Saturday, October 31, 2015

From Photo to Thermofax Screen

Have you ever wanted to turn your own photo images into thermofax screens?  We are happy to make custom screens from your images.  A lot of the screens in our Etsy shop are from photos we have taken.  We use Photoshop Elements to convert our photos to screen images.  While not all photos may fit the exact same process, there are some basic steps for  converting a photo to a screen image.  If you can take the object out of its natural environment and photograph it against a white or black background, or take photos with a single color background such as water or sky, it makes the task a bit easier.

The first step is always to save your original photo under a different name so the original remains unchanged.  That way you always have a copy to go back to if you need to start over.  Here's a photo of a ginkgo leaf against a black felt background.  Once you've saved it to a new file name, you want
to crop your photo to get rid of the excess background.  Come in as close as you can to the object - that way your dimensions will be the object itself, not the object plus background.
Below is a portion of the toolbar that shows the tools we'll use for this image.  Be sure the foreground color is set to black - this will make a difference when you apply a filter.
After cropping, the next thing to do is change your image to black & white.  Thermofax screen images need to be black & white (no gray) in order to burn a satisfactory image.  Go to the Enhance menu and choose Convert to Black and White.  The dialog box below will open up.  You have several styles to choose from and can also adjust intensity.  Try them all - what works best for one image may be totally different for another.  In this case, I chose "infrared", but quite often I use "newspaper".  What you are trying to do is create a high contrast black & white image that shows details.  In this case, infrared seemed to show more texture in the leaf.  When satisfied, click OK.  (We should note however, that sometimes we remove background before changing to black & white.  It just so happens that with this particular image, it's easier to obtain an outline in the image by changing to B & W first.)
Your image file now looks like this.  It's good to save your file at this point, again with a new name, so that if succeeding steps don't turn out exactly as you want, you have this step to go back to rather than starting over.
There are several paths you could take next, and a lot is trial and error to find the process that works best for any given photo.  One option is to get rid of the background first, and then apply a filter to get the effect you want.  Another choice is to apply a filter and then remove the background.  Typically we remove the background first, but found that with this image, applying the filter first gives the image a stronger outline.  To apply a filter, go to the filter menu; there are lots of choices!  The filters we have found we use most frequently are in Sketch, either photocopy or stamp.
This is what it looks like with the filter applied.  (Note - as mentioned previously, the foreground color needs to be set to black to keep the filtered image black & white.)
Next we'll get rid of the background.  Again, there are several ways you might do this, and it also depends on what version of Photoshop Elements you have.  The eraser tool has both a background eraser and a magic eraser.  However, because the background is mottled instead of solid, the basic eraser works best.  (Again, try the various options to see what works best.)  There is another option if you have Photoshop Elements version 11 or earlier - that is a tool called the Magic Extractor which is found in the Image menu.  (If you have a later version, we'll cover that next.)  When you choose the extractor, the window below opens.
You use the red marker to identify the areas you want to keep, and the blue to mark areas to remove.  Choose the preview tool (circled) to see the results before clicking OK; that way you can still edit. The preview looks like this.
You can see that the image, including the outline, remains intact, with just a bit of clean up needed around the edges.  That can be done with an eraser after closing the extractor.  If you're satisfied with the preview, click OK.  If not satisfied, you can do some additional editing.
Before (above) and after (below) cleaning up the edges with the eraser.

What if you have a newer version of Photoshop Elements?  After version 11, there is no more Magic Extractor.  Well, here's an alternative method.  After applying the filter, you can remove the background with the eraser tool.
Start with the Magic Eraser and click in the background spaces around the leaf.  It should take away most of the mottled background; just be careful - if you see dramatic changes to your leaf such as the outline disappearing, go to Edit > Undo (or Ctrl Z).  Remove the remainder of the background with the "regular" eraser; you may have to zoom in on the image to erase close to the outline of the image and use the size slider to change the size of the eraser.

Another alternative to the magic extractor in version 12 and newer is the quick selection tool, although that is more challenging for this image than the eraser.
If using the quick selection tool, click & drag over area you want to select.  Use the add/subtract tool at the bottom of screen to add/remove additional areas.  Then click Refine Edge; adjust the edges as desired.  Click “Output To”; select New Document.  Go to File, Save As to save & name this new version of your image.

After you have removed the background, save your file again, adding height and width to the file name - this is your original size.  This way your file can be adjusted to various sizes depending on the project you have in mind.  To resize an image, go to the Image menu and select Resize > Image Size.
Type in one of the dimensions you want; the other will adjust automatically as long as you have constrain proportions checked.
Again, save your image as a .jpg (image) file with the dimensions as part of the name.  You will end up with multiple files through this process, both photoshop files and image files, so being specific in your naming convention helps avoid confusion.  I would name this ginkgo4x3.7.jpg.  It's also smart to organize all the files for one image in a folder. Finally, your image is ready to be made into a screen and then the fun begins when you can start printing!  Here is this particular image printed on fabric.
Although this tutorial may seem very long, the process itself goes faster, so don't let the length deter you.  As mentioned earlier, there is not one specific process that works for every image.  But once you've had some practice with a variety of photos, it is easier to know what will work best without as much trial and error.  In future posts, we'll add some tips for other types of images.  Give it a try and see what you come up with!

Copyright pgfiber2art 2015. You are welcome to print out this tutorial for your own personal use but please do not share printed copies. We ask that you refer others to this page who may interested in learning about this process.  Thanks!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Ginkgo Leaves and Other Additions

A few days ago, we announced our November "screen of the month", a peacock feather.  We have also added 2 other new designs.  These ginkgo leaves (the real ones) were actually collected a few years ago, stuck in a book to flatten and Sue just recently re-discovered them!  So after some photographs, it was time for a couple of new images to add to the Etsy shop. 

This cluster of ginkgo leaves measures 5 x 7 inches.  What's different about this image is that the leaves are still attached to the stem, showcasing Mother Nature's unique creation.  Along with photos of prints, it can be found in the Etsy shop here.

The second new ginkgo image is this single leaf; this one differs from our other images in that it has the split that is frequently seen in ginkgo leaves.  Photos of prints and listing info can be found in the Etsy shop.

Other additions to the shop include our winter/holiday screens - pine cones, pine sprigs, snowflakes, and text screens as well as some hand dyed/screen printed scarves.  

We hope you'll take a few minutes to browse, and let us know if there's a particular image you would like to see in the shop.

Also, use the coupon code THANKYOU2015 at checkout for a 20% discount on orders through December 31, 2015.  Happy printing!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

November Screen of the Month - Peacock Feather

November will be here in a few days and we are ushering in the new month early with our "screen of the month" for November.  It is a peacock feather that makes a lovely print, in 2 sizes: 6 x 9 inches and 4.6 x 7 inches.  Check out the listing in our Etsy shop.  With holidays approaching, here's a checkout code, THANKYOU2015, that is good for a 20% discount on purchases through Dec. 31.  Watch for other new screens and our holiday/winter listings to be added soon!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Sue's Repair Project

Sue recently discovered she has a good-sized repair project on her hands.  This quilt, made with feed sacks and 30's/40's reproduction fabrics, has been on her bed for at least 5 years now, maybe longer.  She's known the binding was worn and some quilting needed repair on her husband's half, but didn't realize the wear was much worse.

This tear is the worst, but there are at least 7-8 more of these football shapes that are close to tearing.  Ugh!  What to do!  (Besides make a new quilt.)  Well, after a search of the studio for the leftover fabrics which she knew were hiding somewhere, they finally turned up.  Luckily, not only did she have left-over fabric, there were also left-over blocks!
So she set about unsewing the "footballs" in order to applique them over the torn ones.  Easier said than done.  The footballs are sewn with a small machine zigzag stitch with invisible thread.  Dealing with the points will also be a problem, but she decided to cross that bridge when she got to it.  Well, after taking apart 4 of these, she decided a plan B might be in order.  She more easily found some left-over Quiltsmart panels that were used to make the football shapes and has an alternative idea to just make new ones to solve the point problem.  The foundation could stay in place as opposed to being cut away as in the originals; a slight size adjustment is needed through since the original process makes the shapes a bit smaller than the template.  But that can be dealt with.
Meanwhile, another project deadline has taken over so this project is temporarily on hold.  But stay tuned - you are sure to see more on this repair project!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

More Animals We Love

Sue chose these 5 quilts as her favorites from the Quilt Alliance-Animals We Love exhibit at the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo in Fredericksburg. These 16 by 16 inch quilts reflect the love of animals as presented by each individual quilter. 
Fancy Goldfish by Susan Brubaker Knapp of Mooresville, SC.  (If it looks familiar it is because this was published in an article and on the cover of the October/November issue of Quilting Arts magazine.)
Giraffe Nocturne by Nancy S. Brown of Oakland, CA.
Bluebirds #2 by Cynthia St. Charles of Billings, MT.  We follow Cynthia's blog and love her work.
Eye See My Beloved by Marie F. Cousins and Syrie Blanco Walsh of Great River, NY.
Olive. Olive you <3 by Lisa B. Filion of Queensbury, NY.

As it turns out, 4 of these were published in the October/November Quilting Arts.  Giraffe Nocturne was the grand prize winner.  Eye See My Beloved took second place.   After touring in several quilt shows, the quilts will be auctioned off on eBay to benefit the Quilt Alliance.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Animals We Love

Quilt Alliance-Animals We Love was another exhibit at the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo in Fredericksburg.  You can view them all on their website. These 16 by 16 inch quilts reflect the love of animals as presented by each individual quilter.  Elizabeth found these to be appealing.
Butterfly by Lisa Ellis of Fairfax VA
 And because she really does love butterflies, Molly’s Rainbow Butterfly by Deborah S Wheeler of Garden Prairie, IL was also a favorite.

There were several lizard entries which were bright and happy.
Allergic to Cats and Dogs by Charlotte Noll of Lauderhill, FL
Bein’ Green Too by Betsy Vinegrad of Short Hills, NJ
Darwin-Chowtime by Holly Altman of Santa Fe, NM

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Roy G Biv - GRAY

This month's color in the search for Roy G Biv and Beyond (colors of the rainbow "plus") is GRAY.  Not the most inspiring color, but can be calming, serene, or stormy.  Go to Julie B Booth's blog and Jennifer Coyne Qudeen's for more photos and link-ups.  Here are our selections.
An elephant in Krugar Park, South Africa
Rocks at the dock at Merrymount, Lake Winnipesaukee, NH
Stairs at the Great Wall of China
An appropriately named rest stop along I84 in New York state
Tree bark

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fall Leaves Inspiration

As the leaves continue to change and become more colorful, it seems appropriate to share inspiration from another exhibit at the Sew Expo - a Fall Leaves Challenge sponsored by Wisconsin Public Television with Nancy Zieman.  The challenge was open to all quilters to use the colors of fall in Wisconsin.  These were some of our favorites.
Harvesting Sunshine by Mary Alice Hart of Monroe, WI.
Overhanging Oak Branches by Cathy Geier of Waukesha, WI.
The First Leaf to Turn by Zeeda Magnuson of Minneapolis, MN.
Viewing Nature's Magic by Pam Moller of Beloit, WI.
Fall Transition by Terri Sankovitz of Wauwatosa, WI.
Oak Savanna by Gloria Welniak of Cottage Grove, WI.
Sun-Kissed September by Nancy Zieman of Beaver Dam, WI.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

SAQA Exhibit - Text Messages

Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) is an organization established to promote the art quilt.  Members participate in juried exhibits which travel to quilt shows, museums and other venues around the world.   The Sewing and Quilt Expo included the Text Messages exhibit, juried by Lesley Riley, which invited quilt artists to explore the many facets of what "text messages" means.  As you can see from these examples and the online gallery, there was a diverse interpretation of the topic.
Caveman Txts is by Helen Beaven of Wellington, New Zealand. and contrasts ancient cave drawings with modern text messages.
Phyllis Cullen of Ninole, Hawaii created Early Tablet.
Crazed 20: Print on the Dotted Line is by Kathleen Loomis of Louisville, Kentucky.
No Childhood Permitted by Patricia Kennedy-Zafred of Murraysville, PA, is based on documented photos of child labor in the U.S. in the early 20th century which resulted in significant changes to US labor laws.
Charlotte Ziebarth of Boulder, CO, created Messages in the Stones using words and images from the past.
Text and Treasures of Tuscany by Peggy Brown of Nashville, Indiana, was inspired by the graffiti of Italy.
The mail arrives today by Bella Kaplan of Kfar-Giladi, Israel, depicts memories of letters sent to her family in the 1930's and 40's from the Soviet Union.

You can see the complete collection on the SAQA website.  Enjoy!