Fuji FP-100 Negatives

10 06 2009

I have been working with Fuji FP-100c45 negatives lately. I am ecstatic to have found out about this tecnique, since the Polaroid 55 and 665 packs are beyond expensive. I do have a stock of Polaroid 665 in my fridge, but I do not want to use it except for my next book that I put together.

Lamp and Orchid

Process:

1. Take your photo, and overexpose it by 1-1.5 stops. This will make the negative the proper exposure, but overexpose the print. Then, when you pull it from the camera, do not peel it.

2. Tape the photo, negative (black) side up to a piece of glass. Then, brush undiluted bleach onto the black backing, being careful not to let it leak under the photo.

3. Rinse thoroughly with water until all of the black backing has been removed.

4. Peel the photo from the negative.

5. Rinse the negative again until it is clean.

6. Dip into water/photo-flo mixture and then hang to dry.

Once dry, it is like any other negative and can be scanned or printed as such. I used a color negative in the example, but you can also use Fuji FP-100b. This method only works for the 100 speed, and does not work for Fuji FP-3000.

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Skin Retouching in Photoshop

4 09 2008

Airbrushing in fashion, glamour, and portrait photography has been around for quite some time. In this day and age of digital photography it has been made even easier. With this tutorial, you will learn how to soften skin by smoothing pores and getting rid of imperfections. After all, we can all use a little bit of vanity in our lives.

This tutorial assumes you have a basic knowledge of digital photography and the basic uses of photoshop. As a side note, RAW format should always be used to take your photographs if your camera has that capability.

Step 1
Check over your image for any flaws that may have slipped your eye. If the image is slightly blurry, this would be the time to use the smart sharpen tool (Filter>Sharpen>Smart Sharpen). As a general rule, I use it with a radius of 4.0 pixels and an amount of 30%. You can go up to about 60% if you need to, however there is no way to make a completely out of focus image sharp.

Step 2
Duplicate your original layer. You always want to duplicate your original before doing major modifications to it.

Step 3
To repair blemishes, you have some options: the healing brush tool, the patch tool, and the clone stamp tool. I prefer to use the patch tool.

Using the patch tool, draw a selection around an area of “good” skin close to where the blemish is. The selection should be slightly larger than the blemish. Then, drag the selection of good skin ontop of the destination.

During this process, you should be zoomed it to 300%.

Step 3
Using the pen tool, trace around every bit of skin. Once the face is outlined, go back in and trace around the eyes and lips so they will no be selected. Then, right-click with the pen tool and click “make selection.”

Right-click again and click “layer via copy.”

Step 4
This is where a lot of people mess up. The idea is not to make the skin look like plastic. You still want it to look life-like.

On this new skin-only layer, go to Filter>Noise>Median. Click the radius to 7.0 pixels and then click okay.

Change the new layer’s opacity to 35%. This can be tweaked to your liking.

There you have it. A very simple, easy way to retouch your photos to give your subjects smoother and blemish-free skin.





Setting up a Home Studio

31 08 2008

The studio is a very personal space for an artist, and as such studios are as unique as each individual artist. However, all studios do need some basics. This focuses on painting, however the majority of these suggestions can be used in any studio setting.

You do not need a studio to make art, however when you reach that certain point in your career when you once and for all decide you are an artist, you will want a space solely dedicated to your creativity. This is a place to store tools, works in progress, office items, etc.

Basic Parts of a Studio

Work Surface– Unless you have mastered the art of telekinesis, a work surface is the most essential part of your studio. This can be as low tech as working on the floor to a drafting table or an easel.

There are many different types of easels, from simple table-top easels which can cost as little as ten dollars to large, $1000 studio easels. The most important thing to consider when picking an easel is the size and weight of your canvas (or other material.) The most common type of studio easels are either A-frame or H-frame.

A-frame easels are good for smaller studios as they are able to fit snugly in the corner of a room. This said, they are more limiting to the size and weight of canvas you use.

H-frame easels are larger, heavier, and sturdier than most A-frames. They allow for larger, heavier canvases. Forward-tilt and crank adjustments are other pros for the H-frame models. These may be overkill for smaller studios.

Storage
First, you need places to store your art supplies. I don’t recommend going to an art store and buying a special art storage bin… they are overpriced. I’d recommend an old tackle box or even some tupperware. Old bookcases or shelves make excellent storage, of course.

It’s also wise to have a small table or cart of some sort to hold your easel/brushes/paints you are using for a current piece.

Storage for finished pieces doesn’t need to be in your studio. It can be in another room of your house, or even on the walls. When storing finished paintings though, be sure that the surfaces are well protected. Finished drawings can either be stored flat or rolled in tubes.

Lighting
Natural light is the best light to paint by, so a room with large windows make the best studios. However if you don’t have large windows… or you want to paint at night, you want to have the best lighting available.

You do not want incandescent lighting in your studio! That’s those horrible yellow lights that we all grew up in our household light sockets and are still in a good number of them. Instead of these, I recommend “color-corrected” fluorescent bulbs. The light is much whiter and mimics natural light more closely–however it is not perfect. Do not under any circumstances buy halogen bulbs. While great for photography when used in short intervals, they will get extremely hot, hence the nickname “hot lights.” This can cause serious damage to paints, models, props, your studio and you.

Floor Covering
Last but not least, you want a floor covering of some sort. Not really necessary if you have a bad flooring, of course. I prefer a reusable drop cloth made of denim or even low-grade canvas… stretch it after it’s filthy and covered with dirt and paint and call it modern art.

Every studio should be fully customized to suit your needs, but these are the basics which can give you a jumping off point. Keep in mind that you will probably want easy access to a cleaning area when you are creating your studio.

If you are using your studio as your place of business, make sure you think about having parking space and possibly a waiting room for your customers.





Smart Business Card Design for the 21st Century Artist

24 08 2008

As independent artists, we are trying to make a name for ourselves. The first step starts with identity. One of the most important things and artist has at his disposal is a business card. Of course, you could hire a graphic designer if you are not one yourself–and just because your are an artist, doesn’t mean you are a designer–but that takes money… a lot of it. Since the phrase “starving artist” can be pretty true, it may be more productive to make your own logo and business card.

It is prudent to do some research before you start. Look around on the web for examples. What logos catch your eye? What color combinations express you as an artist?

Regarding laws in your country, it is especially important to use free fonts, unless you wish you purchase the rights to use one. You do not want to be using Helvetica and suddenly find yourself up against a lawsuit for using a copyrighted font.

Once you have your logo completed, it’s time to start your business card. There are certain parts of a business card that can be disposed of and some that are must-haves. With this list, hopefully you can pick and choose the ones that most fit you.

1. Name of the Artist
Not every business card needs to have an individuals name, but as an artist your name really is your identity both figuratively and literally.
This should be the most prominent text on your business card.

2. Logo/Business Name
A logo that is used consistently throughout your card, website, and other print materials will help establish your identity as an artist. You may not have your own business, but it can be helpful. It is up to you to choose which should be more prominent, your name or your logo. For some people their name is their logo. So don’t beat a dead horse, choose one or the other.

3. Address
A physical address can be an important feature of your business card. This could be either your home address, studio address, or even a mailing list. You can omit this part of your card if you work entirely online.

4. E-mail Address
In this day and age, almost everyone has an e-mail address. This is a vital piece of information for web-based artists. You may choose not to include this, but that is not recommended. Create an e-mail account specifically for your business, and use it only for business. Keep your personal e-mails separate. This comes in handy in the long run.

5. Website
This is an essential part of any business card whether you are a web-based artist or not. If you are creating a business card, you are serious about your work and if you are serious about your work, you MUST have a website.

6. Phone Number
This is a toss up. Typically, if you do not work from home/have a studio phone line you should add that phone number to your business card. Web-based artists may find adding a phone number unnecessary.

7. Job Title
Not necessarily needed, but it might be helpful to state that you are an artist, designer, painter, sculptor, etc.

8. List of Services
Lists clutter up a business card. If you find it absolutely necessary to add a list of what you do, feel free as it can add to the usefulness of your card. However, if you can avoid it, do so.

9. Graphics
Last but not least are purely decorative graphics. However, be careful not to overdo it.

Now that your business card is complete, give it to everyone! Include it in the package if you ship a commission, give it to potential customers, friends, family, neighbors, whomever. Get the word out there about yourself and you will be surprised at how quickly you see results.





Vexel Tips and Tricks

18 08 2008

Vexel Definition according to Wikipedia

Vexel is a neologism for an entirely pixel-based form of raster art that imitates the vector graphics technique, but is distinguished from normal vector graphics or raster images. The word itself is a portmanteau derived from a combination of “vector” and “pixel.” It is is an entirely pixel-based raster image that imitates the vector graphics style.

Almost all of my work is done using this technique with the exception of the posters and print material I do. For that, I use the vector program Adobe Illustrator. This tutorial assumes that you have a basic understanding of Photoshop, its tools, and how to create layers.

The Pen Tool

The pen tool is a marvelous contraption that I use for almost all of my vexel work. Of course I also use the marquee and elliptical marquee tool as well. The key to mastering the pen tool, as well as the rest of Photoshop is understanding the shortcut keys on your keyboard.


While you may use the convert point tool, it is much easier to use the alt and ctrl keys. Once you create your path, you can edit it using these keys simply.

The path was started at the leftmost anchor point. On the second anchor poin, the ctrl key was used to create the curve. On the third anchor point, the alt key was used. The difference in the two is that while the ctrl key alters both anchor arms while the alt key allows you to move whichever you choose.

To close the path, simply click on the original anchor point. Once this is done, right-click and several options come up. Click fill path.

I’ve chosen a nice green color for what appears to be an unintentional leaf. Notice the jagged edge. This image is shown at 300% to show the pixels. In a true vector, you would not see this. Once you have filled the path, it’s time to make an outline. For a cartoony look, I am going to use a black outline.

This is accomplished by using the magic wand tool (making sure anti alias is checked) and selecting outside of your object. Then, go to Select>Modify>Contract. Here, I contracted the selection 1 pixel. Still under the Select menu, click Select Inverse.

Create a new layer under your object and fill the selection. Voila! You now have your outline. If you had simply filled it on your object’s layer, it would have been jagged looking.

Well, there you have it. For more information, there is a wonderful tutorial by Cait Leslie on deviantart here.





Pixel Art Tutorial

17 08 2008

To preface, I have to say that I only use MSpaint to do my pixels. Some people use fancy programs specifically designed for pixelling and others use photoshop. I did my first pixel piece on MSpaint, and that is what I use to this day. However, I do use photoshop to make transparent backgrounds.

Number One: Pick a palette!
First and foremost, you need to pick a palette. You can tweak it along as you go and you may very well change the entire thing, however it is always good to start off with the basic colors of your piece.


For this piece I chose two, simple five-color palettes. You never want to use MSpaint‘s default colors. Always use your own custom colors.

Number Two: Shading
There are two basic types of shading when it comes to pixel art: dithering and cel shading. Some artists strictly use one or the other while others combine the two.

Dithering is accomplished by placing individual pixels o the next proceeding color at a set rate along the edge of your previous color.

Dithering is best used for a more “realistic” piece.

Cel shading uses midtones to blend two colors together. This is accomplished either by placing a 1px line completely down the division or in strategic places along the division. If you followed my advice in step one and picked a good palette, this method shouldn’t be a problem.

Number Three: Outlines
Okay, so you now have your palette and you know which type of shading you want to use. Now you need to know which outline format you want to use: isometric or non-isometric.

Isometric pixel art is any object that has defined angles and rules you abide by so that it is shown in a 3/4 view (or a variety of other angles, but this is most common.

Non-isometric is any other type of pixel art that does not follow the rules of angles and as such allows for much more artistic freedom.

Technique:
Now that we have covered the basics, it’s now time to create your pixel art! I have had many people ask me how they can become better at pixelling and the only thing I can say it practice! I am amazed at how far I have come just in the past year of pixelling. I have learned from trial and error.

I prefer solely to work in non-isometric form. This is simply personal preference. I started out working with a lot of dithering, but I have found that I enjoy cel shading much more. I like the “cartoony” feel you can achieve with cel shading that you often cannot when using dithering as a shading tool.

I always start with simple outlines. You never want your outlines to be all one color though. They should be the darkest shade of whatever color you are outlining. Follow this up with a quick color fill in each section so you can get a general feel for the piece. After that, start your shading. I like working from dark to light as I find it easier.

I feel it is now time to mention that a large part of pixelling is the fact that you are tricking the human eye into seeing what the brain wants to. What I mean is, small gaps in a line can appear smoother and make your piece less jagged. This is why it is so important to pick the right color palette. If you don’t, you won’t be able to trick the eye into seeing what you want it to.

Trial and error is the best way to figure this out. However, if you have photoshop you have the ability to “cheat” using layers and opacity to find the perfect midtone between two colors.

Good luck and happy pixelling!





How to ship a painting

28 07 2008

So, you have finished your masterpiece and someone has purchased it… now what? Valuable paintings should be shipped by an expert art moving company. However, most of our artwork, despite how much they mean to us, does not require this type of shipping. Shipping your artwork can be a stressful process, no matter how well you package it. These tips will, hopefully, alleviate some of that stress.

Tip #1 – Dry first!
For pity’s sake, allow your painting to completely dry before you ship it! You worked so hard on it and it has even been purchased (although, in my opinion, it is wise to let the painting dry completely before offering it for sale!) so why would you want to put a wet painting in a box and have your customer find that it has been smudged upon arrival?

Remember that oil paints take an outrageous time to dry. Where I live, it can take upwards of six months! Even though the top layers may be dry, the underlying layers may not be.

Tip #2 – Framing
If your painting has already been stretched, it is almost always better to ship a framed painting rather that a raw canvas. The frame will act as a stabilizer to help make sure nothing comes in contact with the surface of the painting. However this is not always possible (or wanted stylistically by the artist.)

However, if your painting is not stretched, you are in luck. It will be much easier to ship your painting. After making sure it is completely dry, roll it around a cardboard tube paint side in. Then, wrap this in bubble wrap and proceed to place into a large mailing tube.

Tip #2.5 – Corner Guards
If your painting is framed, you may want to consider used cardboard corner guards to protect the, you guessed it, corners of the frame.

Tip #3 – Bubble wrap is a lovely thing… unless it touches your painting.
Bubble wrap is a person’s best friend when it comes to shipping valuable items. However, it can soon turn into your worst enemy if it touches the actual paint. This can cause a reaction between the plastic and the paint and the outcome will not be good. If anything needs to touch the paint at all, make sure it is acid-free paper.

Tip #4 – Packing peanuts?
Personally, I avoid packing peanuts like the plague. They cause static and if broken, they can create many, many little bits of foam which stick to your painting. Only used these if you have previously wrapped your painting in acid-free paper first. Packing Peanuts should never be your sole form of packing material.

Tip #5 – Two-day or overnight!
I am assuming that your client is paying for the shipping of the piece, as they should. So you should always ship either two-day or overnight if possible. The less people handling your painting, the better. A lot of terrible things can happen to a poor painting if it is passed from hand to hand by a shipping company.

Tip #6 – Receipt and Insure
Be absolutely sure you have a receipt for the paintings full value from your customer; insure it for the full value. If you do not have a receipt from your customer, the only insurance you will be able to get is the cost of materials.

Tip #7 – Thank you note
Not really a shipping tip, but a tip nonetheless. When you are sending your painting on its way, you may want to consider sending along a letter along inside the box. Just a simple “Thank you for purchasing ______. I hope you enjoy your new work of art.” will suffice. If this letter happens to have your website address and business information for said customer to pass along to their friends, so be it.

Zach Risso