Category Archives: Graphic Design

Making Signage From Letter Stencils: Part 1

As a member of the “gig economy” I do contract and part-time consulting, marketing and customer service work for various clients. Two retailers I work with recently had need of some in-store signage. One is a hardware store and one is a craft supply store and they both sell stencils. I’ve been experimenting with letter stencils to make signage that gets the message across and at the same time demonstrates how to use some of the products that the stores sell.

JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts in Maplewood, MO has a teaching department of which I am a member. The education coordinator asked each teacher to make a sign or two for the classroom samples display to highlight the categories of classes we teach. I was assigned “Kid’s Crafts” and “Jewelry”. I was given two blank pieces of foamcore already cut to size and access to the classroom supply cabinet. Fun!

I like the look of cut-out letters layered over a background. To help me visualize how to arrange the letters on the foamcore board, I cut out some pieces of scrap chipboard and used a letter stencil to trace the outline of each letter in position. Then I decided what colors to use in the actual sign. Since it’s spelling out “Kid’s Crafts” that’s a good excuse to use some really bright colors!

Planning the placement and colors of cutout letters on a sign

I traced the letters again onto the colorful cardstock pieces I selected then cut the letters out with an X-acto knife. I’ll save the cutout letters in case another suitable project comes up.
Cut out letters

Next I selected papers to use as backgrounds for each letter. I marked the foamcore as a rough guide to where I would place the background for each letter.

Selecting backgrounds for the cutout letters

A little black and white in a design is a great way to add visual interest. Some of the background papers already have some white in the pattern. To get some black in the design, I outlined each cut letter with a black Sharpie marker and drew some faux sewing stitch lines to help convey the hand crafts theme. The black outline also covered up my pen lines from when I traced the letters. Black Sharpie markers are such an essential part of my tool kit (like glue sticks) that I buy them wholesale because I go through so many!

Adding details with a black Sharpie marker

In order to read well from a distance, I thought some of the letters needed an improvement in the contrast. I added high contrast solid paper behind the letters that needed to pop a bit more. Then I added a strip of black and white paper tape (also known as design tape and washi tape) to the top and bottom edges for a more finished look.

Assembled sign with paper tape

The final finishing touch was to glue on a few colorful buttons here and there. I used a similar design idea to make my sign for Jewelry. That was fun to make because it gave me a chance to use some “shiny” supplies that are appealing but hard to find a use for that is tasteful and appropriate – metallic papers, silver ribbon, glitter papers and plastic jewels! I outlined the letters in the Jewelry sign with a metallic gold Sharpie paint marker that looks good with the jewel-toned papers and theme. The paint marker also has good enough coverage to conceal my pen lines.

Finished signs for the Jewelry and Kid's Crafts classroom display signs.

These signs were fun to make and also stretched me creatively because I used a few materials and colors that I don’t design with very often. That’s good exercise for any designer!

Finally Finished My New Year Cards!

For many years I’ve responded to Christmas Cards by sending out New Year cards – I explained why I do that in this previous blog post: Why I Send New Year Cards Instead of Christmas Cards.

I started this year’s design by collaging small pieces of paper onto scrap paper strips that were about 3/4 to 1 1/4 inches wide. I began with the numbers “2018” which I cut from the 7gypsies papers Paddington Blackfriars and American Vintage: 12×12 State Plates Paper. I filled in the paper strips with assorted scrap papers from my small scrap box.

Next I rubbed on some images from the set Architextures™ Parchment Rub-On – Build which were a good fit for my chosen theme “Let’s build a great 2018!”. I added a bit of Tim Holtz paper tape.

I trimmed my strips with scissors to make the edges as even a possible then I scanned them and used Adobe Photoshop software to refine my trimming job and arranged some of the strips into a rectangular digital collage for the front of the card. I made a selection outline of all the areas with the year numbers and turned up the contrast so that they would stand out more. I added some grid designs and hardware looking graphics using Adobe Illustrator then I saved a PDF file of my cards to take to the printer.

While I was working on the collages for my New Year card, I also completed a project for Canvas Corp Brands. I’ve been selected for the 2018 CCB Creative Crew , the design team that makes samples and comes up with projects for Canvas Corp Brands products. Our first challenge was to decorate a 4 x 4 inch canvas in a way that highlights our personal style.

To create the above decorated mixed media canvas I cut three of my collage strips to fit the 4 x 4 inch stretched canvas from Canvas Corp.

I squirted some StazOn Timber Brown permanent rubber stamping ink onto an old food lid to use as a palette. I used the side of an eraser to print a line of Timber Brown along the edges of each collage strip.

I painted my canvas with yellow acrylic paint and allowed it to dry.

Then I applied Tattered Angels Color Wash paint in Rose Gold with a brush along the sides and around the edges of the canvas.

To finish my canvas, I glued the collage strips to the front with Turbo Tacky Glue and nailed tiny tacks into the corners of each paper piece. All done!

New Year Card for 2016

Here are the results of what has become an annual ritual for me – designing a card to celebrate the New Year!

New Year Card for 2016
New Year Card for 2016

This year there are three versions of the card – see my Pinterest board for a peek at the other two variations.

Making these designs was kind of an involved process. The first thing I did was go through some monoprints I did back in the 1990s that I thought would make good backgrounds. These prints were “rejects” that I didn’t think were interesting enough on their own but I thought might be good as part of a collage some time in the future. Next I used some archival dye-based ink (Ancient Page and ColorBox Archival) to stencil designs on top of the background pieces. I chose this ink because it was translucent and I wanted the backgrounds to show through a little. Most of the stencils I used on the backgrounds were from a series that I cut out back in September consisting of designs inspired by a mid-century modern building I saw on a trip last summer.

I drew a set of retro ornament shapes and cut them out of more monoprint scraps, and stenciled on them with some commercial stencils of geometric design. I thought they complemented the mid-century modern look quite well. I don’t know many more times I can go back to the well of inspiration that is retro ornaments – I have yet to get tired of them!

The next step was to scan the background pieces into the computer and work on them a bit with Photoshop. I altered the colors a little bit on some of these to make them better backgrounds for the ornaments. The real life pieces will be used later in some art projects. I got some more use out of the backgrounds by making them into header images for Google+, Facebook and Etsy – I like to change those seasonally and without the seasonal references I won’t have to change these headers for awhile!

Monoprint leftovers with stenciling on top and a little bit of computer enhancement and collaging.
Monoprint leftovers with stenciling on top and a little bit of computer enhancement and collaging.

Next I scanned in the ornament pieces separately and used various Photoshop tools to trim around them and enhance the color a bit to make the stand out better against the backgrounds. I added a drop shadow and a grunge border and exported each composition as a JPEG to import into Illustrator. The card text and further details were done in Illustrator with the addition of the yellow texture imported from Photoshop. The texture was created with a technique I wrote about in my article Analog to Digital: Waste Paper From Stamping Projects Can Enhance Photoshop Art.

The next step is to get these printed and mail them out ASAP!

Experimenting with my new stencils

Four Mid-Century Modern inspired compositions
Four Mid-Century Modern inspired compositions

Over the last couple of weeks I designed and cut a number of stencils in a Mid-Century Modern style that I plan to use in home decor and in art projects. While on a Modern STL house tour this past weekend, I noticed that several of the homes featured color schemes that go well with the theme to my blog, which was intended to be temporary. Inspired by the recent tour, I decided to use my new stencils to create a header graphic for this site and only modify a few parts of the theme as I see fit.

First I took my new stencils and sponged black rubber stamping ink through them onto white paper. I scanned these designs and brought them into Photoshop where I colorized them and added other digitized textures to create the four compositions above. Then I selected sections of these designs to make my new header graphic. I’m excited about possibly using these as studies for art pieces I may want to do someday.

To learn how to cut your own stencils, see my article Fun With Stencils.

To learn how to use scanned textures in Photoshop artwork, see my article Analog to Digital: Waste Paper From Stamping Projects Can Enhance Photoshop Art.

Make a Garden Sign Out of a Recycled Produce Crate

Make a Garden Sign Out of a Recycled Produce Crate
Make a Garden Sign Out of a Recycled Produce Crate

In a previous article I described stenciling with paint on a wood garden sign. That works great if you don’t want a lot of small words but I found myself in need of some new garden signs that would require a lot of text on them. I decided to find a way to computer generate the text and put it on a weatherproof sign. In the past I had purchased produce from a co-op and had saved a couple of the thin wood crates thinking they would be useful for garden markers of some kind. I decided to make small signs from this wood and print out my text on clear acetate and attach that to the signs with brads.

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Using Sketch Challenges for Inspiration

Usually my problem is an overabundance of ideas for new projects, way more than one human being can ever do. Occasionally I need a new idea for a certain specific purpose and I find myself coming up dry. This weekend I was trying to create a new Halloween greeting card design and decided to check out some card sketches to see if anything inspired me. I made a new Pinterest Board, Greeting Card Ideas and Sketches to help me keep track of my finds.

I found a lot of sketches I like on a web site called CAS(E) this Sketch! They specialize in clean and simple designs which appeal to me because a lot of times I think paper crafts that I see out there have WAY too much “stuff” on them. I’m sure a lot of people think my own designs are too spare. That’s ok, we all have different taste.

Here is my entry for sketch challenge CTS #137.

CTS #137

Making this card helped me get over my creative block and I have some more spin-off ideas that really don’t look much like this result at all, one of them isn’t even for a card, but are things I never would have thought of if I hadn’t done this exercise. That’s how creativity often works!

The rubber stamp images used in this card are from my own Carolyn’s Stamp Store, 7gypsies and Clearsnap. The small bug stamp is unknown. Here are links to some of my stamps that I used:

Cicada Unmounted

Crow Silhouettes – Set of Three Unmounted Stamps

Stamping Halloween Postoids

Stamping Halloween Postoids
Stamping Halloween Postoids

Yes it might seem a little early to talk about Halloween crafts – usually in early August I feel like I’m just getting used to the summer lifestyle. The Fall 2015 issue of RubberStampMadness is out and I want to let you know about it because my article “Stamping Halloween Postoids” is featured within! If you want to read it check the newsstand at your favorite craft retailer or go to the RubberStampMadness web site to order a copy. My four-page article will guide you step by step in creating your own Halloween Faux Postage stamps to decorate your Halloween mail and crafts.

I also have a selection of Halloween and Faux Postage rubber stamps available in my online shop Carolyn’s Stamp Store. I have complete postoid stamps and parts to help you design your own artistamps. Check out my newest designs featuring skeletal animals, crows, creepy bugs and more!

Why I Send New Year Cards Instead of Christmas Cards

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For about 10 years I have sent cards to celebrate the New Year instead of Christmas. Why do I do this?

One reason is that I like to design my own cards, and everyone on my list does not celebrate Christmas, so a New Year card saves me from having to design multiple cards and remembering who celebrates Christmas and who does not. Another reason is that it’s different, and I never mind being different. Still another is that I make a lot of my own Christmas gifts and it’s difficult getting the gifts AND cards done all at one time.

But the main reason is that the act of designing the cards reminds me of one of the best Christmas/New Year holiday seasons of my entire life and by making the cards I can have a private celebration of that memory to give me hope for the year to come. I was still in college and I had recently completed one of those design class projects where you are assigned to depict the four seasons in an abstract manner. We did one set with paint, and another with collage papers. I was really enthusiastic about the project because I love to work abstract and I especially enjoyed the collage part.

I was still fired up about collages when Christmas break of 1988 came around and I didn’t want to stop doing them. During the break between Christmas and New Year I had some rare time off from both work and school and I was able to work on some projects just because I wanted to do them. My uncle had given me a new Devo tape (one of my favorite groups of the 80s) for a Christmas gift and I listened to that over and over while I worked on several collages that I was really pleased with. I thought they were the best work I had ever done up to that point and I used ideas I developed during those few days for spinoff projects for some time to come. One of the pieces was a collection of “thumbnail” collages in a Mid-Century modern style that I still keep in my studio and still periodically get ideas from. I will never forget what that burst of creativity was like, it’s hard to describe but I felt fully alive and purposeful for one of the first times in my life. It’s a feeling I’m always working to recapture and I do succeed from time to time but it is not easy to get “in the zone” like that.

For this year’s design I decided to do a four seasons treatment, using collage in a sort of DADA/Constructivist style. Those kinds of pieces are typically either chilling, disturbing or both so I watered down the type if imagery I’d normally use for that type of collage because I wanted to convey a positive feeling about the New Year! I used my collage paper collection that I’ve been building up since 1985 and mostly let the colors carry the message. I did a little bit of editing with the computer after scanning the collages to finish  them off and size them for cards. Each card recipient is going to get one of the four seasons at random this time, instead of everyone on the list getting the same card. I wish everyone a creative New Year in 2015!

If you want to see what handmade greeting cards I have for sale, go to http://carolynsstampstore.com/catalog/handmade-carolyn-c-47.html

Analog to Digital: Waste Paper From Stamping Projects Can Enhance Photoshop Art

Sometimes the pieces of scrap paper I put under my rubber stamping projects to protect the work surface from ink end up with really interesting markings on them. Don’t throw these pieces out – when they’re dry, scan them and import them into Photoshop to make interesting textures that would be difficult if not impossible to duplicate with only digital tools.

Click here for Analog to Digital: Waste Paper From Stamping Projects Can Enhance Photoshop Art.