Acme Animations For Fiber Arts Instruction

Today I played a little with animation in Gimp. I think it will take a LOT more practice before I can produce effective animated technique illustrations. But I’m seeing possibilities… and just a little queasy.

This week, have you taken a first step toward learning something that’s kind of a stretch? I’d love to hear about in the comments section below this post!

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A Digital Fabric Video And Pffft At Perfectionism

The work I’ve been doing lately isn’t very photogenic, and I’m not sure how to make “timestamping” videos sound worthy of a gasp and pleas of “do tell!” But I’m chipping away at details and plan to offer the New Age Looping Basics eCourse again in April. Thank you to the pilot group who tested the course in January!

Fall Fabric Video Tutorial from Donna Kallner on Vimeo.

Another pilot group, a smaller one, helped me out last fall by reviewing this video I made while I was just learning to use some of the editing tools I’ve spent so much time with lately. Now when I look at this video I think, “Oh, I could do so much better.” But I’m posting it as is and hope you’ll join me in celebrating the process of learning and the joy of seeing improvement.

There’s no admission charge at this “screening,” but I’d love it if you’d hit the Comments button below and share something you’re proud of learning!

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Swatch This Again

It’s the first day after Labor Day, a time when kids are expected to stand up and read essays about what they did on their summer vacation. I’ll stay seated, if you don’t mind, but here’s how I spent the 12 days since my last post:

  • I broke my toe (doing something stupid, so don’t ask).
  • I took a 5-day spinning class at Sievers (it was wonderful — I’ll tell you more next time).
  • I made pretzels for the first time, for a Labor Day potluck (and they were a definite hit).
  • Bill and I “hosted” a two-stage rocket launch in the back 40. It was so much fun, we invited everybody back next summer for a catapult toss (note to self — get catapult-building on the calendar).
  • And we picked tomatoes in the dark, because there was a chance of frost.

While we were busy celebrating the long holiday weekend and the change of seasons, Spoonflower was busy printing and shipping my digital fabric order. I ordered swatches in a hurry on the last day of my parents’ 10-day visit and was too busy to think about them again until they arrived in today’s mail.

Without really having a plan, I still came up with some stuff that will coordinate well enough to use together.

I ordered in some black-and-white fabrics to color as needed with fabric paint.

This is the first time I’ve had Spoonflower print on their organic cotton knit fabric, which is lovely. The design on this swatch was done entirely using the Picnik imaging utility. Sorry — I was working so fast I didn’t take notes on which “stickers” and effects I used.

The rest of the designs came from work I did in the 6-week Gimp for Textile Designers class I took in July and August.

It’s been a great summer for learning as well as teaching, and my mind is a-swirl with possibilities. While I prep for upcoming classes at the Textile Center later this month and for The Gathering at Sievers in October, I have lots of ideas to incubate.

In fact, it’s time to get serious about hatching some ideas. I’ll share some of the process I use on my other blog, Compost and Creativity, which has been sorely neglected over the summer. Maybe a little neglect isn’t such a terrible thing, when it feels so good to pick up where you left off.

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Swatch This

Digital fabric printer ran a free swatch promotion for 24 hours starting at noon Thursday. Thursday was also the last day of my parents’ visit. I wanted to squeeze in a few minutes to upload some new designs I made in my Gimp class.

If yesterday was your first experience with Spoonflower, don’t be dismayed by how slow the site was. I’m sure the traffic was very heavy, and that slows things down. What I thought would be a quick job took quite a bit longer than I expected. But that’s OK. Mom sat with me to watch and visit as I uploaded my order, and it was a treat to share that extra time talking fabric with her!

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Summer Vocation

You’re probably so summertime-busy you haven’t noticed, but it’s been nearly a month since my last post. I wish I could claim that I took an intentional electronic furlough, or that we were on vacation. Sadly, that’s not the case. Summer is my busiest time of year. I traveled (for work) and taught. I came home with a cold, which I shared with my husband. We’ve had four search and rescue dispatches in the past 10 days. But I did finish the 6-week online class Gimp For Textile Designers— hooray!

I took the class from Sharon Boggon through and was really happy with it. I have a big fat reference notebook now, and plan to go through the course exercises again in September on my own. My head is swimming with ideas.

For now, though, here are a few things I did in the class.

This began with a photo I took during my Sievers Local Color class. Using blending modes on several layers totally transformed the cracked windshield of a commercial fishing boat, Bill’s dusty shop floor, and a Steampunk brush.

This design is from an exercise on working with brushes, layers and gradients.

This marching ant repeat uses a brush I made from a design I drew digitally.

I need to scan all the doodles I made on the evenings when I felt too crummy to stitch or blog, and go through the 50 or so photos I took last week to make into Gimp brushes. I also need to finish a small mountain of class demonstration elements that have been piling up the last few months, and do some major housekeeping and weeding before my parents come to visit next week. And defrost the freezer — it’s hot enough to make that a fun job for this evening.

But first, maybe one more look at those blending modes…

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Gimping — Again

Did you notice back in February the lack of progress in my plan to master the free alternative to Photoshop called Gimp? I’ll admit it got a little overwhelming. I had a few light bulb moments, but they didn’t feel quite post-worthy. In short, the exploration was helpful but far from complete. And I’ll confess: For most of what I do, especially when I’m in a hurry, I’m still falling back on my old software, which is more limited but familiar.

So guess what appeared in my Google Reader tonight: Sharon Boggon from Pin Tangle is doing an online class called Gimp For Textile Designers at It starts July 7. Six weeks, sixty bucks. I’m already registered.

The do-it-yourself approach in February felt like going through the wardrobe into Narnia. Nothing was familiar. I’m glad to have a guide for my next visit.

Anybody want to meet me at the lamppost?

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Gimping Along: Donna Learns About Layers

It’s the middle of February, and I’ve posted exactly once about my effort to learn The Gimp, an alternative to Photoshop. For me, the next part of the tutorial is like getting off a chairlift and seeing nothing but the tops of trees. With the Olympics starting, I really want to be sitting in front of the TV with a looping project in my lap watching the best athletes in the world do the impossible with speed and grace. Their achievements are a great inspiration, and a reminder that I’ll only get better at the Gimp with more effort.

I’ll keep working at it. But it feels like I’ve been trying to learn to snowplow on a black diamond run. So I backed down to the bunny hill today, and feel pretty good about what I did. I filled a background with a color gradient, added text, added another layer of resized text to make a white outline, added a drop shadow, and created a frame layer.

I did all that by following along with a YouTube tutorial by GIMPtricks on Gimp Basics. I’ll be checking out more postings from this tutor from the Netherlands. Thanks, coach — I’m back in the game.

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Easy Peasy Altered Images — Picnik Edition

Here’s another easy, free, online image processing utility. My first encounter with Picnik came when I started using Spoonflower to design custom printed fabric like Warm Hands.

It’s fun to just play with no particular outcome in mind just to see what you come up with. But sometimes it’s easier to start when you have a sense of what’s possible. So here’s how I used Picnik to create an avatar — not the blockbuster film kind, but a small image to represent an online identity. This is a process I want to share with a group of art educators I’m speaking to next month, and some young fiber campers I’ll be working with this summer.

For this project, I uploaded the JPG image I use for my Google profile picture to Picnik. Here’s what came next:

Edit. Select the Edit Tab and click Colors. I chose the Neutral Picker and selected the red in my skin tone. Then I reduced Saturation to -71 and increased Temperature to 47. Then I clicked OK.

Save. I selected the Save & Share Tab and saved the color-corrected image to my computer with a unique name. It’s a good idea to keep saving. Even with the Undo tool, you never know when you’ll want to go back to an earlier version. After saving to my computer, I chose Continue Editing.

Create. Next selected the Create Tab, where there are lots of fun tools. On my face, I applied Stickers from Loosy Design and Similies. As you work with Stickers, a dialog box will appear to let you flip, change the color, fade and blend. Resize, rotate and move the sticker using the handles on the element.

Effects. Still in the Create Tab, next I chose Effects. I was playing with the idea of going blue for this avatar, so under effects I scrolled down to the selection of tools under Color. I clicked Color > Tint > Apply in Normal mode. Still in Create > Effects, next I selected the DuoTone tool, chose a second color, and adjusted Brightness, Contrast and Fade. Still in Create > Effects, next I scrolled up to Camera . I clicked Camera, Cinemascope and checked Yes to Letterbox My Photo. That’s a wrap.

Edit Again. To use this image as an online avatar, I need it to be square, not rectangular. So I return to the Edit menu and select Crop. From the dropdown menu, where it says “No Constraints” I chose instead Square and changed the actual size to 200 x 200. This way, instead of relying on a site’s default cropping mechanism, I can choose what parts of the image I want to keep when I go from rectangle to square.

I probably should have flopped the image horizontally to direct my avatar’s gaze toward the right-hand side of a web page. Didn’t think of that until just now. Oops.

Have fun playing with Picnik and Sporkforge. I’m working on the next phase of my Gimp Learn-Along, and will post again on that soon.

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Easy Peasy Altered Images — Sporkforge Edition

Maybe you read through the first post in my learn-along about getting started with Gimp imaging software and thought, “Forget it — all I want to do is….” Good news: You can.

There are great, easy-to-use, free image processing utilities you can use online. At Sporkforge I like the Comic Drawing Generator. Just upload a jpg image like this one.

Then Abracadabra Shazzam.
That was a Sensitivity Threshold value of 80, a brightness value of 200, the line option set to thin, and I checked “Apply Color” even though the image was black and white. Click the draw command and wait for the results. Then right-click the new image and save it to your computer.

By the way, this is a 1911 image of a cat on the shoulder of aviator John B Moisant from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs collection.

Here’s another image, a photograph of Siberian irises.

Abracadabra Shazzam.
That was a Sensitivity Threshold value of 35, a brightness value of 200, the line option set to thin, and I did not check “Apply Color” even though the image was color to begin with.

Understandably, there are limits on the size of images you can upload to Sporkforge, and what you can do with them there. But it’s a fun way to get started.

There are other online utilities that give you more options and are just as easy to use to explore another day. And I’m working on Gimp, which may have a steeper learning curve but when I get over the hump, watch out!

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GIMP Learn-Along — Goals and Getting Started

It’s the first of February, and today begins the first learn-along on Two Red Threads. This month, we’re exploring The Gimp, a free software alternative to Photoshop for photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. If you’d like to learn along, you can download it here.

For The Record
This is not a tutorial — it’s a learn-along. In other words, we’re going to study this and try to figure things out and hope we can help each other along the way. I’ve already been stumped a couple of times. But I’m pretty confident that if we keep at it, the things that stump us now will make more sense soon.

I’m running Gimp 2.6.8 on Windows XP. Your version and operating system are probably different, and that may effect where and how things work on your end. So let’s assume that we may find different ways to achieve the same results, as long as we keep trying. You know my mantra: Whatever works.

Before starting to play with this, I thought about what I wanted to be able to do with Gimp (your mileage may vary). Frankly, I don’t intend to do all of my image manipulation on the computer. I don’t expect Gimp to replace what I can do with fabric paint and markers, working directly onto images printed on inkjet fabric. I still plan to crop with scissors and mix and remix image elements with raw edge applique. I like those processes, and I like the results. But Gimp’s “artistic filters” are pretty seductive…

One of my main goals is to be able to use the software more confidently when I need to improve images I’ve shot for workshop handouts. I’m inspired by how Robin Atkins uses Photoshop in this post to edit a photo of a beading sample. Keep in mind that juried shows or magazines may not accept digitally manipulated images.

What are your goals for this learn-along? Give that some thought, and at the end of this post I’ll ask you to hit the comment button and share.

Getting Started
I’m working through the online user manual for Gimp and am through Part 1. Getting Started. I got a little lost and weirded out a couple of times in the first three chapters, and I think it’s because I still don’t have a sense of the big picture yet (paths? what paths?). It’s a little like reading Moby Dick: My eyes passed over some of it with little comprehension or interest, but I think I’m grasping the key concepts well enough to fake it (if not well enough to captain a ship).

It gets more fun when you reach Chapter 4. GIMPlite Quickies. This I could do. I learned to scale an image, got a little lost in Chapter 4.3, but felt good about cropping (love those handles), flipping and rotating.

My  favorite part was Chapter 4.6 Changing the Mode. Changing the mode to grayscale is a great way to see the values of the colors, even if you don’t intend to work in grayscale. But what was really fun was changing the mode to Indexed and using the Custom Palette. I chose Caramel, a 256 color preset, for my I Scream doodle. The process for this was

Image>Mode>Indexed>Use Custom Palette>Caramel.

Chapter 5. How to Draw Straight Lines helped me become more familiar with the tools. I just drew on the same image instead of a “blank drawable.” I must admit I had no success when I tried the first examples in Chapter 5.2 — “use color from a gradient” and “set the clone tool.” I could set the clone tool to a spot on the image, but never found presets like the Maple Leaves pattern. I was able to


But I’m not getting the smudge tool at all.

I learned to use the rectangle select tool in Chapter 5.2 and could fill it with the clone tool, selecting a color from the image. Burn and Dodge have escaped me so far.

As I said before, I have faith that what escapes me now will make more sense with continued study.

Words Of Advice
The “Undo” keyboard shortcut in Gimp is Control+Z. It’s much faster than finding the command in the menu.

As you work through Part 1 of the user manual (or any other time, for that matter), work with a copy of an image and preserve the original in a separate location. That way, if your alterations don’t suit you, you can start over.

When saving images in Gimp, the default format is Gimp XCF, which supports transparency and multiple layers so you can continue working on them. But you’ll also want to Save As to other formats like JPG, the compressed format usually used for images you plan to email or post online. This format loses data with use, so for other uses, you’ll want to Save As to a non-compressed format. I’ve been using Windows BMP for years. Here’s a peek ahead to Part 2. Chapter 6 — Getting Images Out of Gimp to help you Save As. This might help, too:

  1. File>Save As>
  2. Look in the lower left corner of the dialog box and click +Select File Type (by extension). (If you don’t see it, resize the dialog box or move it to show the lower left corner of that window.)
  3. Select JPG or BMP or whatever you choose.
  4. Follow whatever advice Gimp offers, which may include Image>Flatten Image.

And once again I’ll say it: I’m pretty confident that the parts I find confusing will sort themselves out if I keep working at it. It reminds me of one of my first jobs, where I asked, “Why am I doing this?” The answer went something like, “Because I said so and because this system works, but it’s hard to see until you get through the whole process and you may not understand until we do this again next year so in the meantime, because I said so.”

Posting Samples
I’ve set up a Flickr group called Fiber Artists Explore The Gimp for images from this learn-along. You’ll need a Yahoo ID to post, but it’s free and it’s easy and we’d all really, really like to see what you do as you work through this learn-along.

Finally, I want to remind you that it’s good to have some specific goals in mind when teaching yourself something that may be fairly challenging and/or well outside your current comfort level. Measure success by how well you meet those goals, and don’t get lost in how much you don’t know or compare your achievements to, say, your friend the graphic artist or your 9-year-old. To keep it real, I hope you’ll hit the comment button below this post and share your goals with the rest of us who are learning along with you.

Next time: How To Become A Gimp Wizard.

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