Monday, March 30, 2009

I'm back!

After four days in North Carolina full of rain, fog, rain, drizzle, storms and, oh, rain, I'm back home. It's cooler here but at least it's dry.

It was fun going around to all of the booths at the Agility National and seeing who had what. I got some pretty good inspirations, and one idea I'm going to make right away. I'll post it as soon as it's done.

And my shirt that I am selling to raise money for Border Collie rescue resulted in an initial check to Gail Storm of $85. She was *thrilled*.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

We will continue after this short break...

I won't be posting to this blog for the rest of this week. I'm in North Carolina at the AKC Agility National. If you're interested in dogs and dog agility, feel free to grab onto my Min Pin blog, where I'll be posting for the next few days.

One pleasant task I had today was passing along a check for $85.11 to Gail Storm for Border Collie rescue. That reflects the royalties from my design of "the joy of agility" shirt.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Investing in self-education

Over the past few days I've been spending some quality time with Illustrator. But I'm not designing right now (hence, no new designs!) Instead I'm having a tutorial from my friend Mordy Golding.

Who is Mordy Golding? Well he's the definition of guru. Look on the Illustrator credits, you'll see his name. He's been involved in the creation of Illustrator since day one and he knows it inside and out. I've actually met him and he's a modest, unassuming man. This weekend he's helping me learn some new techniques and better ways of doing things I already know how to do. How is he doing that? Through is, as far as I'm concerned, the world's best online tutorial site, especially for graphic designers. You can buy DVDs from them outright, but even better, you can subscribe to Lynda and view DVDs online. Lynda is the best because they use the foremost experts in their respective fields, people like Mordy Golding (Illustrator), Dave Blattner (InDesign), and Deke McClelland (Photoshop). It's also the best because for their online material, each DVD is broken into small video segments, each segment from 5 to 10 minutes, and each segment illustrating a specific trick or technique to make your life easier and bring your art to the next level. I love it because I can start or stop the video, skip sections I already know, and try new stuff as I'm following along without feeling pressured.

Now Lynda isn't just for uber-high-end software. Their roster of available training is so huge I can't begin to list it all, but it includes far less expensive programs, including Publisher, CorelDraw, and Photoshop Elements. Here's the complete list. Their subscription prices are actually very reasonable for what you get. And best of all, you can check out several titles and even the start of some DVDs without subscribing, just so you can ee if it works for you.

The time I'm spending now with Lynda means I don't have any new designs to show you. And since I'll be out of town for most of the rest of the week at the AKC Agility Nationals, I may not have art to show you this week. But it will be worth it when I can expand my skills and my artistic range. So think about investing some time in really understanding your design software and learning good design technique. It may take some time away from your designing now, but will send more profits to your pocket later.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

More red/black

I subscribe to Google AdWords. And it's weird, but one of my most hit keywords is Chihuahuas! I had one chihuahua design, but I decided I better add a couple more. So I've done both long and a smooth coat chihuahua. As with all of my dog designs, it's important to me to represent dogs who meet the breed standard. In this case, the distinctive apple head is very important. There are many, many very badly bred Chihuahua's out there (including the famous Taco Bell dog, who was to Chihuahuas as I am to a ballet dancer). So these designs are both cute and correct.

I'll do a separate post on Google AdWords.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A discussion of copyright

On the Zazzle forums, we often get a lot of questions about copyright. Unfortunately most of the time those questions come after someone has had a design or designs pulled by Zazzle for copyright violation.

It must be frustrating to put a product up, only to see it disappear. However, copyright is the law. And even though not everyone contributing designs to the Zazzle marketplace is from the U.S., because Zazzle is located in the States, their User Agreement is based on U.S. copyright law. Zazzle's User Agreement also prohibits things such as copying slogans, quotes, or trademarks without express permission. The complete User Agreement is here: and everyone should read it. Slowly. With comprehension in mind. It's very important.

The basics of copyright are very simple. If someone else created it, you can't steal it. If you created it, nobody else can steal it. So the best way to avoid copyright violations is to only use your own original creations.

What constitutes "creation?" Well, the words I am writing on this blog are mine. I own them. You who are reading this blog cannot copy or paste my words onto your own blog without my permission. That's stealing. You may link to my words here, but you can't take them. If I take a photo, write an essay, draw a design, make up a slogan, all that is mine. If you take my photo and make a drawing from it without my permission, you're stealing, because you're using MY artistic inspiration for your work. If my artistic inspiration was not there, your work also would not exist. That's called derivative artwork, and derivitaves ARE covered by copyright law.

And here's a really important thing. If something appears on the internet is it NOT free for the taking. Designs, photos, and writings posted to the internet are just as much covered by copyright law as anything else.

It's worth the time to pursue the basics of copyright at the site.

So what do you do if you want to sell things on Zazzle but you aren't an artist?

There are several routes you can take. There are some free clipart resources available, some posted to Zazzle. But, this is very important, you MUST review their terms of use. Many royalty-free clipart vendors allow a single use but do not allow multiple uses and never allow an image to be used on items for sale. You can also go out and take your own photos. Or, if you find a photo you love that you'd like to make into an item, ask for permission. Often photographers are amenable to that if you just ask. But keep in mind that if the photo shows a person, that person's permission should also be given.

I do a lot of dog design, and some of my items are photo-based. In each case, I got specific permission from the photographer to use the photo. Many of my items are not able to be identified as a certain dog, but in the case where it is, I often try to get owner permission too though it's not required. The photographer owns the copyright, not the person (or dog!) in the photo.

Another option is to just use the suite of fonts available at Zazzle and make up some fun original sayings.

But whatever you do, do NOT steal work from others for your own profit. It's more than against the law, it's tacky and rude.

Remember that copyright also protects YOUR work. When thinking about this, put the shoe on the other foot. How would you feel if you spent hours of your time and energy coming up with a great design to sell on Zazzle. Then, a month or so later, you found that somebody else had stolen it and was using it on *their* site to sell shirts. They were making money off your work and you were getting nothing. Me, I bet you'd be pretty mad about that. I know I would.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My first TBA!

And what, you may ask, is a TBA? Took me forever to figure that one out. It's a Today's Best Award. My design will be up with a number of others, singled out as one of the best of the day! This is the first time I've gotten a TBA since I've been with Zazzle. Ironically, it's not for one of my dog designs. Instead it's for a design I did for Earthday. I actually did two. The circle design got the TBA, but I think I personally am more pleased with the notecard design. This one might be fun to put on Keds.

Featured artist and design of the week

It's funny how you discover things. I got a comment on one of my new designs, and discovered a great artist. Houk's designs are detailed, dreamy, beautiful. I love the use of color and the dali-esque bend to reality. These designs remind me of the sci-fi and fantasy I love to immerse myself in. I'm showing just one of many of the designs here. Please visit the Houk site for more!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The new overall website is up!

I now have a website under the DD Graphix name that links here, to my Zazzle store, and to my overall portfolio. Yay! The CSS was kind of a bear but I did get it done.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Earthdog mania

I've been meaning to design this for quite awhile. I knew what I wanted, it was just a matter of getting the dog right. So this morning four, count them four, new designs. Two in my black/red silhouette style and two color ones similar to my tracking shirt (which, by the way, looks just spectacular on dark colors). I have available in both natural and stubby-tailed styles, but I'll just show the natural tail here. The mouse was especially fun.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Featured Dog Site of the week

Cruising around Zazzle today I came across a site with some gorgeous painterly depictions of a number of breeds by Lyn Hamer Cook. I'm showing the Sheltie, but there are many breeds available at Wally Doodle. Please check her out! These breeds are generally quite good representations of the breed on colorful and scenic backgrounds. It looks like mostly cards and postage stamps as the presentation of choice. Perfect for dog lovers of all types.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Working with someone else's design

I'm doing client work today, and it so happens that this client wants a Zazzle store. So I'm working with his designs. What's sad is that the person who sent him these designs really did not have them ready to go to an online store. One is going to end up being a bit fuzzy because he blew it up, and I had to convert two others, fix some missed masking, then export. I happen to know this client paid someone for these designs.

Now that I'm done fixing them they will be okay, but they could have been better. The best thing to do is to design on a transparent background. What I will do as well is put a layer down with a bright color on it, and switch it on and off as I work in Illustrator and/or Photoshop, to make sure I'm getting all extraneous trash out. Then I export to *.png at 300 dpi, which gives the best result for both Zazzle and Cafepress.

Making sure designs are clean and crisp is critical to happy customers on the other end!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Featured Design

Welcome to my Featured Design series. In this section, I want to highlight some of the other great Zazzle designers. There's an incredible amount of talent out there and people are producing beautiful materials! The intent of this section is to help other great designers get exposure.

The first design I've picked is by Ruxique's Little Art Shop. Ruxandra is a graphic artist from Romania creating stunning and unique cards and letters, mostly for the wedding market.

I picked this glorious sunflower design for several reasons. I love the attention to detail in this piece. The burst of color, the way the sunflower breaks the plane of the edge of the design, the rule around the edge and the free-flowing typeface heads with the simple san-serif combine for a cohesive balance. Also note the detail on the back side. There is a lot of thought put into this artwork. It's not just slapped up there. Though Ruxandra intended this piece for a summer wedding, it would be appropriate for any summer get-together. It makes me think of warm days and the garden I had as a little girl in Kentucky.

Ruxandra has other outstanding designs as well. Please visit her shop, It's always fun to look at beautiful things, and as a designer, I can look at good designs and get ideas I may be able to incorporate in different ways for my own work.

Monday, March 9, 2009

My wheels, they be spinning!

I've spent all day today sort of futzing around not getting a whole heck of a lot done. Which is frustrating.

So what am I dithering over? The build of my website. I'm not sure whether to use the Zazzle storebuilder or go with my own design and just link. I know I want to do it in CSS, and that in itself is still a challenge to me. I spent at least two hours today over at the CSS Zen Garden thinking about what kind of design I want! I have the basic graphics ready to go, I just need to kick my own butt foward.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The muse is back!

Or at least, the graphic part. I'm particularly pleased with this simple design. I freehand drew the dog with my mouse using the paintbrush tool in Illustrator. The typface is Andy; I wanted just the right combination of casual without being too "schoolkid" or too elegant. I looked at Banner as well, but it just didn't fit as well with the strokes of the dog.

This is one of several designs I've done to benefit someone else. All the royalties from this one will go to Border Collie rescue, which is near and dear to Gail Storm's heart.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Frustrating morning

I've been trying to do a quick product create this morning and the customize button isn't working. Waaahhh! How crummy is that! The Doberman design I'm doing doesn't show well on black so I've shown it on tan, but it can go on any lighter color. I have both the German spelling (above) and the American spelling of the name for this shirt.

I've sort of been in a funk of design after my huge rush of productivity a week or so ago. Doesn't help that I'm in a funk all together since tearing a calf muscle last week. I'm missing my morning gym workouts something fierce.

Anyway, I did a tracking design specifically for Dobes for a friend and it turned out pretty well.