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Author Archive | Jessica Ripley

Trendspotting Report October 2011

Reported by Jessica Ripley

Each month we spy and spot the latest trends in fashion, design, and pop culture which often determine the hottest trends in craft. This is your monthly Trend Spotting report of the hottest trends spotted online.

Zig Zags

When a certain retailer’s website recently crashed due to a serious craze over designer fashions carrying a zig zag pattern, those desperate shoppers seemed to be just now figuring out what crafters have known for some time. Zig Zags are hot and fun! A quick search of the web shows just how versatile this bold statement can be in crafting, and we love it. Here are some favorites.

 

1. Snappy Bag 2. Knit Blanket 3. Friendship Bracelet 4. Knit Hat 5. Needle Book 6. Embroidered Heart 7. Painted Rug 8. Quilt 9. Birthday Card

DIY Wreaths

Even though it’s the Fall season and wreaths seem to be only natural this time of year, scouring some of our favorite blogs has shown us that this quick and easy craft is not just for October through December any more. We love the many ways both creative and bargain savvy crafters have expanded on the versatility of a simple idea, and made it marvelous. Check out some of their amazing ideas.


1. Paper Cup Wreath 2. Egg Wreath 3. Felt Feathers Wreath 4. Kidney Bean Wreath 5. Book Page Wreath 6. Frame Wreath 7. Yarn Ball Wreath 8. Felt Flower Wreath 9. Starburst Wreath

Wood Grain Patterns

Simple and classic, wood grain patterns are popping up everywhere. Hambly has some wonderful examples in fun colors, and Authentique’s Splendid collection is a great way to bring some wood-grained goodness to your crafting as well. From paper to even baked goods as seen below, we are loving this nod to the natural and hope it sticks around for quite awhile!

1. Fall Card 2. Restyled Sewing Machine 3. Wedding Cake 4. Pinwheel 5. Embroidered Pillow 6. Screen print Belt 7. Dish Towel 8. CD Holder 9. Round Pendant

So, what do you think about the trends we’re showcasing this month? Agree or disagree? Are you tired of any of these yet or are glad they are sticking around? Have you made any projects that fall into these categories? We would love to see them! What cool trends are you spying on StumbleUpon, Pinterest, and other corners of the internet? Please share it in the Comments section below this post on our website. We love to hear YOUR opinions!

And if you are one of the great crafters who have a project featured in this article, feel free to share this with your friends on your blogs and websites with this handy dandy logo. Keep up that amazing work, we love sharing it!

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Trendspotting Report – September 2011

Reported by Jessica Ripley

Each month we spy and spot the latest trends in fashion, design, and pop culture which often determine the hottest trends in craft. This is your monthly Trend Spotting report of the hottest trends spotted online.

Patchwork

Such a classic way to add a homey touch to a project, and such a wonderful way to use up fabric scraps, patchwork patterns are a crafter favorite. We saw this firsthand at CHA Summer 2011 at the Sizzix booth. And if you use the Westminster Fabric Dies, which work with the Sizzix Big Shot so well, adding cute patchwork touches to your creations has become easier than ever. Here are some adorable projects which show that patchwork is not just for quilts anymore.

1. Cushion 2. Quilt Cake 3. Doll 4. Flowing Skirt 5. Patchwork Card 6. Bear Sleeping Bag 7. Patchwork Pouch 8. Baby Shoes 9. Pin Cushion Caddy

Nesting Dolls

We’ve spotted these cuties (also known as Matryoshka dolls) in everything from kitchen items to clothing lately, and can definitely see why they have become so popular. Their simple shape make them a perfect accent to a project, yet they are adorable enough to stand out on their own too. Below are some projects we’ve found online, and we are certain they will be popping up in all sorts of crafty media in the near future.

1. Necklace 2. Flat Dolls 3. Pillow 4. Fabric Covered Journal 5. Pirate Pin 6. Felting Tool 7. Card 8. Baby Booties 9. Cross Stitched Button

Vibrant Colors + Brown

The authority in all trends color, Pantone predicted the hot combo for Fall 2011 would be vibrant shades mixed with browns. I love a deep chocolately brown, and love even more the way it pops next to these rich colors. We saw examples of manufacturer’s interpretations of the combo at CHA Summer in the booths from Prima, Jillibean Soup, and American Crafts to name a few. Here are a few great projects showing examples of how well brown and these vibrant shades compliment each other.

1. Golden Posh Pin 2. Altered Clipboard 3. Felt Owl Cushion 4. Drawstring Bag 5. Knit Scarf 6. Crocheted Purse 7. Gardening Apron 8. Bird Brooch 9. Felt Flower Corsage

So, what do you think about the trends we’re showcasing this month? Agree or disagree? Have you made any projects that fall into these categories? We would love to see them! What cool trends are you spying on StumbleUpon, Pinterest, and the internet? Please share it in the Comments section below this post on our website. We love to hear YOUR opinions!

And if you are one of the great crafters who have a project featured in this article, feel free to share this with your friends on your blogs and websites with this handy dandy logo. Keep up that amazing work, we love sharing it!

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Trendspotting Report – August 2011

Reported by Jessica Ripley

Each month we spy and spot the latest trends in fashion, design, and pop culture which often determine the hottest trends in craft. This is your monthly Trend Spotting report of the hottest trends spotted online.

This month is dedicated to trends that aren’t necessarily new, but that have proven they will be sticking around for the long haul. Spotted in lines at Summer CHA as well as countless projects across the web, these trends are here to stay (and we love it!).

Flag Banners

Not only are flag banners and bunting easy to put together with almost any scraps of paper or fabric you have on hand, they lend themselves to all kinds of crafty applications. Hambly has an adorable new line featuring banners, and October Afternoon’s new Sidewalks line has some adorable banners as well. From holiday specific to adding just the right touch to a project, the celebratory touch they add just can’t be beat.

Here are some great examples of how versatile flag banners can be:

1. Flag Banner 2. Birthday Banner Card 3. Photo Pocket Flag Banner 4. Banner Quilt 5. 5x Banners 6. Red and Aqua Party Pouch 7. Tiny Flag Banner 8. Cake Bunting 9. Bunting Tea Towel

Monsters

Cute monsters especially have sunk their teeth into crafts and have not let go (and don’t seem to plan to any time soon). They remain popular in everything from stuffed creations to stamps to scrapbooking lines, such as Niki Sivils new My Lil’ Monster. Thanks to movies like Monsters, Inc. and Where the Wild Things Are, monsters are known to be as friendly and cuddly as ever, and as a result welcome in both our bedtime stories and our crafts.

Some ‘too cute to be scary’ examples:

1. Cell Phone Pouch 2. Flabberjabber Square Head Monster Plush 3. Monster Butt Pants 4. Where the Wild Things Are Quilt 5. Beast Bag 6. Monster Birthday Cupcakes 7. Monster Hooded Towel 8. Arbuckle the Monster Coffee Cozy 9. Monster Birthday Card

Retro Dress Forms, Cameras, Sewing Machines…

Apart from dress forms which just feel like they belong in the same category, we can’t get enough of retro gadgets such as cameras, telephones (remember when you had to dial them?), fans, sewing machines, bicycles, etc. Though I keep thinking I might be tired of it, the vintage craze is one of my personal favorites, and I was tickled pink to see this trend still around in Summer CHA releases like Amy Tangerine’s new Signature Line from American Crafts. They give a classic feel to any project that just works.

Here are some wonderful projects using these classic images:

1. Kitschy Camera 2. Typewriter Print 3. Dress Form Fabric Pillow 4. Sewing Machine Pouch 5. Vintage Phone Card 6. Sewing Machine Necklace 7. Felt Camera Case 8. Your Special Card
9. Birthday Card

So, what do you think about the trends we’re showcasing this month? Agree or disagree? Are you tired of any of these yet or are glad they are sticking around? Have you made any projects that fall into these categories? We would love to see them! What cool trends are you spying on StumbleUpon, Pinterest, and the internet? Please share it in the Comments section below this post on our website. We love to hear YOUR opinions!

And if you are one of the great crafters who have a project featured in this article, feel free to share this with your friends on your blogs and websites with this handy dandy logo. Keep up that amazing work, we love sharing it!


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CHA Summer 2011 Sneak Peeks

CHA Summer is right around the corner and sneak peeks of new products are beginning to swirl around the internet. The Craft and Hobby Summer Show will give designers, retailers, and the media a first look at new products about to hit the market for the next six months. Whether you are attending the show or following along with us while we cover every hot new product, this is a very exciting time in the craft world. CHA will run from July 19th to the 21st in Rosemont, Illinois.
Here is a look at sneak peeks we have found so far…
Simple Stories:
American Crafts:
Tim Holtz:
Jillibean Soup:
October Afternoon:
Webster’s Pages:
My Mind’s Eye:
Hambly Studios:
Ranger Ink:
Maya Road:
Crate Paper:
SEI:

Pink Paislee:
Mistables
Nantucket
Vintage Vogue
Phantom
Wood Shop

DCWV

Lily Bee Design:
Head Over Heals
Jingle Collection
Harvest Market
Memorandum

Reminisce:
Christmas Story
Dear Santa
I {heart} Candy
Signature Series

Jenni Bowlin:
Alphabets
Doily Flowers and Chipboard
Brads
Vintage Holidays

Crafty Secrets:
Peak One
Peak Two
Peak Three
Peak Four
Peak Five

Previous posted links in case you missed them…

Bo Bunny

Best Creation Inc.:
Canvas Corp:
My Little Yellow Bicycle:
My Little Shoebox:
Pebbles Inc.:
Prima:
What sneak peeks are we missing? What products are you most excited to see at your local stores in the upcoming months?
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Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: Silhouette SD

Reported by Jessica Ripley

Of all the craft products that are on the market today, it seems to me the most difficult one to reach a decision on when it comes to what to purchase is a die cutting machine. Not only does there seem to be a version of every shape and size from capability to budget, choosing a die cutting machine is not really a “this one is the best” type of purchase. When reviewing all that is out there, we also have to take into account our personal feelings and needs, because in truth all those machines are “good,” it is just a matter of which one is “best” for us.

We are faced with questions such as:

  • Do we want excellent portability, or will the machine stay in one place on our craft rooms never to move?
  • Do we want the capability to cut our own designs or are we okay with strictly pre-made ones?
  • How computer-savvy do we need to be to use the thing?
  • At what point does the price (and future costs associated with) no longer equal a good investment?

I have asked myself all of these questions before, and that led me to originally choose a different die cutting machine for my needs. I won’t be comparing the two in this article, as again which machine we prefer can be just as much of a personal choice as anything, however I do feel like I should mention testing out and playing with the Silhouette SD has probably changed my mind on which machine I would recommend to a friend if they were faced with those same questions above. Here’s the lowdown that I’d share with them, which I hope you find helpful in your pursuit of the perfect machine for you too.

What you get

Out of the box the Silhouette SD comes complete with just about everything to get you up and running.

  • The Silhouette SD machine, which is lightweight and not overly bulky (a must for precious craft space).
  • An electrical cord and USB cord for computer connection.
  • 2 cutting mats (one for thick media, one for thin media).
  • 3 blade caps (you replace a cap on the blade for different cuts when it comes to the Silhouette SD rather than the blade itself, which I did like).
  • 1 installation CD (complete with 50 preloaded designs) and 1 detailed tutorial CD (Software for Windows XP/Vista/7 and Mac OS X 10.5.8 and higher).
  • A basic manual.
  • $10 download card for the Silhouette Online Store.

What else you need (or might need)

  • A computer, Mac or PC.
  • A longer USB cord. I found the cord which came with the machine too short for my particular set up, however an existing (much longer) cord from another machine I had on hand worked great.
  • Material to cut of course (paper from your stash, or anything from Silhouette’s line of other materials including heat transfers, temporary tattoo paper, vinyl, etc).
  • Basic computer skills.
  • An SD card to make the most of the Silhouette SD’s capability (it seems to me like they could have tossed one in the box, but most of us probably have one on hand).
  • Patience and time for the learning curve.

Set up

Initial set up of the Silhouette SD was quick and easy. The software installed on my Windows 7 PC in minutes (though do make sure all Windows updates have been applied to your computer first, as this did add to the total time for install on my end).

As far as physical space, the machine does not take up a lot of room. You do need space in front and behind it for the material to move while being cut. The machine cuts 8 1/2″ x 12″ size or smaller using a mat.

The technical side (software and online)

The paper manual which comes in the box is enough to get you up and cutting quickly, however the array of tools and options in the software does require you take some time to watch the tutorial CD and learn the basics. The tutorials are very well put together and easy to understand, especially if you are a visual learner like I am.


I liked the look of the software; it is slightly customizable in appearance (color and button size), and pretty easy to navigate. Here’s an image of the basic desktop you start off with for each new design.


I especially appreciated that hovering with the pointer over a particular tool brought up its name until I got the hang of what they all were. If you are familiar with photo editing or drawing programs, the software will seem very intuitive to you. If not, the tutorials (which are very specific) will give you a great handle on it quickly.

You are able to cut just about any design (pre-made, your own, or a traced scan) with the Silhouette SD. All True Type fonts installed on your computer can be cut, which opens up the flood gates for font possibilities in projects.

As mentioned above, the Silhouette SD software comes pre-loaded with 50 extremely usable designs:


Right at your finger tips is also a link to the online store with thousands of options to choose from (most are 99 cents each, though subscription programs are available which reduce the cost greatly), including designs from well-known companies like Hero Arts and Donna Downey. I quickly spent the $10 download card that comes with the machine while looking at all the great options!

Of course, possibilities are endless when you take into account designing your own images as well. Here’s a simple project made by creating my own design using standards fonts (Impact and Lucida Handwriting). The weld tool makes easy work of combining letters.

My design in the software:


And the finished project:

Performance

Though I only had opportunity to test the Silhouette SD on regular cardstock and paper for this review, it worked absolutely great. The machine is noisy when cutting, but does the job. I appreciate the 2 different cutting mats for different thicknesses of media, between which the only difference is the amount of adhesive (the lesser amount of adhesive meant for thinner materials).

As far as actual cutting, the Silhouette SD has more than just one option too. It also perforates. I love this option which makes super quick work of folded projects such as this pillow box (this template comes with the software).


Other features

The Silhouette has a Print and Cut feature which for me was the tipping point on why I’d now lean towards recommending this machine to a friend. I am a very big fan of cutting elements out of patterned paper for projects, and this option is quick, easy, and works great.

As an example, these 3D flowers were available in the online store.


First I printed them with the necessary registration marks so the Silhouette knows where to cut (this is covered in the tutorials) and then simply loaded into the machine for cutting. Here’s a peek of the Silhouette SD in action with the lid raised.


And the result:


Here’s a card using the finished flowers (which would have been about $2.99 in a pre-made pack).


The card template and sentiment also come preloaded with the software, and the dress form is from the online store.

To make the Print and Cut feature even more appealing, the software also includes a trace tool for tracing scanned images you wish to cut out. The trace tool takes a little getting used to, but once I practiced a bit I was able to make a near perfect replica of this vintage doily in a few easy steps. First I scanned the doily into Photoshop Elements and saved the image as a bitmap, then opened the bitmap image in Silhouette SD Studio and followed the steps to trace it, and finally proceeded just like I would with a print and cut image:



Finally, the Silhouette SD has portability thanks to the SD card slot located on the machine.


Designs are able to be loaded onto an SD card and then retrieved by the machine for cutting while not connected to a computer.

To sum up, let’s revisit those primary questions above when purchasing a die cutting machine.

  • Do we want excellent portability or will the machine stay in one place on our craft rooms never to move?

You don’t have to necessarily choose with the Silhouette SD. Thanks to the SD card slot, you are able to pre-load designs to be cut onto an SD card (not included), unplug the machine from your computer, and take it with you to a crop or anywhere else. You must, of course, take the time to load up the SD card with images first, however if you do so with ones you use often that can become very handy. I myself don’t crop out of the home much, but traveling from my craft area (where my husband is playing a loud video game) to the dining room table (where I don’t have to hear “watch your back!” every few minutes) is a nice option.

  • Do we want the capability to cut our own designs or are we OK with strictly pre-made ones?

Again no choice necessary here. Countless designs are available online, many great ones come with the machine preloaded in the software, and designing our own is a piece of cake once you get the hang of the software. And, no need to buy many designs we don’t care for either just to get a few that we do.

  • How computer savvy do we need to be to use the thing?

Basics are definitely needed, and knowledge of working with other drawing type programs would put you that much further ahead of the learning curve, however the tutorials are very good at explaining each and every tool. So there should not be any intimidation about the computer needs as long as you are willing to take the time to learn.

  • And of course at what point does the price (and future costs associated with) no longer equal a good investment?

There is certainly more freedom in how we can answer this question with the Silhouette SD versus other machines currently on the market. For one, designs can be purchased separately for 99 cents, however if you become good at it you can also design your own for free (or download the weekly freebies from the online store to build your collection also). If you find you are constantly wanting to use new images, you can choose one of the subscription plans available which roll over from month to month if you do not use them up. Also there is no third party software to purchase in order to increase the capability of the machine, it simply comes with the flexibility we wish they all had.

Pros:

  • The Silhouette SD can cut just about any image, increasing its value potential over other machines.
  • The software and online store are user friendly and fairly easy to navigate after a bit of learning time.
  • Many options are available from cutting style (straight line or perforated), cutting mat (thin or thicker media), to material which can be cut (Silhouette also offers vinyl, heat transfer material, flocked paper, and even temporary tattoo paper).

Cons:

  • Initial purchase price of around $200 is expensive and may not fit your budget, no matter what the possibilities for use could be.
  • The Silhouette cuts a smaller size overall than other die cutting machines (8 1/2″ x 12″ vs 12″ x 12″ or larger), and if you have large 12″ x 12″ stash you will be trimming a lot before cutting is possible.
  • Like other machines, eventually the blade and mats will need to be replaced which will be an added cost.

Good DEALS…
Our friends at Silhouette are providing our readers with some fabulous offers… from now until June 29, 2011, you can get…

1 Silhouette SD 
2 Packages Temporary Tattoo Paper 
for $199 (U.S. only) (that’s a $120 savings!)

Also, (wait for it…)

25% off all other products in the Silhouette shop (excluding gift cards and download codes). So if you already own the machine but want to get some of that cool Tattoo Paper or Heat Transfer material, now is the time.

To partake in this amazing offer, head on over to Silhouette and use Promo Code CRITIQUE. Offer ends June 29, 2011.
 
AND A GIVEAWAY!

They’ve also given us a Silhouette SD and two packages of their Tattoo Paper to give away to one of our very lucky readers. First enter by leaving a comment below answering the following question(s):

Do you own a Silhouette SD or are you considering purchasing one? What are your thoughts on how this machine can do versus other machines you know of? 

We can’t wait to hear from you on this one! This will give you one entry but wait, there’s more…

Optional Bonus Entries
Earn additional entry for each of the following:

■ Tweet about the giveaway! (example): WIN a Free Silhouette on @CraftCritique from @silhouetteam and read the Reviews. http://is.gd/QxOcYB

Like Silhouette America on Facebook and let them know you saw them on Craft Critique!

■ Link to the giveaway on Facebook!

Please enter one comment per entry. So, once you have done any of the additional entries remember to come back and comment to let us know. Contest closes at midnight. Good Luck!

Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Crafty Business Week – Photo Tips for Crafters

Reported by Jessica Ripley


Before writing this article I read many others online that give tips for taking the best photos possible when it comes to capturing our creations. We crafters sure are a bunch that really like to share our work! There is a ton of great information out there on everything from creating your own photo studio, to camera settings, what equipment (like lenses and flashes) will take better photos, and what Photoshop tweaks will improve them. I also spent time browsing some of my favorite blogs studying their photos to find out which appeal to me and why. I mean let’s face it, good writing is great, but when it comes to crafts it is the eye candy that keeps readers interested and brings them back again and again.

Keeping the amount of information out there in mind, I would never presume to know better or more than those that have already written about the subject matter, (the only thing I’ll ever claim to be an expert in is eating chocolate). However, after all that reading, browsing, and the experience I myself have as a craft blogger, I’ve compiled that information into five steps toward success when it comes to taking really great photos of crafts for posting on the Web.

It is important to note that you do not need fancy equipment or an expensive photo editing program to get high quality photos of your projects. You will hear about DSLR cameras, light boxes, and editing with Photoshop that seem to be the key factor to beautiful photos. While it is true that these items definitely can help you get great photographs, they are not the secret. You can do just as much with a point and shoot, good technique, and a bit of free editing help. Keep these five points in mind, and you’ll be one of those that we get to enjoy some wonderful eye candy from too.

1. Go outside and turn off the flash.
Natural light is always better when it comes to photos, whether they are of a craft project or a person. It is just more flattering than a harsh flash. If going outside is not possible, identify a spot in your home that gets great natural light from a window.

Here’s an example of a project near a window in my home that gets the most light vs. the exact same location at night with a flash:


A definite difference!

If you have to take a photo indoors at night, bring as much light to your subject as possible with lamps, but that is where it gets tricky and you must do a bit more to get the best photo, such as adjusting white balance on your camera if possible to get rid of that incandescent lamp yellow hue, or setting up a light box, have a fancy flash, etc. I prefer to just follow this number one rule and not worry about all that extra tweaking to a photo, that takes up time when I could be crafting!

2. Setting the stage is important.
How this is done can vary from individual to individual, but it is important to think about. Personally, I find photos that show a project in its intended use (such as an apron around a waist with a few utensils in the pocket, a framed piece on the wall in a home over a dresser, or a pillow on a love seat with a coordinating blanket draped nearby) much more interesting to look at than an object on a monochrome background. For example, this garden stake looks prettier in a garden rather than lying on my craft table.


However, I have done both so know this can depend on a project too. Here’s an example where I preferred to show an iPod Cozy for what it was rather than in a photo where it could have been lost on a person.


The main thing to consider when photographing your projects is what appeals to you (get to searching your favorite craft blogs for examples if you aren’t sure).

When choosing a background or other items to enhance the project itself, it is also important to be sure that the colors are complimentary, and that they do not distract from the main focus of the photo. Great examples of the use of props can be found by perusing the craft ideas section at Martha Stewart’s website. They are truly staging experts. While we all can’t have her prop room, it sure does give way to some inspiring ideas for taking photos!

3. Shoot and shoot and shoot some more.
Once the location is determined and the stage is set, take lots of photos. In the digital age where we are blessed with huge memory cards I can sometimes take 30-40 photos of a project before I consider this step complete.

Be sure to include close ups, further away shots (especially if you are showing the project in use like mentioned above), and shots at angles to keep it interesting to the eye. Here’s an example on a recent project for our review of the Epiphany Button Studio which shows detail as well as the full project:


There is no rule that to show off a project you can only do it with one photo. Especially when it comes to selling your creations. Buyers and readers alike want to see that beautiful detail.

4. Editing is necessary.
Editing is a bit like the icing on the cake. The slightest tweaks can improve an image just enough to make it great rather than just OK. I use Photoshop Elements, however it is not necessary to have expensive software. Reviewed on Craft Critique, Picnik is an online site that provides wonderful free editing tools which I highly recommend.

When editing photos of crafts, consider these 4 basic steps:

  • Adjust the lighting. Even small tweaks to levels, or brightness and contrast, can dramatically improve the appeal of a photo. Just be careful not to take this step too far or your photo will have too much “noise” and not look as natural.
  • Consider bumping up the color saturation 5-10%. Especially after adjusting lighting, this can give your project some pop. But again, don’t take this too far, especially if you are selling the item. It should remain true to what it is in real life (but there isn’t anything wrong with adding a little pop to catch the eye).
  • Crop. If you didn’t frame the shot exactly as you liked, crop it. Also consider cropping the shot into a square, which often looks better in an online format.
  • Re-size before uploading. This step is extremely important when sharing photos online. The larger your photo, the longer it will take it to load on someone else’s computer, and for some readers this can be a frustrating deal breaker. A good rule of thumb is no bigger than 600 pixels wide or tall.

5. There is more to posting than “publish”.
Once you have completed all the above and are left with the best possible photo to show off your creation, there is more you can do in order to enhance your photo behind the scenes.

First, give the photo a more descriptive file name when saving it. For example, rather than naming a photo “detail shot 1”, name it “blue pillow made with Amy Butler fabric detail shot 1”. Also, after uploading a photo to the web it is given a code which includes “ALT” tags. Whatever appears in these ALT tags (which look like alt=”description here”) is what readers see while a photo is loading, and what search engines see while looking for images as well. Change the wording between the two quotation marks to a better description of your project. When doing so, keep in mind what you would search for in Google if you were looking for a similar project.

Taking both of these steps exponentially increases the chance of a search engine finding your post, and as a result drives more traffic to your site.

As mentioned above these are tips and tricks you are sure to have heard before, but that are certainly the basic keys to success and deserve reiterating when you wish to share your work online.

We would love to hear from you any other tips you may have learned, or if you wish to further elaborate on any of those above. Share with us in the comments how you get the best photo possible of your crafts!

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Android Camera Apps

Reported by Jessica Ripley

I’ll admit it, I have an unnatural attachment to my phone. However, I am not an iPhone user. At the mercy of my husband who is the tech guru of the household, we became an Android family, and while I once rolled my eyes at those that had their very lives tied to their smart phones, I became a quick convert once I got my hands on my current Android Samsung Epic.

Yes it is a great phone, but like the iPhone, what makes Android so much darn fun is the Marketplace full of apps (short for Applications in case you are in the dark like I was not so very long ago). There are apps for everything, and after I’d found several games to waste time during my train commute (like tools to balance my budget, and ways to find a new restaurant), as a scrapbooker I naturally began to seek out camera apps. I had long envied those super cool shots that iPhone users were able to get right out of their phone. It was like they had a mini Photoshop (which is also an app by the way) right at their fingertips. But which apps would allow me to do this on my Android phone? I was thrilled to find several! Below are three that I would recommend. All are found in the Android Market:


FxCamera

Cost: Free

FxCamera is an app that does exactly what it says, instantly applies certain effects to your shot. There are a total of six different effects to choose from including:

ToyCam (provides a light leaky colorized effect):


Polandroid (my favorite of the options, includes a Polaroid type frame):

Fisheye (gives the effect of a fish eye lens):

SymmetriCam (creates a mirror image effect of your photos, not necessarily my favorite but could be neat).

Warhol (think Andy Warhol art from your photos):


Normal (normal yes, but also has color filters, sepia option, posterize, and more).

This is a simple to use app that has some basic functionality to give your photos that little extra something. Many of the effects also have options to configure them further, such as adding a faded or aged effect. My favorite of these options is by far the Polandroid, and I use it again and again.

Pros:

  • A very decent app for free.
  • Easy options to navigate and use.

Cons:

  • There are ads since it is a free app, but they are unobtrusive and only in the selection screen.
  • I only use one or two of the effects regularly, and they are similar to effects in another app I have and prefer (see below) so I rarely use this app anymore.

Retro Camera
Cost: Free or $2.99 for the “Plus” version.

Inspired by Lomo and Holga type photography, the Retro Camera app is very fun to use, and turns your phone into one of five vintage cameras. What I love about this app is not only the pictures it takes, but also just the look of the app itself. Each camera is artfully illustrated from the moment you navigate through to select one, to actually taking the photo itself. Choices include:

The Barbl (Creates a square, grungy bordered, low saturation shot):


Little Orange Box (Creates a very grungy shot, highly processed shot, and has a black and white option):




Xolaroid 2000 (Another “Polaroid” type, similar to the effect of that on the FxCamera app but with a black and white option also):


The Pinhole (Provides a shot with a full bleed “35 mm” effect, with low saturation):


The Fudgecan (A square shot with a “burnt” border and low saturation):


As you can see, all of the options provide the slightly faded, grungy look that we love about vintage photos. While I don’t use this one all the time, I do really love the ‘artsty’ effects it brings to photos that are very unique to the app. The only difference between the free and paid version of this app are the advertisements. As of the date of this article, both versions provide the same effects, though the developers are currently taking suggestions on their Facebook page for their next “camera” to add to the group.

Pros:

  • The free version is a bargain indeed.
  • Very fun to use and to play with. One photo could take on many, many different looks with just this one app. (Though you’d have to take the photo several times rather than just edit it, see more on that below)

Cons:

  • Ads for the free version are more “in your face” and never really go away. But, they stay at the bottom of the screen and don’t interfere with your photo fun.
  • The photos this app take may be a little too “stylized” for some.

Vignette
Cost: $4.00, but a free demo version is available.

I highly recommend this camera app for Android. If you only ever wanted to have to deal with one, even with a small cost associated, it is by far my favorite. With over 60 effects, frames, and styles, it provides countless opportunities to play with and edit your photos right from your phone. Here’s a collection of some of favorite shots with this app:


There are far too many options to list (there are eight categories such as “Vintage”, “Lens Effect”, and “Colour Highlight” that have several further sub-options to choose from). However my favorite feature is that I can take a photo using any effect, but apply a different effect (or another, or another) until I achieve the look I want, just like I would do with actions in Photoshop (a series of edits meant to achieve a specific look, but with the act of just one click rather than several adjustments). On other apps, the style you choose to shoot the photo in is the one you are stuck with.

Not only does this app have a plethora of effects from which to choose (from normal to highly stylized), it also includes support for the front facing camera (for those of us who like to take those self portraits for Facebook which again, I’ll admit to that), a self timer, and even a digital zoom. For a $4.00 app, I’ve replaced my $200 point-and-shoot. Why take photos on a regular camera which I then have to download into Photoshop and edit when I can do it in one easy step on my phone? I am also able to further customize the app by saving certain favorite features I like together, such as “Action Movie” (vivid reds against a blue-green tone) together with an “Instant Transfer” frame. Just another two of the many options.


Pros:

  • So many options to choose from, I consider the $4.00 price tag a big bargain.
  • Includes additional features such as support for the front facing camera if your phone has one, self timer, and digital zoom.

Cons:

  • It can be a little slow to load due to the number of options available, but this isn’t a huge deterrent for me to make it my go to app when taking a photo.
  • The number of options could be overwhelming, but I just find them fun!

There are of course many, many other camera app options both free and at a small cost out there to choose from. I’d love to hear if you have an Android phone and have another favorite and why, or if you use any of those above what your favorite feature is.

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