Stepping into Spring with Student Work

Welcome to our weekly round-up of student work! We can’t say enough good things about our students, so instead of gushing on, we’ll let the work speak for itself!

Our first piece of student work comes from Cécile Kotsch in Illustrator 101. We really dig her font choices, perfect color scheme and the placement of her adorable shower related icons!

Student work by  Cécile Kotsch.
This Photo 101 assignment captured by Chrissie Brown is an excellent study in depth of field. Well done!

Student Work by Chrissie Brown

Marjorie Limbonhai created this amazing portrait we wanted to share with you. This piece proves that with time and practice (she’s taken many of our Illustrator based classes), you can develop impressive skills and a robust portfolio.

Student Work by Marjorie Limbonhai


And to wrap up this edition of student work, we have a painting from Katie Lenius in our Watercolor 101 course. We love how she layered the paint (or “glazed”) as it really brought depth and detail to the flowers. Monica also teaches students in this class how to take their paintings and scan them into Photoshop to clean them up a bit — you can see how Katie really made her painting pop in post production!Student Work by Katie Lenius

Happy Friday everyone!

Why External Flashes Are Awesome

…And Why You Should Bounce!

Most consumer DSLRs have a built-in flash that is great when needing light in a pinch. But, these small pop-up flashes are incredibly limited in what they can do, so I encourage investing in an external flash for these top 5 reasons:

  1. Adjustable Flash Power: Without changing position or exposure, you can increase the flash output for more power.
  2. Change Flash Angles -The best and most flattering light is rarely on-camera and front-lit, so being able to change the flash position to bounce light can help create broader, softer light. (See photo examples below!)
  3. Auto & Manual Exposures -For a more controlled, studio-like setting, you can control the flash to output the same amount of power at every fire, or, with more advanced technology like E-TTL (Canon) and i-TTL (Nikon) you can allow the camera’s auto setting produce a great flash output based on the distance of subject to photographer and the lens focal length.
  4. Ability to Shoot Off-Camera -Probably the best reason to buy an external flash is its ability to shoot off-camera. Now, studio-like setups can be produced indoors and out, with minimal gear and a smaller price tag.
  5. More Lighting Modifiers -As opposed to the built-in flash, there are more lighting modifiers available for the external flash, making it possible to create dramatic, moody light or to even create broad, soft light.

Below, I’ve shown three examples of how an external flash can create different light while still on camera:

On-Camera Flash -This is the flash facing forward at subject without modifiers. Basically, the flash in normal position, resulting in strong, contrasty light with dark shadows under the nose and chin. Front-light is flat and often boring, but it is helpful in diminishing blemishes.

External Flash Bounced Into Wall Behind – Standing near a white or neutral wall, I turned my external flash towards the wall behind me, and the result is a much softer front-light. You’ll notice the shadows are soft and lighter, and there is less shine on her face.

External Flash Bounced Into White Board -With someone standing to my left with a white board, I turned my external flash towards the white board which angled back at the subject. This helped yield a more natural light that looked more like natural light. The best part is that by angling and bouncing into a white board, I didn’t have to take my external flash off-camera and aside from the $3 white board, no additional equipment was needed.

This is an excerpt from my brand-new class, Photo 102! Click here to learn more or sign up for the class.


Student Work Before the Weekend!

We hope you’ve all had an excellent week and wish you all a good weekend! To top off your Friday, here are some of our favorite bits of student work from March classes. Enjoy, and let us know what you think!

Our first pieces are from Alexis Paulson who is enrolled in our recently updated Photoshop 101 class. We’re excited to share her edits of the same beautiful photo — they prove that a few quick tweaks can really take an image to the next level. What do you think of the original (top) and the two with adjusted color settings (below)?

nicole's classes student work

nicole's classes student work

nicole's classes student work

In Photo 101, Chrissie Brown snapped this to die for photo of her little boy — the dreamy lighting and his hilarious expression captured the moment perfectly! Job well done, Chrissie!
Student work by Chrissie Brown

Another talented student from our Photoshop 101 class, Jessica McKimmey, created this advertisement collage for her business. Not only does it highlight some of the great editing features available in Photoshop, but it displays a sharp eye for design.

student work by Jessica McKimmey.

This year, Nicole’s Classes was thrilled to add  Watercolor 101 to our roster, and the first round of student work has us very impressed! For her week two geometric assignment, Brittany Bianchi created this fun scallop pattern with fun bright colors that made us smile. She also practiced organic shapes by painting two pieces of delicious-looking fruit — they have phenomenal texture, detail and shading!Student work by Brittany Bianchi.
And last (but certainly not least!), this leafy bunch of red radishes came from the palette of Katherine Lenius. We applaud her sharp attention to detail, stellar composition, and great use of graduated color. Nice work!Student work by Katherine Lenius.

If you want to see more of what we have to offer, check out our full list of classes and happy Friday!

Watercolors: Cleaning Your Palette

Good morning everyone! Monica Lee here with some advice and tips on cleaning your paint palette.

I recently sat down with some watercolor artists and asked them about their supplies. Everyone works differently and I find their processes just as fascinating as I find them! One of the basic supplies in watercolor is the palette. There are several different kinds of palettes on the market and they are often shaped like mine in the picture. This palette is quite old, but my teacher tip today applies to old and new palettes.

Watercolors Palette

Wipe down your palette between projects!

You don’t need to remove the paint from the cubbies. That paint is reconstituted with clean clear water. However, I do suggest cleaning off your mixing area on a regular basis, and especially when you begin a new painting. This will push you to use all of the colors available on your palette as well as ensure that your watercolors don’t get muddy.

Watercolors: Messy Palette

As you paint, also make sure that you change your water frequently to keep your washes clean. The beauty of watercolor is its light and translucency–you don’t want to add any muddy pigments. When you keep mixing pigment on top of pigment on your palette, your colors will dull down and your painting may end up losing its sparkle and richness.

While I know everyone works differently, I encourage you to take on this habit for clear, rich colors every time you paint!


Happy-ish Wednesday!

nicole's classes happy wednesday!

Ever have one of those days? We sure did today! This picture was a much needed reminder to keep smiling!

We’ll be back with regular scheduled posts tomorrow, and we apologize for the hiccup! Also, keep in mind that our St. Patrick’s Day 17% off discount code NCLUCKY13 is good through this Friday. So snap up those textbooks and online classes on the cheap while you still can!

St. Patrick’s Day Winners Announced and Discount Code Extended!

nicole's classes st. patrick's day winner!

First off, we want to say thank you and wish everyone who participated in our contest over the weekend a very happy St. Patrick’s Day! We’ve been delightfully amazed at the response and we can’t wait to announce who must have had the luck of the Irish on their side. So without further ado, the randomly selected winners are…

The winner of the grand prize photo prize pack, which includes a free online class, a camera strap and a Kelly Moore camera bag is:

Sarah who commented on the original blog post and said, “I’d take the Photography 101 class so I can actually use my camera!”

The winner of the second prize, a free Nicole’s Classes online class is:

Nicole Elianna who posted on Instagram with the hashtag #nicolesclassesluckstagram

And the winner of the third prize, a full set of Nicole’s Classes textbooks is:

MelissaW who commented on the original blog post and wants to learn Illustrator 101!

Congratulations to our three lucky winners, and thank you again to all of our followers who commented, tweeted, facebooked and instagrammed to get the word out! We’ll be contacting the winners later today, so if you won, stay tuned for an email from us shortly.

And if you weren’t one of the super lucky this time around, we still have some good news for you — we’re extending the St. Patrick’s Day discount code through Friday, March 22! Just enter the code NCLUCKY13 at checkout to save 17% off your entire order (gift certificates excluded).

Wishing you much luck throughout the rest of your week!

Enter our St. Patrick’s Day Contest!

nicole's classes st. patrick's day contest!Top o’ the morning to everyone! In honor of St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday, we’re holding another contest over the weekend for all our amazing blog and social media followers!

If you’re feeling especially lucky, you should enter to win 1 of 3 amazing prizes:

Grand Prize: A photo prize pack including 1 free Nicole’s Classes online course, a camera strap and a Kelly Moore camera bag!

Second Prize: 1 free Nicole’s Classes online course!

Third Prize: 1 of each of our popular Nicole’s Classes textbooks!

To enter, leave a comment below telling us which online class you’d take if you won! Make sure to include your email so we can get in touch with you if you do win. So easy, right?!

Want to increase your luck? There are 3 additional easy ways you can earn bonus entries:

  • Follow @nicolesclasses on Instagram and post about the giveaway with the hashtag #nicolesclassesluckstagram
  • Follow @nicolesclasses on Twitter and tweet about the giveaway with the hashtag #nicolesclassesluckytweet
  • Like Nicole’s Classes on Facebook and make sure to @ us when you post about the giveaway

One additional entry per method, for a maximum of 4 total entries per person. Winners will be selected at random and announced here on the blog on Monday, March 18th at 8am PST.

And because we want to spread the luck over this magical weekend, everyone can be a winner with the discount code NCLUCKY13**! Enter the code at checkout now through Monday, March 18th to save 17% off your entire online class and textbook order!


**Not combinable with other discounts or promotions. Not valid on past orders.

Spring Student Work

This week we’re bringing you student work a little early! We’re happy to show what our students have been up to this March from a variety of classes. Enjoy, and happy Thursday!

The first couple of pieces are from Kimberly Aldrich in our Photoshop 101 class. We love the before and after of these adorable kids. It really shows how a few small edits can really make an impact on a photo! student work by Kimberly Aldrich

student work by Kimberly Aldrich
Madeline Markos, who has taken Illustrator 101, created the invitation below. The bright greens and purples help create a party-atmosphere, and the way she illustrated the birthday cake makes us want to eat a big slice. We also love the bunting detail!

student work by Madeline Markos
Whitney Rippon captured a beautiful moment in Photo 101. This kid’s happy face and crazy curls make for a great subject, and we love how the camera is focused and angled.

student work by Whitney Rippon
We thought this next piece by April Griffith was perfect with spring right around the corner. The mixture of the fluffy texture from the wool and the slick pieces of grass, paired with some well-placed shading, makes for an excellent composition. And the color palette makes us excited for Easter!student work by April Griffith

Watercolor Tutorial: Wash

In today’s tutorial, teacher Monica Lee shows how to create a watercolor wash that mixes different colors right on the paper. Watch it over here!

Watercolor Tutorial

Student Spotlight with Heather Boissonneau

Last summer, we got to share the design work of Heather Boissonneau with all of you. Eight months later, and we are excited for the opportunity to feature her again. Heather talked to us about taking her experience with Nicole’s Classes to the next level: designing her own fabric. Read on for more information, and enjoy!

Heather Boissonneau

Hello, I’m Heather Boissonneau of Heather B design; I’m both a former, and very definitely a future, student here at Nicole’s Classes. I’ve been a graphic designer for eighteen years and I love textiles, particularly for interior design application.

Designing my own fabrics had been a long-term dream of mine. Spoonflower, a company which lets anyone print their designs on fabric, had been on my radar for a while, so I was very excited when I saw that Nicole’s Classes offered advanced Illustrator classes. Suddenly designing my own fabrics and having them printed was a real possibility! I signed up for class immediately.
design work by Heather Boissonneau

design work by Heather Boissonneau

It was packed full of wonderful information and it enabled me to create the patterns that repeated properly. However I also discovered that designing patterns for fabrics is quite different than designing for print or web. There are some special considerations.

One thing that I had to consider was the scale of the design. Since I wanted to use my fabric for home décor items, I needed to make the print much larger than I was accustomed to. Quilting cotton is forty-five inches wide! Prints that are too small can look busy and be difficult to see. I actually measured one of my dinner plates to get the size of the large medallion on the largest repeating print. My art board in Illustrator was 24” x 24”

Preparing the files for printing is also a little different. Spoonflower requires a resolution of 150 dpi, as opposed to print, which starts at 300 dpi, or web, which is 72 dpi.

design work by Heather Boissonneau

design work by Heather Boissonneau

Coloring for fabrics is also different. While Spoonflower does accept files in both RGB and CMYK, the colors on your monitor will be different than what will be printed on the fabric. More importantly, the colors render differently on the different types of fabric. Spoonflower addresses this by offering a yard of each of their fabrics with 1,400 color swatches printed on them along with their corresponding Hex codes. Using Hex codes was also new to me, but it allowed me to color my fabrics accurately

design work by Heather Boissonneau

design work by Heather Boissonneau

Personally, I’m hooked on designing and printing my own fabric! Currently I’m working on two more collections: one inspired by traditional Swedish textiles and decorative motifs, and one inspired by Indian mendhi block prints. I hope to one day license my designs to a textile company. Designing fabrics for a living would be a dream come true!

design work by Heather Boissonneau

design work by Heather Boissonneau

design work by Heather Boissonneau

A big thank you to Heather for letting us share her experience with all of you! If you liked Heather’s designs above, leave her a comment below or pay her a visit over on her website!

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