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My first set of calendar bookmarks

crafty_tuesday

My first set of calendar bookmarks for 2013 is finished and I really like the way they turned out after all. Especially considering that it took no time at all to do them.

cal1_web

See the first three months in more detail here. To assemble them I will either just staple them at the top (pretty rough method, I know, but quick) or punch a hole and tie them with a nice and colourful ribbon.

Have you done anything crafty lately? Let me know, I am always looking for inspiration.

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Bloggiesta Mini Challenge: Basic photo editing

Bloggiesta

Hi! Welcome to my mini challenge about basic photo editing.

If you are a blogger you most likely work with images to enhance your blog posts, at least now and then. Maybe all pictures you use on your blog are book covers that you downloaded from the net; maybe you take pictures of your own books, book shelves, book bags, library etc. It doesn’t matter where your pictures come from or whether they were taken with a cell phone, a point and shoot camera or the most sophisticated DSLR camera. Almost every photo can do with a little editing. There is not much work involved, will only take a few minutes and the result is always an improvement.

Today I want to give you some basic photo editing tips that will make the pictures on your blog look so much better than the SOOC (straight out of the camera) ones that you might have used until today.

Don’t worry we will only cover a few easy things that can be done in any photo editing software (e.g. Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Corel Paint Shop Pro, Gimp). After that I will show you a nifty online tool that you can use if you haven’t got any editing software on your computer.
I am doing my editing with Photoshop CS2, so you might have to look around a bit in your software to find an equivalent, but I am sure it is there somewhere.

Before you begin editing, open your image and duplicate it, then close the original. You always want to work on a duplicate, so you have the original to go back to if you don’t like your editing results but accidentally saved them.

 

CROPPING

Cropping iconThe first thing you might want to do is crop your picture. Is there something on the side or in the corner of the picture that distracts from the subject and you would like to get rid of it? If you don’t need or want to stick to a certain ratio of the image, just get out the crop tool and start cropping.

I am using a photo of my Harry Potter books that I took to post for the Harry Potter readalong. I know, the quality is not the best and they would definitely look better if they were all one kind of edition, but it is how it is – I took it with my cell and it is rather grainy; that is why I am going to remove the colours later. Things that don’t go that well together in terms of colour often look better without them.

Do you see those ugly robot’s feet on the left? I used them to prop up the books, but I don’t want to show them.

Uncropped

Open your image and choose the crop tool in your software (it normally looks like the icon I posted at the beginning of this paragraph). Start at the upper left corner where you want your image to begin and drag out a square or rectangle until you cover all the area you want to show.

Cropping

Then commit by hitting Enter or clicking on the checkmark in the menu bar.

There, now your photo is cropped and only shows what you want to show.

Cropped photo

 

RESIZING

Image sizeNow it is time to resize your image. Unless you have your camera set to the lowest image size your image is probably too big to use online.

Go to ->Image, ->Image size. Change the resolution to 72ppi which will automatically decrease your pixel size. Then enter the width pixel size that you would like to have. For my blog a width of 600 is about the maximum that is shown properly. It totally depends on the column sizes of your blog. For the main content column a width of 400 to 500px is a good medium size. For a sidebar a width of 100 to 200px maximum would be suitable.

Image size dialog

Don’t ever increase the size of the image! You might get away with a small increase (especially on a monitor) but in a lot of cases your image will look pixelated and ugly. If your photo is too small for your purpose, instead consider adding a background and /or frame of some sort to make the whole image look bigger. .

See Pedro at the beginning of this post all nice and crisp? Below is what he looks like when increased in size:

Pedro way too big

Not so pretty anymore, is he?

Whatever width you decide on, it is absolutely crucial that you keep the ratio of the picture! Make sure the checkbox "constrain proportions" (or maybe “keep ratio” or something similar) is checked. Then the software will automatically choose the proper height according to the chosen width to keep your image with the correct proportions. Of course, you can always enter the appropriate height yourself, but that involves some maths, why not let the program do the work for you?
If the ratio is not kept your image will be distorted and looks extremely unattractive.

Let’s take Pedro again. You might only have a 100px sidebar spot for the Bloggiesta button, but Pedro is 152px wide. So you go and change his width, but forget to check the proportions checkbox. Now he looks like this:

Pedro too thin

He is recognizable, but still! We can do better than that!

 

COLOR CORRECTION

Color correction iconsNow that you have your image cropped and resized you can correct its colours a bit if you wish to do so.

The two basic things you can do is improve the brightness and contrast of your image, and then you can play with hue, saturation and lightness. If you use Photoshop you might want to do that as an adjustment layer. That is represented by a little button in the bottom of the layers palette. The advantage is that you can always go back and change your settings or remove the adjustment altogether. If you don’t have that option, you just change the values and they change the image for good (unless, of course, you go back with Ctrl+Z).

Go to –>Image, –> Adjustments, –>Brightness and Contrast and move the slider until you like the result. The settings always depend on your image, but do not overdo it. Just play around until you like what you see.

Brightness & Contrast

This makes my image a bit brighter and boosts the contrast. That’s ok for me because I want to give it another tint altogether.

Brighter and more contrast-y

 

–>Image, –> Adjustments, -> Hue, saturation and lightness is not a necessary editing step, but you might want to use it if you want to change the overall colour of your picture, give it a certain tint or desaturate it to make it black and white. There are other methods to turn a picture to black and white but this is the easiest one. Try it out, move the sliders and see what they can do.

Hue & Saturation

Above are the settings I used to make my image look like this:

Colorized

 

This is as far as we are going today. Not hard, is it?

Now, if you do not have any graphics software, there are online tools also that will help you accomplish basic (and also pretty advanced)  editing. The one I am going to show you today is PicMonkey.

 

Picmonkey

 

Snap_2012.09.07_21h21m07s_001I love Picmonkey. It is easy to use, it is free and it requires no registration.

All you need to do is click on “Edit a photo” and upload your image.

Edit a photo button

After you upload you image you might come across this window (which I saw yesterday for the first time when I uploaded a poor quality photo, not sure whether this is a new feature or whether it only turns up in certain cases):

Image setting choice

Since your answer depends entirely on the photo you are using I suggest that for now you just click on “Cance” and use your photo as is.

Picmonkey is rather self-explanatory. You have an auto adjust button that automatically enhances your image. Or at least it should do. If you don’t like whatever Picmonkey is doing just click on the “Undo” button at the top of the screen.

Undo button

On the left you have all the editing options, like cropping, rotating, resizing etc. Hit the apply button when you have adjusted the settings to apply the change (it can be undone with the undone button).

Editing options

But there is more. If you click on the icons on the far left, other menus open. You can add effects, can touch up skin, fix blemishes, whiten teeth and so on.

EffectsTouch up

There are many more options like adding captions, little symbols etc. . Just play around and remember, you can always undo what you have done if you don’t like the result.

Once you are finished click on “Save” to save your image. A dialog box opens on the left, where you can choose a file size, i.e. quality, of the image. The pixel dimensions are always the same, just the size of the file changes according to your settings. Mel is poor quality, Ewan decent and Russell excellent. In my example below the difference in file size is between 500kb and 1.4MB. The file size is down to the fact that I kept my image at its original size and didn’t resize it to web size. If you can afford it space wise always go for the better quality.

Saving the masterpiece

After resizing to a web size my file size difference was only between 22kb and 51kb. And here is my Harry Potter picture after applying the auto adjust, cropping, desaturating and the Lomo effect.

Edited photo

OK, we are done for today.

 

What is the challenge?

I would like you to go and find an image that you would like to post on your blog and edit it in some way. Crop it, improve or change the colours, resize it, add an effect, whatever you like to do in order to make the picture look better. Then post it on your blog (before and after, please) and come back here and link us up to it, so we can come and have a look.

One thing to consider: Please do NOT just take any image from the net that you come across! Always respect the copyright of people and check the terms of use of images on sites where you CAN take images from. 

 

What is the prize for one lucky winner?

I am giving away one copy of Ella Publishing’s e-book Real.Life.Photography by Rebecca Cooper. Ella Publishing’s e-books always give excellent advice and easy to follow instructions, plus, they look great! I know them from own experience and highly recommend them.

real.life.photography

After Bloggiesta I will draw a winner from all participants who were up for my challenge and posted a link to their blog post with the before and after image(s) in the comments of this blog post.

Also, for everybody who did not win the book but is interested in buying it Ella Publishing was so generous to offer a 20% discount for my readers to buy Real.Life.Photography. Just use the discount code REALLIFE20 when you check out to get 20% off. The code expires on December 31, 2012.

If you come across a problem, have any questions about above editing tips or about anything else related to Photoshop or photo editing in general, please send me an email via the contact button on the left, via my Contact Me page, leave a comment to this post or contact me on twitter. I would love to hear from you and will get back to you as soon as possible.

And now, have fun with your images and with all the other fun Bloggiesta events!

You will find everything you need to know about them at It’s all about books and There’s a book.

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My lists project

crafty_tuesday

Remember the 30 lists project I mentioned in my last recap post? Well, it is in full swing and I am having a blast. The only downside is that I don’t get anything else done. To create a list every day is quite time consuming if you don’t just scribble it on a piece of paper, let me tell you. Plus, I don’t want to fall behind, I know that one day without making the list will be the end of it, so I am keeping at it.

Want to see my lists so far? Aren’t they pretty? Well, I think they are, :).

My first batch of lists

If you would like to take a closer look you can view them on my flickr set or my Pinterest board (now you know the REAL reason I am so busy, I am uploading all day).

As far as reading is concerned, I am still reading the first Harry Potter, but find it strangely unattractive. Somehow I am not getting into it. And I started to continue The Grass Crown. My only complaint about that one, you can’t take it anywhere, it weighs a whopping 1.2kg. No bathtub read, unfortunately.

What are you all up to, be it crafty or otherwise?

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My reading list for September and August recap

readinglist

In August I

This month I have so much stuff planned that I don’t know when I am going to read (except for Harry Potter)…

I am going to be busy!

How was YOUR reading month? And what are your plans for September?

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Calendar Bookmarks Jan – Mar

Remember the templates I showed you the other day?

I am not at all sure I like my bookmarks. Somehow I think I should go for a more artsy look than for cutesy. This is easy, really quickly done – especially because I used premade wordart so far (being lazy, you see). But is it really worth doing it in that way? Or maybe finish this set and then do another artsy one?

What do you think? If they were a gift for you would you like them?

bookmarks1-3

Credits: Jen Wilson, Summer Simmons, Nina & Ashalee Wall, Angie Hinksman, Meredith Fenwick, Rhonda (DWD CD), Fei Fei

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Perfect small bookish Christmas gifts

It is never too early to think about Christmas gifts. I have been on the lookout for something calendar-wise to create digitally for a while now and today I found those calendar bookmark templates.

Calendar Bookmark Templates

Use photos, quotes, patterned papers, even tiny scrapbooking pages, I can think of tons of possibilities. These are going to be such quick, fun and practical bookish Christmas gifts!

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Week on the web

weekontheweb

Here are my finds for this week…

Have you found anything interesting lately?

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Crafty Tuesday: The photobook

crafty_tuesday

Some time ago I got a coupon from a company producing photo books, calendars and other photo gifts. They are operating in various countries, in Germany and other European countries they are called Cewe Fotobuch, in the US they are Smilebooks. I hadn’t used that company before and was curious to see their product, especially because their rates are quite good and considerably cheaper than some of their competitors’. The coupon was reason enough for me to finally finish my photobook of 2009 (!). The production only took a few days and in Germany you can have it delivered to a retail shop of various partners and so even save postage costs.

I was very pleased with the result, the quality is very good and sturdy (this is the standard kind, not the luxury one), I had it within a few days (upload on the 6th, pick up at shop on the 10th) and the customer service is extremely friendly and speedy. I never use any of the offered designs because I upload complete scrapbook pages, but there are tons of designs, colors and styles to choose from, so there is something for everybody, and creating the book couldn’t be easier.

Here are just a few of the pages: yearbook

If you have photos lying around on your HD and are too lazy to print them and stick them into a photo album, either because of the time commitment, the bulk or the mess, you should consider a photobook!

Have you done anything crafty lately? Let me know, I am always looking for inspiration.

 

Disclaimer:

I got the coupon for a photobook from Cewe in exchange for a link to their services on my scrapbooking website and not for a blog post about the photobook. But I was so pleased with the result that I chose to write about them anyway.

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Rock ‘n Rolla

In the third week of the class the topic was vignette composition. Actually I think a lot of scrapbookers use that sort of concept, just that they might not even know about it.

I started in a sort of half-assed way, not knowing what to do until I came across this clipped newspaper photo of Bill Haley and Elvis Presley when they met somewhere in Germany. I loved that photo with Bill Haley looking so cool with his cigarette (don’t bash me for saying that!). But by now it was so crumpled and torn that I didn’t want to keep it, but couldn’t throw it away either. So I took a photograph to use it digitally and keep it that way.

The title is self-explanatory. I am a huge Guy Ritchie fan, so it was an obvious choice.

week3_vignette_ass1

Credits: Background: Christine Newman, grungy frame: Leora Sanford, photo frame: Andrea Rascaglia, all images are from flickr, except for the newspaper photo which I found in our local newspaper. The title is from the movie poster Rock N Rolla.

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This way out

Claudine pointed us to the artwork of Elly MacKay. I absolutely love the collages she creates, especially the ones with ships. One of them in particular – it’s called “I’ll travel with you”  – made me want to do something with ships as well.

Of course, mine turned out completely different…

week2_horizon_ass3

All items are from various digital kits that I created in the past.

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The first clouds in the skies…

I made this as a second piece for the horizon composition practice as well as for another color challenge at Big Picture. We were supposed to start with a color scheme and then pick elements etc. I chose the lilac and green theme from the decor8 blog which suggested something grassy and flowery.

When I saw the happy couple amidst all those flowers I had to think of a line from the Threepenny Opera by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. “Erste Wolken am Himmel des jungen Glücks” (First clouds in the skies of young happiness). And there they are already!

week2_horizon_ass2

Credits: Papers: Leah Nicole, Jen Wilson, Flowers: Sara Carling, TADA, KatG, Eve Recinella, Melanie Violet, Luiza Garay, Julia Makotinsky, Gina Cabrera, Glitter heart and edge overlay: Nina, Floral overlay: Gypsy Chick, Clouds: Weeds and Wildflowers, Man&woman stamp: Laura Alpuche

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Bag insert No. 3

There are just too many good quotes out there…

I should be actually having those inserts printed so I can show you what the bag looks like. So far all I do is show scrapbook pages…:)

bag_insert_blue

Credits: Papers and elements: Jen Wilson, lace border: Emily Farnworth, Stitch circle brush: Jason Gaylor, Font: Arsis, Arial, Exmouth, Quote by Robert Frost

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Something kite

The second week of Claudine’s composition class has begun and we are focusing on a horizon composition. I am determined to make use of the images Claudine provided and this time I went for the boy, the house and the little tag. I started with the “kite” tag and looked around her images to see what would go with a kite. This is what I came up with. No idea what to call it. Normally I use some words on my pages, so for now I am calling it…

…Something kite

week2_horizon_ass1

Credits: Papers: Jessica Bolton and Jen Wilson, kite shape from Stock Exchange, tree brush: Jason Gaylor

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Color challenge at Big Picture Classes

I went to the Big Picture Blog yesterday and discovered they have a color challenge going right now. I haven’t done any challenges in a long time but figured I could give it a go and practice some collage as well while I’m there.

The only rule was to use soft blue as the background, that sounded easy enough. I had planned to use a certain haiku that I found at the Haiku Forge for a long time and this was a good opportunity. If you don’t know the haiku forge, you should definitely check it out. Great haiku to be found and great web design as well.

The image of the girl was so small that I could only create an ATC with it, everything else would have been too big for it. I was looking for a sleeping woman actually, but couldn’t find any cool vintage image of one. If you ever come across one, let me know, please!

haiku_forge

Credits: Background: Oscraps collab, Lace: Amy Martin, Moon and stars: Jeannie Papai, Girl image: flickr by chicks57, Moon image: flickr by penguinbush, frame: Audrey Neal, Constellation brush and grunge overlay: Michelle Coleman, Stitching: Syrin

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Bovine Jealousy

I am on a total roll. My collage class is such fun, I just can’t stop…:).

This is my third piece, I call it “Bovine Jealousy”.

week1_assymmetrical_ass3

Credits: Background: Dianne Rigdon, green paper and red button: Jen Wilson, red paper: Jackie Eckles, torn heart: Jessica Bolton, animal and farm images: flickr by jerseybarb85,  ribbon: Ronna Penner, Frayed edge: DaniB, RIP Cupid brush: Fly Guy, Stamp sheet: Meredith Fenwick

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Composition for collage online class

I am totally excited. I signed up for the “Composition for collage” class at Big Picture Classes. This is an interesting subject to begin with, but the teacher is Claudine Hellmuth, and that just makes it even more fantastic. The participants come from all over the world and are so creative. It’s amazing!

If you don’t know Claudine’s collages, you have to check out her website! We have two pieces of custom art from her and we love them. If you are looking for the perfect artsy gift look no further. Claudine is very easy to work with and creates exactly what you were looking for.

The first week has started a few days ago and we already learned quite a bit. I create two collages and am really happy with them. Claudine provides lots of class material, but everybody can use their own stash as well.

These are the two collages I came up with so far:

 

Music in you

week1_assymmetrical_v2

Vintage photograph and “It’s fun” tag provided by Claudine. Brushes: Blinding light. Background paper: Christine Newman. Line grid: Christine Borgfeld. Buttons: Jen Wilson. Font: Typenoksidi

Inappropriately dressed

week1_assymmetrical_ass2

Vintage photograph provided by Claudine. Papers: Jen Wilson. Brush: FlyGuy. Sun: Weeds & Wildflowers. Paper for cloud and paper strip: Nina. Edge: Catrine. Font: Typenoksidi

 

I have severe problems with my font manager and don’t want to install lots of fonts permanently, so I suppose I will use a lot of “Typenoksidi” in the next future, :).

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Bag insert No. 2

I really am into those bag inserts now. If I continue at this pace I will soon have an insert for every color of the rainbow. That quote I just couldn’t resist…:)

Edit: Jesus, I just noticed the spelling error! Someone should have said something! Well, it can be easily corrected and I haven’t had it printed yet.  

Credits: Papers and elements: Jen Wilson (Mud Room), Fonts: Courier New, Excellentia in excelsis, Quote by Ashleigh Brilliant

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Bag inserts resurrected

A number of years ago those black purses were the rage among digital scrapbookers, unfortunately I cannot for the life of me remember the name of those purses. Anyway, at the front and back they have that clear plastic cover where you can insert photos etc. and then close the plastic with two buttons.

I haven’t used mine in ages and only recently discovered it again in a big wicker basket. So I thought it might be nice to resurrect it again and create some inserts for it with various color schemes and themes for different occasions.

I finished a couple this week:

The first one is this spring themed one

spring_bag_insert

Credits: Fonts: Papers and elements: Jen Wilson (Linen Closet), stitching: Syrin, stain: DaniB, Shishoni Brush, Andalus. Quote by Margaret Atwood.

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What I like…besides books: Digital scrapbooking

A couple of day ago I talked about a digital scrapbooking kit “Read and Relax” for the scrapbookers among us. My first Weekly Geeks post ever was about it as well. Even so my passion for it has somewhat decreased I still like to create digital art and collages, especially with poetry or quotes.

One book related page I created was for a contest that took place in 2008, The Amazing Digiscrapping Race. The requirement simply was to create an altered art page and this is what I came up with.

books_are_ships_adsr9_web

 

If you would like to have a look as to how to get from a blank white page to the end product, you can do so here. And if you would like to see more of my crafty side you can go to my (badly neglected) blog Rikki’s Teleidoscope. I really should resurrect that one again. It’s not that I’m not creating anything, I’m just not posting it.

 

Credits: Background book pages from an old German atlas, Vintage couple on ship: art.e-zine.co.uk, Papers for ships, waves: Laura Ping – Slightly worn, Polka Dot Potato, Anchor: Saxon Holt, Corin’s library card, Edge overlay: Rikkiscraps’ 2 page inked edges, Stamp: Jani Crowley – Havana, Clock stamp: Rikkiscraps’ Trainspotting, Scale 1-0: Rikkiscraps’ Ocean Drive, Compass stamp: Yin designs, Fonts: Chancery Cursive, X-Files

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Scrapbook your reading

Some of you may know that besides reading I also like to scrapbook digitally. Maybe this would be a good “what I like…besides reading” post, but today I would like to show you something pretty neat. A friend of mine who designs digital scrapbooking kits has recently released a very nice reading themed kit. So, if anyone feels inclined to scrapbook their reading habits, favourite book, a memorable visit to a bookstore, library or anything else book related, you might want to take a look at Nina’s “Read and Relax” kit.

nina_rr_prevall600

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Today a Reader…

A few days ago in my T13 post I linked to a print on etsy with the quote “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader” which I totally loved. I decided to make my own print with that quote and the wise owl. This is going to look so nice on the walls of the kids’ room.

today_a_reader

I got the owl template from abc.teach.com where you can download all sorts of animal templates.

Other credits: Background paper and paper curl: DaniB, Other papers, card, foliage and border: “Embrace kit by FeiFei and Paislee Press, Book brush: mine from an image on Stock Exchange, staple: Cinzia Loosemore, Messy brushes: Jason Gaylor, Designfruit, Font: Levi Stubbs Tears