Apr 212017

One of the most effective ways to learn about something is to get stuck in practically. That's certainly the thinking behind How To Draw Type and Influence People, the latest book by Type Tasting founder Sarah Hyndman.

 Published by Lawrence King, this fun and informative book encourages readers to experiment with typefaces to gain a greater understanding into how they affect our everyday lives.

Just think about it: typography is everywhere and it evokes an emotional response even before you’ve read the words. You’ve probably encountered a range of typefaces before you even landed on this article, and each one is designed to achieve a specific goal.

As part of her mission to make typography fun and engaging for everybody, Hyndman’s book is an accessible read that both general readers and seasoned graphic designers can enjoy.

Get to grips with the idea of constructivism

Taking readers on a whistle-stop tour of typography terms, the book covers the basics of families, serifs, letterforms and more. You'll even learn the difference between fonts and typefaces, so you'll earn a place in the good books of your more pedantic design friends.

Backed up with a visual type glossary, the activity book is an invaluable resource for those who want to learn about typefaces and even create their own.

Typeface families give you an extensive vocal range

And getting creative is at the heart of How to Draw Type and Influence People. Each chapter is filled with exercises that invite you to pick up a pen or pencil and have a go at designing your own typeface. Throughout the course of the book, readers will have a go at creating typefaces to communicate a tone of voice, a sense of rebellion, and even a smell.

Can you conjure up a font for a magic potion?

Running at 128 pages, this beautifully illustrated landscape book is almost too stylish to vandalise with your own haphazard scribblings. But if you want to get the most out of it, you're going to have to take the plunge.

Topped off with a further reading list of useful books and websites (including the one you're on now – blush), How to Draw Type and Influence People could well be the most fun way to take a step into the world of typography. If this sounds like the book for you, Hyndman is launching it tonight at the Tate Modern Terrace Bookshop from 6pm, or you can buy it here.

Font sniffing invites you to exercise your olfactory organ

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Apr 212017

Painting water can sometimes seem overwhelming. Water moves constantly, so capturing a moment without the aid of a camera may appear impossible. But paintings can convey the constant movement of water in a way that photos struggle to, as long as you have the right water-painting technique.

The following 10 tips explain a few basic skills and techniques you can use to paint water that looks spontaneous and vibrant. Although I use watercolours, these tips also translate to the medium of your choice. Practise en plein air whenever you can, but you can work from photos when you need to.

Water can be opaque, transparent, choppy or smooth, but you use the same techniques for painting it. Follow these tips to make sure that all of your water paintings are vibrant and lively.

01. Paint still water first

Master still water before moving on to ripples

Start practising when the water is calm and reflective, then later you’ll be able to use the techniques you develop here to paint any other type of water, from raging surf to a rippling pond surface. All of the wave and wind action makes the surf seem far more complicated to paint, but the principles are the same as for still water. If you learn to paint reflections and subtle ripples on that calm pond, a crashing wave at the beach will be easy to paint. A wave is just a very big ripple, after all!

02. Reflect down

Reflections all obey the same laws of physics

No matter what angle you’re painting from, reflections always come directly towards you from the source. It’s simple physics, but sometimes people expect reflections to follow the same rules as shadows and perspective.

To paint them, first pick a simple line in the reflected object such as a tree trunk or building façade. The reflection of that line will always be perpendicular to you, or the bottom of your page. This makes it easy to pull some pigment down from the reflected object into the reflection. All you need are a few dashes of movement on the next wash.

03. Notice colours

Keep your surroundings in mind when adding colour

Water is only blue if it’s reflecting blue! Look at the colours in the reflected trees, sky and objects and use these colours as your palette for any water that’s not white foam. Even the hull of a boat or sky not seen in your painting might still be seen in a reflection.

To connect the water and landscape, pull the colours from the reflected objects directly into the water reflection, then go back and sharpen the shoreline with a few strokes of strong darks.

04. Flatten distant water

The further away the water is, the flatter it should be

Water appears flatter as it grows more distant, and horizontal lines can convey this flattening of the water’s surface and the shortening of reflections. Use a few connecting horizontal dashes to show the distant water and reflections from the shore or objects on its surface.

Streams and rivers also appear to flatten at a distance. Almost the same strokes you use for a reflected squiggle (as seen in the tip 2 picture) can look like an entire river as it snakes away.

05. Make reflections dull

Reflections are dull by nature, so carry this over in your painting

Light rays scatter on the surface of the water, so a reflection is never a perfect mirror. Therefore your palette of reflecting colours should be duller than the objects being reflected. Many artists continue their first wash from the objects into the water, then finish by adding duller washes with more movement on the surface of the water. 

Most bright whites in water are sunlight reflections. Darker colours usually look lighter in reflections and lighter colours darker. Add a touch of complementary colour to your pigment to get very close to the colour you need.

06. Paint pointed ovals for waves

Pointed brushes are the ideal tools for waves

The shape of a wave is an oval, curved in the middle with sharp points on both ends. Use a pointed round brush to paint waves. A flat brush gives you great broad strokes, but it fails you on the points. Start by painting one point of the oval with the tip of the brush, add more pressure for a broader stroke in the middle, then finish with the tip of the brush. The ovals can be evenly distributed or skewed depending on the wind and your perspective.

07. Know your light

Light direction and intensity is crucial to how a scene looks

Your light direction in a scene will tell you how dark or light the water looks. Backlit trees will be dark, but their reflection will be lighter. Conversely, bright front lighting will give you a darker reflection on the water. The light direction will also tell you whether the top or the bottom of the wave should glow with lovely Caribbean translucency. If the light comes through a wave at the right angle, the wave acts as a lens, focusing bright spots of light on the bottom.

08. Paint in layers

Remember: let layers dry before you build them up!

Since crystal clear water, where we can see rocks on the bottom, is actually separate layers of water and rocks, the simplest way to paint these scenes is in layers. The key is to separate the different layers by letting them dry completely between washes. 

Don’t be afraid to use strong dark colours in the first wash. Dry brushing gives you texture that shows up under the water. Paint the water in one bold wash, making wave-shaped strokes. Let your brush dance. You can use gouache for reflected sky or preserve the white paper with masking, wax or precise strokes (see next step).

09. Mix it up

Nothing is whiter than the paper surface

Use a variety of techniques for capturing textured whites. I always like to leave more white paper than I use, as paper is the most sparkling white you have in your toolkit. It’s easy to paint over whites, but you can never get the white paper back. 

However, don’t limit yourself to just one shade of white. Permanent wax crayon preserves whites, while white or tinted gouache in a pale colour can give you highlights on the water surface. Lifting pigment softens edges. Wait until your painting is dry, then use a damp rag to pull out pigment.

10. Adjust texture

Choose the right paper for the scene you want to capture

Hot press paper gives you rich colours and a smooth texture, which is ideal for painting water on a foggy day with no sparks of white reflection. You can use a lot of wet on wet brush strokes for blurred edges. Rough press paper gives you dull colours with reflected sparkles and texture, perfect for the seashore with white reflections, surf and rocks. Cold press paper falls between hot press and rough press, giving you a little texture and brighter colours, which is great for recreating a peaceful pond scene with vibrant flowers reflecting.

This article was originally published in Paint & Draw magazine issue 3. Buy it here.

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Apr 212017

Any designer will tell you that the industry is teeming with terms every creative needs to know if they're going to be taken seriously by their peers and clients. The last thing you want is to lose a pitch because you confused negative space with a silhouette, or the Golden Ratio with the Fibonacci sequence. However, it would seem that some terms are more tricky to remember than others.

Compiled by Creative Market, this infographic runs through some of the most frequently mistaken design-speak. Given how exacting designers can be of their own work and others, it's definitely worth committing these terms to memory.

Hit the icon in the top right of the image to see it full size.

Click the icon in the top right to read the full-size infographic

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Apr 212017

Behind the scenes of every website are gears that keeping everything running smoothly. JavaScript is one of the most important engines of the web, and you can learn the language with the 2017 Complete Java Bundle, on sale now!

Over the course of seven in-depth courses, you’ll learn the fundamentals of web development, powered by JavaScript. These courses cover everything from the basics to building detailed and powerful web tools using Java, guiding you through the process of mastering the language. By the time you're done, you'll be able to unleash your new skills and build incredible apps and sites for the web.

The 2017 Complete Java Bundle is valued at nearly $1,000, but you can get it on sale now for just $49 (approx. £39). That’s massive saving of 97% for this course that will help you get your start as a web developer!

Apr 212017

Spring is here, and so is issue 148 of ImagineFX magazine! The hallowed pages of our latest issue are all about the technical innovations currently sweeping through the world of digital art. It truly feels like the digital art scene is on the cusp of something transformative, so we thought we'd look at the software you need to be aware of.

Buy issue 148 of ImagineFX here!

As if that wasn't enough we're also looking at how virtual reality painting is set to shake up the digital art scene. Plus, we show you how to create a fantasy environment in black ink, and take a glimpse into the sketchbook of Romanian artist Cosmin Podar. You won't want to miss it!

Explore the issue's main features below.

Click here to subscribe to ImagineFX

Digital art revolution

Is it time for a digital art renaissance?

The days of digital being monopolised by a couple of platforms are long gone. We take a look at the wealth of idiosyncratic yet powerful platforms that modern artists can use to meet specific needs.

Get the most out of ArtRage 5

Is it time you traded in Photoshop for ArtRage 5?

ArtRage 5 is a much more cost-effective alternative to Photoshop and other expensive digital art platforms, but does it deliver? Nick Harris thinks it does, and he's here to guide you through ArtRage's creative arsenal and new additions.

Paint a dragon with Sketchbook Pro

Create your own dragon with this video workshop

Looking to inject some vibrant colours into your greyscale images? SketchBook Pro is the tool for you, and concept artist Trent Kaniuga is here to show you how it works with a tutorial that reveals how to create a colourful dragon.

Sketchbook: Gareth Davies

Gareth studied architecture before getting into games and concept art

Is there anything more tantalising than getting a peek behind the scenes of how an artist works? In this issue we get a look into the sketchbook of Gareth Davies, who specialises in armour studies and robots.

Alla Prima Oils

Discover how this stellar artwork was created

Wet-in-wet painting is a technique often used by watercolour artists, but people working with oils can use it, too. In this workshop, Rob Rey shows you how the method can achieve a unique, distinctive look.

Apr 212017

You can create all manner of images and effects in Photoshop CC, and there are plenty of Photoshop tutorials, like this one, around to help you do just that.

Here we'll show you how to create a single 'tile' for a repeating pattern; then you can fill as big or as small an area as you like with it...

  • Download the example PSD here.

01. Create a document for the tile

Your new document needs to be a size that is divisible by three

Pick how thick you want each stripe to be; the only rule is that whatever you number you pick has to be divisible by three. Now you need to do some maths.

On a calculator, divide 8 by 3 (you should get 2.66666667 or similar), then multiply this by whatever number you've picked for the thickness of the stripe and create a Photoshop document with this figure as the dimension of each edge.

So for a 90px stripe, you'd create a document 240x240px. (Bonus tip: you can do maths in a Mac's Spotlight search field. Click the magnifying glass in the menu bar and then enter, in this example, '90*(8/3)' and you'll get the answer 240.)

02. Draw the first stripe

Add a black line of your desired thickness [Click the icon to enlarge the image]

Drag a guide from the ruler (cmd+R if it's not showing) and let it snap to each edge of the document (check your options in 'View > Snap To' if they don't click to edges as if magnetically).

Fill the background with yellow and then select the line tool. Make sure your foreground colour is black, enter the thickness of your stripe into the Weight field at the top of the screen (90px in our example) and draw a line from one corner to the other.

03. Create the other stripes

Duplicate your stripe layer [Click the icon to enlarge the image]

Duplicate your stripe layer (an easy way to do this is to drag it to the new layer icon – a piece of paper with an upturned corner – at the bottom of the layer palette) then hit cmd+T to enter Free Transform mode.

Note that a crosshair icon appears in the middle of the layer; drag the duplicated stripe (important: not by grabbing the crosshair) so that this crosshair snaps to the top left corner of the document.

Hit Return to confirm the move. Duplicate the stripe again and drag this one to the bottom right in the same way. (Save this now as a .psd if you think you might want to change it later.)

04. Define the stripes as a pattern

Create a repeating pattern in Photoshop

Give your pattern a name [Click the icon to enlarge the image]

Go to the Edit menu and pick Define Pattern. Give it a name and click OK.

05. Use your stripes

Create a repeating pattern in Photoshop

Select the area you want to fill with your pattern

Select an area you want to fill with stripes and then pick Fill... from the Edit menu. From the Use menu, pick Pattern and select the warning stripe pattern you just created. Click OK.

06. Going further

Create a repeating pattern in Photoshop

Add your own effects to the pattern

You're done! We've also added a soft gradient on our example. Of course, you can do anything you like to the stripes – distress them, apply bump maps, or anything else!

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Apr 212017

This month's roundup of the best tools for traditional artists has a bit of travel theme. We've rounded up the best new holiday reads (plus a book that takes you on a vicarious trip to Italy), ideas for mixed-media projects, and a couple of new releases celebrating the work of two great modern artists. 

We also found some great travel sets, so you can take your art outdoors and on the road: there's a limited edition Moleskine to note down all the ideas travel inspires, and a new bag from Tate Modern to keep them all in. Finally, we have some of your favourite artists as you've never seen them before. 

01. Keith Haring Moleskine 

This special edition also includes custom end-papers and a sticker sheet

Everyone from Van Gogh and Picasso to Chatwin and Hemingway used Moleskines to note down ideas while on the road. This new limited edition bundle features graphics by the late, great American artist Keith Haring and includes a collector's pen and notebook, with customised end-papers and a sheet of stickers. 

02. Ophelia tote

Just don't look up the story behind the full painting

This cotton tote bag – new in the Tate Modern gift shop – features a section of Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais’ Ophelia. We're ignoring the fact that the full painting depicts one of the saddest scenes in one of Shakespeare's most tragic tragedies, because this tote focuses on poppies and daisies, which are nice and summery.

03. The Resourceful Artist

This activity guide explores collage and mixed media techniques

The Resourceful Artist has everything you need to get into collage and mixed media. There are step-by-step guides, tool lists, tips, ideas, materials and finishes, suitable for "enthusiasts and design professionals who love to experiment with new paths." It also includes a section showing you how to create small, domestic photographic sets with easy-to-make lighting effects.

04. Colville

Alex Colville's work can be linked to films by Wes Anderson and Stanley Kubrick

A new edition of Andrew Hunter's best-selling book on the late Alex Colville. The Canadian artist's paintings "depict an elusive tension, a deep sense of danger, capturing moments perpetually on the edge of the unknown," Hunter says. The author shows how the artist's work connects to the films of everyone from Stanley Kubrick to Wes Anderson. Inspiring stuff.

05. The Lure of Italy

Explore Italy through the eyes of artists like Lorrain and Turner

If your summer holiday is still months away, then travel vicariously through Italy with artists like Lorrain, Bonington and Turner. This 96-page book, put together by Julian Brooks (senior curator at Getty Museum), is  "a narrated assemblage of some of these beautiful views, which transport the reader effortlessly to Italy, rekindling memories, setting intentions, or provoking curiosity."

06. Van Gogh set

This art set comes in an easy-to-transport wooden case

If those artists' views of Italy get you charged up for a bit of en plein air, then this beginner’s set has everything you need. It includes Royal Talens' Van Gogh range acrylics (100 years lightfast), a palette, two paintbrushes, a double-palette cup, acrylic varnish and thinner, and a cleaning cloth, plus a portable wooden case to keep them all in.

07. Winsor & Newton travel bag 

Strap this bag to your waist for to make art on the go

If you prefer watercolours – and something a bit easier on the wallet – go for this Winsor & Newton travel bag. It contains 14 half-pans, two brushes, a mixing tray, collapsable water jar, pencil, eraser, and storage case. Plus, you can strap the bag to your waist so you have both hands free to paint. It also comes with a basic guide to painting with watercolours, and a pad of watercolour paper to get you started.

08. Of Dogs and Other People

This beautiful coffee table book dives into the colourful world of Roy De Forest

This month's best new coffee-table book celebrates the life and work of Roy De Forest. The American artist's "brightly hued, crazy-quilted paintings and sculptures are dotted with nipples of colour and inhabited by a cast of characters uniquely his own," author Susan Landauer says. It features full-colour reproductions of De Forest's best works, plus rare figure illustrations. 

09. Limited edition Polychromos pencil set

These pencils are oil-based, which means you can blend them in new ways

Faber Castell's polychromes are a favourite among professionals – Vincent Van Gogh used them. They are oil-based – as opposed to wax-based like other pencils – which allows you to blend them like oil paints. The colours are lively, and they're tough too. Plus, their lightfastness and high-grade pigments mean they'll last for years. This new set comes 68 pencils in a limited edition, collector's pencil cup.  

10. Chattyfeet gift collection

Keep your toes warm with 'Feetaso' or 'Frida Callus'

We've feature Chattyfeet's arty socks before, but the British brand has upped its game with this gift set. The set features some of world's most famous artists – sort of – reimagined and renamed in Chattysock's own, inimitable style. Included here are socks titled 'Andy Sock-Hole', 'Feetaso', 'Frida Callus' and 'Vincent Van Toe'. They're unisex and available in all sizes.

Read more:

Apr 212017

Until recently, a font was something you could only use in two dimensions. But accessible and affordable 3D printing has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for creative uses of fonts that you might never have thought of.

In this post, we bring you five new ways that fonts are being used in art and design. Of course, there are no doubt many more, so feel free to share your favourite projects in the comments below.

01. To create artwork

Thomas Wirtz’s art uses fonts to comment on modern digital life

The ability to print fonts in 3D has led many creatives to start experimenting with this as a new way to produce art. Take Dusseldorf-based designer Thomas Wirtz’s art project By the Way. 3D-printing popular internet expressions such as ‘BTW’, ‘FYI’ and ‘POV’, and interweaving them to create maze-like structures, he makes a powerful comment on today’s digital culture.

Another unusual and creative use of fonts can be seen in the art project Arkitypo, a collaboration between Johnson Banks and London college Ravensbourne. Aimed at testing and showcasing the latter’s in-house 3D prototyping skills and technology, each letterform does something new and exciting with a classic typeface. 

For example, the ‘g’ uses Gill Sans to construct a pair of glasses (its original creator, Eric Gill,  is quoted as saying, “I will make a ‘g’ rather like a pair of spectacles”).

02. To make font-themed food

Wouter Nicolai’s Printmeneer business combines his love of fonts with food

If you love both cookies and typography, then a 3D-printed font cookie cutter is a great way to have letter-related fun with your food. That’s the thinking behind Dutch food-and-type designer Wouter Nicolai’s one-man business, Printmeneer, which provides cookie cutters in Garamond, Baskerville, Futura and Helvetica. Tasty.

03. To make letterpress blocks

The world’s first ever 3D printed letterpress blocks were used to create four posters at the V&A

The world likes balance, and so it’s not surprising that as our work has become more and more digitised, there’s been a renewed interest in older, analogue forms of printing.

But now there’s a new twist in this interplay between the old and the new, with Richard Ardagh at New North Press teaming up with 3D specialist Chalk Studios and font foundry A2-TYPE to produce what they believe to be the world’s first 3D printed letterpress blocks.

These characters were used to create four posters ready for the exhibition at the V&A Museum during London Design Week. You can learn more about how and why they were created here.

04. To construct a city skyline

Physical buildings, grown from fonts

If using fonts to 3D-print letterpress blocks wasn’t mind-scrambling enough, what about using them to create actual type? That’s exactly what Hongtao Zhou, professor at the College of Design and Innovation at Tongji University in Shanghai, has done with this innovative project, titled simply ‘3D Printed Typeface’. 

These typefaces, however, are not for practical use in type setting, but have been used to construct a series of exhibits, including the stunning New York skyline shown above. You can learn more about the project here.

05. To make 3D book covers

These 3D printed book covers can’t fail to grab your attention

When you’re innovating with the use of fonts, books are an obvious place to start. And so Riverhead Books released On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee, with what it claimed to be the world’s first 3D-printed book cover. Featuring a three-dimensional take on Futura, this limited-edition cover was designed by Riverhead art director Helen Yentus and produced by Brooklyn-based MakerBot.

Apr 202017

At Generate New York on 28 April, Pamela Pavliscak will give a talk, grounded in the latest research, that will look at current examples of emotion AI and present guidelines to design for emotional intelligence. Don't miss it and get your ticket today!

The statistics say that there are more people who own smartphones than use a toothbrush, most people are using their tablets while watching TV, and many are showrooming while shopping in a store. A lot of what we know about people and their mobile devices comes from high-level data, but these stats tell us very little about what people actually do on mobile sites and apps.

Analytics capture behaviour, but stay on the surface. Surveys get at some of the feelings people take away from a site after using it. The only way to gain insights to make the experience better is by doing slow work of watching it unfold and asking the right questions.

Like a lot of consulting firms, Change Sciences leads research on mobile sites and apps all the time in the lab, online and in the wild. These studies tend to be small: usually about 20 people per study. We also run larger online studies that are observational at the core, and these studies tap about 100 people. To get more (and better) data about the mobile user's experience, we have to aggregate. That is, we bring together all of the data from all of our mobile studies to look for patterns and trends. The data here represents 500 people.

Here are top 10 things we've learned about the mobile experience; bear them in mind if you want to know how to create an app that'll get people's attention.

01. People rely on mostly three gestures

People use three gestures for almost everything; they don't want to spend a lot of time trying out new ways of interacting. They just use what works on other sites or apps.

Scroll: The most frequently used gesture is scrolling. 94 per cent of people use this gesture more than three times in a session of 10 minutes or longer. It is familiar from desktop use. And it is a gesture that is not closely tied to a visual cue, like tap or swipe.

Swipe: Swipe (77 per cent) is well used and understood. People will try it at the top of a screen, whether arrows are present or not. Further down, they are less likely to do it unless there is a visual cue.

Tap: Tap (72 per cent) is used often too, but people are not tap-happy. On desktop, we see people click and click trying to make a link or button go. On mobile, that is not the case. Tap is not equivalent to a click.

Pinch to zoom: People know how to pinch to zoom, but use it less frequently. Because people mostly need to zoom on mobile sites that aren't responsive or mobile optimised, they will often look for a link to a bigger (mobile-optimised) version of the site. If it involves zooming in and moving the screen from left to right, people will try another way about 70 per cent of the time.

Few gestures are required, and all are supported by strong visual cues, on the TED app. Compare with Target, where gestures are complicated and difficult to remember


Omit needless gestures. Rely on the big three listed here, and make all other gestures secondary. Try animated cues, but keep them minimal because animation is often ignored.

02. People will go to great lengths to avoid typing

We hear a few complaints about fat fingers, and many more about how other apps make it easier, or how annoying it is that a company would require so much information. People don't blame themselves; they blame the site or app.

Social login: Most people will try workarounds. While roughly half of the people who participate in our research say they don't like – or want – to make use of social login for various reasons, close to 80 per cent will do it just to avoid the extra typing.

Cut and Paste: Very few people try to cut and paste: it is more awkward to do so than to type. Even when people try to, their success rate is low and frustration is high.

Portrait modes: People don't make it easy on themselves when it comes to typing: 90 per cent don't use landscape mode, making it just that much harder to type.


Strive for typing zero. Or, any shortcut is a good shortcut. Remember usernames and passwords, personal information like addresses or phone numbers, and previous interactions that required typing. Pre-filling with typical responses can help. Most importantly, really consider the necessity of each data entry field.


Mobile wallet is likely to succeed in no small part because it minimises typing. And people long for a day when they don't have to remember so many passwords.

See Pamela Pavliscak live at Generate New York next week!

03. Icons are mostly confusing

Very few icons are crystal clear. There are simply too many for people to keep track of – and to make matters worse, they are not always used consistently from site to site, or app to app.

The clear: Among the best-understood icons are the triangle for play (92 per cent) and the X for close (90 per cent). Most people don't have to think about these icons for two reasons: they see them on every site they use and they are used consistently to indicate only one thing. Even if placement or visual treatment varies slightly, people still understand it.

The unclear: Compare this with the search icon (80 per cent). Most people interpret the magnifying glass as search, but some are still not sure – depending on the context, it could also mean zoom. Other icons score even lower for clarity, however. Favourite (63 per cent) is indicated by a heart or star, but this could equally mean either Like or Save. Settings (57 per cent) and locate (35 per cent) are other icons that we've been tracking. These are not well understood because they don't appear as frequently, are not used as often, and are not always used consistently across sites or apps.

The hamburger: The hamburger menu is still not well understood. When we tested sites or apps that used the hamburger a year ago, the reaction was something like: "I've been noticing that doodad on sites, but thought it might just be part of the design." Over the past year we have seen hamburger awareness rising, but people may only stumble upon the menu accidentally or after using the site or app for a significant period of time.


Make sure you use icons in a way that's consistent with other top sites and apps, especially ones familiar to your users. A/B test treatment, placement, and words that appear with icons. Track everything you test over time, because behaviours are bound to change.

The hamburger icon probably still needs a callout, as seen on the Home Depot app. It may not help though: people quickly tap out of animated tours

04. People have an aversion to bottom navigation

This finding, at first glance, seems to run counter to the current best practice of putting navigation at the bottom for one-handed use. Whether people have an easier time using it with one hand or not, they don't think to look at the bottom or, more often, just choose to ignore it. "I know that there are options on the bottom, but if I have to look there it is too late." It is the navigation of last resort.


For now, essential options should be either on the main screen or in the navigation at the top of the page.

05. Sound is the unsung hero

78 per cent of people who participate in our in-person studies leave their ringer on and their sound turned up. It may be surprising that sounds elicit a lot of positive comments.

Confirmation: People like the closure they get when they hear a message being sent, or an action is finalised, like moving a file to a directory or money from one account to another.

Delight: People give apps one try, so a clever message or a fun sound can tip conversion. Part of the reason people like to pull to refresh is the resulting sound.


Sounds cues are a missed opportunity. Few sites or apps are using them effectively.

Toca Boca apps for kids use sound to announce, to confirm, and to delight. These apps provide a good model for grownups' ones too

06. We're not very good at multitasking

Of course, research shows that we don't really multitask at all. We switch from one thing to the next. On mobile, this is even more pronounced.

Time out: People get distracted very easily, with notifications taking priority over all else: "If I leave to look at a notification, odds are I will never make it back." Remembering may be overrated. More often than not, people just move on and don't pick up where they left off.


Focus on making each screen a self-contained unit. Timing out after two to five minutes is a good rule of thumb and certainly something to test.

07. The lack of back

On desktop, people rely heavily on the back button. This behaviour carries over to mobile, but is not supported nearly as well. So people try workarounds to back up.

Home button: 78 per cent use the home button to start over in an app or on a site. People do it despite its futility.

Arrows: Only 45 per cent use the arrow at the bottom in the mobile web browser. This may be part of bottom navigation aversion.


People love the convenience of going back, rather than having to learn how to navigate a site or app. At minimum there has to be a way to go home. For now, the hamburger menu may not suffice. An arrow that is always visible, or a button at the top, are viable options to test.

The icon for settings is conventional on the Pack mobile site, but the word beneath creates confusion. Consistency is the key for all icon use

08. Multi-screen is backwards

Mobile is still considered as the second screen, with bigger screens assumed to be people's main focus. Our research shows that the opposite is true.

Mobile-first: In our research, attention is focused on the screen in the hand 60 per cent of the time and not the one further away, whether that's desktop or TV. There are just a few exceptions to this; for instance, using mobile at work as a second, unrestricted screen.


Thinking of mobile as the foreground and not the background is a new way of seeing the experience. It makes a strong case for not stripping away content or features.

09. People appreciate a little magic

Clearly, people expect their phones to know everything about them – store all their personal information, know their location and recognise their voice. As a result of people focusing on the results, rather than the nuts and bolts of how their devices work, mobile can seem magical.

Camera: People are still surprised by things that seem impossible, like scanning a cheque using the phone's camera. "How can this even work? I've got to tell my friends about this."

Geolocation: Location awareness is another feature that often produces a feeling of wonder. It is a tricky balancing act to keep it from seeming a little too all-knowing though.

Accelerometer: Apps that track movement, or the lack of it, are losing their aura of magic. People are more focused on the data that results from use, and on comparing or sharing, than on how it was tracked.


That one unexpected surprise is what often converts. Apps can leverage more of a phone's capabilities, but unexpected moments on a mobile site can convert, too.

The Corcoran mobile site keeps the three most important options at the top and near the search, which is where most people get started

10. People expect mobile to be better than desktop

"Mobile is better – less hype, less ads, less junk to get in the way." Expectations for the mobile experience are high and defection is commonplace. Around 40 per cent of users will opt for a different website if the one they're visiting is not mobile friendly, and 57 per cent won't recommend a poorly designed mobile site.


Make the experience about that one special thing. This needn't mean a pared-back experience, but a tightly focused one.


Mobile is not merely about more screens – mobile is a set of behaviours. And the patterns of those behaviours are constantly in motion.

The things people do today are not necessarily the same ones they will be doing next month or next year. The only way to really understand how people interact with mobile – and how they feel about it – is to continue to observe and track.

This article originally appeared in net magazine issue 255 (July 2014).

Pamela Pavliscak will discuss emotion-sensing technology and what it means for how we design at Generate New York next week. If you can't make it to New York, there's also a Generate in San Francisco on 9 June, featuring a talk by Huge's Sophie Kleber, who will evaluate current examples of emotional computing, and introduce frameworks that can help us design for emotional intelligence.

Apr 202017

6 Top tips to master Photoshop layers

Tony Foti explains what layer mistakes you are making and how to rectify them

Photoshop is a complex bit of kit, which can take years to learn properly. There are many helpful Photoshop tutorials around to help with this, but where should you start? The language of layers! It can be a difficult thing to master, but having a good understanding of Photoshop layers gives you a solid foundation to build your digital art.

Beginners' tips

Before you get started, it's important to try and avoid these common Photoshop mistakes:

  • Don't put every little thing on different layers; it can slow down the process and the program
  • Avoid merging everything into one later until you're fairly certain there will be no more revisions. Moving an object or character is a lot easier when it's on its own layer
  • Which layer was it that had the magic wing highlights? Was it 406? Or 306 copy12? Seriously, name your files sensibly and avoid interrupting your painting flow
  • An extended painting session can slow down Photoshop (it's all down to virtual memory usage). So save your work and restart the program to free up this memory and take a quick screen break
  • Working on projects with a high resolution or excessive layers can also slow the program down, which will change the way some tools perform. If you need the tool to run more smoothly, save as a new file and reduce resolution temporarily

Got all that? Good. Now, let's master the language of layers. Right up there with the History function in the most useful features of Photoshop for artists list is the whole concept of layers. In the same way that traditional animators will use several sheets of acetate in a single shot, painting different parts of your picture on different layers means they can be edited separately while still being viewable as a whole.

01. Creating layers

Photoshop layers: Creating layers

Use 'Window > Layers' to toggle the layers window on and off

In most default viewing modes, the Layers window will be visible and either attached to the right side of the screen or floating around somewhere. You can use 'Window > Layers' to toggle it on and off. New documents will just have a background layer, but clicking the drop-down menu at the top right will give you a range of options, such as Create, Duplicate and Merge.

02. Locking layers

Photoshop layers: locking layers

Layer locking comes in handy when adding gradients

Sometimes when painting, I'll need to add a gradient to an area without changing its edges, and that's when Layer Locking comes in handy. By clicking the small chequerboard icon in the Layers window, any translucent areas will be unaffected by the tools, remaining clear. You can freely brush without changing the all-important silhouette of what you're painting.

03. Grouping

Photoshop layers: grouping

It is possible to highlight multiple layers at once

Complex assignments can lead to Photoshop files with over 100 layers, and when that happens you want to stay organised. Holding down cmd enables you to click and highlight multiple layers at once. Then go to New Group From Layers in the drop-down menu.

You're then asked to name the group. Now those layers will move together and be editable as a group by highlighting the group folder instead of the individual layer for whatever painting action you’re using.

04. Adjusting the opacity

Photoshop layers: Adjust the optacity

Look to the right hand corner of the layers window to control transparency

Another useful function of layers is the ability to control their transparency. Up in the right corner of the Layers window is a drop-down slider labelled Opacity, which enables you do just that. This comes in handy for a variety of effects, such as creating sheer clothing, smoke and light beams.

05. Making backup saves

Photoshop layers: Backup saves

Make sure you create multiple saves so you don't lose anything

I like to create multiple save files for each image, in case one becomes corrupted or if I make some huge mistake and save before realising it. This way I always have several versions that are, at most, only a few hours less developed than what I was just working on.

When this happens, I'll often open an older save file, delete the offending layer, and drag my replacement from the old file (or a completely different illustration) over into the Layers window in my most recent iteration.

This article originally appeared in ImagineFX magazine issue 114.

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