Ugly Fruit website design

My latest design project has been to create a website design for an imaginary client called ‘Make A Difference’ who own a fresh fruit & vegetable franchise that sells ‘ugly’ produce – perfectly good in quality but aesthetically unappealing.

For the design I have chosen a background of wood paneling which is reminiscent of farm barns and apple boxes (genuine farm produce!). They have warm/earthy tones which allow the main images and text for the page to stand out.

The logo is a very simple shape that could have belonged to a branding iron, and I have used a wood burn effect to ‘burn’ it into the wood panels.

The site is responsive, and you can see from the image below how the main menu changes according to screen size to make it easier to navigate. For mobile users the menu is made up of easily recognisable symbols, and for larger screen sizes the menu is text. The tagline also disappears for mobile users to prevent the screen from becoming too cluttered.

The lorem ipsum text is used as the copy text as none was given to me, and the use of the copyrighted image of ugly vegetables is allowable as this is an educational project.


Tamworth t-shirt design

My current design assignment is to capture the DNA of a city in a single illustration… or part of it anyway. My client wants me to simply capture a part of the city in order to create a t-shirt for tourists/visitors to the town. Because the t-shirt is for tourists/visitors it needs to contains some of the stereotypical icons of the town, but hopefully in a fresh way so that people actually want to buy it! For those who don’t know the town of Tamworth, it is famous for the Country Music Festival each year, but also for the AELEC (Australian Equine and Livestock Events Centre) which also draws visitors to town.

I started by brainstorming a range of ideas, but the one that captured me the most was from this sketch of mine:


I then created some prototypes. You can see I’m experimenting with some colour choices, but also with the typography – one that is bold, chunky, and has a bit of a spur to give it a country feel; one that is styled to match the shapes in the horses mane. Which one would you choose if you were the client?


And after a number of consultations with the client and design tweaking, this is the final design. We have the iconic guitar to represent Country Music, the Akubra hat (what Australian farmer does not have one??), the stalk of wheat being coming out of the side of the mouth (plenty of wheat farms, and a mill), and the (cool and quirky) horse playing the guitar. The colours are earthy and authentic, but a little unusual too – which I’m hoping is attention grabbing!


(Well, the final design as far as the assignment is concerned. The client will ponder it over the next few months before t-shirt sample prints and possible production…)

Flower Fairy: Phase 3

For those who have been following my progress through the creation of my Flower Fairy composite image, I can now show you phase 3 of the editing process. I am happy with the layout and individual elements at this stage, so the editing has involved softening the edges of the image with a blur filter, applying a warming filter, and introducing a ray of light coming across onto the fairy. The ray of light was made using a new layer with a cloud filter, a radial blur, and used as a soft light overlay on the original image. I then used a layer mask to restrict the area of the light ray. There are lots of good tutorials on the web for this kind of thing, and I’ll be certainly looking up more of them over the next while so I can learn to do this more expertly!


My daughter (a.k.a. flower fairy) wants this image on canvas on her wall, so I’ll take that as a good sign!

Blog interview with Karen Alsop!

I am thrilled to introduce you today to Karen Alsop!! She has very kindly agreed to a blog interview with me today.

As she is described on her website, Karen is an award winning Australian, Melbourne based photographic digital artist. Expanding on two decades of photographic and graphic design experience, Karen brings photography and art together to create stunning artworks that tell a story and take the viewer into another world.

Welcome, Karen!

As I read through your blog articles I was intrigued by the change in direction your business took once you had children. My own background is in Engineering, and once I had children I felt like I had “permission” to engage in art and craft again and really just enjoy the process of it. Did you have any similar permission giving moments, or other ways in which you found having children impacted your creative work?

Having children certainly contributed heavily to the change in direction. In my book ‘Once Upon a Time’ I talk about the change in mindset particularly with weddings when our children came along. With many weekends away from them (both my husband and I shoot the weddings), my parents needing to baby sit for extended hours, I needed to find a new direction that suited our changed family dynamics.

My theming is also strongly influenced by my children. I love to create imagery that ignites the imagination of children (and adults). When my children come home from daycare and I show them an image I’ve been working on, I love the way they find amazement in my imagery. The joy they get talking about what is going on in my artworks gives me an insight into the joy I’m bringing others that are seeing my work for the first time. Of course, having them participate as models in many of my artworks is an added bonus! They love seeing pictures of themselves up everywhere.

An Epic Tale by Karen Alsop

What was the initial idea behind your creation of An Epic Tale and what kind of audience do you find it appeals to?

I see An Epic Tale directly appealing to families with young children in particular. I wanted to create this image as a part of a teaching project, taking my online followers through the journey of creation from photographing behind the scenes to the photoshop production. I also wanted to showcase some wonderful Queensland scenes (on a recent trip) and icons and integrate them into the story.

How long did it take you to plan and photograph the elements in An Epic Tale?

I started the planning process in Melbourne. I envisioned the scene in my mind and set out to locate the perfect elements. I needed a Castle (Sunshine Castle in Bli Bli was arranged over the phone before heading up there). I also needed a beautiful landscape so planned some drives through the Montville area. I arranged for my models prior to heading up to Queensland too. The children I chose are children models and were comfortable posing for the camera.

It’s hard for me to say how many hours go into this sort of planning, as I tend to multitask a lot and work through my projects in steps. But the planning, the photography and the photoshopping would probably equate to about 20 hours of work (Creating the Dragon would be around 5 of those hours, as I made him from multiple images I’d taken of different animals).

What would you say was your creative approach in creating An Epic Tale?

My approach with An Epic Tale and many of my other images starts with an idea. I wanted to use a Castle, and feature some boys dressed as nights fighting a dragon. Over time my concepts might change slightly. With this one I decided to make it a bit more light hearted so that the boys weren’t fighting the dragon but rather befriending him.

I heard in one of the interviews I listened to that you take about 10-15 hours to edit your images – is that about right for this image too? Do you have a technical approach to putting the image together? And what tools do you use?

Each image is different, and while some images have taken 40+ hours, others might take me 3 hours. It all comes down to the complexity of the composite, how many elements need to go in it and how much manipulation is required. I have become much faster compared to when I first started, so I’m now finding I don’t spend more than about 10 hours even a complex image. This comes down to careful pre-planning with shooting the elements, and having a clearer understanding of what I need to do in the post production stage.

My main software tool is of course Photoshop. I also use Lightroom to pre-edit my Raws before opening them in Photoshop. I use a Wacom Tablet (I have an Intuous Pro connected to my main computer, and I recently purchased a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 which enables me to work portably).

Do you have a particular medium in mind for when the work is finished? E.g. digital, print, canvas… Does this affect how you put the image together or in the final editing process?

I certainly aim to print my work. I have an Epson 3880 which produces beautiful prints up to A2 in size. I love to print on Canson Photographiq Rag or Platine (depending on the image). I keep printing in mind when I edit. I’m particularly aware of ensuring I don’t lose detail in my blacks and don’t completely blow out my highlights (I’ve learnt a lot from entering the national print awards).

Any other tips or encouragement for those hoping to learn more about creating story images?

I really want to encourage readers to follow their passion. Work out what makes you tick. What are you inspired by. I took a big risk turning my attention to this genre and stepping away from regular wedding and portrait income. I gave myself 3 years to see if it would take off and turn into a viable business. I threw everything I had into developing Story Art. I’m thrilled to share that I’m seeing massive results (both financially and also in recognition of my work) all within a year of taking that leap. I know that I’m obviously following the right path in my journey and that is exciting.

Surround yourself with people that believe in you, that encourage you, but also give you feed back on what needs to improve. Don’t be afraid of CC! (Constructive Criticism)

I’m running workshops worldwide in 2016 and I’d love to help you in your own digital art journey. Details on my workshops can be found here:

Thank you so much for your time, Karen!

If you haven’t seen any of Karen’s work, please pop on over to and be prepared to be inspired!

Flower Fairy: Phase 2

I have been studying the work of Karen Alsop, of, and also my friend Steve Gonsalves, of Steve Gonsalves Photographics, and I have been so inspired! (I’ll be posting some more about their work later.) You know that feeling when you dip your toe in the pond and discover just how big it is? Well that’s me right now with photomedia. I did one of Steve’s photography courses a few years ago, and now he talks about tonal values and how to improve my photography and I think “I have so much to learn!”

So I have been working further on my Flower Fairy image this week (can I call her a fairy when she doesn’t have wings?), and I am pleased with how it’s progressing. I have changed the orientation of the main flower so that it looks more like it was captured in the same light as the fairy. I have brought forward some parts of the flower and raindrops so that my fairy is nestled into the flower. I have also touched up the legs and changed the light effects on the butterfly.


I will probably only do one more phase of editing for this composition. I would like to work a bit more on the mask around the main flower next. I welcome any comments and tips from readers! Stay tuned!

Composite Flower Fairy

My current design challenge is to use 5 different images to create one new image, and the theme has to be one of the seasons of the year. I chose Spring, and from the initial sketch you can see that I pictured a little flower fairy welcoming a butterfly into the season.


The images I chose for the composite image are seen below.


And here you can see how all the images are starting to come together. I used a combination of blending modes and masks to bring the different elements together (fiddly stuff!), and you can see that I changed my flower option part-way because the focus was not quite in the right spot for my liking.


And here is my final image. One sweet little flower fairy, welcoming Spring!


Composite image making

I am so flippin’ excited about composite images. Photoshop has such amazing tools for creating composites.

Take a look at these 3 images of my son playing soccer.


The final image was creating using the 3 separate images, plus the ball from the 3rd individual image which wouldn’t fit otherwise. A careful use of masks (including those fly-away laces) positioned Mr Soccer Extraordinaire in each soccer move. Using the content aware move tool helped fill the extra space on the left where the original photo didn’t quite extend to.


More photo edits

I discovered (after chatting to a photographer) that blogs have their own way of presenting the colours in photos, so the before and after photos I posted in the previous post really don’t capture the full changes that I made to them. So here are a new set of photos in which you can see some different types of editing I did with Adobe Photoshop.

In this first set of photos of the lighthouse, you can see that I have imported another photo with a more interesting sky and then used a mask so that it can be seen behind the lighthouse. I have also separately adjusted the blues and whites so they are more vivid.


The photo of the flower was taken with too much light in the background, so I have separately adjusted the brightness of the background and flower (by using masks) and cropped it to a more appealing layout – using the rule of thirds, and allowing space on the right hand side for the flower to “look” into.


In this photo of my delightful puppy, the sun was high and the shadow on his face was too contrasting, so I have lightened up the dark areas using a mask and adjusting the brightness settings. I have also cropped the photo so that his eyes are roughly a third of the way into the picture, and his nose points into the space beside his face. Isn’t he adorable? If you get any closer he will lick your face – I can promise you that!


Editing photos in Photoshop

My knowledge of Adobe Photoshop is growing exponentially at the moment, as I am in the midst of a design assignment! When it comes to photography I really hate the idea of taking a bad photo and then letting the software fix all my mistakes. But there are those days when it just all goes pear shaped and you need a helping hand. Or I may be creating a composite image, in which case Photoshop is essential.

In this first photo of the rosella, the background was very overexposed because the bird was in the shade but everything behind it is in full sun. I wasn’t going to reposition Mrs Rosella (or was it Mr?), so I took the photo so that the exposure was correct for the bird, despite the background being blinding. To correct the image in Photoshop, I first used a mask to separate the rosella from the background. I could then dial down the exposure and light setting of the background, to bring back some more colour. I then adjusted the light on the bird to bring out the colours in it’s shadows, and increased the vibrancy so you can really appreciate the amazing reds and blues.

before editing
after editing

The photo of the lilly pads on Rainbow Lake were so amazing in colour in real life, but unfortunately the weather was very overcast and therefore the colours in the photo were a little muddy and needed enhancing. The yellow in the flowers, by contrast, were a little overexposed, so I first used a mask to separate these flowers and even dial back their vibrancy a little. I then increased the light and vibrancy of the lilly pads so you could see how amazing the colours really were.

before editing
after editing

The photo of Rainbow Lake here was disappointing, as the cloud cover really dulled down the tones of the grass and lake. Increasing the vibrancy and contrast did the trick.

before editing
after editing

Principles of Design in Photography

The principles of design are the ways in which the elements are arranged to make the design work well. These principles include structure, unity, balance, perspective, hierarchy, scale, and contrast. I will use some of my photos here to illustrate.

The first image here, of the little dog, can illustrate the idea of balance. There are two main sets of colours – the greens and the greys/whites. The greens are darker and have more visual weight than the grey wooden boards, but the addition of the dog in that part of the image help to balance the weight of the colours. The dog is off-centre to the left, but the image is still balanced – as the the weight of the dog is balanced against the space it is gazing into.


The peacock here illustrates the idea of emphasis. The vivid blues of the peacock’s neck and head are so concentrated as compared to the distributed blues in the feathers that the neck and head are emphasised – bringing our attention to this part of the image.


The photo of the moss-covered fence help to illustrate perspective. You can see that the objects that are further away are less in focus and also smaller.


The side of this old farm shed uses the principle of rhythm and repetition with wooden planks. There is enough variation in the planks and colour to create interest or this would be a very boring photo!


These little beetle photo gives us an example of the use of scale. The size of the beetle would be unknown if it was not seen running along my daughter’s little finger!