Surtex2015 Recap:

Surtex2015  Recap:

Ten Rules for Commercial Printing (or, do as I say and not what I did!)

So Surtex 2015 is over!!! Sigh of relief… All that planning and fussing and now I have at least six months before I need to start again.

One of the major things I did for Surtex this year was to create a branded giveaway packet in the hope that by spreading some free goodies around, I would also generate some after-the-show interest in my website from those buyers who took home a packet.

Being Brave for the Global Talent Search

Being Brave for the Global Talent Search

Pragmatic. Practical. I go through life with a jaundiced eye, a cynical look and a wry quip or sar-caustic remark at all the foibles of the world around me. The most frequent butt of my humor is me.  Not always in fun… I hate flowery phrases and refuse to wade in maudlin sentimentality. I'm too old for all that nonsense. A search for deeper meanings makes me ill… Express emotion??? Not me. R i g h t… 

How Christmas Became a Pillow

How Christmas Became a Pillow

It's a warm September day...

I'm starting to see pumpkin recipes. The farm stands will soon have fall squash and mums rather than Jersey tomatoes to sell. The summer folks have mostly gone back to the city. The strains of "It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas" are starting to sound in my ear.

WHAAAAT???? Not now! Now yet! We haven't even seen Halloween.

My Workspace

I've heard it said that a clean desk is the sign of an empty mind. NEVER happen around here! I was the little girl who got sent home from third grade with a trash bag to show her mother and the warning that her desk was too messy. The teacher even said that on my report card! I guess I didn't learn a lot from that lesson, though, because I've not gotten much better over the years. My house is clean (it's a wonderful invention called a "cleaning service"), but the only thing the cleaners are allowed to do in my studio is to vacuum.

My studio is a reflection of the fact that I never quite decided what I wanted to do "when I grow up." The only common denominator is that I am a "creative." What I am being creative about can vary a lot--from Photoshop, to beadwork, to spinning, to knitting, to surface pattern design. So let me show you around.

My studio was purpose-built. It was originally the garage on this house that my in-laws purchased the year my husband and I were married. When they passed away, the house became ours and we moved here full time in 2008.  We live in a sleepy little beach town that's a summer resort area and populated most heavily only on summer weekends. However, this house is about half the size of the one from which we moved, and had no studio space for me unless I converted one of the two guest bedrooms. (Could not do that, though; beach town=frequent summer guests!)

So, my space is limited, but I try to make the most of it. The studio consists of the room and a walk-in closet. You can see this best as you enter the room.

intotheclosetLooking into my closet from the entrance to the studio

My closet holds my clothes, but it’s also filled with my seed bead storage

 beadsSeed bead drawers (with hanger and pieces of clothing!) This really IS a closet, folks!

And it holds a lot of my fiber as well. "Fiber" is the generic term for wool and other materials that I can use for hand spinning (yes, on a spinning wheel, but not quite like the one in Sleeping Beauty).

 woolSome of my fiber storage

Walking back out of the closet, you can see the shelves where I store my Angelina and firestar fibers. Angelina, for you non-spinners, is a tinsel-like fiber that seems to reproduce like bunny rabbits. I try to keep it locked up, but if I let a single strand out, it clings to everything in sight. I also have a variety of unfinished beading projects--each one stored neatly in its own project case, just waiting for me to actually get around to finishing it (in the craft world, these are known as UFO's, but mine are at least labeled).

 angelinaAngelina, silk, noils, and other spin-ins and a large selection of unfinished bead projects

I have a lot of book shelves in the studio, and sometimes, I can even get to the books. This, however, is not one of the times. I have a few-too-many containers of wool waiting to be spun.

 messWool rovings for me to spin

By this time, you're probably thinking, "so where does she actually WORK?" Yes, I do have a spot. It's called the computer table--aka beading table, spinning table, art table, and sometimes, dining table!

 computerMy computer station

My studio has no room for a television, and I rarely watch it anyway, but the large monitor on the right can also become a TV. Usually, though, it’s just a great place to put Photoshop panels!

 chairIn my own little corner

As you can see, I have all the comforts! If I am going to spend at least twelve hours a day here, I might as well make it as cozy as I can.

Behind me are more books and my collection of lampwork beads.

 beadtraysMy chair and the book shelves with my lampwork bead collection

I have fibromyalgia. In learning over the years to cope with having no strength to lift things, I tend to keep the things I need all the time close at hand so I don't need to up to get them. This turns into a juggling act when you realize that I need everything.

I can reach my left hand down to grab my spinner (a Hanson mini-spinner that uses either electricity or a battery pack), my Lazy Kate (for plying yarn), or my large magnifying glass for beading.

 spijnninwheelMy pride and joy Hansen mini-spinner and my lazy kate

On the other side of the chair, I have drawers for art supplies and my sketchbooks, floor space that should be free but that ends up holding all current craft books, my Wacom tablet, and my iPad, and another purpose-built table that holds, among other things, small art supplies and my large yarn winder: definitely an eclectic collection!

 drawersMessy drawer storage for art supplies and sketch books

artsupplies Yarn winder and more art supplies

So, there you have it! You've had the full tour… Now when you see my work, you can picture the clutter--or the visual inspiration--that surrounds me!

Creating Photoshop Textures: Part 1

Creating Photoshop Textures: Part 1

Everyone seems to want to learn how to create textures for pattern design in Photoshop. The video tutorial in this installment shows how you can create a useful texture from a blank white canvas. It has a lot of steps, but it's a recipe that you could automate with an action. I'm going to show you how to do this using a single layer, but in a later tutorial, I'll show you how to create it as a non-destructive template file

Create an Illustrator Texture From a Photograph

Textures play such a huge role in surface pattern design that I thought I'd start a series of posts on how to generate or create them. This first post shows you how to use one of your photos to create an Illustrator texture that you can put into multiple images, use in Photoshop, clip to a shape, or use as an opacity mask. The basic steps are to:

  1. Open a photo (preferably a JPG photo) in Illustrator.
  2. Select the photo and use the Image Trace command. In the video, I also show you how to make the artboard the same size as the image. I used the Object > Artboards > Fit to Selected Art command in Illustrator CC.
  3. Once you enter Image Trace mode, you need to open the Image Trace options (the icon between the presets and the View fields on the Control panel.
  4. You may uncheck the Preview box whilst making initi8al changes:  show the Advanced settings, set the Path count to Low, Set Corners to Less, untick Snap Curves to Lines, and tick Ignore white. (Snap Curves to Lines, despite my slip in the video, creates *fewer* lines, which is what I want.
  5. Once these options are set, tick the Preview box and drag the Noise and Threshold setting where you like them best.
  6. Click the Image trace options and click Expand on the Control Panel.

These steps should get your start. If you need more written instructions after viewing the video, please let me know and I will get them added to this site (somehow) I'm still learning my way around!

I'd love to know if you find the video helpful.


'Til later! Sherry--aka the prancingpixel


Make Photoshop Do the Four Way Flip--part 2 Editing Smart Objects

Smart Objects are your friend! They give you unlimited design possibilities and you can edit them forever--and any time you want. Picture a refrigerator that takes its own inventory. You can look at the picture on the door of the fridge and see exactly what's inside without having to open it. However, if open the door and put in more food, or use some up, the fridge immediately updates the list or picture of what's inside. That's essentially what a Smart Object does. It lets you use whatever is inside of it as if it were a single image. Even better, you need to OPEN the Smart Object in order to make a change; you can't do it 'by accident' in your file. If you resize your image, the Smart Object keeps its original size. If you cut off your image and only one pixel is left, you can restore the image from inside of the Smart Object and always get it back.

You can add images to the open Smart Object file and make non-destructive changes (you can make destructive ones too, but I hope you won't). In this video, I'll show you some of the things you can do. The secret is that you COPIED the first Smart Object into the other three Smart Object layers. Updating one Smart Object updates them all. For this to work, you need to have used the Layer > New > Layer via Copy command (COMMAND or CTRL +J). The Layer > Smart Objects > New Smart Object via Copy won't work here; it creates unlinked objects.

So, please enjoy the video. Ask my any questions if you have them.

If you have enjoyed this video, please subscribe so you can be notified when I post a new one.


'Til later!

--Sherry (a.k.a the prancingpixel)

Make Photoshop Do the Four-Way Flip--part 1

You can make Photoshop do the flip! Flipping an image horizontally or vertically gives you a mirror image. It works like a mosaic tile and also can create a seamless repeat pattern. You can watch the video below to see how I prefer to do the flip in Photoshop. Under the video, I've listed all the steps to the process.  Be sure to also watch the second video in this sequence. It shows you the benefits of creating a smart object for your  starting image.


  1. Create an image 100x100 pixels.
  2. Fill with Filter>Noise>Add Noise and set the noise to Gaussian and the amount as high as it goes
  3. Double-click to make this into a Smart Object.
  4. Duplicate the layer by pressing COMMAND or CTRL+J (Layer > New>Layer via Copy)
  5. Choose Image > Canvas Size and click the left-center anchor box. Tick Relative and set the Width to 100%. Click OK.
  6. Make the top layer active and choose Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal
  7. Hold the SHIFT key and carefully move the layer to the right until it joins the original layer.
  8. Click the bottom layer. Hold the SHIFT key and click the top layer in the Layers panel.
  9. Press COMMAND or CTRL + J to make another copy of the two layers.
  10. Leave the layers targeted.  Choose Edit >Flip Vertical.
  11. Choose Image > Canvas Size and tick the top center square. Then set the HEIGHT to 100%. Click OK.
  12. Start to drag the layers down and immediately press and hold the SHIFT key to keep the layers moving vertically. Drag until the layers snap into place and touch the first set of layers.

That is the 4-way flip.

However, because you created three copies of the original Smart Object, there is still more that you can do. For that, view The 4-Way Flip, part 2 video at


'Til later!

--Sherry (a.k.a. the prancingpixel)


Creating Global Colors

Traditional fabric printing uses a series of passes by a single color ink at one time to produce the design. Just like spot colors in printing, each ink adds to the printing costs. For that reason, if fabric is to be screen printed (you'll also hear the term "spot color" used for this), you need to keep your colors to the absolute minimum. This is in contrast to most commercial printing that produces its colors by a combination of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black inks. In photographic (or continuous tone) printing process, it isn't necessary to limit your palette. If you need to produce a limited color palette, however, you can do that most easily to choosing colors you want that can range in value from dark to light. A printing press lays down one color at a time (even in CMYK printing) and does this by creating halftones  or screens that tell the press how to space the dots of color. Below, I created a black to white gradient in Photoshop and then, under, changed it to a halftone (which would be finer and more subtle in reality).

halftone  You can see how the black dots seem to separate as as the screen becomes lights. That's what occurs on press as the ink fills the image. For a 6 color print, the complete image requires 6 passes through the printer. To keep your colors clean, you don't want to mix up colors as you would in CMYK printing; you don't want them to blend on press.

So, how do you go about choosing and using a limited range of colors in Adobe Illustrator?  In the video below, I show you how to choose colors off of a target image. There are so many ways to pick colors; this is just one of them. However, once I've selected a color, I then define it as Global color to get easy access to the all the tints possible from the base color. Take a look! Please ask me if you have any questions about this. I will answer all comments as soon as possible.

Also, if you want to find out each time I release a new post or video, please sign up for my email list on the right of this post.

'til later


Creating Seamless Photoshop Tiles

I am so eager for you to see this technique and to let me know if you like it. It's a way to develop a seamless repeat pattern in Photoshop in a way that is guaranteed to always be seamless and yet allow you to see the pattern in repeat as you create it. It's also easy to do. So, please watch and then let me know what you think.

--Sherry aka the prancingpixel

Recovering and Colouring Layers

Layers are wonderful. Sometimes, though, when you don't quite understand what you are doing (and sometimes, even when you do!), you will accidentally delete them all by creating a single layer of them. This is called flattening the image and it results in a single layer in the image. If you were lucky enough to only have a line drawing in the image, you can usually get your layers back by selecting the background of the image with the Magic Wand tool, reversing the selection and then getting each object into its own layer. One reason to do this is so you can colour your line drawing and add a different colour to each object. Take a look at this short video to see how.

--Sherry aka the prancing pixel


Photoshop Smart Objects 101

When you need to create a repeating pattern in Photoshop, the usual process is to build your repeat tile and then flatten the image so you can apply an Offset filter to see how your tile looks when repeated. However, if you flatten the image, you can't fix anything if you dislike the results. One way to work is to create a "merged copy" layer. You can do this by positioning yourself on the top layer of your image and pressing the COMMAND + OPTION + SHIFT +E keys on the Mac or the CTRL + ALT +SHIFT +E keys on Windows. That is the "have the cake and keep it too" technique that has been part of Photoshop for a long time. It creates a layer at the top of the image that contains the merged content in all of your layers. You can then apply the Offset filter to just that layer and if you hate the resulting repeat, you can simply trash that layer--only--and rearrange your original layers.

A better technique is to use the Smart Object feature that was first added to Photoshop in CS2. I call this the "Jack-in-the-Box" technique because it allows you total flexibility to keep your layers, scale and rotate them, and filter them. Nothing is ever damaged and you can recover or revert at any point.

So, take a look at this video and see what you think!

--Sherry aka the prancingpixel


Drag and Drop in Photoshop

Dragging one image into another was an easy process in almost every version of Photoshop until Adobe had a "better" idea in CS4. In CS4, they started opening each image, by default, into its own overlapping tab. That meant that unless you rearranged the default tabs, you could only see one window at a time. I find the process of dragging one image into another to be quite clunky in tabs and harder to make work. In this video, I'll show you how you can can drag and drop in the tabbed interface and then show you how to make the tabbed interface go away. I have never found a circumstance (other than a demonstration like this) where I needed to go back to tabs. However, take a look and try it both ways. Neither one is wrong or right; in Photoshop, you have the choice of how to work. Click the play button to see it in action.


--Sherry aka the prancingpixel

Navigating and Understanding the Layers Panel in Illustrator CS6

In the first two posts, you used the Image Trace command to take a scanned image and change it to a vector image in Illustrator. You then altered the color mode of the document and added swatches to the file. Now, you're ready to color your traced motif. But wait! When we last saw the image, it was decked out in solid pink! That will never do. If we'd wanted a square, we could have started with it and not fussed with Image Trace at all.

So, what hath Illustrator wrought here? It isn't quite the mess that it seems. The trick is to dig into the Layers panel and see exactly what Illustrator traced. It will rarely be what you had in mind, but everything can be fixed or worked-around, or, at worst, done over.

So, play the video and see how you can remove layers and ungroup things to make it easier to alter the colors.


Changing the Document Color Mode and Adding Colors in Illustrator

In the next video--and cheers!--it actually contains audio, I'll show you how to alter the Document Color Setting for an image to create a CMYK file from the original RGB document. I'll also explain how you can add additional colors to your image. Unlike Photoshop, which always shows you a variety of built-in colors in the Swatches panels, Illustrator gets its colors from the image assets associated with the document profile. For example, if I choose File > Open and use a Web profile, Illustrator associates the basic web set of color swatches with the image. Because we're scanning an image and it doesn't originate in Illustrator, our document has no associated colors. So, you need to add them.

The Swatches panel has a library button that gives you access to a large number of swatch document choices. You only need to choose the one you want and transfer it to your document Swatches panel. Click the link below to see it in action.

--Sherry aka the prancingpixel

The Image Trace command in Illustrator CS6

I have a love/hate affair with Adobe Illustrator's Image Trace command. When it works, I love it. When it balks at me, I am very unhappy.  The tool actually works well if you only have modest expectations for its tracings. It does well, for example, on a clean black and white image that you wish to trace. Click the link below to see a silent video of opening and Image Tracing a file in Illustrator CS6 on Windows. It should be basically the same on the Mac. I am just learning how to do video so I have no sound as yet.You can click the icon on the bottom right of the video to expand this so you can see it. Since there's no sound, at least you should be able VIEW what I did. I will change this and add sound as soon as I can.

After you Image Trace the object, you need to understand what Illustrator has done.  That will be my next video.

--Sherry aka the prancingpixel

Starting the adventure

I hope you'll join me for an adventure in the world of repeat and surface patterns. I've been designing patterns that repeat seamlessly in Photoshop and Illustrator for almost too many years to remember (Illustrator '88 and Photoshop 1.0) and I've had a truly remarkable chance to watch an industry grow. But I need to grow as well, and now I'm finding out much more than I ever knew about how to design a surface to repeat.

I hope to chart my progress and have you join in on my adventure.

I promise that I will put some 'clothes' on this site in the near future, but I wanted for now to just get it up and running--so please ignore the construction going on around you!