Archive for the ‘Computers’ category

Trying Out Useful Mac Apps

August 25, 2017

I decided after trying the demo for 15 days or so to buy Pixelmator as it does what I want fairly quickly.

Affinity Photo was a complete wash-out for me in functionality mostly because of its abysmal selection tools. I would scan something in, usually a playing card or similar and it could not select it from the background so I could copy and paste it on a new layer. I tried all kinds of ways and the edges were all raggedy with chunks chewed out all the way around. In Photoshop CS5 which I owned on my old Windows laptop, this was very easily done with one click of the Magic Wand with tolerance set at 65%. After two weeks of frustration I gave up and tried another program.

The other thing Affinity wouldn’t do without some very convoluted steps that didn’t seem to work as outlined in the tutorial, was to put a simple frame on my image. I often post images online and if the background is pale it needs a simple 8 to 20 pixel border to show up nicely on a blog background. I can’t believe Affinity can’t do this.

The third thing is that it does a hazy sort of drop shadow but there is little control over it and it looks okay but not ideal. Okay, it’s a small thing but I use that facility every day and it got completely frustrating.

So, after that frustration I tried out Pixelmator before committing to buy it.

– Selection tools are much better. I have had great success using the Magnetic Lasso loosely around the edge and then clicking Refine and checking the box for Smart Refine. Almost 100 % accuracy and if not I could add or subtract easily from the selection. The Magic Wand is pretty good too with the tolerance set higher.

– To put a frame on you Select All and Stroke however many pixels you want in whatever colour. For my purposes this was adequate and very fast.

– For drop shadows in Pixelmator you can duplicate the object on a separate layer, pull this layer below the object layer, fill the duplicate object with black, add a gaussian blur, and offset it and drop the opacity. Sounds complicated but it gives you a lot of control over shadows and they look good. Miles better than anything Affinity offers and comparable to the Photoshop drop shadow but with more control.

Here’s an example of a fine drop shadow in Pixelmator that looks pretty good.


This particular beetle was a WMF file from an old, old clip art CD I own.  I am currently trying out a program called WMF Converter Pro to facilitate browsing my CDs and converting WMFs to a readable format for the Mac. I’m not sure if I want to do batch file conversions, but at least for single conversions and thumbnail previews this program seems to work. The only unfortunate thing is that it has a black interface that is horrible. This beetle was converted as a PDF and was a bit glitchy due to the file size. I’ll try the EPS format and see if that works better to keep the vector properties without locking up Pixelmator with file size. PDFs can be a bit tricky in other programs, so it might simply be that.

I tried saving another WMF file as a PNG and this is what I got, which is great for my purposes.


I want to try further things with the program because it’s $30 to buy and I want to be sure it can do what I want. After the Affinity Photo disaster I want to make sure I put it through all scenarios.

My other two experiments were with the apps Color Palette Converter and Color Palette from Image.  I get frustrated with the Apple colour picker and although I have saved my own swatches at the bottom of the picker, I wanted something to convert .aco files, and then something to get colours from an image, which is something I use a lot.

– Open an image in Color Palette from Image which I bought at a discount for $1.39 I think. Generate a palette up to 20 colours. You can also adjust the Gamma setting to moderate the tones of swatches which is a nice feature without getting complicated. Save it.

– Open this palette in Color Palette Converter and you can save it to the Color folder in the Library file. I suppose I could do this manually but for $2.79 this program makes it easier.

Here’s an example of a palette generated from a photograph of a purse I made.


These palettes are now in a drop-down list in the Apple colour picker and I can choose them quickly and get exactly the colours I want. This might be most useful for people designing web pages, but I just like that I can get the colours and tones I want without trying to sample them individually, plus they are always available across programs.

Not bad for a total of about $4 for these two simple colour apps.

I’m really sorry I bought Affinity Photo, but they are working on a 1.6 version upgrade and I know that will allow you to change the black interface at least. Here’s hoping they improve other simple tasks as well, because I hate to give up on a program I paid for.

I am thankfully getting over the shock of switching from Windows and getting used to the way the Mac does things, and the various functions and apps available for it.




Half Pans, Sketchbooks, Metric Weights for Paper, and Useful Apps

June 2, 2016

I try to think in centimeters and millimeters and meters, I also think in kilometers 90 percent of the time, but my stubborn mind will not grok the metric weight of paper. I am constantly looking up and converting online. Yes, yes it’s 240 gsm or 240 g/m² or about 100 lb. paper. The confusing thing is that that weight can vary when converted depending on the thickness of the paper and materials it is made from.

I still have to look it up because art paper is different from copy paper and on and on. Anyway, I was in the market for a new sketchbook that could take pen and ink, watercolour, and coloured pencils which are the materials I use most. I opted for a Canson 224 g or 138 lb “Mix Media” wirebound book. Now why if this is lighter in grams is it heavier in pounds than the 240 gsm? How the heck do you figure that out without feeling the paper? The Stillman & Birn Zeta series books are 270 gsm or 180 lb; I prefer Stillman & Birn sketchbooks but I can’t hunt any up out here. They are too heavy for mail order.


Beside it is the tin I bought last year to hold my Winsor & Newton half pans which I haven’t used yet because I just found them after moving house. However, I was always a bit iffy on the completeness of the colours. If you do computer graphics or printing at all you will be familiar with CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) for mixing colours. Basically that’s all you need for watercolour or any other paint or ink, but I found it tiresome to mix greens from these process colours, particularly greens, so I always buy a few extra colours for my palettes plus Payne’s Grey and Indigo which I love for darks.

Still, I decided to beef this little palette up, I’m turning 60 this year and I feel it’s my last kick at the nirvana of art supplies. I bought a few extras:

Cadmium orange
Quinacridone magenta
Winsor violet
French ultramarine
Quinacridone gold
Cobalt Violet
Permanent Sap Green

So I now have 24 colours in the half pans. Did I need these? No. Do they make life easier? Yes.

I bought two Gotrick cradled wood panels in the 18 x 24-inch size to create my diptych for the living room on. I don’t like working on canvas, it’s too bouncy for me, so these looked ideal and are nicely made. Now I need to save up for more acrylic paint. I have some small bottles of Golden Fluid Acrylic but I don’t think they’ll be enough. I’m supposed to seal this with Golden GAC 100 and then do 3 or 4 coats of gesso to prepare it for painting on. This means I need to clear the drafting table and unpack and put away some fabric first to make room.


I bought a rather interesting book on pen and ink. It IS simple as the title suggests, but he has some intuitive ideas here and encourages you to make your own marks (literally) in pen and ink rather than slavishly copying tutorials. Pen and Ink Drawing: A Simple Guide by Alphonso Dunn.


And lastly, another birthday gift. I am hoping the family sends me cash so I can pay for these things! Two bottles of fountain pen ink (Noodler’s Apache Sunset and Diamine Sherwood Green) and a violet-coloured Platinum Plaisir fountain pen. The nibs on these are coloured but I notice some people saying they receive ones that are plain steel, so I’m not sure which nib I am getting.


I don’t know if this counts as exciting for most people, but I used the Android for Dummies book to help me figure out how to use the smartphone I rarely use to hook up to my micro stereo and stream live radio using Bluetooth and wi-fi. There are few radio stations here and the two I listened to most for decades were unavailable and I didn’t feel right, all that empty air and no cheery music, as I am used to having the radio on for hours every day. Using the apps for CBC Radio Two and Jazz FM 91, I can hear the music I like and all the hosts and chatter I like too.


Plus I got the nifty Marine Traffic app for the phone and can see what’s cruising by and identify the ships and what country they are from. What I like about this is that you can click on the arrow in the pop-up with the ship name, and pull up photographs that people have uploaded of it and statistics about where it came from, tonnage, measurements etc. I saw one image of a specific cruise ship taken in my area and then another of it in Sydney harbour by the opera house in Australia. Imagine, and it’s right outside my kitchen window!


I dislike using phones and avoided these smartphones for years but I had to find a way to make it useful for me, apart from carrying it for emergencies in the car, and so far this radio streaming and Marine Traffic app make it useful.

Not as useful as art supplies but close.




Pinterest is Dead

September 27, 2014

When I do Google searches, Pinterest boards often come up in the search results so I’ve been browsing there more than I used to. Pinterest has recently developed a policy where they drastically truncate the results, making it impossible to browse full pages or results unless you join up and log in using Facebook or an e-mail address. No thanks.

That lets me out, so this “service” is rendered extinct. There’s no point looking at a site that essentially dies the minute you try to use it and then holds you as a hostage. Say “Hello” to the dinosaurs Pinterest.

Out of sight, out of mind.

UPDATE: Pinterest is surprisingly easy to forget. One month later I have ignored it completely, and when it comes up in search engines I bypass it. It’s only habit you know?




We Need an Entrepreneur for Computer Printers

July 18, 2014

The big printer companies, whether it be for inkjet or laser peripherals, seem to have adopted a business model where you replace your peripheral every year or two because:

– The nozzles are irreparably clogged
– It costs more to repair than to buy new
– The software does not work with your operating system or someone else’s
– The software has no useable features, it just takes up room on the hard drive and interferes with other programs
– The paper jams continually
– The scanner is so low resolution that it can’t scan well, including flat and three-dimensional objects (which means everything)
– The ink runs out too fast or is too costly
– It doesn’t work
– It never worked


So here’s my proposal: a NEW company that produces printers that last and have good software, not a bunch of extraneous bumph from third parties that wrecks the operating system. Many companies know there are problems with the software but sell it anyway. Give me software that works and has features but not extra crud that can’t do what I want.

Make it so I can clean the nozzles.
Make it so the scanner is decent


Yes, okay, you won’t have the money from sales of printers and ink sales to build a seven story office building in every major city in the world, with thousands of employees, but I know you’ll have extremely good sales, a profitable company, and interest from good engineers and designers. You’ll be the go-to company in innovation, the one with the plan.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T and word of mouth can drive sales to incredible heights and lead to more business opportunities and thus more money and sales.

All from one simple step of producing a printer that works.




Printed Dollhouse Quilt

October 27, 2009

In an effort to kick-start myself and get some old miniature projects done I joined a couple of lists, so bit by bit I hope to finish some of this stuff. I haven’t really worked much on my dollhouses since the shop I went to closed ten years ago.

I spent months catching up on old quilting projects during the spring and summer and that worked fine, so I hope I can do the same with my four dollhouses.

I found an online tutorial for printing your own tiny prints for dollhouse dresses so I thought I’d take a pattern from my Electric Quilt 4 software (that I am currently working on in real life) and attempt to print a quilt for my main dollhouse. I changed the shading somewhat and got rid of the border as I wanted this to look like an old scrap quilt. It measures 5 x 6.875 in 1:12 scale, which translates to 60 x 82.5 inches full size, so it’s a lap quilt or topper size.

The fabric was pre-treated with Bubble Jet Set 2000, dried, ironed to freezer paper, and I also tape it down to a piece of cardstock around the perimeter, otherwise it won’t go through my HP printer. Those stupid rollers of theirs catch everything but when I tape the fabric to cardstock it will at least run through.

I’m going to back it with a pale small-scale print and it should be quite drapable. The pink and green tones should go nicely with a crocheted throw I had someone make me years ago that is cream with tiny pink and green flowers on the border.

I’ll post a picture of them together when I’m done sewing this together.


Lenormand Deck and New Playing Cards

October 24, 2009

I have been designing my own Lenormand deck for the past two weeks. I am using public domain vector clip art from various disks I have here. Several of them are composites or ones that I painted or applied gradients to in an effort to make them more natural. Tons of layers in some of these and a few of them were tweaked in Adobe Illustrator first before exporting into Photoshop.

I like decks with borders so I put a lovely border on it and filled it with a gradient to give it some zip. The nice thing about creating a deck for yourself is that you don’t have to worry about other people’s taste, and you can create as you wish.

Here is a sample of four cards:


I finished designing them and then spent many hours tweaking the scale and colour here and there. I am doing them in Photoshop and printing them from there on premium matte photo paper, but I was a bit disappointed in the print quality because of a generic ink cartridge I am using, so I’ve halted until I can get hold of a better ink cartridge.

Today was rainy and cold and my husband had to go to work early so I was feeling a bit aimless and browsing online for some playing card decks. I have wanted the Bicycle Ghost Deck for some time but I couldn’t find it anywhere with decent shipping costs, so I ended up buying another odd deck called the Dead Hand Chaos Poker Deck. I like the border they’ve used on the pips. The face cards are a bit gruesome but fun at the same time, and I am keen to start using these for daily draws once they arrive in the mail.


I found some interesting free paper printables that looked like they might go with this deck. I was thinking I could do up a small diorama to use as a background when I draw these on my daily card blog. The one with the hearse looked like it might be suitable.

So I am generally messing around with paper and cards this week. I’ve been trying out a few different things on my card blog, and I have a fuller explanation of the Lenormand deck I am designing there. Put the term “Lenormand” in the Search box and they will come up.

Antique Engravings Playing Cards

May 7, 2009

I saw a free 22-card tarot online to download, but I wasn’t all that keen on the artwork, and the images were very low resolution; I would have had to redo the border and the text in a template in Photoshop and I thought “Well, if I’m going to do that I might as well make a playing card deck with some engravings I DO like.”

So I was fiddling around in the Quick Cards 2 software, which I haven’t used since last November, and decided to buy the program so that I could print properly and make changes across the board. The text abilities are really lame and I do most of the work in Photoshop before adding images, but it’s still faster than anything else. I don’t use the special cardstock they sell because it won’t go through my printer.

I have a great collection of Dover clip art that came with my Masterclips collection twelve years ago. I have some particular favourites so I nabbed the clip art and prepared images for each card. Because I don’t use the specialty cardstock I need a line to trim the cards so I use the border feature in Quick Cards 2, but it’s tied to the size of the picture so in order to keep the border on the outside line of the card for trimming, I have to get the image size correct in Photoshop first. I made a template when I last created a deck using clip art of Dutch Tile designs, so all I did was use that again.

Tweak, tweak, tweak. I got the deck designed and printed, sprayed with fixative, and trimmed. I will be making it a custom tuckbox eventually too. I’m working on a commission but I’ve bogged down on design possibilities and needed something different to get my mind off it. Sometimes that’s the best way to solve a creative problem – do something else for a time.


Ideally, I would like to print these cards on pale grey cardstock but I can’t find any so I used cream, which gives them an antique look. I had wanted grey paper so they would go better with the Synchro-Signs kit I just bought and am using on my card blog. I’m not sure if the light meter or the battery is dying in my digital camera, but I have trouble with colour and light and get a pink line around the edge that I have to crop out so these are not my best efforts in photography. The camera used to take beautiful pictures.

These playing cards are designed to be plain. After seeing so many mish-mashed collage decks with overstuffed borders and junky art styles bunged together, I prefer these. They are lovely, restful and crisp engravings, and that goes well with symbolism and intuition.

I love black and white decks of every kind, they are so attractive.