Feb 14 2017

Tech Tuesday: The Met Goes Public–Domain, That Is

deb-of-pixeladies

There are real advantages to collaborating. Here’s one I hadn’t thought of. Kris and I don’t read the same articles, websites, and blogs. So when one of us sees something exciting, we share it with the other. Kris stumbled across a good one. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) has partnered with Creative Commons to make images of public-domain art in the museum available for free and unrestricted use. So why is this such a big deal? Let’s say you are creating a class on digital design (we are), and you would like to have some great examples to use in your class (we do). And let’s say you want to use these images for commercial purposes (yep, that’s us). We don’t have to contact The Met to get permission to use these images anymore (Are you kidding me?). And, the images come with text and html credits. (OMG! Do you realize how much time that saves us?)
So here’s how it works:

Go to this website: https://ccsearch.creativecommons.org/themet. I did a search for lotus textiles.

Creative Commons Page

When I click on an image, I am taken to another page with Creative Commons information. Click on the “How to use this work” link,

“How to use this Work” page

and I’m taken to the Met’s webpage and I get a wonderful 3811 pixel x 3009 pixel image that I can save to my computer.

Kyōgen Costume: Jacket (Suō) with Design of Lotuses

And I don’t even have to make the citation. Click on the “Copy credit as text button,” and when I paste it I get this:

“Kyōgen Costume: Jacket (Suō) with Design of Lotuses” by Japan via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

When you paste it into a document, it comes with the italics, etc. But even more impressive is when I use the “Copy credit as HTML” button I get this:

Which, when copied to my blog post, gives me this fully formatted link and caption:

“Kyōgen Costume: Jacket (Suō) with Design of Lotuses”
by Japan via The Metropolitan Museum of Art
is licensed under CC0 1.0

It almost makes you want to go back to school and write research papers, doesn’t it? The Met also has a “Print” button that will allow you to print (or print to a file) all the information about the artwork with links to related objects.

If you know anything about us, we can’t just stop at one image. We browse and search, and pretty soon we’ve wasted the whole day. So you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see some of the cool things I found. Until then, back to work.

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Jan 24 2017

Tech Tuesday: Fabric Printing, Part 3

Pixelkris

We are often asked to recommend a good online fabric-printing service. A few years ago we wrote a couple of reviews. You can read them here:

Online Fabric-Printing Service Review 1
Online Fabric-Printing Service Review 2

This past summer we had the opportunity to write a more comprehensive article about online fabric-printing services for the SAQA* Journal. Click here to read it. The upshot of the article is that you need to identify your needs (such as type of fabric desired and the importance of black to your image) before deciding on a particular company. And, we found that different companies excel in different areas. We hope our articles are helpful to you. Leave us a comment, if you would like us to review a different online fabric-printing service .

SamplesFabricPrinting

Sample image from the article

* The SAQA Journal is one of the many benefits of membership in Studio Art Quilt Associates. You can view back issues (older than two years) without membership, but we think the journal alone is worth the price of our membership! Thank you, SAQA, for permission to post the article on our website. Click here to view more SAQA Journal articles.

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Jan 10 2017

Tech Tuesday: Duplicate File Finder

deb-of-pixeladies

As promised in yesterday’s blog post, I’m going to show you why I’m in love with Duplicate File Finder by Ashisoft.com. You might notice that I have the Pro Edition. The free version looks the same; some of the features are just deactivated. More on that later. Sorry Mac peeps, this is a PC-only program.
Once I installed and opened the program, the interface was pretty intuitive. It opened with a tip I found very comforting. (Just click on any image to enlarge it.)

Helpful tip

Helpful tip

When you close the tip box, you are presented with the “Search Locations” window. Add a path and you’re ready to start. The default search is “Find Unique Files.” When you press Start Search, DFF will find all files that are NOT duplicates.

4264 unique files

4264 unique files

In this example, I’m searching the one folder I didn’t clean up while Kris was vacationing: “Presentations” on my E drive (7764 files). Finding the unique files is helpful if you want to copy those files to another location. Because I really want to find the duplicate files in order to delete them, I need to change my search settings.
At this point, I’m going to concentrate on the first two search options. You can search for files by file name or contents (byte by byte). What’s the difference? Below is a screenshot where I chose “Match File Names.” When you click on that option, you have more choices. For this example, I chose “Same File Names” and “Same File Extension.”

Compare by file name

Compare by file name

DFF found 2408 duplicate files. Can I simply delete all the duplicates? Not with these settings. Consider the next screenshots. In the first one, it found 2 files called scarf.jpg and Scarf.jpg (DFF sees upper and lowercase letters as being the same). But look at the preview of the images. They’re not even the same image. I don’t want to delete either of those files.

Same name, different images

Same name, different images

In the next example, DFF found two files named deb.jpg, but look at the file sizes. They’re vastly different. I don’t want to delete either of those files, because they’re technically not the same. They just have the same name and file extension (.jpg).

Same name, different size

Same name, different size

It’s easy to compare .jpg files—there’s a preview window. Other types of files aren’t as easy. If I have to open and compare each file and choose the duplicates manually, that defeats my reason for using the program. Fortunately, DFF has the option of finding real duplicates—files that have the exact same bytes. This time I’m going to select “Match Contents (Byte by Byte).” Again, when I choose that type of search, I have more options. This time I’m not going to check any of them. I want to find all the duplicates, no matter what they are called or what date is associated with them. Below is the screenshot showing I now have 2210 duplicate files instead of 2408. Note there are fewer files that are true duplicates.

Byte by Byte comparison

Byte by Byte comparison

Let’s look at the files that are duplicates. DFF found 5 files that are physically the same: 4 with the same name (bettie54dish1.jpg) and one called slide0093_image020.jpg. I can delete 4 of those files. To do that, choose the Easy Marking tab and click on Mark All Duplicate files. By default DFF keeps the newest file in each group (the groups are numbered and differentiated by the color in the file list). The screenshot below shows 4 of the files marked for deletion.) Now I feel confident I can click the Delete button. If I were really paranoid, I could copy or move those files to another location. But I really want to get rid of them! (DFF tells me I could gain up to 7 GB in disk space just by deleting my duplicate files. Wow!)

Same file, different name

Same file, different name

The free version of Duplicate File Finder has saved me hours of work! So, why did I purchase the Pro Version? I did it for the marking options. If you recall from the preview post, I said I had files on two computers along with CDs, DVDs and external hard drives. With the Pro version, I can choose to keep all the files on a certain drive (a DVD, for example) and delete the ones on all of the other drives. Or, I can choose to move all the unique files to my internal hard drive. Or . . . . The Pro Version gives me more options. For most of you that won’t be necessary. But for me, $50 was worth every penny. The price depends on how many computers you want to search. Here’s a link to the pricing schedule. Also, the Pro license gives you free updates for a year (but you can use the program forever), and you can transfer the license to a different computer in case you buy a new one. Oh! Did I mention there are tutorials?

Online tutorials

Online tutorials

If you try Duplicate File Finder, let us know what you think. And, if you know of a comparable program for Mac, leave us a comment.

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Jan 9 2017

Tech Tuesday Preview: Duplicate File Finder

deb-of-pixeladies

Well, it’s not Tuesday yet, but I just thought I would begin today because you can’t get started on this stuff soon enough! If you are paranoid, like we are, you’ll save your files in different places. For example, we might have Project1.psd on my computer, Kris’ computer, and our Google drive. We tell each other, “We’ll delete the duplicates when we have more time.” We periodically back up the files here in the Pixeladies’ Studio. I keep one of the hard drives here in the studio, and Kris takes one to her house. I just keep backing up files, but I know many duplicates exist. So when Kris and her sister took their vacation to Japan, I decided “more time” had arrived.

I wanted to back up 13 years (yes, 13 years!!) of Pixeladies’ files and get rid of the duplicates. First I ordered three new 2 Terabyte hard drives. Then I pulled out all of our CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray disks, hard drives, and yes, even some floppy disks. Yep, we’re old.

Cords everywhere!

Cords everywhere!

Having investigated duplicate file finder programs years ago, I had an inkling of what was possible. But now we had files not only on all the above-mentioned media but also on two desktop computers (networked), our Google Drive, and Dropbox. Egads! I wanted to be able to find all the duplicates, no matter where they were located, and delete the duplicates.
After doing some research, I found Ashisoft’s Duplicate File Finder (DFF). It appeared it would do everything I wanted, and it was free! So I hooked up all the hard drive docks and Blu-Ray readers I could find to our computers; each computer has a CD/DVD player. There were USB wires and power cords everywhere. I started Duplicate File Finder and went out to dinner.

Out to dinner

Out to dinner

When I returned, I saw that DFF had found gajillions of duplicate files. I started to delete the duplicates, then noticed that if I purchased the Pro version of DFF, I would have some automated methods of deleting files, such as deleting all the duplicates from Kris’ computer. Hmm, so maybe I should buy the Pro version. Tune in tomorrow, when I’ll not only reveal my answer but show you how Duplicate File Finder works!

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Dec 13 2016

Tech Tuesday: What’s The Difference Between Layers And Brightness/Contrast In Photoshop, And Why Do I Care?

Pixelkris

Our students often get confused when they first learn about levels. After all, they just want to brighten their photos, so wouldn’t it be easier to remember the brightness/contrast button? Seriously, what do levels mean anyway? If levels essentially do the same thing, brighten images, then why bother? Well, it’s all about the visuals.

Let’s start with Deb’s favorite view of Hong Kong. It is a great view, but the image is rather dull. Hong Kong tends to get hazier as the day goes on.  And since Deb rarely gets to the world’s highest bar at the Ritz Carlton before lunch, her photos can usually use a little adjusting. Here’s the original:

Original Image

Original Image

The photo is a bit washed out.  There are no very dark (black blacks) or very light (white whites) colors in the image.  Here’s a graph of the number of pixels at each of 256 values.

Graph of pixels at values

Black pixels are above the black triangle and white pixels are above the white triangle.  The higher the line, the more pixels at that value.  As you can see, there are no black pixels and no, or very few, white pixels (note the very short black line at the white triangle).  Usually the best photos will have some black and some white pixels.  We like to see this graph before we start fiddling with the photo.

How can you view this graph?  Click on Adjustment Layers (the two-toned circle) in the Layers Panel. (Press F11 in Photoshop Elements or F7 in Photoshop, if you don’t see the Layers Panel.) Kris fondly calls this icon the “Amerikaner” after her favorite German cookie. (Why this German cookie is called the American will take an entire blog entry itself.) Then click on Levels.

Adjustment Layers

Adjustment Layers

When the Levels adjustment layer dialog box opens, you see the graph along with a bunch of sliders.  Disregard the Output Levels slider.  First try to move the black triangle to the left edge of the pixels and the white triangle to the right edge of the pixels.

Then you can adjust the contrast by sliding the gray triangle to a pleasing look.  If you want, you can try moving the black and white triangles again to see if the photo looks better.

Gray triangle

Gray triangle

Once Deb played around with the Levels adjustment layer, she came up with this gorgeous view of Hong Kong. Compare this to the original. Much better!

Manipulated Image

Manipulated Image

Click on one of these two photos to compare the two:

To get back our original question, you can adjust the photo with the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer, but there’s no useful graph, so you just have to slide the slider buttons back and forth. If you change one of the sliders, you probably have to change the other.  Back and forth, back and forth.

Brightness/Contrast Slider Bar

Brightness/Contrast Slider Bar

In the “olden days” (pre Photoshop CS3, and sometime before Photoshop Elements 9) the brightness/contrast adjustment would actually adjust all parts of the image equally, which was absolutely the wrong thing to do. Now you have a choice, but we still prefer the Levels adjustment.  After all, we’re visual people, and the Levels adjustment graph provides visual clues to the adjustments your photo needs. By the way, if you only want to adjust the sky, that’s a different lesson!

Learn how to brighten your images and more by enrolling in one of our online Photoshop Elements classes. Photoshop Essentials 1 starts January 16! Click here to learn about our classes.

 

 

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Sep 13 2016

Photoshop Essentials 3? Help Us With Our Next Online Photoshop Course

Pixelkris

We’re taking a hiatus from online teaching until the new year so that we can work on revamping our design class. After a cursory review of the course, we realized that we had a bit of a dilemma, so we thought we would ask you for some help. Of course, we’ll intersperse our questions with some images to make the post prettier.

Design Elements

Design Elements

Question #1: the class needs a new name. “Designing Fabric with Adobe Photoshop Elements,” while descriptive, seems limiting. After all, while you learn how to create designs, the course is not limited to designing fabric. In fact, in this class you build upon what you learned in Photoshop Essentials 1 and 2 by working on:

  • review of layers and layer styles
  • blend modes
  • define pattern and seamless repeat
  • filter galleries
  • custom gradients
  • complex text tool manipulations
  • panorama stitching

4 Layers: map, color, pebbles, photo

4 Layers: map, gradient, doodle, photo


Understanding layers and blend modes, for example, is useful for any user of PSE, from fabric designers to photographers. Digital scrapbookers would benefit from learning how to define patterns and make seamless repeats – all those wonderful backgrounds can be so much fun to create. And that’s just a couple of examples. So, now you can see that “Designing Fabric” won’t appeal to all the people who would otherwise take the class. Any ideas for a new name? We’d love to hear from you. Just leave a comment at the end of the post.

Gradients Explained

Gradients Explained

Question #2: Content. We’ve summarized the main areas of the class above, but it is very helpful to know what YOU want to learn. If you want to learn something specific, we might be able to add it to the class agenda. At the very least, your request might become the topic of one of our Tech Tuesday entries! Again, just add a comment at the end of this post, and we’ll see what we can do! Thanks for your help.

Finished scarf design

Finished Scarf Design

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Aug 23 2016

Passwords, the Internet and Marriage (Part II)

deb-of-pixeladies

Last week I talked about the advantages of using a password manager program like LastPass. Click here to reread the post. This week I want to talk about creating a secure, memorable password for that one password you have to remember. If your password contains the name of any of your family members, your phone number, or is on this list, you need to read this post and change your password NOW. Here are some hints for creating a secure password.

  • It shouldn’t contain easily guessed personal information such as birthdates, phone numbers, spouse’s name, pet’s name, etc.
  • It must be at least 8 characters long.
  • It shouldn’t contain words found in the dictionary.
  • It should use a variation of upper and lower case letters.
  • It should contain special characters such as @#$%^& and/or numbers.

Ángel Pagán

Ángel Pagán


One of the easiest ways to make a strong memorable password is to take a phrase such as Ángel Pagán is a beautiful baseball player. (Don’t tell my Dear Husband!) Reduce it to the first letter of each word

1

Doesn’t contain any personal information? Check. 8 characters? Nope. Using our list above, it’s too short. So why don’t I use BB for baseball. This would give us

2

Check off number two. Is it found in the dictionary? Nope. What about upper and lowercase? Gotta change that. How about

APiabBBp

On to number 5. “It should contain special characters and/or numbers.” Need to fix that. A capital B looks like the numeral 8, why don’t I just make the B’s for baseball be 8’s

APiab88p
But I still don’t have any special characters. So why don’t I add something. Now how am I going to remember which special character I used. Try to follow my logic here. Pagán without the accent is just pagan. Now I’ve studied a bit of Spanish and a bit of French, and I never can remember which way the accents go. So why don’t I add a “^”? It sort of looks like acute and grave accents combined. I can remember that. Now I have

5

It meets all the rules above, but in my mind eight or nine characters are too short to be my master password, so I’d add a few more characters or even a random word. Keeping with my baseball theme, I think I’ll add the word herringbone to the end.

6

Why Herringbone? The stitch used to sew a baseball together looks like a herringbone stitch to me. And it is all about me, after all.

baseball Herringbone Pattern

And in case you were wondering, the ampersand reminds me of a treble clef, and the treble clef ”circles” the G line in a musical staff. Remember, the key thing is this password has to be strong AND memorable. And I can remember this! If it’s memorable to me and gobbledygook to you, I’ve succeeded!

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Aug 16 2016

Tech Tuesday: Passwords, the Internet and Marriage (Part I)

deb-of-pixeladies
What's my password?

What’s my password?
Click on image to see my consternation.

Do you have a secure password? Can you remember it? Is it the same for all of your accounts? I used to have a large written list of accounts and passwords sitting right beside my computer. That’s not the most secure thing to do, especially if your eyesight is failing and it’s written in an extra-large font that the neighbors could read from their dining room table. Another big no-no is to reuse the same password for every account. One of your accounts might get hacked, and the thief might just try that same password on another one of your accounts. And what do you do if you have an account you use on multiple devices (your phone, tablet and desktop computers)?

Here’s where a password manager comes in handy. That’s an app that will create secure passwords and remember them. Here’s a screenshot of the password manager I use, LastPass. It can generate a really long, really random password.

Password Generator

Password Generator

Could I remember that password? Not in a million years. But I don’t have to. I only have to remember the password for my password manager. One password! That’s it.

Now what happens when I need to use that impossible password to log in to an account from my cell phone? For a measly $1 per month, I upgraded to LastPass Premium. Now my password manager can sync to all my phones, tablets, and laptops, whether they are Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, or Android. So when I get an alert from my favorite airline that tickets to my favorite location are on sale for an unbelievably low price, I can just log in to my LastPass app, type in my one password, and tell it to log me in to the airline’s website. LastPass will remember that really long random password and the tickets are as good as mine.

Now here’s where the marriage part comes in. For those of you who know the Pixeladies, you’ve probably heard us exclaim, “After all, we have been married to each other longer than we have to our husbands. “ So what if Kris changed the password on our Facebook page, and I have just received news that we’ve been selected to show our work at the Museum of Modern Art. And let’s say Kris is camping in the backwoods of Idaho and has no internet connection (yeah, right!). With my Last Pass Premium account, we can share passwords with each other, and I can post the news on Facebook for all of you to see. The best thing is that the LastPass app will alert us when a password has been changed and will let me update the password. I can do the same with my DH. Everyone’s got their own LassPass account and password, but we can share them with each other.

Now as much as I love and trust Kris and my DH, there are times when I don’t want to share with either of them. Do either of them need to know that I’m a registered member of the Ángel Pagán fan club? (I’m sure both of them would be shocked to know that I even know who Ángel Pagán is. I’m not a baseball fan, and what the heck is a pagan angel?) So I don’t have to share that account information with either of them. How cool is that? Here are some links to check out:

  • If you’re ready to give it a try, use this link, and we’ll both get a month free of Premium service (up to 2 years).
  • If you want to read more about LassPass, click here.
  • If you want to read a review of other password managers, click here.
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Jul 12 2016

Tech Tuesday: Personalizing Keyword Tags in Photoshop Elements Organizer

Pixelkris

Our students know how much we love to organize our photos with Photoshop Elements Organizer. It’s really handy for visual people like us, but it’s also very powerful. Take, for example, the keyword tags. You can create a keyword tag for anything you think you’ll want to search your images for. We once had a student who created a category called “Cats” and then a keyword tag for each of her (many) cats. Since I have lots of photos of quilts, I want to be able to find them according to type of quilt. (Deb, too, has a category for Quilts!) By default the keyword tags in the Tags panel look just like sub-categories. In this example, the category “Quilts” has a plain green icon, while the sub-categories “Art” and “Traditional” and the keyword tag “Log Cabin” have plain orange icons.

KeywordPanelSimple

When you look carefully, you can see that “Log Cabin” is below “Traditional” in the hierarchy, but you really can’t tell that it is a keyword tag. This may be fine for some people, but when you are quickly trying to grab keyword tags and drag them to an image, it’s nice to have a more obvious way to differentiate one keyword tag from another. Right-click on a category or sub-category and choose “Create new keyword tag.” In the dialog box that pops up, you can add an icon by clicking on “Edit icon” and selecting any image you want.

KeywordTagNew

But here’s the catch: you will NOT see this photo-based icon unless you go into your preferences and change the way keyword tags are displayed. From the Menu bar, click Edit > Preferences > Keyword Tags and Albums. Under “Keyword Display,” check the second “Keyword Tag Name” (the one with the photo inside the tag), then click OK.

KeywordPreferencesA

Now the keyword tag shows one of the photos you’ve tagged with that keyword.

KeywordTagChangeIcon

We hope you explore using alternative keyword icons. They really are good visual aids. If you don’t like them, you can always change your preferences without losing the icon information. Want to learn how to use Organizer more fully? Please consider taking our online course. The next session starts on July 25. Click here for more information.

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Jun 28 2016

Tech Tuesday: Using Facial Recognition in Photoshop Elements Organizer

Pixelkris

Someone once told us she didn’t want to organize her digital photos because it “takes too long.” What’s great about Photoshop Elements Organizer is that you can organize your photos in great or very little detail. Organizer’s ability to recognize faces for you makes quick work of labeling your photos with people’s names. If you do nothing else, just putting names to faces will serve you well. When you are in “People” view, just click on “Unnamed” to begin seeing the “people” Organizer has identified. Once you recognize the person, in this case Deb, you can add that person’s name (red arrow in image below).

PeopleShowPhotos1Arrows

Sometimes just looking at the head shot doesn’t help you identify the person. You’ll notice in the image above that Organizer had identified four photos it thought had Deb in them. But what if you can’t tell from the head shot? Just click on “Photos” (green arrow in image above) to see that person in the photos in which they appear. Let’s look at our example with the photos showing:

PeopleShowPhotosA

These four photos indeed have Deb in them. (I have circled Deb’s face in red here for those of you who don’t know her.) Let’s take a moment to marvel at what a good job Organizer did in finding these photos of the “same person.” Deb has gone through several changes: long brown hair to a short blonde bob, with and without glasses, and more and more wrinkles. But, here you have it, four photos of Deb. Click on “Faces” (purple arrow in first image) to return to the head shots in “People” view.

It’s really impressive how quickly and accurately Organizer identifies people for you. Sure, sometimes it makes a mistake, like the time it thought my photo of a gargoyle on a German cathedral was a person, but it’s easy to have Organizer dismiss such misses. Click on “Faces” (purple arrow in first image) in the “Unnamed” view, and click on the head shot that does not belong. If you’re a sentimental fool like I am, a tear or two might well up in your eyes if Organizer mistakes you for a dear departed relative. You can see how Organizer could have made this mistake with me and my mom (although it nailed these two photos):

We hope you explore facial recognition with Photoshop Elements Organizer. If you want to learn how to use Organizer more fully, consider taking our online course. The next session starts on July 25. Click here for more information.

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