Fonts of color

Recently a friend of mine who runs a screen printing business made some shirts I thought were humorous and asked where he got the logo. It was a generic one from the internet, but he had a time converting the raster image to a vector for better scaling and such. In response, I pointed him to a Reddit about font identification that I get notifications from.

I also remembered finding several color palette pages that might be of use for his business. I used a few of these in the past, especially the team color one, for the hockey jersey concepts. Figuring out a color scheme can be a tricky component of a project, especially when stepping away from simple gradients. I know from map making, the choice of colors can also affect how readable and understandable something is (think colorblindness).

Can You Tweak This Photo?

We’ve all heard the universal phrase “can you photoshop this?” Yes, Adobe’s raster/image manipulation software has become part of the English lexicon (at least American English). But is it the only tool out there? Short answer: no. Long answer: there are a number of programs that are free.

The one I have installed and use occasionally as the need presents is GIMP. The Gnu Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) has been around for quite some time and was actually the first FOSS program I recall using.

If you need to work with images (photos and such), GIMP is a good tool. You can adjust, paint, skew, filter, etc. most JPGs, PNGs and even RAW files. Prefer to ‘paint’ rather than ‘draw,’ then GIMP is probably better suited for you than Inkscape. Keep in mind that Inkscape and GIMP can compliment each other as well.

As with Inkscape to Illustrator, GIMP replicates many of the core functions of Photoshop. Does it do it all? No, but it’s not really meant to. Tools like Adobe have the benefit of millions of dollars in revenue to support development, which means more power and capability (in general). That’s not to say FOSS tools are inferior. It just means development takes a different path, but can create the same output in many ways, but might also present new ideas.

As with Inkscape, GIMP is cross-platform, which means it works on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Are there others, besides GIMP? Yes, but I haven’t used many of them personally.

Design….on no budget

As I’ve mentioned, design is a hobby of mine. So, I get to spend lots of money…. Not really. Then how does design work on no budget? One solution: Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).

In nutshell, FOSS encompasses a wide selection of software that’s free and open sourced, meaning the code is open to the public (generally). For me, this means I use free and open tools for my work. Yes, I know ‘real’ designers use things like Adobe and such, but they also do this for a living.

The next part of this explanation gives the details. Yes, my first exposure to vector graphic design was through Illustrator (8.x) in my college cartography [mapmaking] class. We used it to make our final map projects, as the main GIS software at the time really didn’t cut it for nice looking maps. Cutting my design teeth with maps, I discovered a taste for making designs. Mind you, it’s taken time to develop skills and I’m still far from well-versed.

But Illustrator is neither free nor open source… what do I use. Many years ago, I discovered a FOSS alternative to Illustrator: Inkscape. While not as powerful or prevelant as Illustrator, Inkscape has served me well and continues to do so. I have many of the core tools I need and have learned to adapt when I can’t use the fancier stuff. All my designs for Data Monkey Designs are crafted with Inkscape primarily, although I do use other programs once I start projects such as playing cards or more book-like concepts. More on those later.

So, I would encourage anyone wanting to try their hand with vector (points, lines, etc.) design to give Inkscape a try. If you prefer more raster (photo)-based work, I would recommend GIMP (perhaps a topic for another post).