Archive for June, 2011

SkillsUSA National Competition

The SkillsUSA organization, for those who are top of the class in their chosen fields, had its national competition this last week. This has been the largest competition in the organizations history and the number of competitions running totaled at 96. The number of registrations was in excess of 6,500 and made for quite the event.

Monday June 20th:

The state orientations took place in the evening and was immediately followed by the PDP test. We got all of our stuff that came with the registrations in these funky little bags and baseball caps to boot! This orientation covered basic expectations and the dress code and such.

Tuesday June 21st:

The national orientation was held in the morning and explained in detail what we needed to do before the competition. We weren’t told what the actual event would entail until the competition itself on Thursday. We were also able to walk around the TECHSPO and look at all the booths. There were a lot of interesting ones and lots of them offered free stuff or challenges. The one that made the biggest impression on me was the Otis Funklemeyer stand which was offering free cookies! They’re awesome! The people were also very nice even after the third time I changed my clothes and pretended I was someone else. 😛

Wednesday June 22nd:

Wednesday morning we did the written knowledge test for Advertising Design and then had to wait all day until the presentations in the evening which were conducted by a couple of designers from Hallmark. They were interesting and informative and I enjoyed it very much. During the time we were waiting we did the ‘Amazing Race’ which involved running from one side of the Bartle Hall to the complete opposite side and then back again several times. You had to take the ‘Passport’ registrants received in their packets and get them stamped by all the vendors who’s challenges were completed. The opening ceremonies were also held late this day and were actually kind of fun, if long.

Thursday June 23rd:

The actual competition. Dum Da Dum Duuum. This included a Creative and a Mechanical. The creative involved solving the challenge that was laid out and the Mechanical tested your ability to follow exact specifications and use the programs effectively. The Creative lasted 4.5 hours and the Mechanical was approximately 2.5 hours. Ughh! It was fun and challenging but LONG! We were served a box lunch between the challenges and afterward were able to meet the judges from Hallmark. Great people! Mr. Lee Troxell lead the contest. I thought it was great to get his perspective on things and I think he’s extremely amusing so that was cool.

Friday June 24th:

The awards ceremony began at 6:00 pm and was over three hours long. They kept it surprisingly well organized and quickly moved it along in spite of having to wait for the winners to make their way to the stage.

And thus ended a very exciting and fun week. If there’s anyone considering taking part in any SkillsUSA events I would highly recommend it.



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Cosmic Fantasy Lawn Tutorial

This is the process I used to create the ‘Backyard with a View ‘ design.

01.)  Open the ‘Hills’ Image in Photoshop and unlock the base layer by double clicking it. Copy the layer to keep the original as a backup (ctrl+J). Re-lock and hide the original layer.

02.) Go to the ‘paths’ palette and use the pen tool to create the blocks of ground you’ll be removing from the hills. Name the paths as you make them, this will save the paths and keep them organized.

03.) ctrl/cmmd+click the first path to select it. Shift+ctrl/cmmd+click all other paths and, while selected, go to the layers palette and, on the base image layer, hit delete. This will remove the unwanted areas but you can still go back to the locked backup layer to make corrections if need be.

04.) Create a path that selects the entire sky and delete it from the picture the same way as you did the holes in the previous step.

05.) File – place the clouds file and move the layer to the very back of your work. Just above the locked base layer.

06.)  Block in the base supports for the grass with a brown brush. File – place the rust texture of your choice into the document. Here I used the above mentioned rust texture. Mask it to the blocked in dirt layer by alt+clicking between the two layers and set it to overlay.

The texture I used is from

08.) Open the tree document in Photoshop and remove it from the background. You don’t need to be to terribly careful unless you place the tree into the foreground, in which case, you can either select it with a variety of selection methods or cut it out manually with the pen tool. Copy it over into the comp document and place it where you intend to ‘plant’ it.

Use a small hard brush to rough in some background roots in a dark brown, lighten the brown and repeat the process for some roots in front of the others, and finally, increase the brush size and block in the large supporting roots.

09 .) Take a 1px-100% opacity-100 hardness brush and on the ‘Grass’ mask layer brush little scruffs around the edges of the holes to reveal the underlying grass layer to make the grass go to the edge more naturally. This removes the hard, defined, clean cut sides from the holes.

On the outer edges of the grass use a bigger soft brush with a lower opacity to blur the sides into a softer transition. The distance decreases the definition so keep that in mind and make the edges that are closest to the field of view sharper than the more distant ones.

10 dirt edges
11.) To create the moon use the ellipse tool on a new layer to make a perfect circle by holding down shift while dragging out the shape. Fill the ellipse with white and double click the layer to open the layer styles panel. Reduce the fill opacity to between 0-10. I used a blend mode of normal, an outer glow with 17% opacity, an angle of 153, global light on, a distance of 28, choke of 0, and a size of 5px. Outer glow= blend mode, Screen, Opacity of 12%, color of white, spread of 6, and size of 70. Inner glow= opacity 22%, size of 117. Leave the other settings at their defaults.

11.) Hide all but the sky layers. Take a 1-3px hard brush and lay out some stars where you see fit. You may want to turn the other layers on and off to see how they work together with the stars. Change the size of the brush and vary the hardness to create star clusters and constellations. I’ve also added a low opacity vignette for extra contrast.

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Free ‘Simplicity’ Wallpaper

This wallpaper was inspired by an astronaut’s photos from space. In it I emphasize the calm of space, the lack of motion and the bright tyrannical power of the sun as it dictates the movements and environments of the other spacial deities.


To use this wallpaper, click on the image and when it opens,

right click and select ‘save as’.

Navigate to your intended directory and hit ‘save’.

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Striped Skull

Shameless self promotion mar two!

Please click the link and vote!

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Comment With Care!

Commenting is an amazing resource. Many people use the internet as a ‘look but don’t touch’ source of entertainment and information. They don’t even realize the vast opportunities that commenting and forums provide. I myself will admit to having had this outlook for a very long time. It lasted until I actually began using these foreign notions of online communication. Once I began there was no going back.

Let me tell you about an experience that I had with comments on ColourLovers. I had just created a new palette and someone commented with a question about my profile picture. The question was in Chinese. I don’t speak Chinese. I  used the translation tools offered by Google and got to a point where I understood what was being asked quite clearly. I reverse translated my reply and as soon as I had sent it I realized, I was conversing with someone in Chinese! It was such a cool thought, that I could easily communicate with somebody who was across the world, using a language I had no clue how to speak, helping another creative with her interest and  being assisted in return! This wild world of actually (gasp) TALKING to other people on the internet isn’t as bad or as time consuming it’s made out to be.

One nuisance when it comes to these forms of communication, is people not respecting the recipient enough to think about what they’re saying. You get comments that say nothing but an emoticon on a forum that was asking for actual advice! This isn’t intrinsically a bad thing when responding to a request for positive or negative opinions with no need for further details, however; on a form thread that is wanting help finding an actual solution, it muddies up the comment line and makes it necessary to weed through the unusable content for the replies that carry weight.  It is generally a good thing to get as many comments as one can, and receiving comments that do nothing but sing your praises are nice, sure, but they don’t actually help with the subject at hand. The real point and purpose of comments and forums is to provide well thought out, honest feedback to the person or persons who posted the work. To help them with their work and to give them a better understanding of how it looks to the people who haven’t been a part of it’s creation. You may be surprised at how different things look to someone who doesn’t know the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of the thing.

Commenting is a useful option for the ‘more than casual’ internet user. Not to mention it’s fun! just try to make sure your reply is relevant to the situation, and don’t be afraid to ask people to give feedback. Most of the time the people who would comment are genuinely trying to help you out or get your thoughts on something.

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Night Raven!


Please vote if you like it!

Hey! I just entered a design on the Design By Humans site! Please go check it out and if you’ve never been to the site before, look around! It’s a great place to find inspiration and awesome apparel!


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Backyard with a view

This is the backyard of my dreams! I was just thinking recently ” wouldn’t it be cool if the atmosphere didn’t obstruct your view of space?” To sit out back and look at the moon with a whole new context! Photoshop enables us to create a fabricated reality of our dreams and see what it would really be like to really do or see the things we imagine as we imagine them.

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Outer Space Dawn

I’ve always been a bit of a ‘space cadet’. A complete sucker for a good space scene or cosmic design. One of the coolest parts about this category is that we have very little decisive evidence of what it actually looks like. The images we have returned by way of telescopic imagery has only given us enough to know that the possibilities are almost endless and quite probablly very colorful. These only increase the room for imagination.

I used Photoshop to combine textures and images as well as painted stars into this scene that perfectly fits my vision of a cosmic landscape. This was most fun because it’s all up to me and this is what I think it should look like. I have the POWER!!!! (evil laughter)

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