My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #830: On Learning New Things

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 09-26-2012 11:17 AM 2118 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 829: Building Pattern Packets Part 830 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 831: Designs That "Live Inside My Head" »

It seems that no matter how old I get, I never get tired of exploring new things and learning. While I do consider myself somewhat nostalgic, I also love technology and learning things on the computer.

This is particularly true when it comes to learning computer graphic programs, as working with them is just another form of art as far as I am concerned. Seeing what these programs can accomplish is no less than astounding as far as I am concerned, and I truly appreciate the power and depth that these programs hold.

I am often asked “how do you draw on the computer?” While the question may seem innocent enough, those that are not familiar with the process may not realize just how much it involves. It isn’t as if it is something you can learn to do in an afternoon. I have been at it for over fifteen years now and between advancing technology and the sheer vastness of the programs that I use, I haven’t even scratched the surface of the capabilities and what I can accomplish. But that is part of the fun.

Of course, you can easily take your mouse and begin to draw lines. Many times I hand draw my patterns first, then scan them into the computer and making a tracing over them with my Illustrator program. While some people stop there, for me – that is where the fun begins.

I am pretty open in sharing that I use Adobe products to create my pattern packets. Four of their programs in particular are essential to creating the type of patterns that I offer. Each one has a particular role in the creation and it would be very difficult for me make a pattern the quality that we produce without using all of them.

Adobe Illustrator is where it begins. As mentioned above, it is the start of the line drawings that are the basis for my patterns. This produced ‘vector graphics’ which is a series of points and lines. In this type of drawing, you have full control over line width (thickness of lines) as well as manipulation of lines, fills, etc. When using Illustrator and vector graphics, it is very easy to manipulate and move lines, as they act much like a rope that can be nudged or moved in any particular direction.

The resulting drawings from vector graphics are clean and crisp line work and the files are relatively small. This is particularly important when doing scroll sawing, as following the line exactly is essential in most patterns.

It is in Illustrator where we are able to not only draw our designs, but move, shape and manipulate them to make them optimal for cutting. While we are able to add a limited amount of text, there are better times for that later on and we use this program mainly for the drawing aspect of our patterns.

Next comes Photoshop. In order to teach our projects, we use several photographs to do so. Photoshop is an endless portal of tools in which to create amazing pictures to go along with our patterns. Besides the basic photography adjustments, it also allows you to create amazing effects from stark line work by the use of hundreds of filters, brushes and fills.

Photoshop is raster based, which means it mainly uses pixels (dots per inch) and you are able to rearrange them and manipulate them in many different ways to create and enhance photographs. It’s capabilities are mind-boggling and it is quite a lot of fun to learn new things that it can accomplish. In the past several versions, it also has the added capability of reading vector (Illustrator-type) files and working with them, expanding its functionality even further.

We also use InDesign to create our actual packets. InDesign is an integration program that reads many types of files needed for graphic output. While Illustrator reads vector files, and Photoshop reads basically raster files, InDesign has the capability of ready both types, as well as basic word files for text. It is what we use to layout our patterns and assemble the line work with the photos and text in one place in a format that makes sense.

Finally, we convert the InDesign file to PDF. By doing this, we reduce the size of the final packet significantly and make it readable on anyone’s computer that has a PDF reading program, such as Acrobat. This final file is the one that is sent to our customers when they order, and it brings our work to a universal platform that can be use by all.

Sound confusing?

It really is not. It is just part of the process that we have learned over the years to make the highest quality patterns we can make in the most efficient way possible.

Each of these processes takes time to learn and apply. While some patterns such as portrait patterns, as better done in Photoshop, most of our work begins in Illustrator and develops from there.

Yesterday I was engrossed in learning some new techniques in Photoshop. There are new areas that we are looking to venture with our designs and in order to do things properly, I needed to expand my knowledge of the program.

While some of you may think that this was a burden, I assure you it was not. I feel that there are many forms of art, and our home computers can themselves be tools of wonderful expression and creativity. At one point yesterday afternoon when I was deep into learning and ‘painting’ with pixels on the screen, I had the same feeling of accomplishment as if I had a paintbrush in my hand. It was quite enlightening to me. (and FUN!)

Technical people are sometimes perceived as ‘non-artistic.’ Their literal way of thinking is sometimes misconstrued as cold and unfeeling. But the more I learn to use these graphic programs, I am finding that technology has paved the way for ways to be creative that I would have never considered before. And that is both fascinating and exciting to me.

There are so many wonderful ways to keep learning. Whether you consider yourself “artistic” or not, there are ways you can be creative that will help you develop that creativity without you even thinking about it. As I watch my partner Keith (who – by the way – three years ago told me he couldn’t draw a stick figure!) develop and grow as a designer, it shows me just how much is possible. His designs are amazing.

I suppose the moral of today’s post is to encourage you to explore new things. Whether you are doing things for fun, or doing them to try to improve your career, learning something new can be fun and exciting. What do you have to lose?

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” – Leonardo da Vinci

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

8 comments so far

View ronbuhg's profile


121 posts in 2177 days

#1 posted 09-26-2012 11:45 AM

good morning to all..that was an interesting blog…since I do a bit of drawing,I should check this out myself…never thought about it before…I have this one picture that is going to be my “masterpiece”...if I can ever finish it(still in drawing/design stage)...this could very well be what I need..thanks !hope everyone has a great day in the shop !

-- the dumbest question is the one you dont ask !!

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2949 days

#2 posted 09-26-2012 11:51 AM

Hi, Ron:
I am glad you liked it. I get asked about once a week how we do things and I thought perhaps putting it in the blog would be warranted. I realize that there are much quicker and easier ways, but this is our method and it produces the types of patterns we are proud of. I wish you luck with your own designing.

Sheila :)

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Roger's profile


20929 posts in 2833 days

#3 posted 09-26-2012 02:02 PM

I like the pic. I see the cat, but, hummmmmm, where’s the mouse??

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3065 days

#4 posted 09-26-2012 02:39 PM

The equivalent programs for Linux machines (Ubuntu etc) are Inksacpe, Gimp and Scribus (which also allows you to export your file as a .pdf). They are all free. I’m slowly learning these as I also have a Ubuntu system as well as a Windows PC.

I tend to use TurboCAD for my work as its mostly geometrical. Not Sketchup as this came later for me, although thats a perfectly good package.

Have fun

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3144 days

#5 posted 09-26-2012 04:11 PM

using your cumputer as a paintbrush or was it paintbrushing your computer
what ever something most have happen to you … I can understand the last
since Pc grey and black is awfull colours to look at and you wish another colour on them
the oppesit I have never seen connected to an air compresser :-)

whats the point of learning new things …... the space is filled
so every time I try to upgrade my knowledge some old stuff pop out of the other ear

but I tip my hat for the cats inteligence :-)

take care

View Celticscroller's profile


1269 posts in 2102 days

#6 posted 09-26-2012 06:02 PM

Good morning Sheila. This was a great blog! I use Photoshop which I’m know pretty well but I’m a total rookie on Illustrator and InDesign. I agree with you that anyone can be an artist – it’s just a question of finding which way you want to express it.

-- Anna, Richmond BC

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 2951 days

#7 posted 09-26-2012 11:31 PM

Hi Sheila,
For me, technology in terms of software has made a great improvement. The key for this is the acceptance of the user of expressing each mind. I enjoyed geometrical design (ditto with Martyn) using the sketchup. I learn sketch-up by self-studying it while others like autocad… I think I have to go to proper school as there are so much to explore that complicates the user. At any rate, there is always room for improvement or advancement in this world.
Have a nice day,

-- Bert

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2949 days

#8 posted 09-27-2012 10:34 AM

Hi, Everyone!

Sorry to take so long to answer, I got caught up in a couple of things and didn’t make it back hear yesterday.

Roger – Yes, that kitty has quite a satisfied look on his face, doesn’t he?
Martyn – I think we get our ‘secretaries’ from the same pool! Yes there are a lot of great programs out there. The main reason I began using Adobe products was because that is what the magazine publishers where I work used. Back then, sending cross-platform files wasn’t nearly as easy as it is now. You more or less had to have the same program for the graphics to transfer properly. I like the programs though, and since I have a solid learning base with them, I never really care to switch.

Dennis – I saw this painted on a computer. I think that they offer decals of the picture too, but in my painting group travels, someone actually painted it on their Mac:

So cool!

Hi, Anna! I looked at some of your projects and you certainly are quite artistic. Just beautiful things! It is fun to be able to learn new things I think. Watching tutorials is a great way to ‘unwind’ for me. :)

Bert – Using software for geometric type designs is really the way to go. Having the ability to take an element from the design and skew and size and reshape it really allows me to do things that I would have never been able to accomplish. Precisely, too. I love computers and learning new software. It always seems inspire new ideas!

Thanks for all of your comments! ;)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

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