the polaroid transfer

Many years ago, before my shift into digital photography, I used to shoot with slide (transparency) film. It was a difficult medium, as there was little latitude for any exposure mistakes, but it was the way of professional photographers, so I embraced it as best I could. I now find myself with hundreds of plastic archival sheets of old slides that are both impractical to store and hard to view. So what can an artist do with all these old slides?

Make art prints using Polaroid transfers!

Some time ago, I bought myself a Vivitar Slide Printer from a vendor on eBay along with a couple of packs of Polaroid instant film. Although it sat in my studio for sometime (and the Polaroid film is long past its expiry date!), I finally got around to experimenting with the process and creating some Polaroid transfers. It was like making art from my old slides.

The method is actually surprisingly simple… here’s what I did:

1. I loaded the top of my Vivitar Slide Printer with the Polaroid Instant Film (there are 10 exposures per pack).

2. I placed a mounted slide into the machine. (It simply slips into the slot at the front of the printer.)

3. I soaked some thick sheets of watercolour paper in water for about 20 seconds each. I squeegeed them off and left them sitting on a hard surface. Some people suggest adding some PhotoFlo to your water, but unfortunately I didn’t have any hanging around anymore.

4. I then pressed the exposure button on the printer and exposed the slide to the Polaroid film. Once exposed, I pulled out the exposed film from the top of the printer.

5. After about 10 seconds of processing, I pulled apart the Polaroid negative and the print and carefully placed the negative (gooey side down) onto the damp watercolour paper. I then used a brayer to carefully press the film to the paper.

6. After about 2 minutes, I slowly peeled away the negative to reveal an interesting image on the watercolour paper. I later learned that some suggest neutralizing the paper with vinegar and water, but I didn’t try it.

I’m not sure what I think of these prints, but they are certainly interesting and much different from the original slides. They have a dark moody quality and a rough texture to them that are definite qualities of Polaroid Transfers, but I’m not sure how much of an additional effect the expired film had on the results, in the end.

Posted in photo art, photo filters | Leave a comment

the drama of it all!

I love a challenge, and there is nothing that I like more than taking an ‘average’ photo and turning it into something more dynamic.

Cropping a photo can make a huge difference in both its energy and in the story it tells. By cropping out the excess (or the fat as some like to say), an image can take on a new life, and the story it tells becomes much more intriguing. The image simply becomes stronger. If a background is not adding anything to the image, or is distracting from the subject, then get ruthless, cut it out and focus on what’s most important.

Of course using some Photoshop tools and CamerBag filters to enhance it further can also improve the image as well. It’s really a combination of elements.

In this photo example of a cat, I took an average image and brought it to life. Before, it was an ‘OK’ image that most wouldn’t take much notice of, but after cropping out the excess and giving it some life using filters and PS tools, it now has a sense of drama and a little mystery. There is a story here and the cropping helps to tell it a little better…

(As a side-note, just be careful not to crop out anything that alters the mood of your image, so at the same time, be a ‘thoughtful’ cropper too.)

Posted in photo cropping, photo filters | 1 Comment

iphone for photography?

This weekend, I experimented with the camera on my iphone. I came across some beautiful flowers and sadly, I didn’t have my trusty Nikon DSLR with me. Instead, I pulled out my little iphone and started shooting with the built-in camera. Truthfully, I really wasn’t expecting any great results, especially because there is little control over the focus or exposure…

When I was done (and out of the sun – which makes it very hard to see what’s on the iphone screen), I was actually quite surprised at the results. Thanks to the help of a great little app called “camerabag”, I added some quick effects to a few of the images that I thought had promise. I find that the images have a painterly quality to them, and overall I really like the effect.
So if you find yourself without a camera, don’t despair as the iphone makes a handy substitute… take some time to check it out.
Posted in iphone photography, photo filters | Tagged | Leave a comment

creating a visual identity…

I mentioned earlier that I’ve been working on a visual identity for a Beauty Clinic. The client was clear that she wanted a gerbera daisy tied into her logo, plus a swashy-style typeface for her name. So, we’ve done our best to accommodate her requests. We’ve developed some ideas for a logo design, a business card design and the website is now in the works… This is where we are at so far.

Posted in design ideas | Leave a comment

great business card designs!!

Looking for great business card design ideas? Check out this site by!

This site features many unique and very creative ideas for designing cards that are not run of the mill. Okay, some of the ideas may be a little out of reach for the average client, but the site certainly gets the creative ideas flowing. I often show this site to my students when we are designing business cards, and it seems to get them fired up about designing their own cards, and the exciting possibilities of design.
Posted in design ideas | Leave a comment

logo design… where to begin

I am currently designing a logo for a “Beauty Clinic”, and as much fun as it is, it’s been a challenge! It’s a big responsibility to design a symbol that provides instant recognition for a business or service.

To make things easier, there are a few things to keep in mind when designing a new logo, starting with understanding the different groups or types of logos:
1. WORDMARK – a wordmark logo is generally a stylized word, such as Microsoft.
2. LETTERMARK – much like a wordmark, a lettermark logo takes the initials or an abbreviation of the company name and stylizes it. CNN is a good example.
3. ICONIC – an iconic logo with marry a graphic (that somehow represents the company) and a stylized type treatment of the company name. This is perhaps the most popular of logo types. Think Target!
4. BRANDMARK – a brandmark is a symbol that is designed to represent the company in some way without the use of type. A great example is of course Apple’s apple!
More on logo design to come… stay tuned!

Posted in design ideas | Leave a comment

line it up, baby!

Okay, “InDesign” users… here’s another little tip on professional looking typesetting.

If you’ve got a block of type, all left-aligned, you may notice that it doesn’t look as if it has a truly straight left edge. See the vertical yellow line in the above illustration. Because the alphabet has both round and straight edges (and then there are quotes that really throw a wrench into it all), it may appear as if the words and letters are not aligning properly.

So how do we compensate for this annoying visual misalignment?

We use a tool called “Optical Margin Alignment”, and it can be found in the “Story” palette in Adobe InDesign. To view this palette, you may have to reset your “workspace” to the TYPOGRAPHY mode to make this little gem available.

Once you’ve got the palette open, simply click on the “Optical Margin Alignment” checkbox to activate it. You’ll also want to adjust the amount in the size value field until you are happy with the results.

See for yourself, and try it next time you set a stacked, left-aligned header.

Posted in typography | Leave a comment

the big O mistake

Have you ever noticed in typesetting that the round letters extend slightly above the cap height and below the baseline?

There’s a good chance that you haven’t, but there’s a reason for this oversight. The slightly larger letter creates an optical illusion and looks appropriate to the human eye. If the rounded letter was the exact same height as its neighbors, it would surely look dwarfed and too small.

An inexperienced designer or typesetter may be tempted to compensate for this size difference, but don’t do it! You will only end up with type that truly does look like it was set by a novice designer. Instead set your type like a pro!

For more info, visit the fabulous “Before & After” site…

Posted in typography | Leave a comment

i love u Helvetica…

I recently saw a documentary on the advent of the typeface “Helvetica”, and I was fascinated by it!
I have always had a love/hate relationship with Helvetica. In my earlier days as a designer, I viewed this typeface as plain and boring – a face that I would use only if I had no other choices. It was generally not the face of choice for my designs; however, as I matured as a designer, I began to see the true beauty of Helvetica, and I soon began exploring with the various styles that were being introduced to enhance the typeface. It wasn’t long before I began to see the value in Helvetica.
Sure, for some time it dominated every street sign and logo around us and was very much overused, but there was a reason for that. It was clean and readable, and classic yet modern at the same time. It was reliable and flexible and very user friendly. Who can ignore such a versatile typeface?
I now see Helvetica as a reliable face that challenges our creativity. It begs us to find ways to make it special–as it is. Helvetica never lets us down, rather we as designers often fail to pull out its great potential. We frequently view it as dull and overlook it, sadly missing its point.
Check out this great little history by the Independent Lens (PBS) about the history of Helvetica and type…
And for great ideas on how to use Helvetica in creative ways, you’ll love this page.
Posted in design ideas, typography | Leave a comment

typography as art

I have always loved typography, especially when used as art! Yes typography is an art form, but when it’s deliberately used to create a work of art, it’s impact grows tremendously.
Unfortunately, the advent of the personal computer along with it’s unlimited access to fonts, has really minimized the intrinsic art of typography. We just don’t give it much thought anymore. Type is all around us–it’s truly everywhere we turn our heads–and yet it is invisible to us. A typeface can have an impact on our mood, or can even tell us a story about an article or an event before we read the words, based on its style, weight and colour. A thoughtful typesetter or designer will carefully choose the appropriate faces to clearly get the message across.
After taking both a typography and a lettering class in College many years ago, I soon learned the value of a good typeface and just how difficult lettering really is. Hand-lettering has got to be one of the most precise and difficult art-forms I have ever put my hand to! My hat is off to type designers everywhere.
Typography is an art and a skill, and it has a beauty that can’t be put into words (no pun intended!). For fabulous examples of ‘type as art’, Deviantart as featured on Designflavr blog, has got some great examples…
Featured here: white.hand_type by *DryBones90

Posted in design ideas, typography | Leave a comment