Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Red Genius Enterprises New Release - Tea Party At Georgia's

Check out what Jane and I have been up to - we just released our newest, super cute kit, Tea Party At Georgia's:

You'll find more detailed previews, info on how to participate in 4 different RAKs, and a co-ordinating freebie on the Red Genius Enterprises blog.

See you there!


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Photoshop Tutorial - make your own quick page style

If you've been spending time the digital scrapbooking world, you have probable seen a lot of quick pages around. If you haven't seen them, what they are is complete pages, with papers and embellishments and shadows, with a hole (or holes) for your photos. They can save your hours of time getting an album done. Lots of designers make them, and some scrappers love to make them too, to share with friends or give away on their blog (always be sure to read the TOU to see if they are allowed!).

There' a few tricks for making quick pages, I'm going to show you one that I use most often.

Your first step is to create an entire layout, complete with shadows and photos. If you don't have any photos (I commonly don't, I am just designing the page based on how the elements look together), create a solid shape where your photo would be.

Now we are going to make your photo(s) disappear, as well as all the layers below.

Your first step is to click on the photo in your layers palette. Then go to your layer menu across the top, choose style, then click blending options.

On the blending options menu, set your fill opacity to zero, and set knockout to deep. This tells it to knockout all the layers below the item. You can see in my screen shot that the photo is gone, as are all the layers underneath. The squares indicate a clear space. If all layers don't knockout, it means you have a layer locked, so go in and unlock the layer, then try again.

Next, you want to save the blending mode you just created as a style. To do this, click the 'new style' button. You will get a prompt to name the style. Name it and click 'OK'. You will see now the style shows up in your layers palate.

Now, in case you lose your presets in photoshop, its a good idea to save this style to your hard drive. To do this, go to the edit menu across the top, and choose preset manager.

From the dropdown menu, choose styles.

Your recently saved style will show up last on the list. It's clear because it's a blending mode, there isn't anything like colour or pattern to it. Click it to highlight it, then click 'save set'. It will prompt you to choose where to save it (put it somewhere you won't forget!) and give it a name.

Now that you have your QP style, you can use it again and again. Just click on the item you want to make invisible, and apply the style. What's great about this is you can still move that layer around, play with photo placement on the LO, and even add drop shadows, just like you could if you could see it. If you turn the eye off on the photo, the paper underneath is still intact. Nothing has actually been removed from the layout, its just been 'knocked out'.

Once you have your page finished, save it as a PNG to preserve the empty pixels, and you are done!


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Crediting Thing

I want to reply to Maya's blog post, and my reply is getting far too long for a comment, so I have decided to post it on my blog.

First - for background, you may want to read Jenn's blog post, as well as the forum post she was reacting to.

Maya's blog post is, to me, fascinating. I love to read about the history of digital scrapbooking. I wasn't involved those many years ago, and I wish I was. It sounds like it was a very exciting time! It's amazing how much has changed, how quickly. I think Maya very respectfully and thoughtfully addressed a 'hot topic' that not everyone has been able to keep their head about.

I have some points I'd like to make in reply to Maya, so I am going to quote her a few times. My intentions are not to 'bash' Maya but to respectfully state my ideas on these points. Also, I am not making any comments about Maya as a designer, or Maya's site, which I am not very familiar with but is by many reports friendly, professional, welcoming, and full of creativity. I am merely using Maya's comments a launching point for more conversation. And so I begin...

However, my biggest issue with her position is that she is that she is pitting designers and scrappers against one another into an US and THEM situation, and this is hardly fair or of any use to either group.

I don't think Jenn is creating an 'us against them' situation between designers and scrappers. For one thing there are designers and scrappers firmly on both sides of the issues. But more importantly, I see she is doing quite the opposite, she is 'pushing back' against an 'us vs them' that seems to already exist between two different groups at some sites (not yours Maya). I might feel differently about Jenn's blog post if it had been random, but it wasn't, it was in response to a posting of the 'rules of this hobby' that said we need to all credit down to the tiniest button. These kind of 'rules' set experienced forum member/CT teams/Designers against everyone else, creating an environment where people feel it is acceptable (nay, necessary) to admonish and shame people for not crediting. Maya, you have had that experience, but you come from a unique place of knowing the industry inside and out and probably being able to chuckle at yourself about it and then move on. But a new scrapper, or someone new to the community, doesn't have that, and that shame and embarrassment keeps them from coming back (or coming out of lurk mode and participating at all.) (As an aside the original 'rules' post was so upsetting to me I may never find my way back to that site, and it has been a place where I have spent a good many of my scrapbooking dollars in the past.)

The conversation has gone on at length, because those of us who reject those rules have been told that we are breaking copyright laws, which is not true. I have a strong personal sense that following the law is vital, and a just as strong personal sense that mis-quoting and mis-interpreting the laws to make people do what you want is actually a form of bullying. Crediting is the law if the designer asks for it, yes, but no one is breaking the law if they don't credit when it isn't specifically asked for, nor should they be threatened that they are doing something 'illegal' for not crediting a designer who doesn't ask for it.

Like Jenn, I too am a person whose skin may crawl at the idea that there might be any rules applied to my hobby . However, there are no rules applied to the creation of the art, or the creative process. The rules she is speaking of are applicable only in the publication of that art. So the rules are not about the crafting or creative process at all. They are about the community, and the publication of work, either in print or online.

I submit to you that there really is no way to effectively participate in this community, to learn from the tutorials, get feedback, play along in challenges, etc., without posting your layouts. Unlike, say, pottery, where we can meet in real life with a group and share tips and techniques without ever having to post an image online, for digital scrapbooking our community is online. And as being a part of the community is a big part of the hobby, the rules that are applied (or not applied) to the community are vitally important.

Does it help us when you credit us? Of course it does. Does it help the community when you credit? Of course it does. Does it help you? Yes it does. If you like a designer and you want her to continue working and creating more stuff that you enjoy, it really helps to support her.

I agree with you on all points. Everything I purchase, online and off, I purchase both to fill a need but also to support a business I appreciate and want to stick around. I also post credits on all of my layouts. The conversation has never been about whether it is a great thing to do, but whether it is right to require it. And also whether it is right to admonish people who don't credit/can't credit for any reason. People have differing levels of organizational skills and some just cannot do it, and it has nothing to do with being lazy or disrespectful (trust me, there are people I dearly love who are most certainly not lazy, but can not keep track of a shopping list with 4 items on it - apologies to my husband.)

What I would like to know then, is how does this community and industry continue to sustain itself?

The industry will sustain itself because of the community around it. Because people do share their layouts, they do share when they have found designers that they love, they do share new techniques, tutorials, ideas. Not requiring credit is not the same as forbidding credit. As hobbyists, we love what we do, we are often self-proclaimed 'addicts' and we will continue to make layouts, rave about supplies we like, and HAVE to have the latest and greatest new kits. Designers don't need to demand or require credit for us to give it - we LOVE giving it! By setting aside the 'rules' we create more freedom for people to come into our community, feel welcome, make layouts, share them, not worry if they missed crediting a button, and not worry about breaking an un-written code. We can do away with the people who ruin the experience by shaming people for not following rules. The more people feel free to just enjoy their hobby, the more they will create - and the more they create, the more supplies they use - and the more supplies they use, the more they will want to purchase even more of latest and greatest supplies. And that is what will sustain the community ... the community will. But not if it's not a friendly and welcoming one.

I did start out as a paper scrapper. And I went to some workshops where you were only allowed to go if you only used supplies made by that manufacturer. I was shamed out of a workshop in tears for using a tool I had brought with me, breaking a rule I did not know existed. I stopped going. I was looking for a way to be creative, and to enjoy some companionship with people with like interests. Instead I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and inadequate for not knowing enough to choose the 'right' tools.

Though clearly a different situation, this is a similar case - a group of people felt they needed to impose rules to protect their ability to profit from the people participating in the hobby. Instead, they alienated hundreds of customers and are still to this day perceived as elitist (I am quite sure many paper scrappers who read this will know exactly which company I am talking about, and I don't even have to hint at the name). They did exactly the opposite of what they were trying to do - they did not protect their ability to profit from scrapbookers, they pushed them away.

And there were hundreds of other paper scrapbooking companies ready to step in and say 'come to our workshops, use our products, and feel free to express your creativity without any rules.' And people did.

And the paper scrapping company went bankrupt. And many people shook their heads and said 'I knew that was coming.'

The irony in the situation here is that demanding credits will get you credits, but NOT demanding them will get you credits too - freely given, often enthusiastically, and without alienating anyone. And so, as we build our communities, and as we establish ourselves as designers (as some of us are trying to do), we need to be really clear: do we want to be the community/designer that large groups of people avoid because of our rules, or do we want to be the community/designer that everyone returns to and raves about because we are fun, flexible, and encourage creativity?

I know which one I want to be. Do you?


Saturday, March 13, 2010

NSBR - A Lesson Learned

Last summer, at the end of the school year, I had a great idea (I thought) of taking the boys to a movie to celebrate the end of school. Transformers was out, which I knew they wanted to see, and I was feeling celebratory.

We slid into the theater right on time. I thought this would be great, as we wouldn't have to sit through any trailers. We got our popcorn and entered the theatre just before the main feature show started. The boys went in first, I was following slowly with the very full popcorn.

I hadn't even gotten fully into the door before C was running out. 'Too loud!' he shouted, 'Scary!'

I cajoled, bribed, and begged him to go back into the theater. After all this was our big treat of the month, our big trip out. And it was a movie he wanted to see! I asked him to just give it 30 seconds in there before he decided if he really wanted to stay. He went in. And came out again. Right away.

We got a refund, took our still very full popcorn and drinks, and left. I was frustrated and sad, L was screaming mad, and C was just happy to escape. I decided I would never take them to a theater together again.

Fast forward. That was June. Now it's March. Spring Break. I arranged care for C for 4 days of the 5 days off from school, and L was able to go to the daycamp he liked. I wasn't sure what to do on the one day C was going to be home. He was refusing all of my suggestions. L ended up home that day too - he really wanted to sleep in, and it was Spring Break, and I knew I wasnt going to get any work done with C home, so why not have both home. At one point I got the idea we shoudl go to see a movie.

I honestly don't know why I even considered it. But I did.

At first both boys wanted to go. Then C started refusing. And I decided to approach the whole thing differently. I set up an alternative place for him to go, to his Grandpa's house. I told him L and I were going, he was welcome to come if he wanted, but we would not be upset either way. I told him we could bring his laptop and headphones so if he needed to escape the theater he could. I told him if we got there and it was too loud, we'd get a refund and I'd take him to granpda's and L and I would go back for a later show. So he could test it and know that we wouldn't be mad if he couldn't handle it.

He decided to come. He wanted his DSI (handheld game system) as well as his laptop. We packed it up, made sure it was charged, brought the headphones. And we went early this time, not last minute. We got to slowly get used to the lobby, pick up our food, spend the usual five minutes deciding what kind of drink to get. We got a good seat - way at the back so it was quieter - and we got to get used to where we were before it got loud. We chatted, ate popcorn, and laughed at the silly ads on the screen. We got used to the smell in there, the people, the acoustics.

When the movie started, C crunched popcorn with fervour. After about 10 minutes, he switched to sucking malt candies slowly in his mouth. then he passed those back and fervently chewed popcorn again. He did that until the malt candy was gone. I'm convinced the sensory input helped him stay calm.

He asked to leave twice. Each time I offered him his laptop or DSI and his headphones. He would look, consider, then say, 'No, I'm ok.' He had to use the bathroom - and I got up to walk him there - but he asked me to stay in the theater to save his seat. He and L went to the bathroom, got a popcorn refill, and calmly returned to our seats.

And we made it through THE WHOLE MOVIE. No meltdown, no bribery, no stress. We loved the previews and have made plans to go back and see other movies. Afterwords, we went to the arcade in the mall and played some games, then we got a snack and came home. It felt like the most normal day I've had in months, if not years.

I learned a lesson, if not several. Prepare prepare prepare. Allow lots of time to adjust. And have escape routes planned. C felt safe. He was able to relax and just enjoy. And so was I.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Photoshop Tutorial - internal shadowing on digital scrapbooking elements

When we are designing digital scrapbook elements, we want to add internal shadows to any layers to make them look realistic, however, we don't want those shadows to be on any part of the layer that hangs into open space. This is because the industry standard is to have no drop shadows on the any outside of elements, so the end user can do their own shadowing when they scrapbook. There are a few different methods to do this, but this is my preferred method.

Here is a simple layered flower - it has two layers plus the bead in the center. It's nice enough, but looks really flat. We're going to do what is sometimes referred to as 'internal shadowing' to add dimension and realism.

Our first step is to shadow the top layer and the bead. I use Photoshop CS3, so all my screen shots are from that program. You can probably find the same tools on your version of photoshop in generally the same place. Go to your layers ribbon, select layer style, then drop shadow. Add drop shadows to your preference (note - industry standard for this is to shadow from the top left, but size and spread are up to you)

Now we have nice shadows on bead and the top layer of the flower. The bead shadow is fine, but where the ends of the white flower extend past the red flower, into open space (external shadows), we need to remove those drop shadows. On the right, in your layers palette, you will see 'drop shadow' listed. It doesn't highlight or appear clickable, but if you mouse over it and right click, you will see several options (if you don't see these options your mouse may not be exactly on the shadow layer, try moving it and right clicking again)

The option you want to choose is 'create layer.' This is going to put your shadow on it's own layer.

You will get a warning message - click OK.

Now you can see that your shadow is on it's own layer. It will be called 'Layer X's shadow' (where X is your layer number) or if you named your layer it will be called 'Name's shadow'

Next, highlight the layer containing the item you want to REMAIN shadowed. You do this by holding the control button and clicking on the thumbnail of the image. You will know it is selected when there are marching ants all around the image. (if you have more than one layer that you want to remain shadowed, you can select multiple layers by holding shift+control while you click on the thumbnails)

Go to your select ribbon and choose 'inverse' Now you will have marching ants around the outside of the canvas and the image, indicating that everything OTHER THAN the image is selected.

Keeping the section there, highlight the layer containing the shadow. Press your delete button. This will delete the shadow from the selected area (which is the inverse of the image you selected - hence, shadow is left on the image you wanted shadowed and deleted from everywhere else)

Go back to your select ribbon and chose 'deselect' to get rid of the marching ants.

Now you can merge your layers, and you have a layered element with shadows iternally and no external shadows :) Done!

I'm a PC user and I know there is no control key on Macs - I think the key is command but I'm hoping a Mac user will come and tell me for sure :D