Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Digital Scrapbooking with iWork Pages

While browsing through the children's book section of Border's books this weekend trying to decide how to spend my remaining gift cards before it was too late, I came across a book that was both intriguing and inspiring all in one. I was at first drawn to Melissa Sweets' illustrations resembling carefully constructed collages of various type styles cut from old newspapers, colored-pencil drawings, patterned wallpaper pieces, and leather bound journal pages. However, as I began to glance through the pages, poems and words and rhythms rushed off the pages and filled my mind with lesson plan ideas for a poetry unit with my intermediate students. Not knowing anything about William Carlos Williams (Yes, I admit it! I have never heard of his works until now.), but seeing magic the title "A River of Words", I decided the book was a worthy investment. And now I am so glad I bought the book! For those not familiar with William Carlos Williams poetry, or Jen Bryant's work, I highly recommend the book, "A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams" by Jen Bryant. His story is an inspiration and a true testament of the American spirit.

But, I didn't write this blog today to tell you his story. I'm writing to share a technical discovery that was inspired by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet's book. This is something I have been wondering about the possibility of doing for some time. But finding this book and seeing Melissa Sweet's creative illustrations inspired me to actually sit down and play with Pages in iWork to see if digital scrapbooking could be done.

As a long time fan of AppleWorks, I was skeptical when Apple first introduced Pages and Keynote some years ago (nearly 6). I tried Keynote with a trial version I picked up at FETC and liked it immediately, but it took me some time to really see the potential in Pages. I really liked the ease of designing in the drawing side of AppleWorks and liked having Apple's clipart at my fingertips, a feature missing in Pages. In fact, it wasn't until I began seriously writing college papers and needing a Mac replacement for Word that I began using Pages. (I've since fallen in love with the application in spite of the obvious lack of a vector clipart catalog. What it lacks in clipart, it makes up for in style and features, such as its masking ability with images.

The introductory image to this blog write up shows a small sampling of a digital scrapbook page I created in Pages today borrowing a poem I found on the Internet by Brishti Bandyopadhyay. I have to admit, though, that it helps to have a tidy stash of scrapbooking backgrounds, elements (clip art), trimmings and what-nots before beginning a project such as this. Kind of like scrapbooking with a paper album - you would want to make sure you are well stocked with a wide variety of materials just for that purpose before beginning, and that all of your tools (such as scissors, glue sticks, archive safe markers and tape) are close at hand. It also helps to be familiar with your tools, or in this case, Pages inspector palettes and tool menus.

One of the attractive features about most scrapbook pages is the layers - the depths of colors and patterns. Most of the fancier ones combine several different patterned papers within the same color palette or theme, rather than pictures neatly stuck on plain white pages with black corner brackets as in the photo albums of old. So get used to working in layers, if you are not already.

To start with, decide on your background layer. What kind of pattern, print, texture, and color do you want to base your page on? While there is no particular command to insert or modify the background, your background image can be inserted as a regular image and stretched to encompass the entire size of your page and then some. Don't worry about it going off the page as it will all be "cut off" when it prints out. By this, I mean, do not worry if you have to stretch it to the point where the edge of your image goes off the visible area of your page. I started with a blank page/blank canvas in the Page Layout part of the Chooser. Then went to Insert>Choose and searched my files for the selected background image. As I said above, once the background image was inserted, I had to stretch it and pull it until the whole sheet of paper was covered.

Next, I selected a lighter, more neutral color paper background to layer on top of the background. I set it so it was smaller than the background layer so that the background layer would show around the edges of the lighter shade paper on top of it. When Pages inserts one of your images, it locks the aspect ratio and keeps the proportions when you stretch and resize it. You may need to apply a mask to this new layer so that it looks like this paper is slightly smaller proportionately to the background layer. (Format>Mask). If you click on the image, you will see handles around the corners of the image allowing you to resize of edit the image. If you click at the bottom of the image, you can resize the mask, if you like. If you hold down the Command key and mouse over the corner of the image you will notice the arrow cursor turns from straight to curved. If you click the mouse button as you are holding down the Command key and moving the corner of the image one way or the other, you will be able to rotate the image. You can do this as many times as you like adding multiple images and layering them one on top of another. If you go up to Arrange you can move the layers forwards or backwards as you like.

The Inspector palette provides some added options to customize your scrapbook page, under the Graphic Inspector (looks like a green square with a blue circle stacked on top and to the right of the square). If you select Picture Frame under the Stroke section, you can add a torn paper edge or embossed edge to your "paper layer". You can also adjust the Shadow and Opacity of the layer in the Graphic Inspector tab.

Textboxes may also be added an layered like the background images. Select the Font palette to change the font style, color, and size. You can also color the background of the textbox adding even more depth to your scrapbook page. Then head back to the Graphic Inspector tab to stylize the textbox as you would an inserted graphic.

If you have a nice collection of transparent .png clipart images, those can also be added to your scrapbook page much in the way of decorating your paper scrapbook page using stickers, decals, and appliques.

Once you are done, print it out, or save it as a .pdf which can then be brought into a graphic editor such as Adobe Photoshop. The .pdfs can be attached to email documents for convenient sending to relatives and friends, say, like as a Christmas newsletter, or to mark a special occasion you want to share/show off. What are some of your creative ideas for this application of Pages?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Site review - adobetutorialz.com

I've recently discovered a new site, or new to me site, I should say judging from the whois registration information. (Why I am I just finding this site 5 years later?) I originally found the site as a great photoshop wallpaper tutorial site; that is, a great reference site for creating wallpapers using Adobe Photoshop. However, after a pretty thorough search of the website I see it as pretty much a one-stop shopping site of tutorials for any adobe product, including any of the acquired Macromedia design products such as those included in the Studio MX and MX2004 suites.

Judging by some of the comments in some of the tutorials I read, I would say it is most likely not a site for a newb, but it may be a site for a novice, especially if you are already somewhat acquainted with any of Adobe's design products. In the photoshop and flash tutorials (as in most of the tutorials in the site) there are pictures/screen captures that walk you through each step of the processes; however it will definitely be of help and a great time saver if you are well familiar with the tool palettes in the particular program/application that you are doing the tutorial on. I'm also a firm believer in twice reading a tutorial. One time through without the program being open reading through what you are going to be doing. This gives you somewhat of an idea of how tricky the techniques are going to be and allows you to plan idea and gather any extra materials or plugins that you will need. And then read it through a second time with the program/application being open following along with it, once you have determined you are able to follow along and have gathered the appropriate materials you will need.

At a first glance, the site is a confusing mess of ads, articles, tutorials, and banners. I recommend either typing in a keyword of a tutorial you would like to search for, or scrolling down to the very bottom of the page to find their navigation. There you will find a categorized menu of links breaking the site down into: Acrobat Family, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Technologies (which includes PDFs, JDFs, Metadata, Xara, PostScript, and printer drivers), Creative Suite Family, Design Software (which include Swish, CoffeeCup, Xara Xtreme, and font maker reviews), Digital Imaging, Digital Photography Software (reviews and firmware updates), Freebies, Macromedia Products, Photoshop Plugins (only one review in there at the moment - Alien Skin's Exposure), Print and Web Publishing, and Video & Audio (including some pointers in Premiere Pro). You can also subscribe via RSS, email updates, or follow them on Twitter.

When you are using the tutorials, you will definitely have to turn a blind eye to the advertisements or they will drive you bonky. Although I do have to admit I have not found any of the annoying and seizure-inducing blinky banners like on some sites. But, you will definitely have to know what to click on, what to read, and what is just purely advertisement, or you may end up getting very lost. I suppose this is what you will have to tolerate though for a reference site that is free without having any logins and hosted by Host Gator.

I have been using Photoshop since version 5.0.5 came out over 12 years ago, and although I am confident in my skills in photoshop, I would consider myself an amateur hobbyist at best in the program. I have three different versions ranging from CS to CS5 on my various computers, but I'm always happy to learn more about one of my favorite programs. I've been a fan of such photoshop sites as: Planet Photoshop, and Photoshop Cafe. And now I am definitely adding this site, Adobe Tutorials (with a Z!) to my list of Adobe reference sites.

Incidentally, the search that led me to this site initially, was "romantic valentine backgrounds" in a Google image search. I not only found a romantic Valentine background, I also found out how to make it and created my own. :)

I had this on my desktop at home on Valentine's Day while I was at school. My boyfriend loved it! He loved it even more when he learned that I made it.

Here is another one I did using a combination of a couple of tutorials I found in that site:

I must admit I have yet to find the fireworks brush set that I was shown in one of the tutorials, but I did find others, and I like the way mine turned out. In case you are looking, I could not find a tutorial for a wallpaper about Presidents' Day, but I did a search for "patriotic" and found a grunging background I liked, then did a search for "fireworks" and found another tutorial that worked for me.

What are your thoughts on adobetutorialz.com? Have you used this site before? Do you subscribe to the site? What way do you use this site?