Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cardmaking 101: Digi Images

Did you miss a previous post in this series:
Card Basics

Digi Images:
Finding, storing, and working with digital images

It's the image post, but it's all text?  This particular post is full of answers to questions I frequently get asked, a little ranting, and a lot of tips for working with images.  

Finding/Staying up to date: 

Finding digi images seems easy, right?  Just go to Google and type in "digital images" or "digi stamps" and dozens show up.  But it's not all that simple.  Because Google keeps a digital record of everything uploaded.  So that super cute image that you click on could be a broken link, could be years out of date, or the image itself  could be stolen. 

One of the first things I would recommend to find digis, is to follow a listing site that seeks out free digis on a daily or weekly basis.  Now, keep iin mind, that multiple listing sites will give you the best coverage.  However, the people who put together the links are HUMAN - there are time constraints, and phrasing of posts that can change their ability to find and recognize the available digis.  Even those sites that use a bot to seek out freebies may miss out on something if the artist changes the phrasing or file names that the bot is seeking.  Use these "seeking" sites as a guide to finding your favorite and/or new artists, but be sure to follow or subscribe to those artists as well so that you don't miss anything because of a time constraint or human error.   

Also, look at the artists that your favorite card makers frequently use - particularly on their NON-DT cards. DT (design team) cards are a GREAT source of inspiration for design, coloring, and embellishment; however, the card maker was likely given the stamp on that card for use on that card by a sponsor.  Which does not mean that the artist of that stamp isn't an amazing artist - they just might not be "typical" of the style that cardmaker uses.  The stamps that card makers tend to gravitate towards for their own non-DT cards, tend to be by artists that more closely fit their style of cardmaking.  If you are following a particular cardmaker, I tend to think that it is because you like some part of their style, and this will help you find images that suit that.  

There is one site in particular that I have a real love/hate relationship with for finding stamps, and that is Pinterest.   Pinterest can be a great resource if used properly.  It can also cause you some nightmares if not.  The big problem comes from those saving "free" stamps that they have found on Pinterest without visiting the site that the stamp came from.  When I see a stamp on my Pinterest dash that has no watermark, or is "uploaded by user" rather than linked from a site, it is suspect to me, and I will not save or use that stamp.    When you do so, you are actually in violation of copyright law.

Copyright - what you should know: 

The artists who are supplying you with digis are sharing their own COPYRIGHTED work with you.  When you save images from Pinterest, particularly those "uploaded by user", you have no terms of use to reference in the use of your stamp.  I have seen hundreds of Magnolia stamps on Pinterest that people have stamped and scanned to upload,  I've seen digi artists tearing their hair out at the "Pinterest problem" because people are loading images that are being sold by the artist (with the watermarks removed) or pinning things in a way that takes the artist's traffic and exposure away, not to mention credit for their work. 

Now, I've heard the argument from many that once you upload something to the Internet, you have no control over the use of that creation.  Ummm.... I call BULL****.  Go try to post the [ripped-from-CBS] video of the season finale of "The Big Bang Theory" to YouTube and see what it gets you.  They uploaded the show to the Internet, but that doesn't make it free-use, and while a certain amount of fan use is encouraged to bring in new viewers, there is still a LIMIT on that use.   Just because a digi artist doesn't have an entire corporation of lawyers behind them, doesn't mean that their copyright is less important or deserves any less respect.  READ the terms of use that the artist took time to write.  CREDIT the artist with their work.  And if you want to "pin", pin a watermarked digi, colored version, or even the blog header.  Most artists try to provide you with something that is "pinnable" that still fits within their copyright.    

If you plan on selling your cards, be sure to look for an "angel policy" from the artist of the stamps.  If you are buying some stamps that aren't allowed to be sold on a finished card, you may want to give them their own category when saving the images so they aren't mistakenly used.  A good portion of artists will allow for you to use their images in one of a kind creations for resale, but be sure to check before posting your cards on Etsy or any other selling site!  

Finally, keep a copy of the Terms of Use (even just a screenshot from the artist's site) saved with your stamps.  Most purchased stamps come with a TOU in the file, or have the TOU located at a plainly marked link on the site.  This is for YOUR protection as well.  This will give you something to reference to make sure that you stay within the bounds of that copyright.  

Say Thanks: 

Obviously, if you are paying for an image, you do not have to go out of your way to thank the artist for their work (though a bit of appreciation on a blog post can make their day!).  The thanks they get comes in a dollars-and-cents form.  However, when you gather free stamps/sentiments, you should take a moment to say thank you to the artist.  Speaking as someone who creates digis, I know that even a simple free sentiment can take almost half an hour of my time just to create, package, and post.   Yet, it takes about 90 seconds for a person to pop onto my site, download, and close the window.  If you consider there are about 200 downloads (the page view can be double or triple this number) for that particular freebie, than that artist put in 9 seconds of their time to create that freebie for EACH download.  Those who download can (and SHOULD!) easily take 9 seconds to type a quick "Thank you" before closing the window.  It's polite, and it encourages artists to continue to create freebies for you.  

How to store/label images: 

There are a few schools of thought to storing the digital files of images.  I, personally, lean towards storing images in files marked by artist name (because I know the artist's style, which helps me choose an image to create with), while other people may prefer to store images by category of use - for instance: "birthday", "Christmas", and "love".  Regardless, you should have a folder, or series of subfolders under an "TOU" folder, labeled with the artists name and containing the TOU and something (even a notepad file) with the artist's website listed on it.  This will make crediting the artist much faster and easier than having to google for hours trying to find the image again to link to it.  You do have to find the system that works for you in terms of organizing.  And you can, obviously, always create a folder with the artists name and multiple subcategories below that.  

There are two "typical" ways to download images.  There is the right-click to save option, or an actual download link.  When you right click to save, you will get an option to choose the folder you wish to save your image into.  This makes it a bit easier to direct your images into the correct folder from the start.  The download link option (either at the site or off site) will automatically download into a "download" folder on your computer, and from there you may have to unzip (most computers do this automatically anymore) to get to the actual files.  A download link is typically used when you are getting multiple files in the single download.  

One thing that will make your digital file storage easier, is to have your download folder open while you are gathering images.  When you download an image, take a moment to check if the artist has included their name, website name, or some other identifying piece of info in the file name.  If the file name is just "Fairy Wishes", go ahead and add the artist name to the file BEFORE navigating away from the site.  You can do this by right-clicking on the image in your download file, and selecting "Rename".  DO NOT DELETE THE EXISTING FILE NAME!  Move your cursor to the front or back of the file name and add the artist name.  For instance "FP3 Fairy Wishes" or "Fairy Wishes FP3".  Even if you keep your digital images in file by artist, this will help you keep track of them if your files ever get messed up.

I also strongly recommend having a back up system for your digital images.  Finding and gathering images takes a lot of time, and can take quite a bit of money.  Invest in a USB zip drive, or an external hard drive to keep your images backed up.  This way if something ever happens to your computer, you still have all of those images that may or may not be available again.  Back up about once a week, more frequently if you are actively seeking out multiple images each day.  


There's generally some confusion from people who don't work much with images over the difference between PNG images and JPEG images.  The simple answer is this.  JPEG is just like a photograph.  It's got a background.  If you want to layer that image over a different background before printing, you have to "cut" it out.  PNG images, on the other hand, have a transparent background.  You can layer a PNG image over a digital paper without having to "trim" any excess away.  Otherwise there is no difference in the file types.  Most artists simply provide both because most people are more comfortable working with JPEGs, while those who have worked with images, and work with digital papers, or layering stamps prior to printing, prefer the PNG.  

Resizing tutorials: 

I use a PC, and you can also print multiple images using the built in "print pictures" option (iPhoto on Mac I believe).  All you do is open the folder that contains the images you want to print, and hold the CTRL key down while left-clicking on the images.  Once all of the images are selected, right-click and select print.  You can choose from a set of "standard" photo sizes.  (Be sure to deselect the box marked "Fit picture to frame".  You may get some gray bars, but the image won't be distorted or cut off.)  The downsides to using this option are that the images on a single sheet will all be one size, and that you may not have the white space surrounding the image to cut out a frame or large shape.  This does work well for those images you plan to fussy cut however.  

Printing tips: 

First things first, go and find your printer's manual, your technophile spouse/significant other, or your kids, and learn how to print using BLACK INK ONLY!  If you do not set your printer to print ONLY from the black ink cartridge (which is MUCH cheaper to replace in most instances) it will pull ink from the color cartridges to create any grays or variation of black.  Learning how to set this will save you $$$ when you are printing line drawing stamps to color! 

Also, when you print, try to print a FULL page of images at a time (yes, with space for framing, etc.).  This will save on paper scraps that get set aside, and allow you to have images ready to color when you are ready.  Once printed just cut the images apart and store the image you aren't ready to use yet.  If you save the printed images in a coupon organizer,  you can save them by category for quick and easy access at a later time!  

Most of us have inkjet printers.  Ideally, to print digi images that will be colored, a laser printer would be used, but we have to use what we have.  So how do you get the ink to stick?  There are a few options.  Of all, the best is time.  If you print multiple images (filling a sheet) and let those images "sit" for a few days, you will be much less likely to smudge the black outlines as you color.  Other options include using hairspray or fixatif on an image that has rested for at least 20 minutes.  A fine mist of these is sprayed over the image and then dried to seal the printer ink.  (Always spray in a well-ventilated room, or outside, for safety.)  Even with fixatif you still have to be careful not to color directly on the lines.  For best results, print multiple images that will be able to "rest" for a day or two prior to coloring.  

I hope that this text-heavy post helped you to understand a bit more about the digital images used in cardmaking!  

For those who have been making cards for a while:  How do you store your digi images?  What programs do you use to print them?


  1. Great information! Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Thanks for the tutorial!

  3. Sara this is a fabulous post and I hope many more people see it and will appreciate the hard work that designers do for us when creating digital images. I like to leave comments when I download images but I know that quite a lot of people don't. As for your printing tips, these are great and I will certainly be following them. Thanks so much posting this.


  4. Thank you for taking the time to sit down and write this up. I have just started using digital images and you answered many questions I had. The effort and time you put into it is very much appreciated.


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