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Take 10: Impulsive by Erik Johansson

Take 10: Impulsive by Erik Johansson

When you’re open to possibility, a challenge is always good—you learn something whether you succeed or fail. That was Erik Johansson’s perspective when we asked him to tackle a new challenge we’re calling “Take 10”: We give an artist one word and 10 digital images, and he or she must combine them into a new piece that represents the word. Johansson’s word was impulsive, and we think his response to the challenge was a success. It didn’t come easily, though. “It’s the complete opposite of the way I am used to working,” Johansson explains. Normally, he carefully plans every detail before going out to photograph the individual elements that will make up a collage. For this challenge, he says, “I had to adapt to existing material and include them all, not pick just the ones I wanted. I enjoyed it, but it does look a bit different from the work I normally create because of that.” Before Johansson touched a single one of the 10 images, he considered the word impulsive. “I’m not very impulsive. I’m a perfectionist,” he says. “I would say that the opposite of impulsive is rational.” The ironic twist? Johansson is well known for his irrational imagery. While he may not be impulsive, he does tap into the surreal. “To me, impulsive means something that is happening in our brain, a decision or thought on the inside that can lead to an unexpected action,” says Johansson. “I wanted to capture that feeling where we let go and the thoughts flow freely, much like the moment right before falling asleep where we leave the rational behind. In a way, the final image is a self-portrait of my own mind. I constantly try to make connections between unexpected things.” The 10 images Johansson used are above. Putting the pieces together Johansson divided his Adobe Photoshop CC canvas in two. Elements on the left side would symbolize the inner mind, and the right side would represent the rational outer world. The photo of the woman in profile would bridge the two sides. (All the images are from Adobe Stock.) He realized that he could combine the woman’s hair and the tree photo: “That helped me create the transition from the realistic portrait to the inner world of the mind.” Johansson used a layer mask and blending modes to collage the two. He also copied the tree several times to build a base layer on the left side of the canvas. To introduce variation, he transformed each copy using tools under Photoshop’s Edit menu, including Warp and Puppet Warp. To give the illusion of perspective, he added a haze to the trees that appear to be farther in the distance. He added texture by copying bits of the jagged peaks photo into a new layer and blending it into the trees. “Impulsive thoughts often come in fragments,” Johansson says. To express this idea, he put the abstract stock image with irregular angles on a new layer and blended that into the background. He then copied the abstract image but offset it slightly from the original and masked out different parts of the duplicate. The resulting effect looks like a crystal reflecting light. Johansson placed the cube stock image in the upper right corner of the canvas to represent the organized part of the mind. “At this point, I was happy with the image, but I hadn’t used all 10 of the challenge photos. So I had to push myself.”  He took the image into a dream world. The fantasy came in the form of the fish swimming in the air and surreal bits of stripes, houses, and swooping power lines and poles (culled from the train photo). Although it wasn’t part of the Take 10 rules, Johansson chose to further test himself by completing the piece in 24 hours. “I normally work on images for weeks or months,” he says. The tight deadline makes his attention to detail even more noteworthy; for example, he decided that he wanted another instance of the irregularly angled, abstract stock image to enhance the glass reflection illusion, but he didn’t want to replicate what he’d already done. So he saved the image file as a map and used Photoshop’s Displace feature (Filter > Distort > Displace) to shift light and dark areas in unexpected ways. Another example: To give the image a little more punch, he increased local contrast with Photoshop’s High Pass feature (Filter > Other > High Pass); then he toned it down by setting the blending mode to Soft Light.   And there’s much more: He dropped in a lens flare; changed the color balance with a photo filter adjustment layer; added a vignette and a little vibrance; and performed what he calls the “secret trick” he does with all of his images, a gradient map that casts a slight green-yellowish glow on the entire image to warm it up. Finally, he added noise “to make it all come together nicely.” That noise, by the way, comes from a macro that he uses on all of his work. “Somehow,” he says, “it creates a more photo-realistic scene.” Take the challenge and win What does the word impulsive mean to you? How would you express it with these images? From February 19 through the end of day on February 24, 2016, you can download the images for free and submit your unique artwork. Erik Johansson will judge the entries, and Create Magazine will award the 10 winners and give them prizes! Get the download link and all the contest details here. By Terri Stone

Webydo Review: Enabling Web Designers to Create Freely

Webydo Review: Enabling Web Designers to Create Freely

Designing a website exactly as you or your client envision can be difficult to do if you don't know code. You can work with a developer, but that cuts into your profits and adds extra time to your project, which in turn costs your clients more. For these reasons and more, many professional web designers are turning to website builders, a lot cheaper and faster solution than learning to code. However, there are loads of website builders and not all are created equal. Some site builders are completely free even after the site is live, but these often come with limitations in design options and no e-commerce option. Others advertise that their website builder is specifically for designers, but they come with additional requirements or a limit in regards to the price. Webydo is a website builder that has recently come to my attention and covers all of the aforementioned cons. The founders started Webydo because they wanted to help create a more efficient web design process by allowing designers to communicate directly with a client, rather than through a developer. So they created a website builder that provides designers with creative freedom and turns their projects into an HTML website and CMS seamlessly. It even comes complete with ecommerce options, unlimited access to all of the design features in the free plan, and a platform to create a responsive website with cross-browser capabilities. Every designer is different, so Webydo may not be your cup of tea. But take a look at the premium, professional features and some of the stunning websites that designers are creating with Webydo. Even if you decide not to use Webydo, it is undeniable that the creators of this website builder certainly did an amazing job! Free Preview Stella and Lori home page designed on and powered by Webydo All of the features are great, but probably what surprised me the most about Webydo is that they allow designers to create a website in-browser for free. You can even take the site live temporarily to allow clients to preview it before deciding to publish through Webydo's cloud hosting. A real live website in your own domain name does come with a price, but thankfully a very reasonable price (see the plans below). And once you do purchase a subscription, the cloud hosting includes automatic backup, fast and secure servers, and worldwide CDN through Akamai so that clients access your site through whichever server they are closest to. What all of this boils down to is assurance of a fast website no matter where in the world viewers access the website. Free - 15 pages, Webydo's sub-domain, unlimited bandwidth, 1 GB storage, can create as many temporary sites as needed Premium - $7.90/month (billed annually) subscription or $9.90/month (billed biannually) - unlimited pages, own domain, unlimited bandwidth, 2 GB storage Large web agency premium plan for over 100 websites Easy Design Features Here's the fun part - designers have amazing tools to use while creating their web design and all in-browser. Just as with most website builders, Webydo works on a drag and drop system but extra design features include fill, shadow, stroke, smart guides with snapping, text captions for images, grid generator, layers window, and set corner radiuses. One of the best time-saving perks is the automatic optimization of any media you upload, no need to worry about good site performance. Another time saver is the access to free open-source web fonts, so you don't have to spend an hour looking for the right free font and then downloading it to your hard drive. Stella and Lori interactive About page designed on and powered by Webydo Keep in mind that Webydo is definitely for those with design experience, and especially web design experience. You have the choice to start either with a blank screen or a readymade design. Webydo points out that you can change every single pixel of the design, but what about when you just want a quick switch? As of now, changing templates is not possible, but head over to the suggestion for adding the ability to switch templates and add your vote (more on this below). Ecommerce, Responsive, and More Webydo uses the Ecwid E-commerce widget so that you can offer an ecommerce solution to customers. It comes with various payment options, excellent control over stock, product descriptions for media-rich categories - all the basics for a website selling products. For the first few years, Webydo was cross-platform but not responsive. Thankfully due to enough votes, the builder now creates responsive websites so that your website looks great even on mobile and tablets. Honestly, the fact that a designer can create a responsive website makes Webydo much more competitive in the website builder industry. Yoav Gurin Business gallery designed on and powered by Webydo An interesting feature unique to Webydo is the ability to reinforce your brand as a web designer. You can replace the Webydo logo with your own in the client's login screen, your dashboard, client's CMS, and even your online design studio. The CMS functionality of your Webydo website is quite robust. You can choose which design elements you want to lock and which you want to leave open to your client to edit. The design is a WYSIWYG and similar to Word, making it easy for your client to learn. It also comes with SEO features, site analytics, and the ability to manage multiple clients from single dashboard. Suggest and Vote on New Features I like this aspect so much, that I gave it an entire separate section. Webydo has a page on its website called Participate, which is basically a forum. Just like other site builder forums, you can either suggest a new feature or you can report bugs. However, the awesome extra on this forum is that you can vote on suggested new features and the guys over at Webydo will not only listen and respond but also add these new features. Sometimes Webydo will immediately agree that a suggested feature needs added, but other times they wait to see how many votes a suggestion will receive. With enough votes, they will push the suggestion to the top of their to-do list. The other nice function is that Webydo shows the status of a suggestion on the forum, such as "Gathering Feedback", "Started", or "Completed". This is a brilliant move on their part, as it gives users a powerful voice in the improvement of the features. After reading this review, if you feel like Webydo is the website builder for you, then head over to the site and immediately start designing. Or even you want to try it for free, remember that you can create a design in-browser and preview it, with no pressure to sign up. With this in mind, the free-no-strings-attached aspect of Webydo is enough to garner even just a quick look, especially since no other robust website builder offers such a refreshing pressure-free offer! Tara Hornor Tara Hornor has a degree in English and has found her niche writing about marketing, advertising, branding, web and graphic design, and desktop publishing. She is a Senior Editor for Creative Content Experts, a company that specializes in guest blogging and building backlinks. In addition to her writing career, Tara also enjoys spending time with her husband and two children. Connect with @TaraHornor on Twitter.

Best Web Builders for Designers without Development Experience

Best Web Builders for Designers without Development Experience

Fortunately for web designers, their skills are still in high demand now and years in the future, even with web builders that advertise anyone without development or design experience can design their own website. So, why are site builders not putting web designers out of commission, and, in many ways increasing business for them? Although website builders provide a very professional site for businesses, the designs are templates - basic and unbranded. In fact, web builders are an excellent tool for designers, especially for those who lack development experience. And, no, it's not "cheating" to use a template to build a website. Your client does not have the skills to customize for their brand like you do. And if you have some SEO experience, all the better. While many site building tools include some SEO customization, there's a lot there that still needs to be added for best results. So, if you are a web designer with little to no coding skills, you may want to strongly consider checking out the following website builders. The list below includes a variety of web builders for a variety of needs, at a variety of costs, and with varying degrees of customization. Different clients may require different features, so you may find that you use several of these, depending on your clients. However, some of the following do have designer account options with which you can create multiple websites and domains for your clients all underneath your account. WebStartToday While is one of the easiest and most basic web designer tools in this list, it comes with many features with which not even the more expensive web builders can compete. For instance, WebStartToday has one of the largest template libraries with 1,000s of highly customizable designs. Even better, their templates are organized well so that you won't spend hours looking for the right design for your client. In fact, they advertise that you can set up a website in only minutes. Every template also comes with a variety of stunning color themes, and their image editing tool is more than capable of handling intermediate editing. And, as always necessary when setting up a site for a client, their templates come with a CMS so that your clients can make basic changes on their own, calling on you only when they get stumped. The pricing for this web builder tool is quite affordable at $9.99/mo (or discounted at $99/yr if paid in a lump sum), and this comes with a unique domain name and free hosting. If you don't want to pay the fee until after your client views the site first, then you can simply set up the free version using a domain of for up to a year. You can switch at any point during this free version to the paid version. Here's a few more reasons why WebStartToday is a great option: Page content is industry-specific and editable Templates and content available for 72 industry verticals SEO and Google Analytics support Google Apps Interactive options including maps and videos Absolutely unlimited storage for data! 24/7 support system Breezi was made specifically for creatives with no development experience, and at only $9/mo, this web builder is quite a steal. Taking a look at all of the design features, you can see just how perfectly it fits designers, as it would probably leave business owners without design experience a bit at a loss. With Breezi, it does take more time to launch a website than with other web builders, but you get some amazingly fun tools for creating a highly unique website. For instance, let's say that you set up your layout and have entered the content and apps and such. Then your client comes back and says they just don't feel like the style fits their brand. No problem! Simply try a different skin - no need to start over from scratch - your layout and content remain intact while you scroll through and try on different skins. Or maybe you need to change up some of the CSS but you know absolutely nothing about code - Breezi allows for visual editing of CSS content. The complete control of your content along with incredible tools such as the image editor and tons of apps make Breezi quite a robust web builder. Here's more: FTP and DropBox syncing Designs are responsive/adaptive for mobile compatibility Store templates also available Domain hosting CMS for clients to easily maintain Easy layout builder Unlimited storage and bandwidth IMCreator With, you can choose from a regular account or a designer version. Both allow for easy drag and drop customization of HTML templates, but the designer version comes with more options, such as a CMS and the ability to upload your own template. You can also submit designs and receive an income whenever they are used. While there are not a huge amount of templates from which to choose, all are extremely stunning, highly professional, and fairly original since they were created by individual designers. Plus they are all very easy to edit completely for your client's brand. You can also choose to use the stock photos included in the templates or upload your own. Image galleries include slideshow options, and other awesome, editable features included are contact forms and video players. Check out more of what you get with IMCreator: Use IMCreator domain and hosting or your existing one Templates organized by industry including restaurants, musicians, models, etc. Google indexed Custom email address Compatible with PCs, Macs, mobile, tablets, and most browsers SquareSpace Start on with the most common pages of a website - home, about, blog, gallery, store - and add or subtract from there. If your client needs a full website and e-commerce combo, SquareSpace provides quite the robust web builder and features for such a task. For instance, their store management system provides great tools to make it easy for your client to keep up with items such as inventory and printing packing slips. You can even choose to remain the main admin and add your client and others as additional contributors. While the templates are search engine optimized, you may need to do a bit more customization in this area for your client, but SquareSpace allows you complete control. There are three pricing options and a 14-day free trial. And all versions come with a free custom domain. For $8/mo you get 20 pages, 500GB bandwidth, and only 2 GB storage. However, for both the $16/mo and $24/mo packages, you get unlimited pages, bandwidth, and storage plus much more. Other awesome features include Incredibly stunning editable templates Ability to use preset designs or customize your layout, colors, and fonts Easy drag and drop editing Awesome image editing tool Blog posts come with auto-publish options All templates are optimized for mobile viewing Analytics are built in to every template 24/7 support Site2You boasts the ability to create a website in only minutes and comes with a 7 day trial. After the trial, you can choose from several packages. The monthly packages come with different webmaster assistance allowance. This webmaster assistance is basically free help in customizing and adding features beyond what their web builder tool is capable of doing, which gives designers the ability to really take a website above and beyond without any need to learn code. For $24.95/mo you get 10 hours of webmaster assistance. For $49.94/mo, you get 3 hour/month webmaster assistance. Another amazing option available with Site2You is that they allow you to download your source files, no strings attached, with the purchase of one of the Turnkeys packages. Both Turnkeys packages are yearly subscriptions and come with $15/hr webmaster assistance. The Turnkeys 2.0 package requires you to purchase hosting on your own, but as with the monthly packages, the Turnkeys Facebook package comes with free hosting with Site2You. More incredible features include Ready-to-use website content Templates with various forms, maps, SEO keywords, and much more Use of webmaster to match color scheme to your logo colors Store designs with PayPal button and shopping cart feature Excellent 24/5 support Use licensed stock photos or your own Additional services available for further customization Jimdo The appeal of is how much you get for the cost. The business/store option is $240/yr and creatives option is $90/yr. But both paid versions come with 1,000s of incredible features. And there's more good news - Jimdo does have a free version that includes a 5 item store with the ability to accept PayPal or credit cards, widgets, varied designs, photo gallery, blog, and much more. The paid versions come with a newsletter system, meta tags, email accounts with forwarding, domains, lots of payment options, and much more. Creating multimedia sites is very easy with Jimdo's amazing tools and easy-to-edit layouts. And the speed is very fast, especially for the paid versions. While the content is not optimized for search engine, the layout of the templates are tweaked for search engines, including in the free version. Here are just a few more reasons why you may want to check out Jimdo: Store and website both work for mobile Flash and HTML photo galleries Use stock photos or your own Add text with photos Contact forms, reservation request forms, guestbook Social media tools Many customization features - widgets, blog, images, RSS feed, Flash Customizable layouts WebsiteBuilderPro comes with lots of pricing options, making it easy for designers to choose one that works best for their clients. Prices start at $4.99 and go up to $25.99/mo and include varying amounts of bandwidth and number of sites. So, if you plan on using WebsiteBuilderPro to create several websites for several clients, you may want to go with the Plus version (10 websites) or Max version (unlimited websites). And amazingly, all price versions come with an unlimited number of pages, which means you can add pages whenever you want. To create a website, you simply choose from one of their many templates, add pages, and add content. The templates come with the ability to be customized completely. Like most website builders, there is no need to pay until you decide to launch your design. Other great features include Google Adsense, free hosting, store, no ads, and much more: Choose from stock images or use your own Upload videos easily Click to edit any part of the page Product catalog and shopping cart Mobile optimized Add members and creative private pages Forums, chatrooms, contact forms Weebly Choose between the completely free version or the white labeled designer version with In fact, the designer version is extremely affordable at only $7.95/mo and the ability to design multiple sites with CMS. There are only 100s of designs from which to choose, but all are highly professional and very customizable. Like most web builders, you simply drag and drop content into place. Plus, you get free domain hosting that Weebly monitors 24/7. If your client is a blogger, they may really enjoy Weebly's easy drag and drop blogging. Or if your client also needs a store, e-commerce solutions are also available. Let's say you are on the go but need to make some quick changes to your client's site. Simply make edits on your iPhone. Weebly also comes with the option of using their website statistics tracking system or also adding Google Analytics for further data tracking. More amazing features include Photo galleries with slideshows Video and audio players Easy form builder Excellent image editor Full HTML/CSS control Templates are mobile optimized Ecommerce features SEO with additional settings available If you are unsure which of these web builders is right for you and your clients, remember that all come with, at the least, the ability to design a website for free. While all of these site builders listed above are excellent options for web designers, you may need certain features one of these have that the other don't. So take a look, try them out, and choose which one you are most comfortable with. Then see just how easy it is to become a successful web designer without the need to learn any coding at all! Tara Hornor Tara Hornor has a degree in English and has found her niche writing about marketing, advertising, branding, web and graphic design, and desktop publishing. She is a Senior Editor for Creative Content Experts, a company that specializes in guest blogging and building backlinks. In addition to her writing career, Tara also enjoys spending time with her husband and two children. Connect with @TaraHornor on Twitter.

The Most Surreal Places on Earth

The Most Surreal Places on Earth

Are you a desperate vagabond ready to conquer the highest peaks and submerge into the deepest depths to steal the concealed secrets of the universe? Buck up! Today is a great time to plan the possible route of your next risky adventure! You might not believe your eyes, but the places we will show you really exist. Some of them will bring you on the verge of tears, some will make your heart beat faster, another will make your hair stand on end - anyway, they won't leave you indifferent. We won't go too verbose as no words can render the celestial charm of those sites. "A picture costs a thousand words" - they say. So, come on, pack your bags and join our thrilling expedition to the most surreal places on Earth! Fly Geyser, Nevada Can you imagine that even not all Nevada residents know about this wonder? Fly Geyser is located on the territory of a private Fly Ranch which makes it extremely difficult to access. High fence and locked gate with spikes on top guard the geyser from tourists. To be absolutely honest, we should mention that the Geyser is not a completely natural phenomenon. It was created by chance during well drilling. The well went out of order after several decades of operation as warm geothermal water has found a weak spot and began to leak onto the surface. Dissolved minerals started their sculptor job, which is still going on. Geyser coloration is explained by the variety of minerals it is made of. The Wave, Arizona The Wave is a sandstone rock formation in the United States of America near the Arizona and Utah border on the Coyote Buttes slopes. Travelers and photographers from all over the world are attracted by its colorful, wavelike forms. The Wave's intersecting U-shaped troughs are the result of erosion of the Navajo Sandstone during the Jurassic period. Lake Retba, Senegal Lake Retba or Lac Rose is located in the north of the Cap Vert peninsula of Senegal. It got its name due to the Dunaliella salina algae making its water look like strawberry milk shake. Pink color is clearly visible during the dry season. The lake is also famous for its high salt content, allowing people stay on the surface similar to the Dead Sea experience. Derweze, Turkmenistan Have you ever stood at the Hell's Door? Go to Derweze village, which name means "The Gate" in Turkmen language if you search for extreme! This terrifying attraction is located in the middle of the Karakum Desert, about 260 km north from Ashgabat. The Derweze area is rich in natural gas. Soviet geologists got into a cavern filled with natural gas while drilling. Due to the ground collapse, a large hole has created. It was decided to burn off the gas, but the roasting breath of the inferno is still trying to break into the world of living! Socotra, Yemen Socotra is considered to be a unique archipelago in the Indian Ocean for the diversity of its exotic flora and fauna. Its weird alien plants are the result of island's long geological isolation together with unbearable heat and drought. One of the most unusual Socotra's plants is the dragon's blood tree, resembling a strange umbrella. Aboriginals believed its red sap to be the blood of a dragon. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia Have you ever walked through the clouds guessing are you in the top or the bottom? Salar de Uyuni gives you such unique possibility! Salar de Uyuni or Salar de Tunupa is the world's largest salt flat occupying the area of about 10,582 square kilometers. Today's Salar is a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. Its surface is covered by a few meters of salt crust possessing the utmost flatness, which varies within one meter over the entire area. Actually, the crust serves as a source of salt and makes a pool of brine, rich in lithium as well. The sky over the Salar is always clear, which in combination with large area and exceptional flatness makes it a perfect object for calibrating the altimeters of Earth observation satellites. Jiuzhaigou Valley, China Five-Color Pond is one of the smallest but the most amazing water basins in Jiuzhaigou lakes. Despite the shallowness, it has a breathtaking colored underwater landscape and some of the brightest and clearest waters in the area. As the legend goes, the Goddess Semo used to wash her hair here and the God Dage brought her water every day. Sossusvlei, Namibia Deadvlei is one more surreal attraction of Sossusvlei, Namibia. It is a clay pan located about 2 km from Sossusvlei. It used to be an oasis with several acacia trees before, but the river that watered the oasis has changed its course. Now the dead acacia trees make an odd contrast to the shiny white salty floor of the pan and the intense orange of the dunes. Badab-e Surt, Iran Badab-e Surt's terraces are made of travertine, which is a sedimentary rock deposited by flowing water from two distinct mineral springs. Thousands of years the water from these two springs had been streaming down from the mountain, it mixed up and gradually created a number of orange, red and yellow colored pools which now have the form of a staircase. Crescent Lake (Dunhuang), China Yueyaquan is a crescent-shaped lake in the oasis, lying 6 km south of the city of Dunhuang. Its name comes from the Qing Dynasty. The lake itself and the surrounding deserts attract the tourists appreciating camel and 4x4 rides. Lake Natron, Tanzania The queer lake's hue is normal for water basins with extremely high evaporation rates. During the dry season, as the water evaporates, salinity level increases to the maximum point and specific salt-loving microorganisms begin to thrive. Some of them produce red pigment colorizing the water and turning it into the Martian landscape. Ice Cave in Skaftafell, Iceland This cave in the glacier appeared as a result of glacial mill. The rain and melt water on the glacier's surface are forming streams that flow into the crevices. The streams melt holes in the glacier forming long ice caves with intricate walls and ceilings. Cold wind finishes the job and we can observe a momentary marvel ready to collapse at any time. Due to the constant glacier movement one can hear a scaring cracking sound inside the cave. The incipient crevices let the indirect daylight into the tunnel and we can observe its mysterious play on ice bubbles. Pamukkale, Turkey Pamukkale can be translated as "the cotton castle" from Turkish. It is a natural attraction in Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey. Snow white Pamukkale's terraces are made of travertine, a sedimentary rock, deposited by water flowing from the hot springs. Lencois Maranhenses National Park, Brazil The Lencois Maranhenses National Park is a low, flat, occasionally flooded land, covered with large, white discrete sand dunes. Though it looks like a desert, in fact it is not. Due to the regular rain season in the beginning of the year, fresh water accumulates in the valleys between the sand dunes, reviving the desert with blue and green lagoons. It's rather surprising, but those water basins are inherited by fish, even despite the dry season. Angkor, Cambodia Angkor is a huge complex of the 12th century temples in Cambodia. No doubt that it's a place of historical and cultural interest. The buildings are ancient and magnificent. But what do you think is really strange about this place? Just look at those trees! They look like ancient nation of Ents, the walking trees from "The Lord of the Rings" movie! Do you think they can really exist? Chand Baori, Rajasthan Have you ever seen anything like that? Chand Baori is a famous stepwell in the village of Abhaneri near Jaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan. It is located opposite Harshat Mata Temple and was constructed in 800 CE. Can you imagine that those 3500 narrow steps in 13 stories extend 100 feet into the ground, making it one of the deepest and largest stepwells in India. Frozen waves in Antarctica These waves look like decorations from popular "Ice Age" cartoon. It seems as if they were frozen immediately at the will of a snow Queen. In fact, the waves are the result of melting, not freezing. Melting has created those downward pointing spikes, which are simple icicles. Hidden Beach in the Marieta Islands near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Hidden from stranger's eyes, the beach of Marieta Islands, Puerto Vallarta can be called a lost secret world. Marieta Islands are archipelagos formed as a result of volcanic activity. This natural wonder possesses its unique marine ecosystem. The beach is a real paradise for people fond of snorkeling and scuba diving. Diverse, virgin flora and fauna in combination with transparent crystal water make the experience unforgettable. Humpback whale, sea turtles and dolphins are just a few animals that can be seen there. The Glow Worms in Waitomo Caves The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are definitely worth seeing not only because of their historical and geological significance. The glow worm, Arachnocampa luminosa, is a unique creature living in New Zealand. Thousands of these small worms radiate their otherworldly luminescent light hanging from the cave rocks during your unforgettable boat ride. The glowworms create a really magical view, every tourist should see at least once in a lifetime. The Tunnel of Love in Ukraine, Kleven In this photo you see the abandoned railway track, located nearly 350km from Kiev, which has transformed into a special romantic place, frequently visited by couples. The Tunnel of Love is especially beautiful in spring, when the green trees growing from both sides of the track form an improvised arch around it. This arch stretches for up to three kilometers and looks like a green picturesque tunnel of trees. The railway is occasionally used by the fiberboard factory, which preserves the tunnel in its initial look. Glen Brittle, Scotland Glen Brittle is a large glen in the south of the Isle of Skye, in Scotland. The magic Fairy Pools you see in the picture run down from the mountains into the glen. The area is extremely popular among hikers and mountain bikers. The marvelous lilac slopes above the Fairy Pools are covered with thick forests full of rare plants and animals and who knows, maybe even elves and fairies have found their refuge in this mystical place. Cano Cristales, in the Serrania de la Macarena, province of Meta Cano Cristales is a unique biological wonder often referred to as "the river of five colors" or "the river that ran away from paradise" and "the world's most beautiful river". Greater part of the year, Cano Cristales looks like any other river, but during a brief period of time yearly, it bursts into blossom and turns into the vibrant explosion of colors. Between wet and dry seasons, when the water level is just as required, a unique Macarenia clavigera plant turns the river into a sparkling ruby red stream, contrasting to the patches of yellow and green sand, blue water, and the enumerable shades in between. Mount Roraima, South America This rock soaring in the clouds is called Mount Roraima, the highest mountain of the Pakaraima chain of tepui plateau in South America. The mountain includes the triple border point of Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana. The tabletop mountains of the park are considered some of the oldest geological formations on Earth, dating back to nearly two billion years ago. The mountain's highest point within Venezuela is Maverick Rock, which is 2810 m high. Richat Structure, Mauritania Look into the Eye of Sahara, isn't it impressive? The Richat Structure is a prominent circular feature in the Sahara desert lying in the west-central Mauritania near Ouadane. This structure is a deeply eroded, slightly elliptical dome, 40-km in diameter. Differential erosion of the resistant layers of quartzite has created these high-relief circular cuestas. Its center consists of a siliceous breccia covering an area of approximately 3 km in diameter. Initially, there was a theory that the structure appeared as a result of an extraterrestrial asteroid impact. Looking at the circularity of the Eye, you might be inclined to believe it, but the point is now argued to the favor of highly symmetrical and deeply eroded geologic dome. Grand Prismatic Spring - Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming If you want to see something really magnificent, put Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming into your list. This hot spring is the largest in the United States and the third largest in the world. The devilish colors of the spring strike the imagination! The water is saturated blue, with red lava-like color surrounding it. Would you like to know the secret? This amazing tint is produced by the pigmented bacteria. They form microbial mats around the edge of the water. Seasonal temperatures as well as levels of chlorophyll and carotenoids greatly influence the hue of the bacteria. The mats do not form in the center of the spring because the water is too hot for bacterium's live cycle. The water is heated by the underground vents, which are a part of the volcanic system, the Yellowstone stands on. About the author Helga Moreno is a copywriter for TemplateMonster Blog and one of those bloggers, absolutely cranky on writing and always hungry for new experience. When not writing about WordPress or responsive design, she loves sightseeing and travelling and always strives to capture everything beautiful on her way.

What is Scratchboard Design?

Scratchboard was developed in nineteenth century England and France, where printers were looking for new ways to reproduce illustrations. Wood, metal and linoleum engraving all had their faults, and scratchboard seemed to be the perfect solution. Scratchboard illustrators use knives and other tools to etch delicate lines into white China clay. The etching is then coated with black India ink to reveal intricate images with sophisticated shading, texture and, occasionally, many colours. The ability of the images to be accurately reproduced in everything from newspapers to educational books meant the scratchboard technique soon became the preferred method of printing medical, scientific and technical illustrations. By brookeduckart Because of this prestigious association with the great designs of the past, the scratchboard technique is having a comeback in publications like graphic novels, magazines and ads. Most scratchboard artists use pencil sketches to begin the design process, drawing rough outlines of the finished product. The first pencil sketch will have shading and textured elements to give the artist a good idea of what the illustration will look like when finished. Then, they often create a simplified sketch that they transfer to the scratchboard. They prefer to keep the sketch as simple as possible, since the graphite of the pencil is hard to erase from the scratchboard tablet. Once the simplified sketch has been transferred, the artist will use various carving knives and other tools to scratch lines into the clay, using deeper scratches for areas that are more highlighted and less shaded and eventually revealing the complete scratchboard design. ? By Paul Demyser III By sixtäriis By Kai By John D Maddin By Avalilly By Hellmuth By Klcostley By Sadam JP There are a couple of ways the scratchboard design can then be used for printing. Most printers will likely take a high-resolution photograph of the image, as most printing is done electronically now via desktop publishing. The photograph will then be inserted into the digital design of the page, then a plate will be made of that page. Finally, the plate will be inserted into the printer, and the page will be printed. Before desktop publishing became the industry standard, however, the scratchboard design would often be inserted directly onto the metal plates that already contained the text of the page. The scratchboard itself would then be coated with ink along with the moveable type.By kuruvata By SADAM JP Scratchboard is also becoming popular as an artistic medium in its own right. Because it uses fine lines to create intricate designs, the scratchboard technique is superb for accurate depictions of eyes and fur. This makes it an ideal medium for wildlife artists and artists who make very detailed drawings. Scratchboard artists will often sell the scratchboard tablet as its own work of art. Though the contrast of the black ink and the white clay is striking enough to generate interest from buyers, some artists will also add colour to the illustrations using ink, watercolour or acrylic paint.By amelieke By WildGlance By Jan Poynter By jeanner By PawtraitsFL Videos About Amie Amie is a freelance graphic designer and has been designing and writing for 2 years and has a huge passion for abstract art and vintage photography styles.

Reader Tutorial: Planet X Matte Painting in Photoshop

In today's feature film industry, productions are in constant need of digital set extensions or matte painting, the correct term for this type of work. If you don't know exactly what it is, a matte painting is a painted representation of a landscape, set, or distant location that allows filmmakers to create the illusion of an environment that would otherwise be too expensive or impossible to build or visit. Historically, matte painters and film technicians have used various techniques to combine a matte-painted image with live-action footage. At its best, depending on the skill levels of the artists and technicians, the effect is "seamless" and creates environments that would otherwise be impossible to film. So in this tutorial I will show you how to create that using some photos, 3D rendered models in 3DS Max and Photoshop. Step 1 Make a rough sketch of the scene that we are going to create. Drawing the rough sketch makes the work easier in finding the appropriate images for the scene. The image used for this tutorial can be found here Step 2 Open a new canvas in Photoshop with 16:9 resolution(1280x720px) . Step 3 Import the image onto the canvas for which we are going to create the set-extension. Name the image as "base plate". Step 4 Now mask half the body of the model using the Pen Tool(P) , and separate the selection into a new layer. This layer will be helpful in the coming steps. Step 5 Select a center point in the image which represents the vanishing point to draw the perspective lines. Now by using the Line Tool(U) draw the perspective lines from the vanishing point. Drawing the perspective makes the work easier while arranging the images and the 3d models. Step 6 In this step we are going to create a city which is far beyond the hills. Naturally the city appears to be blurred and dim in color when it is seen very far away. The image here fits perfectly to the scene, you can download it at 1) Mask out the sky from the City image using the Magic Wand Tool(W) . 2) Now place the city layer on the right side of the image as shown in the image below and erase the unwanted part of the city using the Eraser Tool(E) . 3) color correct the 'City' layer using the Curves(Image>Adjustments>Curves) to blend with the main image. Step 7 1) To create the tall tower as drawn in the sketch, open the image of 'brudge khalifa' (…) and mask the shape of the building using the Pen Tool. 2) Now save the mask by right clicking on the mask and select 'Save Selection'.Then give a name to the mask and save it. Step 8 1) Create a new layer and open the saved mask from Select>Load Selection, and paint the selection with #909da1 color. 2) Now increase the Exposure value of the tower to +0.14. Step 9 Here we have the 3d 'dome' models same as designed in sketch, rendered out in occlusion and with texture using 3DS-max. You can download the 3D dome at 1) With the perspective layer on, arrange the occlusion rendered dome to the right as shown and name the layer as 'acl dome'.. 2) Now place the textured dome on the 'acl dome' and reduce it's Opacity to 61%. 3) According to the main image the sun light is coming from the right side, so duplicate the textured dome layer and color correct the layer using the Curves to get the sun light effect on dome.Name the layer as 'light'. 4) Now by using the Soft Eraser Tool(E) erase the left side of the light layer to give the dark shadow to the dome. Then select all the layers of dome and Merge them together and name it as 'dome 1'. Step 10 Since the dome is resting on soft sand, there must be some sand covering the bottom of the dome.In this step we will be digitally painting the sand at the bottom of the dome. 1) Make a new layer and paint the sand as shown using the Soft Round Brush(B) with #7d7466 color selected. 2) Now reduce the Opacity of the brush to 75% and paint on the previous paint using #64584b color. 3) Again repeat the previous step using #303028 color with the brush opacity set to 26%. Step 11 Now duplicate the 'dome 1' layer and name it as 'dome2' then flip it horizontally and place it on the left as shown. Step 12 1) Similarly as the previous step duplicate the dome2 layer and name it as dome3 then resize it using the Move Tool(V) as per the sketch. Place this layer under the model layer that we cut in the Step 4. 2) As the object goes further from the camera it gets blurred, so add Gaussian Blur(Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur) of Radius 0.7px. Step 13 Repeat Step 12 to arrange dome 4 and dome group. After arranging the domes apply Gaussian Blur of Radius 1.4px to dome 4 and to 'dome group' add Gaussian Blur of radius 2.0px. Step 14 1) Now import the planet image (…) onto the canvas and change it's Blending Mode to Screen. 2) Repeat the previous step and resize the planet using the Move Tool to create a moon to the planet. Step 15 Since this is a desert scene there must be some sand flying with the wind. Using the 'Softly Whisper' brush (…) paint the sand flying with the color #e5d7c5. Step 16 Adding a Lens Flair to the scene makes it more natural. Go to Filter>Render>Lens Flair and choose 35mm Prime and increase it's brightness to 135%. Step 17 From this step we will be using Lightroom 3 for color correcting the image. Lightroom 3 is very easy to use and we can get an amazing result in a very short time. 1) Import the saved photoshop file into Lightroom and choose 'color Creative-Bleach Bypass' preset from Saved Presets list. 2) Now move to Develop and change the exposure to -0.99, Temp=+6, Fill Light=20. 3) Set the value of Lens Vignetting Amount to -70 to get the dark corners. Conclusion About the Author Santosh is a freelance graphic designer based in India. He recently completed his college courses majoring in 2D Animation, and has decided to continue on to Film Production. His weapon of choice: Photoshop. You can see more of Santosh's work via santosh' portfolio. Connect with him through Twitter.

World Collabs 3 Winner Artwork Tutorial by François Hoang

This is my first tutorial ever so bear with me! I wanted to thank Abduzeedo for giving me this great opportunity. I am going to show you guys how to do my own submission for the Abduzeedo World Collabs 3 : James White. First let me warned you, that I won't be telling you all the steps but I'll be giving you hints that will help you make your "own" creation. So I'll show you my techniques of shaping the colors and creating this vibrant light effect. The idea that I wanted to project in this collaboration was to put my "own" style from the original file of James White. I picked out the PSD file from the given link of Abduzeedo : I must say that I really loved the colors on the original file of James White, the colors were so warm and futuristic. My tools of battle are: the one and only Adobe Photoshop CS3, as well a couple cans of Pepsi and most importantly the music! I can't live without music so for this artwork; I must admit that I was just kept playing one song on "repeat" and it was Adrian Lux - Teenage Crime (Axwell & Henrik B Remode). Yes! By the way, this artwork took me about 3 hours to do! Okay, let's do this! Step 1 First, really take a close look at the layers of the PSD, to see how the designer worked on his file because we all worked on different ways. By the way, James White has a really cool simple way of working along the layers. Everything was really well separated so it was easy to for me to work on it. This collaboration was to put a little bit of me but by also respecting his part of the collaboration. After taking a closer look to the PSD, I just "desaturated" the whole thing and restart the project with my own colors and effects. Plus, I have resized the "circle" to make more space for the final details of my submission. Step 2 Merge all the "Shards" layers together and take out the layer visibility for now. Let's start with the background, just make a simple gradient departing from the bottom to top. I've used the color #070c35 (dark blue) to black. I really like to start my work with a dark background so this way I have more fun with the lighting! Step 3 Now let's make "Shards" layer visible and give it some "outer glow" from the blending options. I've used the color white so it is easier for me to play with it. The white color will be the base of your lighting effect. After duplicate the "Shards" layer and you will have a solid base of the "circle". Step 4 Now let's get the radial gradient and pick two (2) colors to create the first color layer of the "circle". I've used "foreground to transparent" on the gradient and my two colors were cyan and the dark blue (#070c35). To give more punch to the gradients, just blend the layer to "overlay". Step 5 Now you just basically repeat the "Step 4" but you change your color cyan to "pink" and voilà! The center of your piece is now done! Step 6 Now you've setup the "circle" color base, here comes the "Fun Part". This is the part where you can be really creative with the lighting because now everything that will matter , is how the colors will blend in different kind of effects. As long as the base of your artwork is solid, the rest is up to you. For my part, I added some white blurry shapes of white circles to give some more lighting to the "circle". I also added some lines and shapes and played with the blending options. Step 7 I add further color shapes around the "circle" and blended them with the lines. After I've created some more shapes and afterwards added some "cloud" stock brushes in the background. Step 8 Now activate the "Sparks" layer and change the foreground color to cyan. After I duplicate the very same layer and do a rotation of 180 degrees and place it at the bottom of the "circle". Now you have the "Sparks" all around it. I also added some finishing touches like a stock image of a "Lighting Sparkle". I just played with it, I duplicated it and blended it and created some more sparkles! I also added some particles brushes processing their way along the lines. The artwork looks pretty done but not yet! There's still a few steps away! Step 9 Now create a rectangle of about 30 pixels and set the background color to a beige color (#ecd193). Duplicate it and place it all around the artwork. My idea behind this beige border was to pay a little tribute to James White. This has been part of this style so I wanted to honor his trademark. Step 10 Now take the very same layers of the beige rectangle and put an opacity of 40% and rotate them a little just to give an effect of borders overlaying themselves. Step 11 Now for the piece of resistance, I've decided to put the middle circle layer on and give it some outer glow from the blending options. To finalize my submission, I've put the logo of James White - Signalnoise right in the middle. This last touch is the one that completes my World Collabs 3 submission. About the Author Hi guys! My name's François Hoang and my alias's Aoiro Studio. I am a self-taught freelance graphic designer from Montreal, Canada. I've been designing for the last 4 years and really have a huge passion for creative work that makes a difference in our world. I am currently working as a freelancer with private clients on different commercial projects. I can be found on Twitter at , Facebook and Behance, as well as my online portfolio on

Mecanicow - Case Study by Marcos Torres

I'm pleased to announce that I was one of the artists selected for Cow Parade 2010 Porto Alegre, Brazil. My initial concept was to make a customized cow with gears like a engine, but it would take a lot of time and money. Since I didn't have that, I decided to try to apply a style of geometric/tribal illustration, that I have already created. After hours of work I was really happy with the result I got. So in this case study I will show you quite a few pictures of the whole process. I'd like to thank everyone whow supported me on this project. The photos were taken by Alexandre Raupp (http// The process The final result About the Author Hey buddies! I'm Marcos Torres, a 19 year old art director/freelancer from Brazil, I'm here to bring some new interesting stuff to you. You can see my portfolio at Any request or jobs opportunities contact me via email to, also follow me on twitter to get in touch with cool design news.

Motion Graphics Inspiration by Kyle Cooper

When the great Kyle Cooper spoke at FITC San Fran this past August, he did not disappoint. Kyle Cooper is an American film title designer who is known for his memorable, evocative work. Most notably, he elevated the opening titles to an art form with the film, Se7en in 1995. His work has inspired a younger generation of designers, and to this day, he has produced many more film titles. His story in a nutshell is this: Kyle Cooper studied under Paul Rand at Yale, and decided that he would focus on creating film titles. In 1996, he co-founded the creative agency, Imaginary Forces, which is focused on motion design. Once the agency grew substantially, he left and founded the agency, Prologue, which is where Kyle remains today. At FITC, Kyle Cooper gave a very inspiring presentation entitled "Others: Content and Creative Community". His presentation offered us a rare glance into his genius; Kyle described his creative philosophy and process. As well, he showcased a few of the title sequences that he has designed. While Kyle strives to provoke an emotional reaction from the audience, he does not want to reveal too much of the story. His focus remains on creating strong concepts, and tweaking them until they are solid. With Iron Man, he created visual riddles with the typography that allude to the story; this served as a means to connect with the audience. Kyle understands the need to engage an audience; he carefully develops visuals that have relevant, contextual meaning to the rest of the respective film. These days, we have a plethora of digital tools available that make it easier to create digital pieces. That being said, having more tools does not necessarily equate to better quality work. Analogue forms of content have their own merits. Kyle admitted he had a preference for analogue content—that is, physical objects and handmade effects. Se7en has plenty of these including a hand-drawn alphabet, mishandled negatives, scratches, etc. His reasoning behind his preference is that analogue content offers much more room for creative exploration. Analogue content can be arranged, rearranged and juxtaposed quickly to establish meaning and tone. It is raw, and there is an authenticity that digital tools may not be able to produce. As a result, analogue content gives way for some interesting experiments, some of which may be happy accidents. 3D animation and effects, on the other hand, don't offer that same luxury, and due to the amount of time that rendering takes, there is much less time (if any) to concentrate on tweaking the concept. Ultimately, it's hard not to argue that using tactile objects in the design offers an extra avenue with which the audience can connect. Kyle's creative process has paid off: With Wimbledon, he mentioned that his sequence was chosen over the work that other studios had created, which was more 3D and effects-heavy. See the opening sequence below: Kyle Cooper's talk reassured one thing: the best design is concept driven. While technology may offer countless possibilities, it doesn't replace having a solid concept in creating a stunning title sequence that resonates with us. Content is king, and building that community with the "others" is paramount... and Kyle Cooper knows this. Kyle Cooper/Imaginary Forces documentary (1 of 2) Kyle Cooper/Imaginary Forces documentary (2 of 2) Demo Reel 2006 For more information about Kyle Cooper visit: The Dark Genius of Kyle Cooper About the Author My name is Janet Cordahi and I’m a Toronto-based visual designer who loves to explore new ways of approaching different design challenges in this digital playground. I specialize in creating original solutions via motion graphics, print and web. For more information about Janet visit or follow her tweets at

GIMP Quick Tips: Abstract Background Effect

I was thinking a few days ago, what I should do, what I could create. I entered in some sort of a minor art block, when I took a look at my old design. One of them caught my eye. It was one of my old GIMP experiments. I couldn't remember anything about how I made it, but it looked awsome, so i saw in this a challenge. Finally, I managed to remember and put back together a quick step-by-step tutorial. This is what I hope to achieve. A simple spiral fiery background. Nothing complicated, everything kept to the minimum, and simplicity has laid its word here. I hope you will enjoy my tutorial as i did creating it. And of course, i would like to thank Abduzeedo for this occasion. So, let's get to work : Step 1 Open GIMP, and create a new project, let's say 1920 x 1200 px with about 300 ppi resolution. This should do the trick. Step 2 Grab the Gradient Tool (L), and then drag a gradient like i indicated below. The Shape must be Spiral (cw). As for gradient itslf, use Incandescent. Leave any other setting default. Step 3 Duplicate this layer, and then Flip it Vertically and Horizontally. Set the resulting layer to Multiply. Step 4 After that, Merge the two layers, and then apply a Gaussian Blur (Filters ⇒ Blur ⇒ Gaussian Blur ...) of about 25 pixels. Apply a Lava Render (Filters ⇒ Render ⇒ Lava ... ). Set this layer to Overlay. Eventually, duplicate the Lava layer and set its Opacity to 50%. Step 5 Nice. But still not ready. Create a new layer directly above the background layer, and fill it with the "Walnut" texture (drag it to your project from the Patterns pallete). Set the layer to Overlay. If it seems a little bit dull, then create a new layer above the texture layer, fill it with white and set it on Overlay. Step 6 It looks really nice even now, but let's add a little bit of dynamism to it. You can see that the Lava texture, and the Walnut texture are getting along perfectly. And as an extra, that Gaussian Blur we applied a while back makes it look more fluffy. But enough talking, and more working. Moving on ... Create a new layer, above the Texture Layer, and pull your Gradient Tool (L) again. This time we are going to use the Cyan Neon Gradient, and as a Shape, we'll use the Spiral (CCW). Drag like i did below, ... basicly from the center to the top, and bottom. (twice, one from center to top, and one from center to bottom). Set the resulting layer to Overlay. Step 7 Great, looks good. But it's still a little bit too obvious. how about we change that? Apply a Gaussian Blur of about 50 pixels, and we should be done. Conclusion Excelent. we're all set right now. Seven simple steps, to achieve a pretty remarcably simple effect. I must admit, i stumbled by accident about 6 months ago on this amasing fit of the Lava and the Walnut textures. Everything else was just filling. Feel free to experiment with other colors, shapes, anything your heart pleases. You can add some sort of logo to it, or anything like this. Click on the image for full preview Download the Photoshop File Click here to download the Photoshop file used for this tutorial About the Author My name is Marcu Sabin. I'm a 15 years old enthousiast from Romania, and i've "stuck my nose" up most of the big design tools. I'm quite adept of GIMP, Photoshop and Pixelmator. I really enjoy working with all of them, and got a few great ideeas. I also enjoy your site, the tutorials are great, and i would like to contribute as much as i can. I have a few GIMP tutorials at the ready, and it would be an honor if you would allow me to post it on your site. It is fully detailed, easy to follow, and all in all pretty nice.

Becoming a Professional Creative

If you are considering on becoming a creative professional, you should make an important decision: whether you will admire it or do it. The difference? I always admired great footballers all over the world. But to be a professional soccer player would have meant committing to that lifestyle, including intense training, enduring difficult challenges, and challenging myself physically and mentally. But I decided not to and I'm ok with that. I'm a big fan. I read about it. I follow it. I love to coach my kids and watch lots of games. I don't do it. I admire it. Decide whether you will be a hobbyist or a professional. Here's a good example. My wife makes amazing cakes. My grandmother gave her a family recipe and some awesome secret methods that result in beautiful and scrumptious cakes. Every time she makes a cake for some event, she's asked to make another one. Inevitably, people comment, "You should go into business!." However, making cakes isn't her passion. It's a hobby that she loves. And if she made it into a business, she'd probably end up hating it. Instead, she takes the comment as a compliment and keeps making cakes for fun. Remember that you have you are faced with deciding whether it's something you love to do (leisure) or something you will do to pay the bills (work). Be mindful of whether you want to turn your hobby into a career. If your answers are "admire it" or "hobbyist," then enjoy it as such. If your answers are "do it" and "professional", please read on. 1. Know what it takes. What is good design? What are the principles? Who is a good designer? Why are they good? What is good code? What are the standards? 2. Start from scratch. A good cook starts from scratch. So does a good website designer. Learn at least a basic working knowledge of html, css, typography, and grid-system design. 3. Give yourself assignments. You are at an awesome time in your career where you can do anything. So do it. Build a website for someone who needs it and tell them you need a guinea pig. Tell them you'll do it for free as long as you have zero restrictions. Non-profits are usually great for this sort of thing. Then, pretend they are your best client. Blow them out of the water with brilliant ideas. Use illustration, stop-motion, ink in liquid, paper or hand puppets to execute and solve their problems. 4. Get out of your comfort zone. In order to be inspired, I have purchased books, dvds, and downloads from Japan, the UK, Italy, and other places around the globe. I've covered a wide span of subjects, including architecture, interior design, urban art, fabric, and fashion. It's important to also find non-computer methods to solve problems. 5. Politely bow to the greats, but don't worship them. These great designers are your peers. Read about their methods. Respect their work. Then go create your own unique style. There's no problem with establishing a network of colleagues -- follow them on Flickr, stalk them on Twitter -- whatever. But there's way too many people right now who worship people on the web, steal their ideas, copy their work, and devalue the industry. 6. Be great at something. You've heard the old saying, "It's better to be great at one thing than good at a lot of things." It's true. At the beginning, you'd be smart to learn a little about everything. But eventually, be great at something. Design or front-end development, back-end development, or user interface design. It took me 8 years, but I finally figured out I was pulled in too many directions. Now, I focus a majority of my time on interactive design and brand management. 7. Ignore trends. It's fine to check out nice sites every once in a while, especially to recognize standards and user interaction. But the longer you look at other sites, the more likely that your sites will look a lot like them. Take them for what they are, then throw them out before you design. Someone, somewhere started that trend by doing it different than everyone else. (See #5) 8. Remember to solve the problem. It's usually not "just a website" for most. Often times, people are sinking a lot of money into the investment and would like to see some kind of return. So they push their own goals, needs and desires onto the project. But remember to solve the problem for which real people are using the website. A good solution gracefully balances all aspects. 9. Avoid templates. Most of them are not good. They'll give you bad habits and more headaches than you would've imagined. 10. Give great attention to detail. I can't tell you how many times I've huddled around a computer talking about whether a pixel or an extra click matters. If you want to make great websites, it does. 11. Take advantage of content management systems. BUT understand what they do first. A CMS is a great way to get tools that you couldn't program yourself. But don't think for a minute that you've solved the client's problem simply by installing one. (See #8) 12. Build your own portfolio site. This is your personal place to experiment. Don't feel like you have to represent yourself as a "company" or show a bunch of sites. But this is one place where you can blog, install things you wouldn't want to try out on other people's sites, and try out new visual concepts. So now what do you think? Is becoming a full-time creative the right path for you? When you're making the decision, remember that becoming a creative requires a lot of effort, so you shouldn't make the decision lightly. This isn't like deciding whether or not to mow your own yard. See you online.

3 Ways to Flunk Design School

When you go to Design school, you realize that there are so many other designers out there that you might get a little worried about the market and stuff like that. Well, if you use your time at school to overcome yourself, and use all the knowledge avaiable, you'll find no problems to find clients. One thing many young designers fight are critiques from fellow designers and teachers. It can tough to go from having all your family and friends tell you all your work is awesome to your teachers and peers telling you to fix things on a daily basis. You need to be willing to grow, trust your teachers and listen to your peers. While you don't have to listen to EVERYTHING they say you should take it all into consideration. Your teachers will have much more experience than you while you are in school, so you need to take their advice and apply it to your work and see how it comes out. Students who fight their teachers too much on everything will not grow quickly. Stay Inside the Box Many designers get comfortable with a style or using certain typefaces or design elements. You must keep pushing the limits and never stop trying new stuff. Design school is the time to go crazy and lets your creative energy burst outward. The more you try, the more you will learn and eventually you can develop your own rich design style, but even if you develop a style you should always keep experimenting well into your design career. Image by Shutterstock Images Show no Love If you have no passion for design why are you even in school or considering going to school? I remember seeing people in class spending more time texting or on Facebook than using the Adobe programs. Even if you are not in class you should be creating artwork, going to museums, reading books, attending lectures and anything else you can do. You must surround your self with design, breath design, eat design and dream about design. If you don't feel the passion than design simply may not be for you and you should keep searching for what career will truly make you happy for many years to come. Author By Gino Orlandi from and the Online Printing Company

Get you art on Laptop Skins and iPhone Covers

First there was for crowd-sourced art for T-Shirts... now there is for crowd-sourced art for the rest of your life! It's a very cool site where any artist can submit art for people to buy to decorate their laptop, iPhone, car, or wall. They just started accepting photography, so I thought I would submit a few from Here are some samples beneath with links to the site. Besides these, you will see many other good submissions on there to start decorating your world. I think the next step is for fans of this site to submit some of those beautiful Abduzeedo backgrounds submitted to! Also, there are so many good designers that frequent this site, there should be ample opportunity to get a wide variety of high quality work on there soon. Some Examples Below are two of the entries along with the third source picture for the third. Written by Trey Ratcliff -

Really Cool Photo Art Tutorial

Hello everyone from Abduzeedo!If you are anything like me, you have this site in your regular reading list for inspiration.I've been so inspired by so many things here, that I thought it would be good to share a few things back with the world.I talked to the very nice Fabio here at Abduzeedo, and he thought a light version of my photo art tutorial would be fun for a guest post. Trey Ratcliff - So, this is really a short version of the big tutorial here on my blog, which you may or may not enjoy if you had any inkling of linking. You should note that this is not really JUST an HDR tutorial.The process begins with that, but ends with significant steps thereafter.If you have seen HDR photographs, then you probably have noticed how many of them are kinda rough on the eyes.I've evolved (and continue to) a new technique to bring these full circle back into something that "feels" more right to me. What is HDR? HDR is short for High Dynamic Range. It is a software technique of taking either one image or a series of images, combining them, and adjusting the contrast ratios to do things that are virtually impossible with a single aperture and shutter speed.Most of the images in "Your Top 100 Favorites" are HDR, so you can take a look there if you want to see more examples than in this tutorial. I will post a few interesting HDR photographs that I have taken that people seem to like.This one immediately beneath has the honor of being the first HDR photo every to hang in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. I think this goes to show how mainstream and accepted HDR can be, if the technique is properly applied. I'm a huge defender and believer of utilizing HDR as a technique for processing photos because I think it helps to evoke my actual memory of the scene.It's just another tool that digital photographers can utilize depending on the situation.As opposed to the camera shutter and aperture, the human eye actually scans the scene at a very high rate of speed, constantly adjusting the pupil diameter to adjust the light and color levels.The brain builds a quilt-like image that is comprised of millions of little bits, combined with neuron-connected memories of colors of objects.For example, when you look at a sunset, you can see all the colors of the clouds and sky, but you can also see all the colors of the trees and rocks in the foreground. This is why, many times, people get home after a vacation and sigh at their pictures and tell their friends, "Well, it was much better when you were there."With this technique and a bit of practice, no one will ever have to say such a sad thing again. Step 1: Get your tools on What apps do you need?I have the three core essentials here: Photoshop, Photomatix, and Lightroom. All of these are available for the PC and the Mac.Note, of course, that Lightroom can be swapped out with Aperture or Bridge if you wish... One new program to you might be Photomatix, which is quite inexpensive with my coupon code of "StuckInCustoms".You can purchase it for download here.I've been using it for years, and I sent so many people to their site that they gave me a discount code to increase sales!There are many programs I have tried for this technique, and Photomatix is still the best. Step 2: Get some equipment on the sly so your spouse does not ask too many questions I have a full "My Equipment" page here, which is much more organized than the following Hawthornesque ramble. What kind of equipment do you need?All you really need is a camera that has autobracketing.Autobracketing is the ability for your camera to take at least 3 pictures right after one another, each at different shutter speeds.If you are hunting around the menus on your camera now, just look for the words Autobracketing and perhaps some numbers like -2, 0, +2.If you have a DSLR camera, then you probably have this ability.I notice that some of the high-end consumer compact cameras have these as well. Recommended Low End Camera: Nikon D40 with 18-55mm Lens Note:I don't recommend this entry level camera because it does not do autobracketing.It DOES take shots in RAW format, and you can use that for making HDRs (later in the tutorial), but I believe it is better to have a camera that does have autobracketing built in. Recommended Mid Range Camera: D80 with 18-55mm VR Lens This is a great camera.It will treat you well and it will last you a lifetime of great shots. Recommended High End Camera: Nikon D3 This camera is the ultimate.I can say no more. As for me, I have a Nikon D2X, but I am expecting to get the Nikon D3X any day now.Then, my life will be complete, truly.Well, except for a few minor things that would help take the edge off... Step 3 - Look at the world in HDR It is key to choose good HDR candidates.What I look for are extreme levels in light in a given scene.Below is a selection of five photos that I shot in New York at Times Square.This is one of the pictures that Getty is currently representing, so I think it is a good example of how to take something mundane and turn it into something beautiful that can be mass market and selected by major agencies. And here is another photographic-philosophical moment.Everyone shoots Times Square in New York.Everyone.Professionals, tourists, teenagers with grainy cell phone cameras, etc. Think about it and name your worldwide location:Paris, New York, Shanghai - these places are filled with thousands of photographers, many of them very very good, with incredible equipment and great training.YET, it is still quite difficult to get an "original" shot.You end up with just about the same shot that everyone or anyone else can get.So this New York picture is a good example.If you look at this one below, you will see it is a "decent" and "serviceable" shot.However, look at the final version right below that, and you can see how much more interesting and engaging it is. The BEFORE shot, selected in Lightroom. The AFTER shot, after running it through Photomatix and Photoshop: Step 4 - Take your autobracketed pictures and prepare for the HDR Set up your camera in Aperture Priority mode.Turn on Autobracketing.If you have 3 pics in the autobracket, set it up at -2, 0, +2.On my Nikon D2x, I usually take 5 pics at -2, -1, 0, 1, +2.I usually do 5 pictures in extreme light or extreme dark.The rest of the time, three pictures seems to be okay. Below, you can see that I have selected 5 pictures from Times Square.You can also easily see that they are all taken at different shutter speeds.By the way, you can click on any picture to go its Flickr page, where you can then click on ALL SIZES then ORIGINAL at the top if you want to zoom in all the way. Step 5 - Photomatix Now it is time to fire up Photomatix and get crunk in the HDR house.Okay that was stupid. Photomatix will take your 3+ shots and convert them into an HDR image.You can then tonemap the image and save it as a JPEG.I'll take you through this process. The easiest way to use Photomatix (more in the longer tutorial) is to just go to the menu and click GENERATE. Choose the images you like then click OK.You will then see a second dialog.I have selected the most common choices that I make.That "Ghosting" area never seems to work so well for me, so I don't check it.I have a better method for ghosting that I will show you later. Click OK again and now your computer will churn like a farm of computers generating a single frame from a Pixar movie. You will soon see a strange looking image on the screen.You are not done yet - not even close. That is an HDR image and you can't really do anything with it until it is tonemapped.So, go up to HDR in the menu and select Tone Mapping.Now you will get a nice little dialog with all these fun gizmos and Willy Wonka-like controls. Every picture is different.There is no "right way" to set these sliders.There is certainly a "wrong" way to do it, though.I am sure you have seen lots of crappy HDR images.Below, I paste an example of how you can really make your image look too funkadelic.Funkadelic is cool if that is what you want or you have a lot of druggie friends that like laser light shows and your mind-bending HDRs, but most people don't like them.Actually, please don't look at my old work.It's a little over-the-top too... I cringe when I think about it.Just look at the newer stuff.Thank you kindly. Above, you can see the options I selected.It's way overdone.Below, you can see better selections.Here are a few things I do... although none of these are cast in stone.I like to crank up the White Point and Black Point bars to give it some punch and contrast.I also like to slide the Luminosity bar over to the right as far as I can before it looks too flat.The further right the Lum bar is, the less halo effect you get as well.If you don't know what the "Halo" effect is, you will soon enough - especially with daytime shots.Another way to combat that is with the next few steps I go through below. Once you have set everything up with the sliders, click PROCESS.Save the resulting image as a .jpg and then prepare to bring it into Photoshop. Step 6 - Photoshop fun As you might have seen, Photomatix is great, but it probably messed up parts of the image that you now need to repair. This, briefly, is what we are gonna do. a)import 3 images to make 3 layers - the .jpg HDR you just made, the original RAW, and the darkest RAW. b) repair the blown-out areas with the correct areas from the dark layer and c) repair the ghosty cars and people with the real cars and real people from the first RAW file. Below, you can see I am importing one of the original 5 pictures. Okay, in this next screenshot, if you look over on the layers, you will see there are 3 of them.TOP LAYER - the cool HDR we just made in Photomatix.MIDDLE LAYER - the DARKEST of the 5 original images.BOTTOM LAYER - the MIDDLE exposure of the original 5. The current layer showing is the 2nd layer.You can see why I chose this one - all of the lighted ads are very sharp and readable, whereas in all the other shots, including the HDR version, they are all jumbled and unreadable. As you can also see, I have the AUTO ALIGN layers dialog up.I am using that to make sure all 3 layers line up correctly.This is a CS3 option.If you have CS2, you will have to do it yourself. Also, I am going to throw something at you here called MASKING.This is a really valuable thing to know when cleaning up HDRs.Essentially, what you are doing is taking the TOP LAYER - the HDR layer, and then "punching through" to see the layers beneath.If you look closely at the layers on the right in the screenshot below, you can see that I have created a LAYER MASK for the TOP LAYER.If you see those little black and grey marks there, that is where I have painted black to see the MIDDLE LAYER beneath.I used a paint brush, adjusted the opacity to about 30%, and kept painting until enough of the middle layer shined through. Now, I combine those two layers into a single layer.We now have two layers.TOP LAYER - the HDR with the fixed ads and blown out areas.BOTTOM LAYER - the original RAW photo with the nice streaking yellow taxis and busses.We need to fix the HDR image on top because, if you look closely, there is lots of ripping and ghosting that looks unnatural.We create another LAYER MASK, then use the 30% brush to paint through to the bottom layer.As you can see from the extreme black in many areas, I painted over many many times until I was effectively at 100% brush, but you don't want to start with that because sometimes the transition between the HDR and the original RAW can be too extreme. Now, there is just some general cleanup left.I used the blur tool on the sky since there was some noise there, cropped the entire image better, and then pulled up the "LEVELS" dialog to adjust the overall brightness and contrast.I think HDRs look best when there are dark blacks somewhere in the image.Sometimes HDRs don't have a single black dot anywhere in them, and they can look a little fake.I like to take the viewer's eye on a little visual tour-de-force! Below, we can see the final image once again!All the hard work has paid off!Behold! There are a few other techniques on the longer version of this tutorial for different conditions.One common question is how to do this with just one RAW photo.That is easy and can be done with Photomatix as well. Over the next month, I will be updating the tutorial for 2009, and I will continue to update it and evolve it with newer, better techniques as I figure them out every few months or so.I hope this has been useful to you!I will close with a few of the most recent shots I have processed in the last month or so...and remember, you can do this stuff too!It just takes a lot of practice and failure.Remember what Winston Churchill said:"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."