Ever since the Paperclipping Digi Show last week I have wanted to do some designing tips & tricks. I am NO expert, but hopefully you might get something of use from my babble.
Lets start with must haves.
Here are a few examples of what I consider ‘essentials’ to help me design.
- Photoshop CS5 (really CS3 & CS4 are also just as good)
- Eye Candy filters (for metals mainly)
- A good scanner, I use a Canoscan 8800F.
- Filter Forge filters.
- Artrage (glitters)
I use Photoshop for almost everything. Artrage just for glitter. I do have a tablet & Illustrator, but I have found that I prefer to use the pen tool for doodles etc… something I will share later on I hope.
This is advice I need to take more notice of myself.
Templates & PSD’s:
One extra handy tip is to create templates or PSD’s of elements that you use over & over again. Instead of making a frame every time using the marquee or pen tool… keep templates to re use. I have started to do this more recently, and sometimes I do find myself creating the same basics over & over… where it would be much easier to open up a template. Useful templates to have are:
- Paper patterns (polka dots, starbursts etc..)
- Scattered elements.
I also save a lot of shapes as templates, like stars, leaves, flowers, hearts, funky circles etc… I like to save as brushes so I don’t have to create every time. The pen tool is the best way to create stars. leaves & sharp crisp shapes. I prefer to save as a layered TIFF whenever possible, because it shows you a preview. And also is usually a smaller file size. But saving a row of stitches & holes is a great time saver, just change colours!
Actions & scripts:
If you can create your own actions & scripts then you can save a lot of time. if not, there are some great CU actions & scripts available for your program. Wendy has some fantastic time savers HERE
I love to have little actions for trimming & saving. Also I created one to place my papers into my preview etc… Any task that you find yourself doing over & over can possibly be saved as an action.
And a plug for my own product…but an essential I think everyone should have. My ALPHA MAKER. All of the letters are already there, simply open up the PSD, change the font & pretty up the letters, then run the action. I have a tutorial for it HERE
If you use Photoshop then you can create styles. Styles are something I use a LOT. I save my shadows, patterns… everything. Saves me a lot of time. Instead of opening up a cardboard JPG to clip to a frame template, I have my cardboard saved as a style. BAM! One click and it is done. Play with the settings etc… You have to merge with another layer if you want to edit further like using the burn/dodge tool etc…
Scanner & Camera:
Simply scanning & extracting isn’t really creative designing. BUT I think a good scanner or camera is a necessary tool for any good designer.
So lets think about what we can scan or photograph to help us design.
Everyone needs some great & interesting textures in their tool box. I have so many scanned that I use a LOT. Some I use as overlays, some I use as styles. Kraft paper, felt, concrete, chipboard, canvas, linen, cork…etc. Don’t scan patterned fabrics, they would be copyrighted. Use linen or calico, something generic.
So instead of relying solely on CU items, how about scanning or photographing some great textures to use?
Here is a snapshot of just some of the textures I have for my own use:
Some fantastic textures to have are:
- Kraft paper
- Cork board
- Woven fabric (place mats are perfect)
- Corrugated cardboard
- Metal /Checkerplate
- Peeling paint
I also have a tutorial for making your felt look realistic, the brush is included to give the feathered edge effect. HERE
I use linen textures to make fabric buttons, concrete is great for grungy papers & elements, wood for frames & elements, card boards & chip boards for frames & elements… there are limitless possibilities.
Paint with black paint onto some white paper. Scan & turn into your own unique brushes. I have my own brushes that I could not be without. I use them more as an eraser, to give a worn & distressed look. For an example, if you lightly erase a polka dot overlay, it will instantly look distressed. Other uses are grunging up elements & papers, or use to create your own distressed paper overlays etc… just another great tool to have.
Here is a snapshot of my scans I turned into brushes:
Why not hand craft some elements to scan & use in your kits? You could cut leaves & flowers from cardboard & scan. Make ribbon flowers, create felt shapes, make your own curled edges, torn notepaper, lots of generic things you can use as a base. Be careful what you choose to scan, be careful of copyrights etc. Some things I love to have are screws, buttons, & diamante for flower centres. And as I said above, simply scanning & extracting is not really very creative… so scan your flowers, and then make them fabulous by adding to them digitally.
Commercial use Tools:
The less you can rely on Commercial Use tools… the more original your work will be.
There are different types of Commercial Use. I think most designers use some form of CU, paper textures, overlays, vectors, brushes, shapes…. these are what I consider tools. They are tools you use to design, the work is not done for you.
Then we have the scanned & extracted elements such as flowers, strings, ribbons etc… this is probably what a lot of people are sick of seeing in kits. The same flower over & over again.
OK so I don’t have a problem with CU. It’s HOW you use it that is more important. Simply turning a flower red and plopping it in a kit isn’t designing. Adding the same string to a kit that is probably in 100 other kits is pretty boring. So let’s get creative. Think about this, if you have that CU flower, chances are 100+ other designers also have it. So why would a customer buy the same flower from you when it is in 100 other kits? Or why wouldn’t they just buy the CU flower direct? And you think that people don’t notice…but they do. Especially if scrappers use a program like Adobe Bridge, they suddenly see that they have that flower in 20 different colours. Who needs that?
So lets get a little more creative with that CU flower. Build it up and make it into something unique. Add centres, add layers, let your imagination go crazy. Anything is possible in digi.
Here are 3 examples using the same CU flower:
Some ideas for creating a more unique item with CU:
- Add more layers & centres to extracted flowers.
- Combine 2 strings to create a new string.
- Add a button & stitch to a bow.
- Thread flowers, beads or buttons onto strings.
- Cluster elements. e.g: make a ribbon appear to be tied onto a stick.
- Combine 2 flowers to create a new flower.
Try and think of extracted CU elements as a tool. Something you use as a starting point and make into your own fabulous creation. Not just to simply recolour and fill up a kit. Now hopefully we won’t see the same flower in every kit, because now that flower has some style to it. If your kit has 80 elements…and 75 of those are CU recoloured in 5 different shades then chances are your customers may not continue buying from you.
To be even MORE unique is to scan & extract your own flowers & elements. But again, simply scanning & extracting is not really fun & exciting, you still should get creative.