Aug 18 2015

Tech Tuesday: Adobe Color CC


One of my absolute favorite things the Pixeladies have shown me is the Adobe Color CC website (they teach this in their Advanced Photoshop class, but they let me work ahead a little). This site allows you to create your own unique digital color swatches online, which you can then apply to your Photoshop workspace. If you have a paid Creative Cloud membership, you can download your swatches directly from the website into Photoshop. If you have a free Creative Cloud membership (like the Pixeladies and I), you can still load swatches into Photoshop, its just not as simple. In this post, I will show you the “work around” for getting your swatches to load in Photoshop, for my fellow “freebie” lovers out there. 😉

The website (link above) opens right up to a color wheel with a menu of options to its left. Here you can choose what kind of “Color Rules” you would like your swatch to follow. Before you go any further, be sure to sign in with your Adobe ID. Anyone who owns an Adobe product has one, and anyone who doesn’t can make one for free. Once you’re signed in, you are ready to create!



Look at all the fun you can have! (I made this .gif using another free website. Next Tech Tuesday, I will show you how to make your own.)

Okay, back to Adobe Color CC! The first step is, of course, to create your swatch. Simply drag your cursor around the wheel to select a base color, then make minor adjustments using the sliding bars below the color you selected. Warning: Time flies when you are playing with the color wheel. Sometimes I start a swatch, and by the next time I look up, an hour has gone by.


Once you are happy with your swatch, click the blue “Save” button. You will be prompted to name your theme.


Kris and I are listening to Cuban music today in honor of the U.S. Embassy re-opening in Havana, and it’s making us want to go drink and dance, so this theme was inspired by “tequila.” You can choose whether or not you’d like your theme published publicly on the “Explore” page. I keep the box checked because I love browsing through other people’s work.

Now that your theme is saved, it will show up when you click the “My Themes” link. Hover over the theme you want to load into your workspace, and a few options appear.


Click on “Edit Copy,” and you will be taken back into the creative space, where you can scroll down a little to find the HEX code, circled here in white:


This is the magical code that will allow you to find your exact colors in Photoshop. Now go into your Photoshop workspace and double click the Color Picker.


A new window should pop up with a hashtag box somewhere in it. I am using Photoshop Elements 13, and mine is the last row, circled above in red. This is where you will type in your magical HEX code. It may help to adjust your windows so that you can easily navigate back and forth and see the code as you type it. Once you have your exact color selected, click OK, and then go to the “More” icon in the bottom right-hand corner, and a box will pop up. Go to the “Color Swatches” tab, then click the teeny-tiny fly-out menu icon on the upper right of the box. Now select “New Swatch…”


When you click “New Swatch,” you will be prompted to name your colors. I recommend saving numerically (i.e. tequila1, tequila2, etc.) so that they are easier to find later. Repeat this process until all five of your swatches are visible in the Color Swatches tab, always using the “New Swatch” option.


You will notice that the last five color swatches in your Color Swatch tab are the theme you created in Adobe Color CC! You can now work with your swatch in Photoshop. You can also save and share the swatch. To do this, select the first one, then while holding down your Shift key, select the other four. Once you have the five selected, let go of the Shift key and click on the teeny-tiny fly-out menu icon again. This time, go to “Save Swatches…”


… and save your swatch as an ACO file. To load a swatch file into your workspace, go to the “More” icon, “Color Swatches,” fly-out menu, and select “Load Swatches…” A window will pop up where you can select the swatch file you just created.

Swatch responsibly, friends!








Mar 10 2015

Tech Tuesday: What Our Students Learn


We just ended our Photoshop Elements Essentials I and II classes. Wow! What amazing students. Their creativity never ceases to amaze us. We’ve rescheduled the series again in June (please see our classes page for more information). We’d normally want to tell you ourselves how great the class is, but we’d rather you heard from one of our students. Kathy Loomis posted a lovely review on her blog, Art with a Needle. Here’s a sample of her work, but have a read for yourself. Many thanks, Kathy!



Jan 13 2015

Tech Tuesday: We Heart Online Teaching


We love teaching, and we love technology, but teaching and technology don’t always work together. So why do the Pixeladies bother teaching online? It’s convenient–for both the student and the teacher. We have students from all over the world, and we don’t have to be up 24 hours a day. We post our class materials, and students can view them whenever they like. In pajamas, even.

From Deb:
There is one thing I really miss, though. I miss seeing the students’ eyes. You can actually see light bulbs turn on, but you can also see blank stares when you just haven’t explained it right. And I can’t walk up and look at their monitors and see what they are doing. You know what I mean. “It’s not working!” she cries. So I go over to her and ask her to show me what she’s trying to do. And it works perfectly . . . as long as I’m standing there.
Teaching online is kind of like doing a puzzle. You have to try to figure out what the student did differently than instructed. Is it user error or some glitch in the program, computer, or internet? I have to ask lots of clarifying questions–many that have nothing to do with Photoshop. PC or Mac? If you restart Photoshop does the problem go away? Do you have your Caps Lock key on? Are you standing on your head while clicking the mouse?
But teaching is fun for me. Of course I’d rather teach in person. But I’m “meeting” lots of talented, fun people from all over the world. So are the students. And isn’t that part of learning?

From Kris:
My favorite part about teaching online is that we can have a lot more students in a class than we could if we taught in person. And as Deb said, it’s students from all around the world. The community we create online is truly unique. The way we get our students connected is through Moodle. Moodle is an open-source learning platform that you can modify to your own needs. For example, we have the grading system turned off. (Whew!) The class has a weekly schedule that we can set up ahead of time and release when the time comes. As a control freak, I love that part of the program. We can also check to make sure everyone is accessing the site and not falling behind. Click here if you teach online and would like to read more about Moodle. We highly recommend it. We hope you can join us for a class soon. Click here for more information.


Jan 6 2015

Tech Tuesday: Reminder for Photoshop Classes


This is a friendly reminder that our next Photoshop Elements class starts Monday, January 12. This first class is really suited for beginners and for those who want a refresher or need help finding their way around the Photoshop Elements 13 workspace. Both three-week classes come with videos, handbooks, and three live webinars. Students tell us they really appreciate the individualized feedback. We hope you can join us! Click here for more information and to register for classes.



Dec 30 2014

Tech Tuesday: Photography, Photoshop, and Classes – Oh My!


We’re getting ready for the new year and new classes, so we thought we’d show you a couple of photos that will illustrate 1) how great a tool Photoshop can be, and 2) that nothing helps a photograph better than a good photographer. When we were in Houston this past October, we had Bonnie McCaffery photograph the two of us together. We sometimes have to submit one photo of the two of us, so we grabbed this opportunity. Bonnie had photographed us at the SAQA conference in Alexenadria, VA, and we were so pleased with the results:

What we’ve noticed about Bonnie’s photography was that the photos of all of our friends (and of us, too) looked just like them only better! I don’t think you can make a better compliment to a portrait photographer. She really captures the inner spirit of her subjects. Here is an example of Bonnie’s magic:


This shot was taken during one of Bonnie’s “pauses” to relax. She takes some time to “arrange” you into that perfect shot, so you need to relax all those muscles when she’s not shooting. And can you believe we were lying on the hotel bed?!?!? Full disclosure, the second photo is not this first photo retouched, but you can still see how talented Bonnie is.


We had the giggles that day, so Bonnie just worked with that. As you can see, Bonnie captured the real us. Now, what does all this have to do with our upcoming Photoshop classes? Well, nothing really except that while you won’t learn to be great photographers like Bonnie, you will learn how to exploit Photoshop for your needs as a fiber artist or sewing enthusiast. And you don’t have to know how to sew to take our classes. Click here to read all about them. Happy New Year to you all!


Dec 2 2014

Tech Tuesday: Online Photoshop Classes Start January 12!


The new year will bring with it new Pixeladies classes. We’re starting out with two beginning classes on Photoshop Elements. These three-week classes come with videos, handbooks, and three live webinars. Students tell us they really appreciate the individualized feedback. We hope you can join us starting January 12! Click here for more information and to register for classes.

Reason #4

Reason #4


Oct 20 2014

Around the World Blog Hop: It’s Our Turn!


Welcome to our installment of the “Around the World Blog Hop“.

We were invited to join the hop by Kate Themel.  We met Kate through SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates).  We have served on SAQA committees together and get to visit Kate at the annual SAQA Conference.  We love her work! We are in awe of how she creates light – sunlight, candlelight, moonlight, electric lights – with fabric and thread. Her expertise with light sometimes reminds us of John Singer Sargent and his portraits of women (and their dresses). Take a look at her blog to see some of the amazing work she’s been doing lately:

The basic format of the Around the World blog posts is a set of Questions & Answers. Here we go!

What are we working on right now?

We have been working on a commission. It’s always interesting to learn how people get commissions. We had donated a 5″ x 7″ quilt to the Spotlight Auction, which has been held at the annual SAQA conference for the last couple of years. It’s called “An Apple a Day” and brings up the healthcare debate in the words and phrases we collaged onto the apple drawing.

An Apple a Day

An Apple a Day

The person who held the winning bid on the quilt came up to us after the auction and asked us to finish the “rest of the alphabet” for his infant son [deb’s note: we embroidered an “a” over the apple]. The best part of this commission was that our patron decided he did not want to have approval of  either the letter object or the letter theme. He gave us full artistic control. Needless to say, we are having loads of fun working on this project. We’re just “slightly” worried that we may mess up his son’s elementary school experience. Can you imagine what will happen when the teacher asks the class “Can you name a word that starts with Z, and the boy cries out, “Z is for ziggurat!” [deb’s note: personally, I’m worried about him shouting out “o” is for oxfords!]. Here’s a photo of the printed fabric in the rinse!


How does our work differ from others of its genre?

Our work probably differs most from others because we almost always start on the computer. Well, we really start out by talking to each other (see #4 below), but once we start thinking about design, it’s off to the computer. Fabric comes much later in the process. It’s like the dessert to the meal. Here you can see the original photo and then one layout that has the values all worked out for the ensuing collage.

Why do we create what we do?

One question often posed to us is why do we create in cloth? This is an interesting question, especially in light of our recent work, where we start with a paper collage. We could just stop there (and, yes, we save most of our paper collages), but fabric is our language. That’s what Deb says. And Deb has been sewing since she was a little girl. I like to say you can’t take a paper collage to bed with you. In other words, it’s the feel of the fabric when you work with it that is so satisfying. [It’s deb again: we learned a new word a few years back: haptic. Look it up]. Here is the finished quilt based on the design above:


How does our creative process work?

People are often interested in learning why we collaborate. After all, art is a lonely pursuit, or so say many artists. Well, neither one of us had the gumption to do this by ourselves. Our first inclination was not to put ourselves out there. After all, what did we have to offer? Eleven years after forming Pixeladies, we look forward to sharing ideas with one another because the collaborative process produces a new vision that we often did not anticipate in the beginning. And we can blame the other one when things go kablooey. 😉 Here we are working on a project:

Now we’d like to point you to two blogs of quilt artists we admire:

Carla Barrett, quilter extraordinaire, can literally quilt circles around most people. She doesn’t just finish a quilt, she creates a story with her quilting. Look at her blog to see what we mean: Carla lives down the road from Deb, and we will miss her terribly when she moves onto her boat. And, no, she will not be taking the long-arm machine with her.

Gerrie Congdon‘s hand-dyed fabric is what initially drew us to her work, but the way in which she composes her pieces keeps us coming back to her web site to see what she has created lately. Visit her blog at We met Gerrie through SAQA, too, and always look forward to seeing her at SAQA conferences. Next year the SAQA conference will be in Portland, OR, so we plan on partying with Gerrie while we’re there.


Jun 3 2014

Tech Tuesday: Removing Backgrounds from Quilts


Quilt photography is a necessary expenditure of time and/or money if you want to enter your quilts in shows. Our advice is to have have your work professionally photographed. And that’s ususally what we do. But there are those cases when you don’t have a good photograph. You know, the time when you are so happy to complete the quilt in time to mail it off without having to pay for overnight service that you just have time to snap a photograph. Or you no longer have the quilt to have it photographed professionally, but lucky you, Uncle Bob snapped it on his phone when he last visited. Or it is a professional photograph, but the editor wants a white background when you had it photographed on black. Sometimes you just have to manipulate the photo. Photoshop Elements has several tools that will help you remove the background from the quilt.

Endlich ein Quilt für Tizia

Endlich ein Quilt für Tizia

Even though “Endlich ein Quilt für Tizia” has a solid black background, it’s a great quilt for showing the differences between some different tools. In this post, I’ll try four different ways to remove the background from the quilt:

Background Eraser BackgroundEraserIcon
Magic Eraser MagicEraserIcon
Magic Wand (Make a selection and then delete the background) MagicWandIcon
Quick Selection (Make a selection and then delete the background) QuickSelectionIcon

Whichever tool I use, it’s best to duplicate the layer first—just in case! Yes, I’m paranoid. But the tools work differently depending upon whether the image is a background layer or a “regular” layer.* So here’s what I did to this image before testing the different background removal techniques:

  • Duplicate the background layer (Layer > Duplicate Layer, just leave the default options in that window, and click OK). The new layer is called Background copy. Notice this layer is not locked.
  • Turn off the visibility of the Background layer (the original one) by clicking on the eyeball in the Layers panel.
  • So that I could see the details of what’s happening, I created 2 new layers. I filled one with white and the other with black. I put both of those layers below Background copy.
  • Then I made sure that Background copy was the active layer (click on that layer in the Layers panel).
The Layer Panel

The Layer Panel

If you want to try out the tools using my file, here’s a link to it:

So which tool to try first? Well, since we want to erase the background, it only makes sense to try the Background Eraser first. (If you don’t see this tool, press the Alt/Command key and click on the regular eraser in the tool bar. It will cycle through all the options). In this example I turned off the black and white layers.
To use Background Eraser, you place the crosshairs over the background color with the circle just barely overlapping the edge of the quilt. As you click and drag your mouse, you will see the black areas under the circle disappear. But depending on the color of your quilt, and the color of the background you’re trying to get rid of, the tool may have erased part of your quilt. (Remember, gray and white checks are Photoshop’s way of telling you that nothing is there—it’s clear).

Detail of the Edge using the Background Eraser

Detail of the Edge using the Background Eraser

See what a nice job it did when there was a high contrast between the gray on the right-hand side and the black background, but how much of the dark red of Tizia’s skirt was also deleted. (For these examples, I’m not worried about the ribbon parts that extend into the background. If you want me to get really detailed, leave a comment and I’ll post another entry.) If you want to see what’s really left, turn on the white layer. See the mottled area? That’s part of the background that’s not really erased.

Detail of the Edge using the Background Eraser

Detail of the Edge using the Background Eraser (White layer turned on to show mottling)

I don’t like that very much! Let’s move on to the next tool. Make another duplicate of the original background layer. Put it at the top of the Layers panel and turn off Background copy. Make sure Background copy 2 is the active layer. Choose the Magic Eraser. This time, just click on some part of the black background. Presto! The black background is gone. But again, so is part of my quilt. But if I turn on the white layer again, you can see that there’s no mottling left. It’s better, but I still don’t like the results.

Detail of the Edge using the Magic Eraser

Detail of the Edge using the Magic Eraser

The third tool to try is the Magic Wand. The Magic Wand makes a selection of the color you click on. Make another duplicate of the original Background layer, put it at the top of the Layers panel, make sure it is the active layer, and turn off the rest of the layers. In the Options bar for the Magic Wand tool, make sure that Sample All Layers is NOT checked, Contiguous is checked, and Anti-aliasing is checked. My Tolerance slider is set at the default of 32.

Magic Wand Options

Magic Wand Options

Click on a black part of the background. The “marching ants” will appear.
Click on the delete key on your keyboard, and the black will disappear. The results are very similar to the results using the Magic Eraser tool. Turn on the white or black layers to see how the edge looks.

Detail of the Edge using the Magic Wand

Detail of the Edge using the Magic Wand

The last tool to try is Quick Selection. Make another duplicate of the Background layer, put it at the top of the Layers panel, and turn off the rest of the layers. My settings for this tool are Sample All Layers is NOT checked, Auto-Enhance is checked. Also, the middle icon (Add) is the highlighted option:

Quick Selection Tool Options

Quick Selection Tool Options

To use this tool, click and drag in the black part of the background. You don’t have to be close to the quilt. In fact, if you drag over the quilt, it will start to be part of the selection. Again the “marching ants” will appear and you will click on the delete key on your keyboard to make the black part of the background disappear. The dark red part of the skirt has also disappeared. I don’t like that, but I do like the edges of the quilt. Plus I know how to edit the selection so that the red isn’t included.

Detail of the Selection made with  the Background Eraser

Detail of the Selection made with the Background Eraser

Detail of the Edge using the Quick Selection Tool

Detail of the Edge using the Quick Selection Tool

Press undo until you have the background back and the selection that doesn’t include the red of the skirt. Press the Alt/Option key, then carefully click and drag over just the red part of the quilt to remove it from the selection. You might have to zoom in to see this. If your brush is larger than the red area, make your brush smaller. You don’t want to drag it over any of the black area. Notice how the “marching ants” don’t include the red part of the quilt anymore? You can click and drag, while holding the Alt/Option key, over any part of the quilt that is still in the selection. (I find using the Alt/Option key to remove parts from the selection is much more sensitive than making the original selection. That’s a good thing in my opinion.) Now press the delete key on your keyboard. I like this way of removing the background the best. I feel Photoshop does a better job of finding the edge than any of the other methods. Plus if I still need to refine the selection more, I can undo the delete and use other selection tools to add or subtract any stray bits.

Quilt with white background

Quilt with white background

Now that we’ve tried them all, here’s the order I use the tools:

  • Magic Wand and the Delete key. Why? One click can select all the pixels of a certain color. You might get lucky and get a good selection. Often there is still a little outline of the background color left around the quilt.
  • Quick Selection Tool and the Delete key. For most simple background removals, this is my “go to” tool. The tool does a pretty good job, and it’s easy to to add to or subtract from the selection. Usually there’s not any of the background color along the edge of the quilt. What’s nice about this is that you can put a layer of any color below this layer to change the background color.
  • I really don’t use the background eraser or the magic eraser. But stay tuned, Photoshop added a “Refine Edge” button. I’m going to play with the options in that window and let you know if that changes my mind.

Which method works best for you?


* Remember, the background image is locked so when you “delete” pixels, you replace them with the background color. In other words, it’s not advisable to work on the background layer. Copy it first. That copied layer will be unlocked.


Jan 22 2014

Update on Florida Photoshop Retreat


FocusOnFiber1There’s still time to register for the Florida retreat March 12-14, 2014. We’ve updated the class description to make it more individualized. Bring any project you want to work on or start from the very basics. We’ll be able to accommodate you! We have a new title for the class, too – Photoshop Elements for Fiber Artists (or anyone else who wants to have fun in Florida!). Click here for more information and to register.

By the way, there are still a couple of seats open for the Hawaii retreat next week! Click here to read more about that retreat.


Dec 3 2013

Tech Tuesday: An Apple A Day


We have recently been creating fruit using words and phrases cut from magazines and newspapers. We started with a tomato. SacraTomato is the pet name for our city, and some of the text was about issues surrounding California’s migrant and sometimes undocumented farm workers. Now that we’ve moved onto apples, we wanted to take up a different issue, but what message should the apples send? Sometimes our text is inspired by what we find in current newspapers and magazines. Seen any articles about health care recently? It made sense to us that an apple could be about health care. After all, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. So, this is how we make a “pattern” for our text quilts, using the apple as an example.

We start out by taking lots of photos of apples–different colors, varieties, and lighting angles. Then we upload the photos into the computer and start playing. We want to decrease the number of values in the image to around four values (it’s much easier to make the collage with only four values). There are many ways to break down an image into its values.

1) Convert the image to black and white. Here’s a little video to show you how we do that using Photoshop CS4.

2) There are several filters that can help you simplify the image into a few shades of gray. Here are some examples:

Black & White


Posterized #1

Posterized #2

Cut Out #1

Cut Out #2

Often we don’t get exactly what we’re looking for by just using a filter, so we’ll start modifying one of the layers. We might repaint some of the shapes to get a better look.

"Hand" Drawn

“Hand” Drawn

When we’re happy with the shapes, we’ll print out our “pattern” and start collecting the appropriate text. Finding just the right words consumes by far the most time. Once we have a lot of the text, we spread out all the words and sort them into values. Then we start gluing the words onto our pattern. Kris’ best find was the repositionable glue stick. It’s really nice to be able to take off a piece of text and replace it with something better. This is where we have the most fun. We will sit around and talk about the issues and laugh ourselves silly whenever we come up with some crazy combinations. Once we’ve finished gluing text to better, we either photograph or scan the collage and make any final adjustments in Photoshop before we print it out on fabric.

Apple Collage

Apple Collage

You can use this technique for creating pattern pieces for appliqueing or fusing, too. If you want to learn more about Photoshop and how to use it for your art projects, consider joining us at one of the retreats we’ll be teaching at in 2014. Three great locations–the Atlantic coast of Florida, the Big Island of Hawaii, or beautiful Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Click here for more details.