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ILLUSTRATOR TUTORIAL: BLEND TOOL

Greetings, and welcome back back for another tutorial! This time, I plan to focus on using Adobe Illustrator’s Blend Tool. The Blend Tool is an incredibly useful asset inside of Illustrator and can be used to accomplish a number of unique and interesting effects. Today, we are going to use it to achieve an effect commonly seen on the web using one simple curved line.

Final

To start, I have made a new document in Adobe Illustrator in a landscape orientation (yours does not have to be landscape to follow along). I then decided I wanted simple background gradient, so a grabbed the rectangle tool and drew out a background and applied a gradient. Feel free to make yours different, or just use a solid color.

step 1

step 2

Now, for the next step, I selected the pen tool (p) and drew out a curved line from the top to the bottom. Your curved line does not have to look just like mine, something similar will be just fine. Once you have the curved line, you need to give it a small stroke (1 pt in my case), and I chose a light green for the stroke color.

step 3

step 4

Next, we want to make a copy of this line. So, click down on the line and then hold the alt/option key to drag out a copy and then position it slightly to the right of the original. Now we want to blend these two lines, so double click on the blend tool (w) so we can make some changes to the default blend options. We want “Specified Steps,” and 12 of them.

step 5

step 6

Next, with the blend tool still selected, all you have to do is simply click on both paths and Illustrator makes the blend between the two objects based on the options you edited. Now that your objects are blended, you can edit those curved lines to get some really unique effects.

step 7

step 8

Select the direct selection tool (a) and start playing with the paths to achieve different effects. I grabbed a couple anchor points and tried moving them and altering the curves to get these effects.

step 9

The blend tool in Adobe Illustrator is an incredibly versatile tool, and can be used to create all sorts of neat looks. I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial, and that it helps you get started in exploring this awesome tool!

Until next time…

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PHOTOSHOP TUTORIALS: DEPTH OF FIELD

Depth of field is basically a way of describing what is in focus versus what’s not. Or in other words, the part of an image that is sharp & crisp compared the blurred area around it. A lens can focus on a single distance rendering a sharp focal point in an image, with slight blurring further away from that distance. Photographers enjoy playing with the focus in their photographs to achieve different effects. This is commonly referred to as “depth of field.” Today, I want to share ways of manipulating what is in focus in post-production with image editing software like Adobe Photoshop.

To begin, you need a photograph. You can take your own, or visit a royalty free stock photo website to find one that will work. I like to use Stock.xchng, and for the sake of following along in this tutorial, that is where I grabbed the images we will be working with.

Croatia Photo

And below you can see what our image is going to look like when we are finished.

Before:
Before

After:
After

To begin, we are going to open the image in Adobe Photoshop.

Step 1

What we want to do now is isolate the background and alter it so that we can draw more of a focus towards the foreground. To do that, you need to select the pen tool (p) and trace along the buildings as shown below. I purposefully selected a photograph with buildings because they are a fairly simple thing to select due all of the rectilinear lines. Don’t be worried if your selection isn’t perfect, this is only an exercise to demonstrate an effect. It also helps a lot to use the zoom tool (z) to be able to see what you are doing up close.

Step 2

Once you have the background “penned” in as shown, you can then click the “paths” tab in your layers box. Here, you can Command-Click the path icon to select your path, or right click and go to “Make Selection.”

Step 3

With that section selected you can press Command-C and then Command-V to copy and paste that section as a new layer above your background. This way we are not editing the original background. Now you can Command-Click this new layer to select it all, and go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian (Lens Blur gives better/more options, so try it out later). The amount of Blur you want to apply varies with the resolution of the images you are working with, for this particular image, 6 pixels seems to work just fine.

Step 4

Step 5

As you can see now, the foreground pops out much more than before due to blurring out the background. If you would like to, you can repeat this process again for a small portion of the right-hand foreground to add some more pop. This is how I achieved my end result.

Step 6

Final

And below you can see some other examples I’ve produced that show ways of playing with the focus in an image to achieve different depth of field effects.

1-1 Before

1-2 After

2-1 Before

2-2 After

3-1 Before

3-2 After

Thanks for joining me for this tutorial on Depth of Field and be sure to stay tuned for more tutorials, reviews, and updates 🙂


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MAKING CHOICES IN DESIGN: VALUE

Hello Readers,

Though I’ve been on a sort of vacation from blogging, I hope to dive right back in with this article about an important design element, which is VALUE. Value can basically be described and understood as the perception of lightness to darkness, or how bright/dark something is. When most people think of “value” the first thing that comes to mind is a gradation of black to white. This is probably the easiest way and most helpful starting point to provide when explaining value. If you observe below, you can see a value scale of black to white.

Value Scale

This however, can be applied to any color as well, and can alter moods and perceptions of neighboring colors. Value is an incredibly useful design element, and should always be taken into consideration when creating.

It can be tough to explain to some folks, but some colors can have the same value. When this happens, it isn’t a good idea to put these two together. Say you wanted to put blue text over top of a red background. These two colors are quite different, however, since they are of a very similar value, all contrast is lost. It is a similar effect to using complementary colors as text/background combinations (which is rarely a good idea), which at times will make your eyeballs vibrate and possibly fall out of their sockets.

Value

The purpose of having text all together is to be legible (form follows function). So first and foremost, text should pop and be easily accessible to the viewing audience. In other words, DO NOT use similar values in your text/background combinations…EVER. Well, maybe not ever, because you never say never, but 99.9% of the time there will be a far superior solution to your design problems that will prevent you from having to worry about this predicament.

Some other important topics involving value as a design element include Sfumato & Chiarascuro

Sfumato

Sfumato is basically a value contrast technique. With this technique, there are no violent edges from bright brights meeting up with dark darks. All values have migrated towards the “middle grey” range so there aren’t many high contrast areas. Often times, this will create a more subtle, low contrast image in which there is more of a gradation of colors versus the hard edge contrast of Chiarascuro.

Chiarascuro

Chiarascuro is Italian for “light-dark.” When used in the “art world,” this term refers more specifically to the contrast between lights and darks in a composition. Typically it is used to describe a high contrast in darks to lights or a bold placement of dark next light. This has also come to be recognized as a “graphical” style that is intended to help bring out a focal point and sort of put it in the viewer’s face. Always keep in mind that hard edges and stark contrasts can make or break a design depending on the objective/intentions.


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ART OF THE CAROLINAS

Greetings all,

Been slacking off a little bit in the blogging department. I’ve been a busy-Bradley the past few weeks, and have managed to get far more done in this short amount of time than I ever thought I could before. The annual Art of the Carolinas event is happening now (started yesterday, Nov 12) and the studio was absolutely swamped with work. We were somehow able to meet our deadlines and we even have our booth all setup with banners, viewable DVDs, music, etc.

I was recently presented with the opportunity to play music at Art of the Carolinas, and I of course accepted. I played this afternoon from 12:00 – 2:00 and will be playing those same hours tomorrow and Sunday :). So if you are around, please drop by, check out the Burning Oak Studios booth and enjoy some live music and the wonderful Art trade show.

Below you can find more information on the event…

The dates for the show are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, November 13, 14, and 15, 2009. The workshops begin on Thursday, November 12, 2009. It will again take place at the Hilton North Raleigh, 3415 Wake Forest Road, Raleigh, NC 27609.

 

*also, I have been working on some video tutorials teaching photoshop, there is one available below…more to come soon


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LAYING DOWN THE TRACKS: UNTITLED JAZZ ALBUM

Now that Organic Melodies is finished and available at CD Baby (digital only for now), I have begun working on the next in the Studio Music For Artists series. This untitled album will have a jazzy/lounge theme to it and is going to be primarily guitar, bass, and drums, with the occasional surprise.

I am having a lot of fun writing and recording with this album, as I think will be the case for each one because they are themed and focused on a specific genre. It is nice to move from one style to the next. It honestly matches my personality to jump between genres, I love changing it up and trying to learn whatever new styles I come across. Jazz is something I have always had a great appreciation for. I like a simple effective groove, as well as upbeat whimsical tunes that just seem to flow out of nowhere. Improvisation is something I absolutely love. Some of the initial tracks I’ve recorded for this album have been one-take improvised jams and I will probably keep on several of those for the final product as to capture the essence of jazz.

Jazz can be a very broad term, so as not to be misleading, I will speak more on the musical direction that the album is going. I have a strong desire to try to make things a little funkier than normal, and in some cases this will show. Also, there are several songs of a more lounge variety that are more soothing than they are upbeat. It’s great to be able to jump around like this. I feel a little more free writing for this album than the Somewhere South of Houston album, and even Organic Melodies.

I have also been working on the packaging design for the album a lot recently. I always understood the importance of thumbnail sketching and brainstorming in school, but hated doing it. Now, I have grown to actually enjoy creating many smaller ideas and seeing what works best. I have done MANY brainstorming sketches for the packaging and have not settled on anything yet but I have a good idea about the direction of the design.

For the time being, I have posted one teaser track on my MySpace page for your listening pleasure. It is tentatively titled “Bounce,” and I have tried to make extra groov-a-licious so please let me know what you think.

P.S. I recently completed a track called “Balance Beam” which is something I wrote lyrics for many years ago, and the music came from about 2 years ago. It is also up on my MySpace page so check that one out if you get the chance.