Tuesday, September 29, 2009

6 Pages to Go!

And don't I wish I could say that about the Carousel? Nope, I hadn't worked on the Basic Gray Chocolate Chipboard album for a while. Yesterday and today, I pulled out paper and inks and got back to work. There are 10 sheets of chipboard in the album, including the front and back covers, so there are actually 20 pages to it. I have completed 14 of them.

I'm using the Club Scrap kit, "Body and Soul" which is in tan, blue and green, with a floral pattern and some circles. I've got matching stamps, stencils, stickers and so on that all match the theme. I want to do more with shape and color than I want to use the inspirational words that go with this kit. While they are generic, I just don't always think they are going to work with the guy photos that I take most frequently.

I haven't had to design anything like this in a long time and it is good to get back to it. I struggle to make the pages complex enough to be interesting. It's is very tempting to just throw on a matte and a stamp and to call it finished. But it just won't work. I need to put other things on the pages to make the album interesting.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

It's not just late...

I got the August issue of Digital Artist Magazine, because it had a freebie kit included that I wanted to get. There were coupons for places that I don't shop at, freebie downloads that I didn't want other than that one mini kit, a badly done tutorial and many (far too many!) CT and reader layouts. I wasn't impressed. The articles were all slightly different versions of 'Go Buy This,' or rehash of this or that layout or template. More reader or CT layouts. Yawn.

According to the magazine, there were supposed to be blog events starting on August 21 on the website that I've been checking. But there hasn't been a blog post since July 10. The July issue had never been released. Subscribers were told via that blog post on July 10th that their subscriptions would be extended and the pause in publishing was due to the website and servers being upgraded.

The September issue sort of showed up today. Customers are having problems finding links to the magazine and the links are failing as soon as they are made even partially public. I attempted to follow the link and got an error message that the server could not be found. I changed the .net/store ending to .com/store and got a link to a web store that had not yet been configured. There have been no new posts on the blog for the magazine since the July 10th post.

The editorial assistant, the second name on the staff list, is posting 'I'm just the messenger' posts after the posts that she makes promising that the magazine will be available at such and such a date fail to be correct, or the link with the 'new' sorta secret location fails to work consistently. If she were working for me, I'd pull her off the job for a while. 72 hours at her computer and she is not thinking clearly, nor is she communicating well. Nobody would be.

I checked the website. Again. There is a page (clearly marked "copyright 2007-2008") with a list of six web stores that are supposed to carry this magazine. One closed several months ago. Two shops don't have anything at all by that manufacturer. One shop has only issues from 2008, with the most recent being September 2008. Two places carry the August issue. I can't find the September issue anywhere. It isn't even listed on their own website!

This magazine promises a lot and does not deliver anything. Not even itself.

Wallaby Darned! I tried the failing link again and now I've seen the cover for the September issue. I've even been able to see detailed views of the freebies. I won't be buying it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

At Least They Were Free...

I was following a link to a blog where a lady was posting the 'nifty' freebies she had created. I took one look at the title image on her blog and burst out laughing. It was way too large for the border she had tried to place around it.

She didn't understand resolution and file size. And she was creating digital kits? Sure enough, the elements she had available for download were all different resolutions, none of which were appropriate for digital scrapping. I laughed at her incredibly bad presentation and moved on.

But the sad part? As lousy as her stuff was, she was proud of it. She had no idea how lousy it was. At least, not that I could tell. I hope that I don't ever lie to myself like that.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Today I brew, tomorrow I bake...

IIRC, that's a traditional line from Rumplestiltskin. But yesterday, I went paper style for my creativity. I made a set of 6 little boxes for a 'Hubby Trap' and filled them with Moose Munch from Harry and David. He really likes Moose Munch. There are only 5 boxes in the photo, because he took a box with him to work today. The paper is from 7Gypsies and I used my Cricut with Tags, Bags, Boxes and more to cut the boxes. I used Base Camp to cut 'Bud' which went on the ribbon handles.

The boxes created a little trail from the driveway, through the garage and into the house. No photos. The poor man had a horrible day and that's part of the reason I made the trap.

Today, I think I'm going to go digital. I have a picture of my stepson on the occasion of his 21st birthday. It's a cell phone shot and since he was in a moving vehicle at the time, it's not in sharp focus. But it's what I have to work with.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Since I've been hearing about all these people who have had drives fail recently, I've been thinking about off site, automatic backups. I spotted a reference to Backblaze and I have started their 15 day free trial. Why Backblaze? Backblaze will allow me to back up my EHD. And if I connect it at least every 30 days, they will keep storing my data. Since I keep my photos and digital kits on my EHD, being able to back it up is important. If I don't connect it because I'm on vacation, I won't have any issues with it being deleted all of a sudden.

The initial backup takes a long time. Days of using my computer while the backup runs in the background. After that, backups go much faster. If I dump a memory card full of very large photos to my computer, I'm sure it will take time before they are all uploaded.

If I need to restore, I can get my data back in several different ways. I can have them mail me DVDs of the data for a small fee, or I can have them mail me an EHD with the data for about $200, or I can spend days downloading data via the WWW for free.

I have no sympathy for folks who lose data because they don't have a backup. Drives fail. If you want to keep it, make a backup copy. Not a half a backup copy. Not an old backup copy. A current and complete backup copy.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sketching Tools

I had challenged myself to create a layout using a photo I'd adjusted to look like a drawing or a sketch. Holliewood Studios provided the kit, Art Box. I took a photo of a friend of a friend, and set to work. This is what I ended up with.

I was using pastel chalks. The image size is critical, when I view at 100% it looks very different then when I view it reduced at all. I would like to try colored pencil next. I had all sorts of reference books, but I just tried different things and settings until I got what I wanted. The file is twice the size of my usual layouts, and challenged the hardware I was using to work with it. I held my breath the first time I saved. It took forever!

Friday, September 18, 2009

I Have Glasses!!!

And there was great rejoicing. The phone rang yesterday, a few minutes before ten in the morning. My glasses were ready, did I want to make an appointment to pick them up? Did I! I managed to convince the man that I would leap in my truck and be there as soon as I could get there, I didn't want an appointment for Friday or next week. It is an hour away, after all. He said an 11 am would be fine for today.

By 11:30, I had three new pairs of glasses. I can see! Imagine triumphant music playing in the background.

Today's task might just be to create and upload a new blog background to celebrate. I hit the Flergs Sale at Scrapbook Graphics. 50% off? I'm there.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fifteen? Really?

I was reading a post on one of the forums I read about digital scrapping and I realized that the person making the comment had fifteen different designers and stores listed as being ones that she creates for. Fifteen!

The number of pages each month that lady has signed up to create boggled my brain. I checked her gallery. She's one of the 'white space' adherents, creating a frame that's bedecked with danglies and then she leaves the rest of the space blank. She's one of the better ones, with some innovative designs. That style calls attention to the embellishments, and that's what the designers want to sell their kits.

I don't care for those layouts, for several reasons. First, it is because the decoration gets my attention more than the photo does. The photos are usually quite small, under 3"x3". I don't make layouts to show off the embellishments in a kit, I make layouts to show the photos. Also, I scrap for men. I don't use floral, scrolled, ribbon bedecked frames. They are way too delicate, pretty, feminine, and other words that men do not want associated with them.

The interesting conclusion to this is that a layout that is successful in selling a kit is probably NOT a layout I want to copy. If it sells the kit, it shows off the embellishments, not the photo. I want the photos to be the focus, not the embellishments.

Will I scrap lift some of her ideas? Indirectly. She is an excellent designer and some of her layouts are well worth lifting pieces of. I'll use some of her concepts in putting together sets of embellishments.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reading = Learning

I'm able to read if I put on an old pair of computer glasses, read for short periods, and hold the book a bit farther away from me than normal. The layers book is divided into small sections. I'm still in the early part of the book, I don't expect to learn a lot that is new yet. I'm taking lots of notes, but I never refer to them again. I don't know why I take notes.

I made myself a layout of my 'Digital to Do list' and saved it into my In Progress folder. It's definitely helping me figure out what I want to work on and not waste time floundering and surfing through my photos. It's nothing fancy. I just filled a background with a solid color and used the Type tool to enter a list.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Vision Fail

I went out last night and got one of the recommended texts from the off-camera flash seminar. I also got a reference on using layers in Photoshop. When I sat down to read them, I had trouble. I'm still waiting for my new glasses and I simply could not get my eyes to work well enough with my old glasses to read my books.

It is getting worse, the longer I have to wait for my glasses. It took over a month to get my prescription because my eyes flared, and it's taking another month to get the glasses. I'm whining. But it's difficult to get much done when you can't see.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Education- Both Getting and Giving

I went to a friend's house to get her started with digital scrapping a few days ago. (Hi, Jennifer!) I had gotten a few digital scrapping kits for her to play with as a baby shower present. She is already a capable photographer. By the end of this month, she will be a mother, as well. I had a good idea of the type of kit that she would like, and she was quite pleased with my selections. Neither of us likes the 'cartoony style', as I call them.

Later, I went to a free seminar on off camera flash. While I didn't pick up much information about using off camera flash, I did gather information about accessories for my flash that I can use. I also realized that the seminars end up being a sales pitch for the more experienced photographers and are more useful for a beginner.

My program of self-teaching pretty is going well, but slowly. I have holes in my skills and the fastest way to fill in the holes at this point would probably be a class. However, classes cost money that I'd rather be spending on new windows, new glasses and other new objects around the house, like drapes or wallpaper. To pay between $325 to $465 for 12 hours of instruction seems ridiculous.

I am going to continue with my plan of self-teaching. Today's task is learning to use the unsharp mask. Which actually reduces the anti-alias and creates a much sharper looking photo. I'm not positive that my poor vision will notice such changes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Magnetic Lasso Tool

Last night, I worked with the Magnetic Lasso tool and tried to make a selection using it. I liked the choices of adding to a selection, subtracting from a selection, or creating an intersection of two selections. I didn't like how the Magnetic Lasso tool would place points by itself, because it thought it needed one there. I disliked the look of the cursor. It wasn't clear to me where I was going to create a point when I clicked. It wasn't at the cross hair, and it wasn't at a point on the triangle of the icon. Zooming in did not help. After my first pass with the Magnetic Lasso, I had to go back and make corrections many times. It was not a quick process, and the shape I'd chosen to practice on was ideal, with lots of contrast. I gave up and stopped refining my selection long before it was accurate.

The auto selection tools, like the Magnetic Lasso and the Magic Wand, are all fine and dandy but for the most control and the best results the Pen tool is the way to go. The more I try to work with the auto selection tools, the more I believe this. The same task done with the pen tool would have taken less time and given better results.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Percent, Not Pixels!

I just went to the Zutter Bind-It-All page and took a peek. It is a Bad Thing to have a horizontal scroll bar when displaying a web page. Awful as it is, it's easy to avoid. Most applications used to create websites have an alert you can set to let you know you have erred before you make it public that you failed Web Design 101.

What has web design got to do with a Bind-it-all? Not a heck of a lot, not directly. But their web presence is a visual disaster and contains what I consider to be a basic error in coding. To me, that is a sign of clueless management. If the employees are just being sloppy workers, management should fire them. If they are untrained, management needs to help them get training.

Websites That Suck is where I first started learning about web design. It has been around, in some form or another since 1995.

Another Horrible Example

Agghh! I'm reading about another hard drive that failed and the person did not have an adequate back-up system in place. She saved her photos (Yay!) but lost all of her digital scrapping kits. (Boo!) Recently, several major shops have changed their policies so you must pay a fee to recover digital purchases lost in a computer failure, if they support recovery at all.

It's a matter of personal choice as to how much effort you want to put into backing up your data. Most of the time, people move their data to a new computer before the drive on the old machine fails. But that is no promise that a drive will not fail before you move to a new machine. A backup made today is a million times more useful than a backup you have not made yet, even if you never need it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Just Saying...

Well written directions for a poor technique are going to give poor results.

I've been entertaining myself by reading some of the free instruction on the web for how to do digital scrapping tricks. I can enlarge the font in Firefox.

I ran into the most tortured workaround I have ever heard of for doing an extraction. The directions had me create a crude clipping mask layer, then edit it after I had clipped my image to it. I'd see my image trim down as I erased and painted to add or subtract from my clipping mask layer. But I wasn't really editing my image. If I moved my image layer, I was in trouble.

A clipping mask is a shape, it isn't a specific location. If I move the bottom layer, the shape will move to a different location. If I move the top layer, it's not going to change the location of the shape in the layout, but it will change what part of the top layer can be seen. I can move the top layer completely off the shape in the bottom layer and then I can't see anything of the top layer at all. It's still 'clipped' but not where I can see it.

To add to the annoyance, I was told to use an eraser tool and a brush tool to erase and to add back. OK. If I make lots of mistakes, why can't I just use History and try again, instead of having to switch tools and colors? That's a lot of clicking to put back a hand wobble.

Another problem is in the anti-alias. Anti alias is a smoothing, or blurring effect, and it cannot be completely removed by adjusting the hardness of the brush tip I am using. Even a one-pixel brush set at 100% hardness is going to have some anti-alias. If I am working in black on a white background and I zoom in to 500%, I'll see some gray pixels at the edges. That's anti-alias at work. With a larger brush, I have the joy of knowing that the cursor might be a circle I can see, but erasing doesn't happen at the exact edge of the circle. What I see at the edge of the circle is a color change, but not a complete erase. That happens in the middle of the circle and I can't place it exactly. With a harder brush it is closer to the edge, but never exactly at the edge.

A pencil is a precise tool, with no anti-alias at the edge. But switching back and forth from a soft edge eraser to a precision edge pencil doesn't mean that I'll get a precise shape as a result.

The directions were clear, with graphics and arrows and a lovely sample photo. But it was not what I'd consider the best way to get results. I'm still a fan of the Pen tool.

Don't forget, "Anything free is worth what you pay for it." That includes directions.

Vision Again or Vision Still

I've been waiting for new glasses to arrive for a while now. My prescription is complex, taking two pages to write out the whole thing. I have eyestrain almost all the time and I'm just not that interested in working on digital layouts. I've gone to paper that I can see and am working on pages for the photo carousel. It seems to be a fall back project for me. And right now, it feels like Fall is back.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It Isn't That Complicated

That SamandDean layout? The one where it was crumpled and I wanted to crumple the photos as well? I thought it would be difficult and that I'd have to do all sorts of complex and annoying things to the photos. All I have to do is make sure that my layer order is OK. I place my photos and embellishments into the layout, making any adjustments like cropping or such. Then I put the top adjustment layer onto the top of the layer stack. Poof! Crumpled photos, frames and embellishments.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

If All You Have is a Hammer...

Everything that's broken suddenly needs a nail.

I ran out of black ink for my document printer. I got through a few extra pages with a 'mixing' option, but when the black ran out, I was stuck. This printer was not going to be nice and let me squeak out a few more pages in purple or brown instead of black. It refused to print anything.

Sigh. I got a set of the four inks that the printer requires. But I only needed to replace the black. I'm going to do a little shopping around and see if I can find just the black. I use it up faster than I use the colors and the containers of ink are the same size.

I know that you get better quality printing when there are more colors of ink for the printer to use. I do not care about quality from this printer, I don't want to be forced to buy extra colors of ink when all I need is black.