate to eliminate all traces of the sign except the lettering.
The Automatic selection tool in Procreate is great for isolating the text.

I hope you’ll find time to shoot some signs and lettering this week and find ways to incorporate them into your own work using the tips I’ve shared above.

Submit your text images to be featured!
I’d love to see your text images posted in our iPhoneographyCentral Flickr group where I’ll picking a few images for our special text edition of Apps Uncovered in the next few weeks.

Keep up to date with iPhoneographyCentral news about techniques, apps and mobile art courses by signing up to my occasional newsletter.

Have a brilliant creative week! I look forward to seeing your text photos and images created with text!

= Nicki =

See full list of my mobile art courses here.


  1. Jo Whitfield said:

    Thank you so much Nicki. I find your ideas and information so useful

    • Nicki Fitz-GeraldNicki Fitz-Gerald said:

      My pleasure Jo. Delighted that you find these posts helpful. I will be doing more of these and currently designing new website which will be a lot easier to use and navigate.

  2. Carol said:

    I concur with the message above. Am thoroughly enjoying your iColorama courses with Susan Tuttle and your new #ArmchairArtAdventures course. Am going back and forth between the iColorama Creative PLUS course and #ArmchairArtAdventures now. It’s such an infinite world of possibilities and I so appreciate the classes.

  3. Dale said:

    Thank you for your never ending stream of wisdom as to what can be done artistically on a mobile device! I love using text in images! xx

    • Nicki Fitz-GeraldNicki Fitz-Gerald said:

      Thank you Dale. So kind and your work is stunning and so full of adventure. Always looking forward to see what you do next with your art.



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