Well, here it is! A peek into my camera bag and recommendations.
Don’t miss all the details –click more!
Well, here it is! A peek into my camera bag and recommendations.
Don’t miss all the details –click more!
In the past few years, our world has seen a huge transition from magazines, books, and newspapers being printed to all being online. In fact, most of you probably get your news, check on your friends, and read books all on your phone, tablet, or computer.
With this huge transition to all information being online, there has also been a change in how users and readers consume this information. Not only are the tools we use to consume it different, but the very way that readers interact with online content is inherently different than in print.
So what should you do as you blog, design websites, and create material that is consumed online? Here are a few of my biggest tips:
In today’s world, keeping readers on your site is simply a race against the clock. With the advent of Instagram, Pinterest, and the abundant amount of information on the internet, viewers have become accustomed to a “scroll, scroll, scroll” quick glance at your content, and then with a click they are gone.
In fact, for most of my blogger and web design clients, their users spend an average of 2 to 2 1/2 minutes on their site. If you don’t believe me – check your analytics! Viewers are spending less and less time on sites, and now the trick is not only to get viewers to your site, but to keep them on your site.
Why is this important? Knowing you have limited time changes how you you write, design, and create your material. You have to quick grab readers and keep their interest.
Because time is so precious, its very important that everything on your site is easy to find. Keep your navigration up top or on the left side bar – don’t get clever with putting it in unusual places. Also, your navigation should remain the same from page to page, and there should be consistency with the way information is displayed on your site. Be clever with your design, but not in your layout and usability, as users get frustrated if they have to search for where to click things.
Again, because time is not on your side, try to think of your home page (or at least the first part of your blog post), as a billboard. You want to make it high impact, and give it a quick capture moment – use a big picture, add some text, and make it compelling. It will be sure to stop viewers in their tracks and keep them from just scanning down the page.
Can I say this once again? Viewers skim, they do not read.
You want to make “reading” or skimming as easy as possible – keep your paragraphs short and edit twice to make sure you make your point with as few words as possible. This isn’t the place for writing a novel!
This is one of the most important usability tips. We were trained in school that 12 pt font was the right size in Word, but this does not apply to online content and reading/skimming.
In fact, the recommended size by online usability experts is 16 px! That is much, much bigger than 12 px! I personally recommend 15-16 px for my clients depending on the typeface. This is a very simple change you can make that will help ensure readers actually read your blog posts.
If you have a wilted blossom or piece of greenery, consider this trick for bringing it back to life! Fill a deep bucket with scalding hot water. Submerge the flower in it for about 30 minutes to an hour. Take the flower out, re-cut the stem and place in a vase of lukewarm water.
Your flower should come back to life within a few hours! A few tips:
-This works for most flowers but not for all. Works well with wilted greens like pittosportum or herbs, and flowers like roses, lilac, or hydrangea.
-This does not work well for white flowers (they will turn brown).
- This trick works for wilted flowers that are recently drooping or looking limp. It doesn’t usually work for flowers that have been left out of water for more than a day or that are actually dead.
Give it a try!
Hello again, Monica Lee here for Nicole’s Classes Watercolor 101 course!
Often when you are trying your hand at a new medium like watercolor, the impulse is to go out and buy hundreds of dollars worth of supplies and hundreds of colors of paint. After all, the paint is the pretty part, right?
Today I want to make a case for bucking that impulse and using a monochromatic color scheme. Chinese painters have done it successfully for centuries. When I was a young girl, my family stayed at a resort that had an “in house” artist. I would sit for hours and watch him paint elaborate paintings using only black ink. Choosing just one pigment for a piece is a fun way to practice what is called a “value study” — using a single color helps you better understand variations of lightness and saturation.
Limiting your palette can also help you unify your painting. And it can also set an emotional tone as you can see in this work from Sean Seal..
If you are working from a photo, you may consider using a black and white photo as your starting point to simplify. I used black and white photos and my imagination in this mostly monochromatic sketch of Madison Park.
Once you try using a monochromatic color scheme, I’d say you can try using up to 6 colors in one painting. Have fun experimenting with your color palettes!
It’s Friday, which means only one thing on the blog… we’re featuring more student work!
First off, we have an image from Virginie Boulon of our Photo 101 class. We are blown away by her great focus and mastery of depth of field… we loved seeing such a cool image so early in the class!
Here is another great image from Photo 101 student Tori Osorio. We love seeing students learn how to capture priceless moments like these… great job!
And we have one more from another Illustrator 101 student, Katrina Scaramuzzi. We love the quote and the way she carried the rainbow theme into the design.
We’re so stoked to see such great work in just the first few weeks of our May classes — stay tuned for more great images next week!
The top image was shot at 24mm and I was standing close to my subject. Notice how distortion exaggerates the forehead, cheeks, nose and chin, compared to the bottom image, which was shot at 85mm.
If you have a zoom lens, always take a step back and zoom in to avoid distortion and obtain a more flattering portrait.
In general, it’s best to stay above 50mm to avoid distortion, but if wide angle lenses are the only option, try not to shoot too closely to the subject.
One of the things that took me a while to learn early in my career was how to come up with ideas! It can be so hard to try to be constantly creative. I cannot stress enough how important it is to start every project with a good idea — even before you start on the computer, or pull out the sketchbook, you should have an idea of what you want to create.
I find that when I don’t have a concept or idea, my design suffers and I can never get it to the level that I want. I see this in my students too –when they have a good concept, after rounds of revisions and edits, their design becomes super strong and impressive. If they lacked a good concept to begin with, then it’s much harder to push through and really end up with a perfect design.
So how do you come up with that good idea? I spent a lot of time detailing brainstorming in my Creating an Identity class, and I have found that word dumps can be really helpful to getting your creative juices flowing. I have used this process for coming up with business names, concepts for holiday cards, ad campaigns, websites, you name it! Click the link below to get started!
Have you considered using a tablet in your work? Wondering which one to get? The options can be a little overwhelming, so let’s take a moment to talk about tablets!
When we talk about a tablet with regards to Illustrator, we are not talking about iPads. We are talking about touch-sensitive tablets that can be used with special pens. There are two basic categories that I will split these into, with a big price jump between the two. One type of tablet has a drawing area on it, but you draw on the tablet and watch what happens on your screen. This can be difficult to adjust to because there is a disconnect between what you are physically doing and what you are seeing on your screen. The other type of tablet is actually a monitor that you can draw directly onto, which means there is no disconnect that you need to adjust to.
Owning a tablet is absolutely not necessary for using Illustrator. Whether or not you need a tablet depends on what you do offscreen. I personally don’t work with pencil and paper much at all. I don’t draw very much, I don’t sketch, I don’t doodle. When I work in Illustrator, the majority of my work is done with the pen tool, which a tablet does NOT help with at all. So for me, even though I own two tablets, I use them only very, very occasionally.
On the other hand, if you are the type of artist who DOES draw, doodle, and sketch with pencil and paper, then a tablet might be a great tool for you! Many, many artists who use Illustrator use tablets!
Using a tablet in Illustrator will open up many options that are otherwise locked. These have to do with tilt, bearing, and rotation of the pen as well as pressure sensitivity.
Pencil Tool: Using the pencil tool with a mouse can be very awkward. Using a tablet allows you to draw much more naturally with the pencil tool. The pencil tool still functions in the same way, however, with no additional options unlocked.
Paintbrush Tool: Many options for Illustrator brushes are unlocked if you are using a tablet. Notably, the calligraphic brushes greatly benefit from the ability to respond to pressure, as well as tilt and bearing (the angle of your pen).
NOTE that when we talk about paintbrush in Illustrator, we are still not talking about something that looks like more traditional painting. Students ask me a lot about watercolor in Illustrator. While the Bristle Brushes attempt to imitate watercolor as best as possible, vector graphics are still very limited in creating this effect. Rather, I would suggest you take Watercolor 101B, where Monica teaches you watercolor, as well as how to clean up your work for web in Photoshop (which is the program better suited to watercolor).
Blob Brush Tool: Responds to pressure.
Eraser Tool: Responds to pressure.
Warp Tools: Respond to pressure.
Symbol Sprayer Tool: Responds to pressure, tilt, bearing, etc. (However, this is not a tool that I personally use.)
The dominant tablet leader is Wacom, so everything I recommend will come from them, simply because I have never tried anything else. If you have tried and loved another tablet, please let us know in the comments! (I also am aware that Adobe recently announced a tablet, but I haven’t looked into it yet!)
I generally tell students asking what tablet to buy, to set their budget and then spend the whole thing. The more you are spending, the better quality your tablet will be. But I have more guidelines below:
Bamboo: These entry-level tablets start as low as $80 (I’m seeing some lower sales prices on Amazon, which is where I recommend you search for the best prices) and are an excellent choice if you are unsure about whether you would use a tablet or not. Buy one for cheap, and if you love it, you have two options: 1) keep it, or 2) sell it and upgrade, now that you know you like using a tablet! The choices of Bamboos can be a little confusing (bamboozling?). At the time of writing this, there are four Bamboo models. You will want to buy the least expensive (Connect, about $80) or the most expensive (Create, about $200, which has a larger drawing area). The middle two options, as far as I’m aware, simply come packaged with software that you don’t need if you are buying a tablet for the express purpose of using it with Illustrator (and Photoshop etc.). However, if there happens to be a better deal on one of the middle options, go ahead and get it. You just probably won’t be using any of the “extras.”
Intuos: Here we’re getting more professional! These tablets are of a higher quality and have better sensitivity than the Bamboo line. They range in price from about $250 to $800. Any difference in price on the Intuos line corresponds with a difference in size. So once you’re in this bracket, the more you spend, the bigger your tablet. Pretty straightforward!
Cintiq: And here we jump to monitors that you are actually writing on. These start at about $1000 and go all the way up to $3700. The lower price buys you a 13-inch model. The highest price buys you a large screen that also responds to finger touch (whereas other models respond to pens only). These much more expensive models are definitely unnecessary for the average user. These are a great investment for very serious artists who are working in animation, gaming, and intense digital painting. Basically, if you don’t already know that you need one of these, then don’t worry. You don’t.
The lower price point in this category, however, may come in handy for Illustrator users. I own the 12 inch model (an older model) and have it permanently set up as part of my workspace. When I’m not using it as a tablet, I can use it as a second monitor. When I’m ready to use it as a tablet, it’s right there waiting for me. The Cintiq line of tablets actually require a fair amount of set up. Lots of connectors, cables, etc., and you wouldn’t want to be taking it out and putting it away on a regular basis. Bamboo and Intuos, on the other hand, are ready to plug into your USB and go! So these are very easy to tuck away into a drawer when not in use.
To sum it all up, do you need a tablet for use in Illustrator? No, you don’t need one, but depending on how you work, you might love one! Borrow a friend’s tablet, or buy a Bamboo to see if you like it. Once you’re sure you like it, then give back or sell back your tablet and buy as much tablet as you can afford!
What has your experience with tablets been? Love them? Hate them? Leave us a comment and let us know!
If you’re new to this blog (and even if you’re a longtime follower), you may or may not have seen and utilized all of the awesome free downloads we have available.
So we’re digging into the archives today to give you a quick roundup of relevant seasonal downloads we hope you can use in the coming months:
So what are you waiting for… get out there and use our free downloads to help you with (or give you an excuse to plan!) your next party!
We recently added Photo 102 to our curriculum and held the first session in April. We are so impressed with the work of our advanced photo students (we shared our first images from the class here), that we’re devoting a whole post to them today!
Our first two perfect-for-Mother’s-Day images are from Dawn Schaefer, who had this to say about her Photo 102 experience: “I throughly enjoyed the new class and loved the new handouts that came with it. I’ve been a graphic designer for the past 15 years and I’ve decided to take the leap and start my own business for both lifestyle/family photography and graphic design. I’m not sure I would be doing that without the classes and encouragement from you. I look at your portfolio and blog and they are both a major inspiration to me — I know if I keep pushing my boundaries and continue to soak up as much knowledge as possible, I can absolutely make this happen!”
Our next crazy adorable picture is from Judy Beck, who said this about the class: “Photo 101 students, sign up now…this very minute. The first 102 students continually commented on the fun they were having (we’re all obsessed with light painting) and how our photography skills improved. Metering and lighting were taken to the next level. So much technical and artistic information. And I LOVE Nicole’s feedback as I simply could never know the areas and details that need to be improved without it. Both Photo 101 and 102 have heightened my sense of awareness as to the little –and large– details that make an ordinary image extraordinary. THANK YOU Nicole!”
The last image we loved is from Katey Weibring who told us: “I loved this class so much and learned a huge amount!”
We hope their work and feedback offered you some insight into this new class. And if you’re so inclined, you can sign up for an upcoming session of Photo 102 here!