December 29, 2010

Homemade Gifts Reveal Part 2: Graphics Stuff

Hey Blog, welcome to Part 2 of my big reveal of the gifts I made for my beloved family for our First Annual Creative Christmas. For three of the presents, I made use of the countless nifty ways in which we can use modern graphics technology to make neat stuff.


So, while on our fall shopping trip to Cedarburg, I saw those photography alphabet letters you can buy to make personalized signs. (Later, I learned they also offer this sort of thing at Michael's: their "Sticks and Stones" line.) Their use of black and white photos to suggest letters was really attractive to me, and reminded me of Katie's boyfriend Chris, who is a professional photographer. However, the ones I saw cost $7 a letter! Oy, who could afford to say more than "YOU ROCK" with our spending limit?

Later, I had the brainstorm to make my own sign in a crafty fashion, and the first step was to get photographs of letters.  It suddenly dawned on me that Chris himself has taken photographs of a bizillion signs over the years. I went to his Flickr pages and, over the course of a VERY long time, found all the letters for my sign message.  I then had to crop and resize them to precisely equal dimensions, convert them to black and white, and fix the brightness and contrast for consistency and visibility. Thank you, Photoshop!

I bought a balsa wood board at Michael's; one of the hardest parts of the project was sawing it evenly with our lame saw (could have used my new Dremel tool that day!). Then I sanded the cut edge and painted the board black.

Printing, very precise cutting, and very even mounting of the letters followed. And after that, I put approximately 37582075 layers of Mod Podge on the board. The whole project took about 12 hours. The final result:

The coolness of this sign is in direct proportion to the coolness of the original images (some of which, you'll note, are not letters but rather things that mimic letters). When Chris opened the present, I pretty quickly pointed out that all the photos were his, and that was awesome! He started identifying the locations of the various shots...super fun! (Some of you can recognize the second "R" was from an Iron Maiden poster he photographed.)

And best of all, no copyright infringement! Well, technically it was, but Chris didn't mind. Here he is with Katie happily studying his new sign:


The brilliant illustrator Dyna Moe has been creating awesome Mad Men art for some time now. She's offered tons of cool images for free download for fans of the show, with plenty of support from the AMC cable channel. She's not allowed to sell her stuff, nor are those of us who privately enjoy it and/or give it to their daughter Amanda's boyfriend for Christmas.

Dyna's illustrations were the source I used to create a set of cocktail recipe cards. Once again Photoshop came to the rescue as I had to do quite a lot of design of my own, rearranging Dyna's graphics for this format.

I printed out the cards on light card stock in my computer printer, then laminated them back to back with my Xyron® laminating machine. I punched a hole in the corner of each card and put them all together with a key ring-type ring. The results:

There you have it, 18 classic cocktail recipes to keep in the bar area, impervious to spills of gin, grenadine, olive juice and the like! This was a speedy project to complete, at only about four hours. Nevertheless, Nate was thrilled, and therefore I was UBERthrilled:


My daughter Amanda aka Manzi (or Manzy, as she spells it, or Mandsi, as her sister spells it) is a film buff, and her favorite director is Alfred Hitchcock. In fact, she is working on a huge book that will encyclopedically analyze every one of his films. So, when in my daily blog reading I ran into some mini-Hitch-posters, I thought of her. I wish I could remember who did them, but I since deleted the link, my bad. At any rate, once again I fall back on the "I'm not stealing if I didn't make any money" excuse here. I saved the four posters to my computer and began trying to think of how to use them in a mini-gift.

My best idea was some sort of four-sided Christmas ornament that could incorporate the images. The internet, for once, yielded nothing when I search on "photo cube ornament" and such like. So I went to Michael's in a last-ditch effort to find something appropriate.

Sure enough, I found the perfect thing! I sized the posters appropriately (they are about 3/4" x 3/4") and put them in the ornament ball, and voila:

Count the searching, and this project only took me an hour and a half or so. The actual project itself was done in like 20 minutes!

For such little effort I got a fab reaction from Manzi and Nate:

You may note here that graphic design is not exactly my forte, hence the liberal use of images created by others much more talented than me. Obviously most of the credit for these items goes to the actual artists, and I'm grateful to them for sharing their work on the internet.

Next time I will go more original, Blog, as I venture into an area that is more my expertise... Part 3: Polymer Clay Stuff!

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