Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tips & Tricks for Using Digital Images in Your Art

This week, I'd like to share with you some notes from a digital  ATC (Artist Trading Card) tutorial workshop I did with some art friends. My hope is that you will find some ideas you can use not only for Artist Trading Cards but in your other art creations as well.

Tips and "Tricks for Using Digital Images in Your Art

My personal preference for printing digital images is a colour laser printer.  However, I have found that images turn out quite nicely on my inkjet.. you just have to make sure the image is dry before you use it.

I rarely buy scrapbooking paper these days. I prefer to make my own on the computer and print it off on good quality paper. There are a couple of advantages to doing this.

  • I can colour coordinate the backing sheet with a colour from the front image of the ATC
  • It's convenient... I don't have to run to the craft store to find a piece of scrapbooking paper that matches. I either don't like the patterns available (because they are all too big for an ATC) or I can't find a colour that I like that matches. It's not worth the time nor gas spent driving to the store.
  •  At 99 cents a sheet (more or less, depending) for scrapbooking paper, it's usually cheaper to do it myself on my ink jet or laser. I haven't had to refill either printer for the past year... and I do a lot of printing. I could be kidding myself, but I think in the long run, it is cheaper to print it myself.
  • I don't know about you but I can be an impulse buyer in a craft store. Limiting my trips, $aves me some crafting dollar$. 
Creating ATC's
One thing I really like about making ATC's is that they are small (2.5 inches by 3.5 inches) and can be made relatively quickly with just a few images plus some bits and pieces to "jazz" them up.  Over the past couple of months, I have put together an image/'tutorial package that I call an "Instant 3D ATC'.  Well it's not quite instant LOL but pretty darn close!  The secret to the Instant 3D ATC's©?  Part of the ATC has already been designed and is waiting for you to put your special touch on it to complete it.  Great for beginners.  Fun for those who want to create an ATC series.  Quick for those who need a small gift or tag for a friend or relative.  More about this later on in this post.

Using Transparencies
Use images printed on a transparency using an inkjet printer to make "instant" rub ons for cards, pages, books and more.

Like most artists, I have a ton of "stuff" I can use for embellishments tucked away in tins, clear shoe boxes and storage drawers. Bits and bobs, old rusty stuff, beads, fibres, bobbypins, tickets, stamps, old metal perm rollers and on and on it goes. It's been fun lately seeing what I can salvage (borrow? pinch? steal? LOL) from my hubby's generously stocked "garage" supplies to use in some of my steampunk ATC's. He hasn't noticed yet that nuts, bolts, nails, screws, washers, etc. are disappearing from his work table and finding their way into my art.

Purchasing ready made embellishments can get expensive so keep your eyes open for *stuff* you can use in your art.  Keep clear plastic packaging... it comes in handy when you least expect it.  Puzzle pieces, scrabble tiles and bamboo tiles make great embellishments.  Collect leftover fabric, wool and fibres from your knitting and sewing friends.  The list of what you can use is endless.  Just keep your eyes open and your mind wondering whenever you are out.  You just never know when you'll spot something really cool!

Decals - Waterslide for paper, canvas and polymer clay
Use images to make waterslide decals for clay creations, necklaces, books, boxes... the list is long once you start thinking about it.  The paper to create decals is rather expensive but if you can fit a lot of images onto one sheet, it will be worth it.  Polymer Clay Express stocks the Lazertran decal paper for silk as well as Lisa Pavelka brands.  Check them all out to find the best price and the product you think will work best for you and your art.

Image Transfers
Use clear packing tape to lift images from magazines.  Press the clear tape over the image you have cut out.  Burnish it well.  Now soak it in hot water for about 10 minutes.  Voila, your image has been transferred to the tape.  You'll have to glue your image down on your "substrate" using a clear drying glue like Alenes.

Another way to make image transfers is to spread a couple of light coats of Golden Soft Gel evenly with a brush or your finger (my preferred method) on a digitally printed image, let it dry between coats (I often leave mine overnight) then soak it in warm water for about five minutes.  This will wet the paper on the back and make it easier to remove.  Begin by gently rolling the layers of paper off the back of the image.  Soak the paper if it is too dry for a few minutes more. This takes some practice to learn how to do well, so be patient, go slowly.  Once most of the paper has been removed, you can get rid of any of the remaining "white fuzzies" with a light application of Dorland Wax medium.

Hunting down embellishments (on the cheap)
One of those interesting, "cool (read cheap, cheap) find" moments came on my trip to the flea market a few weeks ago.  I bought a bag of old watches for practically next to nothing.  Hubby and I took them apart. I have more cogs, wheels and tiny watch parts than I know what to do with now LOL. 

On the same trip, I also purchased a whole shoebox of used vintage shotgun cases for $1.00.  I couldn't resist them!  When I got them home and shone up the brass cap that is on one end of them, I was glad I snapped them up. Now I haven't quite decided exactly what I am going to do with them but I certainly have some ideas floating around in my head.

Earlier this year, I strolled into a thrift store in Port Townsend and there, right in front of me, was the kind of big old dictionary I had been wanting to find for at least five years!  Most I had seen in the past were  expensive  ($50. and up).  You have never seen someone get to the cashier faster than I did that day when I discovered they only wanted $3.00 for it!

What are some *great* finds you have made lately at garage sales, thrift stores or flea markets?

Make Your Own Embellishments
You can make a realistic embellishment such as a button by cutting out and gluing a digital image to matboard, a pre-baked clay button (made from scrap clay), metal or even wood.  You can use these buttons on just about everything from altered books to boxes to shrines.  I once made a faux typewriter ribbon tin for a mixed media art piece by gluing a digital image of a typewriter ribbon tin to a piece of round wood, distressing it on the edges with sandpaper, brushing some distressing ink on it and then sealing it with a glossy decoupage glaze.  It looked so real that it fooled a lot of people who saw it.

Scour the Internet for "Brushes"
Often I will use the brushes in my graphics program to add something here or there that I may not have in "real life". There are lots of brush images that you can get all over the 'net. Photoshop users can start by trying deviantart for starters. If you are a Paint Shop Pro user, you can use the Photoshop brushes you find on deviantart. Just download an abr.viewer, turn the photoshop brushes into png's and then into brushes in Paint Shop Pro.


One tried and true tip I can give you about brushes...don't load all of your newfound brushes into your graphics program.   Keep them in a separate file on your computer and when you want a particular one for a piece you are working on, you can load it temporarily into your program.  Too many permanently loaded brushes will slow your graphics program down to a snail's pace!

PSP Tubes
Sometimes, because I use Corel Paint Shop Pro X3, I will add something from my "tube" files... a button, a jewel, a flower, etc. that I have either made from a photograph or found on the web. If you are a Paint Shop user, just do a search for "paint shop pro tubes" on the web to discover hundreds of them that you can download and use in your digital creations.  Here are a couple of links to get you started:

Victorian type tubes - Annies Tubes
Brushes, Tubes, Masks for Photoshop and PSP - The Original Free Tubes Site 
This site should keep you busy for hours

Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow
Most of the time my ATC's are designed from scratch and ready to print in less than 30 minutes if I just let things fall into place where they may. Don't overthink your designs. Choose a background. Choose a focal point image. Decide the colours your want to use. Get them into place and let serendipity take over. It's a fun way to create and you will learn a lot about how to quickly design layouts that work.

Remember, "less is more"... save those "extra" images you are tempted to add for another day or start another creation like this one in the Instant 3D ATC © "Hilda" series

Wanna trade?   Find out how to get this Instant 3D ATC© image and tutorial package FREE for your ATC collection.  Click on the "Current Free Downloads" just below the blog header at the top of this page for more information.

Have a great week ahead with your art. Hope you have found these tips and tricks for using digital images useful.  I have a *ton* more tips for your art that I'll be posting in the future so be sure to check back often.