How to make wavy stacked text: advanced text Warp Tips (Update Mar 2024: New templates!)

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The Warp tool in Cricut Design Space is OK for the basics, but it doesn’t have sophisticated options that let you create pro-looking designs. I created this tutorial to teach you how to warp text in ways that aren’t possible in Cricut Design Space, using a free online tool. I will show you how to make the retro wavy stacked text design that is super popular right now, plus how to warp and manipulate text in a ton of different ways!

Let me teach you how to use an easy “advanced” technique to make perfect stacked wavy text that is straight on the top and bottom. To make it as easy as possible, I have even included a template for you to use!

Update March 2024: I have added a refinement to the tutorial to help you get better results, and I have 4 new templates for wide format, circular and bigger designs!

warped text in a square
wavy stacked text in a square
advanced text warping
advanced text warping

Video: How to Make Stacked Wavy Text in a box

Text Warp in Design Space = Good but not great

Cricut released the Warp tool in Spring 2023. It is only available to Cricut Access subscribers (ie. not a free tool). After an initial rush of excitement, enthusiasm seems to have cooled for this feature, especially because you can’t use it to make the most popular kind of stacked wavy text.

screenshot of the Cricut text warp tool with notations
screenshot of the Cricut warp tool with notations

Let’s just take a quick look at wavy text in Design Space versus the wavy text in a square that we want. No matter how much I use the Cricut Warp Tool, I’ll never be able to get the wave text in a box design.

preview of text waved with the Cricut Test warp tool
wave text in Design Space
preview of waved text in a box made with Photopea
wave text in a box design made in PhotoPea

Free tool for simple or advanced text warping: Photopea

I’m going to use a website called PhotoPea in this tutorial. You may have read about it before; I’ve recommended it for converting photos to vectors and converting a PNG file into a multi-layer SVG.

In a nutshell, PhotoPea is an online image editor. It works like a free version of Adobe Photoshop, but it’s got tools to help with vector projects as well. I’ve been using it for years and for me it’s an indispensable toolbox for helping me design graphics for my Cricut projects.

I want to emphasize this is a 100% free method. It will work for people who don’t subscribe to Cricut Access, and even for people who don’t use Cricut at all!

How to make wavy Stacked text designs using Photopea

I’m going to focus on creating a three-line wave inside a square. After you try it, you’ll be able to adapt the technique a number of ways: two lines, four lines or more.

The principle is simple: the middle line of text is warped like a flag waving (curving high, then low). The top and bottom layers follow the contour of the wave on the inside edge and maintain a straight line on the outside edge.

Photopea does have a warp tool with pre-set options similar to Design Space, but they have the same problem DS does (can only make flag-wave text) for this particular purpose. I’m going to show you how to use better tools to make the warped designs you want.

Wavy Stacked text design template

You can try to do this technique freehand, or you can use my template to make wavy text clean and easy!

I made this template that you can use as a guide for warping your text to make sure you keep the top edges straight and the wavy lines parallel. Download the template from my Resource Library page – it’s in PNG format. I’ll explain how to use it in the steps below.

Diagram explaining the basics of making stacked wavy text using a template
Diagram explaining the basics of making stacked wavy text using a template

New templates available (March 2024):

wide ratio template

circular template

4 line template

5 line template

How to use the Free Transform and Mesh tools to wave text in PhotoPea

These tools might sound intimidating, but they’re not tough to use. My first word of advice is to give yourself time to practice the technique. It’s not an automatic wavy stacked text generator, but it’s still pretty easy for someone who understands the basics of a design program like Cricut Design Space or Silhouette Studio.

1. Open the template PNG file in Photopea.com

Start by opening the stacked wave text template PNG in PhotoPea. If you haven’t downloaded the file yet, get it from my Resource Library. From the home screen, click Open from Computer. If you are not on the home screen, go to the top toolbar and open the File menu. Select “Open” and choose the template from wherever you’ve saved it on your computer.

Once the file is open, locate the graphic in the Layers sidebar (on the right side of the screen). Click the padlock icon to lock this layer. This means you can see it but you can’t accidentally move or edit the template.

If you want the template to wave in the opposite direction, click the Edit Menu, select Transform and click Flip horizontally.

Open the stacked wavy text template and lock the layer in the Layers Panel
Open the stacked wavy text template and lock the layer in the Layers Panel

2. Add type in separate text layers

Next, add your text. Click the Type tool in the left sidebar and add your text. Instead of creating a single block with multiple lines of text, create a separate text block for each line of text.

Then, in the top tool bar, open the Font pulldown menu. You can browse the fonts included with PhotoPea, or you can check the “Local Fonts” box and see the system fonts installed on your computer. (It will take a moment for your system fonts to load). Select a font and type your phrase on the blank canvas.

If you are having troubles getting your local fonts to load, you can click the Load Font button. You will be prompted to select your preferred font from your computer to upload into PhotoPea. This font will remain available to you in future sessions.

For this demo, I am using Keep on Truckin’. It’s free for personal projects and is perfect for retro wavy text.

For a wider selection of typefaces, check out my list of 20 tested groovy fonts for wavy stacked text.

screenshot showing the font selection menu in PhotoPea
screenshot showing the font selection menu in PhotoPea

You can use the Move tool (the arrow tool at the top of the left-hand toolbar) to resize each line of text. Make sure they are the same width and they all fit inside the template box. Note: this will mean that the font size of each word is going to be different.

To resize the text using the Move tool:

Make sure to check the “Transform Controls” box in the top menu bar. This will make anchor points visible on the corners/sides of the text box. Drag and resize using these control boxes.

If you want to stretch text to make it wider without making it proportionately taller, press the Shift key and then click and drag one of the side anchor control boxes.

If you want to change the color of your text from the default, now would be a good time to do it. Use the Text tool and double click your text to highlight it. Then click the color box in the top menu (just to the right of the font size selector. You can choose from basic preselected colors, enter a hex value or select from the color palette).

3. Rasterize the text layers (ie. convert to pixels)

For the next step you are going to right click on your text in the layers menu in the right-hand sidebar. Select the Rasterize option. (You can also find this option in the Layers menu in the top toolbar in case you are working on a tablet.) This will change your text to pixels. It also means you can’t edit the text to fix a spelling mistake or change the font. If you need to correct something, it’s super easy to just re-type the word on a fresh layer.

Before warping the text layer, rasterize it to convert it to a pixel layer.
Before warping the text layer, rasterize it to convert it to a pixel layer.

4. Open the Free Transform tool to use the Mesh Warp tool

Now, we will warp the text using the Mesh tool. Click Edit menu, and the open the Free Transform option. The top menu bar will show a button labelled Warp. Click it, and now your text layer will have a 3 x 3 mesh grid overlay.

Select the Edit menu and open the Free Transform tool
Select the Edit menu and open the Free Transform tool

Now, click inside the grid. This will activate the control handles. You will see active corners (white squares) and handles (blue circles).

  1. Click and drag the white corners to stretch them over the outer corners of the template.
  2. Use the blue handles to stretch and warp the top and bottom edges of the letters. Click and drag the handles until the shape of the mesh matches the shape of the template.
The warp mesh overlay has 4 corners and 8 handles that can be turned to wave, warp and distort the layer
The warp mesh overlay has 4 corners and 8 handles. They can be positioned to wave, warp and distort the layer

Repeat these steps for every layer and you will be able to create the perfect stacked text wave box.

Update: March 2024

After doing a lot of these designs, I have refined this technique to get better results.

After you click the warp button and add the mesh overlay on the text block, select the Vertical split option from the top left corner of the menu bar. When you mouse over the text you will see a blue line tracking the pointer. Click in the middle of the text. This will create a 6 x 3 mesh over the text, and more importantly, it will create another set of handles in the middle of the block you can use to create a perfect fit inside the template.

5. Vectorize the text and export as SVG

Before you finish the graphic and save it as a vector, you must delete the template layer. In the right-hand Layers menu, highlight the template layer. Click the small trash can icon at the bottom of the Layers menu.

Delete the template layer after you are finished warping the text.
Delete the template layer after you are finished warping the text.

Next, highlight the first text layer in the Layers sidebar menu. Open the Image menu in the top menu bar, then select Vectorize Bitmap. You will see a preview of your text before it is vectorized. If it looks good, click the OK button at the top of the screen. (The controls for number of colors, image style, noise reduction, etc. should not need adjustment for this tutorial)

Repeat this step for every layer of text.

Open the Vectorize Bitmap option in PhotoPea to convert the pixel layer. to a vector layer
Open the Vectorize Bitmap option in PhotoPea to convert the pixel layer. to a vector layer
Inside the Vectorize Bitmap preview window you will see a side by side comparison of your pixel image and the vector image. If they look the same, click OK to make the conversion from pixel to vector.
Inside the Vectorize Bitmap preview window you will see a before and after comparison of your pixel image and the vector image. If they look the same, click OK to make the conversion from pixel to vector

Now your stacked wavy text box is complete and you can export it as an SVG file. Open the File Menu and select Export As, then select SVG from the options listed. Another dialogue box will open, allowing you the change the file name, file dimensions (width and height). There are also check boxes for adding raster graphics, adding hidden layers, vectorizing text, etc. You can leave all of these boxes unchecked and click Save.

preview of the Export As SVG window in Photopea.com
preview of the Export As SVG window in Photopea.com

Your SVG is finished and is ready to be imported into Design Space (or cutting program of your choice)!

Note to Silhouette Studio Basic users: PhotoPea has an Export As > DXF option. Under the Export As submenu, select “More” at the bottom of the column, then select DXF from the next list of format options. You can use this graphic in the free version of Silhouette Studio.

Use the Mesh tool for more advanced text warping projects

The mesh warp tool in PhotoPea is great for making stacked wavy text. But you can also use it to make much more complex and interesting warp effects.

  1. Add text to your canvas and rasterize it following the directions in the previous section of the tutorial. Open the Free Transform tool and click the Warp button in the top menu bar. For this example, I’m using Caslon Antique.
  2. The mesh overlay will appear on top of your layer. But this time, select one of the three options labeled “Split” – Crosswise, Vertically or Horizontally.
screenshot of the mesh warp tool in PhotoPea highlighting the split options that can be used to make a more complex grid for more interesting warp effects.
Screenshot of the mesh warp tool in PhotoPea highlighting the split options. These can be used to make a more complex grid for more interesting warp effects.
  1. Move your cursor over the mesh layer and you’ll see a preview of a new set of grid lines. When you click to add a split in the mesh, you will be adding more lines to your grid. Each new set of lines on the grid will have new white anchor points and new blue handles.

Now you can wildly warp, distort, bend and glitch your text. This is a fun toy to play with! The possibilities are endless and your designs will be one of a kind!

Screenshot of the mesh warp tool creating a highly distorted block of text
Screenshot of the mesh warp tool creating a highly distorted block of text
  1. When you’re finished, click the checkmark in the top menubar to commit your warp changes. (If you don’t like what you’ve done and want to try again, click the X to discard the changes.) Then follow the steps from the previous section to vectorize your layers and save your design as an SVG!

Here’s how some antique text looks after it gets some manipulation with the mesh warp tool in PhotoPea. This looks spooky, psychedelic and whimsical all at once!

preview of a Cheshire Cat design featuring text warped using the PhotoPea mesh warp tool
preview of a Cheshire Cat design featuring text warped using the PhotoPea mesh warp tool

Final thoughts

Warping fonts to make stacked wavy text is a cool way to make in-demand projects using an easy technique. It’s a shame that you can’t do this well in Cricut Design Space, but if you can use Design Space, you can use PhotoPea.

PhotoPea’s basic tools for warping text are really helpful to make all kinds of wavy text projects that you can use for Cricut or other cutting platforms. But if you use the Free Transform tool’s mesh warping feature and the template provided in this tutorial, you can make perfect wavy stacked text in a box for perfect projects.

And with a bit of practice, you can use the mesh warping feature to make all kinds of cool distortion effects to your text. This free, simple tool is a great way to make customized, one of a kind SVGs!

Before you go, you might like to check out our other stacked warped text projects and SVGs:

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