Digitizing a Family Crest

Misselhorn Family Crest: Original Scan
Several months ago, my mother was cleaning out a closet and came across a small woodcut print block and a printed-on-paper example of the woodcut block.

The print is a large deer head with antlers, a shield featuring a lion or wild cat in an attack pose, an area with three mushroom-like designs, and an area of crosshatched square shapes. Below is a ribbon banner with the latin text “Virtute et Valore.” Now, I never took latin, but I am pretty certain we all are capable of translating that phrase.

Apparently, my father was given this a long time ago and was told it was the family crest for our family, the Misselhorn family. From what I’ve been told, we are mostly Swedish and German on that side of the family, so perhaps this design originated in one of those countries.

Being an enthusiast of both traditional and digital design, I was excited by this found object, and decided the appropriate thing to do was to take this woodcut print into a digital form. Hopefully these images will interest some other Misselhorns out there in cyberspace, or fans of family crests.

My first step was to scan into JPG form using my flatbed scanner. This scan appears above right. On top of this scan, I began to trace the design with Adobe Illustrator, building up layers until I had traced a completely digital vector version of it. It took an hour or two of the Illustrator pen tool to get all the details, but now it is available for any Misselhorns who might be surfing around for some information on their ancestry.

A progression of the tracing steps are shown in the renderings below.

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

I have compiled a download pack of the Misselhorn Family Crest which includes the following files:

  1. Vector Versions
  2. Color & Gray-scale JPGs
  3. Backgroundless PNG files
  4. Photoshop Project Files
  5. Photoshop Brush
  6. iPhone/iPad icon, for who knows

Download the Misselhorn Family Crest. If you are a Misselhorn and/or know anything about this crest, please contact me or leave a comment.

How to Keep Your PC Running Smoothly

Once you have installed and ran these programs, you should notice a definite increase in your PC’s productivity.

  • AVG – Anti-virus protection. It’s free, it works, and it can be configured to update automatically. Don’t be suckered into that Norton subscription pre-installed on your computer. Set it to auto-update and auto-scan and forget about it. Cost: FREE
  • CCleaner – Temp file and registry cleaner. Everytime you visit a website or uninstall a program, bits of information are left all over your computer’s hard-drive. Clean them out with this program whenever your internet browsing gets too slow for you. Cost: Also FREE
  • Spybot – Malware (adware & spyware) protection. The internet is full of malicious little scripts designed to do stuff that you don’t want and take you to sites where you don’t want to go. Spybot protects you from them. Scan your computer with it preferably weekly, at least monthly. Cost: NADA
  • Auslogics Disk Defrag – You know how things tend to get scattered around your place the more you are there? Your computer does the same thing, with bytes of data. Get things orderly again with this program and you should be able to get at your data a bit quicker. Run it once a month. Cost: GRATIS

There you have it. Free & easy PC maintenance that should help you get back to the high-speed surfing of the questionable sites that slowed your computer down in the first place.

Web Developer Bits & Bytes: May 15, 2009

Here’s an eclectic little assortment of some web sites I stumbled across recently that I’ve found useful for my latest web development projects.. some of them are just entertaining or interesting:

Folders4Gmail for Greasemonkey – Keep your gmails organized. I like to build folders for individual web site projects and I also find it useful to maintain a “Follow-up” for mails that I cannot immediately respond to and “Bills” folder which I don’t like to look at.

Blog Link – Adds your blog feed to your LinkedIn profile.

DevTips, a site aiming to make you a better web developer one tip at a time, offers this css tip on how to design circles without images.

stock.xchng – a large (and free) stock photography site. Designers: Start putting some models with headsets on your web site now! (joke, but be sure to checkout Headset Hotties)

and for you twitter fiends..  27 Twitter Tools to Help You Find and Manage Followers. I found wefollow particularly useful; you enter categories you want to be listed under, and then watch the twitter notifications flood your emailbox 🙂 Friendorfollow is pretty nice as well; see who among your followers and followings reciprocates.

Most of these links can also be found on my Delicious page.

My Favorite Firefox Plugins

Firefox Plugins which all work with the latest version of Firefox.

  • Colorzilla – This one is great for graphic and/or web designers. Colorzilla lets you eyedropper sample any color code on any website in RGB, HSV and additional formats.
  • Cooliris – If you are into graphics or photography, this is for you. Cooliris transforms your browser into a full-screen 3D wall for searching, viewing, and sharing images and graphics.
  • Delicious Bookmarks – Adds buttons which allow me to easily bookmark pages to my Delicious account, which then feeds into my FriendFeed, which then posts to my Twitter.
  • FoxyTunes – Adds play controls for iTunes to your browser’s status bar. Who wants to minimize their browser just to pick a new song? Now you don’t have to. Btw, if you are into the music network thing.. here are my last.fm or blip.fm profiles 🙂
  • Screengrab – Does just that, in jpg or png format.
  • StumbleUpon – Adds a toolbar, which I am usually not crazy about, but this one allows for very easy focused browsing of the web. You start a StumbleUpon account, enter your interests (i.e. web design, programming, and graphics) and then one-click browse away through related sites. I have my Stumble account linked to FriendFeed so I can share my “I like it!” pages via Twitter.
  • Web Developer – Another toolbar yeah, I know : ( .. but suck it up (and/or disable it when not in use) Web Developer provides a great set of features for viewing html source code, dealing with forms, images, etc. However, I find the CSS editor to be extremely useful. You can split any page with css into two panes (one is the css and one is the preview), view stylesheet edits instantaneously, and then save the newly edited stylesheet. It’s really great for editing WordPress themes, or any theme for that matter.

Greasemonkey Scripts: first you download the Greasemonkey plugin.. then add the others.

  • Greasemonkey – Allows you to customize the way a webpage displays using small bits of JavaScript.
  • AutoPagerize – Eliminates the need to click “More”, “Next”, or any other page navigation on most websites… just keep scrolling down!
  • Better FriendFeed – Displays extended user profile information on FriendFeed.
  • Better Gmail 2 – (requires Greasemonkey) Enhances Gmail with a compilation of useful features like hierarchical labels, macros, file attachment icons, and more.
  • Twitter Search Results – Displays recent relevant tweets in a short list before your Google search results

Bits & Bytes: March 17, 2009 St Patricks’ Day

Here’s some stuff I found interesting and/or useful recently:

  • Phpbb is a nice solution for people looking to add a forum community to their site. It is open source, highly customizable, and quick to install.
  • FlashChat is a chatroom program that is fairly robust, quick and easy to setup, plus it integrates with the the phpbb user database mentioned above, saving your users from filling out two registrations.
  • Fawnt provides a nice list of downloadable free fonts.
  • Tutorial9 has a photoshop tutorial to help you “Design an Epic Fantasy Scene“. Perhaps you may want to make it Celtic inspired for St. Patrick’s Day.
  • Spoonfed Design has a huge list of 110+ Awesome Resources for Popular Adobe Products.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Photoshop Tutorial: Lensbaby/Low Aperture Look

This photoshop tutorial demonstrates a quick and easy way to make a subject pop out of an otherwise boring photograph. It is roughly based on the look of a Lensbaby camera attachment, which is essentially a second lens on an adjustable accordian type housing. This produces an effect of one small, focused ovoid section surrounded by heavy lens distortion and aberration.

The first step is choosing the right photo. This method works well on product photographs, portraits, and some landscapes. Choose an image which has one main element to which you would like to add some drama.

Always begin any image editing with Layer>Duplicate Layer so you can start over if you choose.

Step 1. With the duplicate layer selected, press “q” to enter the Quick Mask mode. You will not notice any changes yet, but that is ok. Now press “g” to select the Gradient Tool, and make sure to choose the Radial gradient setting.

Step 2. Decide which area you want to define as the subject, click and drag from the center of this object and outward in any direction. It may take a few undos to get it exactly how you want, but the space covered roughly by the red gradient circle will be the area in focus on your final image.

Step 3. Press “q” to exit Quick Mask mode. There should be a selection circle around the subject of the photo. This is the part of the image that will remain in focus.

Step 4. Choose Filter>Blur>Lens Blur. Adjust the Radius slider until the area outside the focal point is slightly blurred. Use restraint, you don’t want to over do it.

Now your image has the look of a photo taken with a low aperture setting. The next few steps will add a simulated lens distortion look.

Step 5. Choose Filter>Blur>Radial blur. Adjust the Amount slider to somewhere in the range of 7 to 11, and select Zoom for the blur method. Do not click OK yet. Adjust the blur center grid so that the smallest central intersection dot is roughly in the same area of the panel as the focal point of your image. Now click OK.

Step 6. Select the entire image pressing ctrl-A.

Step 7. Add Filter>Distort>Lens correction. Pull the Chromatic Aberration sliders to the left. Play around with them until you find a look you like, just keep the sliders left of center.

Bingo there you have it. A Lensbaby look on a digital image.
From here you may want to Sharpen or maybe Add Noise to make it look more film authentic.

For more examples of Lensbaby photography, visit this Flickr group.
Thank you. Please leave comments/critiques.

Free Photoshop Brush: Robots & Monsters + tutorials

below is a sample featuring the images from a free photoshop brush featuring robots and monsters. i created all the creatures from the tutorial below, and then saved them as a brush. please click the sample image to download it and use it how you see fit, but please send me a link to your creation. i’d love to see it.

Also, be sure to checkout some of my other brushes:
Free photoshop brush: Ninja Wars
Free photoshop brush: Jupiter, A Florida brush collection

Free Photoshop Brush: Robots & Monsters

these brushes were made from following tutorials:

* Monster Character Series
* Draw Robot Photoshop Tutorial
* Draw a Cool Cartoon Robot
* Eve Robot from Wall-E

If you enjoy this brush, please consider making a donation.

The Most Prolific Poet of All Time


please help me to become the most prolific poet of all time: try out the VERBASIZER (click it)!

what is the verbasizer?

the verbasizer is a random poem generator. it is a simple php script i wrote while learning php programming. i initially got the idea after reading about a bit of software by the same name that david bowie used to sort words into parts of speech lists to make his famous, often cryptic, lyrics.

if this violates your copyright laws, mr. bowie, please don’t sue me; perhaps i can work with you and develop a new version. besides i don’t think the original was released to anyone.

wha? how?

basically it draws from lists of all the parts of speech and attempts, in a crude grammar algorithm, to form a poem. the lengths vary, the sentence constructions vary, and most importantly.. the quality varies! it ranges from sweet and profound to hipster esoteric to complete garbage.

here are a few random samples:

the shadowed abyss leads sadly
white-hot view resonates
ours receive
many evacuate unlike the conflict

the enlightened battle strikes
sadly past the shadowed feeling

after the blood
some suspend
towards the desert no one seeks

try it out for yourself.. THE VERBASIZER. the code is all open-source and available for you to manipulate, improve, destroy, or turn into whatever you like. you can even email your poem to your friends.

THE VERBASIZER click to try it.

follow me on TWITTER to get news about more free design resources.