Nuggets of Truth!

5 Unbreakable Rules for UI Animation on the Web

Webdesigner Depot - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 06:45

Transitions are a powerful way to communicate a change in a user interface. They can be used in apps to help offload a lot of the cognitive work into the visual cortex: they help transport users between navigational contexts, explain changes in the arrangement of elements on a screen, and reinforce element hierarchy. Consequently they are an essential element of interaction design.

Successful animated transition possesses the following five characteristics:

1. Good UI Animation is Natural

State changes in UI often involve hard cuts by default, which can make them difficult to follow. In the real world, most things don’t just appear or disappear immediately. When something has two or more states, then changes between states will be much easier for users to understand if the transitions are animated instead of being instantaneous. Let’s look at an example below where the user selects an item in a list to zoom into its detailed view. During expansion, the small card moves in an arc towards its destination as it expands into a larger card. This movement is inspired by the real world forces.


2. Effective UI Animation is Staged

A well-staged animated transition guides your user’s attention and clarifies the change of states. This characteristic is directly related to the user focus and continuity. A good transition helps direct user’s focus to the right spot at the right time, it puts emphasis on the right elements depending on what the objective is. In the example below, the floating action button (FAB) transforms into header navigation elements comprised of three buttons. The first-time user cannot really predict an interaction that is about to happen, but a properly animated transition helps the user stay oriented and not feel that content has suddenly changed. This transition helps guide the user to the next step of an interaction.

3. The Best UI Animations Are Associative

Transitions should illustrate how elements are connected. Good transitions associate newly created surfaces to the element or action that creates them. The logic behind associative connection is to help the user comprehend the change that has just happened in the view’s layout and what has triggered the change.

Below you can see two examples of a layer transition. In the first example, the new layer appears far away from the touch point that triggered it, which breaks its relationship with the input method.


In the second example, the new layer appears right from the touch point. Thus tying the element to the point of touch.


Another example can be found in Mac OS which uses an animated transition when minimising a window. This animation connects the first state with the second state.

4. Popular UI Animation is Quick

If there’s only one principle of animation you care about it should definitely be timing. Timing is arguably one of the most important considerations when designing transitions. The animation should be quick and precise, with little or no lag time between the user’s initiating action and the beginning of the animation. Also, a user doesn’t have to wait for the animation to finish. In example below, slow animation creates unnecessary lag and lengthens the duration.



When elements move between states, the movement should be fast enough that it doesn’t cause any waiting, but slow enough that the transition can be understood. For an animation to effectively convey a cause-and-effect relationship between UI elements, the effect must begin within 0.1 seconds of the initial user action to maintain the feeling of direct manipulation. Try to keep animation duration at or under 300ms as fast transitions waste less of the users’ time. Test it with your users to see what is tolerable.

5. The Best UI Animation is Clear

It’s a common mistake to overload UIs with animations or to create too complex interactions. Too much change in a user interface can leave a user disoriented and it takes time to recover from. Remember that every motion on the screen attracts attention, so too much animation at the same time creates chaos.

Transitions should avoid doing too much at once because they can get confusing when multiple items need to move in different directions. Remember, less is more with regard to animation and transitions in particular. Anything that if removed would make a cleaner UI is almost certainly a good idea. When a surface changes shape and size, you have to maintain a clear path to the next view. Complex transitions should keep a single element visible. This helps keep the user oriented.

Transitions and Accessibility

Since transitions are about visual communication, they by default are not accessible by users with visual impairments. You should provide alternate content for this group of users.’s best practices for animation offers suggestions on when to provide alternate content for assistive technology.


When designing transitions, focus only on the practical things they do for the user. Whether your app or site is fun and playful or serious and straightforward, using meaningful transitions can help you provide a clear and quick cohesive experience.

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Stunning fan art celebrates return of Game of Thrones

Creative web design! - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 06:21

Fans of the epic fantasy drama Game of Thrones have a lot to be happy about recently. Not only has the show returned to our screens for a seventh series, but there's also the promise of a spin off to look forward to. As if that wasn't enough, game artist and illustrator Catherine Unger has created a series of busts based on the main cast.

Unger, who currently works as the lead artist on Nintendo Snipperclips, drew the Game of Thrones busts last year, but recently unearthed them on her Twitter page to celebrate the launch of the new series.

These illustrations stand out from the crowd thanks to Unger's chunky drawing techniques. We particularly like how the blocky forms look like they've been chiselled into life.

Explore all of Unger's Game of Thrones busts by clicking left or right in the gallery below, and if you like what you see, you'll be glad to head that she's open for commissions. Maybe the makers of the show should get in touch to request some official work...

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How to design for millions of new users

Creative web design! - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 05:57

Freelance designer and frontend developer Ally Long has a particular interest in designing for novice tech users and people in emerging economies. At Generate London on 21 September, she will give a presentation entitled 'Field-tested interfaces for the next billion'. We caught up with her to find out what it's all about. 

Who are ‘the next billion’ and what kind of devices do they use to access the web?
AL: '
The next billion' refers to the next big wave of people coming online in emerging economies. Most of us here in Europe, and in other developed economies throughout the world, are already online in some form or another. In the UK, for example, over 90 per cent of the population is connected. The deed is done; we’re on the grid. But that’s not the case in many other parts of the world. 

You have far fewer people walking around with their heads in their phones in Lagos than you do in London. Same goes for São Paulo, New Delhi, Kinshasa – hugely populous areas with whole hosts of people who’ve never had access to the internet. This is changing constantly, though, and rapidly. 

The cost of mobile data decreases, and the availability of cheap handsets (think second-hand Blackberry knock-offs) increases. Connected smartphones are bringing computing to many people for the first time, and changing the landscape of the internet in the process. Lagos is becoming quite a tech hub in West Africa – and it’s entirely possible that it could outpace London as a global technology centre in the not-too-distant future.

Ally Long's talk at Generate London will explore how to include millions of new users in your product thinking

How do you design interfaces for people that are learning to use smartphones for the first time?

AL: You need to start with some good research – this is not an area where you can rely on gut feelings, or most of the body of literature around what constitutes good design and UX. 

You can’t even rely on empathy, because it’s hard to even know where to start empathising with people who have such a different experience of technology and their environment than you do.

You’ll also really need to check your ego at the door, because the interfaces that tend to work best for these markets might not be what you think is nice design – we’re talking big font sizes and icons, high contrast, and clicky-looking buttons. You need to always approach this work as a series of problems that need to be solved with good design thinking, and don’t conflate a beautiful-looking interface with something that provides value to people.

And how do you improve the user experience for them?

AL: By making the app or site as lightweight as possible – both in terms of data usage and battery suckage. If someone has to pay a not-insignificant portion of their income to buy data, and perhaps also shell out cash to a charging station to power their device if they don’t have working electricity at home, then you need to treat that constraint with the highest degree of respect. 

You should also regard being offline as the default status, and not an error. Allow users to do as much as possible without a connection, save things locally, and update or sync when the device is online. 

What kind of UX and UI patterns and conventions that we may take for granted do not work for this new audience?

AL: A lot of navigation conventions don’t make much sense if you haven’t been exposed to the evolution of these conventions over time. Hierarchies or tree structures don’t seem to be very intuitive – in terms of navigation it’s better to stick to a linear pattern: forwards and backwards. 

Gesture-based navigation and UIs are hard. People do learn them after some time, but it’s a steep learning curve. The idea of pressing buttons is more instantly understood.

What kind of user research and testing do you do?

AL: The key to good user research is to understand the context and the constraints. So for the public health projects I’ve worked on, I’ve shadowed health or logistics workers as they go about their tasks so we can figure out what will work best in helping them digitise their processes. 

It’s important to get some background information too – I usually also ask them to show me their phones, find out what their favourite apps are, see how they use them, get a sense of their comfort level.

Testing is a bit of a different beast – it’s where you really get into the nitty-gritty of which UI elements present the least amount of cognitive strain. How fast can people get shit done, basically. 

I’m working on a project with Field in Nigeria at the moment, and we have a great group of people we can test with. At the end of every two-week sprint, we release a new beta version of the app and ask our testers to try to complete specific tasks, observe the results, and document it in detail.

Visiting a health facility in northern Nigeria

What are some of the main challenges you’ve witnessed on your field trips?

AL: Just getting from A to B can really test your patience. Whether it’s roads that become lakes in rainy season, an overloaded truck that’s overturned and blocked a main road for a whole day, potholes that’ll swallow a car, fuel shortages, bandits on the highways or other security concerns – it always takes a lot longer than I expect to get anywhere, and the same goes for everyone. 

You’re often either waiting for someone to show up, or they’re waiting for you to show up. These infrastructural problems affect almost everything else too – poor internet connectivity, and lack of reliable electricity to charge devices makes technology slower for everyone.

Sometimes you need to join a motorcycle gang just to get around

What can people expect to take away from your talk at Generate London?

AL: Mainly some very practical tips on how to cater for the next billion users in your designs and processes – how to account for the constrained resources, varying literacy levels, intermittent connectivity. 

But I also hope to convey a sense of excitement, and engender some curiosity about this work – I don’t want people to think it’s all constraints and no fun. It’s fascinating, worthwhile, and rewarding.

Generate London, on 21 and 22 September, will feature 16 great presentations for web and UX designers and is preceded by a full day of workshops on 20 September. Don't miss the opportunity to learn from the likes of Steve Fisher, Leonie Watson, Anton & Irene, Zell Liew, Aaron Gustafson and many more. Reserve your spot today!

These responsive themes are what your website needs

Creative web design! - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 05:00

There's no platform better to launch your website with than WordPress. All you need is a professionally designed theme from Visualmodo to give your site style and function right off the bat. Get lifetime access to these themes right now for just $39 (approx. £30)!

Visualmodo's WordPress themes make it easy to streamline any web project. Its library of professionally designed themes are easy to plug in and immediately offer you a wide variety of features. These customisable and flexible themes fit just about any project, but if you're having trouble making yours work for you, the award-winning customer service from Visualmodo can help you get your site up and running.

You can get a lifetime of access to WordPress themes from Visualmodo on sale for 84 per cent off the retail price. That makes your total just $39 (approx. £30). It's a great offer for themes that will make your site even better, so grab this deal today!

25 typography freebies to make your life easier

Creative web design! - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 02:17

Typography is one of the most important skills you can develop as a designer. And however long your career lasts, you never really stop learning.

The good news is that there’s a lot of free help and resources out there. So in this post, we gather together the best typography-related ebooks, tools, cheatsheets and games to aid you in your continuing typographical journey. We've separated each category into its own page to help you navigate your way through this whopping roundup.

First up on this page: ebooks. There’s nothing like a good book to really get you diving deep into a subject. And with so many free ebooks around, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to improve your knowledge and skillset. Here are five of our favourites.

01. Type Classification ebook

Learn all about the main type classifications

If you want to learn the fundamentals of typographical classifications, then this 27-page ebook is a good start. Created by Just Creative – the design studio and graphic design blog of Jacob Cass – it’s a reference guide to 10 broad classifications, namely Humanist, Garalde, Didone, Transitional, Lineal, Mechanistic, Blackletter, Decorative, Script and Manual.

02. The Vignelli Canon

The Vignelli Canon sets out Massimo Vignelli’s guidelines for using typography

Massimo Vignelli (1931-2014) was one of the 20th century’s most famous graphic designers. In this classic book, which Vignelli made available in free PDF form in 2009, he sets out his guidelines for using typography in graphic design.

03. Professional Web Typography

Truong's ebook is all about online typography

Anyone who needs to get their head around using typography on the web should make a beeline for this 2016 book by professional web designer Donny Truong, director of design and web services at Antonin Scalia Law School. It sets out an overview of how type works online, and outlines the author’s process for selecting fonts and typesetting on the web.

04. Practical Responsive Typography

Darlo Calonaci's book offers fundamentals and examples of responsive type

Written by Darlo Calonaci and published by Packt, Practical Responsive Typography outlines the fundamentals of web typography and explains how to make it work with responsive web design. Including code examples so you can put what you learn into practice, this is a must-read for web designers. Earlier this year, Packt teamed up with us to offer the ebook version to Creative Bloq readers as a free download: you’ll find full details here.

05. Fontology is behind this comprehensive workbook of fonts

Many font foundries and font retailers have written their own ebooks to help users get to grips with typography. And one of our favourites is Fontology, from Structured as a workbook, it covers topics including type history, type families, type anatomy, text typography, web typography, display typography, type choices, numbers, signs and symbols. It's a great self-learning tool for beginners and a handy reference and refresher for professionals. 

Next page: Free typography tools

One thing the global design community is pretty good at is giving back to others. So there are a ton of tools and apps out there on the web, free for you to use to boost your typography prowess. Here are five we heartily recommend.

06. Type Zebra

Type Zebra lets you to test out different fonts by typing on screen

Made by Chilean agency UX Ready, Type Zebra is a browser-based app that allows you to test out different fonts simply by typing on screen. Use the top nav to choose between local fonts, Google fonts and Edge fonts, write your text below (or just use the supplied dummy text) and then choose your font from the left-hand nav. 

07. Font Pair

Pair Google fonts easily

The brainchild of Hayden Mills, a design student at Indiana University, Font Pair aims to help designers pair Google Fonts together quickly and effectively. It basically aggregates a list of the most popular font pairs together in one place, and lets you try them out via editable dummy text. 

The top menu handily groups all the pairs together in six combinations, such as Sans-Serif/Serif, Cursive/Serif, Serif/Serif, and so on. All in all, it’s a lot simpler and quicker than spending hours searching through Google Fonts manually.


Have fun playing with variations within each typeface

Another font tester, this browser-based app comes from renowned type foundry Hoefler & Co. It basically lets you choose from H&C’s catalogue and see what each font looks like at different sizes, with different line spacing, using a handy set of sliders. You can also really start to drill down by turning on and off specific details such as ‘short-tailed Q’ and ‘unjoined % sign’.

09. Font Flame

Which font pairing will make you swipe right?

It’s easy to spend your whole career relying on the same, safe font pairings. But Font Flame tries to prompt you to expand your horizons and experiment with new and different combinations. Dubbing itself ‘Tinder for font pairing’, it serves you up a continuous stream of font pairings you may not have considered, and asks you to ‘Love’ or ‘Hate’ them. All fonts come from Google Fonts, and you can review your favourites when you’re done. 

10. Fontjoy

Fontjoy is an intelligent free service for font pairing

Fontjoy steps things up a notch, by using deep machine learning to make things more methodical than Font Flame's random pairings. It’s still very easy to use, though. 

Just use the slider to determine what level of contrast you want between the fonts, and click on the Generate button to create a new font pairing. You can also click the ‘lock’ icon to lock fonts you like, edit the text, and choose a font manually. 

Next page: Free font identification services

One of the most common questions you see posted on design forums is “Can anyone identify this font?” But before bothering a human, we’d urge you to first try one of these automated font identification services. They’re by no means infallible, but they should at least provide you with some handy hints to get you further on your way.

11. WhatTheFont

WhatTheFont is a phone app and desktop site

First launched by MyFonts in 2011, WhatTheFont is a free iPhone app for identifying the fonts in a photo, print ad, poster or web graphic. Take a picture with your phone and the app will tell you what font or fonts are being used in it. There’s also a browser version of the app.

12. Matcherator

Drag and drop, upload or paste an image URL to scan its fonts

Font Squirrel offers a free font identification service called Matcherator. Just drag an image onto the box (or add the image URL) and it will ask you to crop in on the area containing the text. Once you’ve done that, Matcherator will identify fonts that match your image, and where you can get them from. 

13. Identifont

Identifont has a huge, free to use, library of fonts

Since its launch in 2000, browser tool Identifont has been allowing you to identify fonts in a huge variety of ways. The world’s largest independent library of digital fonts and font families on the web, it allows you to identify fonts by appearance; to find fonts by name; to discover picture or symbol fonts; and to search for fonts by designer or publisher.

14. WhatFont tool

Just hover and click on web page text to see the font used

Not to be confused with WhatTheFont (number 11 in this list), the WhatFont tool is the creation of Chengyin Liu, an engineer at Airbnb. It’s a quick and easy way to find what fonts are used on a web page without all that tedious mucking about in Firebug or Webkit Inspector. Just install the Chrome or Safari extension and then click the WhatFont button on any web page to find the information you require.

15. Type Sample

Type Sample is a free extension or bookmarklet

Type Sample is a tool for identifying and sampling web fonts that’s currently being built by Justin Van Slembrouck and Paul Barnes-Hoggett. Anyone can use the bookmarklet and save three samples for free, but to save an unlimited number, it's $5 a year. Either drag the bookmarklet up to your bookmarks bar, or install the Chrome extension to get started.

Next page: Free typography cheatsheets

The older we get, the more we learn. But just to keep us on our toes, nature also teases us by making it more difficult to retrieve information from our ageing memories, especially if we're tired. So it can be very handy to have a well-ordered cheatsheet to hand. Here are five great examples.

16. Typewolf typography cheatsheet

The correct use of double and single apostrophes is explained, along with much more

Launched by Colorado designer Jeremiah Shoaf in 2013, Typewolf has grown into a fantastically useful collection of font-related resources for designers. And one of the highlights of the site is this brilliant cheatsheet, which sets out a lot of great info on the proper use of typographic characters. Even seasoned designers will find this a useful reference to keep bookmarked.

17. The State of Web Type

Keep up with which typographic features currently are and aren't supported online

Browser implementation of typographic features is constantly and quickly evolving. So it’s great to be able to keep tabs on the state of play via one central resource. Designed by Jake Giltsoff and maintained by Bram Stein, The State of Web Type offers a comprehensive guide to what’s supported where, from alternative fractions to terminal forms.

18. Type Terms

The Type Terms cheatsheet by Supremo explains the fundamentals of typographical terminology beautifully

Looking for an animated cheatsheet? Us neither. But this creation by Dan Heywood, a designer at Manchester web agency Supremo, is still pretty awesome. Aimed at both typography beginners and more experienced designers looking for a refresher, Type Terms is a brilliantly interactive run-through of the fundamentals of type terminology.

19. The Art of Mixing Typefaces: Google Fonts Edition

The infographic specialises in Google Fonts

As a print company specialising in leaflets and flyers, FastPrint knows a thing about fonts. And so it has produced this great cheat sheet to how well 20 popular Google Fonts work together. It’s based on inspiration from a handout that was created by the International Journal of Typography in 1992.

20. The A-Z of Typographic Terms

This online guide is a great typography jargon buster

Founded in 1997, Fontsmith is a boutique font foundry based in London. And it has created this rather wonderful cheatsheet setting out an A-Z of typography terms. This guide sets out everything you need to know about font-related jargon, from anti-aliasing to x-height.

Next page: Free typography games

Practice makes perfect, and it’s only by constantly pushing our typographic skills forward that we improve them. But if your day job isn’t providing that practice, then why not try one of these fun games; all enjoyable, some even addictive?

21. Kern Type

How did this farcical attempt score 8 marks?

Kerning – the art of adjusting the space between letters – is a skill every designer must master. So why not practise using this fun game made by interaction designer Mark MacKay for his peer-to-peer educational website, Method of Action

You can use the mouse on your computer or your fingers on an iPad to tweak the letters, and the results are compared to those of a skilled typographer and scored accordingly. 

22. Type Connection

Never has type pairing been so attractive

Type Connection is billed as a ‘typographic dating game’. In other words, it’s a fun way to learn how to pair typefaces. Created by Aura Seltzer, a senior product designer for the New York Times, it presents you with a series of familiar workhorse typefaces and asks you determine which work best with which.

23. Shape Type

We did it wrong on purpose, obviously

Shape Type is a game of letter shaping also created by MacKay, the developer behind Kern Type. You’re presented with 10 letterforms, each from well-known typefaces, and your challenge is to reshape them into the correct shape, using either your mouse or finger.

24. Rag Time

Cheers! We like the heady rewards for each effort

Ragged text is an often neglected aspect of good typography, so this game from Boston agency Fathom Information Design attempts to right the balance. You’re challenged you to fix a bad example of ragged text against the clock and, as the title suggests, there’s some glorious ragtime music to chivvy you along. 

25. The Rather Difficult Font Game

A truly tricky type quiz!

One for true type nerds, this fiendishly difficult quiz from the I Love Typography blog will challenge your font-related smarts like nothing else. Created by Finnish designer Kari Pätilä, this is free to play on the web, although the iOS app costs £1.99.

Pixel art: 37 great examples

Creative web design! - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 21:10

Pixel art is a type of digital art where artists specify the location of individual pixels, which are built up to create intricate scenes, game backgrounds, characters, and 3D effects – all with a limited colour pallet. Think about those 8-bit graphics first seen with the release of gaming consoles in the early '80s and you'll know what we mean.

Developing this artwork doesn't require expensive photo editing software and a load of other fancy equipment, just a lot of time. Here are 37 top examples of pixel art from some seriously talented, not to mention patient, artists...

01. Diego Sanches

The world's greatest ever minds get handy in Science Kombat

Diego Sanches is a Brazilian illustrator based in São Paulo, who has a great sideline in pixel art. We particularly love the animations he created for Science Kombat, a browser-based beat-em-up game for Superinteressante magazine. 

It features eight playable scientists, including Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Marie Curie and Sir Isaac Newton, each with their own basic and special attacks, plus a final boss: The Divinity, able to take the form of various gods.

02. Pixel Jeff

"I've got a bad feeling about this."

Based in Taipei, Taiwan, Pixel Jeff has been making pixel art since 2013, usually creating work inspired by movies, video games and animation. His Tumblr page is a treasure trove of animated pixel joy; we were drawn there by his reinterpretation of Disney's Moana as a video game, but it's his take on Star Wars: Rogue One that really grabbed our attention.

03. Ivan Dixon

pixel art

Can you spot your favourite Bowie look in this pixel art tribute?

Following the sad news of David Bowie's passing on January 10th, illustrator and gif-extraordinaire Ivan Dixon paid tribute in the only way he knew how. Featuring a range of Bowie's iconic styles, the homage is a wonderful pixel art look at why he was so influential.

04. Gustavo Viselner

pixel art

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope gets a pixel art makeover

It might have been released over a month ago but Star Wars fever is still rife among fans. Graphic designers and illustrators galore have been inspired by the new story, with some harking back to the old favourites – like this pixel art tribute by Gustavo Viselner. The artist has also created pixel art for Back to the Future, Aliens, Lord of the Rings and more.

05. Ben Porter

pixel art

One of Porter's most recent pixel art creations

Ben Porter loves pixel art so much that last year, he embarked on a 365 day challenge, producing pixel art every day for a year. He also launched Pixel Dailies, a twitter account which shares daily pixel art inspiration and new creations by the man himself.

06. Marty Guerero

pixel art

A look into Guerero's latest game design

A game developer and pixel artist, Marty Guerero produces some really incredible pieces. This pixel art is a snapshot into Guerero's latest game design, with the artist also produces homages to Mario and a range of Studio Ghibli characters.

07. William Alexander

pixel art

Some pixel fan art to feast your eyes upon

"Sometimes, I get really hyped about something, and I need to express it. Usually this involves just talking about it or reading more into it. Sometimes I do fanart! I was really hyped for the Witcher 3 earlier this year, and was listening to a lot of synthwave. That inspired this artwork," explains Ohio artist William Alexander.

08. Tom Schreiter

Tom Schreiter created a pixel art interpretation of The Blues Brothers

We can't help but love this pixel art interpretation of the 80's American musical class The Blues Brothers by Tom Schreiter. Pixelling since 1995, and doing so on a daily basis ever since, he's got a ton of brilliant pixel artwork under his belt – but this definitely one of our favourites.

09. Aled Lewis

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star as 16-bit game sprites in this brilliant piece by Aled Lewis

Hot Fuzz meets Japanese arcade game Final Fight in this epic pixel artwork by designer and illustrator Aled Lewis. This piece forms part of an awe-inspiring portfolio, most of which has been influenced and inspired by his main passions in life; games, comics, film and television.

10. Pixellent

We love this unique Polaroid by Pixellent

You don't often see pixel art go vintage, which is one of the main reasons we like this 'Don't forget to fix your Polariods' piece so much. Created by the artist known as Pixellent, this piece has been executed beautifully, the design featuring gorgeous, detailed pixel art, framed and styled to look like an old Polariod shot.

11. José Eduardo Contreras Moral

"I am your father" – pixel-art style

We've seen many artistic tributes to Darth Vader over the years here on CB, but we particularly like this cool pixel art version by illustrator and pixel artist José Eduardo Contreras Moral. Despite being stripped back to basics, Moral's design of the dark lord still looks incredibly menacing.

12. Nasc

"Make pixel, not war," says Nasc

This brilliant 'Make pixel, not war' piece was developed by the artist known as Nasc. A developer specializing in Flash development, Nasc creates pixel art in his spare time. A minimal, yet expressive and powerful piece, this artwork. Expressive and powerful. This artwork is reminiscent of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

13. Wanella

Wanella produces wonderful pixel-based visual landscapes with fantasy possibilities

Wanella produces these wonderful pixel based visual landscapes with fantasy possibilities. Her love for pixels is evident and original. Adding movement to her work with these vast examples of moving pixel worlds is a great example of how a combination of colour, squares and movement can be combined to great an original dynamic world.

 Next page: 12 more stunning pieces of pixel art 

14. Pixel Pour

Goeller's piece shows how the digital world can work in a different context

Visual artist Kelly Goeller based in Portland took the concept of the pixel and worked around it a real life concept. This original installation is a great alternative to how the digital world can work in a different context. Her water flowing pixels was installed around the city offering citizens a playful visual and imaginary context brining both worlds together.

15. Fine Pixel Art

John O'Hearn is another visual artist that works with the tiny elements to create impressive and live size scale works exploiting the potential of colour, elements and illusion. His examples of portraits is a great example of how he achieves this and exploits the potential of pixel art and design.

16. Metin Seven

Seven's work combines pixel art with 3D elements

The work of Metin Seven combines design and pixel art with 3D elements creating the final artwork into a much more dynamic and detailed result. Along with the Steve Jobs re-interpretation, he has produced a series of characters based on square element combined.

17. Christian Zuzunaga

Christian Zuzunaga creates an original alternative to the use of pixels

Although print and digital designs are the most common when looking at pixel art and pixel artisits or designers. Here is an original alternative to the use of pixels when combined with fashion, textile design and furniture. The beautiful use of colour and pattern with squares inspires great creative possibilities and exploring what is outside comfort zone.

18. Talk to me

The MoMA bridge the gap between design and communication using pixel art

The MoMA took a spin on the pixel world with the use of simple square combinations to create a vivid and interesting pattern mural based on objects from their exhibition. Building the bridge between design and communication. The use of simple black and white strips it down further creating an interesting and dynamic overall feel for the exhibition.

19. Ben Fino-Radin

Ben Fino-Radin shows how pixels can inspire and drive various areas of design

This is a great example of the way in which pixels can inspire and drive various areas of design to create original and innovative pieces of work. This life size hand embroidered piece of design is part of a collection that exploits the ideas of size shape and combination to create these hand life size mouse icons.

20. Jaebum Joo

Jaebum Joo's work combines small squared elements, simple movement and colour

Coming back to more flat designs using pixels Jaebum Joo is a visual designer that combines small squared elements and simple movement and colour. His vivid portraits and landscape are an interesting remark on not only colour combination but also a sense of size and depth within design and its impact.

21. Mario Sifuentes

Mario Sifuentes uses pixel art to create his own interpretation of a pre-hispanic god

Mexican designer Mario Sifuentes created this interesting and beautiful interpretation of a pre-hispanic gods. Inspired by the '90s visual video game style, based on the combination of pixel and simple colour to imagine and re-create a world.

22. Eboy

Pixel art

Introducing the godfathers of pixel art: Eboy

Some of the most well-known creators of pixel art are Kai Vermehr, Steffen Sauerteig and Svend Smital, aka Eboy. These guys create re-usable pixel objects and use them to build complex artwork. Famous for their illustration, web design, fonts, and toys, Eboy has created work for many leading brands, including Adidas, Nike, Pespi and Renault.

23. Paul Robertson

Pixel art

Paul Robertson is a pixel art master

Australian artist Paul Robertson is a pixel art master. His intricate illustrations include everything from family-friendly pieces to some which are really NSFW... Even if you're not familiar with the name, you might recognise his work; he was the lead artist on the 2010 Scott Pilgrim video game and worked on the American animated TV series Gravity Falls.

24. Army of Trolls

Pixel art

Gary Lucken's pixel art is inspired by videogames and more

Army of Trolls is the portfolio of London-born videogame enthusiast and artist Gary J Lucken. Based in Bournemouth, UK, Lucken works from home, surrounded by Japanese toys and piles of old 2D videogames to inspire him. The artwork this talented artist is directly influenced by his love of videogames, toys, and pop culture.

25. Bugpixel

Pixel art

If you like pixel art, you'll like the portfolio of artist Jalonso

Bugpixel is the showcase gallery of skilled pixel artist Jalonso. An advertising art director by trade, Jalonso manages to find time to create numerous illustrations – his awe-inspiring portfolio features work he's developed for various video games, CD, and magazine covers.

Next page: the final 12 examples of pixel art 

26. Rod Hunt

Pixel art

Rod Hunt creates highly detailed pixel art landscapes

Award-winning London-based artist Rod Hunt has built a reputation for detailed character-filled landscapes for everything from book covers and advertising campaigns to iPhone apps and art installations. Hunt is also the illustrator behind the bestselling Where's Stig? books, created for the BBC's TV show Top Gear.

27. Sven Ruthner

Pixel art

Sven Ruthner is a top pixel artist to be inspired by

Freelance pixel artist Sven Ruthner has received international appreciation for his pixel artwork. Based in Germany, Ruthner uses limited colour palettes when developing his work, similar to the offerings of early home computers, such the ZX Spectrum. For example, this particular piece, titled CGA Faces, was created using just 16 colours.

28. Fool

Pixel art

Fool's artwork is highly intricate

The pixel artist known as Fool in the community is a 43-year-old male, originally born in Moscow and currently residing in Ohio. A self-taught artist, Fool has been practising pixel art for over six years. 

29. Tim Wesoly

Pixel art

Tim Wesoly's pixel art Robinson Nerdo character

Tim Wesoly is the lead developer of 3D pixel art modeller Qubicle. When not working on his software, he spends time using it to create awesome pixel art, such as this cool Robinson Nerdo character. The illustration is deceptively complex – you'll find yourself noticing new things each time you look at this piece.

30. Denise Wilton

Pixel art

Pixel artist Denise Wilton has attracted many clients with her detailed style

Currently a creative director at Berg London, artist Denise Wilton has many skills, one of them being the creation of awesome pixel art. Her talent has attracted the attention of many big clients during her career, including The Financial Times, the BBC, Lynx, and Nokia.

31. Simon Anderson

Pixel art

Simon Anderson is known for his pixel art-style work

Simon Anderson, aka Snake in the pixel art community, is a Norwegian game developer and artist by trade. The co-founder of D-Pad Studio, Anderson's fascination with tiny squares began at a young age, drawing pictures and figures using his mum's cross stitch and knitting grid pattern designs.

32. Flip Flop Flyin'

Famous people. But really, really small.

Craig Robinson is an artist from the United Kingdom who now lives in Mexico. Amongst his pixel art is a book called Minipops: Famous People Drawn Really Small, which does exactly what it says on the tim – in pixels.

33. Michael Myers

Michael Myers takes on Sherlock; now there's a film we'd like to see

Instead of putting on a Halloween mask and murdering people, this Michael Myers is an illustrative designer with a sweet sideline in pixel art and animation. He has a great selection of TV, film and game-inspired pixel art on his site; we were particularly taken with this lovely little Sherlock animation.

34. Matt Yee

Matt Yee's ANSI art is a blast from the past

A member of Blocktronics - an international creative network dedicated to the production of ANSI art - Matt Yee is a designer whose more traditional typographic and illustrative work rubs shoulders with gloriously blocky graphics that hark back to the pre-web days of dial-up text-mode bulletin boards.

35. Richard Evans

Totoro and other Ghibli faves get the 8-bit treatment from Richard Evans

Birmingham based designer Richards Evans paid tribute to the work of Studio Ghibli with a set of 8-bit makeovers that we're sure you're going to love. Featuring characters from My Neighbour Totoro, Ponyo, Castle in the Sky and Spirited Away, they're beautifully inspiring in their colour and execution.

36. Karina Dehtyar

Pixel art escapes into the real world in Karina Dehtyar's pixels in photo series

Karina is a Moscow-based illustrator and designer who specialises in film and video game inspired pixel art. Our favourite part of her portfolio, though, is the bit where her pixel creations venture into the real world, in her pixels in photo series.

37. Txaber

Peel slowly and see

Spanish designer Txaber has used Pantone modules to produce an array of pixel art images. "The process is to convert the images into colour mosaics, then each colour is replaced one by one by the corresponding Pantone module," he explains. "It is a laborious process, but I think the result is interesting." The pixel artwork include imitations of Mario, Andy Warhol and iconic logos such as The Rolling Stones and Apple.

Related articles:

Create ornate tiles in Substance Designer

Creative web design! - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 11:11

Substance Designer is a great 3D tool for creating realistic tiled floors, as the huge array of noises, patterns and generators available give you lots of creative freedom. 

However, Substance Designer is a program that plays well with others, as height, mask and other texture maps can be easily imported and used to springboard your texturing process, especially if you have something specific in mind.

Over the course of this tutorial, we will show you how to combine mask textures created outside of Substance Designer to generate a modifiable ornate tiled floor. We will show you how to create a striking albedo map, believable tile damage, and how to realistically age your texture through the use of subtle surface details and blends. 

We'll also cover some tips and tricks to help you generate masks and interesting details that will aid you in creating believable, high-quality materials. For a deeper look into the texturing process, head over to my Gumroad page.

01. Gather material references

Find some reference images of your chosen material (Click the image to make it full-screen)

Before creating any Substance material, gather a body of high-resolution reference images of your chosen material, preferably in different lighting conditions. 

For this tiled material, looking on Shutterstock, Google images and Flickr uncovered 10 images that show close and medium distance detail. It can help to create a mood board to refer to, perhaps on a second monitor.

02. Create the input patterns

Create tile patterns in Hexels, then clean them up in Photoshop (Click the image to make it full-screen)

To generate the various tile patterns, use Hexels then clean up in Photoshop. Create three different patterns, each made of solid blocks of colour defining each tile in the texture. It's important to ensure that no two adjacent tiles have the exact same colour, or the Edge Detect node in Substance will merge them together, giving oddly shaped tiles. 

Import the patterns into Substance Designer, where you can swap and replace them with others, which is part of what makes the program so powerful.

03. Combine the input patterns

Combine your inputs to create a new tile pattern (Click the image to make it full-screen)

Combine the patterns using Safe Transform, Transform 2D and Symmetry Slice, plus a few simple blend nodes. Use the cropping and mask functionality of the blend nodes to mask each pattern together. 

The combined patterns are used as the initial base colour for each tile in the albedo map, with a mask for tile Edge Detect and warping of grunge and noise information.

04. Create the tile height

Follow these steps to give your tiles depth (Click the image to make it full-screen)

Make a greyscale version of the images, Edge Detect (to keep the masks' sharpness) then combine them. This gives you a black and white mask of each tile with a black border that you then need to bevel for tile height. 

To vary tile size, use two Histogram Scan nodes with different values then blend the result using a mask generated from a Multi Directional Warped fractal sum pattern.

05. Add tile edge damage

Use the Slope Blur node to rough up the edges of your tiles (Click the image to make it full-screen)

To give the tiles some age and character, add damage to the edges. The Slope Blur node pushes detail from one input down the slopes of a second height input for this. 

Combine some grunge and patterns to generate a heightmap with varied detail, allowing for large and small edge damage. The heightmap also contains areas of solid black where edge damage will not occur.

06. Cause surface damage

Follow up the edge damage with some surface damage (Click the image to make it full-screen)

Now that the tiles have damaged edges, add some surface damage to remove larger chunks. To generate the damage, use a Tile Sampler node scattering Gaussian shapes. To make sure the damage originates from the edges of each tile, use the tile height from earlier in the graph as a mask. 

The other nodes in this step Slope Blur and Warp this data with grunge and noise to get a more detailed damage map. This helps to ensure that each tile looks uniquely worn. 

07. Add tile cracks

The Cells 3 node is a great starting place for adding cracks (Click the image to make it full-screen)

To make the tiles look like they have undergone years of foot traffic, blend in cracks using the Darken blend mode over the unbroken tiles. The Cells 3 node is a great place to start when building cracks, but is too uniform without some modification. 

After Warping the cracks, use consecutive Slope Blurs with Grunge/Noise inputs and a blurred version of the input itself. Slope Blur an input by itself at low intensities to give the effect of the inflated details.

Next: grout and finish off your tiles

08. Create the grout

Don't forget your grouting (Click the image to make it full-screen)

Make the grout by subtracting the tile height you already have from a Slope Blurred and reduced range version of itself. The final Histogram Range node modifies the grout blend with the tiles – the brighter the pixels the closer the grout is to the height of the tiles. 

This works as the tiles and grout are eventually blended together using Lighten (max), so only the brightest pixels show.

09. Create the grout detail

Add detail to your grout to make it look more natural (Click the image to make it full-screen)

To make the grout feel old, use the Clouds 2 node as three inputs on a Multi Directional Warp to get a marbled effect. 

Then combine this with BnW Spots 2, contrast and Slope Blur to add natural detail and multiply onto the base grout height. Make some pebbles and pores using Gauss Spots 2, pass through a Tile Generator and use the Add/Sub blend mode to blend with the grout.

10. Vary the look of each tile

Bring the floor to life by adding some variety to your tiles (Click the image to make it full-screen)

With the heightmap out of the way and the grout looking damaged, you can move on to the albedo/colour map. To darken the tile edges, blend the combined inputs map from step 03 with a darkened version of itself, then use a mask based on the edge bevel to regulate the effect. 

To give the tiles some variation, blend in some hue adjustment using a tile mask generated by Warping the Perlin noise zoom node for added realism.

11. Build the albedo map

Your albedo map will need plenty of layers (Click the image to make it full-screen)

Building up a good albedo/colour map takes many layers. Hairline cracks are a great example of this kind of subtle detail. Although not immediately obvious, they add believability to the tile texture when it's viewed up close. 

Create these as well as a thin layer of surface dirt, using some Warped Perlin noise combined with the pebbles and pores masks that you already made in step 09. This gives the tiles a really lived-on look.

12. Albedo map the grout

Give the grout an albedo map as well (Click the image to make it full-screen)

Create the grout colour by passing the grout height through a gradient map with brown values. Use a saturated version of this grout colour as the interior colour of the broken tiles, and blend with a contrasted heightmap so only the very highest parts of each tile show their tile colour. 

Finally, add some extra edge damage using an inverted Ambient Occlusion generator as a mask.

13. Create a roughness map

The roughness map is made up from previous masks and details (Click the image to make it full-screen)

The roughness map is the last map to create when making a material, as it's mostly made from previous masks and detail. 

Use your tile mask from step 04 and reduce its contrast in the Histogram Range node. Then subtract a surface dirt mask and add in the tile edge mask from step 12. Blend in the grout made from a uniform colour and a mask reused from the pebbles and pores.

14. Finish off

Add some final touches and you're ready to go (Click the image to make it full-screen)

Lastly, apply some finishing touches now. By Non-Uniform blurring the height with the Histogram scan output from step 10 then multiplying this result with the previous height, you get more variation in the heightmap. 

To make the tile surface catch better specular reflections, blend some tweaked normals created with Warped Perlin noise and a gradient map full of tangent space normal colours. Finally, generate and output the Ambient Occlusion and the final height. 

This article originally appeared in 3D World issue 223. Buy it here!

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7 key typographic trends in Marvel movie logos

Creative web design! - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 09:58

As Marvel Studios gears up to celebrate its 10th anniversary, we take a look at the typographic trends behind the Marvel movie logos.

With a plethora of superheroes to choose from – The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America and more – Marvel has released a new movie each year since its 2008 release of Iron Man, building the brand into one of the most powerful in the world.

But with great power comes great responsibility, especially when it comes to the logo design of each movie. So what of the typography? How have the film's superhero logos developed over the last decade? And what can designers learn from their evolution? 

Here we pick out seven big type trends from Marvel movie logos, and offer insights from designers.

01. Back to basics

The Inhumans logotype is based on the 1998 comic logo by JG Roshell

One clear typographic trend across Marvel’s 2017 and 2018 movie logos shows many of the designs increasingly returning back to their original comic book roots. 

“From the get-go with the first Iron Man movie, Marvel Studios’ film branding wasn’t necessarily tied too closely to its comic book counterparts – with the exception of the Avengers logo,” explains comic designer and creative director Tom Muller. “This was done in order to establish IP and brands that reached further than comics.”

Another factor is that many older films were licensed out to other studios. Now, that trend appears to be reversing, with many of the newer logotypes giving a nod to their original comics. 

The wordmark for 2018 film Inhumans is modelled closely on the 1998 logo designed by Comicraft’s John ‘JG’ Roshell, while the Captain Marvel logo takes inspiration from comic book letterer Jared K Fletcher’s original design. 

02. Anti-flat design

The next instalments in the Avengers story sport logos that go against flat design

2016 might have been the year of flat design, but simplification of type continues to be a clear logo trend throughout 2017. Which makes it all the more notable that the newer Marvel movie logos are doing things differently – as showcased by the Avengers: Infinity War logo, which boasts blocky 3D type.

“There's been a global design shift towards simpler, cleaner, 'flat' design in recent years so, it's interesting to see this going in the opposite direction,” points out award-winning typographic designer Craig Ward.

“You can make the argument that the titles serve as a nice metaphor for the movies, which themselves have become darker, more mature and deeper.”

03. Textured type

The Black Panther logo shows off a 3D, metallic texture

Earlier Marvel movie logos saw the studio stick to simple typography, with faded hues often serving as the dominant special effect. With the new announcements, Marvel is moving into more textured territory, enabling movie titles to say even more about a film's characters and plot, while also popping from Marvel’s standard black backdrop.

“One thing that I'm noticing now is how the new graphics have more texture,” agrees designer Paolo Grasso. “The initial logo for Thor: Ragnarok evokes a rocky texture, while there’s a metallic shine on the Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 and Black Panther logos."

"The older logos seem to stay with that 'laser on black' effect," he continues, "which reminds me of movie logos of the late '90s, such as Mission: Impossible.”

04. Bolder colour palettes

The use of blue marked the first Marvel movie logo to steer away from the classic red and silver colour scheme

In Marvel’s earlier movies, the logos largely stuck to its standard silver and red colour palette – with a few exceptions. Lately, however, the typography has shifted towards gold and brass tones, which can be seen in the logos for Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther.

Tom Muller adds that while the typography in the logos of Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 and Thor: Ragnarok are “squarely embracing their four-colour origins”, they’re doing so “with a decidedly bolder colour palette.”

And it’s worth pointing out that the Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 logo was the first Marvel movie to use blue as its main type colour.

05. Rounded edges

The Captain Marvel logotype is based on Jared K Fletcher’s original design

Looking at the upcoming Marvel movie logos together, the typography of one in particular sticks out as noticeably different to the others. While most of the logos feature square-shaped typography, Captain Marvel veers towards the circular. It’s based on Jared K. Fletcher’s original design, but it’s a noticeable shift towards something different. 

A similar style was used recently in Spider-Man: Homecoming, perhaps signalling the way Marvel movies target younger audiences. Spider-Man: Homecoming is a light-hearted film (compared to, say, The Avengers) and the hero himself is one of the youngest in the universe.

This circular geometric type evokes a youthful sense of fun, rather than a distinguished type used for the older heroes.

06. 1980s gaming 

Thor: Ragnarok gets a typographic blast from the past

Speaking of a shift in direction, the latest Thor: Ragnarok typography looks undeniably different to the series’ previous logo outputs. 2011’s Thor saw a thin, metallic design, while 2013’s Thor: The Dark World provided a bold, textured type, similar to the initial Thor: Ragnarok logo.

However, a new movie logo was launched earlier this year and its retro gaming aesthetic marks the series’ change in tone. Director Taika Waititi described Thor: Ragnarok as a "70s/'80s sci-fi fantasy" movie – and the type in the new logo represents the new vision.

It’s clear from the Thor: Ragnarok trailer that the tongue-in-cheek approach that made Guardians of the Galaxy so successful will be taking centre stage in the new instalment. And while we're on the subject of Guardians of the Galaxy, the same effect can be seen in the Vol. 2 logo.

“It’s something of a trend, but adds much more character and gives a nod to the fun heritage of their comic counterparts,” explains designer Kyle Wilkinson. “A focus on the actual type design seems to be coming into focus too, as opposed to hiding some questionable type choices behind a cloak of special effects.”

07. Mismatched fonts

The mismatched fonts in this movie logo ensure an eye-catching design for audiences

A retro and comic book influence can also be seen with the hand-drawn ‘Homecoming’ in the Spider-Man: Homecoming logo, and ‘Vol. 2’ in the Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 logo.

While this mismatched vibe is achieved by using contrasting colours and nontraditional colour palettes, an unusual font pairing can also be an effective way to catch the attention of your audience.

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Wacom's new Cintiq has the biggest screen yet

Creative web design! - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 08:28

Japanese graphics tablet specialist Wacom has announced that a larger edition to its popular Cintiq family is on the way. The new 24 and 32-inch creative pen displays have been built to meet the demands of professional artists, designers and illustrators, who will now have more room to let their ideas breathe.

Announced last week, the new Cintiq Pros join the 13 and 16-inch models in the range. Unlike previous releases, Wacom plans to unveil a series of behind-the-scenes details over the next six months to generate a buzz around the products.

Pro Pen 2 delivers a natural drawing experience

Both models pack brilliant 4K displays with a billion colours and maximum colour accuracy. Thanks to edge-to-edge glass screens, creatives have free reign to draw as large as they want. Pro Pen 2 technology accompanies the release to deliver the best drawing experience Wacom is capable of.

Edge-to-edge glass gives users more room to create

Slated for release in January 2018, the wait for these tablets might be unbearable for some. If nothing else, the advance notice gives creatives a chance to start saving their pennies. Prices for the new models range from $1,999 to $3,299.

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Make 2017 the year you bring your dream game to life

Creative web design! - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 08:00

Plenty of people dream of designing their own game. It's never been easier or more accessible than it is now, thanks to the 2017 Zero to Hero Game Developer Bundle. You can get it on sale now for 96% off the retail price!

This is the bundle you need if you want to make 2017 the year you learn to develop your very own 3D games. With 83 hours of actionable content that will train you on the industry standards, this course is the perfect place to get your start. 

You'll pick up the programming languages you need to know to code your creation and the 3D tools that make it possible to design and develop your dream game.

The 2017 Zero to Hero Game Developer Bundle is valued at nearly $1,500, but you can get it on sale now for 96% off the retail price. That's just $49 (approx £37.50) – a great deal for a training bundle that could set you down the path to your dream job, so grab it today!

More Gotchas Getting Inline SVG Into Production—Part II

CSS-Tricks - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 07:49

The following is a guest post by Rob Levin and Chris Rumble. Rob and Chris both work on the product design team at Mavenlink. Rob is also creator and host of the SVG Immersion Podcast and wrote the original 5 Gotchas article back in '14. Chris, is a UI and Motion Designer/Developer based out of San Francisco. In this article, they go over some additional issues they encountered after incorporating inline SVGs in to Mavenlink's flagship application more then 2 years ago. The article illustrations were done by Rob and—in the spirit of our topic—are 100% vector SVGs!

Explorations in Debugging

Wow, it's been over 2 years since we posted the 5 Gotchas Getting SVG Into Production article. Well, we've encountered some new gotchas making it time for another follow up post! We'll label these 6-10 paying homage to the first 5 gotchas in the original post :)

Gotcha Six: IE Drag & Drop SVG Disappears SVG Disappears After Drag and Drop in IE

If you take a look at the animated GIF above, you'll notice that I have a dropdown of task icons on the left, I attempt to drag the row outside of the sortable's container element, and then, when I drop the row back, the SVG icons have completely disappeared. This insidious bug didn't seem to happen on Windows 7 IE11 in my tests, but, did happen in Windows 10's IE11! Although, in our example, the issue is happening due to use of a combination of jQuery UI Sortable and the nestedSortable plugin (which needs to be able to drag items off the container to achieve the nesting, any sort of detaching of DOM elements and/or moving them in the DOM, etc., could result in this disappearing behavior. Oddly, I wasn't able to find a Microsoft ticket at time of writing, but, if you have access to a Windows 10 / IE11 setup, you can see for yourself how this will happen in this simple pen which was forked from fergaldoyle. The Pen shows the same essential disappearing behavior happening, but, this time it's caused by simply moving an element containing an SVG icon via JavaScript's appendChild.

A solution to this is to reset the href.baseVal attribute on all <use> elements that descend from container element when a callback is called. For example, in the case of using Sortable, we were able to call the following method from inside Sortable's stop callback:

function ie11SortableShim(uiItem) { function shimUse(i, useElement) { if (useElement.href && useElement.href.baseVal) { // this triggers fixing of href for IE useElement.href.baseVal = useElement.href.baseVal; } } if (isIE11()) { $(uiItem).find('use').each(shimUse); } };

I've left out the isIE11 implementation, as it can be done a number of ways (sadly, most reliably through sniffing the window.navigator.userAgent string and matching a regex). But, the general idea is, find all the <use> elements in your container element, and then reassign their href.baseVal to trigger to IE to re-fetch those external xlink:href's. Now, you may have an entire row of complex nested sub-views and may need to go with a more brute force approach. In my case, I also needed to do:


to rerender the row. Your mileage may vary ;)

If you're experiencing this outside of Sortable, you likely just need to hook into some "after" event on whatever the parent/container element is, and then do the same sort of thing.

As I'm boggled by this IE11 specific issue, I'd love to hear if you've encountered this issue yourself, have any alternate solutions and/or greater understanding of the root IE issues, so do leave a comment if so.

Gotcha Seven: IE Performance Boosts Replacing SVG4Everybody with Ajax Strategy Performance Issues

In the original article, we recommended using SVG4Everybody as a means of shimming IE versions that don't support using an external SVG definitions file and then referencing via the xlink:href attribute. But, it turns out to be problematic for performance to do so, and probably more kludgy as well, since it's based off user agent sniffing regex. A more "straight forward" approach, is to use Ajax to pull in the SVG sprite. Here's a slice of our code that does this which is, essentially, the same as what you'll find in the linked article:

loadSprite = null; (function() { var loading = false; return loadSprite = function(path) { if (loading) { return; } return document.addEventListener('DOMContentLoaded', function(event) { var xhr; loading = true; xhr = new XMLHttpRequest();'GET', path, true); xhr.responseType = 'document'; xhr.onload = function(event) { var el, style; el = xhr.responseXML.documentElement; style =; style.display = 'none'; return document.body.insertBefore(el, document.body.childNodes[0]); }; return xhr.send(); }); }; })(); module.exports = { loadSprite: loadSprite, };

The interesting part about all this for us, was that—on our icon-heavy pages—we went from ~15 seconds down to ~1-2 seconds (for first uncached page hit) in IE11.

Something to consider about using the Ajax approach, you'll need to potentially deal with a "flash of no SVG" until the HTTP request is resolved. But, in cases where you already have a heavy initial loading SPA style application that throws up a spinner or progress indicator, that might be a sunk cost. Alternatively, you may wish to just go ahead and inline your SVG definition/sprite and take the cache hit for better-percieved performance. If so, measure just how much you're increasing the payload.

Gotcha Eight: Designing Non-Scaling Stroke Icons

In cases where you want to have various sizes of the same icon, you may want to lock down the stroke sizes of those icons…

Why, what's the issue? Strokes VS Fills

Imagine you have a height: 10px; width: 10px; icon with some 1px shapes and scale it to 15px. Those 1px shapes will now be 1.5px which ends up creating a soft or fuzzy icon due to borders being displayed on sub-pixel boundaries. This softness also depends on what you scale to, as that will have a bearing on whether your icons are on sub-pixel boundaries. Generally, it's best to control the sharpness of your icons rather than leaving them up to the will of the viewer's browser.

The other problem is more of a visual weight issue. As you scale a standard icon using fills, it scales proportionately...I can hear you saying "SVG's are supposed to that". Yes, but being able to control the stroke of your icons can help them feel more related and seen as more of a family. I like to think of it like using a text typeface for titling, rather than a display or titling typeface, you can do it but why when you could have a tight and sharp UI.

Prepping the Icon

I primarily use Illustrator to create icons, but plenty of tools out there will work fine. This is just my workflow with one of those tools. I start creating an icon by focusing on what it needs to communicate not really anything technical. After I'm satisfied that it solves my visual needs I then start scaling and tweaking it to fit our technical needs. First, size and align your icon to the pixel grid (⌘⌥Y in Illustrator for pixel preview, on a Mac) at the size you are going to be using it. I try to keep diagonals on 45° and adjust any curves or odd shapes to keep them from getting weird. No formula exists for this, just get it as close as you can to something you like. Sometimes I scrap the whole idea if it's not gonna work at the size I need and start from scratch. If it's the best visual solution but no one can identify it... it's not worth anything.

Exporting AI

I usually just use the Export As "SVG" option in Illustrator, I find it gives me a standard and minimal place to start. I use the Presentation Attributes setting and save it off. It will come out looking something like this:

<svg id="Layer_1" data-name="Layer 1" xmlns="" width="18" height="18" viewBox="0 0 18 18"> <title>icon-task-stroke</title> <polyline points="5.5 1.5 0.5 1.5 0.5 4.5 0.5 17.5 17.5 17.5 17.5 1.5 12.5 1.5" fill="none" stroke="#b6b6b6" stroke-miterlimit="10"/> <rect x="5.5" y="0.5" width="7" height="4" fill="none" stroke="#b6b6b6" stroke-miterlimit="10"/> <line x1="3" y1="4.5" x2="0.5" y2="4.5" fill="none" stroke="#b6b6b6" stroke-miterlimit="10"/> <line x1="17.5" y1="4.5" x2="15" y2="4.5" fill="none" stroke="#b6b6b6" stroke-miterlimit="10"/> <polyline points="6 10 8 12 12 8" fill="none" stroke="#ffa800" stroke-miterlimit="10" stroke-width="1"/> </svg>

I know you see a couple of 1/2 pixels in there! Seems like there are a few schools of thought on this. I prefer to have the stroke line up to the pixel grid as that is what will display in the end. The coordinates are placed on the 1/2 pixel so that your 1px stroke is 1/2 on each side of the path. It looks something like this (in Illustrator):

Strokes on the Pixel Grid Gotcha Nine: Implementing Non-Scaling Stroke Clean Up

Galactic Vacuum

Our Grunt task, which Rob talks about in the previous article, cleans up almost everything. Unfortunately for the non-scaling-stroke you have some hand-cleaning to do on the SVG, but I promise it is easy! Just add a class to the paths on which you want to restrict stroke scaling. Then, in your CSS add a class and apply the attribute vector-effect: non-scaling-stroke; which should look something like this:

.non-scaling-stroke { vector-effect: non-scaling-stroke; } <svg xmlns="" viewBox="0 0 18 18"> <title>icon-task-stroke</title> <polyline class="non-scaling-stroke" points="5.5 1.5 0.5 1.5 0.5 4.5 0.5 17.5 17.5 17.5 17.5 1.5 12.5 1.5" stroke="#b6b6b6" stroke-miterlimit="10"/> <rect class="non-scaling-stroke" x="5.5" y="0.5" width="7" height="4" stroke="#b6b6b6" stroke-miterlimit="10"/> <line class="non-scaling-stroke" x1="3" y1="4.5" x2="0.5" y2="4.5" stroke="#b6b6b6" stroke-miterlimit="10"/> <line class="non-scaling-stroke" x1="17.5" y1="4.5" x2="15" y2="4.5" stroke="#b6b6b6" stroke-miterlimit="10"/> <polyline class="non-scaling-stroke" stroke="currentcolor" points="6 10 8 12 12 8" stroke="#ffa800" stroke-miterlimit="10" stroke-width="1"/> </svg>

This keeps the strokes, if specified, from changing (in other words, the strokes will remain at 1px even if the overall SVG is scaled) when the SVG is scaled. We also add fill: none; to a class in our CSS script where we also control the stroke color as they will fill with #000000 by default.That's it! Now, you have beautiful pixel adherent strokes that will maintain stroke width!

And after all is said and done (and you have preprocessed via grunt-svgstore per the first article), your SVG will look like this in the defs file:

<svg> <symbol viewBox="0 0 18 18" id="icon-task-stroke"> <title>icon-task-stroke</title> <path class="non-scaling-stroke" stroke-miterlimit="10" d="M5.5 1.5h-5v16h17v-16h-5"/> <path class="non-scaling-stroke" stroke-miterlimit="10" d="M5.5.5h7v4h-7zM3 4.5H.5M17.5 4.5H15"/> <path class="non-scaling-stroke" stroke="currentColor" stroke-miterlimit="10" d="M6 10l2 2 4-4"/> </symbol> </svg> CodePen Example

The icon set on the left is scaling proportionately, and on the right, we are using the vector-effect: non-scaling-stroke;. If your noticing that your resized SVG icon's strokes are starting to look out of control, the above technique will give you the ability to lock those babies down.

See the Pen SVG Icons: Non-Scaling Stroke by Chris Rumble (@Rumbleish) on CodePen.

Gotcha Ten: Accessibility Accessible planet illustration

With everything involved in getting your SVG icon system up-and-running, it's easy to overlook accessibility. That's a shame, because SVGs are inherently accessible, especially if compared to icon fonts which are known to not always play well with screen readers. At bare minimum, we need to sprinkle a bit of code to prevent any text embedded within our SVG icons from being announced by screen readers. Although we'd love to just add a <title> tag with alternative text and "call it a day", the folks at Simply Accessible have found that Firefox and NVDA will not, in fact, announce the <title> text.

Their recommendation is to apply the aria-hidden="true" attribute to the <svg> itself, and then add an adjacent span element with a .visuallyhidden class. The CSS for that visually hidden element will be hidden visually, but its text will available to the screen reader to announce. I'm bummed that it doesn't feel very semantic, but it may be a reasonable comprimise while support for the more intuitively reasonable <title> tag (and combinations of friends like role, aria-labelledby, etc.) work across both browser and screen reader implementations. To my mind, the aria-hidden on the SVG may be the biggest win, as we wouldn't want to inadvertantly set off the screen reader for, say, 50 icons on a page!

Here's the general patterns borrowed but alterned a bit from Simply Accessible's pen:

<a href="/somewhere/foo.html"> <svg class="icon icon-close" viewBox="0 0 32 32" aria-hidden="true"> <use xlink:href="#icon-close"></use> </svg> <span class="visuallyhidden">Close</span> </a>

As stated before, the two things interesting here are:

  1. aria-hidden attribute applied to prevent screen readers from announcing any text embedded within the SVG.
  2. The nasty but useful visuallyhidden span which WILL be announced by screen reader.

Honestly, if you would rather just code this with the <title> tag et al approach, I wouldn't necessarily argue with you as it this does feel kludgy. But, as I show you the code we've used that follows, you could see going with this solution as a version 1 implementation, and then making that switch quite easily when support is better…

Assuming you have some sort of centralized template helper or utils system for generating your use xlink:href fragments, it's quite easy to implement the above. We do this in Coffeescript, but since JavaScript is more universal, here's the code that gets resolved to:

templateHelpers = { svgIcon: function(iconName, iconClasses, iconAltText) { var altTextElement = iconAltText ? "" + iconAltText + "" : ''; var titleElement = iconTitle ? "<title>" + iconTitle + "</title>" : ''; iconClasses = iconClasses ? " " + iconClasses : ''; return, "<svg aria-hidden='true' class='icon-new " + iconClasses + "'><use xlink:href='#" + iconName + "'>" + titleElement + "</use></svg>" + altTextElement); }, ...

Why are we putting the <title> tag as a child of <use> instead of the <svg>? According to Amelia Bellamy-Royds(Invited Expert developing SVG & ARIA specs @w3c. Author of SVG books from @oreillymedia), you will get tooltips in more browsers.

Here's the CSS for .visuallyhidden. If you're wondering why we're doing it this particular why and not, say, display: none;, or other familiar means, see Chris Coyier's article which explains this in depth:

.visuallyhidden { border: 0; clip: rect(0 0 0 0); height: 1px; width: 1px; margin: -1px; padding: 0; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; }

This code is not meant to be used "copy pasta" style, as your system will likely have nuanced differences. But, it shows the general approach, and, the important bits are:

  • the iconAltText, which allows the caller to provide alternative text if it seems appropriate (e.g. the icon is not purely decorative)
  • the aria-hidden="true" which now, is always placed on the SVG element.
  • the .visuallyhidden class will hide the element visually, while still making the text in that element available for screen readers

As you can see, it'd be quite easy to later refactor this code to use the <title> approach usually recommended down the road, and at least the maintainence hit won't be bad should we choose to do so. The relevant refactor changes would likely be similar to:

var aria = iconAltText ? 'role="img" aria-label="' + iconAltText + '"' : 'aria-hidden="true"'; return, "<svg " + aria + " class='icon-new " + iconClasses + "'><use xlink:href='#" + iconName + "'>" + titleElement + "</use></svg>");

So, in this version (credit to Amelia for the aria part!), if the caller passes alternative text in, we do NOT hide the SVG, and, we also do not use the visually hidden span technique, while adding the role and aria-label attributes to the SVG. This feels much cleaner, but the jury is out on whether screen readers are going to support this approach as well as using the visually hidden span technique. Maybe the experts (Amelia and Simply Accessible folks), will chime in on the comments :)

Bonus Gotcha: make viewBox width and height integers or scaling gets funky

If you have an SVG icon that you export with a resulting viewBox like: viewBox="0 0 100 86.81", you may have issues if you use transform: scale. For example, if your generally setting the width and height equal as is typical (e.g. 16px x 16px), you might expect that the SVG should just center itself in it's containing box, especially if you're using the defaults for preserveAspectRatio. But, if you attempt to scale it at all, you'll start to notice clipping.

In the following Adobe Illustrator screen capture, you see that "Snap to Grid" and "Snap to Pixel" are both selected:

Align and Snap to Pixel Grid

The following pen shows the first three icons getting clipped. This particular icon (it's defined as a <symbol> and then referenced using the xlink:href strategy we've already went over), has a viewBox with non-integer height of 86.81, and thus we see the clipping on the sides. The next 3 examples (icons 4-6), have integer width and heights (the third argument to viewBox is width and the fourth is height), and does not clip.

See the Pen SVG Icons: Scale Clip Test 2 by Rob Levin (@roblevin) on CodePen.


The above challenges are just some of the ones we've encountered at Mavenlink having had a comprehensive SVG icon system in our application for well over 2 years now. The mysterious nature of some of these is par for the course given our splintered world of various browsers, screen readers, and operating systems. But, perhaps these additional gotchas will help you and your team to better harden your SVG icon implementations!

More Gotchas Getting Inline SVG Into Production—Part II is a post from CSS-Tricks

The designer’s guide to using colour in branding

Creative web design! - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 07:00

Colour sells. Whether you’re working with a product, service or space, the ‘right’ combinations of colours can influence how someone feels, thinks and behaves – with powerful results.

According to a study by the Loyola University Maryland, colour is registered by the brain before either images or typography. The same study found that colour can increase brand recognition by up to 80 per cent.

So why, then, is brand colour so often dictated by the personal preferences of a client or committee? What are the ‘right’ combinations, and how can designers sidestep subjective debates to harness the power of colour more effectively in branding projects?

Colour theory in branding

When it comes to harmonious colour combinations, it helps to know the basics – so here’s a quick refresher of colour theory (and the colour wheel).

But what does it mean in practice? How relevant, really, is traditional colour theory for designers when it comes to branding?

Traditional colour theory is based around the colour wheel

According to Jonny Naismith, creative lead at Moving Brands New York, colour theory can provide a useful starting point when deciding the palette for a new branding project, but there are a lot of other factors involved too. “For us, these types of relationships can help generate ideas – particularly when extending out from a core, identifiable colour,” he says.

“However, in the early stages of projects, we’re often looking for varied points of reference. In a saturated market, it’s becoming harder to truly ‘own’ a colour, so we try to employ far-flung points of references to help surprise or create something memorable and unexpected. This could come from working with real materials, spending time photographing subjects or browsing the local bookshop.”

Moving Brands’ designers also employ a number of tools during the exploration process, he adds, including Adobe’s colour scheme generator, Kuler; Pantone’s Studio app, which converts photography into a selection of swatches; and a tool called Colorable, to ensure colour combinations are in line with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Moving Brands combined a vibrant secondary palette with ValuePenguin’s neutral primary palette to create a sophisticated, memorable scheme for the financial advice firm

Interbrand’s executive creative director Sue Daun agrees that colour theory is useful, but says that it doesn’t play a formal part in the global brand agency’s creative process.

“While many of these systems are intuitively used, it’s more about the need of the brand and the attitude we’re trying to convey – as opposed to following a system rigidly,” she explains.

Daun says that there isn’t a fixed formula at the brand firm for considering colour, because every job – and brand – is different. 

“Clients commission work for different reasons, whether that’s growth, new directions, new audiences, redefined purpose or simply modernisation,” she reasons, explaining that Interbrand aims to unpack the brands it works on, and reframe them with purpose.

Colour ideas in the design process

“Every design element is considered with the same intensity, because in combination, they form a graphic equalizer to convey just the right level of distinction, relevance and authenticity for the brand’s new face.” 

However, just because Interbrand doesn’t have a set formula for working with colour, doesn’t mean there isn’t a process for arriving at the perfect palette. “Very early on we ideate around the brand personality, and this builds an initial hypothesis in the minds of the designers,” Daun explains. 

“The development process is then about defining not just the core colours, but the proportions used, the way they are used or what they are used for. Every decision focuses the final story to one of clarity and cohesion.”

Interbrand used a gradient to liven up Siemen’s colour palette

Global brand strategy firm Siegel+Gale takes a similar approach. Finding the right colour palette starts with the same key questions asked during the wider branding process: what does the brand want to stand for? And how does it want any touchpoint across its brand journey to deliver that experience?

Siegel+Gale’s designers work closely with strategists to answer these questions, rapidly prototyping holistic brand ideas and core thoughts, and beta-testing brand ideas to ensure concepts work in the real world. “These are early messaging ideas, communications opportunities and experiential concepts,” explains Steven Owen, executive creative director (EMEA) at Siegel+Gale.

“As we build these, we explore how they come to life: the visual language they may adopt; the tone of voice they might consider. Colour exploration is a vital part of this process. Each brand idea should have a different tone or personality, and subsequently, each route might use colour in a different way.”

Exactly how specific colours are chosen, however, is more arbitrary: “It’s a bit like asking how Siegel+Gale take their showers in the morning,” Owen laughs. “I’m sure we all have different methods and orders in which we wash the parts of our bodies, but the important point is: we all come to work clean.”

Colour psychology

One reason why colour theory, in traditional form, might not be so helpful to the branding process, is the fact that it was originally designed for artists and painters, and lacks the psychological and behavioural insights required for creating a brand that connects.

That’s according to Karen Haller, a leading authority in the field of applied colour psychology. “There’s so much more to colour than the colour wheel,” she says. “To really understand how to use colour to its full effect, you need to include the psychology of colour: how it influences us on a mental, physical and emotional level,” she explains.

Karen Haller offers a host of colour training courses

Haller warns there’s a lot of pop psychology around. “Many people get colour psychology, colour symbolism, and their personal colour association all mixed up together, which is why it’s easy to dismiss colour as being subjective,” she explains. “But they are three different things – and it’s important to understand why.”

Colour symbolism refers to the use of colour in culture, and the conscious associations we’re conditioned to make. In China, for example, red can symbolise good luck, while white often represents death.

In Muslim countries, there are certain products that aren’t designed in green because it represents the prophet Muhammad, but some Islamic banks might use this colour in their logos in order to convey trust.

Personal colour association, meanwhile, relates to the memories or experiences of an individual. “You might like terracotta because you were in Tuscany,” says Haller, “or a certain red because it reminds you of your favourite bike as a child.”

SomeOne followed a five-step process to avoid ‘rainbowageddon’ in its branding for St Catherine’s Hospice

If a client has ever said your colour scheme looks like their daughter’s bedroom – which has happened to Naismith at Moving Brands – or you’ve watched a meeting descend into endless debate, you’ll know the hurdles that personal colour association can bring into the branding process.

But some of these can be avoided. Unlike the previous two definitions, colour psychology relates to the subconscious way colour can affect how we think, feel and behave. And according to Haller, these reactions aren’t as subjective as might be believed.

Individual interpretations of a colour can vary (you might see a certain red as exciting; another person might see it as aggressive), but when psychology is combined with the study of tonal colour groups, reactions can be predicted with surprising accuracy.

The holy grail of colour

Haller isn’t the only one to take this line. In the ’80s, colour psychologist Angela Wright identified links between patterns of colour and patterns of human behaviour. She found that all colours can be classified into one of four tonal groups, and that mathematical relationships underpin the shades and tones within each group. In other words, Wright actually proved objective colour harmony.

Wright went on to develop the Colour Affects System, which identifies links between the four colour groups and four basic personality types, based on original research involving Aristotle, Newton and German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. 

BP uses group 1 colours; Bedding firm Dreams uses group 2 colours; McDonald’s corporate colours are mainly group 3, while Texaco uses a group 4 palette

Crucially, Wright found that colour schemes drawn from a single group always harmonise, no matter which personality type is interpreting them; while schemes that mix groups create disharmony. In addition, each personality type has a natural affinity with one colour family, meaning that people react even more positively to palettes crafted from ‘their’ colours. 

Theoretically, then, if designers can establish which psychological colour family best conveys a brand’s message, it’s possible to create a colour palette that truly engages its audience – as long as every hue used in all brand communication is drawn from that same group. 

“There are millions wasted by companies struggling with subjective, endless expensive debates about colour, and it’s usually decided on the basis of rank,” says Wright. “But objective colour harmony is underpinned by mathematics. If you stick within the groups, everyone can understand the message,” she explains. 

Ask the right questions

So how do you get to a final colour scheme? As with any branding project, it’s about asking the right questions to get to the core of the brand. 

For Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, these include: what does your brand stand for? What message do you want to convey, and how can colour help you tell the story? Who is the consumer? 

And if you’re targeting a global audience, will local cultural meanings be ascribed to the colours used – does the palette need to be modified to reflect this? 

Mast turned to nature for colour palette inspiration when it released two recent products

Pressman adds that it’s key to look at what it is about the brand – including colour – that will prompt a ‘buy’ response in the targeted consumer, and to know where colour trends fit in. “Ask whether you should use a more unusual colour story,” she says. “Will the colours separate you from your competition? It’s important to be unique.”  

“We often look at the competitive landscape,” agrees Naismith. “This helps to identify potential gaps or opportunities beyond colour.”

London-based SomeOne, too, surveys the competitive sector to establish the norm and find the gaps. To test its schemes, the studio starts by visualising applications, before doing print tests, and then accessibility and usability tests for digital projects. 

“We’ve built a bespoke cloud-based brand tool to test colour compliance,” says partner Laura Hussey. “Branding’s never finished, so we embed this in guidelines. As it adapts and changes, so does the colour system.” 

SomeOne applied a lively, optimistic colour palette to the branding for St Catherine’s Hospice, in order to amplify the charity’s voice and achieve market standout

The other key aspect to choosing the right colour scheme is knowing how colours work with each other. “There are thousands of greens,” points out Haller.

“You have to understand what every tone of every colour means, in the context of how you’re using it. Then, if you really tap into who the brand is – if you know its story and authentic personality – the colours to use will be clear. Who a brand is will dictate which colours, tones, combinations and proportions to use to convey – on a subconscious level – what the words are saying on a conscious level.”

Whatever you do, she warns, don’t confuse standing out in the market with shouting. “For a long time, to make a brand stand out, designers have been using really bright colours, but it’s the equivalent of shouting. 

"All of a sudden everyone was using magenta pink, it was like: ‘Hello, look at me!’ You might stand out, but is that colour actually saying what your brand is about? You must be giving the right message.”

The key, as always, is to be authentic. “People have an emotional connection with colour first. Then we take in the shapes, the logo, and we read the words,” says Haller. “If we sense a mismatch, it’s the colour we don’t believe, despite the beautifully crafted words.”

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 266. Buy it here!

Related articles:

How to Build Banners With Custom Fonts Using Just Urls

Webdesigner Depot - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 06:45

Designing fun, visually appealing party banners can be a complicated task if you don’t have enough graphic design experience or know how to use image editing software, such as Photoshop or Sketch. Buying and installing an image editing software, installing custom fonts, designing the graphics and figuring out how to apply a text overlay can take a great deal of time and cost a lot of money… However, there is another option—Cloudinary—that is easy to use and can speed the design process with the use of a single URL.

Cloudinary is a cloud-based service that provides an end-to-end image and video management solution including uploads, storage, administration, image manipulation and delivery. One example of image manipulation features is Image Text overlays (which is the topic of discussion).

In this post, I will show you how to achieve the image overlay in the example above using Cloudinary, not just with common fonts, but with any custom font of your choice. At the end, you will see how simple, powerful and flexible this solution is compared to using graphics editing software.

1. Setup Cloudinary

Cloudinary is simple to setup and use. You just need to create an account, after which you’re assigned a cloud storage for your images:

Create a FREE Cloudinary account using the signup form.

When you sign up successfully, you’re presented with a dashboard that holds your cloud credentials. You can safely store them for future use:

2. Upload Images

Now that you have a free Cloudinary account, you can give it a test drive. Go to the Media Library and upload some images to your cloud:

As you can see, the upload widget enables you to either upload from your computer or provide a link. Don’t bother about hunting for nice pictures on your computer, you can use what I got you from Pexels.

Click on the thumb showing the image you uploaded and copy the link from the image’s details page.

This is the what the original image looks like after scaled down to 700px width:

Cloudinary Offerings

Before we start implementing the text overlay feature, let me tell you about the core Cloudinary offerings:

  • Storage: We encountered this feature while uploading images to the server.
  • Delivery: The URL we got from the media library is what we use to deliver images from Cloudinary.
  • Transformation: Cloudinary enables you to manipulate images by adjusting URL parameters in the delivery URL. The image above is transformed before delivery by adding the transformation parameter ‘w_700’ which scales the image from it’s original 1,000+ pixel width to 700px.
3. Text Overlay

Text overlays in this context refers to applying characters as a mask on graphic images. This process is commonly used in image editing tools like Photoshop, Sketch or Illustrator, where you import an image to your work art board and use the text control to apply characters above the image. For example:

The text printed on the party background image is what is referred to as “text overlay.”

I used the font Verdana in the “JOHNSONS PRESENT” text in the example above. Verdana is a popular font and is readily available as a common font. However, in some situations, you may need to use custom fonts. In this case, you could  go to a website like, download a custom font, install on your machine and use in your designs.

Text overlays are applied as transformation via the transformation parameters, much like what we did with the width of the party image. The following example shows a text overlay on the image:,g_north,y_25,co_rgb:F9583C/pexels-photo-341858_hx5cva.jpg

This URL defines the many features going on with this image transformation:

  • w_700: Scales down the image to 700px
  • l_text: Defines the overlay text to be placed on the an image. This is a transformation feature.
  • Verdana: Font style
  • 20: Font size
  • bold: Font weight
  • underline: Text decoration
  • JOHNSONS%20PRESENTS: URL encoded overlay text
  • g_north: Text location which is top of the image.
  • y_25: y axis offset of the text from the top in percentage
  • co_rgb:F9583: Text color for the overlay
4. Custom Fonts

Our party banner is taking shape, but to make the banner more festive, we want to add some crazy fonts. We don’t commonly see crazy fonts, hence you shouldn’t expect to see one. This is why you cannot just use l_text:CrazyFont.

Cloudinary is very flexible, though. You can upload your own custom font to Cloudinary, then use its public ID as the l_text value. Midnight Valentine is a typical party font that we can use. Download the zipped file, unzip, and upload the .ttf font file.

(NB: You can only upload .ttf or .otf fonts.)

You need to specify the type as authenticated and resource type as raw. You can do this while uploading via SDKs. Say Node for instance:

var cloudinary = require(’cloudinary’) // Credentials retrieved from dashboard cloudinary.config({  cloud_name: 'CLOUD_NAME',    api_key: 'API_KEY',    api_secret: 'API_SECRET' }) cloudinary.v2.uploader.upload(    __dirname + '/Midnight-Valentine.ttf',    {resource_type: 'raw',    type: 'authenticated',    public_id: 'Midnight-Valentine.ttf'},    function(error, result) {      console.log(result, error)  })

You can now deliver the image using the custom font we uploaded:,g_north,y_25,co_rgb:F9583C/l_text:Midnight-Valentine.ttf_80:CLUB%20NIGHT,co_rgb:ffffff/pexels-photo-341858_hx5cva.jpg

We chained another transformation to what we had before. This time, the l_text’s font style value is now Midnight-Valentine.ttf which is the public ID of the font we uploaded. We removed the g_north property, as well as the y property, so the overlay position stays at the default location, which is the center of the image.

Let’s have some more fun adding the venue and date of the party:,g_north,y_25,co_rgb:F9583C/l_text:Midnight-Valentine.ttf_80:CLUB%20NIGHT,co_rgb:ffffff/l_text:Verdana_20:Venue:%20JOHNSONS%20PARTY%20CLUB,g_south,y_130,co_rgb:ffffff/l_text:Lato_18_bold:Date:%2008-01-2017,g_south,y_100,co_rgb:ffffff/pexels-photo-341858_hx5cva.jpg Conclusion

The first image shown at the beginning of this article was designed in Sketch. The last image was built by composing parameters in a URL. You can imagine how powerful the latter is. Knowing the right properties in Cloudinary to use will enable you to start generating graphics dynamically without the help of a graphics designer.

You can learn more about these properties from the Cloudinary docs.


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How Netflix handles prototyping

Creative web design! - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 06:00

Netflix prototyper David Aragon gives us an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at his work for the entertainment giant.

What’s your immediate team like?
I’m on the TV and site design team, along with nine other product designers. Together we design the Netflix experience that ships on TV devices (set-top boxes, games consoles, smart TVs, Blu-Ray players and so on), as well as the website experience you use in a browser.

I work most closely with my immediate team, but also frequently partner with the wider design team, which focuses on mobile, acquisition and Netflix Originals. Product managers, consumer insights analysts and engineers are also crucial in moving any project along.

What kind of prototypes do you create at Netflix and what tools do you use to build them?
I prototype mainly in two environments: the browser and the TV rendering engine. My choice depends on the aim of the prototype. If I’m looking for quick iteration, I’ll build in a browser, since it’s hard to beat the reliability and ubiquity of WebKit. But if I need to see how a specific idea will render on actual TV hardware, I’ll build directly in our TV rendering engine, called Gibbon.

In both cases I build with JavaScript and React. On the web I add in SCSS and WebPack, and with Gibbon I use gulp.

The conference rooms at Netflix are movie and TV themed

How do you approach cross-platform testing when you build your prototypes?
Because we have dedicated apps for each device class, it’s rare for me to need to test a single UI across platforms. That said, the TV device landscape is diverse and fragmented, so even just testing within that subset feels like cross-platform testing. We have a number of strategies for benchmarking and testing across a wide range of devices. One of those tools is a Raspberry Pi, which simulates different tiers of devices, from low-powered Blu-Ray players to the latest game consoles.

What are your favourite tools and technologies you work with?
I absolutely love React for its speed and ease. It makes it easy to translate ideas and architecture from one platform to another. I’m also using Sketch more and more for wireframing.

At Generate London David Aragon will explain how to design and build prototypes, as well as how to conduct your own qualitative user research

You work with product designers, algorithm teams, content specialists, and the platform team. How does collaboration work at Netflix?
I can’t speak for every team at Netflix, but my team doesn’t cling to one specific process. Netflix subscribes to the mantra of 'context, not control'. That is to say, your manager should give you enough context so you can do your job well, but should not micromanage the actual work.

In the early phase of a project, we often use week-long design sprints, followed up by qual research. Once an idea has matured, we work towards several internal milestones but rarely focus on a specific launch date. When an idea is ready, it goes through a gauntlet of tough strategy meetings before an engineer writes a single line of code.

What are the main challenges of doing user research and testing for a product with a user base as massive as Netflix's?
That’s a good question. TV entertainment has become more and more personalised, so what I think of as my favourite shows and watch routines probably won’t match up with yours. 

I might think of Netflix as my after-work sitcom unwind time, but for you it might primarily be the early-morning babysitter, keeping the kids distracted with cartoons. I can’t rely on my own instincts and behaviours because my motivations are so different from tens of millions of other Netflix members.

This is why qual research is so crucial. You get to talk with people whose experiences don’t overlap your own. Our consumer insights team does a great job of recruiting qual participants from diverse backgrounds, so we get a broad range of feedback.

How do you analyse the data and create user personas?
Data is crucial to product development at Netflix. It helps us find pain points in the aggregate that we couldn't see in the individual level. A great example of this is box art testing. 

Users essentially pick the box art we use for content by voting with the play button. The more users that play a movie based on artwork A, the more likely it is that artwork A becomes the standard for that title.

Artwork goes through several rounds of A/B testing

What can people expect to take away from your talk at Generate London?
People will leave with a broad understanding of how Netflix approaches user research, specifically from a design prototyper’s point of view. I’ll also detail the technical side of building prototypes for qual and how everyone can leverage user research, no matter how big their company.

What's your favourite hidden gem at Netflix?
If we’re talking content, I’d have to plug Happy Valley. Check it out! Regarding Netflix as a whole, the degree of autonomy I’m granted is rather astonishing, and empowering. It’s really on me to control the success of my projects, and that level of freedom (and responsibility) means I’m excited and proud about all my projects.

Generate London on 21/22 September features 16 talks from the likes of Aaron Gustafson, Anton & Irene, and Zell Liew, covering adaptive as well as conversational interfaces, UX strategy, web animation, performance, accessibility, responsive CSS components, and much more. There are also four workshops to choose from on 20 September and you can save £95 on a combined pass. Get your ticket today

The 40 best Photoshop plugins

Creative web design! - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 05:00

In this article we've lined up some of the best Photoshop plugins available for Adobe Creative Cloud's photo editing giant. Photoshop is an amazing tool – capable of producing sublime images, high-quality video and very passable renders for 3D art.

All this power offers a world of possibilities – but occasionally it's worth adding a few optional extras to get the most out of your investment.

There's a plethora of plugins available for PS users, but we've selected the best of those that you can download and use straight away.

Promoted: Filter Forge 6.0

 Filter Forge

Filter Forge offers a load of filter options
  • Publisher: Filter Forge
  • Price: $149-$399 (now with 80% discount $29 - $79)
  • Good for: Photographers, photo editors, graphic designers, 3D artists

Currently in version 6.0, Filter Forge offers 11 thousands of filter effects and textures, covering almost every application you can imagine. It's almost infinitely versatile and creative, and capable of a vast range of different styles and looks - and when you get bored with the presets, you can start making your own custom effects (and textures!).

Promoted: EyeCandy

A multitude of effects are available with EyeCandy
  • Publisher: Alien Skin
  • Price: $129 (free trial available)
  • Best for: Designers

EyeCandy has been around for over a decade, offering a broad range of effects ranging from fire to chrome, glass to extrusions. Useful for many different scenarios, a lot of the effects need dialing down from the default settings to achieve something other than a cheesy result, but there’s a lot of hidden gems in the suite.

01. Fontself Maker for Photoshop CC

The Fontself Maker Photoshop plugin brings you font creation superpowers
  • Publisher: Fontself
  • Price: £43
  • Good for: Designers

Ready to start creating your own fonts? It’s easier than you think with this handy Photoshop plugin. Fontself Maker lets you turn any image or vector layer into colourful OpenType fonts using Photoshop CC 2015.5 or CC 2017. 

You can drag and drop layers to create new characters, and capture any colour, shade or texture you want. The makers are working on updates all the time – think kerning, ligatures, alternates and so on – which they distribute to Fontself Maker owners for free.

02. Fluid Mask 3

Fluid Mask is designed to make masking simpler
  • Publisher: Vertus
  • Price: $149 (free trial available)
  • Best for: Photographers & Designers

Masking is a fine art all in itself, and while Photoshop has improved its built-in masking tools with CS5 and CS6, there's still plenty of room for a dedicated tool to help you get the cleanest and most accurate masks possible - especially around problem areas such as hair and fur. Fluid Mask makes this normally laborious process quick and (relatively) easy!

03. Getty Images
  • Publisher: Getty Images
  • Price: Free
  • Good for: Graphic designers, web designers

Everyone needs a bit of stock imagery now and then, so why make things difficult for yourself. Getty Images' own plugin makes it easy for you to search for and filter images and hi-res comps, not only for Photoshop but also Illustrator and InDesign. If you already have a Getty account you'll have access to all your previous downloads, and you can set your preferences to tailor the plugin experience towards your own needs.

04. ParticleShop


ParticleShop brings Corel Painter tools to Adobe Photoshop users
  • Publisher: Corel
  • Price: £44.99
  • Good for: Illustrators and Photographers

Painter is a long established digital art favourite amongst illustrators, but, thankfully, Corel has finally brought its brush technology to Photoshop with ParticleShop.

Brushes can make a huge difference to your creativity and productivity, and this powerful plugin offers non-destructive brushstroke layer support and includes 11 great brushes, including Debris, Fabric, Fine Art, Fur, Hair, Light, Space, Smoke and Storm.

05. Ink


Ink is a must have for designers working with developer teams

Ink is built for team players. Sometimes developer teams might not be as Photoshop savvy as you, the designer. Ink helps you communicate your designs.

This Photoshop specs generator that allows you to include subtle information in your Photoshop document. You can add essential specifications such as text formatting, layer styles, typography, effects and sizes. All this information is then compiled into one handy folder to keep it neat and tidy.

This all ensures that your final product looks how it is expected to look when handed over to developers.

06. Fixel Contrastica 2

Photoshop Plugins - Fixel Contrasica 2

Contrastica is a smart contrast intensifier that targets both local and global contrast at the same time

Available for both Photoshop and After Effects, Contrastica is a smart contrast intensifier. From Fixel Algorithms, a company specialising developing and implementing "Advanced and Innovative Image and Video Processing Algorithms" in order to expand image and video manipulation abilities.

Contrastica is a simple to use, focused and highly tuned filter. It targets both local and global contrast at the same time – making it easy to create the image you need in less time.

07. Perfect Resize 9.5

Photoshop Plugins - Perfect Rezie 9.0

Perfect Resize can enlarge your photos up to 1000% without losing image quality
  • Publisher: On1
  • Price: $79.99
  • Good for: Photographers

Perfect Resize 9.5 will enlarge images taken on your DSLR and even mobile devices. The plugin uses genuine fractals powered algorithms for optimizing clarity and detail for different image types.

With built-in presets and manual controls you can easily create high quality enlargements. You can print directly from Perfect Resize 9.5 and it includes cropping and levelling.

08. B&W Effects

Photoshop Plugins - B&W Effects by Topaz

Tweak the specific color and intensity of filters to transform colour images into beautiful monocrome photographs
  • Publisher: Topaz Labs
  • Price: $59.99
  • Good for: Photographers

We could have picked any of Topaz Labs products - they are a must-have for any photographer. Providing texture effects, making remasking easy and turning your photos into impressionist paintings - there is nothing Topaz hasn't come out with to maximise your Photoshop creativity.

However, their black and white tool makes others pale in comparison. It uses a unique B&W conversion engine that emphasises tone and texture in order to help you get B&W images that pop.

09. Kubota Texture Tools Industrial

 Kubota Industrial

Texture Tools Industrial includes a set of 50 metallic filters
  • Publisher: Kubota
  • Price: $69
  • Good for: Photographers

Kubota describe themselves as the 'Mecca' of photo enhancing tools, and this latest industrial pak accompanies their extensive range of textures, borders and templates.

As usual with Kubota, you can try these metallic filters before you buy. With this pak you can give your images a man-made finish thanks to a selection of 50 metal themed textures. You'll be able to manipulate the filters to fit your images, giving them an edgy final touch that will make them stand out from the crowd.

10. Page Curl


Bend your images with this powerful plugin
  • Publisher: AV Bros
  • Price: £34.95
  • Good for: Graphic designers

Page Curl 2.0 allows you to create a page turn and page fold effect on both regular and arbitrary-shaped objects (such as non-rectangular objects, or areas with full or partial transparency.)

Ideal for ecovers and designers, this powerful plugin is straightforward to use and designed to fit in with other Photoshop tools. The latest update allows you to switch the direction of the folds and curls (choose between Upwards or Downwards), as well as supporting CMYK coloured images and much more.

11. PSD Cleaner

 PSD Cleaner

Easily look after your layers with PSD cleaner
  • Publisher: Source
  • Price: $19.99
  • Good for: Graphic designers, web designers

Sorting through layers and layers of design work is a laborious, tedious task that is the bane of graphic designers and web designers everywhere. But thanks to PSD Cleaner, the process has got a whole lot easier.

From one simple panel, users can identify unnamed layers, recreate Photoshop effects in CSS, delete empty layers, find out if layers are beyond the canvas and much more.

12. Velositey


Design a website prototype in seconds with Velositey
  • Publisher: D&K agency
  • Price: Free
  • Good for: Web designers, developers

The simple and efficient Velositey plugin makes short work of creating a website template. With over 60 templates to choose from and no charge (they only ask for social media mentions), Velositey is a polished, sophisticated tool that will benefit both designers and developers.

Everything has been designed to fit in with the existing Photoshop setup, so it only takes a couple of minutes at most to create a suitable website template for your project.

13. Google Nik Collection

The Nik Collection's now completely free; go get it!
  • Publisher: Google
  • Price: Free
  • Good for: Photographers

We've enthused about many of the photographic plugins featured in the Nik Collection before, but now there's no need to agonise over which ones to buy; Google bought it and then, back in March, decided to release the entire collection for free. So now you can equip yourself with top quality plugins such as Silver EFEX Pro and Viveza that would previously have cost you $95 a go, as well as five other powerful and versatile plugins, without spending anything. 

Next page: more top Photoshop plugins

14. virtualPhotographer


Give your photos a makeover with virtualPhotographer

If you're a designer in a hurry, or you're not yet confident using Photoshop to create stylised images, virtualPhotographer is a quick and effective way to get some sophisticated looks in a hurry.

15. WebZap


WebZap is aimed specifically at designers

Although many web designers advocate designing in the browser, many designers remain wedded to Photoshop when creating interfaces. The problem is, Photoshop was initially designed as a retouching tool, and although it’s taken on features for working with layout, it’s still a frequently clunky tool for dealing with web design.

Aimed specifically at web designers, Photoshop plugin WebZap enables you to create layouts based on a 960 grid system, with a web page broken up into three areas: navigation, feature and fold. In addition, the plug-in provides the means to quickly add form buttons, create text, and style text across an entire layout.

16. Subtle Patterns

 Subtle patterns

A great plugin to make using the free texture library simple from Photoshop
  • Publisher: Atle Mo
  • Price: $17.99
  • Good for: Graphic designers, web designers

Subtle Patterns is a high quality library of free, tilable textured patterns by Atle Mo. The Subtle Patterns plugin feeds all this textured goodness directly into your Photoshop panel. You just click the pattern thumbnail and the texture is applied as a layer style to your current layer - a great time-saver and well worth $11.99.

17. Renamy


Renamy lets you rename multiple Photoshop layers at once
  • Publisher: Klaia
  • Price: $14.99
  • Good for: Photographers, graphic designers, web designers

Naming your layers right is the first rule of Photoshop etiquette. But sometimes you need to rename layers retrospectively, which can be a pain. With Renamy you can rename multiple layers at once, and there's even a cool autocomplete function to save your typing fingers. There's a free demo version so you can give it a try before you buy.

18. Pixel Dropr

 Pixel Dropr

Create icon collections and import them into Photoshop with Pixel Dropr
  • Publisher: UI Parade
  • Price: $19
  • Good for: Graphic designers, web designers

Pixel Dropr lets you create your own 100-piece collections of icons, buttons, UI kits or photos and instantly drop them into a Photoshop document while you work. A great way to boost your productivity when you're using assets across multiple projects.

19. Perspective Mockups

 Perspective Mockups

Create perspective mockups for your designs using CSS3 3D transforms

There's a lot of swearing and obscenity on the Perspective Mockups site, which you may find either hilarious or offensive. But the plugin is definitely worth checking out. Essentially it's a great way to make perspective mockups for your designs using CSS3 3D transforms. The plugin sits within your Photoshop tools palette and includes eight different layouts to choose from.

20. CSS Hat

 CSS Hat

We take our hat off to CSS Hat
  • Publisher: CSS Hat
  • Price: $39.99
  • Good for: Web designers

CSS Hat is a a Photoshop plugin that turns your Photoshop styles into usable CSS3 for your website. You just click on a layer designed with some layer styles, and the markup pops up instantly, for you to copy to your clipboard.



Flaticon is a free project, created for and by designers and developers
  • Publisher: Flaticon
  • Price: Free (Premium $9.99)
  • Good for: Web designers

If you want to download free icons, Freepik has launched a tool entirely dedicated to this end: The largest database of free vector icons, it enables you to download all of its thousands of icons in .svg, .psd or .png format. And this free plugin for Photoshop lets you quickly find all the icons without leaving your working environment.

22. CSS3PS


CSS3PS makes it easy to convert your Photoshop layers into CSS3 layers
  • Publisher: CSS3PS
  • Price: Free
  • Good for: Web designers

This free plugin uses the cloud to perform the calculations required to convert your Photoshop layers into CSS3 layers, complete with live-rendered effects where these are achievable with CSS. So, drop-shadows, strokes, outer glows, text and rounded corners are all converted to CSS3 automatically. Well worth a try to see if it could save you valuable coding time.

23. Fractalius


Fractalius uses fractals to generate sketch-like effects
  • Publisher: RedField
  • Price: $39.90
  • Good for: Designers, artists

This unusual plugin uses fractal patterns, apparently hidden within the source image, to generate procedural effects that are reminiscent of pencil sketches, or stylised light glow streaks.

24. Dream Suite Ultimate

 Dream Suite Ultimate

Dream Suite Ultimate is a pricey but powerful suite

This all-encompassing suite of effects covers everything from textures to pseudo-3D effects, tonal correction and borders. It's not cheap, but covers such a wide range of effects that if you want to buy just one plugin, this should be in your shortlist of options.

25. Machine Wash Deluxe

 Machine Wash Deluxe

Add weathering effects with Machine Wash Deluxe
  • Publisher: Mister Retro
  • Price: $99
  • Best for: Designers and Photographers

This filter brings insanely beautiful scratchy textures to your designs and images with accurate, believable weathering and aging effects. Effects include the ability to place artwork on a leather base, render onto wood with the grain visible through the artwork and rust effects. It produces especially nice effects on simple typography.

Next page: more top Photoshop plugins

26. 3D Invigorator

 3D Invigorator

This plugin simplifies the complex 3D process
  • Publisher: Digital Anarchy
  • Price: $175 (free trial available)
  • Best for: Designers

While Photoshop has come on leaps and bounds with its own 3D engine and rendering, there's still room for additional tools that can simplify the process of creating complex 3D scenes and models. This plugin features a simple object editor that uses a pen-like tool for drawing and editing shapes.

27. Blow Up 3

 Blow Up 3

Create pin-sharp enlargements without compromising on quality
  • Publisher: Alien Skin
  • Price: $99 (free trial available)
  • Best for: Designers and Photographers

Blow Up allows you to create pin-sharp enlargements from photos without compromising on quality. The algorithm is more advanced than Photoshop's own bicubic filters, which allows the plugin to produce accurate images without artifacts. This makes it a great tool for designers where clients send over images that aren't of a high-enough resolution.

28. Photomatix Pro

 Photomatix Pro

Photomatix Pro simplifies the creation of extreme HDR images
  • Publisher: HDR soft
  • Price: from £39 (free trial available)
  • Best for: Photographers

Photomatix Pro is an High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing and toning tool that integrates with Photoshop either standalone or as a plugin (depending upon which version you go for). This tool goes beyond Photoshop's built-in HDR processing capabilities, especially with the toning aspects and allows for the creation of extreme HDR images with relative ease.

29. Perfect Effects 3

 Perfect Effects 3 FREE

If you want to get a quick effect on your image, try this plugin
  • Publisher: onOne Software
  • Price: Free
  • Best for: Photographers & Designers

Perfect Effects 3 FREE is a handy tool for getting a quick effect on an image, whether that's a colour treatment, addition of texture and noise, or creative borders. The plugin features an effects library (a bit like the filter gallery in Photoshop) and allows you to stack multiple effects to achieve interesting new results.

30. Noiseware


Noise is tricky to deal with, but not if you have Noiseware
  • Publisher: Imagenomic
  • Price: $79.95
  • Best for: Photographers

Noise is a problem for everyone, but no more so than Photographers who need to present clients with clean images regardless of the conditions when the shot was captured. Noiseware is a specialist noise-suppression tool that will both remove noise and sharpen at the same time making it a really useful addition to Photoshop.

31. Texture Anarchy

 Texture Anarchy

Rich textures are possible with Texture Anarchy
  • Publisher: Digital Anarchy
  • Price: $129 (free trial available)
  • Best for: Designers

A combination of three different filters for Photoshop that each provide seamless and rich textures you can incorporate into your designs. Some of these are a little predictable, but the sheer range available, along with the ability to generate true fractals, makes this a great addition to Photoshop.

32. Portraiture


This plugin automatically smooths without softening detail areas
  • Publisher: Imagenomic
  • Price: $199.95
  • Best for: Photographers

Portraiture is a combined plugin for Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture that automates the process of retouching portraits for a perfect-skin look. The plugin automatically smooths skin tones while removing blemishes and, crucially, avoids softening or destroying detail areas such as eyelashes and skin texture.

33. SuperPNG


SuperPNG allows greater control over PNG images
  • Publisher: fnord
  • Price: Free
  • Best for: Designers

If you're a regular user of the PNG format, you'll know that Photoshop can sometimes struggle a bit to render PNGs quickly. SuperPNG aims to fix this by offering more control over your PNG output, allowing for a balance between speed and file size, control over the alpha channel and meta data. SuperPNG's a handy tool for taking control of your image export, and is free!

34. Exposure X2


Simulate film effects for digital projects with this creative tool
  • Publisher: Alien Skin
  • Price: $149 (free trial available)
  • Best for: Photographers

Exposure is a creative tool that allows you to simulate film effects on your digital images. For its X2 release, publisher Alien Skin has improved its special effects offering to include textures, overlays, vignettes and creative focus, as well as portrait touch-up tools like spot heal, iris enhancement, and skin softening. Users can also now layer up different effects. 

Exposure X2 is available as a plugin for Photoshop or Lightroom, or as a complete standalone raw photo editor.

35. ToonIt


ToonIt quickly turns an image into a cartoon
  • Publisher: Digital Anarchy
  • Price: $129 (free trial available)
  • Best for: Designers

ToonIt is a straightforward way to turn regular photos into a cartoon-style image, suitable for use in graphic novels or other scenarios where you don’t want photo-realistic images but need to base images on a photographic original. The plugin works automatically on an image, but there is a degree of control you can exercise to change the final output. Niche, but fun!

36. GuideGuide


GuideGuide makes it easy to create a grid system

This simple Photoshop plugin makes it easy to create a grid system in your Photoshop document, hijacking the built-in guides system to create a pinpoint accurate grid according to your chosen settings. You can use negative margins for special hanging columns, separately define individual margins and gutters, and save your preferred options for quick access in the future. Perfect for anyone using a grid to help them create their layouts.

37. Cut&Slice me

 Cut&Slice me

Cut&Slice Me makes it easy to export your designs to the web

This super-handy CS6-only plugin makes it easy to export your designs from Photoshop to the web. Rather than rely on Photoshop's outdated export for web functionality, Cut&Slice me offers a new way of doing things; allowing overlapping slices, multiple button states and even exporting different resolutions of the same assets to cater for different screen sizes and devices.

38. Freeware Boundary Noise Reduction

 Freeware Boundary Noise Reduction

Freeware Boundary Noise Reduction is a big improvement on Photoshop’s own noise reduction filter
  • Publisher: Colormancer
  • Price: Free
  • Good for: Photographers

This Photoshop plugin is a freeware version of the full Boundary Noise Reduction plugin from Colormancer. Offering a simplified set of user controls when compared to the pro version, it's superior to Photoshop's own noise reduction filter.

39. NKS5 Natural Media Toolkit

 NKS5 Natural Media Toolkit

Nkurence's tool lets you quickly access real-media preset effects
  • Publisher: Nkurence
  • Price: Free
  • Good for: designers & artists

This amazing free Photoshop plugin provides a new panel in Photoshop CS5 and above, allowing you to quickly access real-media preset effects in order to generate documents with natural paper backgrounds, realistic water-colour brush strokes and many more.

40. ScreenSnap

Shave seconds off your workflow with the ScreenSnap Photoshop plugin
  • Publisher: PluginMate
  • Price: $9.99
  • Best for: Designers

Easily create screenshots from your PSDs with ScreenSnap. The Photoshop plugin aims to make it easier to share screenshots of your WIP or designs. There’s no need to manually crop or use Save for Web: just select a folder, choose your settings and hit the button. And if you’re designing at standard resolution, you can export your screenshot to Retina.    

Related articles:

The best free graphic design software

Creative web design! - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 12:00

Not everyone has the cash to spend kitting themselves out with the most expensive graphic design software, particularly when starting a new business or embarking on a new career in design. Many will default to Adobe's fantastic Creative Cloud suite of applications, but for those who want to do the groundwork there is a lot of free graphic design software out there that can do the job just as well.

But to save you from doing said groundwork, we've compiled this list and divided it into five sections – use the drop-down menu above to navigate to the page you want.

01. Gravit Designer

Gravit Designer delivers a full vector toolkit for free
  • Platform: Online, PC, Mac, Linux, ChromeOS

Previously known as plain old Gravit, Gravit Designer is a full-featured vector design app suitable for all manner of jobs, from screen and icon designs through to presentations, illustration and animation. 

With a clean and intuitive interface that adjusts itself as you need it, this free graphic design software packs a wealth of tools for creating detailed and beautiful vector imagery, including non-destructive booleans, a knife tool and path graphs, plus multiple fills and blending modes, and a powerful text engine. 

It'll export as PDF, SVG or bitmap, and if you need to access a project on the go there's the Gravit Cloud service that enables you to get to your work wherever you are. 

02. Vectr

Vectr's online options make it great for live collaboration
  • Platform: Online, Mac, Windows, Linux, Chromebook

Available both as a browser-based web app and as a stand-alone desktop app, Vectr is a free editor for creating 2D vector graphics. With all the vector features you'd hope for, plus plenty of options for using filters, shadows and fonts, it's versatile enough for day-to-day design tasks. Particularly useful are its live collaboration and synchronisation options, which enabling you to hook up with anyone, anywhere, to create in tandem.

03. SVG-Edit


Although SVG-Edit is limited to the SVG format it's surprisingly capable
  • Platform: Web Browser

If you're looking to quickly output SVG or edit an existing SVG file, there are a few online editors that will do the job just as well as Adobe Illustrator. SVG (scalable vector graphics) is an open format that allows you to reproduce your Vector drawings programmatically, and one of the nicest projects is SVG-Edit.

This is built entirely on HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript without requiring any server-side processing. So not only can you use it to create and edit documents, but as it's open source you can also download and modify the code – making your own version if you want.

The standard – albeit basic – toolset of every vector-image editor is here, and although it's limited to the SVG format it's surprisingly capable.

04. Inkscape


Free graphic design software Inkscape has very good SVG integration
  • Platform: Windows/Linux (Mac possible if you're technically minded)

As with many of the free options available, Inkscape focuses on the SVG format as its primary file format. This highly capable editor has a very good SVG integration, supporting many of the more advanced features that aren't always available in other apps – such as alpha blending, cloned objects, and markers.

Full support for different colour modes means this is a viable alternative to Illustrator for both print and web design, and although the interface is somewhat simpler than Illustrator, it's still possible to achieve extremely sophisticated artwork. Of particular note is the ability to trace bitmap images, support for variable width strokes and native import of Illustrator files.

There are source binaries available for Windows, Linux and Mac, and compiled versions currently offered for Windows and Linux.

Next page: Free image editing software

05. Photo Pos Pro

Need to fix your photos? Photo Pos Pro can do that and more
  • Platform: PC

If you're on PC and need a decent set of image editing tools without Photoshop's price tag or GIMP's immense toolset, Photo Pos Pro should hit your sweet spot. Built with image enhancement and editing in mind, it's perfect for typical photo editing tasks such as fixing contrast, lighting and saturation, but it'll also stretch to more advanced techniques. 

It boasts an extremely user-friendly interface as well as an in-depth help system to get you started, and if you want to expand its tools to fit your needs there are plenty of expansions and plugins available.

06. Krita

Krita has been in development since 1999
  • Platform: Mac, Windows, Linux

Designed with the VFX industry and concept artists, illustrators, matte and texture artists in mind, Krita is a free and open source painting tool that's been in development since 1999. It comes with a full set of brushes suitable for all manner of work, and there's a whole host of plugins available, from advanced filters to painting assistants for perspective work. 

Notable features include brush stabilisers to smooth out any shaky lines, a wrap-around mode for creating seamless textures and patterns, and a pop-up palette for quick colour-picking.

07. Pixlr


Free graphic design software Pixlr comes with more than 600 effects
  • Platform: iOS, Android

Free graphic design software Pixlr claims to be 'the most popular online photo editor in the world'. It boasts more than 600 effects, overlays and borders, and lets you do all the main things you'd expect from a photo editor, from cropping and resizing to removing red-eye and whitening teeth.

If you're used to using Photoshop, then you'll find Pixlr's user interface easy to pick up, as it's very similar. This free app is available in both iOS and Android varieties.

8. Paint.NET

For photo editing, free graphic design software Paint.NET is an excellent alternative to Photoshop
  • Platform: Windows

Paint.NET is a Windows-based alternative to the Paint editor that Microsoft shipped with versions of Windows. Don't let that put you off, though, as it's surprisingly capable, useful and free graphic design software.

The focus is on ease of use, and there's a definite tendency towards photo editing rather than artistic creation. That said, there are a range of special effects available, allowing you to easily create fake perspective, blend and push pixels around the canvas, tile and repeat selections, and so on.

A good range of selection tools, support for layers, and adjustments such as curves and brightness/contrast mean that Paint.NET is a great alternative to Photoshop for photo editing, especially if you can do without some of the more recent additions to Photoshop's toolset.

09. Sumo Paint


Free graphic design software Sumo Paint works in the browser
  • Platform: Web browser (requires Adobe Flash Player)

Sumo Paint is a highly capable browser-based image editor. All the standard features you'd expect from a desktop tool are present and correct (and by buying the Pro version you can install a desktop version of the app if you prefer).

You need the Adobe Flash Player to use this tool, so you're not going be using Sumo Paint on your iPad. That said, it's lightweight and quick to load, and the free version is very usable.

The standard range of tools and adjustments you'd expect are all included. Brushes, pencils, shapes, text, cloning, gradients and so on are all quickly accessed from the Photoshop-esque floating toolbar. It can also open saved documents from your hard drive, making Sumo Paint a perfectly viable option for editing and reediting.

10. GIMP


GIMP is a popular, free graphic design software alternative to Photoshop
  • Platform: Linux, Windows, Mac

Open-source free graphic design software that debuted on Unix-based platforms, GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. Today it's available in versions for Linux, Windows and Mac.

GIMP's interface differs somewhat from Photoshop, but a version of GIMP is available that mimics Adobe's look and feel, making it easier to migrate over if you're ditching Photoshop. The full suite of tools is available here – everything you're accustomed to is within easy reach, including painting tools, colour correction, cloning, selection and enhancement.

The team that oversees development has worked hard to ensure compatibility too, so you'll be able to work with all the popular file formats without any trouble at all. You'll also find a very capable file manager built in, along similar lines to Adobe's Bridge.

Next page: Free 3D software

11. SketchUp Make

3D becomes much easier if you use SketchUp
  • Platform: PC, Mac

For getting your first foothold in the world of 3D, it's hard to go wrong with SketchUp, and its free version, Sketchup Make, is an ideal starting point. It provides a friendly and forgiving introduction to building stuff in 3D, starting you off by simply drawing lines and shapes that you can then push and pull around to turn them into 3D forms. 

If you need a bit of inspiration, you can search the SketchUp 3D Warehouse's immense library of models and download them for free.

12. Daz Studio

Free 3D software

3D software Daz Studio is available to download completely free of charge
  • Platform: Mac, Windows

Daz Studio is a 3D figure customisation, posing and animation tool that enables artists of all skill levels to creating digital art using virtual people, animals, props, vehicles, accessories and environments.

With Daz Studio, you can create custom 3D characters and avatars, design virtual environments, produce graphic design elements and much more. There's also a handy table that shows you what this free tool offers in comparison to its paid alternatives (scroll down here).

13. Blender


The superb animation Big Buck Bunny was made using free graphic design software tool Blender
  • Platform: Mac, Windows, Linux

If you're serious about 3D but struggling to afford software, then you're in luck. Blender is a free, open source 3D content creation suite, available for all major operating systems.

Started by Blender Foundation founder Ton Roosendaal back in 2002, Blender is now largest open source tool for 3D creation. Its makers are constantly working on its development, but you can pretty much do anything 3D related with this software, including modelling, texturing, animation, rendering and compositing.

14. Sculptris


Master the art of digital sculpting with Pixologic's free graphic design software Sculptris
  • Platform: Mac, Windows

If you're interested in the art of digital sculpting, check out 3D software Sculptris from Pixologic. Perfect for all skill levels, the software is a great starting point for users new to the discipline, while more experienced CG artists will find the software a quick and easy way to realise concepts.

Sculptris is based on Pixologic's ZBrush, the most widely-used digital sculpting application in today's market. So, when you're ready to move on to the next level of detailing, skills learned in Sculptris can be directly translated into ZBrush.

15. Houdini Apprentice


Get to grips with the Houdini graphic design software with this free Apprentice version
  • Platform: Mac, Windows, Linux

Houdini is a 3D animation and visual effects tool, used widely throughout the media industry for film, broadcast, entertainment and visualisation. And its cheapest version costs just a little under $2000.

But the makers of the programme – Side Effects Software – are a good bunch and, knowing that cost can be an issue, offer an Apprentice version for free. With this you can access all the features of the full version in order to develop your skills and work on personal projects. The programme is purely for use non-commercial and learning purposes.

Free data visualisation software 16. Google Charts


Display real live data with Google Charts
  • Platform: Web browser

Google chart tools are powerful, simple to use, and free. You can choose from a variety of charts and configure an extensive set of options to perfectly match the look and feel of your website. By connecting your data in real time, Google Charts is the perfect infographic generator for your website.



Free graphic design software hints at how resumes could look in the future
  • Platform: Web browser

It was only a matter of time before an infographic resume generator turned up. With this you can visualise your resume in one click and also take a look at previous examples. Enabling people to express their professional accomplishments in a simple yet compelling personal visualisation, we think this is an option worth exploring.


Free graphic design software offers a dozen free templates to start you off
  • Platform: Web browser

This free web-based infographic tool offers you a dozen free templates to start you off, all of which are easily customisable.

You get access to a library of things like arrows, shapes and connector lines, and you can customise the text with range of fonts, colours, text styles and sizes. The tool also lets you upload your graphics and position them with one touch.

19. Infogram

Create infographics for your website or to share on social media
  • Platform: Web browser

Infogram is a great free tool that offers access to a wide variety of graphs, charts and maps as well as the ability to upload pictures and videos to create cool infographics.

The data upon which the infographics are based can be found in an Excel-style spreadsheet, which the user can easily edit and see the results change in real time. When you're happy with your infographic you can publish it to the Infogram website for all to enjoy, or embed it in to your own website or share it via social media.

Next page: Other useful tools

20. Klex

Klex is an easy-to-use way of banging out great designs quickly
  • Platform: Online, PC, Mac, Linux, ChromeOS

Made by the people behind Gravit Design, and sharing the same engine, Klex is an easy-to-learn and accessible tool for anyone who wants to create impressive graphics in just a few clicks. While obviously not aimed at pro designers, it's a perfect tool for anyone who wants to quickly bang out memorable designs. There's a plethora of ready-made templates to choose from, plus thousands of assets and a great selection of effects and filters, as well as customisation options and a load of fonts and text assets.

21. Expression Web 4

Expression Web is free graphic design software to download from Microsoft's website
  • Platform: Windows

If you're a PC user, Microsoft has made its Expression Web 4.0 software free of charge. There's no tech support available for free downloaders but its a pretty powerful alternative to likes of Dreamweaver that won't cost you a penny. In this article, illustrator, artist and graphic designer Stefan Lindblad explains why it offers an alternative worth investigating.

22. Google Fonts

 Google Web Fonts

No list of great free graphic design software would be complete without Google Fonts

The Google Web Fonts project – renamed Google Fonts – is an extensive catalogue of free and open source designer web fonts, presented in an intuitive directory. The initiative invites users to explore and test fonts in more than 135 languages, and create their own customised collections of font families.

23. Behance


Sign up for Behance using either your email address or via your social network

With millions of views each month, online creative community Behance is a key resource for artists of all disciplines. It's a fantastic way to see what your peers are up to, as well as finding new work and creative inspiration from top web designers and agencies. Find the best ways to get your work noticed on Behance here.

24. WordPress


Create your own portfolio blog with Wordpress

There are a whole lot of designers who don't have their own blog, but it's a great way to showcase your fantastic work, get recognition in your industry, earn extra income and get new clients. WordPress is the most popular platform for blogging, and while it can be a little fiddly to set up, there's lots of helpful information online to get you going. Check out these articles:

25. Dribbble


Dribbble is a great source of inspiration as well as a designer's tool

Dribbble enables designers to share their creations easily, and is a good source of inspiration as well as a great way to promote your own work. Check out this article to find out which designers you should be following on Dribbble.

Related articles:

How to blend coloured pencils

Creative web design! - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 10:57

Coloured pencils offer plenty of opportunities for blending. To get the most from them, we want to take advantage of their semi-transparent nature. Rather than relying upon the individual, flat colour of each pencil, we can mix them together to make things more dynamic.

Having some knowledge of colour theory can be useful, but this is also a great opportunity to experiment! In this article, I'll show you how to blend coloured pencils in a drawing of a pear. I'll be using a complementary red applied over greens to darken and slightly neutralise the tone.

01. Draw the contour

Textured paper is better for multiple layers of colour

Start by drawing the contours of your subject in a light colour. It's a good idea to use the local colour on the pear, to hide the original drawing – graphite lines can remain visible and dirty the colour. 

Here, I'm working on a white vellum Bristol surface. When selecting your paper, aim for a weight of at least 250gsm, with a medium texture surface and a consistent grain. Smoother paper surfaces won't always take multiple layers of colour.

02. Hit the lights

Bring in your lightest colours first

We're working from light to dark, so the first stage is to identify the highlights and lightest tones, and establish a base colour that will mix with the layers applied on top. With light pressure and a sharp point, lay a warm yellow over all the pear except for the highlights. I've chosen a cool grey for the shadow at this stage. 

Avoid pressing so hard that the paper texture gets smoothed out, because this can effect how additional layers will go down. 

03. Establish the local colour

Next, apply colours that'll combine to create a local colour

Continuing to work with a sharp pencil, apply the shades that will represent the pear's local colour – I'm using different shades of yellow-green and green. Looking at mid-tones, I can see the pear is a mixture of different colours, rather than a single, flat yellow-green. 

I then give the shadow another layer of colour, this time a warmer steel grey that combines with the original cool grey to create a more complex shade.

04. Add shadows and finishing touches

Finish with shadows and darker parts

Finally, I use a darker green, brown, and red-violet to define the core shadow and darker parts of the pear, and layers of blue-violet and dark brown to darken the shadow on the ground. Lighter colours (slightly grey versions of yellow-orange, yellow-green and blue-violet) have been applied over top. 

To finish, lightly use a white coloured pencil to lighten the tones. Check if any darks or mid-tones need to be reapplied in some areas. 

This article originally appeared in Paint & Draw issue 7; buy it here!

Related articles:

How to code an augmented reality marker

Creative web design! - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 09:59

Augmented reality has been around for a while now, but with the support of WebRTC (real-time communication), it is possible for users on Android and desktop devices to access a phone's camera. 

At present, iOS can't support this as it hasn't been implemented in the WebKit browser that powers Safari, but it is in development and you can check the status here. If you do have an iOS device, you don't have to miss out, as you can still use the webcam on your desktop computer. 

Note: To get this working on the mobile Chrome browser, the content must be served by a secure socket layer (i.e. over HTTPS rather than standard HTTP). Desktop currently works with regular HTTP though.

  • To download the files you need for this tutorial, go to FileSilo, select Free Stuff and Free Content next to the tutorial.

In this tutorial I'm going to show you how to place an augmented reality marker in front of a phone camera. This will be picked up by the browser and AR.js, and content will be mapped over the top in 3D, sticking to the AR marker. 

There are lots of possible uses for this technique. For example, you might want to create a simple 3D creative resume, and then the AR marker could be printed on your business card. Because you can walk around the marker, this is great for content that you might want to see from different angles – think of a certain Swedish furniture manufacturer giving you animated steps that can be viewed from any angle! There are so many possibilities that this can be useful for.

01. Add the libraries

Start by linking up your project libraries

Once you've downloaded the tutorial files go to the project folder, open the start folder in your code editor and then open up the index.html file for editing. At this stage the libraries need to be linked up – and there are quite a few for this project! The libraries are in three sections: Three.js, JSARToolKit, and the Three.js extension for the ARToolKit and marker.

02. Take care of CSS styling

In the head section of the page, add some script tags and drop in the style rules for the body and the canvas element. This ensures they are placed correctly on the page without the default margins added by the browser.

03. Add global variables

In the body section of the page, add some script tags where the remaining JavaScript code for this tutorial will go. There are a number of variables needed: the first line is for Three.js, the second for the AR.js, the third for the model and then a variable to load the model.

04. Load the model

Before the scene is set up the model will be loaded so that it can be displayed when markers are detected. This is scaled down by 10 to fit exactly onto the AR marker. The model is 10cm for the width and height, so the marker is 1cm which translates to 1 increment in Three.js.

05. Fix some display issues

Still inside the Collada loading code, once the model is loaded there will be a couple of tubes that spin around so they are found in the Collada scene. The first tube is found and its material is grabbed. Here the material is set to just render on the inside of the model, not the outside.

06. Repeat the fix

If the transparency and additive blending is not enabled, the model looks like this when loaded and displayed on top of the AR marker – not very exciting and barely visible!

As in the last step, this same principle is repeated for the second tube and the blending mode, similar to those found in After Effects and Photoshop, is set to be an additive blend. This enables the outside of the pixels to have a softer transition to the camera image.

07. Final fix

The last model is a spinning circle just at the middle of the design. This follows the same rules as before but doesn't render the back of the object, just the front. The opacity of each of these materials has been set to 90% just to make it slightly softer. Once the model is loaded the init function is called.

08. Initialise the scene

The init function is set up and inside here the renderer settings are created. The renderer is using WebGL to give the fastest render speed to the content, and the background alpha value is set to transparent so that the camera image can be seen behind this.

09. Create the scene display

The renderer is made to be the same size as the browser window and added to the Document Object Model of the page. Now an empty array is created that will store objects that must be rendered. A new scene is created so that content can be displayed inside of this.

10. Light up

To be able to see content in the scene, just like in the real world, lights are needed. One is an ambient grey light while the directional light is a muted blue colour just to give a slight tint to the 3D content on display in the scene.

Experiment with the lighting colours to give some different tints

Next: Finish up your AR marker

11. Lights, camera, action!

With the lights added to the scene, the next part to set up is the camera. As previously with the lights, once created it has to be added into the scene to be used. This camera will auto align with the position of the webcam or phone camera through AR.js.

12. Set up AR.js

Enabling the webcam means that both desktop webcam and the phone's camera can be used to view the content

Now AR.js is set up so that it takes the webcam as its input, it can also take an image or a prerecorded video. The AR toolkit is told to initialise and if it's resized it will match the same as the renderer on the HTML page.

13. Keep it together

Because resizing is something that happens a lot with mobile screens, as the device can easily rotate to the point that it re-orientates, the browser window is given an event listener to check for resizing. This resizes the AR toolkit.

14. AR renderer

The AR.js needs a context set up, calling the Three.JS extension to do so. Here it takes the camera data file, which is included in the data folder, and detects at 30 frames per second with the canvas width and height set up for it.

15. Get the camera data

The AR toolkit is initialised now and the camera in the WebGL scene gets the same projection matrix as the input camera from the AR toolkit. The AR toolkit is pushed into the render queue so that it can be displayed on the screen every frame.

16. Match the marker

The markerRoot is a group that will be used to match the shape in augmented reality. It's first added to the scene, then this is used along with the AR toolkit to detect the pattern, which is also located in the data folder.

17. Add the model

Here the tubes and discs spin, while the hexagon in the centre moves up and down

Back in the early steps a model was loaded and stored in the variable of the model. This is added to the markerRoot group from the previous frame. The model had some specific elements within it that are going to be animated every frame. They are also pushed into the render queue.

18. Finish the init function

The renderer is told to render the scene with the camera every frame by adding it into the render queue, which is the array set up in step 9. The animate function is called, and this will render every frame to display content. The closing bracket finishes and closes the init function.

19. Just keep going

The animate function is created now and uses the browser's requestAnimationFrame, which is a call to repaint before the screen is drawn. This continues to call itself, and the browser attempts to call this function at 60 frames per second.

20. Timing issues

Mobile browsers sometimes find it difficult to reach 60 frames per second with different apps running. Here timing is worked out so that the screen is updated based on timing. This means if frames drop, it looks much smoother.

21. Finish it up

This is the image that will be detected by the camera as an AR marker; as you can see it shares some similarities with a QR marker, which you might be familiar with

Finally each of the elements in the render queue are now rendered to the screen. Save the page and view this from a https server on mobile or a regular http server on desktop, print the supplied marker and hold it in front of the camera to see the augmented content.

This article originally appeared in Web Designer issue 262; buy it here!

Related articles:

Top new tools for 3D artists this July

Creative web design! - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 08:59

It has been a sweltering summer in the UK so far, but these cool new 3D art releases should help any artist get through the heat in July.

01. Premiere Pro Pond5 plugin 

Adobe Premiere CC’s Pond5 plugin allows stock footage to be found and inserted easily into an editors timeline

Adobe Premiere CC users can streamline their workflow with a new plugin for stock footage and template company Pond5. The add-on enables artists to access Pond5’s massive library of HD and 4K video, music tracks and sound effects – all of which can searched based on price, duration, resolution or frame rate – without leaving Premiere. Footage can be dragged directly into the timeline, and once the client has approved the footage, the watermarked version is automatically updated. 

02. Ignite Express

Ignite Express comes with over 80 VFX, grading and editing plugins

The newly released VFX plugin suite HitFilm Express is getting a little brother. Ignite Express has over 90 plugins, which work in a wide range of applications – Adobe After Effects, Premiere, Fusion and Final Cut to name but a few. Included are tools for grading, keying and VFX. And the best thing is that Ignite Express is completely free.

03. Oculus Rift Price drop

Oculus has reduced the price of its complete VR and controller bundle to £399

Although those of us who bought the full-price Oculus Rift bundle may be smarting at the news, there’s no denying the new limited-time offer of £399 for the Rift and Touch controllers is a great deal. While VR aficionados may speculate that this as a sign of the rising popularity of the HTC Vive, remember that Oculus has the vast resources of Facebook behind it, so profit may not be the driving factor – this could be a way for the company to get an Oculus Rift into everyone’s living room. All we need is for Oculus to confirm it will follow HTC in developing its software for Mac.

04. Hybrid rendering in V-Ray 3.6

V-Ray Hybrid is an all new implementation of V-Ray that can make use of all your computer’s resources

In the latest release of V-Ray 3.6 for 3D Studio Max, Chaos group has added V-Ray hybrid rendering. V-Ray hybrid rendering combines the computer’s CPU and GPU power to speed up rendering times compared to using either on its own. While this is separate from the V-Ray Production render (which is CPU-based), having a hybrid render engine from V-Ray could be transformative for many artists.

05. Modo 11.1

Modo 11.1 comes with many enhancements, including a new Unreal Engine bridge

The latest release of Modo has just been made available. New features include a new Bridge to Unreal engine, which enables artists to push elements or entire scenes into Unreal from Modo. This can be updated as revisions are made, and even works across a network – which means, for example, a Modo artist could push work to an Unreal artist on another machine. Modelling workflows have also been improved – notable enhancements include a revamped Topology pen and an easier-to-use Loop tool.


The Red Hydrogen could mark a new revolution in mobile technology

RED has long been recognised as one of the world’s leading creators of digital cinema cameras. It has gained a reputation for championing new technologies years before anybody else, from 4K in 2006 through to its latest announcement: the HYDROGEN phone. 

Pre-orders start at $1,195, and for that you get a modular device that has the potential of becoming a full shoulder-mounted camera. Oh, and then there is the holographic display! This could be a game-changer of a device.

07. Canon EOS 6D Mark II 

The Canon 6D Mark II packs many great improvements into the familiar 6D shape

The Canon 6D offered an inexpensive way for many photographers to get into full frame photography. With the release of the Canon 6D Mark II, Canon has vastly improved the number of focus points to 45, and created an all-new 26.2 MP sensor. One of the biggest changes to the otherwise similar exterior is the 3” articulating touchscreen. While video stays at HD only, it does have Canon’s excellent Dual Pixel AF focus.

08. DJI Spark

The DJI Spark is aimed at novice and enthusiast flyers

DJI has become dominant within the drone market due to its easy to fly and continually evolving drone models. The Spark is the latest drone from DJI, aimed primarily at the novice and casual flier with its 1080p camera and two-directional gimbal. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be used to shoot great video: the Spark has many of the flight controls of the bigger Mavic and Phantom Pro drones, bundled into an airframe not much bigger than an iPhone.

09. Golaem 6 released

Golaem 6 brings many enhancements to the Maya population plugin

Autodesk Maya population plugin maker Golaem has have just released version 6 of its easy to use software, and with it comes some exciting updates. Characters now have custom AI abilities, making them perceive and react to the scene more realistically. 

There are also new emit and kill behaviours, a new behaviour for traffic simulation, and enhancements to the bundled Golaem Layout tool. The best thing is that a PLE for Golaem 6 is available for free, so artists can find out more about this amazing plugin. For further inspiration, check out our list of mighty Maya tutorials.

10. ZBrush 4R8 now shipping

The new Gizmo 3D tool enables you to move multiple subtools at once

ZBrush 4R8 is now shipping and is being offered as as a free update to existing users. A new Gizmo 3D tool, along with the ability to transform multiple subtools at once, makes the new ZBrush a lot easier to pick up for users coming from a more traditional 3D background. New deformation modifiers, live booleans and interactive primitives will also help artists create amazing 3d models. The interface has been given a much-needed tidy up, too.

Read more:

Musings on HTTP/2 and Bundling

CSS-Tricks - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 08:43

HTTP/2 has been one of my areas of interest. In fact, I've written a few articles about it just in the last year. In one of those articles I made this unchecked assertion:

If the user is on HTTP/2: You'll serve more and smaller assets. You’ll avoid stuff like image sprites, inlined CSS, and scripts, and concatenated style sheets and scripts.

I wasn't the only one to say this, though, in all fairness to Rachel, she qualifies her assertion with caveats in her article. To be fair, it's not bad advice in theory. HTTP/2's multiplexing ability gives us leeway to avoid bundling without suffering the ill effects of head-of-line blocking (something we're painfully familiar with in HTTP/1 environments). Unraveling some of these HTTP/1-specific optimizations can make development easier, too. In a time when web development seems more complicated than ever, who wouldn't appreciate a little more simplicity?

As with anything that seems simple in theory, putting something into practice can be a messy affair. As time has progressed, I've received great feedback from thoughtful readers on this subject that has made me re-think my unchecked assertions on what practices make the most sense for HTTP/2 environments.

The case against bundling

The debate over unbundling assets for HTTP/2 centers primarily around caching. The premise is if you serve more (and smaller) assets instead of a giant bundle, caching efficiency for return users with primed caches will be better. Makes sense. If one small asset changes and the cache entry for it is invalidated, it will be downloaded again on the next visit. However, if only one tiny part of a bundle changes, the entire giant bundle has to be downloaded again. Not exactly optimal.

Why unbundling could be suboptimal

There are times when unraveling bundles makes sense. For instance, code splitting promotes smaller and more numerous assets that are loaded only for specific parts of a site/app. This makes perfect sense. Rather than loading your site's entire JS bundle up front, you chunk it out into smaller pieces that you load on demand. This keeps the payloads of individual pages low. It also minimizes parsing time. This is good, because excessive parsing can make for a janky and unpleasant experience as a page paints and becomes interactive, but has not yet not fully loaded.

But there's a drawback to this we sometimes miss when we split assets too finely: Compression ratios. Generally speaking, smaller assets don't compress as well as larger ones. In fact, if some assets are too small, some server configurations will avoid compressing them altogether, as there are no practical gains to be made. Let's look at how well some popular JavaScript libraries compress:

Filename Uncompressed Size Gzip (Ratio %) Brotli (Ratio %) jquery-ui-1.12.1.min.js 247.72 KB 66.47 KB (26.83%) 55.8 KB (22.53%) angular-1.6.4.min.js 163.21 KB 57.13 KB (35%) 49.99 KB (30.63%) react-0.14.3.min.js 118.44 KB 30.62 KB (25.85%) 25.1 KB (21.19% jquery-3.2.1.min.js 84.63 KB 29.49 KB (34.85%) 26.63 KB (31.45%) vue-2.3.3.min.js 77.16 KB 28.18 KB (36.52%) zepto-1.2.0.min.js 25.77 KB 9.57 KB (37.14%) preact-8.1.0.min.js 7.92 KB 3.31 KB (41.79%) 3.01 KB (38.01%) rlite-2.0.1.min.js 1.07 KB 0.59 KB (55.14%) 0.5 KB (46.73%)

Sure, this comparison table is overkill, but it illustrates a key point: Large files, as a rule of thumb, tend to yield higher compression ratios than smaller ones. When you split a large bundle into teeny tiny chunks, you won't get as much benefit from compression.

Of course, there's more to performance than asset size. In the case of JavaScript, we may want to tip our hand toward smaller page/template-specific files because the initial load of a specific page will be more streamlined with regard to both file size and parse time. Even if those smaller assets don't compress as well individually. Personally, that would be my inclination if I were building an app. On traditional, synchronous "site"-like experiences, I'm not as inclined to pursue code-splitting.

Yet, there's more to consider than JavaScript. Take SVG sprites, for example. Where these assets are concerned, bundling appears more sensible. Especially for large sprite sets. I performed a basic test on a very large icon set of 223 icons. In one test, I served a sprited version of the icon set. In the other, I served each icon as individual assets. In the test with the SVG sprite, the total size of the icon set represents just under 10 KB of compressed data. In the test with the unbundled assets, the total size of the same icon set was 115 KB of compressed data. Even with multiplexing, there's simply no way 115 KB can be served faster than 10 KB on any given connection. The compression doesn't go far enough on the individualized icons to make up the difference. Technical aside: The SVG images were optimized by SVGO in both tests.

Side note: One astute commenter has pointed out that Firefox dev tools show that in the unsprited test, approximately 38 KB of data was transferred. That could affect how you optimize. Just something to keep in mind.

Browsers that don't support HTTP/2

Yep, this is a thing. Opera Mini in particular seems to be a holdout in this regard, and depending on your users, this may not be an audience segment to ignore. While around 80% of people globally surf with browsers that can support HTTP/2, that number declines in some corners of the world. Shy of 50% of all users in India, for example, use a browser that can communicate to HTTP/2 servers (according to caniuse, anyway). This is at least the picture for now, and support is trending upward, but we're a long ways from ubiquitous support for the protocol in browsers.

What happens when a user talks to an HTTP/2 server with a browser that doesn't support it? The server falls back to HTTP/1. This means you're back to the old paradigms of performance optimization. So again, do your homework. Check your analytics and see where your users are coming from. Better yet, leverage's ability to analyze your analytics and see what your audience supports.

The reality check

Would any sane developer architect their front end code to load 223 separate SVG images? I hope not, but nothing really surprises me anymore. In all but the most complex and feature-rich applications, you'd be hard-pressed to find so much iconography. But, it could make more sense for you to coalesce those icons in a sprite and load it up front and reap the benefits of faster rendering on subsequent page navigations.

Which leads me to the inevitable conclusion: In the nooks and crannies of the web performance discipline there are no simple answers, except "do your research". Rely on analytics to decide if bundling is a good idea for your HTTP/2-driven site. Do you have a lot of users that only go to one or two pages and leave? Maybe don't waste your time bundling stuff. Do your users navigate deeply throughout your site and spend significant time there? Maybe bundle.

This much is clear to me: If you move your HTTP/1-optimized site to an HTTP/2 host and change nothing in your client-side architecture, it's not going to be a big deal. So don't trust blanket statements some web developer writing blog posts (i.e., me). Figure out how your users behave, what optimizations makes the best sense for your situation, and adjust your code accordingly. Good luck!

Cover of Web Performance in Action

Jeremy Wagner is the author of Web Performance in Action, an upcoming title from Manning Publications. Use coupon code sswagner to save 42%.

Check him out on Twitter: @malchata

Musings on HTTP/2 and Bundling is a post from CSS-Tricks


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