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Creative web design! - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 07:58

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Fans welcome new Doctor Who with amazing art

Creative web design! - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 06:59

Chances are, if you were on the internet at all yesterday, you probably saw the news that the new Doctor Who leading actor was revealed. Announced after a tortuously long dissection of the preceding Wimbledon final, Jodie Whittaker was officially crowned as the 13th Doctor, picking up where Peter Capaldi leaves off.

It's a bit of an understatement to say that the news caused a stir online. Some fans of Doctor Who, the show that can go anywhere and do anything, were left baffled and frustrated that the programme tried something new. Others however were over the moon at the wonderful news.

And because Doctor Who fans are a passionate bunch, it wasn't long until the fan art started pouring in. They might only have had a few seconds of footage of the new Time Lady to work with, but that didn't stop artistic fans whipping up some fantastic artwork. We've rounded up some of our favourite pieces which you can browse below by clicking to the left or right.

Roll on the Christmas special!

Related articles:

The Essential Guide to UX for AR

Webdesigner Depot - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 06:45

2017 looks set to be the year that augmented reality (AR) moves firmly into the mainstream. As the next big technology trend, it looks set to have a massive impact on user experience and, by extension, user experience design. The good news is that augmented reality has the potential to solve user problems that have challenged UX designers for years, like high interaction costs and low engagement. On the flipside, augmented reality also brings challenges for designers. This post will look at how augmented reality is affecting UX, and how UX designers can rise to the challenge of designing engaging, conversion-friendly, augmented user interfaces.

What is Augmented Reality?

Although it’s been around in some form since the early 90s, the term ‘augmented reality’ can still cause a little confusion. In a nutshell, augmented reality is technology that combines inputs from the real world with programmed components. These programmed components have to interact with real world data in some way, changing as the real inputs change.

Whereas virtual reality (VR) shuts users off entirely from the real world and places them in an entirely fictional alternative, augmented reality adds a programmed layer over actual reality to create a third, dynamic level of augmented experience.

So that hologram video of Michael Jackson dancing? Plenty of people claimed it was augmented reality, but they were mistaken. The hologram Jackson did not respond to real world inputs and was incapable of dynamic change based on those inputs. If anything, as Angie Li and Therese Fessenden write for NN Group, the real world dancers augmented the fiction, rather than vice versa.

Examples of AR that the majority of users have at least heard of, if not used, are things like Snapchat, Pokémon Go and Microsoft’s HoloLens.

How Does Augmented Reality Work?

Designing delightful augmented user experiences requires an understanding of the technology’s functionality. A device’s numerous sensors—for example the GPS, camera and compass on a smartphone—feed inputs into a pre-installed software application on the device. The device interface then independently responds by adding sensorial enhancements to the scene. Therefore, an augmented reality interface is an example of what’s known as a ‘non-command user interface’; the interface acts and reacts without specific user commands.

It’s important to point out that even if you have the latest AR-friendly smartphone, that doesn’t mean you’ll be seeing augmented reality elements everywhere you go. The technology also requires the AR software to be fired up, and a real world ‘trigger’. These three elements combine to make the augmented user experience possible.

What Does Augmented Reality Mean for UX Designers?

Obviously, the implications of augmented reality for user experience are enormous. The technology has the potential to completely revolutionize the way users interact with devices. From designing user flows for reactive interfaces to imagining users existing in a screenless world where everything has the potential to become an interface on command, the changes to UX design will be fundamental.

Exciting, right?! But also terrifying. What with its unique blend of psychology, research, interaction design and software development, user experience is complex enough already. UX Designers need to futureproof themselves and ensure they’re ready for the opportunities and challenges that are already knocking on their doors.

UX Opportunities of Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is already changing users’ experiences of brands and digital platforms. At first glance the two most well-known examples, Pokémon GO and Snapchat, use AR in a pretty light way. After all, catching pokémons and jazzing up selfies with a flower crown hardly looks like ground-breaking UX. But let’s look at the numbers: Within a week of its release in 2016, 65 million people worldwide were playing Pokémon GO, and Snapchat valued at $24 billion when it went public in March (although share value later dropped and leveled out). Snapchat and Pokémon GO’s success is due to the fact they are using AR to provide users with a unique, customizable experience that keeps them hooked.

The reasons for the stickiness of AR experiences aren’t hard to define. AR decreases interaction costs, reduces a user’s cognitive load, combines multiple sources of information, and minimizes attention switches. Pretty much the Holy Grail of UX.

AR decreases interaction costs, reduces a user’s cognitive load, combines multiple sources of information, and minimizes attention switches. Pretty much the Holy Grail of UX.

It’s therefore no surprise that we’re seeing AR taking hold beyond social media and gaming. The technology is already being exploited by forward-thinking marketing departments as a great branding opportunity. Take Pepsi as an early-adopter: In a 2014 the soda company ran a campaign on London bus stops which saw AR technology transform a normal, boring bus shelter wall into a screen full of asteroids or tigers on the loose. Maybe the campaign didn’t sell Pepsi right there and then, but in terms of branding it was a powerful move. UX Designers will work closely with marketing teams to test and refine augmented experiences that reinforce brand image and engagement.

Conversions are another area where the potential of augmented reality is already being put to the test. Let’s take the example of a consumer shopping for a table. The simplified user journey might be: Research tables online, go to stores, take photos on mobile device, look at the photos in their home…And then uh-oh, it’s impossible to know which table is right just from some crummy photos taken in store. Would-be consumer is frustrated, fails to convert.

Stores such as Ikea are using augmented reality to solve this. Using an Ikea app, users can point their mobile at an area in their home, and generate an augmented view of the same scene complete with a device-generated piece of furniture.

The same works for buying pretty much anything online, from cosmetics to clothing. Consumers have already demonstrated their desire for this kind of experience: according to stats from MavenEcommerce, the type of AR app that people are most interested in for online shopping are:

  • Virtual dressing room – 88%
  • Shoe sampling – 87%
  • Virtual furniture sampling – 86%
  • Interactive vehicle manual – 75%

Allowing the user to see the object in context solves the obstacle to conversion and everyone is happy.

In the not-too-distant future augmented reality will probably provide even more out-there opportunities to improve user experiences. Think about augmented presence meetings and teleconferences, where a colleague from some place else on the planet, just like AR entrepreneur Meron Gribetz does in this TED talk. Devising the UX flows, interactions, gestures and UI animations for this kind of technology will fall to the augmented UX designer. Whereas now UX designers work with interactive prototyping tools to model and test realistic user interfaces, in the future they’ll combine UI prototypes with 3D prototypes from tools like Microsoft’s HoloLens. It could be that existing prototyping tools will introduce AR capabilities to keep up with the trend.

UX Challenges of Augmented Reality

But, as with any seismic tech shift, there will be challenges for UX designers designing for augmented reality. Let’s take a look at those challenges.

Terminology

Even before UX designers get started in AR, they’ll need to get to grips with a whole lot of new terminology. Familiarising yourself with terms such as modulated reality, HMD and HUD is a good starting place for meeting AR challenges head on, and starting to think realistically about augmented user experiences.

Overkill

This is going to be crucial to AR’s long-term success. To see what we mean by AR overkill just check out this video by Keiichi Matsuda, which presents a vision of an over-augmented user experience. The video is great, but would you really want to live with all that visual noise in your head all day? UX designers must avoid overwhelming users with useless or decontextualised information, instead using AR to add value in certain contexts.

Hardware and Physical Comfort

UX designers are used to designing experiences to reduce eye strain or thumb strain. But augmented reality will require consideration of other physical factors, such as arm strain: users will not walk around all day holding their mobiles at eye level. The comfort of wearables will become more and more important to AR adoption.

Conditions and Context

The environmental challenges thrown up by augmented reality are going to be huge. When designing for desktop experiences, UX designers are working with a relatively limited set of variables regarding the conditions a user might be in. With AR, a user could be absolutely anywhere, looking at anything, under any conditions, and still expect a stellar augmented experience. UX designers will have to run comprehensive user tests on software use in light and shady conditions, different weathers, interiors and exteriors, in motion or still. User testing is going to have to adapt substantially.

Safety

Users’ physical safety is also an issue. Pokémon GO designers ran across this when there emerged reports of players being so absorbed in the game that they were hit by cars or walked off cliffs. That’s probably the acme of bad user experiences, so augmented reality experiences will have to be designed that minimize dangerous outcomes.

These challenges mean that UX designers need to have a deep understanding of users’ expectations around the new technology before they start to design experiences to match.

Best Practices for AR UX Design

The field of designing augmented reality user experiences in still in its infancy, but there are many best practices that UX designers can start thinking about now.

Always Think About the Environment

Whether the AR campaign will take place on the side of a bus shelter like Pepsi’s, in user’s homes or on the streets, UX designers have to design interactions for those conditions, and test them fully in those conditions. Rob Manson from AR UX has helpfully broken down physical user scenarios into 4 main categories:

  • Public, in which the user uses their whole body to interact with the software
  • Personal, in which the user uses a smartphone in a public space
  • Intimate, in which the user is sitting with a desktop and is not really in movement
  • Private, in which the user has on a wearable

UX designers will have to define user journeys for the relevant physical scenarios and define how the interface will react to each.

Make it Comfortable for Users

Users hold their devices in the most comfortable, least effortful way they can. If you’re designing an AR experience for a handheld device rather than a wearable, you have to take that physical comfort factor into account. Make sure you’re up to speed with device use archetypes: for example, users will hold their device for longer when seated, or if they’ve got the device at chest level.

The Interface Should be as Automatic as Possible

The whole idea of a non-command interface is that it operates alone. Augmented Reality experiences should be designed to need as little physical input from users as possible. This makes sense, because if users are looking through the device screen at an augmented picture, it’s going to be hard for them to use gestures at the same time. Voice control is the obvious answer to this, and UX designers will have to start designing more voice interaction flows, as with Siri or Alexa.

Start Designing AR Experiences Now

As in right now. UX designers need to start understanding and trying out AR principles as soon as possible if they’re not to be left behind by the AR wave. Luckily, platforms like Coursera have some good introductory online courses, and some AR tools themselves also offer toolkits, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens.

How AR is Changing User Experience Design, Final Word

Augmented reality has the potential to give users the kind of experiences they crave: exciting, useful, usable and meaningful. It has the potential to marry user needs with business goals and create something digitally delightful in the process. But that kind of success story depends on UX Designers meeting the inevitable challenges thrown up by a new, exciting technology. UXers can do that by getting up to speed with current AR tech and, as always, empathising with the user to give them not only what they need, but also what they want.

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Online Micro Machines museum is a retro treat

Creative web design! - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 05:59

Micro Machines collector Tim Smith has turned his obsession with the 80s miniature toy cars into an online showroom for the enjoyment of other fans and collectors. The labour of love, called Micro But Many, is based on Smith's own collection of some 1,000-plus Micro Machines toys, with each one lovingly photographed to show off their intricate detailing.

Smith, who also heads up ustwo Auto – a digital product agency that looks at design challenges around cars – has a long history with Micro Machines toys, having collected them as a child. With Micro But Many, he's keen to see if other people share his fascination with the miniature motors.

"Given most Micro Machines are modelled on real cars, I’m hoping the site will appeal to collectors, car enthusiasts and children of the 80s and 90s in general," he explains.

The online showroom displays the cars at their best thanks to close-up photographs. Visitors can learn more about the different models, including their scale, rarity, toy brand and more by clicking on the photographic tiles on the homepage.

Alternatively, if you're looking for a half-remembered toy from your childhood, you can search through the cars by entering unique characteristics into the search tool.

Each car is photographed in exquisite detail

The nostalgia trip is bittersweet for Smith, though, who as a boy built up his collection by hook or by crook. "They were expensive for a small boy, but thanks to playground swapping and thieving, I managed to amass about a hundred of the things," he reveals.

"One day my 'friend', Mark Baldwin, offered to buy them all from me for a measly 50p. He could sense my desperation to buy a stainless steel Teenage Mutant Ninja/Heroes Turtle coin I saw for sale in Woolworths. I accepted his offer.

"I regret that decision to this day. Over the past few years though, I have recommenced my collecting and now have over 1,100 of the burglar prevention tool used by Macauley Culkin so effectively."

Micro Machines were famous for stopping burglars in Home Alone

New cars will be added over time, but with Smith's collection falling well short of the more than 6,000 Micro Machines models, he's going to need your help. So if you've got any Micro Machines toys knocking around in an attack or under-stairs cupboard, be sure to dig them out and arrange a swap. If you've got a model Smith's after, you might even be able to make some money in the process.

Related articles:

7 great infographics by graphic design agencies

Creative web design! - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 04:57

At Creative Bloq, we get sent a lot of infographics by PRs in the hope that our coverage will help them go viral. There’s nothing wrong with that, but in all honesty, most of them aren’t particularly well designed. And with the increasing availability of easy-to-use infographic tools we suspect some have been created by marketing folks with no actual design training.

To right the balance and show the world what a great infographic actually looks like, we’ve rounded up seven brilliant examples of the discipline created by leading design agencies. 

01. Flag Stories by Ferdio

Most flags are based on a simple formula of colours, symbols and layouts, as this 3D visualisation highlights

Copenhagen design studio Ferdio is seriously into its flags. So it decided to let its data visualisation skills loose on a side project, and Flag Stories is the result. This mega-infographic compares the design of the world’s flags according to a variety of criteria, including colour choices (and what they symbolise), shapes (used and their complexity), age, similarities and more. 

These carefully considered visualisations are simple, imaginative and in places quite beautiful. After all, who wouldn’t love ‘Flag Tetris’?

02. The Evolution of Hip-hop by Sub Rosa 

The intricate interconnections of hip-hop’s history are set out in this lovingly created infographic

Sub Rosa is an independent strategy and design practice based in New York that produces a biannual publication called La Petite Mort, which receives a small print run of 5,000 as well as appearing online. 

For last year’s edition, junior designer Jessi Brattengeier showcased her smarts by mapping out the 37-year history of hip-hop. The result is a striking monochrome infographic that makes perfect sense of all chaos and complexity that story entails. 

A great example of how to harness visual hierarchy to make complex information easier to navigate, you can view the chart in full on page 54 of the magazine, which can be downloaded for free here

03. Call to Prayer by Corporation Pop

This striking but effective infographic was created for Channel 4 [click the icon in the top right to enlarge the image]

Infographics don’t have to be complex or information-heavy to be effective, and here’s a great example. With Channel 4 running a special season to mark the Muslim festival of Ramadan, it asked Manchester-based digital agency Corporation Pop to create suitable branding. This included an infographic highlighting the dos and don’ts of the festival, which is shown in its entirety above. 

Okay, this is certainly the simplest infographic on this lust. But it’s also an eye-catching, upbeat and strikingly original design, which makes clever use of colour and Islamic-inspired, geometric art to draw the viewer in.

04. A Month in a Design Agency by Paper Leaf

Paperleaf indulged in some radical honesty about its operations for this infographic

Now for an infographic by an agency, about an agency. Paperleaf is a design firm based in Edmonton, Canada who describe themselves as “big proponents of open, honest communication”. So much so that they created this revealing infographic about how they operated across a typical month in business. 

Stats covered include how many billable hours the team put in, what proportion of their time was spent on breaks, and the value of contracts they won and lost. And it’s all gorgeously designed, with big, bold typography and a striking red, blue and black colour scheme. 

You can view the infographic in full here

05. Waste Matters by Pentagram 

Pentagram harnessed its infographic smarts to visualise data about water management in New York

Global design studio Pentagram is known for its award-winning work for glamorous clients and big brands. So you wouldn’t necessarily expect them to be the people behind an infographic about urinals and sewage. But when they were approached by the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) to visualise guidelines for efficient water use throughout the city, they took the challenge head on. 

The result is Water Matters: A Design Manual for Water Conservation in Buildings. This crams a ton of information into its 289 pages, but thanks to clever use of colour coding and beautifully designed infographics, all that information is easy to find and to digest. A masterclass in rendering a dull subject engaging and enlightening.

You can download the PDF for free and check it out here.

06. USAFacts by Artefacts

This mega-infographic breaks down what the US government is doing

It’s difficult to hold your government to account unless you’re able to effectively work out what it’s doing. That’s the thinking behind this $10 million project from Steve Ballmer and Seattle design studio Artefact. USAFacts sets out to convey big government statistics in a way that’s easy for a normal person to understand.

The visualisations on the site use bright colours, highly legible typography and basic charting structures that the average person can follow, and the result is a great deal more engaging and user-friendly than most government websites we’ve experienced. Anyone planning to visualise a large amount of data online would be well advised to check it out.

07. The Happy Chart by Sagmeister Inc

This oversized infographic examined the nature of happiness

So far we’ve covered infographics that appear online, in PDF form and on the printed page. But we’ll finish with one that covered the wall of an exhibition. Curated by Stefan Sagmeister, CEO of New York studio Sagmeister & Walsh, the Happy Show was held at the ICA Philadelphia, and billed as an in-depth exploration of the nature of happiness. Illustrated by Verena Michelitsch under the creative direction of Sagmeister and the art direction of Jessica Walsh, these oversized vinyl prints share facts and figures about happiness and relationships across age groups, genders and sexual orientations. 

The retro feel and tongue-in-cheek attitude strike the perfect tone, and help to convey a series of quite serious points in a fun and accessible way. You can see the infographic’s constituent parts in detail here.

Colourful 80s-inspired font is an optical workout

Creative web design! - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 01:51

If you've just woken up, we can only apologise for subjecting you to one of the most colourful and flamboyant fonts we've ever come across. But if you feel like putting your eyes through their paces, meet Electra.

Created by Argentinian freelance designer Yai Salinas, Electra is a free-for-personal-use OpenType font that takes its inspiration from the gaudy and over-the-top 1980s.

Are you up to the challenge of making this font work?

That's not to say that Electra hasn't got a sense of style, and it certainly doesn't do things by halves. The all-caps font (because when your design is this balls-out why would you waste your time with lowercase wallflowers?) comes with numbers, alternates and symbols, plus it's available to download for commercial use if you sling a small donation Salinas' way.

Rise and shine with this free electro font

While other fonts mail it in by just relying on a unique letter shape, Electra makes clever use of colour, pattern and texture to deliver a truly individual typeset that could work as camouflage gear to help you blend into a Jackson Pollock painting.

Elektra is available in three vivid styles, each with slight variations in pattern and colour. These different styles make the font more flexible to help you accommodate its bombastic aesthetic into your work. Scroll through the gallery below to explore the different versions.

Read more: 

Popular Design News of the Week: July 10, 2017 – July 16, 2017

Webdesigner Depot - Sun, 07/16/2017 - 05:03

Every week users submit a lot of interesting stuff on our sister site Webdesigner News, highlighting great content from around the web that can be of interest to web designers. 

The best way to keep track of all the great stories and news being posted is simply to check out the Webdesigner News site, however, in case you missed some here’s a quick and useful compilation of the most popular designer news that we curated from the past week.

Note that this is only a very small selection of the links that were posted, so don’t miss out and subscribe to our newsletter and follow the site daily for all the news.

Angular Vs React: Which One is Better?

 

Image Optimization for Websites

 

20 Fonts Every Graphic Designer Should own

 

The 5 Biggest Design Agency Trends of 2017 so Far

 

Famous Brands Logo Animations

 

The Future of App Development: Beyond Prototypes

 

Everything You Need to Know About Colors

 

Easily Create High Quality GIFs with Gifmock

 

Spotify.me: Beautiful Analytics on your Spotify Listening Habits

 

Working on an iMac from a Train is a Middle Finger to Portability

 

Our Reponsive Design Workflow in Sketch

 

Booking.com – UX Analysis and Responsive Redesign

 

BitScoop: Create Software Better, Faster, Smarter

 

F*** Function, Lets Make Design Pretty Again

 

How to Create a Pattern Library and Why You Should Bother

 

Graphic Porn — a Beautiful Selection of Printed Works

 

How to Mostly Ditch Adobe Creative Cloud

 

This is a Battle for the Future of the Internet

 

Evolution of the LEGO Logo

 

Orosko: Free Geometric Typeface

 

The State of Enterprise UX Design in 2017

 

The Netherlands’ Royal Crest Changes Gender

 

Lionn: Incredible SEO Powered with Artificial Intelligence

 

LastPass – An Unsolicited Redesign

 

Abstract: A Platform for Modern Design Teams to Work Together

 

Want more? No problem! Keep track of top design news from around the web with Webdesigner News.

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Did CSS get more complicated since the late nineties?

CSS-Tricks - Sat, 07/15/2017 - 08:53

Hidde de Vries gathers some of the early thinking about CSS:

There is quite a bit of information on the web about how CSS was designed. Keeping it simple was a core principle. It continued to be — from the early days and the first implementations in the late nineties until current developments now.

The four main design principles listed are fascinating:

  • Authors can specify as much or little as they want
  • It is not a programming language by design
  • They are agnostic as to which medium they are used for
  • It is stream-based

So... did it?

I think lots has changed since the early nineties, but not really things that touch on how we apply CSS to structured markup.

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Did CSS get more complicated since the late nineties? is a post from CSS-Tricks

Comics of the Week #398

Webdesigner Depot - Sat, 07/15/2017 - 05:31

Every week we feature a set of comics created exclusively for WDD.

The content revolves around web design, blogging and funny situations that we encounter in our daily lives as designers.

These great cartoons are created by Jerry King, an award-winning cartoonist who’s one of the most published, prolific and versatile cartoonists in the world today.

So for a few moments, take a break from your daily routine, have a laugh and enjoy these funny cartoons.

Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions below as well as any related stories of your own…

Font spotter

The multitasker

 

5,000 approvals

Can you relate to these situations? Please share your funny stories and comments below…

4 Beautiful, Handwritten Fonts from Skyla Design – only $15!

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Google Plus Interface Icons

Tutorial9 - Fri, 07/14/2017 - 20:13
Great freebie: 204 icons (4 versions, pixel perfect, psd surces, vector shapes) based on the google+ interface.

How To Create a Blog Theme Concept in Photoshop

Tutorial9 - Fri, 07/14/2017 - 20:13
In the next few tutorials posts we’re going to go through the process of building a WordPress theme, starting today with the initial design concept in Photoshop. Follow this step by step walkthrough of the creation of the design concept for my Ticket Stub theme, which is based on a movie review type blog. We’ll create a full page design ready for coding up into a fully working website.

Create a Cute Vector Penguin Character in Illustrator

Tutorial9 - Fri, 07/14/2017 - 20:13
Follow this step by step Adobe Illustrator tutorial to create a simple vector penguin character. We’ll be using many of Illustrator’s basic shapes to create the structure of the character, which makes this tutorial great for beginners. We’ll then make use of various gradients to really bring the character to life with depth and dimension.

Parallax: Free WordPress Theme

Tutorial9 - Fri, 07/14/2017 - 20:13
This free Wordpress template has been designed to help you make your stuff look awesome, it’s focus is on clean, elegant looks and simplicity to allow your work to shine.

Google Plus Vector Icon Pack

Tutorial9 - Fri, 07/14/2017 - 20:13
The package contains .PDF & .PNG format of Google Plus icons. The Google Plus icon is of 4 type and Only Plus icon is also of 4 type. Black Matte, White Matte, Black Gloss and White Gloss.

Learn How To Create A Mobile App’s Style Layout

Tutorial9 - Fri, 07/14/2017 - 20:13
Mobile Apps are becoming ever increasingly popular so in todays tutorial I’ll be walking you through creating your very own mobile apps style layout from scratch using adobe photoshop.

Design a Sleek Calculator Icon in Photoshop

Tutorial9 - Fri, 07/14/2017 - 20:13
Learn how to create a cool & sleek Calculator Icon in Photoshop!

Basics of the Mesh tool in Illustrator

Tutorial9 - Fri, 07/14/2017 - 20:13
IIn this post, we’re going to learn about a bit about Illustrator’s Mesh tool.It’s one of the hardest tools to master in Illustrator, but if you want to achieve a 3-D look in your illustrations, you have to really understand how to use this tool properly.We’re going to create a Super Mario-style mushroom in order to better understand how to use this tool using a real life example.

HOW TO: Create a Galaxy Within a Website

Tutorial9 - Fri, 07/14/2017 - 20:13
After stumbling into the brilliant Galaxy.fili.nl website, we thought we should invite Filidor Wiese to guest post on how can you do such a wonderful thing and if you need to be a magician or not to create this in HTML5 & CSS3.

Postcard from Paris – CSS3 Keyframes Animations Tutorial

Tutorial9 - Fri, 07/14/2017 - 20:13
In this tutorial we use the css3 keyframes animations to create an original virtual postcard.

How to draw a landscape with pastels

Creative web design! - Fri, 07/14/2017 - 11:15

Soft pastels are a great medium to work with, because they enable you to draw and paint at the same time. You hold the stick of pigment in your hand and apply it directly on to the surface. The results are immediate and tactile. There's no drying time to hold you back, or brushes to swap around. 

In this article I'm going to show you how to create a pastel landscape, making the best use of the varied types and grades of pastel that are available.

01. Pick the right pastels

You need rich, pure pastels to create depth in your landscape

For this painting I want to capture the feeling of distance in the landscape by varying colour and tone. I need the rich and pure pigments of quality pastels, such as Unison, to go from saturated colours in the foreground to soft hues in the distance, with lights, mediums and darks of each colour.

02. Create a tonal sketch

A quick sketch helps you focus on the tones in your painting

To focus on the tonal recession in the view, I do a sketch in charcoal and white pastel on neutral grey paper. I can see how the biggest contrast of light and dark is in the foreground, with soft grey mid-tones in the distance. This exercise helps me keep calm when I start to deal with colours.

03. Test your colour choices

Experiment with your colours before going to work

Thinking of tonal recession, I pick the pastels from the box and test each one by making marks on a sheet, hatching to combine them. By hatching the marks and letting the integrity of each colour show, I'm able to produce lively mixes. Experimenting with colour choices first means I can paint later with confidence.

04. Start in the distance

Smudge the distant hills so they're subtle and muted

Using light blue, lilac/grey and cream, I sketch in the sky and far distant hills, using the pastels on their side, applying several layers and softening and smudging constantly with my fingers. These hills have to be subtle, soft and muted. By smudging the sky colours down into the hills I can make them appear even more distant.

05. Create atmosphere

Mix your shades as you go along, so they all intermingle

I introduce a soft grey/blue for the next hill, but still mixing and blending softly with the lilac and cream. I take each colour further down into the picture, so that they all intermingle and are related. I then hint at light greens and yellows for the far fields, dusting these into the blue hill to give it form. 

06. Move to the mid-ground

Bring in warmer tones and stronger marks for the foreground fields

In the foreground the colours can become warmer, with yellows and greens growing progressively richer as they get closer to the viewer. Time for some stronger marks – there's no need to smudge so much now. If a colour looks too strong, I use the cooler distance colours to knock it back. I lay down some energetic marks for the foreground base.

07. Introduce the foreground darks

The foreground trees require sharper, more energetic marks

Sketch the foreground trees using sharper, more defined marks and darker shades of browns and greens. I use a deep brown for the foreground and a softer greyer brown for the middle distance. I also have a warmer red/brown for the very front of the picture, to emphasise the tonal recession. I use energetic marks rather than detail at this stage.

08. Create intensity

Hatch the foreground details in more saturated colours

Now the fun really starts, as I introduce a collection of more vibrant, saturated colours to enrich the field in the foreground by hatching these on as long grasses, without any smudging, I create a vibrant mix of hues and tones that blend optically. Blues, yellows, orange and warm brown are a contrast to the cooler distance.

09. Add hatching and highlights

Hatch in some final lights to add a bit of sparkle

To bring the piece together, I hatch lighter areas to describe the curve of the field, and detail among the trees. I add lighter patches of yellow between the trees, and shadows and lights to the trunks. The joy of using good-quality pastels is that you can apply lights over deep darks to add sparkle.

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

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