Stars form in the densest regions of clouds of cold molecular hydrogen. Measuring structure in these clouds is far from trivial as 99% of the mass of a molecular cloud is inaccessible to direct observation. Over the last decade we have been developing an alternative, more robust density tracer technique based on dust extinction measurements towards background starlight. The new technique does not suffer from the complications plaguing the more conventional molecular line and dust emission techniques, and when used with these can provide unique views on cloud chemistry and dust grain properties in molecular clouds. In this brief communication we summarize the main results achieved so far using this technique.