Articles by Year: 2009
The past year has been a fantastic close to a decade filled with great design advancements in all media, but especially on the web. New artists, new firms, new techniques, styles & trends. We’ve seen a lot of stuff that we like, and some that we don’t – but it’s all been a thrill to live through.
The White Stripes tugged the young decade into nostalgia for the 1960s, The Strokes reacted with tunes reminiscent of the 1970s, and The Killers rounded off the pattern making music that borrows from the 1980s. The mood and intentions of creative people seem to move in harmony around current culture; Designers started putting out work with a nod toward vintage aesthetics. Then in 2009, the shapes & color palettes of the 80s seemed to be especially popular.
Trends are inevitable and not inherently bad. But eventually, we all get tired of patterns and similar-looking designs. Here’s a handful of (web design) trends as identified by our friends at Smashing Magazine. This list is just to refresh your memory – let’s not limit the discussion to these design trends only.
- Big Typography
- Modal Windows
- Carousels (slideshows)
- Big footers
- 80s colors & shapes
What do you think?
So this is topic is now open for discussion. Let’s chat in the comments about what you think are the some overused trends in your area of expertise? Whether it’s design, web, illustration, etc. What do you think?
GoMediazine: Let’s start with the usual questions: tell us about yourself, what Godmachine is all about and where you’re from.
Godmachine: I am from Wales in the UK and have been designing T-shirts for about 2 years now. I studied Graphic Communication as a mature student and was terrible at it; I just cant see the subtleties needed for clever ‘design’. Luckily for me the Lowbrow world has reared its beautiful head.
Godmachine: I have always drawn- I think I was even better at 8 years old than I am now, if I remember rightly. I pursued drawing as an interest up until the age of work. I was never brought up to think that you could make a career out of anything but laboring, Dad was a fitter, brother is an electrician, granddad was a minor. I was always taught that I needed a trade. I was always taking courses like ‘media studies’ etc between and during jobs, but never really had a clear idea of what I wanted to do. I never stopped doodling though and was always making images and it wasn’t until my wife bought me a canvas and told me to paint that I actually thought about it as a way to make a living. As time went on more and more paintings were made and sold and I finally got a PC just as the Merch boom started and it all fell into place.
GoMediazine: There’s a lot of debate about the value (and incredibly high cost) of art education. Coming from an illustration program myself, I feel like the guidance was at times valuable but anyone who spends 4 years drawing all day every day is going to get better, and you could just as well do this out of your house and be getting paid for it instead of the other way grow as an artist?
Godmachine: I am certainly not going to dissuade anyone that wants to study to not take that opportunity. I don’t want to sound like an ass but I do think you are right; if you take every opportunity to draw, read books on drawing, study peoples techniques, ask questions, try new things….why would you need to go to University? I feel though a Uni’ course would make you a more rounded artist in that it would force you to look at things you may have no interest in. I feel there are weaknesses, too many to mention, that I will not get round to working on for a long time as I am always busy with work now. I wish I could take time off to de-learn and start again sometimes, do some real life studies, get messy with paints again. You wouldn’t really get that opportunity if you were working- but in Uni’ you could. With the advent and ease of the internet, there really is nothing you couldn’t learn from home right now. Mostly I would say more than anything else you should have a burning desire to draw/create/study, with that they could put you on an island with a crayon and you would develop your skills. So its a bit of both really.
GoMediazine: I read in another interview with you that you don’t keep a sketchbook because you’re always near a computer. Do you sketch on the computer or is it all finished work? Does this allow you to get down more ideas or is it an obstacle? Care to share any samples with us?
Godmachine: I just bought two sketch books today hahah. I realised last week that my work station is full of scraps of paper with non-sensicle doodles all over them. I am using sketch books not for sketches, but for ideas, I see things, think of something, grab a piece of paper and doodle on it and then pin it to my work board. Where was I getting these pieces of paper? I was ripping them out of an old sketch book. But I need to see those sketches in front of me- I cant have them hidden in a book- they are no good to me there. Sketching on computer is good for me but not great- I cant work on that sketch on the toilet (lets face it all good ideas are created there, see flux capacitor) or on the train. I will send you a sketch but you wont believe it. Recently I was talking to a few artists, including Dan Mumford about concept sketches and when we compared them we saw that we were all quite horrific at sketching. I think its because what we see is not what you see on that paper, artists have an image in the mind and use the doodle as a quick reference and guide. I think I get more ideas using my scraps of paper, and soon, my sexy new sketch books (£3.00 off ebay).
GoMediazine: Do you have any recurring themes in your doodles, you know, eyeballs, zombies, etc?
Godmachine: Yes. all of the above and the rest. Gore, skulls, pain, anger, skulls, gore, blood, eyeballs, I love them all.
GoMediazine: Do you keep any type of reference library?
Godmachine: I have an extensive library of books for reference and inspiration, I love that a lot of it wont be found on the web. I used to work at a second hand book shop during Uni’ and amassed a great collection. Cant stop buying books. I also have a folder of hands on the desktop from photos I took.
GoMediazine: What is your typical process from start to finish? How many revisions does it typically take for you to get to a place where you’re happy?
Godmachine: I start by collecting ideas from various places, getting inspired- usually takes a day or two, then the scrap of paper doodle. Then I sketch it into photoshop and layer after layer I define what I am doing and where it is going. From actual initial PS sketch to finished piece it usually takes me about 10 hours over 2 days, I have other work to attend to during. My brother in law, adam, bought me a coffee machine recently and That gets fired up first, I call it ‘The First Four Black Sabbath Albums’, not the names of the albums, but exactly that ‘the first four..’. As for revisions I tend not to do any unless the client really want me too and then we refer to the contract to see how many we are allowing. We usually hit it first time, I can only really think of 2 times that it was completely the wrong image, and that was all totally my fault as I wanted to get these ideas out and there really was no explaining them, just had to do them…But Usually its just a case of a few tweeks. I wish I had enough time to revise each piece over and over again, I am always able to pick holes and see new things.
GoMediazine: How have your tools changed from when you started until now? Has moving to digital changed the way you work or your style?
Godmachine: When I started it was mostly Biro, I loved that dirty strained feel it gave lines, like it was made by a weak, ill, disturbed person. Then it was marker pen and acrylics. Then back to pen, this time; fine-line. Then finally a tablet. It totally affects your work and your style. I see loads of people buying tablets now and seeing they all look the same. I asked Ray Frenden, the artist that showed me how to use a tablet the same question and he replied that sadly your work and style will someway always be influenced by your tools. It is bad in that a lot of people look the same now. It hasn’t affected my style as I remember it, but it has helped me achieve the style I was always aiming for. And recently I am learning to make it look more like pen and getting more courage to get back to my old ways.
GoMediazine: What’s the biggest hurdle for you in working digital?
Godmachine: It will never be as responsive or as natural as working with ‘real’ medium. Ray Frenden who is a constant source of knowledge and inspiration for me recently blogged that his MAC pro, Citiq tablet, umpteen programs are all easily trumped by an $8 brush on a piece of paper. I would say the biggest hurdle I have is it not being ‘real’ untill they are flogging it on a t-shirt/poster/deck…. Or that my computer strains with file size or process power. Other than that I am more than happy with it, so is the Mrs as it means less paint being flicked about the house. Some people think the ‘splats’ thing is like a trend for me or something, but I been flicking paint about for over 12 years now, my painting reflect that.
GoMediazine:I wanted to avoid asking you the obligatory influences question, but do I detect some Ed Roth showing through in addition to the skate art flavor to your style?
Godmachine: I only found out who Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth was a year ago, so I cant say he has been a direct influence on my work. Maybe indirectly through a culture, yes, and definitely through the skate culture. All the usual suspects are my influence and I will not give the usual obligatory reply. I will say though that I am avoiding doing that style these days and have been for a while. My aims, as I grow in skills and confidence is to leave that behind completely and concentrate on a lot more serious or ‘darker’ style of art work- more Marvel than Phillips. I don’t post much of it though as it seems to influence too many people too quickly, I will do when this comes out though and you will see for yourselves.
GoMediazine: Do you have ideas floating about that you use when a client comes around, or is it client first and then idea?
Godmachine: I have loads of ideas floating about in my head. But usually the client has some ideas as to what they want. The problem with doing my own thing for clients is that its not always in the same vein of my last piece- I am always developing ideas or wanting to try new things and mostly a client will want what you have already done- why wouldn’t they though. I had a phone conversation with a client a while back about some of my ideas I wanted to produce for him and he knocked them all down giving some reasons….Then months later I saw all my ideas had been produced. I don’t know if this was intentional and was probably a subconscious thing…but then again…So sometimes it works for us when a client gives me full reign and other times it is not a good idea…we find a way though. very rarely has someone requested a job that I have thought of- no one is that twisted.
GoMediazine: When you work are you a no distractions kind of guy, or are you watching your favorite movie for the 12,000th time?
Godmachine: I am totally distracted. When I first started I could work 8 hours solid and was producing one design a day easy, but it was killing me. Now I am all about distractions, social networking makes it easy for me to get side tracked. My main indulgence is you tube and TED which is great and i really enjoy learning new things about philosophy and science. I also like listening to the radio. Twitter too! I love twitter. I can be sketching away and be thinking of something then lean over and spew some verbal detritus into the world, wipe my brain clean and carry on sketching. If you like anti-religious stuff, cats or work related rants feel free to come follow me on twitter @godmachineuk .
GoMediazine: Are there other areas of art you want to branch out to, or things you do today that you’d like to evolve?
Godmachine: I want to get back into painting one day, but mostly I would like to be in a position to be the one that applies my design to things. I would like to be the one who decides where the print goes, how big it goes and what it goes on. Maybe open my own clothing label one day, but then I know how much work is involved that is not designing or creating.
GoMediazine: Have you ever had to walk away from a bad gig? Sometimes people just want you to be a physical extension of Photoshop. Has that changed how you select clients?/
Godmachine: I am writting a load of rules for myself, among them is such things like ‘do not compare yourself to others’ and so on, but one of them is ‘select only jobs that inspire you- even if you are without work’. I think I am getting to the stage now where I am fearful of churning out work that isn’t my best. My aims have always been (and I think I got the idea from a designer called Collison Theory) that each piece you design should be better than the last and that you are only as good as your last piece. Having that attitude early on was what I suspect got me here today. I have had to walk away from a bad gig though, some clients give bad art direction, and I have learnt that they don’t always want ‘new’ and ‘amazing’ they just want ‘something’ and ‘anything’. The clients I end up parting company from- and I am glad to say there have only been 2- have always ended up with below par work by some other artist- that at least makes me feel better about sticking to my guns. Next year will see me only taking on jobs that inspire me and test me- and in between I will practice and create work that I like to see.
GoMediazine:Do you have any recent favorite projects or anything coming up you’re excited about?
Godmachine: I have been aiming to work with more doom metal bands lately and more skateboard companies. I do enjoy working with smaller companies as they seem to want to take more risks with work which is fair enough as their risks are smaller, but oddly its the bigger companies that come back months later asking for the same stuff they turned down. The money isn’t as great- but at least I am happy with what I am producing, and I know that if you do it for the money you wont get as far as you want.
GoMediazine: What have you been listening to lately, have anything that never leaves the rotation?
Godmachine: Big Business! just cant get enough, I had a dream last night and woke up singing it. I have Palehorse to thank for turning me on to them. Also film soundtracks/scores; Moon, The Dark Knight, Lost Highway, Solaris, Twin Peaks.
GoMediazine: Who are some of your favorite illustrators working today?
Godmachine: I hate answering these things as I am lucky enough to call some of the greatest artists I know friends- albeit efriends, they are still good genuine people and have helped me unconditionally. The reason I hate these things is because with my sieve like mind I will always leave someone out. And to say one is to leave the other out.
GoMediazine: So tell me about this Weedeater shirt. I have to ask because I think it’s my favorite of yours. Was there a lot of planning in this or did you just sit down and belt it out? Would you consider a variant involving pizza? (Because that is the only way it could get more awesome.)
Godmachine: No planning at all. I had the idea of doing a gross women and that just came out. I think I remember pulling some faces in the mirror one morning and deciding on doing some disjointed mouth and a hand trying to hold it from dropping off completely. This tee among the others in the similar vein were the ones I produced when I nearly quit. I was sick of doing ‘Jim phillipsy’ stuff for clients and just wanted to make my own stuff. It was at this point when I discovered Brian Morris and he blew me away with his unapologetic work- it was like seeing the artistic equivelent of a ‘fuck you’. It may well be that, this wasn’t his intention, is not how he sees his work and is not what other people see. But it did it for me- I pulled up my socks- said ‘fuck you’ to my fear and drew a load of stuff I wanted to draw. Took me ages to sell it as all the people/clients I talked to all wanted my old stuff. Its been a long process but I think I am finally there- like I say next year will see me turning away a lot more jobs. I will work for anyone as long as they want something different, gnarly and promise to print it huge hahah
Hey readers, you probably know by now that Go Media makes really cool t-shirt templates. We often get emailed suggestions for new mockup templates like pullover hoodies, jeans, cd packaging, etc. So we’re going to run a poll here to figure out for sure what you folks want. But first, why do we even need these templates?
Well, impressing our audience is a huge part of what we do. That means friends, bosses, department, clients, or the world. We’ve got to be able to turn heads and make people say “wow” about our latest work.
This is complicated stuff, and there’s no magic bullet. But one thing we’ve found to be true is that people are sensitive to how we present our work.
Imagine: If we’re designing a CD cover, which do you think makes a better first impression: A 7x7cm square JPG, or photo of the finished CD in plastic wrap on a shelf at Best Buy? Presenting our design in a realistic mockup helps people imagine the final product, and all the warm fuzzy feelings that come along with it.
Luckily, we can pull off a photo-realistic presentation like that in a few minutes in Photoshop with the right tools. And we’re going to build those tools. But first we need your help to decide what to do next.
There are so many different Mock up Template possibilities that we’re asking you to help make the decision: What’s next? What would really help you out day-to-day? Which of these templates do you think could help a client say “Yes – that’s what I want it to look like!”? Which templates could help you get clients excited about a project?
If you see think of a type of presentation template that isn’t included in these categories, you can add your answer. Please be cautious about adding answers, or this poll could get out of control. We can’t wait to see what you think.
Also feel free to leave a comment with ideas about presentation style, or how to impress clients during the proofing process.
Welcome to the first installation of the Weapons of Mass Creation video interview series. Not sure what this is all about? Read the kick-off article to get caught up!
Our first interview will be with Richard Minino, better known as HORSEBITES. We’ve got 10 minutes of awesome video interview for you to watch. We’ve also transcribed the interview for folks in a hurry who’d rather scan than watch! You’ll find both below.
This is cool to actually meet, like physically meet, people that I’ve looked up to, or just seen their work. I don’t recognize them by face because I only know them through the internet.
If a kid wants to start out designing, and he can use the illustrations you’ve provided as stock art. Even if he uses it at first and doesn’t use it later, he’ll always remember that he needs to make it as professional and high quality as what Go Media puts out. I think it’s great.
And then having the option and the confidence to start up another business with someone and put out a little series of things. I would have never thought that would have been possible five or six years ago. It’s just awesome. I’m “living the dream”!
It’s still weird to me.
Although it rarely happens to me, I see tons of Twitter friends posting about their Adobe software crashing while working on a file. InDesign has a pretty robust temporary file feature that usually saves what you were working on, however that’s only useful if you work in InDesign. What about Illustrator and Photoshop users?
ForeverSave is a clever application that does versioned auto-saving of your open files. ForeverSave isn’t limited to Adobe software, but it’s the primary reason I was interested in the app. It works silently behind the scenes, yet instantly accessible via the menubar icon. Very customizable, not only the app itself but also on a per-application basis. This is a sign of a developer who knows their potential customers well.
Read on for more about how this very handy piece of software can improve your workflow, and as a special treat to Go Media readers, we’re teaming up with Tool-Force Software to give away a limited number of free licenses to our readers.
I love the fact that on a per-application basis I can set how many versions I want to keep, when to erase old backups and also excluding extra-large backups. Concerned about disk space? You can choose where the backup database is stored. Throw it on that external drive with tons of space instead of your startup drive if you want.
What It Does
So how does this all work? Simple: run ForeverSave, and based off your settings (per-app), ForeverSave will silently keep backups of your files according to the schedule you’ve specified. Sure, Time Machine is great for files you’ve already saved, but ForeverSave goes one step further and makes it easy to go back in time with files you’re actively working on.
The big key to the awesomeness of ForeverSave is the fact that it can be set to not overwrite your current file — it saves a separate copy to allow you to revert if you choose. This is not some generic “hit the Save command every 5 minutes” solution only. ForeverSave allows you to work on your file and save a copy every so often in the background.
Go Back In Time
So what happens if you do need to go back to one of your backups? ForeverSave has a very intuitive backups interface to do just that:
Each software application has it’s own backups window which allow you to browse the files it has been monitoring (left-hand panel) and the versioned backups for each file (main area on right). Click on a backed-up file on the left to see the versioned backups for that file.
Each backup is date & time stamped, and full info can be gathered by clicking on one of the backup files and checking the info panel at the very bottom. Each backup file has the option to Delete, Open, replace or Restore, and everything works nicely with OS X’s Quick Look feature.
I’ve been demoing this software for a while now to prepare for this review. I wanted to make sure it ran smoothly, worked as advertised and fit into my workflow. I am very happy to recommend this software to any Mac user, but specifically to my fellow illustrators and designers out there. This really should be a part of your Mac workflow.
I’m a big fan of backup/security when it comes to my computer as I find it’s part of the creativity process — if I don’t have to worry about my tools and my files, it leaves more flexibility to concentrate on the creative side of things. ForeverSave is a tool that helps me achieve this.
Get It Now!
ForeverSave is available from Tool-Force Software for the insanely reasonable price of $14.95. There’s also a “lite” version, but it doesn’t offer most of the features reviewed above and I recommend just going for the full version. The first time you need to access a versioned backup of a file you thought you lost after a Photoshop crash will more than pay for the price of ForeverSave.
Tool-Force Software has also graciously agreed to bestow some free licenses to our loyal Go Media readers. The first 10 to reply in the comments will get a free license for the full version of Forever Save.
Be sure to have some way for us to contact you. I’d suggest a cleverly obscured email address within the comment itself (name [at] domain dot com usually works). If we can’t contact you easily, we’ll need to move on to the next.
This past September, fourteen fantastic designers, animators, web developers, strategists and illustrators visited Go Media’s studio to be part of the Weapons of Mass Creation art campaign. It was exciting for us at Go Media to meet people that we’ve known and respected only through the wonders of the internet. We thought it’d be selfish to keep all the fun to ourselves, so we pulled out the video camera and chatted it up with our guests!
For the next couple of months you’ll find a new video interview every week right here on the GoMediaZine. For now, watch the trailer and whet your appetite for our upcoming interview series: Weapons of Mass Creation.
Get ready for upcoming video interviews with these leading artists, designers, and entrepreneurs!
In late 2007, Adelle Charles started Fuel Your Creativity, a fast-growing design & creative inspiration site that is now the flagship of the 11-blog network. The Fuel Brand Network, which includes such titles as Coding, Writing and Illustration, is aimed at creative professionals.
Under the Angryblue moniker, I design posters, art prints, album art and do way too many shirt designs full of strange imagery. Though I’ve mainly done aggressive work for metal bands, I also do merchandise design for Genesis and Ashlee Simpson as well. I am an art whore.
Brad spends part of his days wondering how to combine his two loves, comic books and easter eggs. The rest of his time he spends trying to design killer user interfaces.
Chad Lenjer is an illustrator from the outskirts of Cleveland who focuses on line-work and and amalgamating techniques and conflicting themes. He creates unsettling, sometimes macabre depictions, for the hardcore/metal music scenes he’s worked in for the last six years.
Owner and Creator of IFYOUMAKEIT.COM. I also play drums in Halo Fauna, Thousandaires, Golden Age of Radio, Kudrow and Air Raid Barcelona.
Geoff is a graphic designer, illustrator, guitar god, Cleveland sports nerd, and day dreamer hailing from Cleveland, OH, whose main focus is merchandise design in the music industry. He also likes curling up on a bearskin rug before a roaring fire with a fine bottle of merlot.
In addition to being editor of the GoMediazine, George Coghill is a humorous illustrator and cartoonist who specializes in cartoon character design for logos & mascots. He loves to share what he’s learned from his 10+ years as a professional freelance artist.
I am a designer, animator, creator and co-owner of nah design. I am always looking for new and exciting clients and projects. Feel free to contact me for any reason.
My name is Richard Minino aka HORSEBITES, born and raised in Orlando, FL, and full time designer for about 5 years. I teamed up with some of my best friends in the design world to form The Black Axe which will be melting faces for years to come.
Joshua Smibert directs his creative passion into the Fuel brand, where he oversees marketing and strategic direction for the company. Australian by birth, he loves travel and is the quintessential entrepreneur: intense, sleep-deprived, passionate and forward-looking.
Mark Weaver is a designer and illustrator living in Atlanta, GA via Boston, MA. He has worked for clients such as Wired Magazine, Good Magazine, and Paste Magazine. He currently works from home with his wife, Jessie and their dog, Sgt. Pepper.
Web designer and developer interested in web applications, identity and advertising campaigns. Interested in front end design implementation as well as back end administration. Has experience working with advertising agencies, corporate clients and independent artists.
My name is Aaron Sechrist. I design within the realms of print, web, apparel and broadcast. I like to make things look cool, and the fact I get money and occasional high fives for that is a great bonus.
How To Create Fanatics as a T-Shirt Designer
Quick…think of the top 3 most popular t-shirt designers that you know of. You probably came up with names like Geoff May, Jimiyo, Wotto, Collision Theory, Corefolio, Godmachine, and many more. Just how did these graphic designers become household names in the t-shirt industry? It wasn’t easy, because “just being gifted” won’t take you to the top. You have to be smart, you have to market, and you have to focus on a few key ingredients in the recipe for success.
I had to start with the most obvious. This is one part of building your tee design credibility that you just can’t fake. Stay true to your style and try to be consistent, because the consistency in your style will become the fingerprint of your work.
Personal Site With Portfolio
It’s 2009 folks. Don’t expect to gain a following if you don’t have a web presence you can call home. This allows your fans to dig a little deeper and get to know you better. It also provides a plethora of content for t-shirt bloggers like myself.
This creates a conversation. It also provides you with a platform to launch new designs and products. You don’t have to blog that often, just provide quality with each post.
It isn’t good enough to just join a competition anymore. You need to interact with the members and occasionally scratch some other backs. Being a part of the community is crucial. Having a lot of friends in multiple competitions can build an army.
Submit, Win, Repeat
You’re never gonna win if you don’t submit. And you need to submit often. Then hustle the heck out of your design, because the more eyeballs viewing your submission…the more votes you will receive. T-shirt design competitions are all over the web these days including:
Create a Mailing List
I’m not talking about a monster 1000+ list of e-mail addresses. Just a small, high-quality list of t-shirt bloggers, friends, influentials, and fans. You can use this list to update people on what you’re working on and ask for favors.
Teach Them Your Ways
You have to give back to the community that gives to you by creating tutorials. Take your most popular designs and show them how you arrived at the masterpiece. You can gain a lot of exposure and appreciation by showing others how you do what you do.
Create a Freebie Pack
Who doesn’t like something for free? If you have an abundance of unused artwork, then give some of it away instead of letting it waste and rot. You don’t have to give away the farm, but artwork was made to be seen, so get it out there.
Show Your Personality
Your artwork should speak for itself. But what it doesn’t say about you, should be shown in your interaction and interviews. There are many different ways on the Internet to make yourself available and to really let loose. Don’t be afraid to share your quirks and make some jokes with your online friends.
All of these components are critical for gaining momentum and building a following. After all, that is the hardest part. Once you have a loyal group of fans, you will have more opportunities than you can probably keep up with.
Dave is a guy that has always impressed me. He manages to run a site that produces all its own video and audio content, play in 5 different bands, do freelance design/coding, and have a social life. This interview probes deep into his brain and covers everything from being an entrepreneur, a designer, and a musician. Something a lot of our readers, including myself, struggling with keeping them balanced. — Jeff Finley
I get a lot of help from friends, especially these 4.
Eric Ayotte and Dominic Armao contributed heavily to the Series section, and have stepped up to record a handful of shows on the site. Jeff Ledellaytner has helped me out so much with technical advice and creating bumpers for each section. My roommate and great friend Katie Pallatto has also been a godsend in helping me with Pink Couch recordings and filming the bands that I’ve been in.
As far as shows go, I never really checked out sites like punkrockvids. What really drove the site was France’s La Blogotheque and their Takeaway shows. I loved the idea of showing the bands in a different way that wasn’t a music video, but was still visually interesting. It got rid of the visually interesting part and focused on the awkward times in between. If you haven’t checked them out, you should. They are doing some awesome things over there, and their high contrast look is being copied all over the web.
IYMI is on it’s 3rd 4th iteration right now, and I think it’s the most stable it’s ever been. The backend runs off of PHP and a large MySQL database hosted by a MediaTemple DV, which helps with a lot of the load. I have a lot of fun adding modules to the site, and utilizing jQuery to spiff the site up. Recently I added in a Vanilla forum and WordPress Blog, which shares a unified login throughout the site.
Currently I’ve decided to jump back on the all WordPress bandwagon, and started developing the site locally. It’s going to take some time to merge all the tables, but in the end it’ll be a lot leaner, and meaner.
There are couple of awesome videos/bands that people need to check out including Ultra Dolphins, where the guitarist plays a second drumset while fingertapping out his parts. The Brainworms video is also amazing from ABC No Rio. All the Kickball videos are also great and they were also some of my first. Francois Virot of Clara Clara did an amazing Pink Couch for a song called Dummies, which everyone should watch. His playing/singing style is definitely different and really interesting.
A lot of the time, the Series section gets shelved and neglected. Fortunately I’m trying to remedy that by starting to contact people who want to fill in the cracks. I’m hoping to fill that section with programs that are updated often. It’d be great to have some interviews, music lessons, and a cooking program. Right now I’m working with some friends on a write-in cooking show that could be produced and edited quickly and feature music from the site and the local scene.
Eric is a great friend, and has always been a supporter of what I’ve been doing with the site. Right now he is working on a monthly short film movie challenge called “Instant Gratification”. You can find out more at gadaboutfilmfest.com
Photo by Twinkleaira
Another way I balance the time is through merging all of my work together. I work on record label sites (like Plan-it-x.org), and record covers, go to and play local shows where I film for the site. IYMI is basically a calendar of my life at any given point, you can see the places where I’ve been, and pick apart the gaps when I’m too busy to bother with it.
With the free time that I have left, I spend it on playing in a bunch of side projects. I don’t really have the time to be in anything full time, so it’s nice to be in something that’s low pressure and sporadic in nature. Unfortunately I have to play in 5 bands to approximate the output of one normal group.
My list of must-haves include Mike Kinsella of Owen, Ted Leo, Hutch Harris of the Thermals, and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. When I first start IYMI, I had a link to email and tweet Ted Leo, but I took it down soon after realizing how annoying it could be. Some day Ted… some day.
My ultimate plan for this is to have the Pink Couch Sessions be more regular, and put them out twice a week, all year long. Financially it’s nowhere near that point, but I can still try.
As far as filming goes, I am talentless. Work on IYMI is just scratching the surface of what you can do with video and audio. I’d love to work on larger scale project, but it’d be in more of a producer/director capacity. I have a bunch of friends who are great at this kind of stuff, it’s just coming up with an idea to base it around.
There are tons of awesome bands in New York, and there are shows every single night here, especially if you have broad musical tastes. I would name some of them, but it seems almost pointless, because I have 100% chance of forgetting someone.
Currently we have a handful of great spaces to play in the Brooklyn area, which we are eternally grateful for. Some of the places that regularly host shows include the Silent Barn, Death By Audio, The Glass Door, Tompkins, Lulus, Tommy’s Tavern, 538 Johnson, The Fort, The Boneyard and many more.
Drums are all about tempo, you can play the craziest parts, but if you speed up and down to much it’ll never matter. The most important thing to do is play to a metronome and work on your sense of rhythm. I need to follow my own advice.
It’s exciting to keep contact with the people you meet on tour, and I think it makes everything more personal. Working on IYMI has helped me interact with a whole new set of people all over the world who I would never meet, or interact with.
Up until this month I have worked alone, which has been very stressful at times, but now I am getting some help from my wife. Our youngest child just started preschool, so she now has free time to help me with a lot the tasks that don’t necessarily require design skills, but have to be done.
Card Observer was built on WordPress, which made development quick and painless. I created a custom theme that was very minimal so that the site design wouldn’t get in the way of the business card designs. Although it has been modified a bit by the new owner.
My intention from day one wasn’t to sell the site, but I’m always open to selling a site if it makes sense. In this case it did. The money made from Card Observer allowed me to focus more on growing Web Design Ledger, which was the direction I wanted to go.
Another factor that made Card Observer appealing to buyers was how easy it was to update the content. It only required about 15 minutes per day to add new business cards to the gallery, which would leave a lot of time to spend growing it and thinking of more ways to monetize it. Having a good design also plays a role in selling a site. I think people are willing to pay more money for a site that looks great.
I plan on keeping Web Design Ledger. It’s grown much faster than I thought it would and has really blossomed into a valuable resource for web designers. It’s also coming up on it’s one year anniversary, so after investing so much time it would be difficult to give it up. I’ve become attached to the site and the readers. Going forward, WDL will serve as a “flagship” blog and as a launching pad for new sites.
Getting the money from Card Observer was big for me because it allowed me to quit taking client work and focus on growing my business as a full time blogger. The decision should really come down to your own business goals.
The amount of time it takes depends on how hard you work and how much money you want to make. I could have held on to my sites longer and grown them more, which would have meant making more money from selling.
I thing whether you’re going to flip a site or keep it, your focus should be on building great content and building traffic. A few of my favorite sites that offer great tips on how to grow a site are ProBlogger.net, Performancing.com, and DoshDosh.com.
It’s nearing the end of the year. Americans are out hunting turkeys and folks around the world are pinching pennies in preparation for the winter holiday season. So, I’m curious:
Where are you spending the most in your freelance business? Where do you think you could afford to save a bit? Should you cut back on a few subscriptions to magazines or web services? Buy year-old computer gear instead of the latest & greatest? Or hey, maybe business is booming and you could care less about expenses right now.
Whatever the case, cast your vote in the poll and share your thoughts in the comments!
*Update: Two categories were added late, and so are horribly unscientific: Insurance & Travel.
Foil stamping is always a fan favorite, due to the elegance and high visual impact that it can provide. Foil stamping (also called hot stamping, dry stamping, foil imprinting, or leaf stamping) can be used to add flair to products like business cards, book covers, gift cards, office folders, and a whole host of professional or personal items. Instead of using plates or inks to print words and shapes, foil stamping uses dies, or sculpted metal stamps.
Foil Stamping: How it’s done
The heated dies seal a thin layer of metallic leaf/foil onto a surface. The foil comes in a wide roll, large enough for several passes, backed by mylar. The hot die works similarly to a letterpress. Once it’s heated, the die presses the foil against the substrate material with enough pressure that the foil sticks only in the intended places, leaving a slight imprint.
Foil leaf is available in every imaginable color and pattern. Rarer types of leaf come in matte, pearlescent, holographic, opalescent, or glossy finish. There are also semi-transparent foils that allow an under color to show through. Not only does it provide a uniquely vibrant image with depth, but foil stamping can be applied to a much more diverse selection of substrates when compared to ink. Businesses typically use foil stamping to identify folders, cards, signs, and magnets with their logo. The reflective and unusual treatment is sure to catch the eye of your potential customer!
Hard drive failure. Not something creative people think about often. At least not until it’s happened to you. I went from not even considering a “backup solution” to being (probably) overly cautious and redundant about my backup setup for the Mac and all my creative files.
Yes, you need a backup.
The first step to getting a backup system in place is to realize you do need one. Many people have probably even used a Mac and bought a new one with no hard drive failures at all. Most likely you could go years never even needing a backup. Why spend all that money on something that may never happen? Precisely because it only needs to happen once for you to realize how important it is to do this. Save yourself the heartache and learn from my pain.
Oh, and keep in mind that dragging your files to your “backup” drive and then deleting them from your main hard drive is not a backup; the files are only in one place—there’s only one copy of them. You want a minimum of two copies of all your files.
The hardware side is pretty simple: either some internal hard drives (if your Mac supports them), or some external hard drives (FireWire or USB 2.0). Most (non-iMac) desktop Macs since the G4 lineup support up to 3 additional hard drives internally. Users with an iMac or a MacBook/Pro (or any Apple laptop) with need to go the external hard drive route.
As far as purchasing drives, if you go the internal route you only need to consider the connection interface—older Macs (and PCs) used the ATA interface; newer Macs use the higher-speed SATA (Serial ATA) connection. You can find tech specs for Apple products here. For external, I usually go with FireWire drives since they can be daisy-chained together. This means you only need one FireWire port as additional drives hook into the previous FireWire drive. FireWire drives also allow you to boot your Mac up from them, so they are my preferred external drive connection.
Where to buy
Seems many people have hard drive preferences, so the choice should be made by reviews on Amazon or my preferred geek/gadget supply store, NewEgg.com. Personally, I go with Western Digital drives after having too many problems with Maxtor and Seagate. Never had an issue with any Western Digital drives. However, other’s mileages definitely vary. The only real criteria is that the drives are reliable.
You’ll see a bunch of nerdy numbers for the specs: cache, RPM, etc. For the most part, a 16MB cache and a 7200 RPM should be more than sufficient and is mostly standard anymore. In reality you don’t really need a fast drive for backups. As far as storage size, I would go with drives that are twice as large as the drive you will be backing up (more on that later). At the very least, it should be the same size of the drive you’ll be backing up, for obvious reasons.
Hard drives are not PC/Mac specific—any compatible drive will work although you may need to reformat the drive. The hardware is all the same. PC-formatted drives will work on a Mac, but in general it’s recommended that you format for the Mac unless you have a specific reason for not doing so. And if you do, you are probably informed enough that you don’t need to read this post…
Drives are formatted using OS X’s built-in Disk Utility. Follow the drive manufacturer’s installation and setup instructions, and if they do not cover Mac formatting, check out this article for details. Also, this article on formatting and partitioning a hard drive is also useful.
Setting Up Your Backup
So now you have your new drive(s) installed. How does one back stuff up?
This is the real meat of the post. I’ve had many different systems in place, and feel the current setup is perfect for an individual user. I’m going to rough out the overall setup, then go into details:
- “Failsafe” backups with OS X 10.5’s Time Machine
- Bootable, differential “clone” backups of my startup hard drive
- Differential “clone” backups of my other hard drives (I keep all my art on it’s own separate internal hard drive)
- Offsite backup
Now lets go into details about each of these backup methods, and why I use multiple systems.
“Failsafe” backups with OS X 10.5’s Time Machine
OS X 10.5 and newer includes the “Time Machine” feature which essentially monitors your entire hard drive(s) and keeps as many versions of your files as it has hard drive space for. Time Machine is unique in that it saves multiple versions of your files, so you can revert back to and older version, say for example when you intended to save a Photoshop file using “Save As…” but instead did a regular save, overwriting the file unintentionally. With Time Machine you can easily go back to previous versions of the file and “restore” that earlier version. You can even save the newer version right alongside the older one (or replace it). Time Machine monitors your drives and performs the backups on the fly. No backup to “schedule”.
This is super handy for those small mistakes. If you were to only run one backup, I would recommend Time Machine as the software is free (it comes with any Mac running OS X 10.5) and it covers not only backups, but earlier versions of your files. In the case of Time Machine, since you are able to not only back up files but also save earlier versions of those files, the bigger the drive you use with Time Machine the better.
Time Machine also uses some code voodoo so you aren’t saving actual earlier copies of all your files, but references to just the changes (or something similar). In this way, far less disk space is needed. But the larger the hard drive, the more earlier versions you can have on hand.
Time Machine has saved my butt many times.
Bootable, differential “clone” backups of my startup hard drive
Differential? Clone? Wha…?
By “differential”, I just mean a rotating, ‘every/other’ backup. Here’s how it works: I have a startup drive of say 500GB. My backup drive for this drive is 1TB (terabyte, or 1,000 Gigabytes). My backup software runs a “cloned” (or “mirrored”) backup every morning to one of the two 500GB partitions on the 1TB backup drive. Then, once a week on Sunday my backup software runs another clone backup on the other 500GB partition.
Why do I do this? Because if some problem creeps into my boot drive, my backups will also contain that problem. By having a separate backup that lets me go back a week further, it’s insurance that I may be able to revert to a setup before the problem started. Sure, it might not be far enough back in time, but it’s just a bit of extra security that could really come in handy. I’m a bit paranoid, I know.
The “clone” backups are what they sounds like: your hard drive is cloned to the backup hard drive. Just copying the files isn’t good enough if you want to actually start your computer from your backup drive—you need to clone it to do so, so that all the hidden system files are also copied.
Why would one need to boot up their Mac from their backup drive? Picture yourself wrapping up the final tweaks to an 80-page magazine, and having your hard drive fail. All your files are safe with Time Machine, but you can’t start up your Mac without reinstalling the System software, and then reinstalling all your graphics software, entering license codes, etc. We’re talking potential hours of work, just to get back up and running.
With your clone backup, this is an exact copy of the drive you were just using (and just failed on you). Since hard drive failures are typically physical in nature (i.e. something broke), the bootable backup is exactly what you need here. You can boot a Mac right from an external FireWire drive. Boom, you’re back in business to meet the deadline, and you can sort out getting things back to normal later when you have more time to do so.
As a minimum, I would suggest a combo backup of both Time Machine and this differential cloned backup method. This should cover almost all situations you could run into, and will get you either back to the old file or get your Mac back up and running in almost no time at all.
Differential “clone” backups
Same as above, but no need for these drives to be bootable. Again the differential approach allows for one further step backwards in case something got really screwed up. Technically these do not need to be “clones”, but it’s not going to hurt anything to back up this way. Typically the backup method you want to use in all of these situations is an incremental backup, which means that during the backup process, only the files which have changed will be backed up (or deleted), saving huge time for all backups after the initial backup.
One thing to consider with the “clone” backups: deleted files on the main drive will also be deleted on the backup drive. This is referred to as mirroring. Most backup software has settings to allow the “backup” drive to keep files even if deleted on the main drive, but keep in mind that since there is now only one copy of them, they are not actually “backed up”. For me, hard drives are cheap enough that I never throw any files out unless I am totally sure I will never need them ever again. It’s just safer overall that way.
If you only have one hard drive to back up, then this step is optional. Another use here would be to back up your backup drive for an added level of security. However if it is also your startup drive, you’ll want to make sure the backup is also bootable.
There are two ways to go about offsite backups: either an upload method like Mozy.com, or the “sneakernet” version where you have yet another cloned backup hard drive which you physically move to a location outside your home/studio/etc. to another location. Some even go as far as renting a bank deposit box for this, but your parent’s house will work fine as well. The idea here is fire or other disasters. All the backups in the world will not mean a thing if they are all at your location and there’s a fire.
Backup Software & Services
There are lots of backup software applications for the Mac, and I have purchased quite a few. My recommendations are purely the ones I have found to be easy to use and reliable, with features I like. I am sure there is other great backup software out there, but these are the ones I use currently for my backups.
SuperDuper!: SuperDuper! entered my arsenal when I learned about the need for bootable clone backup drives. This is it’s primary function, and it does it well. On the plus side, it will mount your backup drives (and unmount them when done backing up) as long as they are plugged in and have power. Also, backups can be scheduled. The downside: scheduled backups only run if the Mac is awake, so you’ll need to set a wake timer in the System Preferences (Energy Saver -> Schedule… button) so it can do it’s thing.
ChronoSync: I started using ChronoSync to synchronize files from my MacPro to my MacBook, and back before version 4.0 there was no bootable backup option which it now has. However ChronoSync works great for syncing files, so I am sure the new bootable clone drive features lives up to the quality. Honestly I have yet to use the bootable clone in ChronoSync since I already had SuperDuper set up, but it might be a nice all-in-one solution of you need both backup and sync features. ChronoSync has a feature to wake your Mac for scheduled backups.
Apple’s Backup (part of the MobileMe service): I use Backup & MobileMe for some rudimentary offsite backups of main data files—Address Book, iTunes library (the database, not the music—the music files get their own backup locally) and other system files such as preferences and such. Mostly I backup databases and other small-ish files that won’t take forever to upload to a remote server.
Mozy.com: Mozy is one of many offsite backup services available to Mac users. A free account is available, but with limited drive space offered. Paid accounts can get more storage space at reasonable costs. The downside to any online offsite backup is bandwidth—it’s going to take not only a very long time to upload everything, but downloading of your backed up files will also take some time. However these backups are not about speed, but about security.
Other Mac-friendly offsite backup services include BackJack, Carbonite and Crashplan. I have only used Mozy, and while it worked sufficiently well overall it wasn’t something I felt a need for, especially to pay a monthly fee. For now I use Backup/MobileMe for my basic offsite backups since I am already paying for the service and storage space.
Following all the steps above should protect you from just about any type of catastrophe that could affect your files, whether a hard drive failure or some sort of fire or natural disaster.
Most people have never dealt with a hard drive failure, and therefore a backup system is not on their mind. Let me tell you, eventually it will happen to you. Backing up is only helpful if you do so before you need it.
If I had to recommend one solution for most Mac users, I would suggest running Time Machine. That has the broadest protection and the least amount of setup and technical knowledge needed. Most users have one hard drive, so one additional drive for Time Machine will suffice.
The next step would be to run the scheduled bootable clone of that same drive — that way you have two backups of your hard drive, and can boot from the backup in an emergency. Throw in Time Machine and you have the added bonus of accessing earlier versions of files.
Users with additional drives beyond the hard drive that shipped with their Mac will want to look into backing up those drives as explained above.
The added bonus of having a robust backup system in place? You can work with an eased mind that pretty much nothing you do can screw things up too bad. Think of it as the ultimate “Undo” for your entire digital life.
Welcome to part two of designing a vintage poster. If you missed part one, be sure to catch up! Last week’s tutorial covered most of the heavy lifting: concept, color, and composition all took place in Illustrator using elements from Vector Set 16.
Today we’re going to take our design into Photoshop for some tender love & care. We’ll learn about adding tactile character using Photoshop’s Bitmap filter, applying Spray Paint Textures for a handmade urban vibe, polishing with motion blur, and finally adding selective contrast with the dodge and burn tools.
Giving your design a face lift in Photoshop
Now before we get started in Photoshop lets open a new file and set size to 15×20 300 dpi.
Next place the jpeg of the poster into this new file.
Duplicate the layer three times, simply hold down alt and drag layer up.
Label and set first layers opacity to 70% simply hold down alt and drag layer up.
Author’s Note: It is important to properly name your layers so you don’t get confused.
Next create a bitmap, select bitmap layer and click image mode gray scale. You will get three pop up notices just click first button for all three, and let’s move on.
You will see one single layer. Click on image, mode and select (bitmap).
Set to 300dpi, halftone screen hit OK.
Set frequency to 35 or 45, set shape to round for best results.
Author’s Note: Feel free to try other things change up the shape and experiment with different settings.
Now convert bitmap back to gray scale. Click to Image>Mode>Grayscale
Now convert grayscale back to RGB. Double click on layer and name it bitmap. Now select everything using ctrl + A. Copy the bitmap layer using ctrl + C.
Now that we’ve got our bitmap image we need to apply it to our original design. Go to the history pallet and revert back to before you created the grayscale image. This will bring back all your original layers. You will want to replace the old bitmap layer with the new one. Just delete the original and ctrl + V to past in new layer. Change the fill to 59%.
Adding spray paint texture
Lets add some spray paint from Spray Paint Textures, Volume 1 to spice it up a bit. I enjoy using these to give the design some character.
Place the spray paint above the compass rose size to your liking.
Author’s Note: You can play around with different colors and transparency effects.
Set to darker color and opacity to 75% make sure its above the opacity layer.
Duplicate the layer move into place as show above.
Author’s Note: Use the erase tool with a soft bursh and opacity set to 35 and erase around square till lines are gone.
Adding light and aged effects
You will need to download the aged action to continue the tutorial.
First create a new layer and name it “Light Grunge”. This is the layer that we’ll be using to add the aged effect.
Create a new layer fill it with black
Filter, render, lens flare
105mm prime, move to into position as show above set brightness to 118%
Alright, now it’s time to use that aged texture action. Load it up and play it. See that? We took a standard lens flare and made it a little messy. Now, let’s do it again by hitting play a second time.
Set the light grunge layer blending mode to Screen. Now change opacity to 75%. See how adds realistic aging effects?
Adding light and aged effects
Select the motion blur layer we created earlier. Open the motion blur dialog by clicking Filter>Blur>Motion Blur. Set angle to 48% and distance to 999 pixels.
Set our motion blur layer blending mode to Screen. Lower opacity to 61%. We’re almost there!
Adding dark contrast
Select the burn tool. Use it like a brush on some dark areas that you’d like to make even darker. Keep experimenting until you’ve achieved contrast that looks good to you.
That’s it! We’re done! I hope you had a good time taking our Illustrator design to the next level with Photoshop. The final results may very, I took it a bit further using the same techniques. Have fun Designing your own madness.
Self-promotion is a must for any self-employed or freelance graphic designer or illustrator. This installment of Blank Canvas asks our readers: how do you promote your services?
Cold calls? Mailing lists? How do you use the internet for your marketing? Social networking? What works best? What have you tried and abandoned? What services or methods do you recommend as the most effective?
I’ll start things off with my own approach. The bulk of the promotion I do for my illustration services is online. The main thrust of this is by proper, Google-recommended search engine optimization. Nothing shady, just good practices for the content of your website. And by content I am referring to the text content. People search using words, so you need those words to be on your website.
A big part of this is not just on my own website and blog, but also being an active participant in online design & illustration communities and artist/designer blogs, collectives and related websites. I also create accounts on as many relevant online portfolio sites as I can and I regularly submit my work to photo-sharing sites such as Flickr.
One drawback to this approach is that I am limited to clients who are searching for an illustrator. Certain portions of the industry such as children’s publishing, editorial/spot illustration for magazines and websites and apparel design/illustration are most likely not out there doing a Google search for illustrators. This is where a direct-mail marketing approach or cold-calls might fare much better.
The upside to this approach is that you have built-in interest from the potential client. Typically these clients are starting up a new business, which also has the potential for additional design work for branding and other marketing materials for the client’s new company or service.
For the past year I have been considering a direct-mail approach, but currently my online marketing keeps me busy enough that it hasn’t been a priority.
One aspect of reaching out to larger companies that is a big lure to me is the added exposure of your work which can come from working with a larger company, as well as the name-dropping you can do when promoting your services to future clients. I do have some “dream clients” I would like to work for, which is the biggest impetus for me to strike out with this approach. I love the clients I work with, but getting some “street cred” is appealing.
And getting an “in” with a larger company also has the added benefit of ongoing work. If they like your work, you’re likely to get more of it. Probably keeps the stress levels somewhat lower.
Your turn — Go Media wants to hear from the readers, please let us know in the comments section below how you handle your self-promotion and marketing. Go!
Font Sleuth is an interesting new font browser application for Mac OS X. The first thing I noticed about this app—pretty darn fast. No font manager I have ever used is lightning fast when it comes to previewing fonts. Font Sleuth however was close. Give it a few seconds to load the fonts on screen and you’re scrolling.
Font Sleuth has a very spartan interface, focusing pretty much on the previews of the fonts. There is a slide-out drawer for creating groups where you can store collections of fonts in your desired groupings.
There’s no auto-activation plugins, no metadata sorting. This is purely a font browser. What I like most about it is the size of the previews in both the main window as well as the Groups drawer. If Font Sleuth fits your needs, $12 seems a more than reasonable price for this utility software.
Here’s an overview of the main features offered in Font Sleuth:
View And Activate Uninstalled Fonts
Select any folder of fonts and view them in their font faces. Font Sleuth can optionally display fonts contained in folders nested within the selected folder. Activate uninstalled fonts with a single click.
Create Font Groups
Create font groups visually by dragging fonts from Font Sleuth Viewer to the Groups Drawer. Group fonts according to your own criteria to make font finding even faster.
Browse Fonts Quickly
Use Font Sleuth’s display window to go through your fonts. Try different combinations of display attributes such as text color, size, alignment, and style.
Run Font Slideshows
Run slide shows of installed fonts, uninstalled fonts, and your custom font groups. Adjust duration, text color, size, alignment, style, sample text phrase, and background color even while the slideshow is in progress.
Keep a list of sample text favorites and access them from any font display window.
Save and Print
WYSIWYG Font Lists
Save and/or print WYSIWYG list of installed fonts, uninstalled fonts, or your custionfontfontfoKeep a list of sample text favorites and access them from any font display window.
You can download a 20-day trial of Font Sleuth here.
A Picture Worth a Thousand Points:
To start things off, we need a source image to serve as our template for this gradient mesh image. For this tutorial I’ll be using a light bulb photograph from the stock.xchng. I chose this particular image because it has clearly defined edges, as well as components that the subject it can be separated into. The outline of the light bulb as a whole is crisp. Also, you can easily subdivide the object into several components, such as the glass bulb, the metallic base, and the wire filament. This will make it easier to work with, as you’ll see further along in the tutorial.
After downloading the source image and putting it into an easy-to-find location, open up Illustrator and create a new document that is 768×1024 (I’m using Illustrator CS3). Make sure to open up the Advanced section to make sure that the Color Mode is set to RGB.
After your new document is created, go to File > Place…
Now Place our light bulb stock onto Layer 1 of our canvas. When it’s on the canvas, adjust the height/width of the image so that it better fills the space. With the stock image selected, use the Free Transform Tool (shortcut: E). You can easily and proportionately resize the image by holding Shift+Alt while dragging one of the image corners. This allows you to resize both the height and width proportionately, while the center point remains firmly in place in the middle of the canvas.
Now go to the Layers tab and double click on Layer 1, which is where your stock image should be sitting on. A popup window will appear with the Layer Options. Rename it to “Original”, select the “Template” option, and deselect the “Dim Images…” checkbox.
All Gradients Start Off with a Single Color:
First, create a new layer. Bring up the Layer Options popup for this one. Rename the layer “Bulb”.
Next, use your Rectangle Tool (shortcut: M) and create a rectangle about where the middle of the bulb is. Turn off the outline of this shape, and give it a green fill (0,255,0).
Then, go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh…
In the Popup, give your gradient mesh the following settings.
When that’s done, your green rectangle should look like this:
Now, select your Free Transform Tool again. Use this tool to resize the rectangle so that its top, bottom, left, and right sides line up with sides of the light bulb’s glass part. Then change the overall opacity of the rectangle to 50% so that you can see the bulb through it.
Once this is all in place, take your Direct Selection Tool (shortcut: A) and adjust the outer points of the rectangle so that they line up relatively with the outline of the bulb. As you select these points, you will notice that they have handles attached to them. Use them to adjust the curve of the outlines. Try to make minimal adjustments to the points vertically. Adjust the points by moving them primarily horizontally.
As you can see, there are not enough points to make this shape completely conform to the outline of the light bulb. So we will add some. Select the Mesh Tool (shortcut: U).
After selecting this tool, place the cursor over the edge that you want to modify. Then, when you click on the edge, it will create a new set of points on the gradient mesh. Once those points are created, you can use them to further refine the outline of this shape. Repeat this process until your gradient mesh shape is the same as the outline of the bulb.
Now some of you might be wondering why I chose to create the light bulb shape like this, instead of just by tracing the bulb’s outline with the Pen Tool. Take a look at this 2-row, 2-column gradient mesh I created using a shape I made with the Pen Tool:
This is the shape:
And this is the gradient mesh created from it:
As you can see, when the gradient mesh was created out of this shape, it didn’t use any of the vector points from the original shape when it created the columns and rows. It created its own points on the top, bottom, left, and right sides. Using the Mesh Tool and clicking on individual points will result in a similar issue. It may use the point I selected on the left side, but it will create a new point on the right side to connect to, completely disregarding any other points that might be close by.
So essentially, it’s my preference to use a rectangle when I create the initial gradient mesh because it allows me to make better use of all the vector points at my disposal.
This Shade of Green is Not Very Realistic, is it?
Now it’s time to start changing the colors of this gradient mesh from neon green to something that resembles an actual light bulb. Take your green gradient mesh and restore the opacity to 100%, so that the image is a solid color once more. Then, change the view of the canvas to Outline Mode. You can do this either by going View > Outline or by using the shortcut Ctrl+Y.
Now there are two tools you will be using extensively from here on out: the Direct Selection Tool and the Eyedropper (shortcut: I). Take your Direct Selection Tool and select the vector point in the middle of the bulb.
Then take the Eyedropper and select the color of the background image as close as you can to the vector point. In this case, the color will be white. Now, if you turn off Outline View, instead of the gradient mesh being solid green, there will be a spot of white in the middle.
Turn Outline View back on and repeat the process to change the colors of all the vector points on this bulb. Every vector should be made to match with colors right next to them (with the exception of the several vector points that are along the middle vertical line running through the bulb. Aside from the ones that are attached to the outline, those should be made white, like the initial vector color change illustrated above. We’re ignoring the filament related features of the light bulb for the moment). When you are done, there should not be one spot of green left on this image and it should look similar to this:
In the original light bulb picture, there is a great deal of white in the middle of the light bulb before it starts turning gray. We’re going to remedy this not by adding more vector points, but by adjusting the ones that are already in place. If you take your Direct Selection Tool and select the center vector point, a set of handlebars will appear. They may be hard to see against the gridlines, if they’re perfectly horizontal and vertical like in the image below, but you can tell they’re there by the four dots that end each handlebar.
These handlebars are used to control not only the curve of the gradient mesh lines, but also how far the vector point’s color extends before blending into the color attached to the next point. If you keep the handlebars close to their originating vector point, the color will be strongest only close to the point. If you extend the handlebars out farther, the color will extend further too. If you extend some lengths of the vector point handlebars, and then shorten up the handlebars of the other vector points connected to them, you’ll see how much the colors are affected by these changes. This image is what happens if you shorten the middle vector point’s handlebars, and then lengthen the outer edge vector points’ handlebars…
…And this image is what happens if you lengthen the middle vector point’s handlebars and shorten the outer edge vector points’ handlebars.
Now using the original image as a guide, make it so that the white color of the bulb fills most of the gradient mesh, using just the handlebars. When you’re done, the mesh should looks something like this:
It’s All About the Fine Tuning
Now we have a basic shape and look of the bulb portion of this image. However, we want to make this as realistic as possible. The ultimate goal is to create something that, at first glance, someone would mistake for a photo of a light bulb. So we’re going to have to take a look at the original image again.
Go back to Outline View and let’s take a closer look at the very top portion of this bulb.
As you can see, there are some rather distinct color changes between the edges of the bulb and the white portion of the middle part. So what we’re going to do is create a few new vector points so that we can recreate this more defined gray area. Take the Mesh Tool (shortcut: U) and make a point where illustrated below. Then take the Eyedropper and select the gray color that is right next to point you just made.
Now repeat this action, but this time use the Mesh Tool to create a point right below the one you just made, right where the white/light gray area meets the dark gray. Use the Eyedropper to select the nearby color for this point too.
Now when you go turn off Outline View, you’ll see that there is now a more defined gray area where you made those points.
It looks a little unnatural for the moment, but this will be fixed after we go through and do some more editing. Adjust the handlebars. Add additional points where necessary to the gradient mesh. It will take some time, but in the end you will end up with a bulb that looks like this:
Compare this image with the original light bulb…
Pretty close, isn’t it? Here is a look at what the gradient mesh for the bulb looks like after all my tweaking to make it resemble the original:
As you can see, I created more closely packed vector points and lines around the areas where I wanted to add more detail, which were at the edges and their varying shades of gray. In order to edit some of those points, particularly around the places where they bunched up really closely, I would have to zoom in anywhere from 200% to 800% to be able to adjust the vector point colors and handlebars. That attention to detail, though sometimes time-consuming, will pay off in the end.
Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should
Let me let you in on a little secret (well not really a secret… more along the lines of common sense reminder). Even though this is a tutorial about using gradient mesh in Illustrator to recreate a realistic image, is that reason enough to make EVERYTHING in the image out of a gradient mesh?
If you can get away with replicating parts of the image using regular vector shapes with creative use of gradient fills, strokes, and other filters provided by Illustrator, then by all means do it! It will save you time and maybe even a little bit of your sanity in the long run when doing gradient mesh images.
Case-in-point: The filament of the light bulb.
The filament of the light bulb is made up of some very thin pieces of metal with even thinner pieces of wire suspended or placed between them. In my opinion, it is not necessary to use a gradient mesh because their appearance can be replicated using some very thin strokes for the wires, and then using some shapes with gradient fills for the metal.
First, turn off visibility of your Bulb layer so that you can see the original photo. Then make a new layer and name it “Filament”. Then zoom in so that you can clearly view the filament portion of the bulb. Turn off your fill color, make your stroke color some bright, non-black/white color, and use your Pen Tool to trace the outline of one of the metal pieces holding the wire filament in place.
Then, with the shape selected, open up the gradients palette and give the shape a linear gradient fill with a .75 pt stroke. The stroke should be colored #0D0D0D, and the fill should be #383838 on the far left, #575757 at 50%, and 1F1F1F on the far right.
When viewed up close, this clearly looks like a flat shape. However, when viewed from its normal dimensions or smaller, it becomes very hard to tell the vector object from the original. Can you tell which is which?
Now, using shapes and lines at your disposal finish building out the filament portion of the light bulb. When you’re done, your partially completed light bulb should look something like this when both the Bulb and Filament layers are visible:
Divide and Conquer
Now that you know the basic for manipulating gradient meshes, all that’s left to do is to finish creating the rest of the light bulb. What you will want to do is to single out specific components of the original image to recreate.
Here is an example of one way could subdivide the remainder of this image. If it’s easier for you, go ahead and further subdivide larger portions of these components into smaller, more manageable pieces. Take your time, pay attention to details, and cut corners where you feel that you’re able to. Also make sure to create a separate layer for each component, so you can keep your work organized.
When you’re done, you should have a gradient mesh light bulb that looks as close to a realistic one outside of an actual photograph or 3D rendered object. In Illustrator, the image may look slightly grainy.
Here is a screenshot of just the gradient mesh of the above image, sans all the colors.
Though it might appear grainy in Illustrator, when you export this image as something like a Jpeg, the gradients become smoother and more refined.
The files used in the creation of this tutorial can be downloaded here: [download id=”61″]
Using the techniques taught in this tutorial, one can go about creating many different kinds of realistic vector images using gradient meshes. The techniques used here work best with images of things that can be cleanly divided into segments, such as mechanical devices, automobiles, insects, instruments, plants, etc. It is also very possible to recreate more complex organic objects using gradient mesh, such as birds, fish, reptiles, mammals, and even human beings.
Subject matter like that will be covered in future tutorials at a later date. Till then, I hope that I was able to enhance your knowledge of gradient meshes and Illustrator by another degree.