Creative Team Project Round-Up

In The Studio

How was your weekend?

It was supposed to be absolutely miserable down here but the weather was gorgeous after Friday night’s showers. As a friend called it on Facebook: there’s nothing so blue as a rain-scrubbed sky. Really, it was amazing.

Of course, I spent the vast majority of it at my computer, staring at InDesign. Why? Because I’ve signed on as the Art Director for Millin’Air Magazine as of the spring issue (which will be released later this week). And while I can’t show you the full magazine (yet!) I can at least let you see the cover!

The cover was finished a couple weeks back, it was the other 53 pages I was finishing up this weekend!

The cover was finished a couple weeks back, it was the other 53 pages I was finishing up this weekend! Complementary subscriptions available at

And that reminds me… I’ve been remiss in sharing some of the projects I’ve been doing for the teams I’m on. Let’s do a full quarter-1 recap, shall we? (Links are under each project if you want to see the play-by-play.)

Helmar Creative Team

March wrapped up my 3rd (6-month) term with Helmar and I’m happy to be staying on for the next 6 months, as well.

Backing up to the beginning of the year, though, I started with a mixed media tag:

Reading Road Map Bookmark

Something about book pages at the beginning of the year.

Reading Road Map Tag

And followed that up with some decoupaged tile coasters.

Tile and Map Coaster Project

And maps. No clue why I was hung up on maps.

Where You Are, Where You’ve Been

In February I pulled out one my adorable (if I do say so myself) digital stamps for a Valentine’s card. Valentine’s was the earliest we said we might get a dog, and I was hoping real hard!

Not that stuffed pup, but another one I gave Todd on our first Valentine's together says "I wuf you" and blushes when you squeeze it.

Not that stuffed pup, but another one I gave Todd on our first Valentine’s together says “I wuf you” and blushes when you squeeze it.

Puppy Love Valentine’s Card

Of course, with the bathroom renovations still in full swing, I think we’d have been the ones in the doghouse had we gotten a pup in the middle of all that!

It’d been so long since I’d had time for any doll-related projects, I was afraid they were going to stage a tiny, plastic mutiny. That, and the slow pace of the real-life renovation, had me jonesing for some instant gratification, miniature-style.

My Cricut made this miniature project even easier!

My Cricut made this miniature project even easier!

Tiny (Cardboard) Taxidermy with Helmar Zap Dots

In March I returned to a favorite theme of mine: the phases of the moon. Now, you might recognize the images from an old Gauche Alchemy project. I photographed them and printed out the sizes I needed for my cross between a sun-catcher and a dream-catcher.

I still love these moon phase paintings.

I still love these moon phase paintings.

Moon Phases Mobile

And just before Easter I tried my hand at the classic “Exploding Box” card.

I've been holding onto those carrot-colored Easter eggs for *years* wondering what I was going to make with them!

I’ve been holding onto those carrot-colored Easter eggs for *years* wondering what I was going to make with them!

Exploding with Easter Fun!

Now, that technically wraps up the first three months, but I have one more Helmar project to show you.

I mentioned on Friday that I’d participated in an April Fool’s post over there, despite my dislike of the “holiday” and, well, I don’t think I’ll be doing that again. Not only did it backfire, but it did so in an entirely unpredicted way.

I mean, not in the way that Cake Wrecks did (where they apparently lost readers over the faux-sponsored post), but still. It did not go over well.

Here’s the project:

It's tougher than you'd think coming up with adhesive alternatives...

It’s tougher than you’d think coming up with adhesive alternatives…

A New Direction

If you read that post and project, you might pick up on the fact that there’s something missing from the project. Namely any Helmar adhesives. See, I thought that a project for a glue company that used absolutely no glue was appropriately inappropriate. Drop a few broad hints about a change in direction and, well, it sounded good in theory. There were some crossed wires between Georgia and Australia, however, and a lot of conversation at 6am (my time) on the 1st, before we got them untangled.

All’s well that ends well, and all that, but I think it’s safe to say I won’t be doing another prank post in the future.

Imagine Crafts

So far I’ve really been enjoying my time with the Imagine Crafts Artist In Residence team. There are just so many fabulous products to work with (and more coming, from what I hear) as well as some neat collaborations/team swaps coming up that I’m really looking forward to!

I started the year with a planner dashboard project that I’m pretty sure I’ve already shared on the blog, but let’s post it again just for completion’s sake.

Still loving my word for the year!

Still loving my word for the year!

One Word Planner Dashboard

The interesting thing about the AIRs team (at least in the beginning) is that we submit multiple projects but not all of them go up on the blog, as was the case with the other two projects that I submitted for January.


February fared much better and all three of my projects made it onto the blog. There were some technical issues, though, so these links go to pdf files instead of web pages.

My first project incorporated one of my new favorite tools, the gelli plate. I’d ordered them for The Crafty Branch and they are just so fun to play with. Usually you use paint, but I wanted to try them out with inks and I think I like that even better! This print was for the Anything But Red Valentine’s theme.

The versatility of the gelli plate is an awesome thing!

The versatility of the gelli plate is an awesome thing!

Love in Bloom Embellished Monoprint (pdf)

This decorated onesie (for the White T-Shirt theme) might be one of my favorite IC projects so far–I love the way the flowers turned out!


Had to sneak a monkey in there somewhere!

Growth Potential Onesie (pdf)

And then, inspired by Leap Day, I created a canvas using their Tear It! Tape and embossing powders for accents.

That background is all ink pads and Creative Medium and reminds me of a sunset or sunrise.

That background is all ink pads and Creative Medium and reminds me of a sunset or sunrise.

Seize the Day Mixed Media Canvas (pdf)

In March we switched to two projects a month, and I started to feel like I was getting into the groove of creating for Imagine Crafts.

For Easter I tried out an old technique favorite of mine with some new players. Using white embossing powder as a resist for watercolors is the way I’m used to doing it, but I got to play with their Ink Potion No.9 and it gave me a similar effect using ink pads, instead!

The embossed resist is a great technique in general, but perfect for Easter!

The embossed resist is a great technique in general, but perfect for Easter!

Easter Mosaic Card

And if you noticed that there was no mention of invitations on Todd’s Luau post, it’s because I was waiting for IC to share how I’d embellished them with their Radiant Neon Amplify! products.


I designed the invitations to look like the classic Hawaii Five-0 dvd covers. (And, yes, I drew the image of Todd.)

Amplify!’d Party Papers

That’s not bad for three months!

On top of that, I managed two art journal spreads…

I saw the background technique on a YouTube video and had to give it a try.

I saw the background technique on a YouTube video and had to give it a try.

And this one is actually a mini journal in one of the books made from the Bound & Determined kit.

And this one is actually a mini journal in one of the books made from the Bound & Determined kit.

And some mixed media canvases for The Crafty Branch giveaway winners:

This one went to the grand prize winner.

This one went to the grand prize winner.

And this one went to one of the runners up.

And this one went to one of the runners up.

Another runner-up prize. I really love writing with that flat brush!

Another runner-up prize. I really love writing with that flat brush!

Finally, how about a peek at a project I started Friday night during First Friday at Studio 209?

Work-in-Progress 16x20 canvas

Work-in-Progress 16×20 canvas

This, and three more like it, will be decorating my birthday party at the end of the month. I’d brought the canvas and supplies with my to First Friday because the forecast was rain, rain, and more rain, and that usually means low crowds. So I thought it’d be nice to have something to work on and when folks did stop by my table it was a good conversation starter. I think I’m going to keep doing that!

Between the bathroom renovation, the party, and all of these projects, I think my time was pretty well spent these last three months!

So… what have you been up to? I wanna hear!

Printing Terms for the Bride-to-Be, Part III

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Designing for Commercial Printing

The vocabulary lesson is over, now it’s time to figure out how to get the best possible results from whichever printer you choose for your wedding stationery. Maybe you’re going with a local commercial shop, the nearest FedEx/Kinko’s, or maybe you’re getting ready to upload your files to one of the many online print-on-demand services out there. Regardless of who you choose to print your stuff, there’s one rule that is universal:

Garbage In = Garbage Out

If you give your printer 72dpi clipart you yanked off the web (or payed the minimum on a stock image site for the smallest file size), it’s going to look like pixelated crap when it comes off that press and there’s nothing anyone can do to fix it. If you don’t allow for a bleed in your design, you’re going to either end up with a white border around your image or some of the printed area cut off–and that might include the words if you’re not careful! And if you give them files of the wrong color mode, the colors you so carefully picked on your computer monitor are very likely to look very, very different.

To avoid those unfortunate situations (and a whole host of others like them), here’s some tips on setting up your files correctly for commercial printing.

Just to give you an idea of how close you can cut it--any more than one insert, though, and you'd need to make your invitation smaller.

Just to give you an idea of how close you can cut it–any more than one insert, though, and you’d need to make your invitation smaller.

1. Start with your envelope and work your way backwards from there.

While it’s true you can make your own envelopes, it’s a lot easier to buy them and they come in so many wonderful colors these days it’s a shame to let all of that go to waste. That said, they only make envelopes in certain sizes, and if your invitation, save the date, or RSVP is slightly too big for the target envelope, you’re going to have to buy the next size up. This can mean anything from your card swimming in an over-sized envelope to paying more postage than you need to.

So, if your printed piece needs an envelope, make sure you find out the size of the envelope available in your color and design around that. A single insert needs to be at least an eighth of an inch smaller than the envelope (though 1/4 inch is better–it’ll certainly make it easier to stuff, later), and the more pieces you want to include the smaller the overall size needs to be to for the envelope accommodate the thickness.

Another thing worth thinking about: If you have any intention of lining your envelopes, do yourself a favor and look for A-style envelopes as they feature a rectangular flap instead of the pointed flap of the Baronial-style envelopes. That flap style means a lot less in the way of fiddly cuts.

CMYK (left) vs RGB (right)

CMYK (left) vs RGB (right)

2. If it’s color, it needs to be CMYK.

Anything you see on a screen or monitor is in RGB and uses light to adjust the colors blended from the red, green, and blue values present. This visible light spectrum is amazing and can give you over 16 million distinct color variations. Gorgeous, right? And most of the time your home printer prints those exact same colors, even if you have separate tanks for each of the 4 colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black).

Commercial presses, on the other hand, work in CMYK, and CMYK is limited to a measly 1 million colors, give or take, and that’s where problems set in. There’s no fool-proof method (though there are plenty of strategies) to convert an RGB file to print in CMYK and retain the same brilliance of color you see on your RGB monitor. Yes, it’s frustrating, but them’s the breaks. [Now, I will say, some online printers prefer RGB because of the equipment they use. It’s easier to convert from CMYK to RGB, though, so I still stand by designing in CMYK to give you the best possible options.]

In a program (like Photoshop, for instance) that supports CMYK, it’s as simple as choosing your Image > Mode > CMYK when you begin your document. Unfortunately, the more consumer-level a product is (meant for home use and not professional), the less likely CMYK will be an option and so the file you create may not work as well. Many places can use them, but you’re not likely to get a color match.

The good news is that (if you’re a quick study), you can download a 30-day trial of almost any Adobe product (like Photoshop or Illustrator), and you can also use their Cloud subscription service to “rent” the use of a program for a number of months. $20 or so a month isn’t so bad compared to the $600 each program usually runs (or the $2000 the full Suite costs). You can also use open-source programs like GIMP or InkScape and get most, if not all, of the same functionality.

One other thing that makes colors hinky: monitors. Just because what you see on your screen looks right, doesn’t mean your screen is showing you the truth. Every time we adjust our monitor’s brightness, contrast, etc. we are increasing the chance that what we see is not what we’ll get. If exact colors are crucial to your wedding vision, look into calibrating your monitor. There are programs and devices that will do this for a fee, of course, but you can also use simple tests and the controls on your monitor or laptop to do it yourself, like this Monitor Calibration page from epaperpress.

Just an example why resolution matters.

Just an example why resolution matters.

3. Less is not more when it comes to DPI: resolution matters.

The way CMYK printing works is by laying down four layers of teeny tiny dot patterns (generally) only visible under something resembling a jeweler’s loupe to determine the strength of each color. They work in percentages and the dots can be very spread out or very close together–the closer together (and therefore smaller) the dots, the crisper the images. Potentially. These dots are measure per inch, hence dpi = dots-per-inch.

300 dpi is about the smallest you ever want to submit to a printer. The downside is that these files can be rather big, especially the more layers and details within each file, but 300 dpi is the happy medium in the struggle between file size and image quality. Occasionally, for the very large items (like banners and large signs), a printer may request a lower dpi, but that’s the only exception I’ve come across.

And just because you set up your file to be 300dpi doesn’t mean you can slap a 72dpi (the usual resolution for web images–smaller files means quicker loading times) image in there, drag to the right size and come out the same. My little illustration above shows why that’s not such a hot idea!

That said, most digital cameras save photos at 180dpi. DO NOT go in and change the resolution without good reason (and never muck around with your original file, while we’re on the subject)! Those 180dpi files are also around 2765 x 2074 pixels—unless you’re wanting to blow them up to billboard size (and who knows, maybe not even then), that’s plenty of pixels to work with.

There's just something more polished about images that bleed, especially "random" patterns.

There’s just something more polished about images that bleed, especially “random” patterns.

4. Set up your bleeds correctly.

This is one of those things that really separated the novices from the in-the-know. If you’re using an online printer, chances are they’ve got templates you can download for the various products that show the different areas of the file you submit. The live area is the safe zone for all your important details and images, the cut line lies just outside and shows where the images will be cut off at–it’s usually 1/8″ to 1/4″ outside of that safe area. Finally, the bleed line is 1/8″ all the way around your cut image.

So when you want to create a small card, for instance, that is 4.25″ x 5.5″, you would set your image size at 4.5″ x 5.75″–1/8″ is .125 and since you have to add it to both sides, you’d add .25 or a 1/4″ to each overall measurement. See, that’s not so tough! Then you’d want to set up guides (horizontally at 0.125 and 5.625; vertically at 0.125 and 4.325 for this example) to show where your finished image will stop. Anything you want to extend “off the page” needs to go all the way out to the true margins of the image, while all of your text needs to stay well within your guides.

You also want to make sure you turn off those guides before you save the file for submission, just in case. Normally they wouldn’t print, but we certainly don’t want to take any unnecessary chances, right?

5. All PDFs are not created equal.

Finally, it’s important that the type of file you submit be the right one. PDFs are probably the most common and most universally accepted, but they do come in different flavors. Most pdf files are intended for transmission by email or web download, so they’re lean and stripped down and not meant for more than maybe printing on your home computer.

By contrast, the type of pdf you need to submit to a printer is a Print Ready pdf and it’s got a few more bells and whistles. For one thing, any fonts you used in creating your document need to be embedded to prevent any issues when the printer opens them up. If the fonts are not embedded and printer doesn’t have those fonts himself, the computer will pick a font it thinks might match but it’s just a computer and isn’t going to always make the best decisions. And the more automated the process, the less likely it is that someone will notice before it gets to you. (Though this is also a reason to request a proof, even if there’s a slight upcharge or time delay–better safe than sorry).

A print-ready pdf also retains the highest quality of the document you created, so will have a larger file-size than one intended for web distribution. To insure the maximum compatibility between systems, ask if your printer has a .joboptions file available. This document gets placed in a particular folder of your system and will be available as an option when you export your pdf, preventing many mistakes along the way.

When you’ve created a program or other multi-page document, it’s best to export these as multi-page pdfs, in the order they would be read. To do this you’ll need a desktop publishing program like Adobe’s InDesign or the open source Scribus to do it natively, or a copy of Acrobat (this is different from the free Reader that you need just to open the files) to string your separately-created pages together. Single-sided items like cards or invitations are fine to save as individual images.

If pdf isn’t accepted by your printer or an option in your system, a .tiff file is better than a .jpg. If a .jpg is all you can manage, make it the highest quality you can and don’t keep resaving it as each time you’ll lose some image quality in the process. PNG or GIF files are not good options for print-ready files.


There. Those are my tips to diy-designing your wedding papers to get the best possible results. They represent the questions we have to answer most often at work or items we most have to explain to new customers and designers. Armed with this you’ll have one more tool in your arsenal, should you choose the diy route for your wedding stationery. It may not make the design process any simpler, but at least now you stand less chance of a nasty surprise when you open that box!

Printing Terms for the Bride-to-Be, Part I

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Back when I first got married, you went to a card shop or similar and flipped through a massive book of wedding invitations. If you had a lot of money you might look at engraving, but most of the invitations were thermographed: printed in a raised ink so they looked engraved without the high cost.

Growing up around a print shop, I used to love looking through those ginormous books at all the different invitation styles and color and font choices.

And back then, unless you were using pre-printed cards where you filled in the details by hand, there wasn’t much happening on the DIY invitation front. Considering it was the mid-90s, even those who had computers at home probably had a dot matrix printer, maybe an inkjet, but only offices had the impressive laser printers (and even those weren’t as impressive as they are now).

I refuse to call those the “good ‘ol days” for obvious reasons.

So, 2 things have now been established:

  1. I’m old enough to remember when not everyone had a computer around, much less knew how to use it by age 3.
  2. Times have changed.

When I charged back into the wedding world in 2011, I was pleasantly surprised at how many brides and grooms now take a more active, diy approach to their paper goods. I was, of course, planning to do the same for us since I like to diy anything and everything I can (always have), but now it was more common which meant no longer needing to reinvent the wheel!

But what I was most surprised at was that brides were using PowerPoint to design their invitations!

PowerPoint was never meant to be a desktop publishing software. This is definitely a case of just because it’s there and kinda-sorta works doesn’t mean you should. And reading further I saw plenty of instances where knowing a little bit more about how printing is done away from you home computer set-up would prevent a lot of reprints and frustration when the order comes back from the printer–be it local or online.

So I’ve put together this basic guide to printing terminology and a few tips on designing for you non-graphic design majors. (Though, really, with the number of issues we have with recent grads not knowing these things, even graphic designers might pick up a thing or two from the below.)

As I was writing this all down it started to get very long. Instead of chopping it down to bare bones, I’ve decided to break it up into 3 parts. If you have no interest in diy-ing your paper goods, feel free to skip this and my next 2 posts. For the curious, read on!

Pages, and Parameters

First things first, a sheet of paper is a piece of paper. We’re starting out simple on purpose, here. A sheet of paper has two sides and, therefore, at least 2 pages.


At least? Oh, yes, follow along carefully because this is where we lose some folks at the office.

Take a standard sheet of 8.5″x11″ copy paper. On it’s own it has a front and a back, so 2 pages*. Now, give that sheet of paper a quarter turn and fold the right side over to the left (like you would if you were folding your wedding programs), and suddenly that 1 sheet of paper has turned into 4 pages, each page 5.5″ wide and 8.5″. And, yes, you should always know your page size–that’s what the printer is going to be concerned with. Just because you fit 4 RSVP cards on 1 sheet of copy paper, that doesn’t mean that’s how he’s going to run it!

When you folded this sheet to make your booklet, you also created a spine where the pages meet and fold.

ProTip: the size of paper goods is always described as W x L, so measure across the top, first, for the width and then down one side for the length. For envelopes, the width is whatever side the flap is on.

Okay, take another sheet of paper and fold it the same way, slipping the first sheet inside (again, think like a program). Now those 2 sheets have become an 8-page booklet with a spine that needs to be secured somehow. Unless they specialize in weddings and charge an arm and a leg for hand-finishing, chances are your only option is going to be to saddle-stitch (i.e. stapled down the middle of the sheets along the spine). If you want to add ribbon or do some decorative stitching, you can request that they just fold and collate (marry together) the pieces and you can finish the binding (what holds the separate sheets together) on your own.

Incidentally, when you folded the one sheet into four pages, you created a signature. Now, if you started with, say, an 11″x17″ piece of paper and folded it in half and then half again, you’d have created an 8-page signature. After trimming the folded edges that aren’t the spine, you’d have your entire 8-page program done on a single sheet of paper if you could print that big. Multiple signatures can be nested inside of each other to make bigger booklets, but that’s probably outside the needs of your average wedding, so we’ll move on.

One more thing before we end for this post–if there is a folded spine on your booklet, then your page number must be divisible by 4. If you are stapling a stack of sheets together, then you can have a page count divisible by 2 (front and back of 1 sheet, remember), but if it has a spine it needs to be in sets of 4 pages to work. That’s just all there is to it.

*A page is a page no matter how blank–yes, you count the blank pages, too, because they definitely exist. Anyone else remember manuals or bills with “this page intentionally left blank” on them, just so the reader wouldn’t freak out about potentially missing information?

Never Too Soon to Say Thank You

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Another stationery project I’ve been meaning to do for the longest time [*cough* almost a year now *cough*] is our thank-you cards. Once I finally got my butt in the seat long enough to design our Save the Dates, I figured I could knock out the thank-you design as well.

On the one hand there was no real hurry to do these since we weren’t having an engagement party or expecting to have any showers or anything. On the other hand, it’s something so simple that not doing it ahead of time was foolish. So I’ve been beating myself up over it for a while (lightly, of course–there have been other things to worry about) and it’ll be good to get this item off the to-do list!

I designed these cards with a few key elements in mind:

  1. Versatility. If I was going to print up a bunch of these, I’d like them to be useful for both wedding thank-yous as well as anything else we might need some pretty cards for, even after the wedding.
  2. Simplicity. This kind of goes with the point above, but I didn’t want anything overly fussy because I wanted them to work for any situation and look right if T was sending one out without me.
  3. Print-ability. I’ve been dying to use my Gocco again and these seem like a perfect excuse to drag it out and turn The Abyss into a press-room.

Because I have one of the smaller Goccos (table-top screen printing “machine” manufactured in Japan by Risu), the PG-5 to be exact, my printable area is limited to 5 7/8″ wide and 4″ long. Luckily, an A-2 (announcement-size) envelope fits a 5 1/2″ x 4 1/4″ card easily, and I happen to have a box of those envelopes in my stash, too. What’s even better is I have some half-sheets (5.5″x8.5″) of ivory linen stationery-grade paper, enough to get about 30 cards made. And I probably have some full sheets I can cut down, too, if I look hard enough. Score one for my paper-hoarding tendencies!

The screens and bulbs for the Gocco can be tough to find (mostly the bulbs, and when you do they are exPENsive!) but I’d bought a fairly good stock of them a while back and have plenty of ink, too, so I think I’m all set for supplies.

Of course, even with a simple design (maybe especially with a simple design) it still takes some time to get things just right.

That looks so different in my head.

That looked so different in my head.

Originally I’d planned to have our names down in one corner with a border around the edge of the card, breaking where it intersected our names. Sounded good in my head, but looked a helluva lot like the JC Penny logo and that was not the feeling I wanted.

This isn't all that bad, really, it just wasn't us!

This isn’t all that bad, really, it just wasn’t us!

So the frame was out, but then I started rethinking my font choice.

I was sure, going into this, that I wanted a sans serif font, something nice and clean and streamlined. And while they were okay, as I scrolled through my incredibly long list of fonts I kept pulling out the serif fonts after all. Finally I picked 2 of each (really not liking the sans serif when they were next to their serif cousins) and asked Mr. Road Trip to be the tie breaker.

Right away the 2 sans serifs were out, so we were on the same page there. Then it came down to our 2 serif font contenders and he went with Fontleroy Brown, mostly because the ampersand was cooler.

Once I got rid of the riff-raff it was time to decide if the card even needed anything else. I moved the names around on the digital sheet, seeing if Todd preferred the names somewhere other than the lower right corner. Then it was frame, no frame, or maybe just a line.

We have a winner!

We have a winner!

Like I said, a simple design isn’t always so easy to decide on. The single underline turned out to be just enough to anchor our names and I totally agree about the coolness of that ampersand.

Next is getting them printed!

Have you ever found it hard to decide on otherwise simple wedding choices?