Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A bright thank you card idea

Bright purple Thank You card with For You Flower Bugaboo digital stamp.

One of the best things about a digital stamp is the ability to easily change the sentiment (I often need a French sentiment), as I've done with this gorgeous For You Flower stamp from Bugaboo Digi Stamps. The sentiment that came with the stamp said "For You", I simply changed that to "Merci" using Park Avenue BT font.

I was in a purple mood and decided to coordinate the stamp colors with the perfect purples included in the Claudine Digital Paper Pack from Sassy Designs.

I offset the purple with bright green buttons.  Purple and green happens to be one of my favorite color combos (as this Easter card and this Halloween card prove).

Supply List
Paper – cardstock, Sassy Designs Claudine Digital Paper Pack
Digital stamp – For You Flower from Bugaboo Digi Stamps
Color – Caran d'Ache Luminance 6901 pencils
Dies – Die-namics square stax
Embellishments – buttons, twine
Font – Park Avenue BT

I'm linking up with: 613 Avenue Create #142 – Anything Goes,  Crafting from the Heart #78 – Always Anything Goes, Craftin' Desert Divas Linky Party – Favorite Color Combo, Craft Your Passion #280 – Always Anything Goes, Love to Scrap #62 – Anything Goes, Not Just Cards #24 – Anything Goes, and the Catch the Bug September Bingo Challenge (Sentiment, Button, Stripes).

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Digital scrapbooking and digital image processing software for under $10, £5, €7—the best, least expensive digital image processing software on the market!

I received this email today from CraftArtist 2 offering a special price of only £4.99 (€6.80, apx. $7.70) for the CraftArtist 2 Professional software. That's 80% off with a savings of  £20.00 ( or €23.69, apx. $32.00)!!! I mentioned how often I use this software and how much I like it with my tutotial on PNG images I did last week. I can't stress enough what a great program this is—digital scrapbooking, digital/hybrid crafting, photo processing, art text, various crafting templates, even a one click 3D image maker, etc.—it can do so many things; you won't believe it. I've had it since it came out and I still haven't used all it can do. It's also user friendly and easy to learn, but if you do have a question their tech support is quick and friendly in responding. If someone were to ask me, "What do you recommend as the best digital image/digital scrapbooking/digital craft software on the market, price no object?" I would answer without any hesitation whatsoever CraftArtist 2 Professional!!! At this price (and I don't know how long it will be on sale) don't hesitate! You will be soooooooooooo glad you purchased it. As my Disclosure page states, I am getting nothing from CraftArtist for promoting this product, but it is such an exceptionally good product at this unbelievably low price, I just have to share.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Fall 3D decoupage step card idea

Fall 3D Step Card idea

I whipped up this step card as a combination "Happy Fall/Happy Halloween" greeting to send to my mother. I decided to focus more on the Fall aspect and less on the Halloween. I used Annie BTN font for the "Happy Fall" sentiment on the front and added "Happy Halloween" to the inside sentiment.

As I mentioned with this nautical card post, I'm trying to create more with my stash and use up the supplies I already have. I've had this Tilly Daydream A4 Ultimate Die-cut & Paper Pack (TIL 169100) a while, used it for my young neighbor's birthday card last year and haven't touched it since, but it's perfect for fall and winter and just too cute to leave languishing in a drawer.

I used Crafts-too Step Card die for the base; the 3D decoupage focal image and papers are from the pack. These Ultimate Paper Packs are very good buys, you can create several projects with a single pack.

Supply List
Paper – cardstock, Papermania Tilly Daydream A4 Ultimate Die-cut & Paper Pack (TIL 169100),
Dies – Die-namics circle stax, Aretemio scallopped circles, Crafts-too Step Card die
Embellishments – button, twine
Font – Annie BTN

I'm linking up with: Crafting from the Heart #77 – Always Anything Goes, Craft Your Passion #279 – Always Anything Goes, Dream Valley Challenge #115 – Autumn Colors, Not Just Cards #24 – Always Anything Goes, Our Crafty Corner #1 – Autumn Color Inspiration,  613 Avenue Create #141 – Anything Goes,  and The Creative Corner Link Up Party

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Card making tutorial – What is a PNG digital stamp file, how to use and make your own PNG digital stamp file

You order a digital stamp and you're given two – one is a JPG file and one is a PNG file. You know what a JPG file is from your personal photos, but you scratch your head and wonder what you're supposed to do with the PNG one. "What the heck's a PNG file anyway?" you ask.

PNG stands for Portable Network Graphics and is a type of image file. It differs from JPG (Joint Photographic Experts Group in case you're wondering) in that images saved with this format have better color and image resolution, support transparency (more on that coming up) and are considered 'lossless' meaning their quality does not suffer in the editing process. This makes for a versatile image you can do all sorts of things with. Their down side is they take up more memory than JPG files.

This tutorial serves three purposes:

  • To explain what is the difference between JPG and PNG digital stamp files and to show how you can use a PNG digital stamp file.
  • How to remove the surrounding white background from a digital stamp and create your own PNG transparency effect.
  • Make your acquaintance with CraftArtist 2 software in case you've not been formally introduced.

Serif CraftArtist2 Professional software is a great program. It's easy to learn, extremely versatile and at $39.99 (£24,99, €29.99) in my opinion, it is the best, most affordable digital scrapbooking software on the market. I use it more now than Photoshop, which I paid hundreds of dollars for. There's even a free CraftArtist compact version of the software you can take out for a test drive, although it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the professional version.

Let's begin!

1. If you drag a JPG digistamp file into CraftArtist 2 (CA) it will look like this:

what a jpg digital stamp looks like

I've placed the stamp against a blue background to show how it looks. This stamp is from Digistamp Boutique's (one of my favorite digital stamp companies) Sewing Kit set (on sale for only £0.99).

2. If you take the PNG version of this same stamp and drag it into CA it will look like this:

what a PNG digital stamp looks like

See how the white background around the stamp has been removed? In the PNG file this removed area is transparent.

3. This set has some cute sewing themed stamps I want to combine with the sewing machine. If I take the 'normal' JPG pincushion stamp and drag it on top of the sewing machine it's going to look like this:

Not pretty.

4. Let's try that again, but this time with the PNG version of the pincushion stamp. It looks like this:

Ah, yes, that's much better . . . now you see the possibilities of a transparent background PNG. This is one reason I like Digistamp Boutique stamps so much. Digistamp Boutique PNG files remove the white outside edge only. This means you can easily layer and combine their PNG stamps to create ever more designs.

5. Not all digistamp companies do this. Let's bring the sewing machine back again, this time with a PNG digistamp from another company. This PNG digi has had all the white removed.

As you can see Mr. Snail PNG does not play well with others. He's completely transparent except for the line drawing. Unless you're using the digi in a digital scrapbooking composition that requires transparency, you don't need this. White as a color does not 'print'. Print a black and white JPG digi onto patterned paper and it will automatically be transparent. These kind of PNGs serve no purpose whatsoever for me.

6. Since PNG files are less likely to have that grainy look, some designers use PNG files only, even with with no transparency. You open it up and it looks and acts exactly like a JPG. Shoot! You have another digi background stamp this digi would be perfect with. What to do?

Let's put the sewing machine away for a bit and open up this free pond digital stamp by Opal Manor.

Opal Manor has a super cute free digi Mr Frog stamp that would look grrrrrrrrreat with this pond digi. The downloaded frog freebie – say that three times fast – is a PNG file, but it is not transparent.

Let's hop to it and fix that!

7. Drag Mr. Frog onto the pond digi and it will look like the screen below. Select Mr. Frog and then click on 'Cutout Studio', where the green arrows are pointing. We want to get rid of the white surrounding Mr. Frog so we can see the pond behind.

8. Mr. Frog pops up in the Cutout Studio screen, as seen below. Click on the bottom icon to show discarded areas as transparent. It will look like this:

9. Now, you want to select that part of Mr. Frog you want to keep. Click on the first keep brush icon, as shown below. Put grow tolerance to zero at the top. Begin to brush over what you want to keep. Your keep areas become white. I have a graphic Wacom pen tablet that makes this kind of thing much easier. If you've never used one of these tablets, give one a try; they're worth the money and you won't believe you ever got by without one!

10. I use a larger brush size from the bar at the top and do a quick brush over first. Then I select the second discard brush icon, as shown below, and start to remove the excess. I change the brush px size at the top by typing in 3 to do between the toes and the other tight corners. Be sure to keep the black outline. If you accidentally erase it, simply click on the first keep brush again and brush over it to get it back.

11. When you're done, Mr. Frog will look like the screen below. Just click OK at the bottom right of the screen and the Cutout Studio screen will close.

12. Now see what you have:

Doesn't that look nice?! Mr. Frog's background has been removed and you see the pond digi behind. Scroll back up and look at the before to compare. Save the combined stamps as a CA file and/or export as a JPG or PNG file. You could even copy and save Mr. Frog all by himself as a CA file, then export as a PNG to use again elsewhere.

Here's how layering PNGs from Digistamp Boutique's Sewing Kit set turned out.:

card for someone who likes to sew

This is a great card idea for someone who likes to sew, don't you think? The paper is from the long retired The Paper Studio Yarn & Thread Emporium paper pack, the image has been colored with Caran d'Ache Luminance 6901 pencils, and I've added a few buttons for embellishment. If you read my recent tutorial on coloring with colored pencils, you can see the difference in a stamp colored with many pencils like this one and a stamp colored with just one pencil as in the tutorial.

I'm linking up with: 613 Avenue Create #140 – Anything Goes, TTCRD Chall. 08/09-14/09 – Anything Goes, Sweet Stamps September – Anything Goes, Tuesday Throw Down #261 – Anything Goes, Crafting From the Heart #76 – Anything Goes, Craft Your Passion #278 – Always Anything Goes, Love to Scrap #61 – Do a Double Take, Not Just Cards #24 – Always Anything Goes, Creative Corner Linkup Party 06/09/15 and DigiStanp Boutique September Customer challenge.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A birthday card idea that works for either a man or a woman

Birthday card with Birdie Told Me Bugaboo digital stamp.

I whipped up this card just because I felt like coloring. As I was working away, listening to the radio, caught up in the 'coloring zone' I realized I haven't changed all that much – I liked to color as a kid, I like to color as an adult (and I've really gotten good at staying in the lines!). Since I don't have this card in mind for anyone particular, I decided to make it an androgynous model that would work for either a man or woman. It isn't as overtly masculine as this goler's card, but I think it will go.

Bugaboo Birdie Told Me digital stamp detail

The Birdie Told Me digital stamp is from Bugaboo Digi Stamps. What a great stamp this is; you can use it for any occasion! I decided to make it a birthday card. I used the free Sandscript BTN font for the inside sentiment. The digital paper is from the Chelsie digital paper pack by Sassy Designs.

My design uses the Stella Says Sketch 312 from the Catch the Bug Challenge.

Supply List
Paper – cardstock, Chelsie digital paper pack by Sassy Designs.
Digital stamp – Birdie Told Me digital stamp from Bugaboo Digi Stamps
Color – Caran d'Ache Luminance 6901 pencils
Dies – Die-namics circle stax and photo corners, Artemio scalloped circle die
Embellishments – button, ribbon

I'm linking up with: Crafting by Designs September – Anything Goes, Creative Moments #76 – Anything Goes/Use a Sentiment, Inspiration Destination #49 – Anything Goes, Ruby's Rainbow Challenge #112 – It's a Man's World and Shopping Our Stash #217 – Put a Bird On It.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Paris's beautiful street signs and typography

Paris Metro Sign from Slate Photo Blog
Photo from Slate Photo Blog

Next time you're in Paris, take a good look at the art around you, no, not in a museum, on the street! Paris's street signs – as author Louise Fili shows – are works of art in themselves. For more photos and information click on over to Slate's photo blog.

Even though much of this stunning signage and typography is slowly slipping away, for the moment there's quite a lot still there for us to gawk it and perhaps Ms. Fili's work is just what Paris needs to remind itself to preserve it. I'm always on the look out for interesting Paris street art, next time I visit I'm going to pay more attention to the signs.

Her new book Graphique de la Rue: The Signs of Paris is due out in October. I'm definitely putting this one on my wish list.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A card idea for tea lovers

A card idea for tea lovers with DigiStamp Boutique Coffee Break digital stamp set.

This greeting card (a great card idea for tea lovers!) uses the Coffee Break digital stamp set from DigiStamp Boutique. This is such a versatile set; I used one of its coffee digital stamps for my husband's Valentine's day card this year. Unfortunately, the set has been retired; as far as DigiStamp Boutique goes, that is, I'm not finished with it yet!

Tea lover's card detail of digital stamp from DigiStamp Boutique Coffee Break set.

The flower and button are from my stash. Don't they mimic the floral design on the teacup perfectly?! I've left the inside blank. This multipurpose sentiment can work for Just Because, Birthday, Anniversary, etc.

The digital paper comes from Snap Click Supply Company. This is a great 'where to buy site' for digital papers, stamps, templates, etc. to use in digital and/or hybrid papercrafting. Here you'll find the big names you're familiar with in digital form – BasicGrey, BoBunny, Cosmo Cricket, Echo Park, etc. I strongly suggest signing up for their newsletter. There's always a special offer going on. Every Wednesday it's One Buck ($1) Wednesday where a choice of papers, templates, kits, etc. are on sale that day only for just $1!!! I've gotten some fantastic buys that way. The paper I've used on this card – Samantha Walker Tea for Two digital paper set – is a case in point. It was featured in a One Buck Wednesday sale and I snapped it right up for only $1 (its normal price is $2.99).

I'm participating in Sketch Saturday #376, which is to choose and use any sketch from their archive. I chose #297.

Supply List
Paper – cardstock, Samantha Walker Tea for Two digital paper
Digital stamp – DigiStamp Boutique Coffee Break set
Color – Caran d'Ache Luminance 6901 pencils
Dies – Die-namics circle stax
Embellishments – button, wooden flower

I'm linking up with: 613 Avenue Create #139 – Anything Goes, Crafty Friends #13 – Use a Sentiment, DigiDesigns Challenge – Use a Sentiment, The Pencil Case Wk 1 – A = Anything Goes, Chocolate, Coffee and Cards #98 – Use a Sentiment, Crafty Girls Creations #3 – Always Anything Goes and DigiStamp Boutique August customer competition.

Friday, August 28, 2015

What is Annecy, France like?

Wednesday, my husband and I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather we've been having with a visit to one of our favorite towns in the area – Annecy – in the Haute-Savoie department of France. If you're visiting Geneva, Switzerland, Annecy is the perfect day trip, by car or train.

Pont des Amours bridge in Annecy, France.
The Pont des Amours (Love Bridge) is a well known tourist spot.

Annecy is situated on the Lac de Annecy and is known as 'the Venice of the Alps' due to the canals that wind through its Vieille Ville (old town).

View from the Pont des Amours bridge in Annecy, France.
The view from the other side of the Pont des Amours.

This was a good week to go as the bulk of summer tourists have returned home (school starts here September 1st).  The Palais de l’Isle is probably Annecy's most photographed point of interest. Built in the 12th century, it's had several incarnations over the years – from aristocratic residence to prison.

The Palais de l'Isle in Annecy, France.
The Palais de l'Isle (center) one of Annecy's most photographed points of interest.

Pastel buildings and cobbled streets invite you to wander through the Vieille Ville.

Pastel building fronts in the old town of Annecy, France.
Pastel building fronts in the old town.

If all that walking works up your appetite, you'll have no problem finding something to eat; temptation abounds. This boulangerie always has a line out the door.

An old boulangerie in Annecy, France.
The window display in this boulangerie makes your mouth water.

Annecy hotels are plentiful. Our favorite restaurant in Annecy, the Auberge du Lyonnais (blue awning to the left in the photo below), is an excellent seafood restaurant and very nice small hotel.

A picturesque flowered canal in Annecy, France.
Make sure your batteries are charged – photo ops abound.

If you happen to be in Annecy around the holidays, the Christmas Market is a must visit.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

You're the Cat's Meow birthday card (no BUTT about it!)

birthday card for cat lovers

This card is made with a digital stamp from the now defunct Meljens Designs and is the perfect birthday card for cat lovers. It just cracks me up and made the perfect birthday card focal image for a cat loving friend.

birthday card two cats with tails in the air

The cat themed paper is from Sassy Design's Meow Mix digital paper pack.

A gray wooden flower, red button and twine dress it all up.

Supply List
Paper – cardstock, Sassy Designs Meow Mix digital paper pack
Digital stamp – Meljen's Designs Kitty Butts digital stamp
Color—Caran d'Ache Luminance 6901 pencils
Dies – Die-namics rectangle stax
Embellishments – button, wooden flower, twine

I'm linking up with: Digi Choosday wk 34 – Use Two or More Papers, Retarte #59 – Anything Goes, TTCRD wk. Aug. 25 – Aug. 31 – Anything Goes, 613 Avenue Create #138 – Anything Goes, The Creative Corner Link-up Party, Artistic Inspirations #138 – Anything Goes, Crafting from the Heart #74 – Always Anything Goes, Craft Your Passion #276 – Always Anything Goes, Love to Scrap #60 – Anything Goes and Not Just Cards #23 – Always Anything Goes.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A tutorial—How to blend pencil colors on a stamp without using dangerous mineral spirits—How to color and shade a stamp with one pencil

Many (if not most) of the stamp colorists I see on the internet using pencils to color their stamps are using mineral spirits to blend their colors. I'm sure quite a few would-be pencil users are put off by this process and choose not to color with pencils rather than use a dangerous solvent. This is a shame because colored pencils are an easy and affordable way to color. Potential pencil colorists are right to be concerned though; mineral spirits are dangerous. Of the most popular solvents on the market Gamsol is probably the safest, but even it has its dangers (see fact sheet here). The truth is you don't have to use a solvent at all, I don't. This tutorial will show you how.

This little card making tutorial serves two purposes:

1. To show would-be pencil colorists how to achieve a very good result with graduation in blending, color and shading with a single colored pencil (an expensive initial investment in numerous pencils is not necessary).

2. To show you do not have to use mineral spirits to blend.

For this stamp project I've used:

Wink-Wink Opal Manor free digital stamp (an easy stamp for beginners)
180g drawing paper cut to 10cm x 15cm (you need a good paper for blending)
a quality pencil sharpener
Derwent Blender pencil (a must!)
mini duster
Faber-Castell Perfect 7057 eraser pencil (the best for stamps!)
a quality permanent yellow-gold pencil
a quality permanent black pencil
a quality permanent blue pencil

Note on pencils—not all pencils are created equal. You want a quality permanent pencil with a smooth, blendable lead. A water color pencil will not work with this technique. I use Caran d'Ache Luminance 6901 pencils. They have a smooth permanent lead, excellent color fastness and bright pigments. I've used #820 Golden Bismuth Yellow, #009 Black and #162 Phthalocyanine Blue.

1. Add a sentiment if you wish to the Wink-Wink stamp and print on a 10cm x 15cm cut of drawing paper. I think this stamp looks like the sun, hence my sentiment. Drawing papers vary by the grain. If one side of your paper has a rougher grain than the other, print the stamp on the smoothest side. I use a table top easel, an old children's chalk board, and clips for coloring. It is easier to color this way and less strain on your neck. This is my set up.

2. First thing with any stamped (digital or traditional) image is to decide where your imaginary light source is coming from. I tend to like my light coming from above the stamp to the right. Pencil in a little sun to remind you where your light is.

3. Imagine if you were looking at a round object like this, and the sun were overhead in the right corner—where would your shadows be? Where would your highlights be? Take the yellow pencil and with a very light hand, with hardly any pressure on the pencil, add color to the image, leaving the top right of the 'head' white (this is where the light would be hitting).

4. Now you're going to lay in a darker layer. Imagine your shadow once again. Towards the bottom and left of the circle your shadow would be naturally darker. Applying a little more pressure this time, color slightly darker towards the bottom and left outside edge of the image. Imagine how this round image would feel in your hands if you could hold it. Think of that when coloring. Imagine you're coloring a 3D object following its shape. Put in a very narrow line of color at the top right side of the 'highlight' area.

5. What you have should look like the above.

6. Now we're going to blend using the Derwent Blender pencil. This pencil is my coloring secret weapon. Go over the entire image blending the colors and smoothing out the edges. Google the Derwent Blender pencil and you will find some great tutorials for using it.

7. The colorless blender pencil has a slightly sandy feel to it. After blending I dust off any excess.

8. Your image will look something like the above.

9. Now we're going to put in the darkest shadows. Using the yellow pencil, color in the very bottom and left edge of the image, applying more pressure on the pencil to achieve a darker color. Apply some shadow under the smile and the left 'eyebrow'. Again, imagine it's a 3D round object and that your coloring follows its shape.

10. Take the blender pencil and blend the darker and lighter areas. Use the duster to lightly brush away any 'sandiness'.

11. Sharpen the yellow pencil to a fine point, applying more pressure (but not too much, the point will break!) draw a thin darker line just inside the image's outline. If you accidentally go outside the line, this is where the Faber-Castell Perfect 7057 eraser pencil comes in handy to remove any goofs.

12. To redefine the stamp's edges and features, use a sharpened black pencil point to lightly trace the lines of the smile, wink and outside edge.

13. What you have now will look something like the above.

14. Let's color in the eye; if you're wondering what the two little white circles on the iris of the eye are, that's a handy trick by the designer to remind you to not color them. They are the reflected highlights of the eye. You should always have a point of white on the eye. Use a blue pencil with medium pressure to color in the iris.

15. . . . and here's your finished image! This shows what you can do with a single pencil color and no dangerous solvents. Admittedly, I used one pencil for the sake of this tutorial to illustrate a point—if I were doing this for myself, I would have used four pencils to color in the yellow—but this just proves that you don't have to spend a lot to achieve a pleasing result. Once you begin using pencils you can add in more colors and practice your degrees of shading.

And here's the card I made! I used Sassy Designs Sunshine digital paper pack, cardstock, twine and a sunny charm to accent my colored image. My sentiment font is LA Headlights BTN.

I'm linking up with: Through the Craft Room Door Aug. 18-24 – Anything Goes, Artistic Inspirations #138 – Anything Goes, Crafting from the Heart #73 – Anything Goes, Craft Your Passion #275 – Anything Goes, Crafty Card Makers #145 – Warm Summer Colors, Dream Valley Challenges #113 – Add a Charm, Love to Scrap #60 – Anything Goes, CCC Digi Creations #31 – Anything Goes, 613 Avenue Create #137 – Anything Goes, and The Creative Corner Link-up Party.