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March 29, 2008


I've really let this section go, and it's stupid, because this is one of my favorite things. Tools!!!! When I am not inspired to sculpt, I like to reorganize my tools, or make new tools, or whatever. I'm a tool junkie. What I want to share today is a couple of neat little things that I've come up with on my down time. First is my new brush holder.

I found these really neat little grippers at Walmart. They come 3 in a pack, so I stuck them onto a glass picture frame, and now I can dry my brushes with the tips down instead of the tips up. All of my brushes would get curly ends after using them, and a gal on one of the groups I'm on told me that it was the way I was storing them. Soooooo....that problems solved. LOL

Here's another new tool that I made last week.

These are ordinary number 2 pencils, that I carved with an exacto blade. This way I can stamp my signature on the bottom of my clay instead of writing it. Cool huh? :o)

I've been working on my newest chibi, and am in the process of painting his little eyes, and while I was doing so, I realized the one tool that is most important for me.
It's the simple toothpick. Yes I do use a very find small paintbrush, but it's the toothpick that is invaluable to me.
When using premade eyes that are white, my first step is to paint the entire eye black. I allow the paint to go into the creases. Then I allow the paint to dry. The next step is where my favorite tool, the toothpick comes in. I use the toothpick to "erase" or scrape the black off of the eyes, except around the edges and in the creases. I also clean up any spots where I was a little messy on the lids.
The toothpick works incredibly well for scraping away painting mistakes. You would be amazed at how little pressure you need if you're working with acrylics. I use the toothpick to also place my white shine dots on the eye.
If you put a toothpick in water, and mash the end back and forth in your pliers, you can turn it into a tiny scruffy brush. Now that makes pretty little random marks when painting.

I also adore my color shaper tools. I have 2 that I specifically use with each and every doll, no matter whether it's a chibi, or a fairy.
You can view them here:
The ones that I use ALL the time are the Taper Point, and the Cup Chisel. I use the other ones as well, but not on every project. The Taper point, is so perfect for blending the clay. I use it to shape my eyes, and get into all those tiny places. The Cup Chisel is invaluable for my Chibis, as I use this tool to make their little toes.

Another group of "favorite tools" I have are my hand made tools. I've made many out of wood, simply using little dowels that I purchased at Walmart in the candy making section of the craft department. Working with little files and sandpaper, I've made various shapes.
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Camera Tips

I've been asked about how I get such clear pictures of my sculptures. It's funny, because it's something I've never really thought about. But I'm going to try and cypher out some of the things I do intuitively so that I can possibly help.

First and foremost is having a good camera. You don't need the most expensive camera, or the highest megapixel, but it should have a few features that help in taking closeup photos.

I used a small Kodak Easy Share DX3900 camera for 3 years that was pretty simple to use and took wonderful photos. Although this camera was very simple to use, it did have it's limitations. Mainly being that I had to provide just the right light to get a great photo.

I have since upgraded to a Canon PowerShot S2 IS. When I made this purchase I had the opportunity to get the S3 for around the same price, but I chose the S2 because I was very impressed with it's results using super Macro. It also has the ability to set the focus manually as well as more control over shutter speed and other controls that I won't detail here. (boring...confusing...can be found elsewhere) :o)

What is super macro ? It's a setting that allows the camera to take very very very close up pictures. The S2 had the ability to actually focus on an item that was touching the lense. There are other cameras that I'm sure can do the same thing. This is just the camera I chose.

Currently, because I don't have a studio, I am not using a lightbox or any special set up to take my pictures. This is a really good thing for me, because it's forcing me to learn how to use my camera in many ways. Depending on the time of day, I choose a place to take my photos that has the most light.

For example, this photo was taken after midnight in my laundry room on my washing machine. Since I've been using the Canon, I do not have to do as much photo correction as I did when using the Kodak. That is because the Canon has settings, that make allowances for the type of light I'm using.

I used a flash when taking this photo because the light was dim enough that the flash wouldn't wash it out.

When I take photos, I take about 50 of each doll, if it's a difficult one to get good pictures of, I've taken as many as 200 pictures. I use my view screen extensively to determine if I'm getting a good picture.

Sometimes I find that using the Macro setting is just what I need, and sometimes I find that it makes the photo worse. Since my chibis tend to be in positions where their heads are farther forward than their body, a macro shot will often focus on the head and blur the body. When this is the case, I shut the macro setting off and use the standard focus.

This little chibi's picture was taken in my living room at around 1am using a desk lamp. Because the light wasn't as bright as I needed, and I did not use a flash, I did have to use a graphics editor to brighten up the images.

My photo editor of choice is PhotoImpact (just in case you were curious). It's not the best editor out there, but it's very good and offers a lot of options. I have used Photoshop in the past for many years, but found that the features that I needed didn't justify the price. PhotoImpact has served me well for over 7 years not.

For this dragon, I used my tripod at the table. The reason being, I knew I couldn't use a flash (he's way to light) and I needed to set the shutter speed slower as to absorb more light. Whenever you're changing manual setting such as shutter speed, it's often necessary to use a tripod, or at least a couple of books or some sort of stand to set the camera on.

This is the way the picture looked before it was taken into PhotoImpact.
After the photos were shot, I used the brightness tool, and adjusted it to bring the light forward. I also had to use a color correcting tool, because as I'm sure you notice, the wood of the table created a yellow hue over the dragon.

Photographing on black also has a tendency to put orange and yellow hues in your photos. If you experiment with background colors, you will see how each color affects the shot.

I pretty much shoot on whatever color I like and then make corrections in PhotoImpact to compensate.

I'm sure there are those who can give you really great instructions on all the settings of your camera, but I really find that I shoot pictures intuitively and on the fly. I make corrections to my settings as I go, based upon my results.

This little guys pictures were taken outside. Natural light can be the easiest to take pictures in but it has it's setbacks as well.

With natural light, you have no control of where it's coming from, and there are certain times of day when it's almost impossible to get a good shot. The shadows are much heavier and you must also be conscience of your own shadow and the shadow of the camera on your image.

If the timing is just right, taking pictures outside can be as easy as click click click click, and they all come out well.

This is an example of a dragon that photographed well outside, because of his color, and the time of day.

This is an example of a dragon who's pictures I should NOT have taken outside. I chose the wrong background color to photograph on as well. With the direct sunlight, it not only made the blue background overyly saturated, It also washed out the chibis photo.

When I took these pictures, I KNEW they weren't good. I also knew that my auction would suffer because of it. Good photos are essential to show potential buyers the quality of your work.

Sometimes when it comes to taking photos, I admit, I do get lazy. Because I'm working on a schedule for listing, or because my hubby's home, or for whatever reason. This poor little guy, I feel bad for taking shortcuts on him. But whoever wins him will be happily suprised how much cuter he is in person.

In taking pictures of my last little chibi, I found that using a nice white background worked very well. I used a piece of cardstock that I have for my printer, in my kitchen under the daylight florescent bulb that we have installed there. I also found that I could shoot using my camera's Custom mode. In this mode, I set the exposure to as high as it would possibly go, and turned on my macro lense, and then shot without any flash. I think the pictures came out very true to the actual doll without any image work in PhotoImpact. I'm so pleased I will try this with my next doll as well!

Something else I discovered tonight when photographing my newest Chibi, that I'm excited about. It's called "white balance". Now I've heard the term, and understood what it meant in my graphics software, but had not tried it on my camera yet.

YAY! It's super, the way that it works, is that I place something white in the same area that I'm taking the pictures. Then I go to my white balance setting, and tell my camera to evaluate. I point to the white object, and press the shutter. Then the camera automatically adjusts the light, so when it sees that color, it make it the lightest color in the image, and the correct shade.

The first picture is without the white balance, and the picture below is once I set it and started taking pictures. There's a big difference in his color, and I always find it exciting to take pictures with my camera that need very little photo work. :o)

I would suppose that the coloring is not quite as important when photographing a human figure as they are mostly flesh colored, but with these little dragons, the color of them is often the most important thing to the buyer.
Anytime I can use my camera to "get it right" I'm very happy, as I am not confident with my own eye. Often times I just KNOW something is purple, and other's are calling it blue, so I have to be very careful.

March 20, 2008

Much Better Now

I want to thank everyone who contributed by sending me the pictures they had on their hard drives and cds of my Chibis.

I now have pictures of almost all my items from 2007 and 2008, although the full size original images have been lost into the great void.

I'm very grateful to all who contacted me and took so much of their time to send these to me. It was so nice and I was so happily surprised. :o)

Thanks to everyone!
Chibitude level: 5/10