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Monday, October 31, 2011

Photoshop Tips: Sharpening Images

Sometimes when art is scanned, photographed, created in Photoshop, or even enlarged in Photoshop it is not as sharp or as in-focus as desired. Photoshop has filters that corrects images. The easiest filters to use are the Sharpen, Sharpen Edges, and Sharpen More. The Smart Sharpen, and Unsharp Mask filters are a little more difficult to use because they have controls to adjust the amount of sharpening, adjust the radius of the pixels, remove different types of blurring, and adjust the number of thresholds in shadows and highlights.

These Photoshop filters make images look sharper by controlling the contrast between neighboring pixel edges. The drawback in using these filters is that it is easy to over sharpen the images which create color halos (banding) around the sharpened pixels and results in making the images more out of focus. To avoid this pitfall you can use the High Pass filter or a none color channel in the Lab color mode.

Understanding the limitations of each sharpen filter is important before using it so that the correct one is used. Below is a description of the sharpening filters and links to videos demonstrating how to use them.

Filters - Sharpen, Sharpen Edges, Sharpen More, Unsharp Mask
The Sharpen, Sharpen Edges, Sharpen More filters do not allow you to specify the amount of correction. The Sharpen More filter applies a stronger sharpening effect than does the Sharpen filter. The Sharpen Edges filter sharpens only edges while preserving the overall smoothness of the image. These filters are found under the Filter / Sharpen menu.

The Unsharp Mask filter allows you to specify the amount of correction. It is used to adjust the contrast of edge detail and produce a lighter and darker line on each side of the edge. This process emphasizes the edge and creates the illusion of a sharper image. Note: Unsharp Mask filter has nothing to do with Photoshop masks and DOES sharpen images.

• Video on how to use the Sharpen, Sharpen Edges, Sharpen More, and the Unsharp Mask filters "Photoshop Tutorial - Basic Sharpening"

Filter - Smart Sharpen
The Smart Sharpen filter (available in version PS5 and maybe also in PS4) allow you to specify the amount of correction. It sharpens an image by letting you set the sharpening algorithm or control the amount of sharpening that occurs in shadows and highlights. Adobe Photoshop recommends that this is the way to sharpen an image if you do not have a particular sharpening filter in mind. This filter is found under the Filter / Sharpen menu.

• Video on how to use the Smart Sharpen filter "Photoshop Tutorial - Smart Sharpening"

Filter - High Pass
High Pass filter allows you to specify the amount of correction. It retains edge details in the specified radius where sharp color transitions occur and suppresses the rest of the image. Note: A radius of 0.1 pixel keeps only edge pixels. The filter removes low-frequency detail from an image and has an effect opposite to that of the Gaussian Blur filter. This filter is found under the Filter / Other menu.

• Video on how to use the High Pass filter "Photoshop Video Tutorial - High Pass Sharpening"

Sharpening in Lab Color Space
If an image is sharpened in the L "color" channel of the Lab color space (L=lightness; a = the color green to magenta; b = the color blue to yellow) instead of the RGB color space (red, green, blue), color halos around the sharpened pixels are avoided. Below are videos showing two methods on using Lab color space to sharpen images.

• Videos sharpening an image by using an edge mask in Lab color space.

The first video of two "Photoshop Tutorial: Sharpening with LAB 1/2" And the second video of two "Photoshop Tutorial: Sharpening with LAB 2/2"

• Video sharpening an image by using several layers and masks in Lab color space. Note: This video is a little confusing and the presenter used a few four-letter words but I decided to include it in this article because the technique may be useful in sharpening some images.

"Lab Sharpening in Photoshop"

It is trial and error in choosing which sharpening filter to use on images because each image may be out of focus for a different reason. When using one, I usually first apply the Sharpen filter to the image because it is fast and one of easiest to use. But I enlarge the image to 200 percent to make sure that there are no halo effects and the resolution of the image is improved. If I am not satisfied I then use the Smart Sharpen filter and if still not satisfied I use the Lab Color technique with the Smart Sharpen filter.

Note: I cheated when showing the out of focus example at the top of this article. I blurred an in-focus image with a Photoshop Gaussian blur filter to illustrate that Photoshop can sharpen images. The extensive amount of blurring I made to the image may not show on your monitor. There is a limit on how much the sharpening filters can sharpen out-of-focus images and the example image may be too blurred to be able to recover the sharpness of the original image by using Photoshop sharpening filters.

Comments are welcomed. Enter them in the below comment section.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trends Found at Fall 2011 High Point Market

The High Point Market is located in the city of High Point, North Carolina and is considered by many to be the world's largest trade show for the furnishings industry. It is held during the Spring and Fall (October 22-27, 2011) in 180 buildings (10 million square feet of space) with more than 2000 exhibitors of furniture, rugs, lamps, textiles, wall décor, decorative accessories and other related products.

Because the show is so large it is impossible to see everything in the six days that it is open so most buyers and designers concentrate on only a few areas. I have not been to this market but I think that attending it can be exhausting and easy to get sensory over load because of the amount of product categories. Some of the categories listed on High Point's website are:

• furniture and fixtures for ALL rooms
• decorative accessories - floral, tabletop, candles, sculpture, clocks, and more
• textiles - draperies, pillows, throws, fabric, and more
• wall décor - mirrors, pictures, frames, wall paper and much more

Most of the manufacturers that exhibit at High Point does not license art so why should artists interested in licensing their work look at these products? The reason is that they are displaying trends in home furnishings and those trends will affect what art is wanted by the consumers on products for the home and may move into the gift and other industries.

For instance, when you read the articles and watch the videos that are listed in this blog post, you will see that black, browns and beige are starting to be replaced with brighter colors in furniture upholstery. Designs are being influenced by cultures from other countries for furniture styles, rugs, and textiles. And the eclectic look in the home is becoming very popular as mentioned by Christiane Lemieux of Dwell Studios (see article and video below) and also seen on many HGTV design shows. All these trends MAY eventually impact the colors and designs wanted by consumers no matter what kind of product. Artists that want to stay on trend should follow what is happening in furnishings as well as in other industries.

Articles and Videos
The Fall 2011 High Point Market ended today and there are already many articles and videos showcasing new products and discussing trends. More are sure to follow so make sure that you search the internet for them. Below are links to a few interesting ones.

• Article by home stager Joan Inglis on why designers should read articles about High Point Markets "High Point Fall Market heralds home decorating trends for 2011." Note: It is too early for Joan Inglis article on 2012 trends so this article is a little out of date.

• Article by Becky Harris "10 Highlights from High Point 2011"

Designer Libby Langdon for Braxton Culler discusses inspiration, color and creating designs for the home.

Michael Connors for Scott Thomas discusses furniture inspiration from around the world.

Christiane Lemieux of Dwell Studios "Talks New Products, Styles, and Concepts" and the eclectic look in trends.

Ronna Griest of New Massoud Collection discusses new collections, new colors and inspiration.

Jennifer McConnel of Pearson Furniture discusses colors, menswear inspired fabrics, and styles.

• Accent rug introductions and discussion about inspiration from around the world with videos by Loloi, Rizzy Home and Mariachi Imports.

• Home accent product introductions at the Fall High Point Market with videos by Currey & Company, Pasha Home Fashions, Uttermost and Ibolili.

Comments are welcomed. Enter them in the comment section (below).

Friday, October 21, 2011

For Art Licensing Success, Know How Manufacturers Make Products

Ever wonder how art is applied to products or even how the products are made? Well, knowing those things are important if you wish to license your art to manufactures. When manufacturers choose art for their products they do not only look for themes that are popular with consumers but look to see if the art can be applied to their products. For instance, some manufacturing processes requires that the art be painted by hand, others use decals to apply art to products and others use a dye-sublimation printing* process. Manufacturers of ceramic ware may use a different method to place art on their products than greeting card manufacturers. And even in the greeting card industry, some manufacturers embellish their products with embossing, die cuts, metallics, glitter, jewels, etc. while others do not. Knowing how the products are produced can help artists create designs that these manufacturers are looking for and thus optimize licensing opportunities.

* To find out about this process, read Wikipedia's "Dye-sublimation printer."

Some of the questions that may be asked by manufacturers are:
• Is the art in the correct format or can it be altered to fit their products?
• Can the colors be reproduced accurately or at least look well with their manufacturing process? There are limitations in the color selection with some manufacturing processes. For instance, colors are limited if ceramic manufacturers depend on colored glazes or decals when placing designs on their products.
• Can the art style be reproduced with their manufacturing process? If the design is hand painted on the product, intricate designs would most likely not be chosen because it would take too long to reproduce them. And yes, there are some designs that are hand painted on products such as sheet metal, ceramics, glass ornaments and stained glass.

Below are links to videos showing the methods that a few manufacturers use to produce their products. Some of the videos are not made by manufacturers but the process shown is the same that they use. Note: Dye-sublimation printing is often use because of its good resolution and bright colors. It works well for products such as mouse pads, fabrics, decorative flags, t-shirts, ceramics, plastic ware, etc. Fusible decals are used to apply art to glass containers, glass jewelry, glass doorknobs, etc.

Hand Painted Products
When art is to be reproduced by hand onto products, manufacturers want certain art styles so that the person doing the work can produce good results. For instance, if the product is glass manufacturers often require that the original art be painted with watercolors so that the gradation of colors can be easily seen. Also the design should not be too intricate. Sheet metal manufacturers may require a decorative painting style if the products are hand painted or very realistic art if an airbrush is used. However, the art style wanted really depends on individual manufacturers.

Watch "Ne'Qwa Art Fragrance Lamps" video of an amazing demonstration on reverse glass painting of artist Paul Brent's butterfly art in a Ne'Qwa ornament.

Textile /Cloth Product Printing
The silk screen method of printing fabrics are used by many manufacturers but some use other methods. Read "Printing Process" for information about them. The dye sublimation method is used for short fabric runs, banners, decorative flags, t-shirts and other products. The links below show the dye sublimation process of printing on fabric and flags. Also silk screen like printing via direct to garment (DTG) digital printing is used for t-shirts. Google the internet to find links to other processes. Note: has many other interesting videos that demonstrate printing cloth products.

• Fabric: (dye sublimation process for print on demand and custom designs for fabric) - "How does Spoonflower print your fabric?"

• Dye sublimation process on Flags and Banners: "Velotex Direct Dye Sublimation Textile Printer"

• T-shirts: "DTG Epson 1390 Direct to Garment T-Shirt Printer.MP4"

Ceramic Product Printing (Tile, Plates & Mugs)
Many manufacturers of these products use a dye sublimation process to place art on them. The ceramic needs to have a polyester polymer coating on it so that it absorbs the dye when placed in the heat press. Some ceramic manufactures use decals and /or glazes to decorate their products. These products are fired in a kiln multiple times at various temperatures to achieve the effect that is desired. Decals are applied last and fired at a lower temperature than the previous firings. Below are several videos demonstrating these processes.

• Ceramic Plate (dye sublimation process): "Dye Sublimation to a Porcelain Plate Instruction"

• Ceramic Tile (dye sublimation process): "How to Sublimate a Single Tile"

• Ceramic Mug (dye sublimation process): "Sublimation Process Photo Mug"

• Noritake China (decal process): "Noritake: The Standard of Perfection Part 3" and "Noritake: The Standard of Perfection Part 4"

Melamine Product Manufacturing
Art is adhered to melamine plastic products either by the dye sublimation process or by embedding a printed image between two thin coats of melamine and curing the melamine layers. Read "What is the Process for Printing on Melamine Plates?" to learn about the embedding process. Look at the "Efay Melamine tableware" video to see how melamine dishes are manufactured.

Greeting Card and Gift Bag Printing
Offset printing presses are often used to print images on large batches of greeting cards and gift bags. Some cards and bags are embellished with cutout shapes, embossing, metallic foil, glitter and jewels. Specialized machines are used to adhere the glitter and foil to the paper, die cut shapes, and emboss the products. Below are videos showing some of these processes.

• Greeting Cards (offset press and die cut cards and envelops): "How a Greeting Card is Made"

• Adhere metallic foil: "Hot Stamping Digital-Diginove"

• Adhere metallic foil: "How to foil on laser printed images"

•Making Gift Bags: "gift bag making machine"

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER and knowing how manufacturers produce their products help artists create art that is needed. For instance, greeting card manufacturers that embellish their cards with metallics and glitter need art that have lines and outlines incorporated into the art for placement of metallic foil and areas for glitter. Knowing that a manufacturer is limited in the number of colors, as is often the case with printed fabrics, the artist can create art with a limited number of colors. And if the manufacturer produces hand painted products, an artist can submit the right kind of art and art style for licensing consideration.

Comments are welcomed. Please click on comments and write them in the comment window at the bottom of this article.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Marketing: Manufacturers Use Facebook to Promote Products & Connect with Customers

Connecting with others via social media is all the rage especially on Facebook. Some manufacturers that license art are taking advantage in the popularity of social media by staying in touch with their customers (retailers and the consumers who purchase their products). They use Facebook to introduce products, talk about subjects of interest to their customers, announce giveaways and contests, and link to articles and special events. Retailers and consumers comment about the manufacturer product line and ask questions on where to purchase products or give suggestions on new themes and products. To learn more about why manufacturers are using social media, read "Business Connection - Social media markets integral part of business strategy."

The Lang Company "thinks out of the box" to entice people to their Facebook Page by periodically putting on Chat Events with their artists. Interested persons can log onto Lang's Page and ask questions of the artist during the event while the artist stays online to answer them. Artist Lisa Kaus did Lang's artist Chat Event last week. Last year, I had a chance to ask artist Susan Winget a couple of questions during her event. I found this type of online interaction very interesting and informative but somewhat slow in response time.

You do not have to sign-up with Facebook to view the posts on manufacturer pages. However, you do need to have an account if you wish to leave a comment or ask a question, and search for manufacturers that are on Facebook. Signing up with Facebook is free.

So why should artists look at manufacturer Facebook Pages?

The reason is to learn about new product introductions, find out the art themes that manufacturers think are on trend, and find out what is selling well at retail. The more information that artists learn about what art (themes, colors and styles) is popular with consumers, the easier it is to create art that is licensable. Below are links to some manufacturer Facebook pages. Note: Some manufacturers have very active pages while others do not.

C. R. Gibson Gifts (paper products and gifts)

Custom Decor, Inc. (decorative flags)

Demdaco (gifts)

Evergreen Enterprises, Inc. (home furnishings, home & garden décor products)

Leanin' Tree (greeting cards, and associated products)

Magnet Works, Ltd. (outdoor home décor products)

Merritt Tableware (melamine tabletop products)

The Lang Company (calendars, Christmas cards, stationery, books)

Any additional links to manufacturer Facebook pages or comments that you would like to share about this article would be greatly appreciated. Click on the comment section below.