Introduction: Blackout Poetry 101

About: I am a human that likes to make things.

What is Blackout Poetry?

Blackout poetry is a form of poetry in which the poet uses a previously written, defaceable, text and in the act of 'blacking out' most of the words leaves a poem behind. It is a type of found poem and has often been made using newspaper articles or books. Some more examples and inspiration can be found here:

Where to get defaceable text?

Newspapers are always a good choice but not everyone gets them anymore. For this instructable I am using a book that I got from my local recycling center, you could also get a book from a second hand store - or ask your local library if they have books they want to get rid of. Sometimes you can get them for free or a low price. You can also make blackout poetry digitally and I will explain about that later on.


You will need:

  • A text that can be defaced
  • Pencil
  • Sharpie or other dark marker


  • Scissors
  • Any art supplies for illustration
  • A digital editing software for digital blackout poetry

Step 1: Compose Your Poem

I started by ripping the page I wanted out of my book. I just picked a random page but you could look through and pick a text you think has potential. You can also utilize the idea that defacing a work is in itself symbolic. Next begin underlining in pencil the words you think will go in your poem. If you are doing this digitally you could bold, italics, or highlight the text for now.

Here are some composition tips and artistic licenses you can use:

  • While a paragraph of text is read by sweeping through each line, once the text is a poem the reader may follow the words more visually
  • You can choose to include or exclude trailing punctuation but I advise against highlighting stand alone punctuation because it will be hard to see once most of the page is blacked out
  • You can make new words by removing letters from a word on the page
  • You can break up a word into a scattering of letters across the page

Step 2: Blacking It Out

There are many ways to black out text. has many examples.

Here are some different blackout methods:

  • Blacking out just the text that isn't your poem
  • Coloring the whole page black except for your poem
  • Outlining around the words of the poem
  • Obstructing the text with an illustration
  • And more!

The first two pictures here show the first style blacking out. Then I erased the pencil highlighting.

If you want to go for an entirely black page I suggest next outlining each word of your poem so you don't accidentally color it, then fill in all the rest of the space with ink.

You can also cut out your piece if it does not take up the whole page, or leave it for illustration.

Step 3: Blacking Out Digital Text

For digital blackout poetry 'highlight' your text in black. The pictures here show an example I did in Google Docs but any word processor should be able to do the same thing.

Step 4: Optional: Adding Art

For this poem I decided to draw devil horns at the bottom instead of cutting the page where the poem ended. I did another where the illustration was formed by making a shape in the not blacked out area. Some black out poetry is entirely illustrated, like the example with the moon. Other pieces combine the blacking out and the illustration. You can get as creative as you'd like.