Thursday, June 10, 2010

I got linked...

A local coupon expert Karrie linked one of my blog posts to her website

The link is at the very bottom where it says:

Another Fistful of Coupons reader, Brenda, made her own Can-Rotating system. You can see it at her blog here..its AMAZING!

Karrie asked me to send her the link to my blog like nine months ago but I completely forgot to do it. After I eventually sent it -- I didn't know she had linked me until a friend Tiffany told me.

That's kinda fun.

Grad Announcement Unmasked...

McKay's graduation announcements were mailed last Saturday.

Thanks for all the kind words about how they turned out. Obviously McKay was a fabulous model contributing significantly to the success of the project. Even so, there were several Photoshop techniques and other tricks I used in designing the layout which I will share here below.

The photo was one of over 250 taken in our living room on November 18, 2009 using our Canon Rebel XTI and a 50mm Canon fixed focal length lens. I opened the aperture to 1.8 giving me a very short depth of field which blurred everything behind her and gave nice "bokeh". She was sitting about 10 feet off the background on a metal outdoor chair. The backdrop was a piece of fabric I picked up in Portland last year.

The photo was originally tagged "reject" and was not edited for use as a senior portrait so it remained in the Adobe Camera RAW format. It was also not what I would consider "crisp" specifically because the eyes were not in focus. Still I loved the pose and I chose to use it in the announcement layout because I thought it could be "desaturated" nicely.

While still in the RAW format and still in color -- I imported it into CS3 and did the following retouches:

- removed stray hairs from her face- healed the lines and darkness from under her eyes
- removed blemishes (albeit there weren't many) from her face
- cloned out the stray hair going horizontal from her face to the left side

To whiten the eyes - I copied the original layer changing the blend mode to "Screen" which brightened the entire picture, then applied a mask to the entire thing (which covered all the brightening) and with a small soft brush and my Wacom, I painted back in only the whites of her eyes. I then lowered the opacity of that layer to about 40%.

To sharpen the eyes - I copied the original layer and applied the "unsharp filter" to the image and like before I applied a mask and using a small soft brush painted in the "sharpness" only on the eyes, lashes and brows. I reduced the opacity to 50%.

Next, I used the Nichole Van Essential Black and White Action Set/Dark Moody to turn the entire photo a rich black and white copy of the original. Because Nichole's Actions preserves the layers you can then tweak to your hearts desire any part of the process. I think I messed with the curves and maybe the brightness and contrast to minimize the mid tone grays.

I loved the background from the photo and wanted to use it as an accent on the announcement. Since it was too blurry I used another photo from the same session (where the background was in focus) to "extract" the pattern and set it up as a narrow ribbon.

Extraction is another discussion altogether. The individual images, once extracted are copied and pasted into a pattern.

The border consists of several layers which are shown here: (just a little digital cut and paste...) You can see the pattern formed from the extracted images above.

When I first learned how text can be manipulated it was one of the most confusing things ever. I had always just accepted text just like I typed it. This is how it looks straight off the keyboard.

But...if you "rasterize" the text you can add effects like drop shadow and bevel & embossing and you can do what is called "kerning" the text making it more visually appealing because you eliminate what's known as "dead space" that traps and holds your eyes. You can also select individual letters (like I did with the first letter "E") and increase or decrease their size. Here's what it looks like after rasterizing, kerning, drop shadow.

Her photo is set on a white background where a gradient is applied bleeding the photo to white. The black border is a digital image of a vintage frame I purchased some years ago from Maria Designs (for commercial use) and the brown layer below is created by using a style in Photoshop called "burned paper".

Finally her name was set on the diagonal to lead the eyes around the layout.
What I intended was to have your eyes first go to her eyes then to the quote then down and back over her name and back up to her face. For some reason -- diagonals are more visually pleasing.

And a nutshell is how I created this project.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Nice Excuse for a Project...or two.

Several years ago, I taught a class in a local community education program entitled "Introduction to Digital Scrap Booking" The course was created to expose students to new and innovative possibilities available through the use of computer aided scrapbook design.

I was aware some purist scrappers might balk at the notion of flattened digital images replacing the textured feel of linen card stock, the charm of hand placed brads or the aroma of fresh glue stick, and that... clinging tightly to decorative scissors they might shun the idea. approach held firm that traditional cut and paste scrapping could be improved using the technology tool.

Considering myself "hybrid", a term which described someone whose feet dangle both in traditional scrap booking and digital media pools, I had long known the benefits of both expressions and enjoyed the variety.

Illustrating the point, I created for the class, a photographic project using my computer.

Scanning photos from my childhood, I digitally cut, copied and pasted virtual layers of paper until the design was the exact measurements of the unfinished 10 1/2" x 10 1/2" pine box I purchased from my local hobby store. The image was then commercially printed on matte photo paper, glued to the box, sanded, stained and finally...decoupaged to my loving.

The first thing out of McKay's mouth when she saw it was... "When are you going to make me a box?" Shrugging, I replied... "Someday maybe."

Five weeks ago, while mentally tossing around ideas for graduation gifts...someday arrived.

Initially, I intended to simply replace my childhood photos with McKay's. However, a far cooler idea surfaced...which was chronicle preschool through graduation on the six sided wooden canvas.

Tweaking the original layout to accommodate three photos per side was relatively easy. Choosing photographs from each of the fourteen years including preschool and kindergarten proved slightly more time consuming. McKay's senior picture would grace the top of the box with photos from high school dances on the inside.

Photoshop CS3 is my digital imaging software of choice, (having just added CS5 to my birthday wish list) but these techniques can be accomplished using Photoshop Elements which is the home version in the Creative Suite family for significantly less investment. Although my monitor remains uncalibrated, I usually have very few color issues using Costco to print my layouts.

Each of the sides of the box measured 6.5 x 10.5 so I set up the layouts for the sides to those measurements. The top was 10.5 x 10.5 and the inside 10 x 10. When I got the individual layers as desired I flattened the images to jpeg for printing. Since Costco offers a wide variety of large picture and poster sizes, I was able to avoid waste setting the images to (2) 24" x 36" prints. They looked like this when I got them processed in just a little under an hour.

Once trimmed to size, the photo panels were affixed to the box via Mod Podge -- which some call expensive watered down white glue and I contend... is a bald face lie.

Left overnight to dry, sanded, stained, distressed, "ModPodged" (decoupaged for you children of the 70's) perched on plastic canisters, & abandoned for drying another six hours while I watched rented movies, finally my "someday maybe" box for McKay was complete.

Inside the box is a ring bound stack of recycled paper sack colored file folders I spotted at Staples a couple days ago. Cut to size and sewn up on one side they made perfect pouches for all the reports cards I saved over the years. It was custom sized and bound with a "Zutter Bind it All" to fit snugly inside the box.

I affixed McKay's school pictures, teachers name and school to the front of each folder. The edges of the pages and the mats on the photos were distressed using the new tool I just received in the mail called the Zutter "Distress it All" and inked with my favorite Tim Holtz Distress Ink - Antique Linen.

The second project simultaneously in process was a memory book with hand drawings, poems & kind words from many of McKay's youngest friends. What started out a simple collection of artwork soon mushroomed into sixty pages nearly bursting the capacity of the antique brass ring binding.

Most of the featured artists are under 12 and several barely old enough to write their own names. Many are McKay's former babysitting kids who wrote they'd like her to come play with them again. The pages were collected over a multi week period completely unbeknownst to McKay.

There were so many pages the size of the covers were increased to accommodate side by side stacks of art and poetry. This is the gift I most looked forward to giving.

As she opened the book and began turning the pages, McKay began to...cry BIG streaming tears. These are the kind of friends you keep forever. The book is titled "McKay's Best Kind of Friends Book" for a reason.

She said I was her most favorite mom and that she loved me so so so so so much. I kept back the reminder I was her only mom...

Just like I predicted...this book whoppingly upstaged the i pod she has daily, for months, begged me to buy and thought might be her only graduation gift, but graciously instead of looking a gift horse in the mouth... she took the i pod too.