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Grille Cipher


A grille, also known as a cutout, is a great way to hide your message away in text that you know will be seen no matter what. We aren’t going to try and hide this text, only our intended message. Prepare for arts and crafty codes!

Our old French mate Cardinal Richelieu, is credited with coming up with method of concealment back in the 1600s, cutting holes in a card to plot out a message, then hiding it within a larger block of text that looked like an innocent letter.

Grilling 101

Step 1: Figure out what message you want to send.

Step 2: Obscure the message by adding in filler-words in between your message-words so it makes sense as a separate piece of writing. Your original message should appear in a scattered fashion, but one that can clearly be read in order going downwards.

Step 3: Get a piece of paper or card and cut out small holes so that your message shows through. Use a hobby knife or fancy scissors for this, and be careful!

Step 4: Fill in the gaps on the message paper with your filler-words.

Step 5: Make a copy of the grille for your friend so they can uncover the hidden message. Use your original grille as a stencil to duplicate.

Step 6: For your future correspondence, start by using the grille to create a message on blank paper. Then remove the grille, add your filler-words and go again!


This method does have limitations. Both you and your friend need to have the same grille, and if you lose it there is the trouble of replacing the physical replica.

To Grill Or Not To Grille?

Even earlier than Richelieu’s system, Doctor Cardano of Milan used basically the same method, but based it around smaller removed sections so that it focussed on singular letters instead of whole words. This can be a bit more versatile in building your ‘filler’ text to hide in, but it likely means your hidden message will be shorter.

Cutting Edge Of Escape Rooms

Anything could be used as a source text for a message. Find a book, poem, invoice – any of these could contain the words to a secret message. It’s only when we find a grille that we know to actively look for a source. Overlay the grill over the correct text and off you go!

Call Elude