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Saturday, June 28, 2014

"On a Summer's Eve"

"On a Summer's Eve" digital art, children catching fireflies

I spent all day yesterday working on another entry into the Woot derby. It features children catching fireflies beneath a starry sky and I've titled it "On a Summer's Eve." The theme is "negative space" which simply means that a design element is created by what is around it. Sound familiar?

Having just used this technique, I felt primed to do it again, and thought I could do it more quickly this time. Well... not as quickly as I thought. But it got finished and entered, so if you feel it deserves a vote (now through July 3, 2014, noon Central Time), I'd be honored.

"On a Summer's Eve" digital art, children catching fireflies Closeup

I've yet to look at the competition, but I'm sure there are many fine entries as there always are, so be sure to check those out as well.

Tip for the day: Avoid my mistake. Sometimes I'll be working with Photoshop, and it just doesn't seem to work right. I'll check all the settings, try the function again, and still get the wrong result.

This happened to me yesterday, consuming considerable time in confundation, convincing me the program had gone wonky. Every time I tried to "erase" something I'd painted onto a mask in white by going over it in black, it wouldn't erase completely and ended up looking like I'd painted on it with white at 5% opacity. Drove. Me. Crazy.

Eventually I found my error. I'd checked all the parameters except the color. I'd thought I was using black, but there was actually a very dark gray in the palette, which I'd used briefly and forgotten about. It certainly looked black. Once I corrected that, everything functioned as expected.

Well there you have it. Don't take anything for granted and check everything.

"On a Summer's Eve" Submission digital art, children catching fireflies

Thanks for visiting and please come again!  (And don't forget to vote!)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Cooling Down with "Rainbow Ices"

"Rainbow Ices" digital art rainbow stripes

This week I pulled out an older design I had earlier intended to upload to Zazzle, but had hesitated thinking it wasn't quite right. It had begun with an experiment in using primary colors at 50% opacity, overlapping them to make a rainbow. I repeated this many times, eventually figuring out that doubling up on the primary colored stripes would give me a comparable opacity to the ones that had overlapped colors. I also adjusted the "primary" colors somewhat more to my liking, with pink and sky blue.

After that, I played around with numerous filters, and especially liked this version, thinking it had a frosty look to it, like a closeup of stacked ice pops of different colors.

But not quite.

In looking at it again, I decided it needed a little more highlight and shadow to imply three dimensions. While it's not a favorite method, I decided to do this with the Dodge and Burn tools, whose symbols look like a magnifying glass and a hand making an "o" shape in the PSE toolbox. The easiest way to remember which is which is to think of toast: when it burns, it's a darker color, but if it pops out of the toaster "dodging" the heat, it's lighter.

These tools can do a lot of damage, and the best way to handle them is in small amounts, building on their effect if necessary. Unlike the paint brush or pencil, every time the brush passes over an area, it adds to the effect, whether you've lifted the brush in between or not.

Working on a copy (always leave an original in tact!), I set these tools to just 5%. With a soft brush sized to less than one third the width of a stripe, I gently stroked the Dodge tool over the center of each stripe to increase the highlight, and the Burn tool over the lines where the colors met to shade them. Then I narrowed the brush, and did a little more on the centers of those areas, the result appearing like scalloped edges rising toward the viewer.

"Rainbow Ices" digital art rainbow stripes Closeup

Not much of a piece of art by itself, but it's simple things like this that can make a great design when applied to practical items such as the many offered on Zazzle. I have one family member who has always been crazy for rainbows and anything rainbow-colored, and I'll bet you know someone like that too!

(The black dots on some of these images are links to open the new customizing features on Zazzle's site--not part of the product or design.)

"Rainbow Ices" Cosmetic Bag digital art rainbow stripes "Rainbow Ices" Candy Jar digital art rainbow stripes "Rainbow Ices" Messenger Bag digital art rainbow stripes
"Rainbow Ices" iPhone Case digital art rainbow stripes "Rainbow Ices" Wrapping Paper digital art rainbow stripes "Rainbow Ices" Flask digital art rainbow stripes

Thanks for visiting and please come again!

Friday, June 13, 2014

"Simple Celebration" is in the Woot Derby

"Simple Celebration" digital art, people dog watching fireworks has a derby. No, not the type of hat Charlie Chaplin wore as "The Little Tramp." And not a horse race either, though the truth is not that far off. It's a shirt derby where any artist can enter a t-shirt design and be voted on by the Woot community.

If you've read some of my previous blog posts, you may have seen that I've entered designs at another site, but Woot is a little different. First, it runs the course of one week and follows a very specific time table. There's always a theme and rules about subjects that can't be included, and art must have all colors on separate layers and converted to halftones to represent anything less than 100% opacity. It took me a while to even figure all that out, and one of the drawbacks of working only with Photoshop Elements is that halftones can only be made with dots and not lines. (If anyone knows of a good plug-in that will allow a PSE user to do halftones in lines, please comment and let me know!)

I like to get my entry in as early as possible, but with only 24 hours between the theme announcement and beginning of entry acceptance, my life has become too complicated to do that very often. But every now and then, they'll hint at the following week's theme, and I can use that time to my advantage.

Seven days ago they dropped the hint "Americana," and this became my project for the week: spending an old-fashioned 4th of July watching fireworks.

"Simple Celebration" submission "Simple Celebration" digital art, people dog watching fireworks

The trickiest part of making this design concerned the fact that the dog and people are not really there. The background is navy blue and there is no black ink where they appear. But that doesn't mean that I didn't actually draw them.
I drew them on a separate layer, then selected them with PSE's magic wand. With the selection active, I went to the other layers of color and hit DELETE. That simple.

For the highlights, I did something similar. I drew the reflected colors on the spaces left by the previous deletion, on layers separate from the others. Then I again selected the images I'd drawn, but inverted the selection (CTRL-SHIFT-I). When I went to the other color layers and hit DELETE, I was then getting rid of everything except the color on the images. In the completed design, there was no need for the original dog and people I'd drawn to be visible.

"Simple Celebration" digital art, people dog watching fireworks Closeup

If you've ever purchased anything at all from, you're eligible to vote in the derby at between now and noon Central Time, June 19, 2014. Please stop by to see all the wonderful entries, and any votes for "Simple Celebration" are greatly appreciated!

And one more thing: Derby winners usually sell for $12 on their debut, but if there are at least 1,776 unique voters this week, those shirts will cost only $10! Good price for a shirt, so exercise your right to vote!

Thanks for visiting and please come again!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Framing "Sunlit Iris"

And it's back to photo editing this week...

A few weeks ago I got a lovely shot of an iris while visiting a local park. It was getting on into early evening and camera in hand, I was disappointed to find nearly everything in shadow—I have a strong preference for shooting subjects in sunlight as there's so much more hidden color that can be brought out with editing. I was wandering about enjoying the spring weather when I came across this iris, magnificently back lit with filtered sunbeams. I took around a dozen shots of it, but as often turns out, the first was the best, even capturing some of the crepuscular rays.

Iris photo with sunbeams

Later that weekend, my fellow blogger Firebonnet ran a feature she calls "Random Moments of Delight," a beautifully self-explanitory theme. She invites her readers to share theirs as well and I shared this iris saying I might yet do some artistic editing on it. This week I pulled it out to start playing with it, and here is the result, "Sunlit Iris":

"Sunlit Iris" artistically edited iris photo

This one went through a great many steps to reach it's final appearance, including multiple filters, masks and a subtle texture all blended together.

"Sunlit Iris" (closeup) artistically edited iris photo

What I'll share here is how I experimented on the masked border.

In removing the edges of this image I could have erased them, but that would be a permanent change to the image, and if I didn't like how it was turning out, there would be a great deal of backtracking to start over.

Instead, I used a layer mask. Clicking the icon that looks like a gray rectangle with a circle on it above (or below, depending on your version of Photoshop) the layers palette adds the mask to the selected layer. When it's all white, it makes no change to the image, but wherever you put some black, the image disappears. It's very easy to adjust or start over by re-adding white.

A solid layer can be placed beneath the image to show through where the edges are removed, but if you want to save that layer to print without any background, be sure to make it not visible and save the image as a .png file.

"Sunlit Iris" mask layers

With my iris picture, I started first with a larger soft brush, but not happy with the result, went over the edges again with a more jagged shape. That ended up looking too sharp, so I tried applying a blur to the mask, and ended up with a torn edge appearance that pleased me.

While working on this project I was reminded of the time I had the privilege of viewing Van Gogh's Irises, up close and personal. In the early 1990's I was on a visit to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles (the old one in Malibu) when I turned a corner and there it was directly in front of me. The surprise took my breath away and I lingered before it in awe for quite some time. I always admired the simplicity with which it had been displayed, and while I would have enjoyed seeing it just as much had I waited in line to view it from behind velvet roping, the experience I did have made an emotional impact that lets me relive that experience over and over. Somehow I think Vincent would have appreciated that.

"Sunlit Iris" artistically edited iris photo Poster "Sunlit Iris" artistically edited iris photo Scarf "Sunlit Iris" artistically edited iris photo iPhone Case

Thanks for visiting and please come again!