Jan 182017

The Design Museum is now open for entries for its 2017 Designer in Residence programme. Four residency places are up for grabs, giving budding designers a unique opportunity to work on a project in response to a certain theme.

The residency scheme aims to promote new and emerging talent, and is aimed towards designers who have graduated from Higher Education within the last five years and who have been working in the design practice for at least a year. Successful residents will be offered a bursary and commissioning budget, as well as getting production costs covered.

This year's theme is 'support', with the Design Museum looking for "designers who demonstrate originality, be it through technology or an innovative approach to practice, through new ways of thinking, doing and making."

To be in with a chance of becoming a resident, head over to the Design Museum application page and complete all the necessary forms before 9am on Monday 6 February 2017. Good luck!

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Jan 182017

Photoshop has many types of layers and adjustment layers available, but there are six that you’ll find you need to use again and again. Learning how they should be used may seem a little daunting for beginners, but there are plenty of Photoshop tutorials to help you out, and once you’ve got to grips with them, you’ll find they play a part in the creative process of almost every image you make.

Here are the essential Photoshop layers you need to know about, and details on how to use them.  

01. Levels

A Levels Adjustment layer is the foundation of lots of Photoshop images

This should be the first layer you add to an image, because it fundamentally alters the tonal range of the entire image. Create a Levels Adjustment Layer, drag the Black Point slider inwards until it touches the lefthand edge of the histogram, and drag the White Point slider inwards to the right-hand edge. This remaps the tones of the image to make more of the available tonal range.

02. Curves

Use Curves to adjust the brightness and shadows

Curves is one of the most powerful adjustment layers. An S-shaped curve brightens the highlights and darkens the shadows, resulting in extra contrast. 

Create a Curves Adjustment Layer and click the middle of the diagonal line to add a central control point. Drag down on the lower part of the line and drag up on the upper part of the line to improve image contrast.

03. Hue/ Saturation

Make small adjustments to individual colours with the Hue/Saturation layers

This adjustment layer is best used for altering the intensity and brightness of individual colour channels in an image – greens and blues in landscapes, for instance. Create a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer, click the Master menu and choose the colour channel you’d like to adjust. Small changes are usually the most effective.

04. Healing layer

Scrub out blemishes with the Spot Healing Brush

Most photos contain unwanted marks or blemishes. The Spot Healing Brush tool is effective at removing these. The best way to apply the healing is on a new blank layer, so that you can easily tone down or remove selected healing work later without having to start from scratch because you healed directly on the background layer. To do this, create a new blank layer, choose the Spot Healing Brush tool from the Tools panel and tick Sample All Layers on the Options Bar, then continue as normal.

05. Dodge and Burn

Dodge and Burn can brighten up or darken specific areas

One of the best ways to enhance a photo is by lightening or darkening selected areas of the image. This can be done with the Dodge and Burn tools, but rather than use them directly on the image, a separate grey layer gives you greater control. To create a Dodge and Burn layer, hold down Alt and click the Create a new layer icon in the Layers panel. Give the layer a name, then choose Mode: Overlay. Check Fill with Overlay-neutral colour and click OK. Now use the Dodge and Burn tools (with Range set to Midtones) to work on the new layer.

06. Selective sharpening

The Sharpen tool gives photo editors a greater level of control

Once all other adjustments have been made, you need to sharpen the image for output. The traditional way is to create a merged layer at the top of the stack, apply Unsharp Mask, then paint on the mask to remove the sharpening from those parts of the image you want to remain soft. However, the Sharpen tool enables more control over the process by enabling you to build up the effect by brushing repeatedly with a low opacity brush. Create a new blank layer, select the Sharpen tool, tick Sample All Layers and set a Strength of 50% or lower.

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Jan 182017

Most of us have drawn and painted posed models in the confines of a studio. Or we’ve sketched animals in a taxidermy collection. It may be easier to draw such a subject that holds still in controlled light conditions, but the results can often look lifeless and unnatural, more mannequin than man.

The remedy is to head outside and hunt for lifelike poses and authentic lighting – real humans and real animals alive in their natural habitat. However, sketching moving subjects from observation is a formidable challenge that can frustrate even the most capable artist. In this feature, I will share my top 10 strategies of how to draw moving subjects.

01. Start with simple tools

Even basic tools can create a strong impression

The simplest set-up for sketching people and animals is a graphite pencil or a ballpoint pen and paper. If you want to add some colour you can use a small set of water-soluble coloured pencils, perhaps yellow ochre, red-brown, dark brown, and black. 

They can be dissolved with a water brush (a hollow-handled refillable tool with a nylon tip). I like to have a second water brush filled with a convenient background colour, such as dark blue or black. There is a variety of brush pens available that will let you sketch quickly with all the advantages of a brush, but without the need to dip into a reservoir of ink or paint.

02. Multiple poses

Moving subjects rely on stock positions

If an animal or person is awake and moving, they’re not going to stay in the same pose for very long. So observe them for a while before you start drawing. Look for characteristic poses that your subject keeps returning to. Try to get a feel for how long they’ll stay in each position. Even if it is standing, a horse will shift its weight from one leg to another, but it will eventually return to its first position. 

Start in the upper left corner of your paper and draw quick little thumbnails sketches of each of the most characteristic poses. Don’t bother erasing, just start light and leave the first statement of action. Each sketch is like a snapshot from the continuous action going on in front of you. The set of small studies will be a summary of key poses and the range of motion. 

03. Learn the structure

Once you master human anatomy, drawing movement gets easier

If you want to draw from memory, practise copying simplified skeletons and structural breakdowns of humans and animals until they are second nature. It’s essential to know the basic forms of the skeleton. You can study diagrams in books, but I prefer to go to a museum with good skeletons and work from those, because that’s the only way you’ll get a three-dimensional sense. As you’re sketching someone, switch your eyes to ‘x-ray vision’ and imagine what the skeleton is doing underneath.

04. Let sleeping dogs lie

Tire out a dog and you've got a perfect sleeping subject

If you’re lucky, you might catch an animal or a person sleeping. A dog will typically hold a sleeping pose for ten or fifteen minutes, but you never know when they’ll shift position. Since I don’t own a dog, I often draw and paint canines that belong to friends and acquaintances. It often helps to take the dog for a walk before sketching it. The walk tires out the dog so that it will settle down. Also, if the dog is just getting to know you, a walk makes the dog more comfortable with you.

05. Remain inconspicuous

Keep a steady view to get an accurate image

When I’m sitting on a bench, in a restaurant, or in a concert audience, I can’t hold the sketchbook anywhere near the line of sight, because setting up an easel isn’t an option. Also, I like to remain relatively inconspicuous.

With the sketchbook down in my lap, there are two issues to overcome – head bobbing and accuracy. To avoid head bobbing, I tip my head forward to a middle angle, and I adjust my reading glasses to the best angle, so I can see the sketch and flick my eyes up to see the subject without moving my head. To get accuracy, because I can’t reach out my arm to do sight-size measurements, I make mental notes of slopes and alignments during the lay-in stage.

06. Take a sketchbook to concerts

Musicians create unusual poses as they play

Musicians make great subjects because, although they move a lot, they come back to certain poses. The amount that they shift varies a lot, depending on the performer and the kind of instrument. A few are reliably rocksteady— Irish flutists, for example, especially if they are playing into a microphone. Be aware of the etiquette: If the venues are free, or outdoors, or in a pub, the vibe is more relaxed. If in doubt about whether it’s OK to sketch during a performance, it doesn’t hurt to ask. If you can, ask permission to come to rehearsals.

07. Flash-glance technique

Close your eyes occasionally to take a mental snap shot

If you’re dealing with fast action, here’s a tip for making your eyes work like a high-speed camera. As you watch your subject, snap your eyes closed from time to time. The last pose that you glimpsed will hover in your short-term memory for a few fractions of a second. I call this after-image the ‘flash-glance’, and it’s usually enough to recall the basic silhouette or limb positions for a quick notation. 

This can work especially well at dance performances and sporting events, where you’re likely to see actions repeated, and you already have an idea of what the extreme poses might look like. At first, when you try this technique, just try to sketch what you really remember observing. Over time, you’ll be able to recall more details of the pose.

08. Train your memory

Memory and imagination go hand in hand

Knowledge, memory, and imagination are closely related. You can make the most progress when you alternate between observation, book study, and memory. You can draw an animal from life, and then draw that pose later in your sketchbook just from memory. Even if that memory sketch doesn’t look very good, it helps you come face to face with what you know and what you don’t know. Then, back in the studio, you can supplement gaps in your knowledge by sketching from action photos. The more you can internalise the animal’s structure, the better you can refine a sketch when the person or animal has changed position.

09. Practice on friends

Pubs are the perfect place to practice

Art friends usually don’t mind being sketched. They understand what you’re trying to do. You can sketch them at a pub, a studio, or a restaurant. At a restaurant, you’ve got about 15-20 minutes after you order your meal while you wait for your food. Of course, everyone will be not holding still, plus you want to add something to the conversation. It helps to sit in a seat with good lighting on your work and on your subject. Look at and ‘around’ the person you’re sketching. As they talk and gesture, think about what pose and posture is most typical of that person.

10. Visit zoos and farms to sketch animals

Zoos offer unique sketching opportunities

Zoos offer a great opportunity to sketch animals that would be difficult to observe in the wild. The animals often return to the same poses or movements so you can spend more time on your sketch. If you talk to one of the keepers, they can tell you about the animal’s schedule and feeding routine, and which parts of the zoo are likely to be least crowded. 

If the zoo has large habitat-style enclosures, you can set up a spotting scope on a tripod to bring you closer to the details. Farms and agricultural shows also offer the chance to observe fine specimens of domesticated animals up close, as long as you don’t mind the crowds.

This article was originally published in Paint & Draw magazine issue 2. Buy it here.

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Jan 182017

There are plenty of deals and sales floating around at this time of the year, but this $1000 discount on Wacom's Cintiq Companion Enterprise – announced today and only while stocks last – stands apart from the rest.

Perfect for drawing on when you're working from home at your desk while hooked up to your main computer, as well as being ideal for sketching on directly while you're out and about, the Cintiq Companion 2 is a beefy Windows tablet that can run with familiar versions of Painter, Photoshop and so on.

Powered by Intel® Core™ processors and topped off with added security in the form of vPro Technology and aTPM chip, this is a worthwhile investment for digital illustrators.

Boasting a superior pen-on-screen experience (we're talking 2048 levels of pen-pressure sensitivity with the included battery-free Pro Pen) this creative tablet is ready to live up to the needs of the most demanding artists and designers. And at just $1999.95, the Cintiq Companion 2 has just become more accessible than ever. Grab yours now before they run out!

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Jan 182017

You may remember a while back we reported on web browser Mozilla open sourcing a radical new rebrand. Having created seven first-round concepts alongside its creative partner johnson banks, Mozilla asked the creative community to help refine and select a shortlist, tying in perfectly with Mozilla's friendly, open source community approach.

Now, 10 months, hundreds of meetings, dozens of concepts, and three rounds of research later, Mozilla and johnson banks finally have something to share. Unveiled today, you can now see Mozilla's new logo design, proposed colour palette, language architecture, and imagery approach in all its glory.

So, without further ado, lets take a closer look at some of the components of Mozilla's new and exciting brand identity system.

Internet-inspired logo design

Mozilla's new logo design reinforces that the internet is at the heart of the company

Reinforcing that the internet is at the heart of Mozilla, its new logo lends a clear nod to URL language. "Right from the first design meeting, we had included an idea that built part of the code of an Internet URL into their name," Johnson comments. "An idea which represents how people and knowledge are linked in an increasingly connected world. 

"The idea persisted and eventually became the backbone of the final route. It won through because it resonates well with their core internal and external audiences. The use of some of the language that lies at the heart of the Internet neatly encapsulates their desire to be the champions of a healthy Internet, stand up for what’s good about the web, and make it clear that they were and are an Internet pioneer."

A font for all

The chosen font for the wordmark and accompanying copy lines is Zilla, a typeface created for Mozilla by Typotheque. With a long and distinguished link to some of the earliest web font designs and a historic partner to Mozilla, Typotheque was the obvious font foundry to create the design, that would be then made available free of charge. "The final font is carefully customised so the details that you see in the angles and serifs of the final logo carry across the font itself," says Johnson.

Changing colours

Colour flows into the new Mozilla logo, and changes according to the context in which it is used

"Derived from the highlight colours used by Firefox and other web browsers, distinguishes our brand from its contemporaries." says Mozilla's creative director Tim Murray. 

Colour flows into the new Mozilla logo, and changes according to the context in which it is used. "As we develop our style guide, we’ll define colour pairings, intensities, and guidelines," Murray comments.

Dynamic imagery

Dynamic imagery allows the identity of Mozilla to evolve with the internet itself, always fresh and new

When developing the imagery for Mozilla's new look, the creative minds behind the project simply weren't comfortable with just one option. "As we looked at the elements of our brand identity, the concept of one image or icon standing for the whole of Mozilla, and the entirety of the Internet, seemed anachronistic," says Murray. "Since imagery is an important reflection of the diversity and richness of the Internet, however, we’ve made it an important component of our system.

"In digital applications, ever-changing imagery represents the unlimited bounty of the online ecosystem. Dynamic imagery allows the identity of Mozilla to evolve with the Internet itself, always fresh and new. Static applications of our identity system include multiple, layered images as if taken as a still frame within a moving digital experience.

In digital applications, ever-changing imagery represents the unlimited bounty of the online ecosystem

Tim Murray, creative director at Mozilla

As the brand develops, Mozilla intends to invite artists, designers and technologists to contribute to an imagery collective, where the team will code curated GIFs, animations and still images to flow into mozilla.org and other digital experiences. 

"Through this open design approach, we will engage new design contributors and communities, and make more imagery available to all under Creative Commons," Murray adds. "We’re looking for input from creative communities to help shape and expand this idea."

Open, not closed

Computer Arts editor Nick Carson comments: "Many of johnson banks’ most memorable projects have great copywriting at their heart, and recent projects Dear World… Yours, Cambridge, Unicef UK and Cystic Fibrosis – winners at CA’s Brand Impact Awards in three consecutive years – are all great examples of this.

What makes this project so fascinating to designers is how the creative process itself really embodied the “open, not closed” philosophy

Nick Carson, Computer Arts editor

"Likewise, this Mozilla rebrand features positional taglines that position the non-profit behind popular browser Firefox confidently against its competitors: it offers “a web that is open, not closed” and declares “no one walls my garden”. The logotype itself is simple, clean and quietly smart, the integration of the familiar ‘colon slash slash’ motif backing up the assertion that "we are the internet".

"But what makes this project so fascinating to graphic designers is how the creative process itself really embodied the “open, not closed” philosophy, taking place publicly and inviting input and influence on different routes as they evolve. It’s a bold, brave and (fortunately for johnson banks) successful experiment that turns the trend for public criticism of rebrands post-release on its head, making the people part of the process itself from the outset."

Want to know more about the Mozilla rebrand? Explore the trials and tribulations of the open process in more detail in issue 264 of Computer Arts, on sale 3 March.

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The Art of Loish

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Jan 182017

A freelance animator and illustrator from the Netherlands with more than a million Facebook followers, this is Lois van Baarle's first art book. But it's by no means just a collection of her work. 

This 156-page coffee table book, which began as a Kickstarter project, carefully traces this talented artist's process and evolution, beginning with her first drawings as a child, through to early digital experiments and student projects, and on to her present-day client creations. Her evocative portraits of wide-eyed young women in particular take your breath away, with a combination of softness and intensity that makes her style truly unique.

The Art of Loish is full of practical advice

All this amazing art is accompanied with notes from Lois on her inspirations, her process, and even where things could have been done better. Packed with more practical advice than even some 'How to' books we've seen, she shares tips on everything from choosing colours to sketching characters, and much else in-between.

And of course, there's lots of eye-catching artwork, including early sketches, works-in-progress, storyboards and finished creations. Beautifully produced on matte paper and protected in a bespoke cardboard sleeve, this is a book to be treasured.

This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 141; buy it here.

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Jan 182017

Your website has to be welcoming if you want people to keep coming back. Give your site a friendly feel with all the function you require with themes from Themify. You can score a full year of access to the Master Club for just $34.99 (approx. £27).

The incredibly talented designers at Themify have everything you need to give your website the perfect look and feel. These masters of their craft have made themes that are ideal for artists, bloggers, and creatives. You don't need to know how to code to make these themes work, just grab the themes and plugins you want and install them.

Professionally made WordPress don’t usually come cheap, but you can score a full year of Themify Unlimited WordPress themes usually retails for $139. But you can get it now for just $34.99 (approx. £27). That's a 74% savings on a can't miss offer, so grab this deal today!

Jan 182017

It's that time of year where businesses start to look back at the last 12 months and put their findings into an annual report. While the majority of these reports end up looking pretty dull, that doesn't have to be the case. There are plenty of ways you can inject some fun and personality to make your annual report designs more engaging. Here's some top tips to get you started...

01. What’s the story?

Storytelling is key to the successful design of any annual report: this is the most important piece of advice to bear in mind. Always start with clear and simple ideas, and never forget that the people who are going to pick up the report are consumers – whether they’re shareholders or stakeholders – so you need to engage with them.

02. Use word power

The best annual reports are the ones written by a copywriter who has really got under the skin of the client and written a compelling story – so if you’re involved at this stage, push for this outcome. 

Before you can begin telling the story through the design, identify the key concepts and what the top-level messages are. Only when you have highlighted these, can you begin engaging with them in creative ways.

03. Be daring

Mailchimp's 2016 annual report is a brilliant one page responsive site that provides data through colourful infographics

Don’t resort to form: a lot of annual reports end up being very functional and don’t actually communicate well. Instead, push for creativity. Inspire your client and try to create something that will stand out and provoke an emotional response with readers. Building a relationship with the client early on is key to this happening.

04. Face the music

Keep it authentic. Don’t paper over any cracks, tackle issues head-on – you’ll get something more provocative if you do. The BP annual report in the year after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill included apologies written by the chairman and the CEO, one of which was put on the front cover.

05. Build your system

Aim to create layouts that have pace, rhythm and energy. Getting design fundamentals like typefaces, grids and the use of photography established early on creates a system that can be built on over years, so you can focus upon drawing the messages out and finding ways to communicate the story.

06. Find the right type

Choose a typeface that is elegant and flexible enough to let you scale things up, with enough weights to give you a breadth of options, looks good both on-screen and in print, and has enough personality to be able to tell a story. Always design to the highest levels of craft – great typography and attention to detail are a must.

07. Harness creativity early on

Great visuals are crucial, so if you don’t have illustrators, photographers, animators and so on in-house, dig out your contact book and bring in the best. It’s very important that they’re involved from the start so that what they produce can be completely tied in with the overall design and report content. If not, they might have a different vision to you and have difficulty expressing themselves creatively.

08. Maximise reader experience

The way a report feels is really important, so pay attention to the choice of papers and production techniques. And in the case of digital, be creative with technology to create a really engaging experience. With an online report you have more opportunity to engage using video, interactive infographics or augmented reality, which can really bring things to life.

09. Get the message

Make sure you read the content properly so you can establish a clear typographic hierarchy. The designer’s job is to get under the skin of the client, and really understand the content and all the different levels of information, in the same way as with an editorial project. Simplicity is key: pare the typography back to as few styles as possible so that it isn’t confusing from a reader’s perspective.

10. Ask your mum

Similarly, if you don’t understand what the content supplied for, say, an infographic means, it’s important to ask the client to explain what it’s trying to convey. Ask yourself, ‘Can my mum understand it?’ It’s about bringing content to life in a human, engaging way, with the use of colour, crisp graphics and illustration to break it down in a digestible manner.

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Jan 182017

We're in a world where communication increasingly takes place online, and GIFs are on the rise. They now permeate everything from popular culture to ad campaigns. For the next generation of designers and developers, knowing your way around motion graphics and having a good understanding of the basics of creating a GIF is essential. 

A good GIF can be playful and full of dynamism, or it can be slow and smooth; whatever describes the feeling behind the moving images. The key is to understand what makes for an eye-catching GIF and create a language that fits the mood of the message. However, there are some rules to learn and tools that can help you on your way. Here, creatives from leading studios, as well as some well-known freelancers, share their tips for mastering the art of the GIF.

Social side

With social media usage hitting an all-time high (the average teenager now spends over 27 hours a week online, if recent reports are to be believed), it's perhaps no surprise that the trend for GIFs in advertising is rising rapidly.

"Using GIFs in social content can be really powerful if executed right, " says Tom Grant, a designer at Fiasco Design in Bristol. He sees GIFs as the ultimate attention-seeking device, bringing what would be a flat, static post to life in "eye-catching, engaging and informative ways".

These lively and energetic GIFs were inspired by the Rio Olympics. Fiasco teamed a vibrant colour palette with quick, flashy frame speeds, and experimented with a typeface that would be legible at different sizes.

For designers, there are a few rules to making effective GIFs for social platforms. "The main technical challenge is keeping them below the file size limitations of each social media platform, " suggests James Curran, senior director at global production company Partizan. "Tumblr in particular is always tricky as it has a 2MB limit, so I sometimes need to be creative with ways of shortening loops to keep the size down." 

There are also some particular rules for creating GIFs that will be compressed: first off, stick to a limited colour palette. Avoiding gradients is essential, as you'll end up with either grubby shading or huge file sizes. Semi-transparent pixels are also a no-no, as the transparency is either fully on or fully off – something to keep in mind to avoid those jagged edges. 

James Curran – aka SlimJim Studios – creates playful GIFs that have propelled him to a giddy level of popularity

On display

Although different types of websites use GIFs in different ways, most designers agree that it's better not to have a huge amount of GIFs playing at the same time on one page. Curran recommends using rollovers to avoid slowdown, and keep the animations playing at the speed they were intended to.

And it's worth bearing in mind the kind of devices your GIF is going to be viewed on. Curran's tip is to design with a small screen in mind: "Keep everything simple and bold so it works well on any device."

Russell Etheridge, a member of Animade's creative team, favours designing in a square. "Many of our GIFs start in that shape and get cropped if need be. Also, you tend to scroll social sites in portrait on your phone, so it's better to have a design closer to a square as narrower images will look smaller." For his Olympops Etheridge animated everything in 4:3, which could then be cropped to a square or standard 16:9 video.

In the loop

Parisian designer Valentin Adam, who works as Playground Paris, argues that rather than thinking about GIFs specifically, it's the concept of the 'loop' format that is gaining pace: "It's really fun to make a two-second animation that plays infinitely and looks like it's different at every loop." 

Curran agrees, and suggests thinking about GIFs as being continuous, rather than having a definite start and end point. "Try to tell a story that works within the loop, " he suggests. "I think that helps to keep people watching GIFs for longer."

If the animation is short in length, it's good practice to limit the loops to no more than three times before halting the animation completely, recommends Lewis. However, if you're designing the GIF to go on social media platform such as Twitter you don't need to worry so much, as built-in functions only play GIFs when they are in view. 

Finally, it's essential to get your loops nice and smooth – and there's one particular pitfall to avoid. "Having the last frame of your animation the same as your start results in a tiny little hold where you see the same frame twice, causing an un-smooth loop, " Etheridge points out. "Make sure you remove that one at the end to avoid this."

Valentin Adam built his 'silly and crazy' portfolio by creating a GIF a day for a month

Tooling up

For the majority of designers, mastering Photoshop is pretty much key when it comes to making your own GIFs. Curran recommends YouTube as a go-to resource for online tutorials to pick up software basics: "Once you've got a good understanding you can figure out how to adapt those principles to the style of work you want to create."

Grant suggests playing around in CodePen: "It holds great sources of inspiration and offers a place to learn and get creative with code; whether you're a novice or a seasoned pro."

For more complex GIFs, After Effects is many designers' tool of choice. "There is much greater control over the movement and timing functions, as well as some extra tools to create really powerful animations, " reveals Nick Lewis, a designer and frontend developer at Fiasco Design. 

If you're looking to brush up your After Effects skills, try the online GIF-making tutorial Curran hosted earlier this year. 

It is possible to export your designs as GIFs directly, but Lewis suggests exporting as a video first: "It seems to be easier to compress that way and reduce the file size."

Keeping it simple

With all these different options, it's easy to get overwhelmed. "Because there are many variables to consider, there is a lot of testing and technical know-how required. It can take twice as long as a usual illustration turnaround to create a looping GIF, " says Melbourne-based illustrator Ellen Porteus

Her advice to beginners is to keep things simple: "Start with a few elements, to understand how things move, and slowly build up to more complicated animation. I started out by creating a lot of bouncing balls."

Adam mastered the art of keeping things simple when he was working on expanding his GIF portfolio. "I had in mind to make a huge miscellaneous motion with a lot of silly and crazy things, but to make it happen I had to publish a GIF every day – partly to avoid overthinking it," he explains. 

By employing a range of tricks he managed to get his average creation time down to around an hour. See the results of his month-long challenge at www.instagram.com/playgroundparis.

Ellen Porteus was brought on board for Quantcast's redesign. This looping GIF sat inside the big data company's new logo

Video GIFs

Creating GIFs need not be the sole domain of illustrators – you can import any video into Photoshop to convert it into a GIF. For those whose Photoshop skills are lacking, Grant recommends experimenting with Giphy, which provides a free, simple way to break your videos down into frames. 

"I don't really use the frame animation system in Photoshop, as video layers are much more intuitive," comments Etheridge. "If I'm animating graphics I'll animate in After Effects and import into Photoshop as a rendered video file before converting." However, he points out that if you're making a GIF from live action video footage, achieving a smooth loop is going to be much trickier, as is getting an even colour. 

Full access

To ensure content can engage with a wider audience, developers need to be mindful of accessibility and web standards. "Web animation should always be used to progressively enhance the experience, " argues Grant. He suggests describing animations and animated GIFs in text so they can be understood by screen reader-users, and avoiding too much blinking or flashing so they remain suitable for viewers with photosensitive epilepsy. 

Animade co-founder James Chambers agrees that accessibility should be built in from the start: "Basics like providing alt tags on images – animated GIF or otherwise – should be a baseline." 

He also points out that for vector animation, using inline SVGs can drastically improve accessibility. Simply put, an SVG is a XML-based vector image format for two-dimensional graphics that supports interactivity and animation. "From an accessibility standpoint, inline SVGs contain more information when compared to a blank <canvas> tag, and can therefore be better interpreted by the browser, " he explains.

For animation-heavy sites, Chambers suggests combining SVG with thoughtful use of ARIA labelling. Out of the box, screen readers work with regular HTML, but adding ARIA can provide screen reader users with more context and greater interactivity with content. Yet ARIA has no effect on how elements are displayed or behave in browsers – it is meant only to act as an extra descriptive layer. An incredibly useful tool for web developers.

Knowledge and intuition

So why have GIFs become so popular? For many designers, they offer a new outlet for creative expression. "I think it's partly because the core audience for GIFs is younger, [clients] are more interested in content that is a bit off-beat, " says Curran. "For whatever reason, brands seem more open to allowing creators to be more creative with GIFs than they would be with more conventional content. Because GIFs are smaller projects with generally smaller budgets, it's less of a risk for brands to use this format to try something different."

Porteus agrees: "It's all about making the most of the flexibility of the digital medium. Traditional illustrations are great, but GIFs can be really engaging, fun and clever. For me, the most engaging GIFs are the ones that loop seamlessly and infinitely, with a lot of movement and playfulness."

As for what makes a great GIF, intuition has something to do with it. "It's about having an understanding of basic animation principles, a sense of rhythm, and being able to think of an idea," concludes Curran. "I'm still learning all of those things myself after over 10 years of animating!" 

This article originally appeared in net magazine issue 287; buy it here!

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Jan 182017

As Android-using creatives, it can often feel like you’re the poor cousins of your Apple fanboy counterparts. 

But in the last 12 months a ton of new releases have come to Android phones and tablets, and the balance is at least beginning to tip back in your favour.

In this post, we round up some of the best new and newly updated Android apps for creatives. Are there any we should add to the list? Let us know!

01. Photoshop Sketch

Create digital artwork on the move using free app Photoshop Sketch

We’re not sure why Adobe called this app Photoshop Sketch, because it doesn’t really have much to do with Photoshop’s main function as a photo editor. But that aside, it’s a great free app for any digital artist who wants to do some work on the move.

Version 1.0 of Photoshop Sketch for Android lets you draw with digital versions of pencils, pens, markers, erasers, thick acrylic, ink brush, soft pastel and watercolour paint brushes. The app includes 11 tools that can adjust size, colour, opacity and blending settings.

Once you’re done, the artwork you’ve created can then be sent as layered files to either Photoshop CC or Illustrator CC for further tweaks. 

02. Cardboard Camera

Get a taste of VR with Google’s Cardboard Camera

From agencies to app developers, everyone’s jumping on the VR bandwagon right now. And here’s a free app from Google to help you dip your toe in the water and see what all the fuss is about.

Cardboard Camera enables you to capture and share what Google calls ‘VR photos’. These are essentially 360-degree panoramic photos, with sound. You can view them in a compatible viewer such as Google Cardboard, as long as you have a compatible phone.

When you do so, your photo looks sort-of three-dimensional (a slightly different image is sent to your right and left eye, giving the illusion of depth), and you’re able to scan the whole 360-degree scene by turning around accordingly. The app also makes it easy to share your VR photo with friends and colleagues. 

03. Photoshop Fix

Image editing app Photoshop Fix has recently made it to Android

After a year of only existing on iOS, Adobe’s mobile photo editing app Photoshop Fix was finally released for users of Android smartphones and tablets this November. 

It’s far from the full desktop version of Photoshop, of course. But this free app is packed with tools that enable you to heal, smooth, liquify, lighten, darken, and paint your images, as well as adjusting colour, adding vignettes, tweaking exposure and saturation, and more. 

Moreover, once you’re done, you can send your images directly to Photoshop CC on the desktop so you can refine them further. All your edits are converted within the app to layers, and Photoshop Fix then packages your image up as a PSD file.

04. Prisma

Prisma makes clever use of AI to redraw your photos as art

There are tons of Android apps on the market that transform your photos into artwork. But Prisma’s the one that really blew up around the world last year. 

Made available for Android users in July, the app uses artificial intelligence to redraw your photos in the styles of famous artists. 

They really do look like they’ve been painted by a human rather than a machine, and as such can serve as a great source of visual inspiration for your projects.

05. Capture CC

Create colour palettes based on photos, and more, with Capture CC

Adobe Capture CC is a free app that lets you extract colour palettes from photos you’ve taken and use these in other Adobe tools including After Effects CC, Dreamweaver, Animate CC, Illustrator CC, Illustrator Draw, InDesign CC, Muse and Photoshop CC. 

You can use these colours to create such things as ribbon-, scatter- or vector-type brushes or video-enhancing filters. And that’s not all: Capture CC can also generate vector graphics from drawings you’ve created in Illustrator. Plus everything syncs up nicely, so the assets you create are immediately accessible in other Adobe tools. 

Capture CC has been around a while, launching on Android in late 2015, but it only appeared on Android tablets in January 2017, hence its inclusion in our list. 

06. Lightroom 2.2

Lightroom 2.2 makes it easier than ever to import RAW imagery

Launched in February last year, Lightroom on Android 2.0 was much more than a simple update. Instead, Adobe trumpeted it as the first end-to-end RAW mobile photography solution. In short, it combined the ability to capture and share RAW/DNG files directly on on your phone with photo editing software to perfect it. 

Now, since November, version 2.2 of this free app has upped the ante once more. This latest update adds additional functionality that allows you to import RAW photos directly from your camera. 

A new “Raw Technology Preview” feature lets you transfer RAW photos by connecting your Android device with your camera using a USB On-The-Go adapter (aka OTG cable) via PTP transfer mode (found in the Android Notification Center). Learn more about the new features of Lightroom 2.2 in this blog post.

07. Adobe XD 1.2

A free app lets you preview the designs you create in Adobe XD right on your Android device

Adobe made big splash last year with the release of its Sketch rival, the prototyping app Experience Design (aka XD). 

But while this software is mainly intended for use on the desktop, a related app helps you to eliminate guesswork by previewing your Adobe XD designs, complete with transitions, on Android devices. This is done in real time via USB (macOS only) or by loading them from Creative Cloud files.

The latest version of the app, version 1.2, allows you to view XD documents when offline, browse document artboards, share your current screen as an image, and enable or disable hotspot hints.

Which new Android apps have we missed? Let us know in the comments below!