Friday, 29 April 2011

Art Post: Finish Line (Sketch)

Here's a recent sketch, of Kasha from my comic series, Green Corner. Pose reference was from this image by PersephoneStock.

This sketch will be the basis of a final drawing that I'm planning to represent the three of coins tarot card.

(Edit: this was originally going to be added to a collaborative tarot project, but I am no longer a part of that project which is still only 60% finished. Since I am no longer a part of that project, I am no longer promoting it.)

Traditionally, the three of coins features a person chiseling a column or a similar activity. I've chosen to go with something more unique and have Kasha running through a finish line to indicate a physical accomplishment. I do still need to work on the background elements for this card, but the figure will be the focal point and I'm fairly happy with how it's looking so far.

Hope you enjoy!

By the way, the reason for my being quiet lately was a trip to Sakura Con 2011, which I was covering as a press representative for Moon Chase. Early last week was spent preparing for a panel I was hosting as well as developing interview questions for a few of the guests. I will be posting convention coverage on the Moon Chase blog, but I'm open to sharing some of my cosplay photos on here too. Recently, I've also been working on a brand new site design for Moon Chase, to be used when the site is transferred to Wordpress. Once it's re-launched, I'll share some images and info about that as well.

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Friday, 15 April 2011

Art Post: Winter Wonderland Wedding Templates

Please click to enlarge the above image.

This is a wedding template suite that I designed around the theme of "winter wonderland." There are a variety of pieces in this set, including a ceramic ornament that can be used as a guest favour.

For print-on-demand versions with customizable text, you can check out my Zazzle shop. Here are links to the individual items and their measurements:
  • Square invitation (top left) - 5.25" x 5.25", all text customizable. One customizable line of text for the names of the bride and groom, plus five additional lines of text.
  • Invitation envelope (top left, underneath) - 5.45" x 5.44", customizable text for both the to and from addresses.
  • Foldable Reply Card (bottom left shows inside view) - 5.6" x 4", editable text inside with blank lines available for invited guests to fill in by hand.
  • Flat Reply Card (bottom left) - 5" x 3.5", editable text with blank lines available for invited guests to fill in by hand.
  • Small envelope (front: bottom left, underneath and back: bottom centre, underneath) - 6.5" x 4.7" (A6). Fits foldable reply card and thank you card. Customizable text for both the to and from addresses.
  • Ornament favour (top, centre) - 2.87" diameter, ceramic, weighs 1.4 ounces. Editable text.
  • Place Card (top right) – folded size 4.875" x 1.75", not available on Zazzle.
  • Table number (bottom right) - 5" x 7", numeric text is customizable.
  • Thank you card (bottom centre) - 5.6" x 4", editable interior text for personal note or leave blank to write notes in by hand.

If you or anyone you know may be interested in having pieces custom designed for a wedding or other special event, you can see my special event design website for more information.

Please also get in touch if you would like me to assist you in creating items for your special day.

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Thursday, 14 April 2011

Art Post: Simple Landscape

This drawing was created with fineliner marker, quite a while ago, as you can tell by the date in the picture. I created this as a basis for a simple background to make a change to the website for my comic series, Green Corner. I intended to create a vector version and move pieces around to create a background that could move based on browser size.

It's pretty simplified and drawn without the use of reference. Some parts of it I'm happy with, other parts don't feel quite right to me. I think it's a good starting point, but I would have to make quite a few changes in a vector variation so that it creates the effect that I want. Mostly, I dislike the way the top branches of the trees look. They don't seem natural enough.

Eventually I hope to finish a more compelling background for that site though, as it's really quite plain right now. This is fine on pages that include images, but the text-heavy pages end up looking pretty dry.

Scenery isn't something I tend to put a huge focus on a lot of the time, although I do feel it's very important to have a good setting in any image. I think it might be interesting to see some of the backgrounds from my images without the figures in front, but usually I try to direct more attention to the figures rather than the setting. Of course establishing an appropriate setting with a good level of detail helps frame the subject of the picture. I also find it adds more interesting things for a viewer to enjoy.

I hope you liked seeing this simple background sketch. Hopefully I'll find time to work on a more polished version before long.

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Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Art Post: 2010 Winter Holiday Card

This was my winter holiday card for 2010. It features Aena from my comic series, Green Corner. I sent printed copies of this with handwritten messages to clients, family, and friends. Originally I had hoped to print the final myself using letterpress, but I did not have the time nor budget to make that possible.

Every year I create a new illustration for my winter holiday cards. I think it's a nice touch to send something like this to my clients, to remind them that I appreciate their business and give them something unique that I created, rather than an off the shelf card. It also gives me a way to remind clients that I am not only a graphic designer, but an illustrator as well.

Canadian readers may notice that the cup she is holding looks like a Tim Horton's cup. That's because, for my photo reference, I posed with a Tim Horton's cup. I happened to have an unused one lying around to use as a prop and I thought it worked well for my idea to have Aena holding a cup of hot chocolate to warm her up on a cold winter's day. My reference was photographed with my webcam, so it's not the greatest quality, but it worked well enough for pose reference and for sharing online with family and friends.

Below are the progress images, in reverse chronological order. I hope you like seeing how it all came together!

Almost complete, but too much green.

Flat colours, with text and background elements started.

The initial vector lineart.

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Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Art Post: A Sweet Kiss

I drew this in early winter 2010, when I was still brainstorming holiday card ideas. I decided not to use this drawing for that, since it seemed more appropriate for Valentine's Day. This ended up looking a bit like myself and my boyfriend, only with the hair reversed. I tend to make that mistake with my hair, because I'm used to seeing myself in a mirror. It's easy enough to flip the image if I make a digital version, so I decided to be consistent after I made the first minor error with the hair. No reference for this, but I think it turned out fairly clean once I rendered it in fineliner marker.

Hope you like it!

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Monday, 11 April 2011

Art Post: Red Riding Hood Sketches

These sketches are from quite a while back, and were quickly drawn in a cutesy style. Drawing animals from memory is not one of my strengths, even in a simplified style. I'll have to try again at the wolf, after practicing from reference. It looks like in the sketch above that Red has been frightened by a rabid squirrel! At least it makes for a funny picture, so that's all right. Maybe I could use it for something else, some day.

Hope you enjoy!

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Friday, 8 April 2011

Art Post: Ellen and Pam Caricatures

These are a couple of quick, almost caricature type cartoons that I did a while back (March 18th, 2010). I scanned them in a long time ago but I only just cleaned up the linework a little. I drew these while watching an episode of Ellen, where Pamela Anderson was a guest. They had a caricaturist there drawing them live, but from what I recall, Ellen seemed to think the caricature of herself was too exaggerated. I don't think she's a big fan of caricatures in general.

My caricature style is a lot softer and more subtle. Things that I tend to focus on for likeness are the shape of the face, the shape of the nose, shape of the ears (if visible), shape of the eyebrows, size of the eyes, and of course - the hair.

I found it interesting to draw these two women who look very different from each other, and pick out little nuances to hint at their likeness. I think that the sketch of Ellen shows likeness better, but maybe that's because the sketch of Pamela reminds me a little of my character Zalanda, from my comic series, Green Corner.

I'm not sure if I'll ever do a quick, simple vector of these, I may just do a hand-drawn marker version instead for a version with cleaner lines.

The sketching was fun for me to do, as I hardly draw caricatures anymore and it's a good exercise to practice likeness of real people. When I worked at a theme park, I drew LOTS of caricatures and they ended up being one of my favourite things to draw. Portraits looks lovely, but they are a lot more challenging and time-consuming.

Hope you enjoy the sketches. I'll also look around for more pieces I've scanned in but haven't shared yet.

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Thursday, 7 April 2011

Why You Should Have a Vector Logo (Part 4)

What Can a Vector Logo Be Used For?
If you are a small business, why would you want to have a vector logo? What can it be used for where a raster based logo would not achieve the same results?

Because a logo can change size infinitely if it is in vector format, it is ideal for applications where the logo would be displayed at a very large size. But there are also some small size applications where a vector will yield better results (particularly if colours are limited for output).

Signage is a popular application for a vector logo. This can be large format outdoor signage printed on a flat substrate such as vinyl or even a carved, three-dimensional sign. Tradeshow booths that include a logo will benefit from a vector logo as it will be crisp from any viewing distance.

above: photos of two large format items that I designed for International Safety Systems Inc. that utilize vector artwork – outdoor signage on the top, a tradeshow booth on the bottom.

Small scale applications where a vector may be preferable to a raster format include engraved badges, silk screen printing (on T-shirts or other products), and embroidery. Stickers and magnets are great promotional tools, and a vector logo could help you limit colours in printing these items.

This is only a small list of examples, a vector logo can really be used almost anywhere, and additional formats can be exported from a program that can open vector graphics (such as Adobe Illustrator), so that raster formats at fixed sizes are available for specific applications such as websites and PowerPoint presentations.

When it comes to print, you almost always want to choose a vector format for your logo, to ensure the highest possible quality. A logo with clean, crisp edges conveys professionalism, trustworthiness, and pride in the brand. If your logo has rough or jagged edges, it can have negative connotations and potentially be harmful to your branding efforts.

That brings us to the end of this series. I hope that readers found this series informative and that it helps at least some company representatives better understand what the benefits are to having a vector logo. Any further questions, please add a comment on any post in this series (if you'd like to be notified of a response, please make sure you have checked the box to have follow-up comments emailed to you). If there are a lot of questions, I may collect them in an extra post in addition to answering in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Are you missing a vector version of your logo and you think you need one?

Feel free to contact me with a low resolution version of your logo to receive an estimate on the time and cost it would require to vectorize your logo.

Previously in the "Why You Should Have a Vector Logo" series:

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Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Why You Should Have a Vector Logo (Part 3)

Preparing Logos in Vector Graphics Programs and Maximizing Compatibility
A logo is ideally created in its final form in a vector graphics program such as Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. This ensures that it is being created in software that is primarily intended for the creation and editing of vector based content. My expertise is with Illustrator, so I will focus on that.

above: my vector logo in "outline view" in Illustrator. Just as the name implies, every path is outlined.

When a logo is finalized in Illustrator, the designer will "outline" certain elements, such as typography. This is to ensure consistency on other computers which may need to open the logo file. Primarily this is done to eliminate any missing font issues. It can also be done to ensure that the weight of lines is consistent, as a "stroke" in Illustrator may not scale as expected based on different user settings. This could mean that a thin line or stroke, when zoomed in significantly, ends up becoming a rectangle or an outlined path to ensure consistency when the logo size changes. If it is left as a stroke, it may stay thin even when the logo is scaled up, instead of changing size proportionately.

above: the preferences pane in Adobe Illustrator. Notice the highlighted area, indicating that strokes and effects will not be scaled proportionately. This can alter the appearance of objects if scaled within Illustrator, if they are not correctly outlined or expanded.

above: although these logos look identical in preview mode (top), they look different in outline mode (bottom). The right side has all paths expanded, in addition to outlined text.

above: the image is scaled up without strokes expanded, resulting in thinner strokes and an incorrect appearance.

above: with the strokes expanded and text outlined, the image scales up more consistently. Strokes now appear correct and in proportion.

File Formats
When a logo is prepared properly, it will most likely be saved in EPS format (encapsulated postscript). This is a file format commonly used for placing or embedding images in graphic design industry standard layout programs such as Adobe InDesign and Quark XPress. The native file format for Adobe Illustrator is AI, and that can also be utilized with InDesign very easily (it may need to be set as PDF compatible). Another format that can be saved from Illustrator is PDF. This retains the vector data and the file can still be opened (and possibly edited, depending on permission settings) in Illustrator, placed in InDesign, and even viewed in Acrobat (any variation). Sometimes, I prefer to send a PDF of a final logo to a client so that they can have a vector format they can see. EPS and AI formats can only be opened in certain graphics editing software and page layout software. It is uncommon for someone to be able to open them to view if they only have the software that came with their computer. Thumbnail images do not always attach correctly to these file types either, so that is not a reliable preview method.

I have noticed that Apple's Preview is able to preview EPS files (it temporarily converts to PDF first), but since Microsoft Windows is more commonly used in the business world, this is not something that I can expect clients to have access to.

There is a freeware vector graphics program that I have heard good things about called Inkscape, but I believe it cannot open EPS files either. It can open and edit a different vector format, svg (scalable vector graphics). But this is not an industry standard format, so I cannot recommend it as a high priority file type to have. It can be useful in some cases, but it is fairly uncommon.

The most commonly used formats for vector logos would have to be EPS and PDF, and these should both be able to be opened by any graphics professional or professional printing service provider. If a printing service provider cannot open a PDF at all, there is likely a problem.

Are you missing a vector version of your logo and you think you need one?

Feel free to contact me with a low resolution version of your logo to receive an estimate on the time and cost it would require to vectorize your logo.

Come back tomorrow for part 4 in this series.
Next up: the conclusion – possible uses for a vector logo.

Previously in the "Why You Should Have a Vector Logo" series:

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Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Why You Should Have a Vector Logo (Part 2)

What About Text?
You may be thinking that when you print off text, it always looks clear. This is true, but text is actually stored in a vector format. Because it is a vector format, it is resolution independent. Its quality is always clear and crisp because the output device will automatically define the correct resolution. The resolution is only defined at output for a vector, not in the file itself. (there are exceptions for raster data that may be included in the file, but we're focusing on vector only data at this time)

What is the Difference Between Rasterized and Vector Text?
What happens when you format text in a program like Photoshop? Why does it sometimes look fuzzy or jagged around the edges? This happens when it is changed from a vector format to a raster format. The data is essentially being flattened, and the output device can no longer process it like a vector. This is why raster based image editing software is not ideal for typesetting. Typography often needs a very high resolution in comparison to images. I have even heard of type being processed at 600 dpi, while the images were 300 dpi. This is a siginifcant difference, so you can see why type at 300 dpi may start to lose quality.

above: my logo converted to a raster format, with bevel and emboss applied in Photoshop. Quality is crisp at this size.

above: Click to enlarge, and you will see what happens when I zoom in on the raster image in Photoshop. The edges are no longer crisp, at the larger size.
Although rasterized text can lose quality in print, this does not mean you should never use the type tool in Photoshop. Rather, it should be used sparingly, and the document should always utilize the maximum resolution required for output so that quality can be maintained.

For a logo, this is not as easy to accomplish in Photoshop. Although you can create vector content in Photoshop, it is really a raster-based image editor first. It is, as the name suggests, primarily intended for editing photos. It is useful for many other things as well, but vector content can be more tedious to manage in Photoshop. It is possible with features such as "smart objects" to manage vector data in Photoshop while ensuring that the item remains a vector. Photoshop is a robust program with a multitude of features and can be used to accomplish a variety of things, but it is not ideal for creating vector logos.

Are you missing a vector version of your logo and you think you need one?

Feel free to contact me with a low resolution version of your logo to receive an estimate on the time and cost it would require to vectorize your logo.

Come back tomorrow for part 3 in this series.
Next up: preparing vector logos for maximum compatibility.

Previously in the "Why You Should Have a Vector Logo" series:

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Monday, 4 April 2011

Why You Should Have a Vector Logo (Part 1)

I've come across the issue a few times where a company did not have a vector logo, but it would have been very helpful if they did. In any case where it was aclient of mine who did not seem to have a vector version of their logo on file, I vectorized the logo to give them more options. Depending on the client and the complexity of the logo, this could mean tracing all elements, or it could mean tracing elements which required finesse and using a pre-existing font as a basis for the typography. It is, of course, almost standard practice that a font be modified in a logo to look more appealing. This can include anything from slight adjustments of the weights of letterforms, kerning and letter-spacing, to even completely customizing each letterform until it is totally unique.

What I would like to focus on in this series of posts is why it is important to have a vector logo in the first place. Since you may be someone unfamiliar with the term "vector," I will begin by explaining the differences between vector and raster formats.

What is a Vector Format?
A vector format will not lose any image quality when it is enlarged. The edges will always be crisp and clear. It's like stretching a rubber band, it's always smooth even when it's stretched. Vectors are actually based on equations. So if you have say, a parabola, and know the equation for it, you can replicate that parabola at any size simply because you can determine all of the coordinates. Vectors work this way too.
What is a Raster Format?
A raster, or pixel-based, image format cannot be scaled up without losing quality. It is trying to stretch the same information over a larger area, but it tries to compensate for the lack of information by guessing what should be there. This causes blocky, jagged edges (sometimes called pixelation). It's like when you photocopy a small image that was drawn by hand and try to increase the size many times over. It doesn't take long before the edges begin to look rough.

above: top logo exported from a vector format to 800 pixels wide, bottom logo stretched from a raster format up to 800 pixels wide (from an original 300 pixels wide). Click to enlarge, to more clearly see how the bottom one has become fuzzy.
Something else that may be helpful to have explained in layman's terms is the concept of resolution. What do you really need to know about it to make sure your logo and imagery always look fantastic both on screen and in print?

What is Resolution?
Resolution refers to how much data there is within a specific area. This is usually measured in ppi (pixels per inch) for the screen and dpi (dots per inch) for print. For print that is sent through a half tone process, lpi (lines per inch) is also a factor, but dpi is more commonly discussed.

Screen resolution is generally assumed to be 72 ppi. This isn't completely accurate for all screens, however. The screen resolution is really calculated based on the pixel dimensions of the screen. For simplicity's sake, we will assume 72 ppi is generally accepted as appropriate for screen resolution.

High resolution for print is most commonly defined as 300 dpi (minimum). Since dpi and ppi are considered interchangeable, this means that for every 300 pixels of data, you can have one inch in print.

Obviously, there's a big difference between 72 and 300. Images that look big on the screen will most likely look smaller in print in order to preserve quality. Otherwise, something needs to change so that the item that appears on screen is a lower resolution and the item in print has a higher resolution.

If you click on the "Lady with a Fan" image above, the dimensions are 500 pixels by 707 pixels. At a resolution of 300 dpi (high resolution), this image would print at 1.67" x 2.36". At a resolution of 150 dpi, it would be printed at 3.3" x 4.7", but the quality would start to reduce. At a resolution of 72 dpi, it would print at 6.9" x 9.8", but the quality would be noticeably reduced (lines and edges become fuzzy).

Unless the image is exported at a larger size, or printed as a vector, it cannot be printed at high quality (300 dpi) at a very large size (e.g. poster size), as the quality would reduce too much. It is worth noting that posters and other large format items tend to use a lower resolution (often 150 dpi), but that assumes a greater viewing distance to offset the lower resolution.

Are you missing a vector version of your logo and you think you need one?

Feel free to contact me with a low resolution version of your logo to receive an estimate on the time and cost it would require to vectorize your logo.

Come back tomorrow for part 2 in this series.
Next up: the difference between rasterized and vector text.

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Hi! My name is Emily.

Welcome to my art blog. I am an independent graphic designer and illustrator from the Toronto area. I create print and web solutions for a variety of businesses and individuals with a personal touch and conscientious approach.

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