Category Archives: Apps

Type Machinations for the Typophile in You

TypoPaint portraitSearching for a definition of “typophile,” I ultimately found one that suited my purpose at Urban Dictionary, which, aside from its definition of typophile, is worth further exploration and I recommend you do so.

Suffice it to say, I am a lover of type, one might even say, I am obsessed with type. I’ve been that way ever since I was a child, and I suppose I’ll always love type.

Which explains why I was intrigued by an article for a Photoshop filter that aids in creating illustrations using, you guessed it—type.

It’s amazing how much creativity and technology programmers have packed into Typo-Painter. Illustrations like you see here can take minutes, instead of hours or days.

Typo-Painter is a fun little Photoshop filter that produces a typographic representation from any raster image. Of course the first thing I thought of Typo-Painting was myself, but people are obvious. Typo-Painter can be used on any raster image, using customizable text. It has a simple interface window for font, horizontal resolution and size. In all, a few simple controls yield a multitude of possibilities. Specially priced at $5 on Mighty Deals, it just might be worth a try.


Broaden your vision with panoramas and apps

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah takes on an other-worldly landscape, captured here in 11 different photos. I walked away from the computer for a couple of hours while Photoshop’s Photomerge toiled away. The composite yielded a file nearly a gigabyte in size with a remarkable amount of detail. The sweeping landscape’s curved edges may bother some, but, in my opinion they add to the drama.

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah takes on an other-worldly landscape, captured here in 11 different photos. I walked away from the computer for a couple of hours while Photoshop’s Photomerge toiled away. The composite yielded a file nearly a gigabyte in size with a remarkable amount of detail. The sweeping landscape’s curved edges may bother some, but, in my opinion they add to the drama.

Looking to make your images unique? Want to see things from a new perspective? Try experimenting with Photoshop’s Photomerge feature or AutoStitch app to combine numerous images into a single wide angle view. It’s all automated. Just select the images you want to merge, sit back, and let Photoshop do the rest.

buckwheat and beePerhaps you’re looking for something a little more retro. Thanks to the new digital cameras and Smartphones, we’re able to capture well-lit, sharp focus images, so what’s the big deal? Anyone can take “nice” pictures these days. So, let’s look at images differently and carefully mess them up like we used to do by accident.

After reviewing my photos of the busy bees, I realized that the plants they were all attracted to were buckwheat plants. So, I decided to grunge up the photo with an app and create the masking tape label with “B is for…”, surprise, not bee. Two apps were used in the creation of the photo—Pic Grunger and Labelbox.

Want to learn more about the phone apps? Check out former OCPW featured artist, Holly Higbee-Jansen’s Photographic Explorations. Here you’ll learn about Holly’s favorite phone apps, as well as online and in-person workshops and photography coaching.

Not Another Green Marble Background?

For a designer, creating a new look for a green marble background is like bringing out the old bell-bottoms and believing they look as cool as they did in 1969.

Filling a “simple” request can be not-so-simple if you make a lot of blind starts, like spending an hour hunting down an old CD filled with stock marble images, just to find they are in an outdated graphic format.

A second blind start—searching stock images—another hour easily wasted as I realized, why not create an original image? Not only can it be easy, but the price is right. We refurbished our kitchen a few years back, and while out searching for the right granite counter top, I took plenty of photographs of the various granite and marbles, but none were green. Take them into Photoshop, and with a couple of well placed clicks I was able to turn my images into perfectly suitable green marble backgrounds.

gold marble

This is the original photograph of the marble.

green marble

By applying levels to increase the image’s contrast, and then applying a hue and saturation effect, the result is this rich, green marble-like background.

There are only two steps to go from the original photograph of the gold marble to the green. First, I created an adjustment layer for “levels” to increase the image contrast. The adjustment layers are forgiving in that they allow you to manipulate the data at any time without destroying any of the original pixel information.

The second step is to create and adjustment layer for “hue and saturation.” There are three areas that can be changed within the H&S palette, but before changing anything, click on the “colorize” button. This extracts all the color from the image, assigning a default hue to all the pixels, while maintaining their original values.  Next, the hue slider cycles through the “rainbow” — ROY G. BIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) — stop at the desired green hue. The saturation slider adds or subtracts color, and finally the bottom slider lightens or darkens the values.

Of course, to achieve the desired result might require additional steps, depending on the nature of the original image. You might want to add additional layers of color, transparency, contrast, and texture to create a unique effect.

If you want to create a library of backgrounds and textures, do it yourself. Textures exist everywhere, and for every photograph you take, you can manipulate it in an infinite number of ways.

With today’s image editing programs, you don’t have to mortgage your home or rent out your kids to afford amazing software. I’m currently experimenting with an app called Pixelmator, a $15 Photoshop wannabe, and after half an hour of playing (and they call it work), I can say it’s certainly worth the investment. In fact, I’d recommend Pixelmator to any of my beginning design students who have a newer Mac, but can’t afford Photoshop. This app works on my iMac, now that I’ve upgraded to Lion, but Pixelmator will work with OS10.6 or later. With a little coaxing, I could be persuaded to show and tell more about this cool app, Pixelmator.

Panorama phone apps stimulate imagination

moorpark college

This past weekend I was immersed in the unpleasant chore of paying bills, when I reached for a pen and instead, my clumsy grasp sent a cup full of pens spilling over the edge of my desk and into a box full of old cards. Reluctantly, I got up out of my chair and fumbled through the box, my eyes landing on some old photos stored in a clear plastic box.

Upon seeing the fading image my grandfather as head pressman of the print shop where he worked, I realized I had not scanned the photo, which I thought might make a good retouching project for my Photoshop students.

And then, much as I hated to, I had to stop myself from wandering off track, but when I saw this new 180-degree panorama image juxtaposed with the circa 1920 image of my grandfather,  I couldn’t help but marvel at the technology built into our mobile devices.

As I mentioned in my article on “grunge” apps, now that we’ve mastered the doctored image to near perfection, we’ve gone on to mimic effects like the vignette, the scratches, and the light leaks in this aged image. And now we can create 180-degree, 360-degree, and even cave-like images projections that totally surround.

As a kid growing up in the 50s, the Dick Tracy watch was science fiction. Who’d thunk that as an adult, I’d have my very own communication device far superior to anything Dick ever imagined? This week I’m into panorama apps, but note that this is not intended as a review or comparison of specific applications, but instead, a reflection of my limited experiences with panorama apps in general.

cartagena, colombiaTypically, if you’re shooting with a normal lens, you can achieve a panorama effect by cropping and zooming into a very narrow area of an image. That’s essentially what you get when you order a panorama from the drug store, or your local film processor.

Among its many automation features, Photoshop has a fairly sophisticated blending function called “photomerge.” These days, however, I’m into “quick and dirty,” but I don’t really see the “dirty” in an app like AutoStitch from Cloudburst Research. It’s incredibly simple to use and has impressive blending and exposure algorithms.

cartagena, colombia-panoramaI’ve been making images around the college campus where I teach, and one of the effects when shooting these panoramas that has intrigued me ever since I studied photography is that of the disappearing people. I’ll never forget the sense of awe I experienced when seeing the photographs of Ralph Eugene Meatyard. The children in the images had disappearing faces, an effect all photographers have experienced when using slow shutter speeds while the subject moves.

It’s one of those things that started me  thinking about how untrustworthy human vision is, and the fact that we don’t see something doesn’t necessarily mean it is not there. It just means that our senses are not acute enough…and you can extrapolate whatever you want from that. My next project is to turn some of these panoramas into bookmarks that I can include with the gifts I give during the coming year.

Grunging photos is all the rage in apps

pink snapdragon, unlatered

Original image, unaltered.

Grunge isn’t new, but the ability to add it to image on the fly using the new crop of camera apps for mobile computing promises to take schmutz to a whole new level. I’ll be looking at some of the free and nearly free apps that can assist artists in realizing their creative visions.

It seems, as a culture, we’ve mastered the art of creating pristine photographs. Photoshop has provided artists with the tools, and those that master them can retouch, repair and restore images to better-than-new, if there is such a thing. One only has to search websites like or to find an abundance of stock photos, illustrations and videos, whose rights can be purchased for $.99 and up!

Now that our collective consciousness has been saturated with dust-, scratch-, and stain-free images, some photographers, illustrators and graphic artists are spending their processing time adding just the right amount of grit, grime, and goo to their images to set them apart from the increasingly ordinary flood of work on the cheap stock market.

And no, grunge isn’t new, and neither are the type of edges seen in the altered images of the snapdragons. Well before Photoshop or digital images, photographers distressed their prints using a variety of methods not excluding grease and toxic chemicals.

There have been techniques to achieve the rough and tumble, aged look seen in the snapdragon images since Adobe Photoshop© first appeared in 1990, but in order to achieve many similar effects, one had to first understand the relatively complex processes required to achieve similar results, and then implement the techniques on machines that crunched the data while you showered and ate breakfast. Only then could you could view the results of your commands, and then the results were unpredictable at best.

Instead of waiting hours, it now takes just a few seconds to render results on the newer, faster generation of mobile devices. And because most of these apps are so easy to use, I’ve been transferring images to my phone to alter them with apps instead of using a full-blown image editing program like Photoshop. For only $10, you can download enough apps to to mess up even the cleanest images beyond recognition. Here are just a few of the photo apps that photographers, designers and artists can use to create dramatically altered images:

pink snapdragon

Grunge effect added in photo app, picfx. I found effects resulted in edges very similar to Photographic Edges' edge masking templates, with added features for textures.

pink snapdragon with grunge and aging

After applying the grunge effect, I applied a second, aged paper effect.