Feb 1 2017

Pixeladies Class Contest: We Have A Winner!

Pixelkris
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Last week we held a contest to give away a Pixeladies online class. We asked our readers to leave a comment on our blog post about inspiration and documentation. Well, today we randomly drew* a winner: Kit Vincent! Kit wins a Pixeladies online class. Now, Kit can enroll in any Pixeladies class she wants to, but we think she might be interested in our Digital Designing class because:

  • she already knows how to use of the basic tools of Photoshop Elements
  • she is a fabulous fiber artist and might enjoy learning how to digitally create the elements of design
  • she would meet other students and get as inspired by their work as much as we do
  • and she’s from Canada. Actually, that’s not really a reason to take the class; we just love having students from all over the world!

Some of our scarf designs

If you are interested in enrolling in “Digital Designing,” registration starts April 1 for the class that begins May 1. Click here for more information. Thanks again for everyone who left comments. You’ve really inspired us!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* This is how we made our random draw:

  1. We cut and pasted everyone’s email address into a spreadsheet.
  2. We then used a random number generator to assign a number to everyone.
  3. Then we sorted the list by the random number.
  4. Then Kris pulled out her telephone book (yes, she still has a few in the living room!).
  5. Deb, who was at her home talking to Kris on the phone, told her to open the phone book to a particular page.
  6. Deb then called out a random column and then a random row, like “seventh row from the top.”
  7. Kris then called off the last two digits of that phone number, and voilà, we had our winner!

Total silliness but some retro fun with the telephone book!


Jan 24 2017

Tech Tuesday: Fabric Printing, Part 3

Pixelkris
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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.


Jan 17 2017

Inspiration and Documentation

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Kris and I are revamping our Digital Designing class. Sometimes it takes us quite a while to formulate a class, but this one came together in an afternoon. I just love it when that happens. So while Kris was fleshing out the outline, I was looking for inspiration for projects. I’d really love to have our students submit images of what they’d like to learn to create, but sometimes when a student is given such an open assignment, they freeze up. It’s sort of like having a new sketchbook; sometimes you just don’t know where to start. Someone once told me they took an art class where the instructor made a mark in the student’s sketch book, just so it wasn’t blank. But I digress.

I keep folders of ideas. I’ve never been a journal-type person. I wish I were, but it’s just not in my DNA. I scrawl notes on scraps of paper, rip ideas out of magazines, keep Pinterest boards, make written and audio memos on my phone, etc.

 

Last year I did manage to put most of the ideas on paper into a large binder, but it’s not organized at all.

Idea Binder

Idea Binder

Here are a few of the things from my idea book I thought might be helpful for our design class.

 

 

 

 

 

How do you document your inspiration? What would you want to learn in our Digital Designing class? Leave us a comment below by January 31, and we’ll enter you into a drawing for a free class! The winner will be announced on February 1, 2017.


Jan 10 2017

Tech Tuesday: Duplicate File Finder

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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.


Jan 9 2017

Tech Tuesday Preview: Duplicate File Finder

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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!


Jan 4 2017

Ahh, The Company We Keep!

Pixelkris
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I regularly check out the website of Studio Art Quilt Associates because they frequently change their homepage banners. For me, it’s a weekly art fix. Well, wasn’t I surprised to check in the other day to find this amazing collage:

Jan 2017 SAQA Banner

Jan 2017 SAQA Banner

Wow, our Obama quilt is in great company! These artists have produced some amazing work, and we hope you click on their names to view more of their work. Let’s take a closer look at these “faces.”

Zazen

Zazen

Margaret Abramshe‘s “Zazen” is an explosion of color. She works with family photos to create compelling stories. Even subjects such as a pallbearer and immigrant are striking in their use of color.

Trusting

Trusting

One of our oldest SAQA friends, Mary Pal works with professional photographers in order to concentrate on portraits of older people. She is able to achieve remarkable and sensitive portrayals using . . . cheesecloth. Mary molds the cheesecloth into a story right on the person’s face, even if we don’t know exactly what that story is.

Masked Self Portrait

Masked Self Portrait

Kate Themel is known for her ability to create light. From the camera lens in this self portrait to her street scenes, look for her brilliant lighting effects. And, remember, she’s doing it all with fabric and thread.

Romancing Red

Romancing Red

Michelle Jackson often uses text in her work. In this case, she does so to great effect by interspersing words for the color red throughout the piece. It’s also an evocative portrait, creating other sensations associated with the color red.

The Picture is Only Half the Story

The Picture is Only Half the Story

Have you seen the Pixeladies‘s gallery of text art recently? We’ve been working away on pieces in our Language of Color series and our Walk a Mile in Her Shoes series. We use text to subtly influence meaning with specific word usage.

Always curious as to how things get done, I wrote SAQA’s multi-talented assistant executive director, Jennifer Solon, and asked her how these collages are selected and assembled for the SAQA banners. “I am still the person creating the banners. I select the artwork using the selections from the most recent online gallery,” Jennifer replied. We must note that among her many duties, Jennifer is still SAQA’s website master!

This month’s online gallery is called “Faces and Expressions.” You can access it by clicking here. Please take a look because there are so many other fascinating works of art in this gallery. Hats off to SAQA member Shruti Dandekar, who curated this particular online gallery!

Note: SAQA is always looking for guest curators. If you are an interested SAQA member, contact galleries@saqa.com for more information.


Dec 28 2016

The Power Of Word Of Mouth & Ohio

Pixelkris
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We’re in the middle of registration for our next series of Photoshop Elements classes, and we’ve noticed a curious thing. The last time we taught online, we had several Canadians enroll. This time around, 26% of the Elements 1 students are from Ohio. Ohio!! Over 1/4 of our students . . . so far . . . from the same state. We don’t know if folks in Ohio have been talking about us, but we do find it extraordinary to get so many students from one US state. This is the fun part about teaching online. We get to meet people from all over. Besides the US and Canada, we’ve had students from as far away as Sweden, Australia, and Greece. And in 2017 we’ll have our first student from the Dutch Caribbean. (By the way, the Dutch Caribbean has quite an interesting geopolitical history. Read about it here.) Needless to say, we don’t have the marketing budget to reach out to all these countries, so we have relied heavily on word of mouth. When students talk about their good learning experiences in our classes, it makes all the difference. Take fiber artist Kathy Loomis, for example. Her blog entries have steered several students our way. Read one of her entries about our classes here. Thanks, Kathy!

Back to Ohio. Ohio is special to us not only for the online students we have had. Some of our first exhibition opportunities happened in Ohio. Since it’s the end of the year, we thought it would be fun to talk a quick look back.

In 2007, when Sacred Threads was still located in Reynoldsburg, “Owuo Atwedee” enjoyed its premiere. Some nice person even sent us a review of the exhibition in the local paper because they had published a photo of our quilt with the review! We have another quilt traveling with Sacred Threads 2016 because our first experience was so wonderful.

Owuo Atweedee

Owuo Atweedee

In 2010, we had the honor of having “The Picture is Only Half the Story” exhibited in “The Journey of Hope in America: Quilts Inspired by President Barack Obama” at the National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center in Wilberforce. We felt so welcomed. This artwork has recently sold, marking the end of a special time for us.

The Picture is Only Half the Story

The Picture is Only Half the Story

In 2013, “American Still Life: The Weight of the Nation” premiered at the Dairy Barn’s Quilt National ’13 in Athens. We loved the artist reception and the opportunity to meet and network with such talented artists.

American Still Life: The Weight of the Nation

American Still Life: The Weight of the Nation

We’re looking forward to teaching again in 2017. Photoshop Elements 1 begins January 16. Whether you are from Ohio, Europe, or Timbuktu, we’d love to have you join us. Click here for more class information. And if you are a student who has posted about our classes, thank you for spreading the word! Your good word is our best recommendation. Here’s to a creative, productive, and remarkable 2017!


Dec 13 2016

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

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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.

 

 


Oct 19 2016

Why We Go to Quilt Shows

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Sure, we quilt. Sure, we like to meet up with friends. In the end, though, we go to quilt shows to get inspired. We usually go to the Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara every year, but the past few years have not been very inspiring. It seems the quilts got dark and brooding (not necessarily a bad thing) and coincided with the recession. This year seemed to be a good year.

I, Deb, am going to start out. I’ll let Kris chime in later. I have to say, I’m not really interested in which quilts win prizes. Some quilts just speak to me. And mostly they just speak to me and not the judges. Here’s one of my favorites:

Sophia Wong Modern Urbanscape

Sophia Wong
Modern Urbanscape

I love the movement, the use of straight and curved lines and most of all the color combinations. I wish I were so daring. Who would think to put these colors in the same quilt?

Next I was looking at quilting. Since we are working on a quilt about water, I was interested in simple quilting that evoked water:

These three were interesting to me. The purple part of “Skyfire Shadows at the Monuments” looks like rippling water. You know, the shallow water running over rocks. The yellow part of “Symphony in the Sea” would be very effective, too. A more elaborate design like the pebbles and curvy lines in “Cracking the Code” might work, too.

Then there were just some nice examples of more elaborate machine stitches. Wendy Hill had several samples I really liked that just require you to add a zigzag stitch:

Paula Jolly’s “Instinctually Stitched” used a wide variety of machine stitches. It really made the quilt sing:

Paula Jolly Instinctually Stitched

Paula Jolly
Instinctually Stitched

Hand quilting with tiny stitches is not my idea of fun, but look at Andrea Stacke’s wholecloth quilt:

My last two photos are just eye candy. These dimensional beetles (or bead-les, as Kris called them) were magnificent.

The text quilts that Kris and I make don’t lend themselves to ornate quilting lines, but I love looking at interesting stitching.

And here is Kris chiming in: Yeah, what Deb said. And I just want to add this quilt because it made me smile:

Connie Kincius Griner  Le Chat de Mondrian

Connie Kincius Griner
Le Chat de Mondrian


Sep 26 2016

Bid On Our Quilt Starting Today!

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As most of you know, we are proud members of Studio Art Quilt Associates, whose mission is to promote the art quilt. Their annual online benefit auction is currently underway, and you can bid on our quilt starting today at 2 pm EDT.

The Language of Color 9: Color IQ

The Language of Color 7: Color IQ

“The Language of Color 7: Color IQ” is one in the series of pencils we have been creating to address the issue of race in America. The colored pencils are created using words and phrases cut from magazines and newspapers. While many of these snippets show how often color is used in everyday language, interspersed among them you can find some biting, cutting, or difficult concepts.

Detail

Detail

Prices today are $750 per quilt, but you can wait, if you dare, to try and get the quilt later on at a cheaper price. If our particular piece doesn’t grab your fancy, we’re pretty sure you’ll like something in the auction. Click here to get to SAQA’s auction page. Bid early! Bid often! And support this wonderful organization. SAQA has helped artists like us since 1989.

UPDATE: The quilt sold today (9/26/16)! Many thanks to all the supporters of SAQA and especially to Del Thomas. Click here to read more about Del Thomas and the Thomas Contemporary Quilt Art Collection.