Tag Archive | ambigrams

how I make ambigrams

I initially wanted this to be a “How To Make…” write up. But with what I had learned starting from the first time I tried my hand out at ambigramming straight through when I had decided to dedicate this blog mostly to my personal exploration of the artform, was that while – just as with other discipline – ambigramming could be taught, I wondered how will I be able to make a step by step instructional presentation when ambigrams can be created through a number of different methods. So I decided to focus on one, my method. But the thing is – my methodology may only make sense to me and maybe even more difficult to put in words.

After multiple rewrites on the content (wrote the first draft 24 May 2015) – and title changes – I opted to forgo with the instructional format as the tone, voice and language sounded a bit of a put on (and another version that seemed to be a long winded anecdote) and settled with the idea of just flat out sharing my creative process.Personally, I don’t think I am anywhere near the point where I could impose with authority the way I do things anyway.

49 published posts (two were non-ambigram related), over a hundred ambigram designs, 24,373 words as of last count, hundreds of unsorted stack of scrap paper, over 1TB disk space and 4 years later, it all remains to be just a bunch of jumbled up mental post it notes – a mishmash of pointers I remind myself, plus some actual written stuff at the back of virtually every sketch or some notebook  to remind me how I came up with certain solutions or what inspired me to do the piece and tips I picked up from other designers and a couple of orphan .doc files. This for the record is my attempt (fourth, actually) to put them all together in one place.

*** sidetrack ***
Yup! 50 posts. And while I never really set out to find readers and followers for this blog (as I just  needed a regular outlet and a place to put up my work on so I can force myself to not procrastinate too much), I have managed to get a few likes, a re-blog and 30+ followers with only one of them I personally know, not to forget some very nice people who became clients! I know, 30something in an era where a hundred followers is considered lame, yet for me having even just one person mildly interested enough in what I do already is a biggie!

danadonajr 2016

So, as a gesture of appreciation to everyone kind enough to have followed, liked and all that stuff, AND whoever else stumbled upon this inconsequential parcel of web space, whether intentionally searching for the topic or not, I present a hopefully helpful insight – of which I do not impose on anyone – how I do ambigrams.

First, a couple of caveats…

  • I believe there is no right or wrong way to make an ambigram. Whatever works work.
  • This is not a “How-to” guide, it’s more of a peek in to my process -pointers I check myself with while I draw my ambigrams.
  • The list of tips below are just that – tips. They are not commandments to live by. My process may or may not work with anyone else’s. You may think that my notes here are all bull and that’s fine, go with what you feel will work for you and you’re free to cherry pick.
  • Ambigrams, I think, are just the same as optical illusions, or as Neil deGrasse Tyson put it: ‘brain failures’. In concert with the eyes – our complex but somewhat flawed primary organ for observation, our brain is easily tricked by patterns, lines, shapes and forms when seemingly arranged in such a way that titillate our own biases and preconception. Also our brain has evolved to recognize and pick out patterns (especially faces) even and especially in a clutter or among “background noise” the way our precursors saw the zodiac patterns in the night sky, or the faces on toasted bread or sides of a mold laden wall. Therefore, our objective is to try and trick the brain, or exploit that shortcoming, into recognizing a word where that very word was formed not necessarily with its “proper” parts. Where characters and glyphs are setup trying to convince the brain into thinking it is what it appears to be.
  • Most of these tips assume that you do intend to push through with this artform and willing go and actually get your hand wet with it. Because like in any discipline you need to work on it, learn as much as you can about it, and dedicate time to honing the craft. A person just don’t go applying a “Y” incision on anybody without first going to med school expecting things to turn out just fine or pick a fight with Conor McGregor on a whim without going through some form of training. Talent can only take you so much.
  • It also assumes that we are aiming to craft a proper ambigram. Not even a perfect one, but a proper one.
  • Not all words are ambigram friendly.


Somewhat In Order Unordered List

There are no rules in ambigram making. Well, sort of.
So long as it’s legible, it’s all good. However, a really successful ambigram (as intimated by those better at this than I am) is one that even with all the manipulations applied to it, follows basic typographical fundamentals.

Keep the letterform consistent.
As with making a poster (or most printed materials) try not to mix up types and fonts. It gets too busy and taxing to the reader. Another characteristic of a good ambigram is that it does not seem to be a specially lettered word until after you rotate or flip it. If you began with a Sans Serif type then there shouldn’t be a Blackletter glyph in there unless of course the ‘concept’ calls for it.

While it is mainly aesthetics I try to keep all forms fairly similar, I try my best not to mix my “double storey a” with “single storey a” on a piece unless there really is no way around it. I have a similar problem with placing caps between lower cases but sometimes you just have to roll with it.
Keep the letterform consistent II.
Or define the ambigram’s personality. This comes in the later stages, usually as I finalize (mostly done digitally) the piece. I take on the most prominent letter and work on it first. It does not need to be the first letter, but the letter that will appear most frequently (especially with Filipino words: the letter A appears with great frequency in Filipino words). Once that letter has been interpreted to my satisfaction, I use its parts in building up the other letters employing as much (or little) modification necessary. This help ease in the reader with the word as they do not need to decipher each letter, since, as seen on the figure below, certain letters appear somewhat similar to its previous incarnate. Similarly looking parts and ligatures lend a consistent personality to the ambigram  – as if it was set to a very specific type, the way one would apply a font selection to a regularly typed word on a word processor or a graphic design program.
tadhana_sampleWhich leads us to… typography.
A little background knowledge on lettering basics IS a big plus.

Back in college I passed LETTERING 101 and 102 by the skin of my Speedball C-tip. I was not an exceptional calligrapher nor letterer, I was average to say the least but I had this knack of retaining useless information that works just as well with useful ones. I am not bookish but I read a lot and pay attention to things I know I should know even after college. Printing is a big part of my profession so I tried to be as much informed as I could in the early days, and typography has got a lot to do with printing. What I had learned then(well mostly), added to my design studio and freelance experience has provided me adequate practical understanding of the basics of typography.

So, empower yourself, know the basics, read up on it, learn the difference between types and spacing… and kerning, and width… and the parts of a type… etc. Like me, you need not be a John Hancock but you have got to be able to know a bit of it since you are basically making word art.

With that I offer a link to a downloadable type cheat sheet that I made for myself at the bottom of the post, with no obligation on your part. It focuses mostly on the anatomy of type – could be helpful in identifying or discerning which part of the type you’re supposed to be manipulating in the construction process of your ambigram. And whodathunk that types have parts and classification, amarite? At the very least it could be useless trivial fodder at boring parties, but you are free to keep it for yourself or share or pass it around if you so wish.

Research. Explore. Exploit.
This is an integral part of any creative undertaking. When I do logos, poster works, album covers and even when preparing for a meal I already know how to make, I do my homework. And this goes also with ambigram designing. Study the word you intend to work on. Include in your study word association and etymology, not just the meaning of it. Better understanding of the word will greatly help you in interpreting and setting it to appropriate type.

If you go over my ambigram work you’ll probably notice that I mostly incorporate or design them around a theme. Call it Conceptual Ambigram… or don’t. Anyway, with the research I had done for the ambigram itself, I am able to plan out an even bigger idea than I started out with. And if done correctly, would inevitable make the ambigram more well rounded. Of course not all ambigrams need to be this elaborately designed as a good ambigram can, should and will stand on its own merit. But I feel it should also be flexible enough to be incorporated with an even bigger concept and play well with its environment and not only exist in the vacuum of negative space. (Negative space, hehehe… get it..? vacuum..? space..? typography joke..? lame? ah well)

brand-x_sampleBut before you jump into doing convoluted pieces…

Take up simple words first…
Take it easy. Start tackling simple word problems first, and after you’ve got the hang of it, it’ll be easier finding solutions to more complex word combinations after having gone through with the easy stuff.

… then interpret it in mono weight letterform…
The simpler the better. Besides, having created your ambigram in mono weight first, you now have the foundation you can build upon should you decide to stylize the piece.
sting_samplelost01…then try doing it in Blackletter.
Like it or not Blackletter is THE welcome mat for beginners. I found that it has the flexibility needed to “coax” a glyph, or at least a part of it, to form the letter you need. Blackletters, usually, are created with parallel vertical parts that you can easily re-purpose for the flip. What type can afford you the bowl or stress of an “o” to turn into a stem of say… an “r”? Yup, Blackletter, while being an old-timey font is probably the most flexible and ambigram friendly type classification.

Spell the word out…
And then below it- spell it backwards. With my early works, this was a system I devised so that I could actually see which letter correlates with which when flipped. I have not done this for a while now because I had become increasingly familiar with letter correlation and seeing which combination works best, but I do go back to it when the word I’m doing require very complex combinations, especially with chain ambigrams. This system, though, has its limitations, as sometimes a letter with two legs will match-up with a single stemmed letter thus prompting you to “borrow” from the next which kind of messes up the match-up. However, for beginners this could very well be a useful step as you try to manage your way through your own system.


Use less of flourishes…(gasp)
I am the biggest transgressor of this. I did not realize I enjoyed putting too much flourishes on my earlier works (now, I only sparingly sprinkle them around as crossbars). While these are great runaround solution, too much of it tends to be distracting.thewitchinghour_sample

The ambigram above was both my debut piece and first foray to competitive ambigram making, bagged 2nd place I believe. Ooh, look at them lovely flourishes! Remember kids: do as I say, not as I do… hehehe

For coupled words and phrases, layering them may be a more effective solution than having them on the same plane. Only be wary to not overlap or overcrowd where it’d be too busy to read. Sometimes this too work on single words where a ligature could overlay itself  on top of the next glyph to act as part of the corresponding overturned letter. Choosing to do this, however, you may have to flex a lot more creative muscles than you’d normally use with mono-weight and monotone ambigrams but the reward could be very satisfying having made the ambigram more dynamic.
bigbang2_sampleLayering a medium “Bang” over a heavier “Big” and a couple of larger iterations somewhat created a gradually expanding radial motion suggesting an explosive origin of sort. And while “Bang” was on top, you are still prompted to say “Big Bang” because “Big” is more imposing (and probably familiarity with the phrase helps a lot too).

Approach it as you would any puzzle.
Not only is ambigram an optical illusion, it’s also a puzzle to be solved. And as you would with any puzzle, you first look at all the parts available to you and recognize which would act as the linchpin or the keystone or a cipher that could thread through or hold together or break the code to help you set things in motion. How do you do that? (Un)fortunately, through multiple failures.

ACTUAL TIP –> Make each glyph slightly elongated or taller.
The brain can recognize (most of the time) the top half of a letter at a glance. Familiarity will get you halfway through recognizing the word. Remember, we are hardwired to recognize and pick out patterns. Try covering the lower half part of the ambigram below, and see if you can make out the word.

danadonajr 2016 ambigram
By the way, this is the world premiere of this ambigram. And after a painstakingly long time debating with myself what to call it, I have finally decided to name this one “theory”. Its proximity to the Big Bang ambigram was purely coincidental.

Keep on sketching…
When developing a piece, explore every possibility. Try different combinations, letterforms and ambigram types. Sketch away… use the back of misprints and discarded reports from ten years ago… save a tree.

Keep a pen handy (better if with a notebook) wherever you go, you’ll never know when the muses shall visit you next. The idea for the piece below came to me while I was stuck in traffic with no pen and paper around and I had to consciously block everything else out until I got home, so I wouldn’t forget. You can check out the final ambigram by clicking >>> this link <<<.

stop&gostop&go sketch01

While not necessary, learn a graphic design program.
You can create great ambigrams by hand, so you don’t actually have to. Computer programs just get things done a lot faster, not necessarily better. But wouldn’t it be nice to have that know-how in your arsenal, ready to be pulled out when needed? So if you do decide to try your hand on a software, invest on a vector based program.

Use an existing font… as a jump off platform.
While it’s easy and novel using a readily available font and work it to form an ambigram, more often than not the final product appears to be forced and awkward. Believe me, I used to edit fonts straight away. It’s a great exercise, I can attest to that, but there seem to be no pleasure (at least to me) gained from it. Now, I usually try and approximate the general characteristic of a certain font but still work the ambigram from scratch. The ambigrams below were based off Serpentine.

titanium sample

Take advantage of all the glyphs available.
You don’t stop with just the letters, no, you have at your disposal every numeral, symbol, punctuation and diacritical mark! Use them if necessary. Best example I can give you is my most favorite piece, PASKO! Take notice of the last two glyphs, the “O” and the “!”, as they were kerned tight enough to form the “P” when overturned. Of course, I had to adjust all the other letter spaces to even them out.
danadonajr 2011Hey! It seems that while this piece has appeared in Nikita Prokhorov’s Ambigrams Revealed and other places, this is the first time it has graced this blog!

Ask for advice.
A lot of people have been doing this a lot longer than you’d imagined. And the people that I know who have and still are, are so generous with their feedback and advise. Look for and try going on forums or join a community. I belong to an FB group called Fellow Ambigrammists.

Check out other ambigrammists work, and wallow in sorrow with the realization that you’re too stupid to have not thought of or done that piece first! You’re never going to be as good as them! (That last line was a self-deprecating sarcasm, just in case it went whooosh! by you.) But really, you don’t have to be as good as anybody, you just have to find your voice, your style, your niche. So, learn from their work… digest… take inspiration from them… interact with them… ask questions… then incorporate whatever you’ve learned from all these with your next attempt.

Show your work and take a hit.
Not every “ambigram” you make will be appreciated the way you thought it’d be and get an A+ grade or raving reviews. Take note: just because you can “read” the ambigram doesn’t mean others will be able to. Sometimes the best comments you can get are those that ask “What does it say?” or “This so and so letter seems weak.” or “Can’t read it.” And that is just fine. What could come after that is an intelligent discourse on better approach to specific faults in the piece and all these new information will provide you new and different perspectives that’ll challenge you in to coming up with more creative ways to tackling the next iteration or an entirely new piece.

Much as it feels good to get a “like” when I post on the Fellow page, my actual intention is to get relevant feedback that could bring attention to possible flaws that I might have missed due to my own biases. I try as much not to prime the members with captions obviously to test the ambigram’s legibility. That is why I even put up Filipino ambigrams, or as I call them Suliktad, for the same reason.

If at first you don’t succeed…
Try the word out on a different ambigram type. Aside from the usual rotational, you could try it as a chain, reflective, perceptual shift or a symbiotogram. Yes, there are other types of ambigram you can exploit. Go for it, just remember each type operates on slightly different principles.

If that don’t work as well… do not be fixated on a single word/phrase/name.
Be open to the possibility that the word/phrase you are trying to create is a non-ambigram friendly word, maybe it’s just not doable. Find a more suitable synonym or another form of the word. There are plenty of words that I have been working on and have just recently cracked and there are even more that I haven’t. Or…

Just, Walk away… Renee…
When you’re at your wits end, walk away. Go read a book, binge watch The Night Of, listen to Tina Fey’s Bossypants audiobook, immerse yourself in the discography of MC Miker G and DJ Sven, climb a mountain, ford a stream, follow a rainbow, take up line dancing, do gardening, repair that leaky faucet you promised your wife you’d do or work on other materials and designs. Put it out of your mind. Then after a spell, come back to it with hopefully fresher eyes. You might realize that you are just being stubbornly myopic and looking for a solution to the wrong problem.

Forget everything I said…
After churning out designs after another based on your methodology, things start getting… familiar. And familiarity keeps you blind and numb to creeping faults in your system. You tend to be complacent and dependent on it because it works for you, you’re accustomed to it. So, once in a while, go against your gut. Move out of your comfort zone. This might or might not deliver a pleasant looking piece, but it’s beneficial either way in the sense that it’ll keep you in check, on your toes, and not rest on your laurels. Shake things up. Challenge yourself.



If it is truly necessary for creating ambigrams to have a rule, even just one… then definitely, an ambigram needs to be legible. A really successful ambigram can be read easily even if you are not familiar with the word or its meaning.

There you have it, my ambigram making process. Winding it down, let me add this one “WHY” to the list. Why I do ambigrams.

The “Yes!” simultaneous with a fist pump moment.
Or simply put- the Eureka! or Aha! moment.

This is probably the biggest driving force for me, something that I thought was lacking in my attempts with other discipline and artform. I tried Visual Arts in my college days, it’s not for me. Experimented with photography and then video production, which I both enjoyed very much and still take on from time to time, but it wasn’t my calling.

Easily, over 75% of my ambigram solutions were followed immediately after with fist pump gestures. In fact, to me, ambigramming provide twice the gratification. First, this rush that happens midway through the process after having solved the puzzle. And second, as I contemplate on a finalized version of the ambigram. There’s this feeling of satisfaction and completeness I get after cracking the code and finding a solution to the problem at hand, and then looking at the final piece. Not better than sex – as nothing is, but relatively close.

And now we’ve come to a not-so-real-time  account of me doing an ambigram.
First, apologies for the camera work. As you’d soon find out it’s not easy shooting yourself (with a phone) as you draw. The camera tends to wander off the subject as I zoned in on sketching, and at times the pencil would just hover about as I shift my focus on the phone to see if I have it all still in frame. Also, there was supposed to be an annotative track over the video but the recording was awful and I sounded nervous so I took it out. Maybe on my next attempt. The video was sped up enough so we can still follow the process without getting a headache because at normal speed it seemed to be just dragging on. Am sure no academy award will find its way to my mantle with this stuff.

The Oprah moment we’ve all been waiting for… Freebie!!!
Finally as promised here is the >>> link to my cheat sheet <<<. Enjoy!

Hmm… nice way to celebrate my 50th post, 4th year with WordPress and end 2016 with. Hopefully you could all check back in for issues 51 and 52 for an ambitious multi-layered rotational and chain combo suliktad and journey back to the Ambiverse. Maraming Salamat, po!!!


in the beginning…

bigbang ambigram danadonajr2016

With a mental picture of the word “BANG” in ambigram, I initially thought there was no reason to see it through especially without an exclamation mark to cap it. But the character type style I had in mind was a break away from the usual Blackletter type or the mixed Formal/Serif type I do, that I had to see if it’s actually doable. It’s almost a cross between Geometric type Sanserif and a Slab Serif, a very rare ambigram style, at least in my folio.

Anyway, with an almost finished form of the word done in CorelDraw, It just presented itself to me. Like having two particles colliding then creating all sorts of sparks and light inside my head. BIG BANG. The “B” and the “G” was already there and all I needed was a natural ambigram character… the “I”. But I thought it would even be better if I set the type in a heavier weight – very apt for the word I was going for… and have the word “Bang” lay over it (and I’m all about layers!)

I had no intention of providing a crossbar for the “A”, which I thought in this case would make the “N” less recognizable, but as it stands the form could also be read as “N-V, I-W or M-I”, so I know I had to do something other than the usual “safe trick” of a small glyph between the legs (that usually works with Blackletters and Serifs) as on the onset I knew it would not go well with the type style I had set the ambigram in.

Taking full in, what now had become a new concept, I cheated. I went to my unpublished work (for Ambiverse2) and reinterpreted the atom illustration that I used for a similar purpose. And I think it fits well here. Serving both as the “A” crossbar and an appropriate illustrative element (no pun intended).

Add a couple more instances of “BIG” in different sizes to simulate or suggest radial motion and a starburst behind… voila! The beginning of a new universe.

This piece debuted a couple of months back on the wall of the Fellow Ambigrammist Facebook page.



While Edwin Hubble was first to observe the expanding universe, it was actually Georges Lemaitre who proposed the hypothesis we now call The Big Bang Theory (not the sitcom) built upon Albert Einstein’s General Relativity. He was an astronomer, mathematician, physics professor… and an ordained priest, Jesuit, I think.

It was said that Einstein brushed this theory off initially because it did not conform to his (Einstein’s) static universe belief, but almost immediately after Hubble’s discovery was published, Einstein openly endorsed Lemaitre’s hypothesis. Einstein then denounced his own “cosmological constant” modifications on his equations allegedly referring to it as his “greatest blunder”… which, as it now turns out, astronomers believe could possibly explain the theoretical Dark Energy… but that’s another story.

Got that from watching a whole lot of Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson etal Youtube videos and BBC docus.


#danadonajr #ambigram #imagefoundry

komiks 2: ang panday

ang panday ambigram by danadonajr 2016

Panday is arguably the most popular Filipino male comic book hero, and second most iconic, next to Darna. (Ang) Panday ( (The) Blacksmith in English) was created in the late 70’s and fleshed out in to the big screen in the early 80s by Philippine Cinema’s Action King, Fernando Poe Jr., which most likely gave the character just the right amount “creds” for it to be catapulted and cemented to its place in Philippine pop culture.

Although the original cinematic version of Panday, presented ala fantasy adventure period flick, slightly differ from the source material which has a more contemporary flavor to it, all the basic premise are pretty much the same, wherein the blacksmith Flavio forges a dagger from a meteorite and uses it to vanquish evil despot Lizardo and his horde of Orc-like creatures, engkantos and plain clothes henchmen.

The final ambigram above is the third version in a series of sketches and redraws with play on either just Panday and Ang Panday. I went with Ang Panday as Flavio is most often referred to with his title within or outside the story. The other two versions are below.

panday ambigram by danadonajr 2016

ang panday ambigram ver01 by danadonajr 2016

Initial sketches go as far back as 4-5 years ago.

I decided to present the final art the same way I did the Darna ambigram in hopes of being able to continue on and create a series of homage pieces on Filipino comics characters, similar to what I intended with the DC Ambiverse series.

love potion

ambigram by danadonajr

This suliktad (ambigram) took me  years to make.

It’s one of the first words I tried out back when I started doing ambigrams. I think I may have saved the old sketches back home but I remember setting aside the idea since I did not like what I had done then. (I found one of the initial design exploration! See below.) I tried using different “font” style that would fit in with the essence of the word, but nothing seems to fit.danadonajrI’d come back to the word now and then but I’d set it aside in favor of other more cooperative words.

And while NOW it seem that I had arrived at a “no-brainer” solution, I only was able to visualize it in my mind and put it on paper a few months ago. Makes me feel stupid trying to flip the “U” for over four years. And also probably because I stubbornly wanted to retain the em-width of the “M”. The trick I found was to keep the initial stroke of the “U” detached from the next stem and add a tail that when once inverted- would form the “Y” with its ascender just casually resting over the initial stroke of “U”. GENIUS! I think… The vector process took a while to be done as well because… you know… procrastination. Hehe…


The final vector was a result of multiple revisions and form exploration.


While I felt the letterform in the sketch was great, the initial vector output was not really working for me so I made changes that I felt was warranted. I replaced the small individual crossbars of all the “A’s” with a longer ribbon as crossbar to sweep across two characters, and instead of having the initial stroke of the “U” tilted, I just italicized the whole word. The “G/A” flip looked forced and droopy so some node edits were done.

And here’s the result.danadonajr


Gayuma is as you may have guessed, love potion in Filipino. Similar to most western pop culture references it it supposed to be ingested (unwittingly) to rouse up some sort of blind affection(?) to someone’s object of infatuation. Come to think of it, in today’s setting such a thing would definitely be considered illegal.

Anyway, I already have something ready for my next post, so just stay tuned, if you will. Happy Valentines!

not from around here

Welcome my first post of the year!ambigram by danadonajr

This ambigram is supposed to be sent in as a competition piece for this contest in ambigr.am, a new ambigram dedicated website. “Supposed to be sent in” because I totally forgot to. Hehe.

Anyway, I created this piece around the same time I created the other “villains” pieces in 2013, that I then submitted to a competition in ambigramsrevealed.com. So yeah, this is an old one. I submitted four in total wherein I had to choose between sending in “SITH” or this one. I decided to send in “SITH” as my fourth entry and this was left in the “to be revisited” pile. I thought it didn’t look vile enough.

(The other entry to that Villains Challenge was posted late last year with the title “chapter 52, page 624”, if you’re interested. Also I might post the other two entries some other time.)

While excited to see the outcome of this new hosted competition, I initially had to regretfully tell Kai Hammond, of ambigr.am, that I might not be able to join in the fun. Work stuff. But then, going over some of my files for leftover glyphs and symbols for an unrelated project – I saw the ambigram file again and it fit the theme of the new competition. I took it out of “the pile” and dusted it off and as I said above, totally forgot to send it in before deadline.

So I thought I should just post the piece here instead. It’s called ALIENS. just in case it’s not as legible as I thought it to be . 😉 And here’s a radially zoomed in version.

ambigram by danadonajr

The original sketch design, I remember (I wanted to post it here but I cannot find it anywhere), form these glyphs like long alien fingers with suction cup-like ends, at least that’s what I was going for. But thought it looked more like a blob of nasal excretion so I tried out other letter forms in CorelDraw from scratch.

And before finally deciding to put 12 different crop circle-ish glyphs around the finished ambigram, I had initially thought to layer in various alien-ish characters on top or below it but scrapped it because I felt it might be too distracting.

And there you have it, my first 2016 ambigram post. Be sure to check back in a couple of days as I’ll be posting a newly finished piece in time for Valentines. Well I did not create it for Valentines exactly but thematically (is that a word?) it fits!

Thanks for stopping by!

the ambiverse

Here’s what happen when a comicbook fanboy is also an ambigram enthusiast.ashcan_arrow ambigramambiverse_arrow_cover72ashcan_flash ambigramambiverse_flash_cover72

The images above are the first in a series of (hopefully 52) ambigram designs paying homage to DC comics, its Multiverse and the character(s) depicted, presented like a comic book cover.

I have this lengthy rant about my fan-boy persona clumped up in my brain but I thought it’d be better to just focus here and give a small backgrounder on the concept…

I began sketching both ambigrams right after watching the Season 1 finale of The Flash. Still high with that awe-inspiring ending, I was able to come up with three nice ambigrams and a few more needing a lot of retouching. I was happy with the end result (especially with Arrow) that I immediately looked for a previously created (and unrelated) “atom” ambigram and reworked it to make the style of the type look superhero-ish. But I had other stuff to do, so just as I had done with my other previous superhero ambigrams, I saved the vector files and placed everything on a folder for future use.

I don’t know how it happened but right after re-watching both the Legends of Tomorrow preview and the Batman V Superman trailer, weeks after, there was a “bang” somewhere in my mind and a universe was created.

The Ambiverse…

Duality. Multiplicity.
Two (or multiple) interpretations/perspective, one subject.

I was surprised that it took me this long to recognize the parallels that when it hit me I was grinning like The Joker with a fresh plan to ruin old Bat-ears’ nocturnal runs. I’m going to make a comic-book cross-over event parody! And it will turn the universe upside-down. (Hey, I should have used that as a subheading! Hmm…)

Coining the portmanteau came almost naturally. Reworking DC’s 2005-2012 logo into an ambigram was easy since it’s almost an ambigram in its original form.

I will be honest though, in saying that I may not have enough material and/or patience for that matter to push on with this… as I will have to do 52 “One-Shot” comic-book cover inspired designs on top of my other ambigram works. It seem so overwhelming. And the way I design/do ambigrams… this will take more than 52 months to finish! However, I like this concept very much that I’m taking on the challenge however long it takes.

As I began working on the illustrations, I realized that it has been ages since I flexed my figure drawing muscles and *insert self-deprecating laugh here* I am very, very rusty! The last time I did full figure drawings was probably back in college. When I did my layouts for pictorials for CD inlays all I did were roughs with very little detail. I am going to need a lot of practice… now, where did I leave my Burne Hogarth?

Finally, since I already mentioned my ATOM ambigram above, it’s going to be one of the two designs I’ll put up here next time.

chapter 52, page 624

ambigram fanfic
 opened the letter dated roughly a year ago. The penmanship was shaky but quite elegant, he thought.

My Dear Robert,

Ahh, I sure would care to see the look upon your face when you get this quite unexpected letter from me. Especially after this letter will have found you in the eventuality of my death.      

I have missed you. It has been a while since I last saw you with Saunière’s granddaughter from within the police vehicle as they drove me away. How is she, by the way? Neither of you went to my sentencing. And you kept the Priory’s final secrets from me very well. Oh, how I wish I was with you when you went to see The Grail’s final resting place. Were you able to trace the bloodline? Ahh, but I hold no ill feeling. You did what you thought was necessary as I did what I thought was.

Although, my dear Robert, my reasons were far more devious than I lead on, for mine were personal. I had to find the Grail for my own salvation.

Let me enlighten you: if you thought my murdering all those people to reveal the best kept secret the world never knew was the worst I have done, well I have done graver things. So grave that only the blood of Christ or that of the redeemer’s descendants can save me.

And now my sins have come back to persecute me and rightfully render judgment. I shall soon be dead in a way more hideous than anyone could ever imagine.

Die if I must, I thought I needed to tell this story to someone I could trust, someone who once considered me a friend.

Under strange circumstances, four days ago, William Clay and his brother Simon were both murdered right inside the study of their nice home in New York. Simon died from blood loss when the killer’s bullet severed an artery in his neck, before being stabbed 52 times. While William, I found, received the same amount of stab wounds on his face and torso before being shot right between the eyes. The object used to stab William was a shard from one of the damaged glass casings in the study, which housed rare items. The study was devastated. However, while every curio lay scattered on the floor among the broken glass shards, the authorities found only one item missing…

A book. Or to be more specific: loose pages from a book.

So what did this have to do with the Grail and my impending death, you ask?

Well, William Clay was born Hans Wilhelm Gruber, third son to an Austrian cobbler and a Bavarian school teacher. Even in his younger days, he already showed a great fascination and interest in Ariosophy; the occult mysticism and Volkisch studies that not too long after military school, he became part of the Thule Society, with Alfred Rosenberg as benefactor.

Gruber not only shared Rosenberg’s anti-Semetic stance but was a staunch advocate of his patron’s religious views and was even more outspoken about having Christianity eliminated – it being born out of Judaism –  favoring the revival of Asatru as the true religion.

His “invaluable” assistance to Rosenberg in leading the Nazis while Hitler was imprisoned after the Munich Beer Hall Putsch earned him a position of considerable influence at the Ahnenerbe ranks.

But, dear Robert, I may have buried the lead in neglecting to say that both of Wilhelm’s brothers died of cholera at a very young age…

So who, you may ask, was Simon Clay?

Wilhelm’s fascination with the occult got him associated with the Thule Society. But more than what the society had to give, he was intrigued with a charismatic young astrologer and clairvoyant who was the ward of Erik Hanussen- he was called Simon Peter Krieg. It was thought that Krieg, not Hanussen, taught Hitler the secrets of influencing a crowd. Before Hanussen’s death, however, Krieg went on his own and became astrologer to various high ranking officers within the Schutzstaffel, including Heinrich Himmler who introduced him to the Ahnenerbe in order to attempt “to harness not only natural, but also supernatural forces.” There, he was first introduced to Wilhelm Gruber, two years before I met them both.

I was not aware that my research attracted the attention of the Ahnenerbe up until the time they showed up in my place near Vienna. While their agenda was incongruent with my take on the matter, they were just as passionate in locating the whereabouts of the grail. And they were more than willing to pay for my services. 

For what it was worth, the two offered genuine friendship to me. And while I am not one to judge… Gruber and Krieg seemed to be even more friendly with each other.

Gruber and Krieg, with their unquenchable thirst for the search of mystical forces to control, spearheaded the Nazi’s quest to find the Heilige Lanze, the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, the hamarinn Asabragr, the Book of Thot, the Illuminati diamond, the Philosopher’s Stone, and Jason’s Golden Fleece, among others. All of their research were written down on a carefully crafted journal whose pages were watermarked with ambigrams of the names of high-ranking Nazi members.

Supposedly, these ambigrams were designed by Krieg himself, whom I learned was well-versed in symbolism. Gruber had him create a series of ambigrams which he believed would provide immense power to those whose names were made into. Of course, we now know the case was not such, but that gesture made Gruber and Krieg favorable in the eyes of the Fuhrer. This  journal with ambigram watermarks that they called “Buch der Arische Weisheit” was mass-produced and distributed to everyone whose names were made into ambigrams –  from Hiltler to Hess.

While my own search for the grail was at a standstill, Gruber and Krieg approached me in haste late July of 1944. They said the SS were looking for them. Krieg said that there were talks that they had already found some powerful relics and they were keeping them for themselves and were behind plans to overthrow the Fuhrer. They were being linked to Stauffenberg. Gruber insisted they were not party to the plot and he was contemplating on turning himself in to explain. He wanted to know how goes my search so that they may use it in their defense. Krieg was more realistic in his belief that all would be for naught as all the journals they had given out were already collected and destroyed. Everyone was keeping their distance. Krieg was very convincing when he presented an alternative plan. He said they both needed to die. They were to die in an explosion, supposedly while attempting to harness unfathomable energies. Their bodies would be found and declared dead and their betrayal touted true.

And I was to help them carry this out. All I needed to do was find them doppelgangers.

I don’t know what made me agree to this proposal. It could be the thirty uncut diamonds he handed me instantly or the scrap of paper with three names written on it with the heading “Grobmeister.” Whatever it was, it took no time at all for me to lure two unsuspecting interns… 

Gruber and Krieg had other people help them out of Berlin and the news of the explosion was the last time I heard of both. Indeed, it happened the way Krieg envisioned it.

Fast-forward to spring of ’91 when a Prussian Psychologist named Simon Clay purchased at an auction in Monte Cristo a surviving Hitler ambigram page of the now infamous “Buch der Arische Weisheit.” That was when I knew both he and “his brother” were still alive.

As to who killed them both, I have no idea. But I could hazard a guess as to “why”, and if I should follow their fate, then it could only mean that somebody may have found out the real identities of Gruber and Krieg. If so, then a few more dead bodies shall follow. For, like the Clays, both men continued to delve with the occult and mysticism and founded a society similar to the Thule.

It took a while for me to decide if I would go on and confess my sins to you. I had to stop for a good three hours before coming back to this letter. While I have divulged my association with the Clays and what I have done to help them escape, try as much, I find it rather hard to tell you the reason for which I am to die. Believe me, I thought I could but I am afraid it is something I will take to my grave. I could be wrong with my fate Robert, but it is very likely that I am not.  Instead, I shall let you find out only if you wish to and not because circumstances have forced their way to you. Please indulge an old man about to meet his judgment, let me leave you with 


goodbye my dear,

Inspector Drebin took a drag off his Alhambra and stubbed the butt on the tray as he blew a cloud of musky smoke. He then folded the letter along its creases, gazed into the eyes of the man seated in front of him then flipped it across the desk.

He shifted his eyes towards the unimpressive key he had confiscated from the American. Odd little thing. “So that is how you got yourself involved, professor?” he asked as he lifted the key to about six inches to his face. “That is all you can tell me, no?”

Robert reached for the letter then slid it inside the breast pocket of his Harris Tweed. “That’s all there is… the rest you know.”

“You believe this? This whatshisname…? Mr. Leigh, right? His narrative of Nazi mumbo jumbo? Ario-so-cra-cy? But more importantly – Jesus had … children?”

Robert disregarded the last remark but tried to make his explanation as understandable as possible. “It’s actually Ariosophy. A branch of study by the Nazi rooted in the belief that true Germans originated from the superhuman race of Aryans. The Nazis were widely believed to have been eager to lay claim to mystical objects, icons and symbols that they thought would grant them eternal power, the Swastika, the Spear of Destiny, the Holy Grail…”

The tired Inspector waved him off, uninterested. “Yeah, yeah… you see, professor, I’m a simple man. I go by what is in front of me. I got here with me a simple case. This key here, opens SOMETHING that someone wants. And whoever that someone is – WILL kill to have it in his possession.

Now, this “something” belonged to William Clay, that was passed on to a couple of people until it reached your dead friend. Now, it’s likely that those dead people indeed were Nazi fucks and somebody found them out and began offing them- which by the way, if true, IS exactly what they deserved, but…..”

Inspector Drebin stuck another Alhambra between his lips and drew close his disposable lighter.

“That does not explain why you were found locked up beside a dead man, inside the private vault of…”

Just then, two loud gunshots rang. Then another and another. There were now multiple gunshots blazing a few meters outside the room. The two men looked at each other, then the Inspector dropped the Aldus key and the evidence back inside his drawer and locked them in.

He walked from around the desk towards the door, drew his service firearm, turned around and instructed the man being questioned, “Stay here.”

As the inspector rushed outside, Robert stood up and walked behind the desk and jiggled the drawer. The gunshots were getting closer. He inspected the lock and thanked his lucky stars that they were just cheap regular drawer locks, the kind easily opened with a paper clip.

The blaring noise was now just a few meters away.

As if used with a proper key, the lock unlatched and Robert drew the drawer open. Immediately, he grabbed the Aldus key and was about to close the drawer back when he spotted something on the evidence bag that he failed to recognize earlier.

The ambigram was not the important element on the page. It was something that was printed on the other side. Something printed with a special ink that was revealed when it was exposed to the dead banker’s blood. The reason why the Clays were collecting every page they could.

And with that, Robert knew where he needed to go next. More importantly, he now knew the person who was going to be murdered next and who was killing them all.

Inspector Drebin barged in to the room. Breathing heavily – no – gagging, his face was pale and he held on to the left side of his neck. As soon as the stubby man dropped on the floor, Robert pocketed the Aldus key and the evidence bag and made a beeline for the door.

He had not even had a full step outside when he felt his right thigh explode in pain. He let out a loud cry. As he fell back he felt another searing pain, this time from his left clavicle. Sprawled down on the floor, Robert felt he was about to go unconscious.

And with all the things that had just happened, one thing remained in his thoughts. It was the Inspector’s words, If those dead people were actually Nazi fucks, well they got exactly what they deserved!

Robert thought – with what he now knew, he could save the men he believed to be in danger… but being fully aware of what they were and what they had done – should he?

He tried to get up but couldn’t. The pain was unbearable. A few meters from where he lay, he saw a figure raise an arm. The face was blurry but he thought he saw the barrel of a gun. And before he lapsed into unconsciousness, Robert heard two shots fired.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The principal character alluded to first appeared in 2000 in a NY Times #1 Bestselling book.

The story  you have just read, entitled “Chapter 52, page 624”, is intended to appear as a promotional preview excerpt of the (non-existent) book called “Buch der Arische Weisheit” referring to a fabled (fictional) Nazi book within the story itself. (I know this really won’t be a good title for a book, but whatever… I’m stumped, and I guess I’ll just replace it with a better one when “it” comes to me). No other chapter prior or thereafter comes.

A couple of names were nods to an unrelated film franchise (can you guess which ones? and from where?) but any resemblance to actual events, places and persons, living or dead, portrayed above, is pure coincidence as these are mere plot devices prevalent in pop culture and conspiracy theories I have stitched together.

This fanfic was written (or was just an outline) a few of years ago and have been gathering digital dust in draft limbo both in my hard drive and wordpress. It slowly got revised, reworked, rewritten, edited and re-edited up until yesterday, I swear.

Thanks to my sister, Anne, for lending a fresh pair of eyes.

The sketches for the ambigrams were created almost simultaneous with the story, and vectorized with CorelDraw then manipulated with Photoshop for the final presentation.

A “final” version was submitted to the Villains Ambigram Challenge over at ambigramsrevealed.com in late 2013 with the ambigrams laid over this very nice image I downloaded from iStockphoto (The last image above). The resulting image is supposed to convey the fall of the Nazis after the war, when all their propaganda posters were one by one being torn down.

While trying out ways to present the ambigram, I was fortunate enough to have stumbled upon this amazing website called psdcovers.com. It’s basically a website that allows you to download Photoshop Action Scripts for use as mock-ups or comps. And while I could have gone and set up my own way of “shopping” the cover artwork on to a photograph of a book for the mock poster, I felt I needed to try it out. And it was a very nice learning experience since I am not really an action script guy.

That’s all I have for this month, hope you all can drop by again when the next post comes up.

of things that go bump in the night (part2?)

Philippine folklore is a treasure trove of characters from the silly to the scary. Today, in line with the upcoming Halloween festivities, I present to you an ambigram of one of the country’s scariest. He’d probably rank somewhere between the Manananggal and the Tikbalang.


The Kapre is a dark skinned, foul smelling, cigar chomping, acacia tree dweller. Depends on who you ask, this gigantic night creature could either be a malevolent creature bent on impregnating an unsuspecting virgin or just a recluse who, if smitten, will not stop until he gets his way- kinda like a male Alex Forrest ( Fatal Attraction) with supernatural/paranormal powers. He is a prominent fixture in horror flicks and camping stories.

In coming up with the design, I thought it’d be appropriate (and cool) to set the characters to mimic the lettering style of classic horror movies. That green glow just add to the eeriness.

So, I hope this inspired you to create something for your Halloween needs, and sorry I had been a bit busier than usual to write on this space. Just keep checking back in for more ambigram works. The next few issues will be worth it. For other stuff I’ve done, please check out http://imagefoundry.wix.com/imagefoundry. Thanks!

stuff myths are made of

I am dropping four “A”- bombs today.  This is to make up for nearly (okay…, over!) a month of neglecting this space. So, bahala na…, I’ll be starting off with…

created by danadonajr2013

BATHALA is a Tagalog deity worshiped by the pre-Christian Filipinos whose mythology still remain intact even after 300+ years of Spanish-brought Catholicism.

Belief in Bathala, whose name is derived from the Sanskrit “bhattara” (noble lord), came by way of Indian traders most likely via south-west of the archipelago. ( I just learned that in Indonesia, Batara is a traditional reference to a male deity.)

The creation of all life is attributed to him by the Tagalogs (a Filipino ethnic group) and is believed to be living in kalawakan (heavens; or more like somewhere over and beyond the clouds), similarities he has with the Christian God which the Spanish friars used (exploited) in converting the natives. Thus the term Bathala became synonymous with God, however, the more common Filipino translation for God is Diyos (from the Spanish: Dios). Note that our ancestors, being animists as well, believed Bathala dwelt also in the trees, in rivers, in the air, even in rocks and mountains.

The somewhat fatalistic Filipino idiomatic expression “Bahala na” (which could mean: “God will provide”; “come what may”; or even “whatever”) is derived from Bathala. It’s a coping mechanism in times of uncertainty, where one cast all care aside and leave (and accept) his fate at the hands of God … Or where one rest his well-being on someone else,  as the terms: bahala (take charge) pamamahala (governance) pamahalaan (government) all can be traced back to Bathala.

The piece above, along with the next two, were submitted as entries to an ambigram challenge over at ambigramsrevealed.com.  Edited background used in this piece was from psdgraphics.com, check them out as they’ve got loads of free stuff for downloads there.

created by danadonajr2013

NOT the Marvel superhero but the Norse god to whom the same comic character was based upon. The character style was inspired by the History Channel’s Vikings series. And it was around that time (after completing season 1) that I made the initial drawings. A major design decision I had to make was to go with a central “O” or an “H/O” flip. I thought that former would be more of a challenge (and prettier ;-)) so I went with it. I will admit that I had doubts on the legibility of the ambigram as even my trusty audience had a long and hard time deciphering the word.

While the ambigram itself was done for some time now, only until the challenge came out did I decided to “finalize” it with Photoshop. I added the weave pattern, basically, to emulate those that are found on Mjolnir trinkets and other Nordic items. I would’ve wanted to add blood spatter on it but thought it’d be too much.

Medusacreated by danadonajr2013This piece is a gorgoneion. In ancient Greece (I read) warriors were said wear these kinds of amulets on their shields (and even on door panels) as protection or something to ward off harm. Though usually depicted with a disembodied head facing the spectator, I opted to go top view showing only the “snake-hairs” as they slither in and out beside one another. Then I finished it off looking as if it was carved on a marble slate.

There were a couple of other ways (I found) to doing a Medusa ambigram- but this way (a chain ambigram), I thought, suited my intentions.

and lastly, Maharlika.

created by danadonajr2013

Now, Maharlika is not a mythical character like the three above. Owing to its Sanskrit origin, “maharddhika” meaning, a man of wealth, knowledge or ability, it has come in modern times to be defined as nobility. During pre-colonial Philippines, however, the Maharlika were of lower class of nobility that served the lakans, datus, or rajahs in times of war, they were the warrior class. Above them were the freemen called Timawa and on top of the hierarchy were the ruling class called Maginoo ( the lakans). At the bottom  were the Alipin.

I included this ambigram in this post because it was created with the same character style as with Bathala. Since both  words were of Sanskrit etymology, I thought it would be appropriate to use the same character style. The Maharlika ambigram was created just a couple of weeks ago, after I started redesigning each glyph of the Bathala ambigram into an actual functioning CG font (which is still a long ways from getting published).

Below is a comp of the sketches and initial design exploration of all four ambigrams featured today.

created by danadonajr2013

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