Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Printing Photos and Images at Home

I get questions each week regarding the Craft Fantastic line of products and how to use them with various mediums, but the one that pops up more than any other is the topic of this week's blogpost...

"How do I print images at home to use with the Craft Fantastic glass, trays and findings?"

(The Short Answer - If you read through this post and continue to have trouble printing images at home, the issue is most likely your printer. Your best bet, in this case, is to have the images printed by a professional printer such as FedEx.)

Back to my blogpost... Sure, it's phrased in different ways, but it's the one question that's in the forefront of everyone's creative brain when they first discover how easy and fun the Craft Fantastic products are to use.  

Maybe you want to scan some family photos and create some personalized pieces for special members of your family. Perhaps grandma would love a pendant featuring a picture of the grandchildren. Or maybe you want to make a Christmas ornament using a photo of the house you grew up in as a child to give to each of your siblings. Or maybe you want to scan a picture of some of your own artwork and reduce it down to use on a bracelet. Whatever the case may be, I'm going to try and answer your most common questions about using computer printed photos and images.

I'm going to break this topic down into a series of smaller questions. 

Let's get started...

Can I use real photos or original artwork?
A. NEVER use original photos or artwork. Most photos have a glossy coating which will not work with the Glaze & Glue and the application of the glue might even cause the photo colors to run. Preserve your original photos and artwork by making copies or scanning them into your computer. That way you can make as many copies as your crafty heart desires and still have the originals tucked away in a photo album for all to enjoy years later.  

Is it best to use a laser printer or an ink jet printer to print images?
A. Laser printers produce the best copies, picking up minute details and replicating a vast array of colors, however, ink jet printers have come a long way, baby, and produce pretty good looking copies, as well. Some ink jet printer ink will smear when used in conjunction with the Glaze & Glue, but over the years this seems to happen less and less. I think vast improvements have been made to the production of ink jet printers, so print some images and give your ink jet printer a whirl to see if it will work. I've not had any problems with my home printer (its' an HP and certainly nothing fancy), but if you do run into an issue with smearing, you can always take your photos to a professional printer such as Fed Ex and have them print some inexpensive laser printer copies for you.

What type of paper should I use?
A. I know that there is the natural inclination to go fancy and expensive with paper, but in this case, fancy schmancy paper is the enemy. The best paper for this process is a standard 20 lb text weight copy paper found reasonably priced at Walmart or any of the office supply stores. Steer clear of glossy photo paper or any other coated papers as these will not allow the glue to bond the paper and the glass cab together. In fact, the Glaze & Glue will not cure properly and will most likely cause the image to eventually smear. Also, don't go too heavy. Cardstocks usually consist of layers of paper and when the Glaze & Glue is applied it can sometimes cause those layers to separate and may even cause your bead to fall out of the tray. So, in the case of paper, a cheap, standard, text weight paper is the best.

What type of paper are the Craft Fantastic Art Images printed on?
A. The Craft Fantastic Art Image Sheets are printed on brochure paper. It almost feels like a heavier magazine type paper. At first you might think this looks like a coated paper, but it is actually quite porous and therefore it works well with the Glaze & Glue.

UPDATE (June 16, 2016) - I want to also add that our Art Image Sheets are printed by a professional printing company. We don't have access to information regarding the brand of paper used or the exact process. The sheets are printed to our specifications using brochure paper. We cannot be sure that the brochure paper available in big box office supply stores is comparable to the paper used by our printer. When printing at home, we always recommend using a standard 20lb text weight copy paper.  

How do I resize my images?
A. Once you have selected the image you want to print, you can resize the image in your printer settings by reducing the scale from 100% to whatever size you want. You may have to print a few test copies to get it just right, but thankfully we're using inexpensive text weight copy paper so the loss is minimal.

What if my image smears?
A. Not all printers are created equal. We still occasionally encounter a printer that will smear the image when the Glaze & Glue is applied. This is rare nowadays, but if you run into this problem have them copied at a professional printer such as Fed Ex. 

What if I absolutely hate the way my jewelry piece turned out? Do I have to throw everything away and start over?
A. NO! Never throw a Craft Fantastic project away. If you have already affixed the glass cab into the tray, gently pry the tray out with a craft knife. Continue to scrape the tray until you have completely removed the Jeweler's Dot. Soak the piece of glass for a few minutes in very hot/boiling water. When it's cooled enough to touch, use your thumbnail to scrape the softened glue and image away from the glass. Continue to scrape until the glass bead is completely clean and ready to use again. Then take that piece of glass and tray and create something wonderful! 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Taking Project Pics with Your iPhone

I missed a blogpost last week because I was on vacation, but I am back and raring to go! 

I have received a few questions asking how I take photos for our Facebook page and the blog using only the camera on my iPhone. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, so I thought I would share them with you. The cameras on phones nowadays take amazing photos, in fact, I didn't even take my regular camera with me on vacation this time. Instead I opted to use only my iPhone and ended up taking 100s of great shots. Plus my phone is with me all the time, which means my favorite photos are with me all the time, as well. So convenient when I want to share a photo on Facebook or just sort of peruse my photo library and reflect on what was happening when I snapped that pic. It's like my own, personal, high tech scrapbook. 

In this tutorial, I'm going to share the exact steps I use to take the photos you see here on the blog and on our Facebook page. Photos used on our website are a little different process.  

Let's start with the basics...

Tools - I have an iPhone6, but I'm sure if you have an Android the process would be similar. The iPhone6 takes pretty good pics compared to previous versions. It also comes with a photo editor, but I loaded the free Photoshop App called PS Express and let me tell you, it is top notch. So many editing features right at your fingertips. I use it for ALL of my photo editing. You can pay to upgrade it so that you have access to even more editing options, but the free version has everything I need. If you want to read more about PS Express click HERE to go to their site. Here's a silly little tip for you, occasionally wipe off the outside of your phone's camera lens with a clean cloth or your shirt tail. You would be surprised at how easy it is to get finger smudges on it. 

Let me demonstrate the magic of PS Express with one of my vacation pics...

My unedited pic. Looks like it can't be saved, doesn't it?

This is after I selected the "auto" edit function and let the app adjust
everything for me. Not too shabby.

Lighting -  Craft Fantastic headquarters has lots of windows that are situated towards the top of a high ceiling, so there is an abundance of natural light throughout the day. You might think this would create harsh, bright light, but we have simple white muslin window coverings on some of them and the light, as result, is soft and muted. I NEVER use the flash. It creates hot spots and can ruin an otherwise good picture. If the light is not good and I cannot take the picture at a brighter time of day, I will take my chances with the low light and try to correct it in PS Express

Backgrounds - I like to use a patterned background that picks up some of the colors in my project. I try to opt for backgrounds that are not overly busy, bold or bright, as I don't want my project to compete as the focal point. Sometimes I use white or black, but it can be tricky to maintain consistency if you're creating a series of photos. In our workspace, I have an abundance of textile and swatch books available to me. I love to grab one of these books, flip through it and find something great to offset my piece. 

A stack of books I frequently use for backgrounds. 

I like to flip through one of these books, find something complementary to my piece, and snap a pic.
This is an unedited photo.

Here it is after I rotated, cropped, and edited it. Looks pretty good!

When I take pictures of a project, I try to take multiples and then pick the best one to edit. Let's edit the photo below together. This is my unedited pic of a square link bracelet I made using some of the glitter cabs for a previous tutorial. I decided to photograph it against an image of an old french document. Love that background with these Paris themed cabs. I snapped this pic in natural daylight (NO flash), using my iPhone.

My "before" pic.

I've posted screenshots of every step and circled important items in red. Here's a screenshot of the PS Express icon on my phone. Oh, by the way, I'm a big Walking Dead fan. ;)

The next screen asks where I want to pull my photo from. Here I've already taken the picture and need to access it from my Camera Roll. 

The magic wand icon is an "auto" edit meaning that if you select that, it will adjust the settings as the app thinks is best. Sometimes this works great and doesn't require anymore editing, but most of the time it still needs some tweaking. We're going to bypass the "auto" edit this time.

Let's start by cropping our photo. We'll go to the Crop button at the bottom of the screen. This will pull up options to custom crop or select one of the crop shapes already available. I usually opt for one of three cropped shapes...square, a 5"x7" rectangle or a 7"x5" rectangle. This way I don't need to think too hard about cropping. For this sample I selected a 5"x7" rectangle.

The app pulls up my requested shape and now I can drag the corners in to get rid of any excess outside space and focus more on my featured project. I can also place my finger in the center and move the rectangle around my image.

I've cropped my photo and now I select the Edit function. Here is where the magic happens. The Edit function will pull up a plethora of edit options including Clarity, Sharpen, Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, etc. There are a few more options that require additional purchases, but I don't really need them. 

The first edit I make is Exposure. You can select the auto dial and the app will do what it thinks is best, but I prefer to do it myself. The pic below indicates what the Auto exposure looks like.  

Instead I opt to slide the white dial to the right just a hair and it brightens the image significantly. I think that looks much better.

Next, I adjust the Contrast. Sometimes over exposing a picture causes everything in it to get too light, so I adjust the Contrast by sliding the white dial to the right and creating more of a contrast between my light background and my bracelet. This makes the bracelet stand out a bit more. 

My next and final edit is the Vibrance. I don't want my image to appear too washed out which can happen when I adjust the exposure, so I move the white dial to the right to slightly amp up my colors. To me this looks more like what I see in real life when looking at the bracelet. 

After I complete all of my edits, I hit the back arrow in the upper lefthand corner and it brings up the save screen. I click Save and voila! I'm done! The picture is saved in my Camera Roll and it shows up as my most recent photo so there's no need to go digging around for it. This is particularly useful if your Camera Roll contains 1,000s of photos like mine does. I'm a picture hoarder. 

Let's compare, here is the unedited photo. 

And here is the edited photo. Looks pretty good and it really only took a couple of minutes to snap the pic, crop and edit it. Once that's done, I air drop it onto my computer desktop and then I can load it to Facebook or the blog. Easy, peasy! 

Next time you need a quick pic, reach for your phone, do a quick edit and share that wonderful photo with the world. Thanks for stopping by today! Be sure to check in next week for something new. Also, check out our Facebook page for the most up to date Craft Fantastic information regarding giveaways, projects and new products. In fact, I'm running a giveaway over there right now and some lucky person is going to win a $50 gift certificate to spend in our online store. Head over there now to check it out!  

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Map Pendants

Looking for a handmade gift featuring something special that can be completely personalized for the recipient? Look now further. Why not make them a map pendant showcasing their favorite city or their hometown? It's easy and they'll love that you made it just for them.   

Let's get started...

What You'll Need

Craft Fantastic Glass Cabochons - Assorted shapes and sizes. Whatever floats your boat.

Craft Fantastic Trays - Match them up with your glass cabs.


Cotton Swabs

Maps - Road maps will work well. I googled the locations I was interested in and printed them on my inkjet printer on inexpensive copy paper. 

Scrap Paper or a Craft Sheet

I prepared my glass pieces as I normally would applying Fantastic Glaze & Glue to the back of the cabs and positioning them on printed map images, firmly pressing out any air bubbles. I let the cab sit for a few seconds then wiped away the excess glue with a cotton swab. I let it dry a few more minutes and trimmed away the excess paper with scissors.

I had fun looking at all the fabulous map images available on the internet and then deciding what locations I would print off. I chose Albuquerque because that is where I live and where our home office is located. Minnesota is where the owner hails from and San Antonio just had a really cool map, so how could I resist. I was born in Owensboro, KY and my mom was born in Louisville, so the long rectangle piece of glass was particularly special. 

Thanks for joining me today! Next week I'll be MIA as I'll be on vacation, but I'll be back the following week with something new exciting, so be sure to pop back in! Sign up to follow this blog via email and never miss a post! Also, I post tons of giveaways and project ideas on the Craft Fantastic Facebook Page so be sure to follow there, as well! 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Assembling the Craft Fantastic Faux Leather Bracelet

I love to linger over long projects carefully selecting papers, images, embellishments, paints, inks, stamps, etc. Curating the detailed elements is perhaps the most satisfying part of an artistic endeavor for me. It's my favorite part of the process, when the ideas are flowing nonstop and each little button or ribbon I pick up inspires yet another creative spark. These types of projects pull me back to the studio table each day and cry out for my attention until the last little detail is finished. I love the satisfaction of gluing that final piece down. 

BUT, as much as I enjoy stretching out that process and basking in the luxury of creating at my own pace with no constraints, there are other times when that's the last thing I want to do. During those times, I need to bang out something fierce and beautiful in a matter of minutes. Decisions and details are minimal, but it needs to be special and it needs to represent me. When that feeling hits, my favorite 10-minute item is a Craft Fantastic Faux Leather Bracelet. It requires only one piece of glass, which takes only a minute to make, and assembling the straps, which takes a few more minutes. By my calculations, we're only up to 5-minutes, so why did I call it a 10-minute project? Because after you're finished you can relax and take 5-minutes to sit back and admire your handy work ;)

The trickiest step to finishing this piece is attaching the straps. I've had several questions as of late, so I thought I would take a few pics and show you how.

Let's get started...

What You'll Need

Faux Leather Bracelet Kit - This kit comes with all black straps or multi colored straps and provides enough glass and trays to complete 5 bracelets.

Your choice of image or photo.


Scrap Sheet of Paper

We start with the Faux Leather Bracelet Kit. A package of fun! Enough straps, glass and trays to complete 5 bracelets. We carry this kit in either all black or assorted colors. Start this process by making your glass pieces as you normally would and setting them aside.

Take one of the straps and a tray. Unclasp the strap so that you have 2 separate pieces. 

Stick the loop of one of the straps through the front of the link on the side of the tray. This will be a tight fit, but if you wiggle and work it around, it will go through. Pull it slightly through the link about an inch. 

Pull the other end of the strap through the loop sticking out of the back of the tray.

Wiggle the strap around to tighten it. 

Here's a few pics from the other side. 

Remember those nail polish glass cabs I painted in an earlier tutorial? They look pretty swanky when used with these bracelets. 

Love this art image paired with a bracelet in aqua. 

The bracelet below features one of the glittered cabs I made in last week's post. Plus another bracelet featuring a retro image from the Halloween art image sheet. 

And, finally, here's one of the glittered cabs I created 2 weeks ago. 

Now that you have the scoop on attaching the Faux Leather Bracelet straps, there's no reason not to make oodles of these for hostess gifts, bridal and baby shower projects, school fundraisers, and of course, holiday stocking stuffers.

Come back next week for something new! Visit me at our Craft Fantastic Facebook Page and don't forget to follow this blog via email by signing up in the sidebar!