Aug 27 2013

Tech Tuesday: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

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Fadi With Our Happy Printer

If it is broke, call Fadi!

But if it is, call the real tech people. We’ve had our Epson 9600 printer for almost 10 years. Every so often it acts up. In the early years, the print head and the dampers would clog particulate matter from the fiber-reactive dye. We’d call our wonderful printer repair guy, Dave from the Bay Area. He would come up the hill and fix it. I’d stand over his shoulder and watch what he did. I’d ask him if this was something I could do. He’d say no. Next time, he’d say, “Look at this; this is where the problem is.” I’d write down what he’d tell me. Finally, we got to the point where he’d say, “Here’s how to do this,” and he’d show me how to do some repair. I really learned a lot from Dave. We’d still have to call him, but less often. Unfortunately, Dave passed away, and the Pixeladies were very sad.

In the meantime, if we had a problem with our little printer, we’d take it to Fadi at Pacific Office Equipment in Sacramento. One time he mentioned that he could work on the 9600. Hurray! So the next time we had problems with the printer, we called Fadi. But we had to come clean and tell him we had a few non-standard parts. I’m not sure he was really happy about this, but he worked with us. Fadi showed us how to do a few more maintenance tasks, and we didn’t have to call Fadi that often either.

Out of the blue, last month, Fadi called us. “I never call clients,” he said, “but I’ve got your fabulous Pixeladies pen in my hand, and just thought I’d give you a call.” Of course, Kris came unglued—what was he trying to do? Jinx us? I patted the printer and told it not to worry. Everything was fine.

Fast forward to Saturday. Kris is in Italy; I’m trying to have a little creative time of my own. I’ve test printed some things my mom wanted me to print for her. All was well. I made a repeating pattern based on computer PC boards. I went to test the color and the lights started flashing, strange noises came from the motor, and the error 10005 appeared on the display. NOOOOO! That’s not something I can fix. Did Fadi’s call work? Was he really able to jinx our printer wirelessly? No, he assured me, it was not his doing. He’d come to the studio Monday and see what he could do.

By noon Monday, all was well in the Pixeladies studio again. We really do love you, Fadi. Just don’t call us anymore!

PS, you should always treat your tech people really well. I usually bake cookies before they arrive on a service call. This time I gave Fadi a piece of homemade blackberry pie. If you are in the Sacramento area and need printer help, call Pacific Office Equipment: (916) 334-7875. Tell ’em the Pixeladies sent you.

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Aug 20 2013

Tech Tuesday: Creating a Custom Brush

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It finally happened. After all these years, I found the need to create my own brush shape in Photoshop. I’ve created many custom brush shapes, but they were just to show people how to do it. But this time it really came in handy. If you are a frequent reader, you may recall that last year I was working with PC (printed circuit) boards to make mini art quilts. Well, I’ve been taking apart phones, cd players, calculators, remote controllers. I have an apple box full of boards in all shapes and sizes (really it’s a beer box, but apple box sounded much more proper). I have a bunch of ideas for using the boards, but I thought I also might like to make some less toxic PC board-related fabric. I set up my tripod and camera and systematically photographed the treasures. I can “cut out” the boards from the background pretty easily using the quick selection tools and occasionally using the eraser to clean up some rough spots. Then I came to a board that I left the pins on. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t get a clean selection of the pins, so it was easier to erase the background between the pins. I was chugging along at it, and thought if I had a rectangle eraser with rounded corners, the cleanup would go much quicker.

Just in case you run into a similar situation, here’s how to do it. There’s a “rounded rectangle shape tool,” so I just created a shape that was a little bit smaller than the space between the pins. Remember, you can change the radius of the rounded corners in the Options Bar.

Creating Rounded Rectangle Shape

Creating Rounded Rectangle Shape

Next, I selected the shape by holding the control/command button and clicking on the shape icon in the layers panel.

Make a Selection of the Shape

Make a Selection of the Shape

Then select Edit > Define Brush Preset (in Photoshop Elements, it’s Edit > Define Brush from Selection. If that option is grayed-out, click on a non-shape layer in the layers panel, then choose Edit > Define Brush from Selection).

Define Brush Preset

Edit > Define Brush Preset

Give the brush a name (or not), and press OK.

Naming the Brush

Naming the Brush

Choose the Eraser tool, and click on the brush dropdown menu on the Options Bar. Your new brush shape will be the last one in the list.

The New Rounded Rectangle Eraser

The New Rounded Rectangle Eraser

It was so much quicker to use my new shape to erase, that I just had to share it with you. Maybe 15 years from now you’ll find a use for a custom brush shape, too.

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Aug 13 2013

Not-At-All-Tech Tuesday

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We just wanted to share the good news–Intern Kelsi found a job! She’ll be working at Target. So did all the typing and spreadsheet lessons help her get the job? No. According to Kelsi it was folding and inventorying fabric. She only got around to part of the “red shelf” during her time with us. (What a coincidence–folding red fabric helps her get a job where the uniform is a red shirt!) We are still in contact with Kelsi and will be hounding her to go back to school. Thank you, dear readers, for commenting on Kelsi’s posts and cheering her on!

One Organized Shelf

One Organized Shelf

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Aug 6 2013

Tech Tuesday: Curating with Adobe Bridge

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A few months ago, I was invited to curate Studio Art Quilt Associates’ online gallery for August. I wrote about the curating process about a year ago when I created my dream collection of SAQA auction quilts. (http://www.pixeladies.com/curating-a-dream-collection/) This time I selected a group of quilts from among the quilts posted on the Professional Artist Member (PAM) web pages.  I looked through the images several times before I was able to settle on a theme.  This time, I started with two images that I wanted to build my exhibition around.

Leni Levenson Wiener

Shadow Puppets ©2013
Leni Levenson Wiener

Cyndi Souder

Power Suited Him
©2011 Cyndi Souder

So how do I build an exhibit around these two pieces?  Men in suits? There weren’t 10-20 quilts of men in suits. People? That’s been done.  So I settled on quilts that were primarily black and white.  I looked through the images again.  Yep, there were 40 or so black and white-ish quilts.

So here’s where the tech part comes in.  The images I got to see were itty-bitty thumbnail images in a database.  I needed to see larger images. First bit of techiness: get a second monitor.  Kris and I have had two monitors each for a few years now. Usually I set it up for showing the main Photoshop area on the large monitor and the tools on the smaller.

Dual Monitors

Dual Monitors

For this task, I put the database on one monitor and the SAQA website, which had larger images of the quilts, on the other monitor. Then I opened Photoshop, grabbed the larger images, and made a new file out of each of the black and white quilts.  To do this, right-click on the image you want to steal*, then choose copy image. Then go into Photoshop, choose File > New, then click OK when the dialog box opens with some weird image size as the default (this is the size of the image you just copied).  Then press Ctrl/Command + V to paste the image into the new file.  In Photoshop Elements, there’s the “image from clipboard” option under File > New. You don’t have to paste the image into the file in Elements. Save all the images. I did this for all of the black and white quilts.  (You get into a rhythm after the first couple of quilts).

Next I opened Bridge. This is part of Adobe’s Creative Suite, so it’s not available for Elements users.** Navigate to the folder with your images.  You’ll see the thumbnails of the quilts.  Not much use, right.  So from the menu bar, choose View > Review Mode.  The images will appear like this:

Review Mode in Adobe Bridge

Review Mode in Adobe Bridge

Use the right and left arrow buttons in the lower left to scroll through the images.  If you decide that an image just isn’t working in the exhibit, use the down arrow button to remove it from contention.  Bridge doesn’t delete the image; it just removes it from the review.  Continue scrolling and removing images until you have a nice exhibit. To view just the images you have selected, click on the square-ish icon to the left of the “X” in the lower righthand corner.  Name the grouping (say, Round 1) and as soon as you click OK, you will see just those images in Bridge. You can rearrange the images in any order you like and review the quilts again.

Click here to see my exhibition, “Primarily Black and White.” And, no, even though I started with Power Suited Him, it didn’t end up in the final show.

*Remember, whether images have the © symbol or not, they are copyrighted, and if you use these images without permission, you are stealing! Thanks, Cyndi and Leni for allowing me to use your images.

**I still love the Organizer in Elements for cataloging my photos. I use Bridge for its reviewing feature.

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