Aug 28 2012

Tech Tuesday: Using the Clone Stamp Tool


In Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, you can “paint” over something with any part of the image you are working with. In other words, you can clone one part of an image onto another. There are lots of uses for the clone stamp tool. In this video, we’re going to show you one way to remove glare from your image. We are demonstrating using a PC, so you Mac users out there will want to remember that the Alt key is PC speak for the Option key.

Oval Clone Stamp Tool

Watch the Video

If you liked the way we demonstrated the clone stamp tool, you might want to enroll in our upcoming online class, “Photoshop Elements for Fiber Artists and Sewing Enthusiasts.” This class covers all the basic tools for Photoshop Elements, so anyone can take the class. You don’t have to an artist or know how to sew. We just add that because we know how to translate Photoshop-speak into concepts that people who work with fiber easily understand. Registration begins September 4, 2012, and the 3-week class begins September 17, 2012. Click here to learn more. We hope you can join us.


Aug 21 2012

Tech Tuesday: Photoshop File Size Limit


It finally happened.  After using some version of Adobe Photoshop for  17 years, I finally hit the file size limit.  I don’t mean the “no vacancy on the old hard drive” message or the “you’ve done something that’s using more computing power than your computer has” message, but the real “your file has too many pixels” message.   Of course, the message didn’t arrive at a convenient time, like when I started working with the file.  It came when I tried to save the bleepity-bleep file.  You know, when you’ve created a masterpiece and really, really want to save it large.  So I thought I would give you a little heads up, so that if it happens to you 17 years from now, you might remember not to panic.

What is the file size limit, you might be asking yourself.  It depends on the type and version of Photoshop you’re using.  For Photoshop Elements (version 10), it’s 30,000 pixels in either direction.  Now you might think, “I’m never going to make a file that large.”  Well 30,000 pixels is only 100 inches if your resolution is 300 pixels per inch (ppi).  I know some of you fiber artists out there have created much larger pieces.  If you want to start with a blank canvas over 30,000 pixels wide (or long), Photoshop Elements (PSE) won’t let you.

PSE error

PSE Error Message When Trying to Create a New File Over 30,000 Pixels on a Side

Photoshop CS 4 will give you a warning message, but it will allow you to create the file.  It’s the saving that’s the issue.

CS 4 warning

Photoshop CS 4 Warning When Trying to Create a New File Over 30,000 Pixels on a Side

So let’s talk about Photoshop CS 4 first.  Don’t panic.  You can save the file, just not in Photoshop’s native .PSD file format.  You can save it as a .TIF file, or there’s something called a Large Document Format or .PSB (I think of it as PhotoShop Big).  Whew, that saved my patootie.  Here’s the catch.  Not all versions of Photoshop can handle .PSB files (according to Adobe’s website, .PSB is compatible with Photoshop CS and later), and, as of this writing, no version of Photoshop Elements will open it.

Now let’s talk about Photoshop Elements.  As I mentioned, no version of PSE will open a .PSB file.  But PSE can open .TIFs.  What happens if you try to open a .TIF file that’s larger than 30,000 pixels on a side?  Well, you’ll get this cryptic message:

PSE Error Message When Trying to Open a File Over 30,000 Pixels on a Side

Well, we know that’s just not true.  PSE opens TIF files just fine.  It’s just that the file is larger than the maximum 30,000 pixel width or height.  So if I had designed the error message it would have read something like this:

fake message

A More Helpful Message

And the accompanying soundtrack would have been something like HAL’s voice in 2001: A Space Odyssey. If you run into Photoshop problems, don’t take a stress pill.  Just send Pixeladies a message!

Aug 14 2012

Tech Tuesday: Help! My Paintbrush Isn’t Working!


We got that frantic Photoshop message in an email last week.  You know, the one that says, “Help! My brush has gone haywire!” You go to paint, and you can’t see your drawing line or it’s really faint. Has this ever happened to you?  Well, there are some common things to check before you tear your hair out.

First,  make sure you have the Brush tool selected.  It’s the one with the white square next to it in the image below.  Don’t mistake it for the Smart Brush tool (the one with the gear next to the brush).

Brush Tool

Brush Tool


Next, there’s a bar at the top of your work area that lets you modify the setting for each tool.  It’s called the Options Bar.  How unimaginative!  It should look something like this.


Brush Tool Options Bar

Brush Tool Options Bar

You’ll see an image with the shape of your brush, then a box with the brush size, then the cryptic word “Mode:” next to a drop-down menu with a word in it and a triangle allowing you to change the mode.  The Mode selection is how the paint interacts with what’s on the canvas.  Make sure Mode is set to “Normal.”  If not, click on the white triangle to open the drop-down menu and click on Normal.

Brush Mode Drop-down Menu

Brush Mode Drop-down Menu


Next check that the opacity is set to 100%.  If it is set to 0%, you are painting with clear paint.  You don’t get much coverage with that.  You can either type in the number, or use the slider to set the opacity.

Brush Opacity Slider

Brush Opacity Slider


Another thing to check is to make sure you’re not painting or writing with the same color as the background! We can’t tell you how many times we’ve started to draw something – like white arrows – on a white background! And remember this: ALL the tools have their own Options bar, so you may have inadvertently changed the settings on your Eraser tool, your Paint Bucket, and who knows what else! And don’t even try to figure out how those settings changed.  We think Photoshop just likes to mess with your head every now and then. Thanks, Roseanne, for the question.  If you have a question for Tech Tuesday, click on the Contact page and send us a message.

Aug 8 2012

Curating a Dream Collection Part II


Well, Deb had so much fun curating a dream collection of 12″ sq. art quilts for SAQA’s Benefit Auction (the online auction starts September 10, 2012), that I just had to try it, too. Where to start? I could have just stayed on the first auction page and created a dream collection from there, but then I knew there were lots of great quilt on every page. My eyes first fell upon Mary Pal’s “Sizing Up.”

Sizing Up by Mary Pal

This isn’t a portrait of Ernest Hemingway, but that’s who I saw. Immediately. He stared at me with his “Old Man and the Sea” eyes, but something else caught my attention. The red background. For me, red is elemental, sensual, and feminine, the last two qualities not ones I would necessarily associate with Hemingway. In fact, I never liked him as a writer, so why did this piece intrigue me so much? Perhaps it is this juxtaposition of the feminine and the masculine that speaks to me. Of course, I also can’t stop marveling at Mary Pal‘s technique – just amazing what one can do with cheesecloth. Let me rephrase – what Mary Pal can do with cheesecloth!

Once I selected “Sizing Up,” I started looking for red pieces that would converse with this piece, so to speak. It wasn’t as easy as you would think. Take these next two wonderful pieces, for example:


Sunspots by Susan Engler

A Chair . . . by Mary McBride


 Susan Engler‘s “Sunspots” is simply wonderful, but it was too light placed next to “Sizing Up.” The same thing happened with Mary McBride‘s “A Chair is a Chair is a Chair.” This is when I started to be grateful that I could try and buy any piece, regardless of what my dream collection turned out to be because these two looked so good next to each other! Yep, I thought of ditching Mary’s piece and starting afresh, but I could never tear myself away from those eyes!

After further “auditions,” I finally came up with my dream collection. Here it is:


When Seeing Red is Really Cool
Top row: Jennifer Day, Diane Nuñez, Sue Dennis
Bottom row: Catherine Timm, Mary Pal, Kathy Loomis



Jennifer Day‘s “Pomegranate” – well, don’t get me started on the pomegranate as a medieval symbol of fertility, but I just had to include this in the collection. It also reminded me of the theme of virility in many of Hemingway’s work.

Diane Núñez‘s “Bending the Rules” – I liked the curve on this piece . . . and it was red. I’ve always been impressed with Diane’s work. She’s been bending the traditional quilt rules for a quite a while now. It was the work of artists like Diane that encouraged SAQA to refine  its definition of the art quilt.

Sue Dennis‘ “Leaf” – primal. The fossilized leaf floating in the molten lava. It doesn’t get more elemental than that.

Catherine Timm‘s “Red” – the black lines kept making me wonder where they were going, kept drawing me to another point in the piece. I was curious to see if Catherine did more “redwork.” Go to her website and look at “Guggenheim in Red” (2009). Simply stunning.

Mary Pal‘s “Sizing Up” – it’s the wizened faces in Mary’s work that is so compelling. You end up standing in front of one of her pieces trying to hear the story of that person’s life. What do they have to tell us? My Ernest (because it’s not really a portrait of Ernest Hemingway) is telling me that he went out and sought life. And maybe it was a hard life, but he sought it. Okay, maybe the real Ernest drank his way through it, too. I don’t think I’ll ever like Hemingway’s writing, but at least we’ll have mojitos in common.

Kathleen Loomis‘ “Gridlock 2” – Kathleen had me at pink. I was mesmerized by the pink shooting through the red. For some reason, I don’t think Ernest would have been much impressed with this one, which makes me like it even more. Take a look at Kathleen’s “Fine Lines” gallery on her website. Like “Gridlock 2,” the pieces here all exhibit unique intersecting lines and the tension built around those intersections – just like when people and societies intersect. Sometimes the tensions are less, sometimes more, but the intersections are always fascinating.

Aug 7 2012

Tech Tuesday: When Your Enlargements Fall Flat


Here’s the creative idea: You’ve got a great photo you want to enlarge and print on fabric for some great wall art. (You don’t have to work in fabric, we just teach a lot of fiber artists so we like to keep them in mind.)

The Bookshelf

Here’s the problem. You go to some Internet company to have your image printed. (In this case, our student wanted to print on fabric with You go to resize the image, but the company will only let you make the image smaller, not larger.


Here’s your solution: At first you think, “What gives?” Then you think you can outsmart them and resize your photo in Photoshop. You just go to Image > Image Size, make sure “constrain proportions” is checked,  and change your width (see green arrow) from the original size (here 2.778″) to your desired size, say 30″.

Image Size Dialog Box


When you go to look at your new, resized image, it looks like this.

Resized Image

Well, click on the image, and you’ll see how pixelated it has become. Gosh, that image just won’t do, no sirree! Let’s take a look at that Image Size Dialog Box of your original image again.

Image Size Dialog Box Second Look

1) Look at the pixel size. Remember, the pixel is the smallest element on your monitor, but you really need to know how many pixels per inch your image is.

2) So let’s look at the resolution. Ah, your image is 72 ppi (pixels per inch). I guess we just busted you. 72 ppi is the standard resolution for most web images, because images of that resolution load faster on the Internet. So, we’re thinking you found this image on the Internet and just wanted to “copy” it. (This is when we always tell our students to make sure they own the copyright of any image they print. We’ll talk about copyright-free images on another Tech Tuesday).

Here’s the moral of the story: You can’t make a purse out of a sow’s ear. Actually, we know a few artists who actually could do that, but I digress. Let’s go back to the student who thought she could simply increase the size of her image to the size she wanted. Because the resolution of her image was low (72 ppi) and the size of her image was small (app. 3″), she did not have enough pixels to work with. What in essence happens when you try and make a low-resolution image larger is that you are asking Photoshop to create pixels that weren’t there before. And, while Photoshop is a great program, it still can’t make something out of nothing.

Here’s the solution: Don’t use that Internet image. Take your own photos and check to make sure you take high resolution images, especially if you want to make a large art piece. For those of you working with on-demand fabric printing companies, they tend to like to have the images at 150 ppi at the size you want the image printed. This is a good rule of thumb. Most photographic places want images that are 300 ppi, but since fabric is a different beast, 150 ppi is quite adequate. In other words, most of the images you take with your digital camera can be enlarged quite a bit before you begin to lose sharpness. And one more thing: Aunt Betsy just emailed the cutest picture of her dog, Bruno, and you want to print that onto fabric for her birthday. Well, check out the resolution of that digital image first. Aunt Betsy may have taken the photo of Bruno in high resolution, but when she went to send it to you, her mail program automatically downsized the photo to 72ppi! If this image won’t work for you, you’ll have to call Aunt Betsy and tell her to resend the image without resizing it. We’ll hope Aunt Betsy knows how to do this!



Aug 2 2012

Curating a Dream Collection


Kermit the frog sang about how it’s not easy being green.  Well, it’s not easy being a curator either. Just try choosing six 12” square quilts from the 394 quilts donated to the Studio Art Quilt Associates’ (SAQA) benefit auction.  That was the opportunity given to us by Executive Director Martha Sielman.  Six quilts, SIX, from 394.  That’s hard work.  So how does one start such a task?

First, I skimmed all 8 web pages one by one. There are so many amazing quilts. How do I start?  My mind was racing.  So I started through the pages again.  This time, I noticed Loris Bogue’s quilt.  It reminded  me of Hong Kong: the tall buildings that line the harbor and  the sails on the junk that takes tourists for a ride. It also looked like the paintings of Hong Kong you would see in Stanley Market.  The ones I never bought.  “Ok,” I told myself.  “I’ll start with that one.”

The City by Loris Bogue

Now the harder part.  How do I choose 5 other quilts to complement Loris’ quilt.  Should I have a theme?  If so, what?  Color?  Technique? Subject matter?  I went through the quilts again.  Another quilt that caught my eye was Leni Wiener’s quilt of people walking.

Rainy Monday, 9AM
by Leni Wiener

Hmm.  That looks like the view from a hotel window.  I love looking down on city streets.  Hey, Loris’ quilt is called “The City.”  Maybe I’ll choose a bunch of cityscapes.   This is how my stream-of-consciousness collection started.  Back through all the pages again—this time with a mission.  Find the cityscapes.

I didn’t find enough to “go” with Loris’ city or Leni’s people.  But I did see Jette Clover’s Reflections 4.  That one looked like the signs, handbills, and posters plastered on the sides of buildings—new ones plastered over the remains of the previous ones.  Okay, add that one.  Then Linda Colsh’s people, and Miriam Pet-Jacobs “people.”  Add Sherri McCauley’s abstract because the shapes echoed those in Jette’s and also the lines in Miriam’s.  Before I knew it I had a nice collection of 12-15 quilts that looked nice together.

Not one to follow rules, I decided that 9 made a nicer collection than 6 (odd number and all that drivel). So I added and subtracted images until I had a pleasing composition.  Here is my dream collection of 9 quilts.


Collection of 9 Quilts
Top row: Christi Beckmann, Sherri McCauley, Loris Bogue
Middle row: Anity Welty, Leni Wiener, Jette Clover
Bottom row: Linda Colsh, Susan Szajer, Miriam Pet-Jacobs

Okay, but the rules said 6, and if I was going to curate this collection, I had to follow the rules.  Adding quilts, subtracting quilts, changing the layout.  2 hours later, I had my dream collection: Urban Landscape. Next came the sentence to explain my collection.  It seemed pretty straightforward except for Anita Welty’s quilt, Interaction.  What did the man have to do with urban landscapes?  Well, I sat down and channeled my literary partner—Kris is the master of spin!  What would she say?  Aha!  Anita’s man was a portrait hanging on the wall of one of the high rise apartments.  So here’s the curator’s statement: From graffiti on the walls to people in the streets and portraits hung inside the high rise apartments, this collection is my vision of an urban environment.  And here’s the collection:


Urban Landscapes
Top row: Loris Bogue, Jette Clover, Anity Welty
Bottom row: Linda Colsh, Miriam Pet-Jacobs, Susan Szajer

Now if anyone has $6750 to spare, I’ll bid on all 9!  Which ones would be in your dream collection?