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Friday, December 28, 2012

Photoshop Tip: Enhance Images with the Gradient Tool

The gradient tool is very useful in creating backgrounds and patterns and also enhancing text and images. It creates a gradual blend between multiple colors. Persons can choose from preset gradient fills or create their own. Each gradient fill contains settings that control the opacity and transparency of the fill at different locations on the gradient. A noise gradient is also available. It contains randomly distributed colors within the range of colors that a person specifies.

If you do not know how to use gradients, how to adjust the settings, or how to create custom gradients, the following videos are worthwhile watching.

How to use and adjust gradients
• "Adobe Photoshop Tips and Tricks With The Gradient Tool"
Learn how to set your own colors and add some great colors with the noise randomize button.

• "Exploring Gradients 1 - Photoshop Tutorial"
Learn about options bar, the kinds of gradients that are available, how to click and drag to get the gradient exactly where you want it, and what the checkboxes do.

• "Exploring Gradients 2 - Photoshop Tutorial"
Editing a solid gradient; find out how to change the colors and transparency, how to move the midpoints, how to pick up colors from anywhere on your desktop, and how to put the Foreground and Background colors into a gradient so it will change as you change your colors.

• "Exploring Gradients 3 - Photoshop Tutorial"
Learn all about noise gradients.

• "Exploring Gradients 4 - Photoshop Tutorial"
Examples on using gradients - making a vignette using a radial gradient on a mask and showing several center points with radial gradients.

The following videos give useful ideas on how to use gradients for text, and special effects on images using the mask tool and gradient maps.

Gradient Examples
• "Photoshop Top 40 #21 - The Gradient Tool"
Using the gradient tool you can you paint a soft transition from black to white and soften the transition from one image to another. The gradient tool fades, swipes, and more.

• "Photoshop Tools: The Gradient Tool for Graphics"
Shows a couple examples of different ways that the gradient tool creates more interesting graphics.

• "Creating Collages with Adobe Photoshop CS3"
Shows how to create collages (images on top of one another) using layers, layer masks and the gradient tool.

• "Gradient Text Photoshop Tutorial"
Shows using gradients in text.

• "Photoshop Gradient Tool Techniques"
Shows how the gradient tool can be used to create the same effect as a polarize filter on a camera has on a washed out sky.

• "Photoshop: Using the Gradient Map adjustments | tutorial:"
Shows how to tint images with the gradient map.

• "Gradient Maps Photoshop Tutorial - HD"
Discusses how to use the gradient map and photographic toning adjustments to add tinting effects to an image.

Hint: Using the gradient tool for backgrounds is okay but to give the background some pizzazz it needs to be used with a textured or patterned layer. The background in the image (at the top of the article) was created with two gradient layers that were overlaid with a pattern. For information on creating textures, read "Photoshop Tip : Creating Textured Backgrounds with Filters." And, read "Photoshop Tutorial: Using Pattern Overlay, Pattern Stamp, & Pattern Maker to Create Backgrounds" for information on using patterns.

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Software Tip: Resizing Multiple Images etc. via Batch Processing

There are times an artist needs to change the file size, file format, add a signature, logo or watermark on multiple images for the following purposes:
• e-mail attachments to manufacturers for licensing consideration
• a manufacturer request for presentation to their client(s)
• low resolution standard size images for websites
• a marketing slide show for
• iPhoto library that will be transferred to iPad
• photo/image-sharing websites like drop box
• sent to printing services
• sent to a publication for a press release or an advertisement
• auction/sale websites such as eBay and Etsy

Doing these tasks one file at a time is boring and time consuming. However, using batch processing software that allows multiple steps to be applied to many files at once is fast and easy.

Adobe Photoshop allows a person to do custom batch processing by using the Action and Batch commands to program exactly what is needed. Turnkey software (pre-built software for immediate use) performs certain tasks such as resizing images and reformatting files.

Batch Processing with Photoshop:
To learn how to resize images in Photoshop, watch the following videos.
• "How to Batch Resize Photos in Photoshop - Photoshop Samurai"
• "[Tutorial] Batch Resize Images in Photoshop CS5"
• "Photoshop Tutorial - Custom Batch Resize Action"

Note: The videos show resizing the images in pixels and not in inches. Pixels express the resolution and size of the image. In art licensing, low resolution (LoRes) files are usually 72 dots per inch (dpi) and high resolution (HiRes) 300dpi. So if an image is going to be converted to a 5 by 7 inch image, then the width equals 360 pixels at LoRes (5 times 72) and equals 1500 pixels at HiRes (5 times 300).

To learn how to apply a logo, a signature or watermark in Adobe Bridge /Photoshop watch "Adobe Bridge/Photoshop - Batch Processing Part 1 | How to Brand Your Images" and to find out more on using Photoshop batch processing for numerous tasks read "Photoshop Tips: Improve Workflow with Photoshop Actions Command."

Batch Processing with Turnkey Software:
There are many software packages that are programmed to resize images and do other tasks. Some charge a reasonable fee and others are freeware (free but ask for a donation). Read "Batch Processing: 25 Tools and Techniques for Images and Documents" for a description and links to many of them.

Note: I normally do not endorse software but I have found EasyBatchPhoto ($19.99) invaluable in resizing images for specific formats. Yes, I could program Photoshop to do the same type of batch processing but EasyBatchPhoto is faster and easy to assign the tasks. After assigning the tasks all you need to do is drop Photoshop files into the EasyBatchPhoto window and in seconds to minutes later (depending on the initial size of the files) the converted files appear in the destination folder.

EasyBatchPhoto can:
1. resize by fixed width, or height, or fit rectangle, or crop etc. in pixels (see the above note about pixels),
2. adjust scaling quality,
3. sharpen images,
4. format as jpeg, or tiff, or png,
5. assign dpi,
6. add text at beginning or end of file name,
7. save the options for future use,
8. assign files to destination folder,
9. add watermark, signature, logo if desired,
10. add background,
11. rotated images, etc.

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Art Licensing: Strategy on Creating Art for Products

Because licensing art is a commercial venture, art for products need to be popular with a large number of consumers.  If artists create art with themes they like but may not be popular with consumers, the likely hood in licensing the art is slim.  The problem is that they first created the art and then try to figure out what product it should go on. That is backwards thinking!

A better strategy is to first think about the product and then figure out what theme (image) sells best for that product before creating the art. All themes are not popular for all products. Flowers, birds and butterflies seem to be a fit for most products. But, elephants, grizzly bears, and other wildlife have a more limited appeal. And, snakes have almost no appeal with the exception of a few products in small niche markets.

You should choose one or two industries to first start licensing your art to. You need to study that industry and determine what art themes, colors, and art styles are being licensed. And then, create the appropriate art for the products. For instance, many artists start licensing their art to the greeting card industry. It is huge, has many manufacturers, and uses a large variety of art styles and themes so it is easier to get licensing deals than other industries. The number one category for cards is birthdays. Visit retail chain and gift stores and search manufacturer websites to see what images are used for birthdays. Read designer Kate Harper articles "Greeting Card Business: 101" for information on designing cards and check out the side bar on her blog for links to other useful greeting card articles.

Note: What industry you choose depends on your art style and may not be for greeting cards. If you are a surface designer and create patterns, of course you should first choose the fabric industry.

Below is a list of articles about different industries that license art. The articles discuss what kind of art manufactures expect from artists and includes links to some websites.

• "Licensing Art to the Calendar Industry"
• "Licensing Art for Cloth Products"
• "Licensing Art for Coffee Mugs"
• "Licensing Art to the Greeting Card Industry"
• "Licensing Art to the Flag Industry"
• "Licensing Art to the Jigsaw Puzzle Industry"
• "Licensing Designs to the Melamine / Acrylic Tabletop Industry"
• "Licensing Designs to the Quilt & Craft Fabric Industries"
• "Licensing Art to the Paper Partyware Industry"
• "Licensing Art to Print Manufacturers"
• "Licensing Designs to the Scrapbooking Industry"

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Licensing Art to Print Manufacturers

The art print industry may be a big business but it is not necessarily a lucrative one for artists and can be full of pitfalls. Some manufacturers pre-sell art by doing presentations to retail chain stores. Other manufacturers show thousands of art in their catalogs or on their websites. Much of the art may never be printed because these manufacturers are usually print-on-demand companies. In other words, it is printed only when a retailer or consumer orders the art. Thus, the revenue from the art may be non-existent or very little. And of course, the art is tied-up and not available for licensing to other print manufacturers for several years.

According to the research I have done and networking with other artists there seems to be many unscrupulous print manufacturers that are out to make a quick buck and their licensing contracts are not in the artists best interest. Sometimes the artist loses all rights to her/his work. Some manufacturers ignore the contract terms such as sub-licensing the art to other manufactures and the artist gets nothing. Also some do not pay artists the revenue due to them. They may even lie to the artist that their art is not selling when in reality the art is being displayed in stores. SCARY ISN'T IT! But happily NOT all print manufacturers are dishonest. To find out how to protect your art, read art licensing agent Lance Klass article "How an Artist can Avoid Disaster in Today's Print Market." Make sure to read the comments to this article.  Lance has an update to the print industry since he originally wrote his article.

Artists that are savvy in licensing their work and try to avoid unscrupulous manufacturers network with other artists by questioning them about their experiences with the manufacturers. Some artists avoid print-on-demand manufacturers and instead get deals by going direct-to-retail or direct-to-consumer where they have a chance in making higher revenue. According to a review by Creatives a Work blog about art marketing consultant Barney Davey's book "How to Profit from the Art Print Market", Barney recommends that artists should sell their art to art collectors (direct-to-consumer) as a better way to secure their future.

Most print manufacturers are looking for art for the home / business décor market. Thus, they usually want art:
1. that has popular themes for consumer homes, office and business walls. Coffee, wine, coastal and inspirational words are a few that are popular. Search print manufacturer websites to see others.
2. that have colors that blend with furnishings. Unsaturated colors (NOT bright but more grayed) have been popular for years but these colors seem to be changing.  Also black -on-white or white-on-black seems to be popular.  Search print manufacturer websites to view recent color trends.
3. with two or more images that can be grouped on a wall.
4. that is formatted as vertical, square and horizontal.

Below is a list of some art print and poster manufacturers.
Caution: I do not endorse any of these manufacturers because I have no knowledge of their business practices. I recommend that you contact artists that license their work to these manufacturers for information.

Art In Motion (division of ICA Home Decor)

Fine Art America

Gango Editions***

Greg Young Publishing Inc.

Montage Fine Art Licensing & Publishing

Northern Promotions, Inc

Penny Lane Fine Art & Licensing

Roaring Brook Art

Sagebrush Fine Art

The Land of Nod (children products including wall art)

Wild Apple

*** This manufacturer has been endorsed by an artist.  See the comment to this article.

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Editorial: An Art Licensing Winning Team: Susan Winget Art Studio

Little did artist Susan Winget and painters Mary Beth and Jeannie know that they were going to travel a long and rewarding journey when they started creating art to sell at the Atlanta Gift Mart in 1982. Thirty years later and a lot of hard work, Susan Winget is one of the top art licensing licensors in the U.S. Her work is licensed for an amazing number of products including fabric, calendars, ceramic and melamine tabletop ware, all sorts of gift items, ornaments, decorative flags and paper products including party ware, gift bags, and greeting cards.

The business started in Susan's garage but as the success of first selling and then licensing art grew, more space was needed. Thus, a small building was built on Susan's property. And, as it continued to grow a larger two story cottage was built in 2001. Find out more about the art, staff, and studio on the Susan Winget website.

So why is Susan Winget art so successful and sought after by consumers?
When I have a chance, I often query sales reps, distributors, gift store owners and managers about different artists work. In response to questions asked about Susan Winget's work, a sales rep told me that Susan knows what consumers want and creates art that sells products. A distributor told me that Susan's art is continually refreshed so that it is not dated like some other artists work and the themes are just right for the products. And, a gift store owner told me that products with Susan's art on it outsells the same products with other artist's art.

I am sure that knowing what kind of art resonates with consumers has taken years and a lot of research. And, it looks like the Winget team has hit it right-on. The styles, colors, and themes have been refreshed and expanded over the years to reach out and appeal to more consumers. And, having an experienced team that creates a lot of art with different themes give manufacturers plenty of art to select. They do create an enormous amount of art because just for 2012, Susan Winget licensed OVER eight calendars. Gasp! That is over 96 images.

The success of Susan Winget is also due to being represented by a top art licensing agency, Courtney Davis, Inc. They specialize in planning a business strategy for each of their artists by seeking out the right manufacturer partners and then working with them to develop products that sell.

View the following videos for an eye-opening view on how a vision, hard work, dedication and a team that considers themselves family can produce great art that is seen on an amazing number of products that is coveted by consumers. By the way, putting these videos on is a great marketing strategy by getting visibility of her art at no cost ;)

• "Tour of Susan Winget's Art Studio"
Discussing the start of the Susan Winget brand and a tour of the Winget Art Studio.

• "Susan Winget Shares About her Art"
A discussion about different projects for 2012.

• "KandCompany Susan Winget by BlueMoonScrapbooking"
Showing papers, stickers, and other items for scrap booking.

• "CR Gibson's Brand's New Day :: Susan Winget"
Showing paper party products.

This article was updated 7/17/18.

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Art Licensing: Hurry-up and wait . . . and wait . . . and wait

One of the most frustrating things that happen in art licensing is that a manufacturer asks an artist to send them specific images, the artist hurry's up and sends them, and then the artist does not hear back from the manufacturer. This is especially true for artists exhibiting at Surtex and other licensing trade shows. The artist gets many requests for art but few if any licensing deals goes forward. WHY?

Listed below are some of the reasons.
1. A huge number of artists are vying to license their work to a relatively small number of manufacturers looking for art. Thus, manufacturers have lots of art to select from and they consider MUCH more art than they can possibly use for their product lines or for presentations to retail chain stores. Because manufacturer art directors have so much art to consider they often do not inform the artist on the status of their art until or unless they intend to license it. Note: Artists that create licensable art with a special twist or emotion that catches the attention of art directors are the ones that get the deals.

2. Art may not be looked at immediately but stockpiled for a later decision on whether to license the art. For example, at the May 2012 Surtex show manufacturers most likely had already chosen Christmas art for the 2012 holiday season and may even had chosen art for the 2013 season. So the art they were considering was for the 2014 season and may not be decided on until the last quarter of 2013. However, it usually does not take that long if the timing is right but still it can take longer than anticipated. I had interest in the nutcracker art (shown at the top of this article) for a decorative flag in January 2010. I did not hear from the manufacturer until they decided to license it 11 months later (December 2010) for the 2011 Christmas season.

3. Pre-selling art on products before it is licensed is increasing each year especially to retail chain stores. If the art is intended for use in a presentation, it can take months before the presentation is scheduled and for the retailer to make a decision. And if the presentation is not just for several individual products to be shelved with others but for a batch of packaged products to a big box chain store, it can take even longer. Many presentations may stretch over several months and in the long run the manufacturer may lose the deal to another manufacturer. So if the artist's work is part of packaged products, there are two hurtles to overcome. The manufacturer must first get the deal and second, the artists work must be wanted by the retailer so that it is incorporated into the package. Note: During this long involved process, the artist may not even be aware that her/his art is being considered.

4. Circumstances in using the art may have changed by the time the manufacturer is ready to make a decision.
• The art may no longer be on trend.
• The art director that asked for the art is no longer with the company and the new one is not interested in the art.
• The company policy has changed on the type of art and art style it wants or the company goes out of business.

So what can artists do?

The following are some suggestions to increase the chance in getting licensing deals.
1. Have a huge body of work so that many pieces of art are chosen for licensing consideration which increases the chance in getting deals. For instance, if an art director requests 20 designs be sent for licensing consideration, the artist has a better chance in getting a deal for at least one design than if only one design was requested.

2. Enhance your portfolio by having an excellent variety of art themes that are popular with consumers. Read "Art Licensing Editorial: List of Recent Trends" to see a list of some themes that are popular.

3. Continually stay in touch with art directors and often send new work. The more familiar art directors are with the artist and her/his work the better the chance in getting deals. Read "Art Licensing Tip: What does follow-up really mean?"

4. Contact art directors to find out when they are interested in considering different themes of art such as everyday, fall / Halloween, winter / Christmas, and other holidays. There is no standard time of the year to submit different art themes. Each manufacturer has their own time frame.

5. Contact art directors to find out if they send out requests for art (call-outs) and ask to be put on their list. Participating in call-outs is an excellent way to find out what kind of art themes manufacturers are seeking and when they want them. For more information on call-outs, read "Thoughts on doing CattleCalls - Should You?" Note: The words "cattle calls" originated with the motion picture industry when the studios sent call-outs for auditions.

Be aware that not hearing back from manufacturers after they request art is just part of the business and requests for art may not result in always getting deals. Take note on what art themes manufacturers are interested in and create more. Most likely other manufacturers will also be looking for those themes. Create as much new licensable art as possible so manufacturers will have a large selection of art to choose. Be persistent and continue to follow-up and stay in touch with art directors. And most of all do NOT give up!

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Editorial by Jeff Grinspan: Is Art Licensing DEAD?

by Jeff Grinspan
Grinspan & Co.

To any well-trained or educated business executive viewing the art licensing model from the outside, there would be only one conclusion. There is no art licensing business. It’s D.O.A. And, if you don’t buy that, you’d surely have to admit it’s on life support…

Here are the obvious symptoms...
• No Growth … :(
The economy is limping along, there are fewer retailers than ever before, fewer manufacturers AND a blatant commodity oversupply. Bring in the paddles! CLEAR!!

Oh and by the way, in a tight economy, retailers get very conservative. And consumers look for the tried-and-true comfort art, as they say.

• What’s a guarantee??????
The historical formula for robust, profitable art licensing used to be something like this- Advance ($) + guarantee ($$) + royalty ($$$) - advance ($) = ‘a nice living’. Today, licensees are paying the lowest advances possible (some not paying any at all), the word ‘guarantee’ has been pretty much eradicated from licensing vernacular and with added pressures from retails intent on keeping their margins high, licensees keep pushing for lower and lower royalties. Is anyone making any money???

• The Internet is here to stay…
Say you are a successful manufacturer who uses licensed art. It wasn’t too long ago you had to attend trade shows or have someone send you a portfolio for review. Today? ‘Googlize’ roosters or coastal or snowmen and you’ll have 1,000 + images at your monitor with the click of a mouse. How is any artist to compete with the selection and ease of finding new art theses days???

Grim you say. Heretic! Pessimist! Naysayer! Not really. There is no doubt licensing your art in 2012 and beyond is more challenging than ever before. But, despite all the questionable vital signs, weak pulse, pasty look and irregular ‘artbeats’ . . .

maybe it’s not as bleak as I’ve made it out to be.
• Learn art licensing CPR! (Creativity Produces Results)

Okay so let’s address the death knells one by one. Yes, the economy is still weak. Yes, the hit we took in 2008 resulted in a retailer fall out and manufacturer shake up. But the result was it forced those remaining to be more efficient and to commit to their survival. The need to entice wary and cost conscious consumers to purchase goods became critically important. How do you do that? If you are a retailer, you have to carry merchandise that is fresh and appealing. Only new designs and creative thinking on the part of artists delivers that kind of result. Retailers will always need new art on product. And manufacturers are the ones to supply new product. So be creative, prolific and attune to today’s trends. More so now than ever before.

• Show me the money…
Okay, it’s unavoidable. The model has evolved and yes, guarantees are scarce. But historically if you were not a brand name designer you really could not get significant guarantees. Advances, while putting dollars in your pocket UP FRONT are deducted from your future royalty payments, so guess what? Your initial royalty checks sans advance are gonna be ‘bigger’ - same total dollars but you get it later than sooner (all things being equal). And while there is no empirical data to support the mathematics of fewer retailers but same number of customers (hey, we all still gotta shop somewhere right?) = great royalties, some things do change. But here is where ‘the will to live’ has to kick in. Expand your search to new categories of product for retailers that ARE successful despite the economy- specialty stores like Crate and Barrel or The Container Store, online e-tailers like Ballard Designs or Home Decorators, and specialty retail markets like surf shops or pets. What you may end up giving up in lower royalty percentages may be offset by higher volume of product in a broader base of customers for licensees.

• If you can’t beat ’em, join 'em.
The Internet should be a marketing tool for you. Yes, your prospects are going to search for new art. So drop the lament and make absolutely certain your SEO is tweaked to capture as much interest as possible. Be relevant! Make sure your website is well populated with art that shows your strengths, your style and your willingness to be in the game!

Okay, so art licensing is not dead. We’re not even in the emergency room. There’s no epidemic or plague. We just need to take some time to re-examine our overall health, regain our strength, build our endurance and assess our ‘art licensing nutrition TM’. There’s plenty of opportunity still out there alive and kickin’!

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Art Licensing: Using Certified Digital Signatures in Contracts

In the past, all kinds of documents such as licensing contracts and artist /agent agreements were signed by hand and sent through the mail. And when time was of essence they were signed and FAXed. However, there could be a potential problem in signing documents by this method because there is no way to tell if the documents were altered or the signature(s) forged unless the document was scrutinized by a forgery expert. Now with the proliferation of computers and use of the internet, documents are often sent back-and-forth via the internet resulting in even more possibilities of document and signature tampering. Using certified digital signatures on documents are a way to avoid these problems.

What is a certified digital signature?
A certified digital signature establishes that the signature is unique to the person signing it, can be verified, is under the control of the person using it, shows the signees consent in signing the document and it has not been altered after it was signed. Certified digital signatures can be verified by third party public key cryptography (PKC) companies that produce digital certificates or can be created by individuals with their own personal digital signature. PKC certificates has a greater degree of verifiability than one created by individuals that require additional steps to verify the signee. PKC certificates are similar to signatures being notarized. The companies that supply PKC certificates are authorized by a state certification authority to keep track of whom is assigned to a certificate, verify their validity, and track revoked and expired certificates. Note: In my opinion, going to the expense in using a PKC system to certify a digital signature is probably not needed for most contracts used in art licensing. A certifiable digital signature created by an individual should be sufficient to verify that the signature is authentic. However, I am not an attorney and if you have any questions about digital signatures you should consult an attorney to get a legal opinion.

There are many software packages that allow a person to use an electronic signature, a certified digital signature, or a PKC certificate. The most dominate software is Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader for .pdf formatted files. Note: The example at the top of this article was created with a font (not recommended) instead of a handwritten signature and applied to a .pdf file in Adobe Acrobat.

Certified digital signatures in Acrobat and Reader
A digital signature in Adobe Acrobat or Reader is more than just a signature. It also includes the date and time signed. It gives the options to include the reason why it was signed, the location, and business name. Also the digital signature does not have to be just a copy of a handwritten signature but could include a photo of the signer with the signature to give additional authenticity.

A person can create their own personal certified digital signature in Acrobat and Reader* (version 8 and later). Note: A person cannot sign an Adobe Reader document with a digital signature unless the .pdf file Usage Rights has been enabled when saved with Adobe Acrobat.

• The first step in creating a certified digital signature is to either scan a handwritten signature into the computer and save the file as a .pdf or write the signature with a digital pen in software such as Adobe Photoshop and save it as a .pdf file.
• Second, a digital ID is created by entering the name, organization (if wished), email address, location on the computer where the ID is stored, and password. The password will be used each time a document is signed to give complete control to the person using the signature.
• Third, configure how the signature appears on the document by opening the configure signature appearance window to select the graphic and information you wish to appear with the signature.

Once a signed document is open in Acrobat or Reader the document is checked to make sure that it was not altered since it was signed. If it was, a message appears that states that the document has been altered. Clicking on a valid certified digital signature in the document results in the opening of a validation window stating the document has not been modified since the signature was applied, the document is signed by the current user, and the signing time is from the clock on the signer's computer.

A tutorial on creating certified digital signatures in Adobe Acrobat and Reader can be found in "Adobe Acrobat / Reader Tip: How to Create a Certified Digital Signature". Note: Older versions of Reader before version 8 will not show certified digital signatures. To view them, download a FREE current version of Reader from website.

Are electronic/digital signatures legal?
Applying an electronic/digital signature to contracts and documents and sending it via the internet is legal in the United States (since October 1, 2000) and other countries as long as their e-signature laws are followed. In the U.S. every state has at least one law concerning e-signatures but it is the federal law (ESIGN Act) that takes precedence over state laws. It provides that electronic signatures and records are just as good as their paper equivalents. And thus they are subject to the same legal scrutiny of authenticity that applies to paper documents.

Showing that an electronic/digital signature is authentic is very important. Even if it is legitimate it could be tossed out-of-court if the judge thinks that the signature process does not provide the appropriate level of assurance. Therefore, the higher the assurance methods used in an electronic/digital signature the most likely it will be accepted. Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat provides those qualifications when a certified digital signature is used.

Below are links to more information on the importance in proving the authenticity of electronic/digital signatures and electronic/digital signature law in various countries.

• "This is legal, right?"

• "Digital signatures and law"

Electronic signatures are legal in many countries but the greater the assurance that they are authentic the more probable they will be accepted. Therefore, it is advisable to either use a certified certificate provided by a licensed PKC company or a customized certified digital signatures created by the individual signing the documents as discussed in this article. It is also advisable to use the certified digital signatures on documents in software that provides the security and proof of authenticity that Adobe Acrobat and Reader gives.

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Adobe Acrobat / Reader Tip: How to Create a Certified Digital Signature

Electronic signatures on documents are legal in most countries including the US. And if the signature is certified and the document unchanged after it was signed, the more likely it will be trusted to be authentic. Adobe Acrobat and Reader are the predominate software that allows a person to sign a .pdf file with a certified digital signature. Read "Art Licensing: Using Certified Digital Signatures in Contracts" for more information on certified digital signatures, certified certificates, what requirements makes digital signatures legal, and why digital signatures created in Adobe Acrobat and Reader conform to legal requirements and gives assurance that the documents are authentic.

There are three steps to create your own personal certified digital signature in Acrobat and Reader* (version 8 and later).
1. Either scan a handwritten signature into the computer or write the signature with a digital tablet/pen in graphic software.
2. Create a digital ID with a password. The password will be used each time a document is signed.
3. Configure how the signature appears on the document by opening the signature appearance window to select the graphic and information you wish to appear with the signature. Below are instructions on how to do these steps in version 10 of Acrobat and Reader.

These instructions may be long and seem complicated but they are really easy. Once the signatures, digital ID and look of the signature (appearance) are created, certified digital signatures can then be applied to .pdf files with a click and drag of the mouse.

* Adobe Reader .pdf file cannot be signed with a digital signature unless the Usage Rights were enabled when the .pdf file was saved by Adobe Acrobat. Read the enabling Usage Rights for Adobe Reader with Adobe Acrobat second at the bottom of this article.

Creating Signature Graphic File(s)
A signature can be handwritten, scanned as a .jpg file, and placed into graphic software such as Adobe Photoshop or it can be created with a digital tablet and stylus while in graphic software. The signature then needs to be saved as a .pdf file.

Or the signature file can include a logo or a photo of the owner of the signature. The photo adds more authenticity to the signature. It can be created in Photoshop and saved as a .pdf file. The example at the top of this article shows this type of certified digital signature. Note: An actual photo of a person and signature should be used but for illustration purposes I used a drawing of a person and a font to type the signature.

Creating a Digital ID in Acrobat
1. Open a .pdf file in Acrobat and select "Tools" at right top of Acrobat panel to open the tool bar.
2. Select "Sign & Certify" and then "More Sign & Certify"
3. Select "Security Settings" in the pull down menu to open the "Digital IDs" window. See example A.
4. Click on "Add ID" at top of window to open the "Add Digital ID" window, click on "A new digital ID I want to create now". See example B. Then click on "Next >" button.
5. In the new window enter the name of the signee, organizational Unit (optional; example = artist), Organizational Name (optional; example = Fun Art), Email Address. Note: The key Algorithm (code that secures the data) default is 1024-bit RSA but Adobe literature states that 2048-bit RSA is more secure. See example C. Then click on "Next >".
6. In the new window enter the file location on your computer where you want the digital ID filed, and assign a password to protect the digital ID data. A password with a combination of numbers and lower/upper case letters give a better rating. The password will be required every time a document in Adobe Acrobat is signed with a digital signature. See example D.
7. Click on "Finish" to go back to the Security Settings window. The digital ID is now listed in the window. Click on "close". Note: More than one digital ID can be created for different uses or persons.

Creating a Digital ID in Reader
Open a .pdf file in Reader and choose Edit > Protection > Security Settings to open the "Digital IDs" window. Then follow the same steps used in Acrobat (#4 - 7) for creating a digital ID.

Configure the appearance of the digital signature in Acrobat or Reader
1. Open a .pdf file in either Acrobat or Reader. Select "Preferences" under the word Acrobat (Command + Comma) to open the preferences window.
2. In the Preference window select "Security" to open the "Digital Signatures" window.
3. Check the box for "Verify signatures when the document is opened" and for "View documents in preview document mode when signing". See Example E.
4. Select the "Advanced Preferences" in the upper right of the window. In the "Digital Signatures Advanced Preferences" window select "Creation."
5. Check "Include signature's revocation status when signing", "Show reasons when signing", and "Show location and contact information when signing." See example F. Then press "OK" to go back to the Preferences window.
6. On the right side of the "Appearance" box press the "New..." button to open the "Configure Signature Appearance" window.
7. Name the appearance in the "Title" box.
8. Click on "Imported graphic" button in the "Configure Graphic" section and import the .pdf Graphic of the signature from your computer.
9. Click on the text items in the "Configure Text" section that you wish to appear in the digital signature. See example G. Click on OK to go back to the "Preferences" window.

You can create multiple appearances that can be used for different purposes. Do steps 6 through 9 (above) to create another appearance. You have the option to choose which appearance you wish to use when signing a document. See example H.  Example I shows the two newly created signature Appearance names.

Applying Digital Signatures to documents in Acrobat and Reader
A digital ID can be created in Adobe Reader but as mentioned above a person cannot apply a digital signature to the document in Reader UNLESS the .pdf file Usage Rights was saved by Adobe Acrobat. A person can tell if the usage rights was saved if the Extended pull down menu is listed at the top right of the Reader window (next to Comment). To learn how to enable Usage Rights for Reader, see the section below "Enabling Usage Rights for Adobe Reader with Adobe Acrobat".

To sign the document in Adobe Acrobat with a digital signature
1. open Tools > Sign & Certify.
2. Click on the Sign Document. Then click and drag a rectangle box on the area in the document that you want the digital signature to appear. If a message appears that says "This document contains rich content that . . . " click on Continue. A grayed out area appears on the document.
3. Click on "Sign Document" at the top of the window. After a pause the "Sign Document" window appears.
4. Select a "Digital ID" in the "Sign As" space, enter the password for the Digital ID, select the appearance you want, and enter any additional signature information. Press Sign and a "Save As" dialog box appears. Change the name and press "Save" OR simply press "Save" to save the file with the Digital Signature. If another signature is needed and the person only has Adobe Reader the file should also be saved with Usage Rights. See the section below on "Enabling Usage Rights for Adobe Reader with Adobe Acobat".

To sign the document in Adobe Reader with a digital signature, the file must have the word Extended (next to Comment) at the top of the window. If Extended is missing, the file does not have Usage Rights and a digital signature cannot be applied to the document.
1. Click on Extended to open the menu and then click on Sign Document.
2. Follow the on-screen instructions to create and place the signature on the document.
3. Then follow step 4 for signing documents in Acrobat. When the file was saved after signing the document, the Usage Rights were also saved and Extended is still enabled. Thus, additional persons can sign the document in Reader. Caution: If you save the file by selecting File > Save As > PDF the Usage Rights will be lost and no more signatures will be allowed.

Enabling Usage Rights for Adobe Reader with Adobe Acrobat
In Adobe Acrobat the Usage Rights can be enabled by selecting File > Save As > Reader Extended PDF > Enable Additional Features. When the file is opened in Reader the Extended pull down menu is enabled and a digital signature can be applied to the document.

To apply a certified digital signature to a .pdf file a person must first create a digital signature, then a Digital ID, and finally an appearance on what information is included in the digital signature. The originator of the document or the first person that applies a digital signature must own Adobe Acrobat. That person must save the file with Usage Rights enabled if other persons that need to sign the document only have Adobe Reader.

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Photoshop Tips: Understanding Brush Dynamics (settings)

If an artist does not create paintings digitally it is still useful for her/him to understand how the brush dynamics change the look and use of the different brush tip shapes in Photoshop. Brushes are very useful for adding signatures to paintings, creating textures, creating wash backgrounds, and touching up scanned images. The eraser tool also uses the brush tip shapes for different erased effects. Hint: Read "Photoshop Tip: How to create customized signature brush."

Custom brushes can be created by altering the settings (shape, scattering, texture, color, noise, etc.) of an existing brush tip shape or creating one from scratch to get the desired effect. Below are links to a comprehensive series of excellent Photoshop video tutorials by Robin Wood describing and showing the different brush dynamics. These videos were created with an older version of Photoshop and the brush panel is somewhat different and some of the dynamics are in different places on the brush panel if you are using CS5 or CS6. However, they operate the same so viewing these videos are worthwhile to learn about the different dynamics and how to alter them for different brush tip effects.

• "Brushes 1 - Photoshop Tutorial"

introduction of brush tip shapes in the brushes panel

• "Brushes 2- Shape Dynamics"

how to vary brush size, angle, and roundness with a jitter or with control

• "Brushes 3 - Scattering - Photoshop Tutorial"
how to adjust the Wacom pen and tablet, and using scattering dynamic in brushes

• "Brushes 4 - Textures - Photoshop Tutorial"

adding textures to a brush

• "Brushes 5 - Dual Brush - Photoshop Tutorial"
learning what the parameters do in a dual brush and seeing it in action

• "Brushes 6 - Color Dynamics - Photoshop Tutorial"

explanation of color dynamics panel in detail

• "Brushes 7 - Other Dynamics - Photoshop Tutorial"
brush opacity and flow demonstration

• "Brushes 8 - Below the Line - Photoshop Tutorial"
demonstration of noise, wet edges, airbrush, smoothing and protect texture

• "Brushes 9 - Making Your Own"
how to make and save custom brushes

Some of the above videos use a pressure sensitive tablet with a stylus such as a Waccom tablet. You do not need to use a tablet to use many of the brushes. But Photoshops new brushes that were introduced in CS5 can create some amazing results when used with a tablet and a special stylus. The brushes can be rotated and held at an angle to apply "paint" digitally just like actual paintbrushes can apply paint to a canvas. To see a demonstration of these brush tip shapes and bristle quality options view "Photoshop overview: Brush tip shapes and bristle qualities |"

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Licensing Characters & Cartoons

The title to this article is really misleading because the modern usage of the term cartoon licensing really includes what many call character licensing. Years ago cartoons were thought as comic strips and animated films but the definition has changed over time as pointed out in Wikipedia. Cartoon is now referred to "typically non-realistic or semi-realistic drawing or painting intended for satire, caricature, or humor, or to the artistic style of such works." Thus, art does not need to be animated or include text to make it a cartoon.

Cartoons can be art as gags, comic strips, graphic characters and illustrations that are for products, animation, advertising, books, etc. Read cartoonist Curtis D. Tucker's article "Careers in Cartooning" for more information on the different types of cartoon art. Note: All kinds of cartoons can produce revenue but not all are licensable such as a customized cartoon logo created for one client who then owns the logo.

While many cartoons have gained brand recognition not all have. It depends on the development of the personality of the character with art and/or words, if the cartoon connects with the consumer, and the amount of exposure via marketing. But just because the cartoon is not recognizable to the general public does not mean that the cartoonist is not successful in selling his/her cartoons. Read cartoonist Curtis D. Tucker article "My Best Cartooning Advice."

Below are some excellent articles about licensing by cartoonists Bill Abbott and Curtis D. Tucker, type of products that use cartoons, classes on building brandable cartoons/characters, and websites of some successful artists that create cartoons.

• Bill Abbott
– "Licensing Cartoons"
– "A Bit More On Licensing For Cartoonists"
– "Licensing Agents for Cartoonists"
– "Submitting Art And Cartoons To Greeting Card Companies"

• Curtis D. Tucker
– "Your Designs Will Get Stolen Online"
– "Making Money With Your Old Cartoons"
– "How a Cartoon Logo is Created - Video #1"
– "Logo Design Prices"
– "Is Writing Harder Than Drawing?"
– "Do You Have A Million Dollar Logo?"

Telephone / Internet Classes by All Art Licensing from J'net Smith
"Building Character: How to Cash in On Your Characters Without Losing Your Soul"
October 15 - 17, 2012 ($125)
speakers Michael Fry (Co-Creator "Over the Hedge" and Creator "Committed") and J'net Smith (Art Licensing/DILBERT Marketer)
three days of classes (1-1/2 to 2 hours in length each day via telephone and internet)

• "Character Licensing" $50
speaker J'net Smith (Art Licensing/DILBERT Marketer) with special guest appearance Tom Wilson (internationally syndicated Ziggy® Cartoonist)
audio download (2 hours) and PDF presentation handout

Cartoonist Websites
Bill Abbott
Curtis D. Tucker
Gary Patterson
Jill Seale
Michael Fry

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Art Licensing: Using Retailer Facebook Sites to Learn Consumer Buying Preferences

The ultimate client of an art licensor (artist) is the consumer of products. And one way to discover the products and type of art on products that mass market consumers purchase is to read articles and comments posted on chain-store Facebook sites. Retailers have found that Facebook is a great method to connect with their customers. The retailer's goal is to post news on their site that appeal to their customers so they will constantly return. Thus, retailers may show new product introductions, offer reduced prices on products, do giveaways, have contests, post recipes, write inspiring articles, or how-to-do its.

All this information is useful in learning about consumers and their purchasing interests.The more information that an artist has about consumer spending and lifestyles the better educated the artist is in creating licensable art. It does take time to read posts on Facebook but that is part of the art licensing business. It is not just about creating art.

Below is a list of some chain-store Facebook sites. At the present most retailers are concentrating on back-to-school and end-of-summer products. Pick out several retailer Facebook sites and periodically check back as the seasons change. Read the posts by the retailer and comments by consumers. Ask yourself some questions about the sites. What type of products and articles are the retailers focusing on? Are they just trying to sell product that the consumer is not interested in or are they showing product that is selling? What is the response from consumers? Can you spot any trends for a particular retailer or among retailers? How can you apply what you learned from the sites to creating new licensable art?

Chain-store Facebook sites
Bed Bath & Beyond
Big 5 Sporting Goods
Big Lots
Dollar General
JC Penney
Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores
Lowe's Home Improvement
Michaels Stores
Pet Smart

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

2012 July Atlanta Gift Market: attendance down but sales up

Many people in the gift industry look at the Atlanta Gift Market attendance each January and July as an indicator of the health of the retail industry. The reason is that it is the largest gift show in the US and normally the first show of the new year to introduce new products. The January show had an increase in buyer attendance (2012 January Atlanta Gift Market: surge in buyer traffic gives high hope to economic recovery) that raised hope that the health of the retail industry was improving. However, the reports from Atlanta Gift Market in July showed that it has a way to go although some vendors reported that even though attendance was down sales were up. Note: The attendance at the July show has always been smaller than January's because retailers do not need to restock as much of their merchandise.

The health of the gift industry ultimately affects art licensing and the amount of art that is licensed by manufacturers. Thus, successful gift shows (Atlanta and other regional ones) bodes well for the licensing industry. Below are links to articles and videos of products seen at the Atlanta Gift Market. Reading and viewing them are good ways to find out about recent trends, colors, and art themes used on products.

Blog Articles:
• Andrea Brooks Studio "The Atlanta July Gift Show, Part One"

• Caroline Simas "Atlanta Market Recap"

• Jim Marcotte (Two Town Studio agency) "Tidbits 2012"

• Kelly Rae Roberts "Atlanta Market Showroom Tour"

• Robin Davis "Atlanta Gift Show July 2012"

• Working Girls Design "Summer Fun at the Atlanta Gift Show"

Trend Articles:
• Gifts & Dec "Direct from Market: Atlanta"

• Tiger Trade "Trend Report: Atlanta Gift Home Furnishings Fair"

Vendor Pictures:
• Mud Pie "Atlanta Gift Show July 2012"

Vendor Videos
• Creative Co-Op "Creative Co-Op Atlanta Showroom July 2012"

• Evergreen Enterprises "July 2012 Atlanta Market - Evergreen Enterprises"

• Grasslands Road "Grass Road's Spring 2012 gift collection at Atlanta Gift Show"

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Editorial: Should you OR can you upgrade to Photoshop & Illustrator CS6?

If you are using Photoshop or/and Illustrator to manipulate, enhance, or create your art for licensing, it will soon be imperative to upgrade to the latest version of Adobe CS6 or be left behind. But unfortunately, for some artists upgrading to CS6 will not be a simple or inexpensive process because it also means that they may have to upgrade the operating system (OS) of their computer and possibly purchase a new computer.

For the Macintosh computer, the reason is because Adobe made a huge change in the coding for CS6 and CS6 applications will not operate if the Mac OS is below version 10.6.7 (snow leopard). Adobe decided to take advantage of the changes that Apple made in snow leopard to speed up the performance of applications by using multi-core processing and high amounts of RAM*. Read "Difference between Leopard and Snow Leopard." And continue reading to find out why you should upgrade sooner than later and why upgrading to CS6 could become very expensive.

* RAM is Random Access Memory on the computer that provides space to read and write data by the CPU (central processing unit). If there is not enough RAM on the computer to run all the applications that are open at the same time (including email and internet browser) the computer can bog-down or even hang-up. Note: There are also other kinds of memory on the computer. Cash memory helps speed RAM memory when processing data and virtual memory on the hard drive is used for storing data.   For more information on memory, read "How Computer Memory Works."

Why upgrade NOW:
• Future cost of CS6 applications will be full price instead of the upgrade price unless you upgrade. CS3 or CS4 can only be upgraded to CS6 at the upgrade price until 12/31/12.

• Has some great new features such as:
- (Photoshop and Illustrator) re-engineered the tools so that they interact faster
- (Photoshop) automatically saves files in the background
- (Photoshop) generates geometric pattern fills with scripted patterns
- (Photoshop) better, more and easier to use vector tools
- (Photoshop) more brushes and filters
- (Photoshop) content-aware tools allows better editing of images
- (Illustrator) easy pattern creation
- (Illustrator) better raster image trace engine
- (Illustrator) ability to apply gradients to strokes
- (Illustrator) enhanced color panel

Why you may NOT want to upgrade:
• if your computer is old. A Macintosh needs a multicore intel processor with 64-bit support to operate Adobe CS6 software. A PC needs an Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon 64 processor.

• if you are using an old operating system. If you are using an old operating system, you may not be able to open CS6 applications. A Mac needs OS X v10.6.8 (snow leopard) or greater. A PC needs Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 3 or Windows 7 with Service Pack 1.

• if you have insufficient RAM on your computer. Photoshop CS6 only needs 1GB of RAM to operate but Adobe recommends 6GB for optimal operating speed if several CS6 applications are opened at the same time.

• if you are using software that is not compatible with newer operating systems. Or you do not want to spend the money to update software that is not compatible with a newer operating system.

So there are reasons not to upgrade to CS6 especially if you cannot afford to. But eventually you will have to upgrade to the latest version because either Photoshop or/and Illustrator is needed in licensing art.

Make sure that you read the comments!  Artist Phyllis Dobbs has shared some important Photoshop information.

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Art Licensing Editorial: Overnight success takes 10 years

You may have heard the saying that "an overnight success takes 10 years." That is so true in the art licensing industry because it usually takes MANY years to gain recognition. And the reason why it takes so long is because art does not get the exposure that cartoon characters get on television or by going viral like singers Justin Bever or Susan Boyle have on Although at least one artist was lucky that her art hit the market just at the right time when consumers yearned for a particular art style and theme(s). An almost overnight success happened to the prolific floral artist Cheri Blum in the early 2000s to the amazement of the art licensing industry. Her simple and elegant florals with an old world charm was just what consumers were looking for. And Cheri's agency Wild Apple Graphics Licensing were able to get deals for her art in a very short time.

For most artists it has taken them the proverbial "ten" years to become successful enough that their art is recognized by consumers and licensed on many products. Xavier Roberts' Cabbage Patch Kids series hit it big in the 1980s. And one of the latest overnight success stories are doll makers David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim with their Uglydoll series. It did take them ten years while it took artists Jim Shore and Susan Winget longer, and artist Kelly Rae Roberts somewhat shorter. Below are links to their stories. Note: Characters usually are animated first and then licensed. But Uglydoll was licensed and now will become an animated film.

Artist journeys in becoming successful art licensors.

• David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim
     "David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim: The Doll Makers"
     "Uglydoll to be an Animated Film"

Jim Shore - bio

Kelly Rae Roberts - "Small Steps (Leading to now)"

Susan Winget - bio

Xavier Roberts - "Cabbage Patch Kids" on

So the lesson learned in this editorial is to NOT quit your day job because being successful in licensing your art is not immediate. Also you may never be able to make a living in licensing your work. I estimate that less than 50% (probably much less) of the artists that license their art make a living doing it and they need to supplement their income by some other means.

Related article:
"Licensed Art - Getting Paid Takes a Long Time"

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Art Licensing Editorial: List of Art Trends

Trends come and go but usually stay around for several to many years while fads can disappear even before the product is introduced to market. Determining if a NEW trend is really a trend and not a fad can be difficult. For instance, in 2000 purple and red hat products flooded the market with the advent of the Red Hat Society. Many thought it would stay around for a while but it disappeared from the mass market in less than two years but it is still going strong as a niche market. The same thing happened with the 100th anniversary of the teddy bear in 2002. For several years teddy bear art was on everything and soon disappear from the mass market.

Artists that create trend forward art often have it sit in their portfolio for years and are still waiting for it to be discovered and licensed. A theme may be popular by consumers such as dance but is not recognized as popular enough by manufactures to take a chance on licensing it. Some themes take years to hit the art licensing industry. At the 2003 Licensing Show an artist (I do not remember who) displayed high heel shoe art in her booth but it was not until a couple of years ago that high heels became a popular theme. And sometimes a trend does not materialize for other reasons. For instance, several years ago artists thought that there would be a great opportunity to license recycling themed art because of consumer interest in the "Greening of America." However, there was less opportunity than anticipated because most manufacturers were not setup to produce products with reclaimable and sustainable materials that they must use for "green" art themes. Thus, there is little art licensed with that theme.

Many artists are successful in licensing their art when they use existing trends but give their art a new spin to make it look fresh and new instead of trying to predict new trends. Below is my list of art themes, backgrounds, styles, and colors that I think is licensable in todays market. Caution: This list is not complete and constantly changes. Other artist lists are most likely different.

Trends seen in the 2012 market (many have been trends for years and probably continue)
• Themes
– Nature - geraniums and other flowers, butterflies, birds, owls (retro look), cats and dogs (non specific breeds)
– Coastal - seashells, nautical items such as anchors, lighthouses
– Beach Fun - flip flops, umbrellas, beach chairs, surf boards
– Inspirational words with art - hope, love, dream, etc
– Christmas - Santa, snowmen, deer, trees, ornaments, poinsettias, cardinals, snowflakes, wreaths, stockings
– Halloween - pumpkins and non-scary witches, bats, mummys, monsters, etc.
– Others - robots, high heel shoes, coffee, chocolate, cupcakes, paisley designs, grapes & wine, roosters

• Backgrounds - texture, patterns, words & iconic motifs

• Art Styles (depending on industry and manufacturer)
– Illustrative with swishes and swirls - good for embellishing greeting cards and gift bags with metallics and glitter
– Simple illustrations for die-cut greeting cards
– Grunge (collage of images and text with parts of the images erased and unsaturated colors) used mostly for home decor products
– Collage of images for home decor and gift products
– Simple images for decorative flags

• Colors (depending on the industry, art style, customer demographics, and manufacturer
– Christmas: graphic art = bright cherry red and lime green; grunge look = trendy colors such as violet & metallic greens and pinks & blues; traditional art = dark red and green
– Home decor: unsaturated colors in browns and grays
– Pinks and Yellows are still in and Pantone 2012 Color of the Year ( tangerine tango) is starting to show on some products
– Coastal: blues (especially turquoise), white, off-whites, tans and browns

Trends most likely seen on products in 2013 and 2014 as designs trend-up or new trends become popular 

Update May 2014 - Not all these predicted trends are seen in the marketplace. So far Santas are not more popular than snowmen, words as art are on the way down, retro owls are still popular, black and white outlines etc not yet seen on many products.  But nostalgic images such as typewriters, mustaches, cars are seen on lots of products.

• Evolution of present trends
– Santa more popular than snowmen
– penquins
– sunflowers coming back
– words of all kind with simplified motifs or none
– colors becoming brighter & more saturated (even for home decor)
– owls but not so retro

• B&W sketches & outlines for fabrics, home décor, and greeting cards

• Lighter colored - very light and white backgrounds; more white accents in design

• Technology images - nostalgia (typewriters, clocks) vs cell phones, computers

Related articles:
"Art Licensing Trend Questions Answered"
"Art Licensing Trend Resources"

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Art Licensing Trend Resources

Keeping up with art trends is a never ending job for artists wishing to license their art. If they get too far behind in using trends, their art is not fresh and new looking resulting in little or no licensing deals. That is why an important task for art licensing artists is to continually research the latest trends and implement them in their art. But of course, not all trends fit each artist's art style, color pallet and the industry the art is created for. Thus, it is crucial to know when to use and when not to use the latest trends in art.

Existing trends can be found by looking at manufacturer catalogs and websites, walking retail stores and trade shows, and reading trade and consumer magazines. Potentially new trends can be found through trend forecasting publications and organizations and trend forward blogs. Below is a list of some resources that can be useful in finding trends.

Internet Blogs
Design Sponge (contemporary designs)
print & pattern
Trend Bible (home interiors)

Trend Forecast Publications and Organizations
Joining the organizations and subscribing to these publications can be very expensive but  some information on the websites is free.
Color Marketing Group
Mudpie Ltd. (fashion)
OPR News (fashion)
Pantone (color) (new business ideas)
The Color Association of the United States
Trend Curve (color and designs)
Trend Pulse (home décor)

Product Newsletters
Subscribe to free e-newsletters for latest press releases & download product e-catalogs.
Gifts & Dec (free Product Wire, Playthings Extra, Direct from Market)
Furniture Today
Home Accents Today
Home Textiles Today
Kids Today

Consumer Publications
Better Homes and Gardens
Elle Décor
Good Housekeeping
Southern Living
Woman's Day

Trade Publications
Art & Design Licensing Source Book (licensor art)
Art Buyer (licensor art)
Casual Living (furniture)
Florists' Review (also publishes yearly Christmas trends issue)
Gift and Decorative Accessories
Giftware News
Greetings etc.
Home Accents Today
Smart Retailer (was Country Business)
Stationery Trends
Total Art Licensing (licensor art)

Trade & Licensing Shows
Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market
Craft & Hobby Association
International Licensing Expo (brand and art licensing)
International Quilt Market
Surtex (art licensing)
National Stationery Show (professional social networking)
Below are a few groups (Q & A discussions including trends) but there are many more.
• Art of Licensing
• Future Trends (products)
• Greeting Card, Stationery & Gift Industry Gurus

Related article:
"Art Licensing Trend Questions Answered"

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Art Licensing Trend Questions Answered

Trends are continually changing and are often discussed in the art licensing industry. What is a trend?, what is a fad?, do they become "evergreen"?, where do you find trends?, should an artist use trends? were some of the questions answered during the Las Vegas June 13, 2012 Licensing Expo seminar about "Trends: How to Use Them to Complete in Art Licensing." Art licensing agent Suzanne Cruise moderated the panel discussion which included artists Gail Flores and Joan Beiriger. Many examples were shown and many handouts were given to those that attended. Below is one of the handouts written by Suzanne.

by art licensing agent Suzanne Cruise
Suzanne Cruise Creative Services, Inc.

1. WHAT IS A TREND: Webster defines "trend" a general direction or movement in the course of time of a statistically detectable change. Trends are all around us. Successfully spotting them early on, and incorporating them in your art is no easy task. They can come out of the most obscure places. Keeping track of fashion is one certain way to spot trends. Colors, styles and even embellishments that started in fashion soon carried into paper, gift and home décor. TV Cable Channels are another great way to spot trends. The Food Network and Cooking channels alone have launched a myriad of programs that trends could be found on, which includes cupcakes, exotic food, hamburgers, organic food, heritage meats, poultry, fruits and greens, sky high and sculpted specialty cakes have all risen to the top of the trend charts. In time, each of these have made their way into paper, home décor and gift products that women scoop into shopping carts.

2. WHAT IS A FAD: Webster defines "fad" as an interest followed for a time with exaggerated zeal. As with trends, fads are all around us but are easier to spot then trends are. Images and even products that appear seemingly out of nowhere and are gone just as quickly include items such as hula hoops, feathers as hair ornamentation, pony tails on men, men wearing shoes without socks. Fads that have come and gone in products that use art: Mini Card (small 3x4 inches) was hot in the mid 80's. Mix and Match cards (match the separate inside with the separate outside) were the late 80's. Recycled paper cards (high usage of low-grade recycled paper) were very big in the early 90's and softened dramatically after the late 90's. Music cards were very big in the mid 2000's, and began to noticeably soften in the late 2000's. Remember the Beanie Baby craze in the mid 90's, now they are not even mentioned any more. Webkinz was a hit in 2006, but the demand and interest in this has dramatically decreased since their all time high.

3. WHEN DOES A TREND BECOME AN "EVERGREEN": Generally speaking, a good selling image or collection usually has a life span of two to seven years, depending on the product. In art, the life cycle of a style/color palette is around four to seven years, after which the consumer interest wanes and they move on to new looks and color palettes. But there are many instances of images that stay in a product line, that continue to sell, year after year. Some examples of this are better known: Thomas Kincade, Mary Engelbreit, Lassen, Debbie Mumm.

4. PLACES TO FIND TRENDS: There are many publications that trends can be spotted in, such as trade magazines, US as well as European fashion magazines, home décor magazines, gardening magazines. Then there are the hundreds, if not thousands of internet web sites that artists have, artists' blogs and tweets, the retailers web sites, as well as the more esoteric sites such as Cool Hunter, Coroflot, going shopping at the retail level to places like Target, the Gold Crown Hallmark Stores, boutiques and gift, walking a few trade shows, eTsy, Pinterest.

5. SHOULD YOU INCORPORATE TRENDS INTO YOUR ART: In a word….YES! But use caution when doing this. If you change your color palette overnight, you stand a good chance of alienating your customer base who is buying your work. But gradually adding new colors and icon trends will keep your work current and fresh, while you are evolving not only your work, but you will be educating the consumer who is buying it.

6. NEW ART VERSUS TRENDY ART, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO A MANUFACTURER: With retail recovering in the last couple of years, the demand for art for product is at an all time high. Many retailers do not reorder much product, no matter how well it sells, they constantly want new new new as the consumers are demanding the same. New art is just that, art that keeps pace with the colors and styles that consumers are buying. While trendy art is "new" when it is first gets on the radar, once it catches on, it generally sweeps thru the marketplace and often saturates a range of products in a very short time. The life cycle of a trend is often less than two years, and many times are in the marketplace for a much shorter period of time.

7. DO MANUFACTURERS FOLLOW TRENDS: Many times this depends on the demands of the retailers they sell to. While Target is considered mass market, they are also considered the trendsetters in mass. While Hallmark pays close attention to trends, especially color trends, for the most part they prefer to not be the trendsetter in their product category. They have found this too risky of an investment. There is fierce competition for store space among the over the counter fabric (fabric sold by the yard) companies. Several years ago, one in particular, Cranston Print Works, broke from the pack and invested heavily in classic character licensing (I Love Lucy, Wizard of Oz, Elvis, etc.) and also in art licensing, something almost unheard of in that product category. By doing so, they became the go to OTC fabric company for retailers looking for new, different and exclusive looks, a distinction they hold to this day. In general, manufacturers must pay attention to trends and have at least some of them in a portion of their lines to keep pace with the demands of the buying public.

8. IS TREND FORWARD ART LICENSABLE: Again, this depends on whom the manufacturer is selling to. If they are selling to a Target or Target like audience, or even to a high end retailer whose customers have more exposure to fashion and other trends, their ability to take risks in offering trend forward art on their products are much less of a risk than if they are selling to a retailer whose consumers are not as trend conscious or even trend aware.

9. IS IT BETTER TO BE A TRENDY ARTIST OR TO CREATE ART THAT IS JUST BEHIND THE TREND: There is no right answer for this question. It will totally depend on what your style may be, the subject matter you choose to create and build your library around, your ability to spot trends before they become trends, or not spot them until they are out in the marketplace, what color palettes you gravitate to and how they fit w/ the trend colors, and other factors such as these. Many artists have made a good living creating trend forward art. Many have equally made a good living creating art that is just behind the trend curve. And many artists have made a good living combining the two.

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