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Secret to Easily Designing Subway Art in Silhouette Studio

I get asked regularly about how to design subway art in Silhouette Studio.  It’s actually far easier than you’d think....if you know the one easy trick!

Silhouette Studio, subway art

My secret to easily designing subway art in Silhouette Studio is giving each word it’s own text box.  When you do so, you give yourself a whole lot more editing and design freedom than if you were to type everything - or even several words - in a single text box.

To get started, open up Silhouette Studio. First decide on the dimensions of your subway art. Let’s say we want to create a design that will print on a standard 8.5 x 11 piece of paper.  Go to the Design Page Setting tool. From the drop down menu click “Current Printer.”  Further down the window click “Show Print Border.” This will bring up a gray box indicating the safe print area. You don’t want any of your text or designs outside of this area or they will be cut off. Same goes for if you plan to export as a PDF. Only what’s inside that box will print or export.

Silhouette Studio, subway art, show print border

TIP: If you want to design subway art for a smaller piece, use the Draw a Box tool and draw out a box with the exact dimensions (enter them manually in the Scale tool). Use the box as a guide as you design and then delete it when you're finished or print the design and cut only out the box area.

Now click the Text tool from the left side menu.  You will get a cursor. When you click in the work area you will be able to type in the text box. Only type 1 word in the box.
Silhouette Studio, subway art, text tool
Select the box and duplicate it as many times as necessary. The easiest and quickest way to duplicate the box is to select it > hold down COMMAND + Down Arrow at the same time. Repeat until you have several text boxes. Don't worry about font style, sizing, alignment or color right now.

Go into the second text box and change the wording to the second word or character. Repeat for all of the boxes.
Silhouette Studio, subway art, text box, keyboard shortcut

Once you have changed all of the words start moving the text boxes around.  There's no right or wrong way to do this - so let your creative juices flow! Words that are important, I tend to add extra emphasis to by making them in all capital letters or stretch them across a full line.  Smaller words like "the", "to", or "in" you may want to make smaller or type vertically rather than horizontally.  Don't be afraid to play around, use the character spacing tool and stretch the letters out in any direction!

Silhouette Studio, subway art, text box

The reason you put each word in it's own text box is so that it is easy to edit each word while keeping each word in text format as long as possible. Ungrouping multiple words to manipulate them into these type of format would take away their text status so you would lose the ability to change the font style.

Once you have a general layout, start changing the font styles. I usually pick three or four fonts and use them throughout the entire pieces. You may even opt to stick with one font.
Silhouette Studio, subway art, text size

Now pick your color pallet and change the colors of some of the words if you wish. Again, I usually stick with three or four colors.  You can change the text color by selecting the word > Fill Color (Pick a color) > Line Color (circled in green) > transparent.

Silhouette Studio, subway art, change text color

Finally, add the details. This could be anything from a line of polka dots to arrows made up of several basic shapes to a piece of clipart.

Silhouette Studio, subway art

If you plan to print the subway art or export it as a PDF make sure all designs are either filled with a  solid color or the lines have a "weight".  You can gives lines a weight from the Line Style window. Lines without a weight will not print or show up on an exported PDF.

Silhouette Studio, subway art

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing products through my links, I receive a small commission. That's what helps fund Silhouette School so I can keep buying new Silhouette-related products to show you how to get the most out of your machine!

Thanks for coming to class today at Silhouette School.  If you like what you see, I'd love for you to pin it!
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  1. Very good post! Now to try it out. (insert mad scientist laughing)

  2. Thanks for giving me the useful information. I think I need it!

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  3. What would be the next step (other than printing) if I wanted to use the subway art to stencil on a canvas? I assume cut the subway art design on vinyl, weed out the appropriate areas then use the vinyl as a stencil? Any tips for prepping the canvas first?

    1. Check out her article on making stencils with lamination sheets or you can do it with contact paper which would be cheaper than using your good vinyl :).

  4. I didn't get ANY instructions!! Please repost with instructions!!

  5. thanks for the great lesson and ideas!

  6. thanks for the great lesson and ideas!

  7. I've never created my own subway art - I appreciate these instructions - thanks!

  8. How do you "shear" the rectangles? Still a beginner. Thanks.

  9. I've been dying to create subway art, but was dumbfounded by the complexity. Thanks for making it simple!!!

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