Category Archives: tip share

Color Palette Generators

color palette generators

If you’ve followed me a while, you already know that every color palette I share here is made from scratch with my best friend Photoshop. If you’ve been curious how to make your own, and you have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, I show you the basics over in this video. Or you can grab a simple template here.

But I know that not everyone has, or can afford, Photoshop or Elements (though the Creative Cloud subscription Adobe offers is fabulous and affordable). So, if you’d like to try your hand at color palettes, but would prefer an online option, here’s a quick list.

 

color palette generators - adobe kuler

Adobe Kuler is my go-to suggestion for online color palette generators because it’s free, easy to use, and has algorithms if you’d like to practice your color theory-based palettes. I’ve got a quick how-to-use-it explanation at the bottom of this post, and a free class if you’d like to learn how to use the Kuler app.

 

color palette generators - colourlovers

COLOURlovers is great because it makes it easy for you to make and share color palettes in a bigger community. And if you click around a bit, you’ll find ColorSchemer, which makes a program and a phone app, if you’d prefer an offline option.

 

color palette generators - sphere

Sphere is nice because it offers six swatches instead of five. Sometimes, you just need that extra color, you know? I’m also a fan that they make it easy to tell what the hex codes are; they are right there on the swatch for easy reference.

 

color palette generators - color scheme designer

Color Scheme Designer is fantastic because while there are only four base colors, they show shades and tints on the final swatch area on the right, giving you immediate options without you having to guess.

 

color palette generators - palette generator

Palette Generator is great because it allows you to upload a photo, select the area you want to focus on, then gives you not only the colors, but also the amounts of each used in that selection in a handy pie chart. Very nice, and hat tip to Lauren on this one!

 

 

Other Color Lists

 

 

If making palettes isn’t your thing and you’d rather just collect them, come follow my Color Palettes and Swatches board on Pinterest.

Did I miss a generator? Got a favorite? Leave it in the comments below, and I’ll update this list.

 

3 Things I’d do over as a blogger

A couple of weeks ago, Miss Tristan B of Besotted Blog wrote up a 5-part series of blogging tips. If you’d like to read those, here’s Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

I totally agree with everything she said, and since I’ve given a couple tips already (see 5 Things I’ve learned about blogging so far5 More things I’ve learned about blogging, and 3 More things I’ve learned about blogging), I thought I’d take it from a different point of view. What would I do over as a blogger if I could? In no particular order, here’s my list.

 

3 things i'd do over as a blogger

 

I wouldn’t have picked the domain name I did.

When I started my jewelry shop, I also opened a blog at the same time. But as time went on, I found less and less to talk about from a jewelry perspective, so I decided to change focus and make it more personal. This required a move to a new blog, which was fine, but I drew a blank trying to pick a name for it. I went with a nickname, and called it a day. Then when I could buy a domain name for my Blogger blog, I did, and continued to use it when I moved here.

But now, I kind of regret the domain name.

It’s not that it has “blog” in it, it’s more that I’m concerned “girl” will become a little silly at some point. I’d move now, and I still waffle about it, but then it’s starting over (again) with a new domain; I don’t want to start over, I want to keep building. I’ve been here for two solid years now, with a back log of posts going back even further. Moving means dealing with a loss of readers, a loss of traffic, and figuring out what to do with the incoming links from outside sources – Pinterest, other bloggers, Pinterest. It’s a headache I’m not sure I want to deal with.

So, the lesson here is to pick a domain name very carefully.

 

 

I would have hired a logo/brand designer.

When I moved to WordPress, I would have loved to hire a web designer and order a custom theme with full branding options. But that was not in my (shoestring) budget, and despite lots of brainstorming, I couldn’t figure out a way to make it happen.

What I forgot to consider was hiring a logo designer.

Logos are generally cheaper than a fully branded website, and I could have used that with a premade template and still have a custom feel. It didn’t even cross my mind then, but I’m thinking of it now. Why hire someone when I could do (and have done) it myself? Because I’m so close to this project, almost too close. I’m not making any progress with me as the client, so I think it’s time to hire someone to get things done well.

The lesson here: unless you have a clear vision, you might need some help, and that’s okay – that’s what branding experts are for.

 

 

I would have narrowed down much, much sooner.

I’ve had a problem with committing to a single idea my whole life. There’s just so much out there that’s fascinating, and I want to do it all. Which is great for hobbies, but can come across as haphazard with blogging.

Would it surprise you to know that while I’ve always wanted to focus on color and color theory as the main content here, I was afraid to go for it until last fall? True story. I was scared that if I did that, I’d run out of things to say, fast. But the exact opposite has happened; the more I focus in, the more the ideas come.

Talk about fascinating.

So, the lesson is don’t be afraid to go for a niche.

 

 

I know a bunch of you have been blogging for a while, too – what would you do over if you could?

 

 

You do you

There’s one question I got on last Tuesday’s post that I didn’t answer. It’s not the first time I’ve gotten it, and probably won’t be the last, and I didn’t post my answer because it leaves me feeling funny (as in funny-awkward, not funny-hilarious). The question’s simple but the answer is a little complicated, and can open up a conversation that I wasn’t sure I wanted to have. But after thinking about it for the better part of a week, I decided why not?

So, here goes.

The question I get from time to time is this: How can I do what you do?

The meaning behind it has ranged from simple curiosity to wanting to replicate everything I’ve ever done online. I never take the question personally because, honestly, I’ve wondered the same thing about people, too.

So, why I do feel funny-awkward answering that question? Because my journey has been crazy and meandering and somewhat different from what other people experience. Replicating what I’ve done is not for everyone. 

If that’s hard to hear, let me explain.

 

 

My story

When I started selling online, it wasn’t a part-time job, it wasn’t a hobby. I didn’t transition my jewelry shop from part-time to full-time, I started it full-time.

That’s my first big point. I didn’t grow Catie’s Blue organically, slowly building on small successes and milestones. I simply launched it; one day it didn’t exist as a business entity, and the next day, it did. While not totally unique, it was (and is) a different position from what other creatives go through, and I recognize that.

My second point is that at the time, I was 25, single, and had no one relying on me for income. The way I saw it, and still see it, I was in a position to take a big risk without affecting anyone but me. And if it didn’t work, I’d do something else, but at least I wouldn’t be responsible for dragging anyone down if I failed; it was just me that I had to take care of.

But that’s exactly why my answer is the one it is. Not everyone can do what I did because your life situations are different than mine was, and still is. Do you have a full-time office job? A spouse? Children? A house to pay for? Starting a full-time creative business from scratch is a bigger risk for those with full-time jobs, families, and homes to take care of than it was for me. I still took a risk, sure, but it was a calculated one. But what was a calculated risk for me can be potentially damaging for others who have people relying on their income.

That’s why I hesitate when people ask me the “how do I do what you do?” question. It’s not that I think you can’t handle it, aren’t up for it, can’t figure it out, or aren’t talented enough; no.

It’s just that I think it’s a little irresponsible of me to sell you on the idea that you could do things exactly the way I did when you have responsibilities that I didn’t.

 

 

Change the question

All that said, I think it’s totally possible for you to start or run a business if you work for it. 

The question, though, should change at this point. It should be less about me and what I did, and more about what you can feasibly do.

Because there’s another big difference to note: I had an abundance of free time when I started. Time to create, and time to handle the business side of things. Time to explore and learn, time to mess up and fix it, time to try a bunch of things to see what worked.

Did I mess up along the way? Sure. I didn’t know much about starting and growing a business, so I learned everything on the fly. Was there pressure to bring in sales? Absolutely. And maybe that pressure was more than it would have been had I had a steady income to rely on while I worked on my side business part-time.

But because I had time on my side, I could do all those things and deal with whatever came my way. That’s not the case for everyone, so change the question. What you should be asking is “how can I start or grow a business my way?”

 

 

Doing you

If you’re looking to start or grow a business, my best suggestion is to figure out what you can and can’t do time- and responsibility-wise. If your family can’t afford to live without your paycheck, you already have one thing figured out, and that’s not a bad thing. Knowing where your limits are is very, very good.

It also doesn’t mean you can’t create or sell, period; just that you can’t do it full-time (yet, if that’s your goal). Which means you have to be very savvy about the time you have and maximize it as best as possible.

If your days are full with work and family activities, then find other times to create and check in with business/shop issues – early mornings, late nights, weekends, lunch breaks. If you find yourself with big chunks of time and can work fast, maybe wholesaling is an option, depending on what you’re making.

Or if time is a definite issue, then you know that custom orders may not be something you can do (sometimes, it’s about saying no). If your time is limited, look into solutions that doesn’t require you to be around. Automatic deliveries of PDF tutorials or ebooks, for example, can be handled by sites like E-JunkiePulley App, and now Etsy. Sites like Society6 print and ship your art for you. Lulu and Blurb print and ship your physical book. Consignment can work, too, since you’re not the person handling the point of sale, though it can take some leg work on your part to research and establish relationships with shops.

There’s so many options now that you can really customize the way your business runs and operates. And that’s what I really endorse – forget the exact steps that I’ve taken and start brainstorming what you can do.

 

 

I  hope this helps clarify what I’ve done myself, and where I’m coming from. This post isn’t meant to discourage anyone – just the opposite! I think the world needs more art to feed the soul, and now is the best time to get started. Think of all the resources and things we can do now that just didn’t exist ten years ago. “Now” is a very exciting time for creative businesses.

As always, I’m here if you want to reach out with any other questions! Email me if you don’t want to leave a public comment.

P.S. You might be interested in this post I wrote a while back: Full-time work with part-time hours.

P.P.S. I’m powering through the last few sections of my color theory book this week, and will be opening up for preorders shortly. Mailing list subscribers will get first crack – you can sign up here.

 

Ditching Google Reader

google reader alternatives

By now, you may have heard that Google Reader will shut down on July 1st. I’ve been a perfectly happy Google Reader user for years, so hearing news of it’s closure was a disappointment. Especially since Google says that part of the problem is that user accounts are down. If user accounts is an issue, why not a revamp instead of a full closure? Bring some of those users back?

It’s also disappointing as a blog owner – there’s always a chance that people won’t resubscribe if a change is made. Though I can’t control how people read my content, Google Reader was a big feed reader that tons of people use and are familiar with. So, big closures like this make me nervous.

No clue how the closure will affect those with Blogger blogs, either, or those who use Blogger’s Follow feature, because that Follow feature feeds directly into Google Reader. This makes sense – both are Google products. So, even if you didn’t realize you were using Google Reader, if you used Blogger’s Follow feature, you probably were. But where that leaves you in terms of following your own reading list, I don’t know. As of right now, it seems like we’re all in the same boat.

Which means the next step for everyone using Google Reader is to find another feed reader now. Here’s a quick list of alternatives: FeedlyNetvibes, Bloglovin’NewsBlurThe Old Reader.

After a quick search over the weekend, I went with Feedly for a couple of reasons. One, they have an automated transfer process that is, I kid you not, as easy as logging into your Google Account. Within two minutes, I had a new account that was fully populated with my normal feeds without any extra work required from me. It even kept my lists (they call them categories), so everything’s exactly where I expect them to be. Easy is awesome.

Especially long-term. Once Google Reader closes, Feedly’s own service will kick in to provide my same feeds without any disruption (if I’m reading and understanding the info correctly).

feedly

Two, it’s beautifully designed. I know that probably won’t  be on many people’s wish list, but I’m a sucker for a pretty website that’s functional. I also like that I can adjust the views from a list to thumbnails/tiles if I want, can change the background color to something I like to see, and can include or turn off Facebook and Twitter streams on the right. I’m still learning all the ins and outs of what Feedly can do, but things are pretty self-explanatory, so it’s pretty easy to navigate around.

And three, it’s got a mobile app that syncs to my feeds. I read both on the computer and my phone, so this was a very nice bonus. The mobile apps include iOs, Android, and Kindle, which is pretty cool.

Two potential downsides: One, with Google Reader, I could look at any feed, including my own, and see the number of subscribers. Maybe that’s hidden somewhere, or maybe it’s coming later, but I do miss that. And two, Feedly works as an extension to your browser, not a separate website, so there’s no online viewing like with Google Reader. I don’t mind installing the extension to my browser, so this isn’t a negative for me, but others might feel differently.

Overall though, I’m pretty satisfied with my new feed reader. Your turn – which feed reader do you use?

 

 

Photo Editing Q + A

Last weekend, I had a Studio Saturday post over on Art Bead Scene where I posed a few questions readers could answer for a chance to win a set of Photoshop actions I’m giving away (giveaway closes tomorrow, so if you’re interested, pop on over to enter!). In response, readers shared what they struggle with when it comes to editing their photos, so I thought I’d go ahead and answer those today in case more than one person was curious!

 

Lighting issues

A few people said that they struggled with lighting when taking photos. Right off, I can tell you that this is something you really want to work at getting it right while you’re taking photos versus something you try to fix with editing. Bad lighting is bad lighting, and it’s going to show. While there are some things you can do to minimize a few bad spots in Photoshop, you really don’t want to rely on trying to “save” it during post-processing. One, because it takes so much more time to edit a photo versus just working on getting good lighting when you’re taking it. And two, too much editing can make a photo look very heavily processed, which is probably not what most shop owners are looking for.

There’s no one trick when it comes to lighting because everyone’s set up is different. I can say that I’ve tried both an indoor setup and natural light outdoors, and between the two, I like the look of natural light better, but that’s personal preference. Here’s what I used to with my shop photos: My Photo Formula

If you prefer natural light, you need to pay attention to the light around you and set aside some time to experiment. What’s the sunniest room in your house? What time of day do you get a lot of sunshine in that room? Can you shoot close to a big open window? Can you shoot on a patio? Avoid direct sunlight, as that was too harsh a light source. Instead, shoot next to a bright window or outside in the shade versus out in the sun.

If you like shooting indoors, you want to work in a confined space with lots of light. If possible, use a light box that you either buy or construct (there are links on My Photo Formula post), and use two or three daylight light bulbs as your light source.

 

 

How do I eliminate shadows I don’t want?

There are a couple ways: photograph out of direct sunlight or bounce light off of a white surface when you’re photographing.

photo editing q+a - eliminate shadows

Photographing in the shade or indoors next to a bright window will minimize the harsh glares and shadows you get when you photograph in direct sunlight. To go a step further, prop up a white piece of foam core or poster board directly opposite your light source next to your object. This will allow the light to bounce back onto the object, reducing the shadows. To eliminate them completely, use a secondary light source, like a daylight lamp, in place of the white board.

If neither of those gets you the results you’re  looking for, try adjusting the levels in your photo editing program. If you’re working on a white background, and want a pure white background, I’ve got a Tip Share for that.

 

 

How do I make a photograph look more dramatic?

First, get clear about what you mean by dramatic, because that can mean different things depending on the photo.

Are you looking to make the colors pop? Then increase the saturation a little on your photo. Elements users, go up to Enhance > Adjust Color > Adjust Hue/Saturation. Photoshop users, go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. Keep in mind that will change your photo permanently, so if you’re looking for a more flexible option you can adjust over and over, use an adjustment layer instead. Go to your Layers Panel and click the circle that’s half black, half white. Then choose Hue/Saturation from that menu to create a layer you can fix over and over. Make sure to move it directly over your photo layer.

Are you looking to change the entire tone of a photo? Then play around with some Photoshop actions. This post gives a quick list of actions I’ve used.

Are you looking to increase contrast? Elements users can do that by going up to Enhance > Auto Contrast, or Enhance > Adjust Lighting > Brightness/Contrast. Photoshop users, go up to Image > Auto Contrast, or Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast. You can also create adjustment layers for this, too; just follow the steps I outlined above, and choose Brightness/Contrast instead of Hue/Saturation.

Don’t forget, I’ve already got a bunch of editing Tip Shares right here, so browse through if you’ve got some time.

 

 

How do I get crisp, clear photos?

Crisp photos start with a steady hand when you’re taking the photo. If your hands shake a little or if your camera’s heavy, try working with a tripod and an external shutter release. This way, your camera remains flat and stable at all times, reducing any shaking that might create fuzzy photos.

It’s also a good idea to spend some learning the settings on your camera. If you’ve got a point-and-shoot, read your manual to learn about the different scenes your camera has for you to shoot in. Then, spend time photographing the same thing in different scenes to find which one you like best.

If you’ve got a DSLR, same goes – learn what the different settings and controls are, and what you can do with them. It’s also a good idea to figure out the basics of ISO, shutter speeds, aperture, white balance, and what different lighting conditions need. If you’re feeling a little confused with these terms or the manual setting on your DSLR, check out this helpful cheat sheet I posted a while back.

photo editing q+a - unsharp mask

Now, regardless of the type of camera you have, there is something you can do to sharpen up your photos in either Photoshop or Elements: the Unsharp Mask. Photoshop users, go to Filters > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. Elements users, go to Enhance > Unsharp Mask. Make sure Preview button is selected, then play with the Amount toggle – try it at 50% first, then increase or decrease as needed. Once you’re happy, click OK.

You have other editing options, either a Sharpen filter or Adjust Sharpness, but I like the Unsharp Mask best because it’s adjustable and can be really subtle. Couple things to remember: 1) It’s possible to over sharpen, so go slow. 2) Sharpening should be done last, after any other edits or resizing. Otherwise, you’ll have to redo this step. 3) Not every photo really needs this step, and it’s not going to magically fix a blurry photo. All this is going to do is sharpen what’s already in focus.

 

 

How do I focus on the parts of my object I want to focus on?

As far as focusing goes, what I said above applies. Read your manual on how to change the focus; most cameras will have an auto feature as well as a few others. You want to choose a focusing setting on your camera that you can remember, like dead center, and use that to line up your shot every time.

Press the release button down halfway to focus, and make sure what you want to focus on matches the highlighted area on your screen (it’s usually a little dot or a box). Keep doing this until what you want in focus is highlighted, then go ahead and press the release button down all the way to take the photo.If you’re looking for more detail, you want to either get close to your object, change your settings, or grab a lens that allows for close-up/macro-type shots.

 

 

How can I enlarge a photo without it getting grainy?

Unfortunately, you can’t make photos any bigger than what they are when they come out of your camera.

The thing that’s confusing is that Photoshop and Elements (and other programs, too) allow you to change your image size to whatever you want it to be. This lets people think that they can resize over and over, up and down, without any loss of quality, but unfortunately, that’s just not the case for photographs.

photo editing q+a - pixels

See, a photo is made up of millions of pixels; think of them like microscopic squares. When it comes out of your camera, it’s a set size, like 3888 pixels wide by 2594 pixels high. You can reduce it down to anything smaller, like 600 pixels by 400 pixels, with no real problem. What’s happening when you decrease the size is that those pixels are getting compressed down to fit into that new 600 x 400 pixel size. Some finer details may be lost during the compression, but you wouldn’t be able to tell a difference at the smaller size.

But if you try to take that 3888 x 2594 pixel photo and make it bigger by just changing the size, it’s not going to look the way you expect it to. Why not? Because no new information is being added; Photoshop can only work with the original number of pixels in the original size. So, while Photoshop will let you increase any photo beyond the original size, it doesn’t mean it’s putting in any new information. Instead, it’s simply stretching out the photo into a bigger shape, and the individual pixels become distorted. That’s the “grain” you see, and why photos can become fuzzy if you try to increase the size.

So, if you’re  looking for a larger size, you need to back to the original photo you took. That’s the biggest size your photo can be without losing quality. Most cameras these days take photos that are fairly large, so you’ll want to either bring that original photo into Photoshop to check how large it is or read your manual.

What you want to remember when it comes to sizing is this: Size down, not up. I always, always leave the original photo intact, and save any edits I make as a separate, new file; actually, I tend to save three copies – the original, the original + edits, and the edits + a new smaller size. This way, I have something to come back to should I need a larger size later.

 

 

For more photo and editing tips, check out my Tips & Tricks pin board. There’s a bunch of photo-related pins in there, as well as others, that might answer your question. Or if you’ve got a burning question, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer it!