Thursday, June 26, 2008

Way Cool Special Effects!

I just got my new copy of Photoshop Elements 6. It has the neatest stuff in it that I have no idea how to access. No problem, I have a thirteen year old. Are these kids just born with a computer link in their brains? It's a little frightening. I asked him if he learned to do this stuff at school and he says "No, it's just so easy, Mom. It kind of tells you what to do." Computer link - I'm sure of it.
Anyhow, I scanned my drawing of a toy store and then opened it onto photoshop. After fooling around with the pixels and getting it to the dimensions I wanted, I added colors, changing them numerous times. I found that I had to go back and use the brush tool occasionally to finish lines so that spaces were completely blocked in, or I had a problem with the paint bucket washing color into places that I just didn't want it to go. It was so convenient to be able to change my mind about a color at the click of a button.
Once I had the colors I wanted, I began to wonder if there was something fun I could do about the glass window. Shockingly enough, under the tool area marked filter and then under distort, there was an effect called glass. All I had to do was click on the wizard tool and isolate areas that I wanted the glass effect to cover and voila, the computer gave that area a wavy glass look. Unfortunately, it looks way better blown up. With the small picture size that you see, it doesn't make much of a difference.
I will continue to experiment with photo shop. I have heard lots of friends say that they like to scan their sketches and play with color to decide what they will use before they paint. I can see how this would be a great time saver. For example, the first time that I tried the glass effect, I realized that I wanted the colors to be more muted behind the glass. Without having to spend hours repainting, I simply clicked on colors and redid everything in way less time. I'm not saying that I like the look of this photoshop picture better than other methods I have tried, and I know I have a lot more to learn that can greatly improve what photoshop can do, but it's a lot of fun along the way, even if I wasn't born with that instant computer link thing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I Know Nothing, But I've Heard It's Good Stuff.

Okay, here I am writing about something that I virtually know nothing about. We're all here to learn, right. Let us delve into the wonderful world of software together. In this month's Writer's Digest there is an article on Software for Writers. I read it and gleaned what I could that would apply to my computer. I have a PC. If you have a Mac, you may want to get a copy of the August 2008 Writer's Digest to analyze, because I didn't want to make this blog three yards long.

After looking through the article, I decided that a newbie such as my self would have to stick to the free or budget friendly software, so those are the ones I wrote about. I labeled them in the same format that the article did. First there is software that helps you tell your story. For about $55.00 smackers, New Novelist is a program that will help you develop your story by prompting you to track items such as character's physical and personality traits, as well as details of scenes.
Write It Now, for a similar price tag, includes a submissions log, and asks you to fill out details but in a more categorized manner.
Visually simple to use, YWriter is also free (bonus). This program helps you to structure your story by breaking it into chapters, with a word count for each. You can see whose viewpoint is used, the location, and a brief plot description. This makes reorganizing and editing easier.
If you have lots of random ideas floating hither and yon and you need a place to collect them all and organize them, that would be what an 'idea database' is for. Plotcraft was made for cataloguing ideas and best of all, it's free.
For character development check out Character Writer. It is based on a personality typing system and will cost you about $40.00.
Editing help can be pricey. Writer's Workbench at $100.00 or StyleWriter at $160.00 will analyze your work and and look for writing style problems. For a little less, Editor, at around $50.00 will help you learn good editing practices rather than finding them for you.
Can't be bothered with those outdated books, try Word Menu. For about $35.00 you can be the owner of a combination dictionary/thesaurus program filled with words you never knew you knew.
Write Track and Sonar are both free submission tracking programs, 'cause who has time to keep track of submissions, eh.
Last of all, don't forget to back up your baby. Syncback is a free program for backing up files. (the small print says SE version $30.00- sounds a bit cryptic). Norton Ghost will back you up for $70.00 or so. You can't see them, but they want to see some green.
Scott Rhodes has a great website with a section on writer's tools. I have put it under my Links for Children's Writers section. Under writer's tools you will find his list of free software. He has had much more experience than I have. Give his site a look it is a lot of fun, and good luck learning about how to use software for writers.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What's Wrong With My Painting?

What happens if you ask your family what they think of your art work? "It looks really good," is the reaction you'll probably get. Not helpful, right. But with an art critique group, you hear what you need to hear. "What planet is that child from? Because I don't think that human children have arms that can do that." Maybe a bit harsh, but you need to know if your anatomical proportions are off. Other artists will tell you where to make changes and even suggest things that can be done to improve your work. If you are a newbie like me, those suggestions may be things you never even thought of. It may take a while, but after a few critiques you may find yourself learning to spot things that will help out your fellow illustrators as well.
An important thing about critiquing is that you learn to take criticism as a series of helpful comments that are intended to improve your craft. Don't go home feeling like you'll never get any better, leave knowing that you have just seen through someone else's eyes and you have a chance to make changes that will help you to improve.