Monday, December 31, 2007

Adjustment Layers

I'm still practising what I read about in the Photoshop 7 Wow! book (note: there are newer editions out there!), especially about adjustment layers. The one thing I've really latched onto is adding a mask to change the transparency levels. Click on the layer you want to modify, then in the layers palette, go down to the bottom and click on the little mask icon (a square with a circle in the middle). A new little window appears in your layer. Anything in black will hide the actual image, anything in gray will be a middle level of opacity, and anything in white will allow the original image to appear unaffected. If you fill the mask (make sure you click on the mask so it has a white highlight around it) with a gradient, then the image will gradually let through what's behind it and fade into it very nicely. You can further mask portions by actually painting on the mask, which is what I did for the close-up of Allen's painting--I wanted to get rid of the lines bounding the smaller painting, and brushed those out with a softly shaded brush.

This--again--isn't one of my favorite layouts, but it was technically interesting!

Heather Taylor, The Young Painter

Note the fist clenched in concentration...

Font: Mandingo.
Background papers (recolored) from Lynn Grieveson's super "Crisp" web challenge freebie over at Designer Digitals, and journaling strip (recolored as well--can't I leave anything alone?) from Katie Pertiet also at Designer Digitals, for this week's ad challenge freebie.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Benefits of Black and White

I had a bunch of different pictures from Christmas. As usual, it's a chaotic time, and colors, sizes, and shapes abound... not always harmoniously. One solution, I've found, is to make a large part of the layout be black and white. That way, whatever you introduce as the main focus won't be so jarring... Here, the presents close-up under the tree was a great picture in and of itself, but it made all my people pictures seem pale and faded, and they were getting lost. Turning the main picture into black and white allowed the yellow, red, and blue in the picture of Allen to jump out, and also gave me the idea to use the ornament as a typographic element.

The ornament, by the way, is one that I made with a glass ornament from Michael's, filled with clear varnish and PearlEx, then swirled all around with alcohol inks on the outside. I made a bunch of them for Christmas presents, and they turned out pretty cool!

A couple of tricks here: duplicating the main image layer, then desaturating the top one so all you see is the black and white, but then erasing the black and white to let the color from the layer beneath shine through. Easier than selecting an area--especially a complex one, like this was, with all the pieces between the pine needles, then doing select-->inverse, and desaturating the rest all on one layer. For the letters, I opened another picture which contained a scan of an alcohol ink background, and typed the letters on a different layer. I selected one letter at a time with the magic wand, then just switched to the alcohol ink layer and copied the selection, which I then pasted into this layout here. Easy peasy!

By the way, if you ever have any questions about what I've done on these layouts, please leave me a comment!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Using fonts for something other than typing

I'm totally in love with Rhonna Farrer's curlicue work--perhaps I've mentioned that before. But besides sitting down and spending hours in Illustrator, you can also work with stuff that you have already, particularly the swashes that exist in certain fonts, such as Easy Street EPS. That's what I did here in my latest digital layout, "fleur."

fleur by Heather Taylor
First, I enlarged a couple of letters in Photoshop to about 240 points or so--I think I was working in particular with the A, C, and V. I used the lasso to select the portions of the curlicues that I liked, then opened a new image and cut and pasted 2 or 3 sections until I had a shape with plenty of interest. I then made a brush out of it, then used the brush for painting, dodging, and erasing both in the green frame, and in the background photo. Turns out kind of nicely, I think!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Digital Realism (or lack thereof)

Here's a layout I've been fighting with for a couple of months now:

(Fonts: Chachie & Saginaw; ribbon by Lynn Grieveson at Designer Digitals)

There are a couple of issues going on here. One is that the focal point is not well-determined; the eye has a tendency to keep on bouncing onto the next element, over and over again. There's a lot to look at here! The other is that the level of realism varies from pretty realistic to obviously digital, so the mind has problems perceiving the layout as a functional whole.

The puzzle pieces are ok... except that you expect a continuous image, not one image per puzzle piece. The ribbon is great (one of the reasons I chose it--the other being that I can't tie a proper knot to save my life and so I've never gotten any good enough to where I'd be willing to spend time extracting it from a scan), the little tags with staples aren't too bad... but the cookie splats (yes, that's what those are!) are pretty unconvincing, even though I took them off another picture and blew them up; the "sticker" (Mmm -- cookies!) is kinda lame, and my torn edge is seriously lacking. And even if I'm kind of proud of my first pin, I don't really think the head looks very real... Annoying!

Here's a fun site for you: decide whether the photos are real, or digital. It's not that obvious! But it sure points out what a long way to go I have...

A few sites I've found useful for beginning efforts at realism:

- Janee's Photoshop Tutorials (she also covers Elements when there's a big difference)
- Planet Photoshop
- The Photoshop Guru's Handbook

And if you have anything to suggest for this layout, please do!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Combining Rubber Stamping & Digiscrapping

So, here it is Christmas, and I'm finally getting around to scrapping Thanksgiving... actually, that's not quite true. I started on this layout right after, but it sat and sat, not feeling finished. Last night I finally had the first bright moment I'd had all day (I've been sick, ick) and just repeated the background stamp, much larger. Fiddling about with the blending modes (Vivid Light) is what produced the orange focal point that my friend and critic, Julie K. in Taiwan, had suggested was lacking.

Heather Taylor - Thanksgiving

The background, and the focal maple leaf, are the same that I referenced in my first post. In fact, the background is that same stamped background, just desaturated then recolored. I've found that many of my backgrounds (which is really what I've delighted in, when it comes to stamping--the stamp over top is usually just frosting on the cake) are wonderfully suited to digiscrapping, as you can use them for texture on almost anything. Or even, by themselves!

Here is an example using a swatch of textured wallpaper with alcohol inks over top:

Heather Taylor - 2 Goofs

And here is an overlay with a very dark Marvy Markers background (spritz glossy black cardstock with water, dab on Marvy Markers--here, I used silver, blue, and teal--very heavily, tilt the paper from side to side to allow it to run somewhat, then let dry, or dry carefully with a heat gun).

Heather Taylor - Blue Waves

In the above layout, that same scan of the markers was used three times: once as the overlay for the main image, once as a different overlay for a sort of background paper (ended up being difficult to see, as it blended with the main image so well, but it's that small strip to the left of the image), and once as a texture file for the flat blue paper (go to Filter-->Artistic (?)-->Texturiser, then click on the little triangle to load a .psd file as texture, and it will sort of emboss your image).

You can also create wonderful background papers by repeating a desaturated image of your background several times, rotating it differently on each layer, then reducing the opacity on the uppermost ones and playing with the blending modes. Then, just add a final layer underneat it all in your chosen color, and you've got a nice, subtle paper like this green one:

Heather Taylor - Marine Wonders

So there you go! I hope you enjoy recycling your work as much as I do... and Happy Holidays!

Designing Rubber Stamps

(Well, how I do it, anyways...)

Wow. 15 hours of work today, slaving over a hot computer (that I had to reboot several times just to purge the memory and get going again). 15 hours of eyes inches from the screen, tracing lines, tweaking anchor points, putting on final curlicues. It's usually easy to get going because I'll have 3 or 4 large images in mind, but then I have to arrange them in theme and fit them on half-sheets, and trying to fill in the littler spots is a pain! I'm beat! Here's a sneak preview of one of them:

This is based on one of Hokusai's dragons--in Japan, most of the dragons are associated with water and rain, and are often pictured as emerging from dark clouds. They look big and ferocious, but they're really gentle... Anyways, hopefully Candice, the owner of Art Neko, will ok the sheet and it'll be for sale sometime in January!

I hope everybody's preparations for the holidays are proceeding smoothly--I'm really quite grateful that I didn't have to go out shopping this weekend. Don't think I could have stood the crowds!

Musings on Grunge

Grunge is SO not my usual style. Yet in digital scrapbooking I've been doing a lot of it for some reason. I think coming to 2Peas and being exposed to so many new styles has been a big part of it--and I've also fallen head, hook, and sinker (or however that expression goes--did you know I'm from Switzerland, originally?) for Rhonna Farrer's swooshes, flourishes, and style in general. I think the reason grunge works more for me in digiscrapping than it does with my cardwork is that -- for me at least -- scrapping is much more about telling a story, whereas a card is more like a snapshot. Grunge is ultimately very emotional and allows many nuances--and is also much more forgiving when you make a mistake. =)

I've also been reading a really useful book that I'd completely forgotten existed in my library, the Photoshop 7.0 Wow! book. In my "So Fleeting" layout that I worked on today I experimented a lot with layer masks, especially using gradients to help mask a layer gradually. You can see this at work with the sunset photo, and also, faintly, with the little yellow clock faces on the left bottom (that clock image, which I promptly made into a brush of course, was taken in City Hall in San Francisco. It's amazing what things you can find in old photos to make into brushes!). The gradients work really well with the whole grunge feel, and they do it much more smoothly than I ever could with just a dodge or eraser brush...

Anyway, here it is. I was in a melancholy mood for some reason today. Fonts: Selfish and Dauphin.

So Fleeting by Heather Taylor

And Why Not?

I think it'll be good to have an "art" blog, actually, so I can talk about everything I do with stamps, cards, and digital scrapbooking and without boring my family to death with extraneous details. They only care about the pics, of course!

I started this blog on 2Peas, but they don't have enough functionality, so I'll continue it here.

So, as an intro, here are the latest things I've been doing:

1. The latest 2 half-sheets for are floral--one half focuses on ginkgos, the other more general Japanese floral images, including one of my favorites, a very cool maple leaf:

Heather Taylor - Taylored Stamps from Art Neko

2. I'm also on the design team for Far Flung Craft, and made some stuff featuring their new scrapbooking papers. Here's one of them (stamp is also from Art Neko):

Heather Taylor - Stamp: Taylored Stamps at Art Neko, Paper: Far Flung Craft

And one of the scrapbooking layouts I like the most... I've just lost, because my external hard drive (EHD) just crashed and burned, irretrievably, it seems. It's a good thing I backed up all my stuff on (be warned, that took a week and a half!, but it ran as I was working), though I hadn't backed up for about 3 days before the crash. Wah. Here's the layout:

Heather Taylor, Dusk

Thanks for stopping by!