Tag Archives: Photoshop

Going Through Your Process: a, b, c…

Christian Robinson sent a delightful thank-you-note for sharing his work here at the Countdown last month on Harlem’s Little Blackbird (text by Renée Watson), along with answers to my nosy questions about his process. Hooray! — JC

An alphabet poster from artist Christian Robinson's Etsy page

Poster from Christian Robinson‘s Etsy page (right-click to enlarge)

Christian Robinson:  Oh my word! What a wonderful thing it was to wake up reading your lovely and very flattering post!
I’m really beside myself.  Thank you so much for the unbelievably kind words, and for shining a little more light on my work!

This whole children’s book illustrating world is still very new to me, so to think that someone might reference my art is still so unreal… it’s still so amazing to me to have folks interested in what I do.

Joy Chu:  The more I gazed at your art, the more involved [my examination] became.

Couple that with in-coming phone calls asking for portfolio consultations [for the upcoming SCBWI Conference].  Then it suddenly hit me:  I must share why your samples are so irresistible to my art director eyes!

Did you use cut paper for Harlem’s Little Blackbird? Or a combination of collage, ink drawing,  and scanning?

CR:  I used collage and acrylic paint for the original art;  then I would scan, and edit (color, lighting effects, composition) if needed.

JC:  Did you provide your own scans to the publisher?

CR:  Yes! I like being able to go in and correct colors myself — control freak here!

JC: Do you have any examples of your preliminary sketches, or thumbnails, or character studies of Florence Mills [the subject of Harlem’s Little Blackbird)?

CR: Here are images that shows the process I used:


Thumbnail sketches on post-its (a);


. . . color and shape exploration in Photoshop (b);


. . . then final art using collage plus acrylics (c).

More process examples:




JC: Did you draw many rough dummies?

CR:  Yes, I went through a lot of post-its  :O)

I had to make several edits so that the editor (Suzy Capozzi) and art director (Ellice Lee) felt confident with how the layouts were flowing and communicating. Read an interview about their collaboration here.

(a) sketch on post-its

(b) Photoshop rendering

(c) final art, using collage plus acrylic

Christian Robinson's studio

Christian’s studio

JC:  And did you apply pure pen-and-ink for your b/w illustrations?

CR:  You are referring to the Illustrations I did for the LGBT teen guide, Queer.  Those were digital rendering, drawn on my Wacom tablet into Photoshop.

JC:  Cheers, and many thanks again for sharing the fruits of your labor!


Check out editor Suzy Capozzi‘s commentary on the book’s genesis, plus an interview between art director Ellice Lee and Christian Robinson on their collaboration at the R.H. blog,  Random Acts of Reading


Read a starred review from Booklist


Christian Robinson’s blog


Christian Robinson’s portfolio


We found The Gingerbread Man!

Here's where "The Gingerbread Man: Loose in the School" story begins! Words + Pictures = Magic!  The best picture books are the epitome of the smooth teamwork between author, editor, artist, and art director/book designer. Here’s one case study of such a collaboration.

Many kindergarteners around the country have been successfully averted from first day jitters at school when the alert goes out that a cute little gingerbread boy is lost on the school grounds, and must be found!

Author Laura Murray relates one cookie’s side of the story in The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School, corroborated by Mike Lowery‘s action-packed illustrations.


click to enlarge

Joy Chu:  Tell us about the genesis of The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School. Where did it all begin?

Laura Murray:  I was a teacher before becoming a writer. The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School was inspired by a Kindergarten Gingerbread Man unit I taught at the beginning of each school year.

We compared and contrasted different versions of the Gingerbread Man story and used Gingerbread Man activities for each subject.

JC:  Which versions of the Gingerbread Man story were covered in your class? This is of particular importance to beginning illustration students — that traditional tales can have a unique perspective, dependent upon the story-teller and/or artist.

LM:  The teachers that do the GB Man unit use different versions of the story to compare and contrast, but I personally liked versions that had variations in setting, plot, main characters, illustration style, or culture.  We used Venn diagrams to discuss similarities and differences of each version. The titles I typically used were:

The Gingerbread Man  by Jim Aylesworth (traditional tale)
The Gingerbread Boy  by Richard Egielski (set in New York)
The Cajun Gingerbread Boy  by Berthe Amoss (Cajun “flavored” version, different characters and setting)
The Gingerbread Baby  by Jan Brett (different characters and ending)
The Masubi Man: Hawaii’s Gingerbread Man by Sandi Takayama (different setting, characters, ingredients, etc.)

[clockwise, from top left]

Various versions of "The Gingerbread Man"

But at the end of the unit, our freshly baked Gingerbread Man always managed to escape from the classroom!

JC: Funny!

An excerpt from the Teacher List of Clues for the Gingerbread Man School Hunt
Detail from the
School Hunt List
(click to enlarge)

LM:  We hung missing posters and searched the halls, discovering crumbs and dropped candies, as we asked school staff where he might be. But he always found his way back to our classroom on his own — “one smart cookie!”

JC:  So it’s really a CONSPIRACY!!! The entire upper grade student body plus faculty are in on it.

LM:  Yes, the faculty knew that the GB Man would escape on a specific day and they would  join in the fun, often letting the class know that “he just ran through the office, or that they had tried to catch him but he was too fast…”

My students absolutely loved this unit and would come back years later asking if the Gingerbread Man had escaped yet. Even though we read many versions of the Gingerbread Man story during the unit, there was not one that mirrored the fun of our school Gingerbread Man chase. So I decided to try and write a new version.

I started wondering what adventures the Gingerbread Man might have had while he was out and about, and then I began to ask what if. . . ? What if the story was set in a school? What if the story was told by the Gingerbread Man himself? What if he was trying to find the class who made him, instead of running away from them?

Those “what if” questions helped me imagine a Gingerbread Man adventure that was sprinkled with fresh, funny twists to set it apart from the traditional tale.

I wanted the story to be from the Gingerbread Man‘s point of view, so I started asking him questions. What did he want? What was getting in the way of what he wanted? What exciting, funny, or mischievous things could he do in a school?

I joined SCBWI… and then a local writing critique group. The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School went through over 50 drafts before it was submitted to a publisher.

Author Laura Murray at a school visit for "The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School"This is the school library where they recreated scenes from the book (above);  a kitchen area with pretend ingredients to make him;  his “cozy” house that the class made him;  the GB Man stuck on the ball . . .

. . . the missing posters on the windows (above);  and a finger play poem on the pad behind me (below). Amazing!

Background image created by the class for Laura Murray's school visitIt was quite spectacular and SO much fun! They even rented a GB Man costume (see below, left) and had him greeting the kids as they came into the presentation in the gym!

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 

[Mike Lowery, illustrator, and Cecilia Yung, Art Director, joins us for the discussion that follows. —JC]

JC:  How was Mike Lowery chosen for this project? Did you review illustrators with the editor?

click to enlarge

Cecilia Yung:  Ryan Thomann (the book’s designer) had a poster from Mike Lowry of a pirate bunny (left) that we all loved.

We were at first concerned that he doesn’t show much setting in any of his samples. But we decided it might work if we can find a more graphic way to show the school, and that’s how the floor plan idea came up.

JC:  What form did the original manuscript take?  In other words, was it typed like a screenplay, given that the final book is a hybrid graphic novel/picture book?

LM:  I submitted it to Putnam as a four page, typed document, with rhyming couplets. It was approximately 900 words — which is long for a picture book, but I thought it worked in this case,  because there is so much action.  It did not include art notes. I hoped that the text was vivid enough to “paint the pictures” in the editor’s mind, and to lend itself well to an illustrator’s vision.

[See the first page of what the manuscript format looked like (below left). Note that the book title subsequently changed from this version.— JC]
A detail from the original manuscript of "The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School"

A detail from page one of the original manuscript (click to enarge)

CY:   The plot is mainly a chase scene, so we really could not have covered the story with the usual scenes and spots. 

JC:  Was it envisioned as a comic strip hybrid at this point? Or did this evolve through many thumbnails and book dummies?

Mike Lowery:  I had been working on the manuscript as a straight-forward picture book, with the illustrations on each page or spread focusing on one tiny segment from the text. It wasn’t working at all because there were so many great, little actions, descriptions of characters, etc.

I just had to figure out a way to break up the text and show a LOT more on each page.  After almost a year of working on it like this, I finally had the idea to make it into the sequential or “comic book” format.

CY:  Mike suggested the sequential comic book format, and we agreed that it really solves many of the problems.

ML: From there it was a breeze, and the book became a lot of fun to work on.

JC:  I love the opening line:  “I began in a bowl. I was not yet myself — just a list of ingredients pulled from a shelf….  It’s funny! Were you amazed at how the text was broken up, and the decisions behind the pacing? There’s 75 separate pictures panels total, from very small multiple-series to stand-alone single-pagers, plus one double-page spread.

LM:  Thank you. I love that line too because it pulls readers in, as they wonder  “Who begins in a bowl?” I revised the beginning many times with my critique groups, but I was determined to keep that first line.

I story-boarded the text during revision and before I submitted it, to see where possible page turns might occur and to check the pacing of the story.

The format of the text in the book is actually very close to how it was submitted in manuscript form — in couplets or four-line stanzas.

JC:   Who was the editor?

CY: Nicole Kasprzak shepherded this through the initial manuscript, sketches and most of the final art, and Susan Kochan finished off the project at the end.

ML: I pitched the idea [of the sequential comic strip format] to Nicole initially with some fairly worked-out drawings, as opposed to rough sketches, because I definitely wanted the crew to get on board with the idea. They did, and the book turned out much better because of it.

For some reason I was incredibly nervous that they wouldn’t like the idea, and I’d get stuck working on something that I just wasn’t happy with.

CY:  We suggested the floor plan so that we can move through the school. We asked him to differentiate the various types of spaces—cafeteria, gym, nurse’s office, art room etc.

The evolution of text during the making of a picture book (above): The text changed for the first floor plan illustration, after the GB Man finds the school nurse. It went from “Your class passed my office just minutes ago” to “Your class turned the corner just minutes ago” because it worked better with the floor plan illustration.


JC:  Did the editor share all illustration sketches with author Laura Murray? Or perhaps you [Cecilia and book designer Ryan Thomann] and the editor collaborated on what guidelines to best support Mike Lowery with?

CY:  I think Nicole shared sketches with the author at key points.

LM:  As an author, it is like Christmas when you get to see the first sketches! You know your characters well, but it is a bit of magic when an illustrator brings them to life!

Yes, I loved Putnam’s floor plan idea and Mike’s comic-panel format!

And yes, the character dialogue was in the text from the very beginning. Since the book is written from the GB Man’s point of view, I wanted the story to have lots of active dialogue rather than just narration.

CY:  I believe that this was Mike’s first or second book, so we worked very closely with him at every stage. This book took quite a while. There were many, many rounds of sketches and final art almost two years from assignment to delivery of the final loose ends. We made a lot of suggestions for developing the characters, finding different ways to show the school setting, and varying the scale and the vantage point.

We worked with Mike extensively on the final palette for consistency and legibility. We also proofed and press proofed sample pages to determine the reproduction of the color.

JC:  I like the fonts selected! Did Ryan Thomann work with Mike as to what to hand-letter? And what text to colorize?

type sample of the "Dr-Eric" font, used for the title display

"Dr-Eric" font, used for the book title (click to enlarge)

CY:  Mike started off hand-lettering the text, but we were worried about the mix of caps and lower case for such a young reader. Ryan worked with me and the editor to find a font that looks hand-lettered. Mike then combined that with hand-lettered words in color, for emphasis.

Bokka-font, used for the text.

Bokka-font, used for the text. The illustrator provided key words, hand-lettered and colored (click to enlarge)

LM:  It was awesome to see how well the chosen font fit, how certain words were bolded or colored to give emphasis, and how capitals were used to set the dialogue apart — a lot of thought and work from the illustrator and design team! 🙂

JC:   The Gingerbread Man himself — he is endearing, with that round head. Whose idea to make him childlike?

ML:  We went through several stages of revisions for the character. From the beginning none of us were really pushing for him to have the standard gingerbread “cookie” look.  When I spoke with Nicole at the very beginning of being asked to take a look at the manuscript, she made it clear that she was drawn to the personality of the characters that I draw. So I wanted to work that style into the gingerbread man, for sure.

CY:  We went through many rounds of character sketches. My comments to Mike at the time: “It may be useful to think of this as a cookie with personality, rather than a cookie made with dough and icing by kids that comes alive.

Developing a character through facial expression...

Developing a character through facial expression...(click to enlarge)

This means that he could have a full range of human facial expressions. The mouth can be be dimensional and mobile: opening, closing and smiling really wide. The eyes are better once they are able to close and lower, but perhaps the position of the eyes and the pupil can move, and we can hint at the presence of eyebrows to help convey a wider range of emotions.”

JC:  Beginning illustration students (and creative writing beginners)  always ask this:  Did the text get altered in any way as the drawings evolved?

CY:  Yes, the author made quite a few changes to the text as Mike developed the sketches.

LM:  Nicole showed me Mike’s work prior to starting on Gingerbread Man. She also shared the initial character sketches, the first round of book sketches, the colored version of the sketches, and the F&Gs. I was able to comment, look for consistency with the text, and shout out my enthusiasm for the illustrations at each stage :-)!

JC:  Laura, do you recall communal decisions? Discussions [between the book collaborators] of what actually happened at your school?

LM:  Mike and I actually did not get in touch with one another until after the book came out. I think publishers like to give each artist his/her space to create a unique interpretation of the work.

Gingerbread Man exploring the school

I was fine with that. Mike gave the illustrations layers and elements that I could not have imagined. I didn’t expect to, nor did I want to, have a say in his creative process.

If I had comments or questions, I posed those to my editor.  So, I don’t really recall discussions about specific details with this book.

I hoped that my vision written in the text was clear enough, yet open enough, to allow Mike his own unique interpretation of the visuals, along with guidance from the wonderful art design team at Putnam. But I would certainly be open to any questions or discussions on details, etc. with future books. 

JC:  That is awesome! A true collaboration, and what sparkling results!

[Specal note:  A sequel is in the works. Yes! — JC]

LM:  There were a few small alterations to the text that did not change the plot, but flowed with the illustrations and dialogue a bit better. The one that we pondered over for a while was the text for the MISSING poster illustration. The original text mixes the GB man’s narration with the text of the childrens’ Missing poster, and it made the format of the illustration tricky. So the text was changed from. . . .

The poster said MISSING: From Room 23.
And right underneath was a drawing of me!
If found, please return him as soon as you can.
We think he is lost. He’s our Gingerbread Man.


And there on the wall was a drawing of me!
The poster said: MISSING From Room 23.
If found please return him as soon as you can.
We think he is lost. He’s our Gingerbread Man.

. . . . so we could get all the narration in one place, and all the poster text to follow.  This may seem like a simple enough text revision, but it actually took longer than one might think due to the rather rigid pattern of writing in rhyme and rhythm. Here’s the final illustration:

JC:  I must confess you got me when Gingerbread Man declared “I’m in somebody’s lunch!” — and it was strategic that this scene would happen on a right-hand page. Makes you anticipate the next page turn!

LM:  Great!  And yes, this is a very natural and fun place for a page turn.

JC:   What did the art look like in person, at the Original Art Show (at the Society of Illustrators Annual 2011) Exhibition)? The copyright page says it’s “… rendered in pencil, traditional screen printing, and digital color.”


ML:  The drawings always start out really rough with just pencil.  I draw over that with pencil again on tracing paper.  From there my process goes in a few directions.

Mike Lowery at work

Mike Lowery at work (click to enlarge)

For some of the larger areas of color, I mask out an area on a screen printing screen using tape, and print out large areas of flat color.  I scan in these prints, and overlap the drawings that I made in pencil.

For a lot of the smaller areas of color, I wouldn’t have time to print out every single piece, so those are finished in Photoshop.  I have lots of old screen print textures scanned — I teach this as part of one of my classes at SCAD, so every quarter I add 30-40 new textures to my collection — that I use in my final illustrations.

CY:  Mike delivered digital files. The Original Art Show displayed a framed giclée print of the final art.

JC:   Cool and groovy endpapers! Whose idea?

CY:  Ryan worked with Mike to put this together.

Endpaper sample

Endpaper sample (click to enlarge)

JC:  Tell us about the teacher’s materials that’s offered at the author’s website, and the poster.

LM:  Some of Mike’s artwork from the book was used in the teacher’s guide on my website. A wonderful author/teacher colleague, Natalie Lorenzi, prepared the 28-page guide of curriculum-linked ideas and activities for me to include on the website as a resource for teachers/librarians/parents. Putnam also has it available on their website.

Laura Murray’s FAQs about writing (click here)

Mike did quite a bit on the poster, providing the maze, coloring page, and all the artwork.  I provided the text for the Gingerbread Man School Hunt and the cookie recipe.

One teacher, Margaret Oliver, has been in touch with me and was SO enthusiastic about the book and her student’s reaction to it! She even sent me a GB Man bingo card they created for the classroom and Missing posters that her students colored.  I have them hanging on my office wall. Here is one (below):
Missing poster colored by students

“Gingerbread Man Loose in School is the complete package! It’s fun, engaging, full of action, and it has extras – a removable map in the back of the book, and a website with even more ideas. As a teacher, I appreciate its strong use of visual supports and rhyming to increase comprehension for young readers. Laura Murray has immediately become one of my favorite authors, and I can’t wait for her next book!”  — Margaret Oliver

The Horn Book‘s book review
(they LOVED it!)
Read more reviews here

@ Everyone:  Questions? Post them in the comments box below!

Comments? Post them here! . . . . and do check out Mike Lowery’s projects and sketches at his blog . Why? Because it’s

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On art media, sound, and teamwork

Our discussion about the making of the iPad story app “A Present for Milo” continues. . . .

Mike Austin, 1968

Mike Austin, 1968

7. What art media did you use? And what computer apps did you use yourself?

Mike Austin: I use a lot of scanned textures in my illustration, so before I began I gathered up a folder of all the things I wanted to use (different kinds of paper, cloth, banana leaves, etc.), I worked in Illustrator and Photoshop on the Mac.

8. What was the approval process or protocol between you, Rubin, Sequel Digital, and The Ruckus Media Group? Time frame?

Rubin Pfeffer: It was an iterative process — we approved it as we went along.  I touched base with Ruckus at key points along the way.

Ruckus had the same objective:  Great storytelling. They were actually more resolved to avoid gratuitous clickables that might suggest anything gimmicky.

The intent all along was to deliver a delightful reading experience that very young children would enjoy, and in turn, would be endorsed by parents and educators.

Mike Austin: It was a great collaboration between everyone.  It went very smoothly.  Sharon, Ken and I would communicate just about every day, with cc to Rubin.

We focused on one screen at a time. I would send the layered Photoshop files of the finished screens to Sharon for review. Ken would program the screen, and then send a prototype app that Rubin and I could upload to the iPad for proofing.

It was so funny, because I would get the app loaded, and then start jumping up and down, screaming “THIS IS SO COOL!!!!” The farther along we got the funnier our video Skypes became.

Joy Chu: Could you address the topic of voice-over? That is, did reading the text aloud have an effect upon who was selected to do the vocals? Who was responsible for that end of it?

Rubin Pfeffer: Mike’s reading was the most natural.  He recorded a preliminary track that we planned to use only for visual pacing.

We’d always intended to bring in a professional reader. When it was time to do the actual voice-over, we did a test with a professional.  It was very good, but it lacked the authenticity that we’d come to enjoy from Mike’s voice.


So we sent Mike back to the studio to re-read the manuscript. This time he was the voice celebrity. It just wouldn’t have been the same with someone else.

Most of the sound decisions were invented and decided between Mike and the Sequel Creative team, Sharon and Ken Streger. They had great fun “illustrating” with sound!

I got to see what a silly kid-at-heart Mike is, by listening to the many sounds that he himself is able to make up, right there on the phone.

Mike Austin today

Mike Austin today

6 | On using computers

Do you think every children’s book illustrator need to be computer-literate nowadays? If yes, what basics should they know in today’s market?

Melanie Hope Greenberg: By the way, both the owner and a chef at Superfine appear in the above image (#6).  Superfine is the award winning restaurant, gallery and performance space in the DUMBO neighborhood, in Brooklyn. The Superfine Dinettes star in my book.

Interview with owner, Tanya Rynd (the blue mermaid):

Julia Zaychenko: ‎^_^!!!!!! Super awesome, Melanie!!!!  Lovely to be of inspiration to you, and cheers to many more amazing projects integrating life and art to come! xo!

Melanie Hope Greenberg: @ Julia:  Thanks forever!

@ Everyone: It’s vital to have email. It’s an important online tool. Many job offers come in emails and I also get phone calls. I have a website that is a static billboard for my books, art, author visits. The website also connects to my blog. I really enjoy the blog format. I can control the context, and blogs are fluid and in real time. I can keep everyone up to date.

However, art directors are swamped with images. I believe an illustration printed on a postcard can be tacked onto an art director’s wall.  It’s a reminder that you are looking for work. Digital files go by so fast. Using both channels doubles the chances.

Got Story Interview Photo Album:

My website:  

My Blog is called Mermaids on Parade http://mermaidsonparade.blogspot.com/

Erin Taylor: I remember the conference in Omaha a few years back that you were at and your editor Tim Travaglini (hope I spelled that right) told all the illustrators that they needed a website, because if he liked our work he wanted to be able to look at more right away instead of mailing back a request and then waiting another few weeks.

I don’t know if all editors work that way but it made a lot of sense to me and I ran home and found someone to put together a simple site. I never send samples via email either, though — I think it shows I made a personal effort, to get a nicely printed postcard that I put a stamp on and hand-addressed, and I didn’t just send out a mass email to every editor and art director in the business.

MHG: Erin, so that is how we met, in Omaha! I loved that conference! I send both emails and snail mail postcards. However, email images are sent only after I have met that editor/AD in person and have gotten their permission to send.
This is not a one size fits all business. Each editor/ AD has their own personal preference. It’s always better to ask for what they want, make notes and follow through.

Erin Taylor: Yes, that was fun! I have only attended two of the SCBWI-NE conferences because they usually don’t have anything for illustrators. 

I get the Children’s Writer’s/Illustrators Market book every year and use a highlighter and a pen for notes next to the guidelines for publishers I’m interested in and also check their websites.

I did send an email w/ art attached to an agent because they requested it that way, but most of them want some other form of contact initially. 

How often do you update your website? Do you do that yourself of have a web design person do it for you?

MHG: I do not change the website often because I need to pay a webmaster. However, I use my blog as an extension of the website so that I can control it on my own anytime I wish and it’s free.

Erin Taylor: I had my old website taken down last year and hired someone new to make a new one. He did a horrible job, found out he was not really a professional web designer and was using a program from 1996. I was referred to another person in Arizona who said what I was wanting was simple and he could do it for me easily. I gave up after multiple times calling/emailing to get it finished. Now I have been waiting for another designer, a woman I knew in Atlanta, and it’s been two months. I’ve had addressed postcards with my site name sitting in my studio for several months and no site. That’s why I was wondering if you learned to do some of it yourself or had someone to do it for you.

MHG: I suggest this politely 😉   Dump the website idea and do a blog where you can feature your art and all your info. Stop waiting. Get a Google ID and use their Blogger template. I am a techno-peasant but intuitive enough to design Blogger on my own. You’ll be great:)  Send people to your blog every time you post 😉

Erin Taylor: I do have a blog, so when I give my card to people I tell them that they can view my newest art on there. The thing with the blogspot is if I want to show an editor/AD my best pieces they have to scroll through everything, there’s no way to do a portfolio with that site.

I have a lot invested in business cards/postcards/etc. with the name of a website that isn’t there. So I’ll have to toss all of it and start over- but I am frustrated enough with designers that aren’t following through that I want to do it myself. I will check out Google ID and their blogger template.  Glad you say it’s easy enough to figure out because I am also a “techno-peasant.”  🙂  Thanks!

MHG: On my blog I’ve created links on the sidebar to take me to the postings that I want others to see. Tag all your art postings together, then announce it with a link on the sidebar and send that link to your art directors. Best of Luck.

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Erin Taylor: Oh, great idea!  🙂

Joan Hansen:  Another idea might be to take a web design class at a junior college. I did that and learned Dreamweaver, so when I need to update my website, I don’t have to hire someone to do it.

Erin Taylor: That’s a good idea.  I actually have been trying to find a class like that. The community college in my town does not offer anything to non full-time students.  The same thing in Omaha (nearest big city.)  It would be nice if I could find a designer to come to my home and give me a few classes one on one.

Joy Chu: @ Erin: You might approach your community college teachers and see if they offer private tutoring. One of my former students — she teaches Photoshop, Illustrator, and Indesign at two colleges here in San Diego — teaches at an hourly rate (two hour minimum; 3 hour minimum if more than 25 miles away).

If you have your questions ready alongside a real project, it’s probably the optimal way to learn. And it would be on YOUR computer!

Erin Taylor: Hi Joy, 

That is a very good idea, thank you! 🙂  I have created all the pieces for my website myself in Photoshop, I just don’t understand how the coding works and putting it all together. I think it would be a good investment to learn these things so that in the future I could make all changes and updates myself and not have to rely on a designer.

Joy Chu: Take plenty of notes as your tutor demos the steps you need to execute. There will be a sequence, and you must echo them. It will seem oh so easy when you watch. But you’ll forget it all after the tutor leaves your place, if you don’t practice, practice, practice. It’s like piano lessons! If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. . . . FAST.

Carmina Caballes: Look into MAT 125 at MiraCosta College, this beginning web design class is offered online so you can take it from afar.
 http://www.miracosta.edu/ Register early because the online classes fill up. Next semester starts in January.

Photoshop will make a web gallery for you. If you could figure out how to place it into a public folder available on the web, then you’ll have at least a gallery you can link to from your blog. In Photoshop, view File> Automate> Web Photo Gallery. I think in the newest version of Photoshop,  you have to do it through the Bridge application. Just look up “Automate” in the help section.

Joy Chu: Carmina shared a terrific tip! 

The Web Photo Gallery feature within Photoshop will generate an instant portfolio website for you. Simply fill one folder with your images — they should all be sharp & bright jpegs, RGB format, aprox 80 kb maximum file size (the smaller the better) for best results. Then go to the ‘Automate’ feature of Photoshop, and follow the prompts that request filling in all your contact information for your prospective customers.

JC: @ Erin: If you have a friend who has Photoshop, perhaps you can swap favors.

  @ Carmina: Hi!  Were your ears burning? 🙂 

Great tip about Miracosta’s on-line classes too. I’ve taken a few of them, and they are excellent.

JC :  @ Erin: Reread earlier posts. If you already have Photoshop, I’d try out Carmina’s suggestion.

Denise Hilton Campbell: Wish I’d been in on this from the beginning. 

It doesn’t take much to learn how to do your own web page. There are more and more do-it-yourself web design sites out there that are featuring more sophisticated templates. It’s a good place to start, in my opinion, until you learn the ropes.

There are also some free online tutorials to learn code and designing web pages. It does take a little time but it’s worth it. You can also change it or keep refining it as you go. It’s kind of addictive, actually.

 I agree with Carmina and Joy that Photoshop is the best place to start if you have a newer version.

 I’m developing a blog too and I’m finding I almost like it better than a website.

Erin Taylor: Thank you everyone for all of the great ideas on how I can get a simple site up for my portfolio! I checked on my Photoshop, and saw the web gallery option in the drop down list.  My version of the program is about five years old (ancient in computer years!) so hopefully it would still work okay.  And I will definitely check out those online classes, this is something I have wanted to learn to do for a while now.

Denise Hilton Campbell: Mine is ancient too, Erin. One of my goals this year is a new computer so I can upgrade all of my software. The older versions of Photoshop don’t have some of the bells and whistles of the newer versions, but you can still get something going.