15 January 2014

Snowy Owl

Some folks have expressed interest in the processes I use for various things that I make, so I thought this week I'd go through how I made my latest die-cut card, step by step. If you follow me on Twitter (@anagramforink), or have friended me on Facebook, you may have already seen some of what's in this post.

Everything starts with an idea, naturally, and the snowy owl popped into my head as a result of the stories I keep seeing about how this winter snowy owls have been migrating farther south than usual, showing up even as far down as New Jersey. We have snowy owls here in Nova Scotia, but I've never seen one (nor even heard one, as they are not very vocal, unlike our other local owls).

So, with images of owls popping up in my social media feeds, I started to get ideas about how I could make an owl card. First, I looked at lots of pictures, trying to figure out pose and angle. Then, once I'd decided I wanted a flying bird, I found some more specific reference images, and started to draw. Since I knew I wanted the card to be more or less symmetrical, I concentrated on one half of the owl, because I could use Photoshop to create the other half. 

When I had a sketch I was happy with, I firmed up the lines with a black pen, and then erased most of the pencil lines.

Next, I scanned the image, copied, pasted and reversed the half I'd drawn to make a complete owl, and cleaned up the lines. I used the fill tool to fill in the outline, creating a solid black shape. This makes it easier for my cutter software to create a file to cut from.

I saved the image as a tiff, and imported it into the cutter software, traced, resized, and started test cuts. Sometimes I get a usable design on the first go -- usually if it's something simple. More complex designs require more tests, especially if there are lots of small pieces to cut out, as there are on this owl. Once something gets too small, the cutting blade can't pivot quickly enough. In the case of the owl, I had to make the bars on the feathers larger.

I also wanted to try a simple silhouette version.

None of the initial designs was quite right, so I tried again. I'd already decided on the black background, though I used the blue and green again in my tests, since I had already folded the card. The moon was a whim, added as a way to bring out the eyes by having something else yellow in the image.

A few more tweaks, and I have the final design. I could play with it some more, but I know myself well enough to know that sometimes I have to say "good enough" or I'll just keep fiddling forever.

In a day or so, I'll cut out a whole bunch of these, and then start assembly. They're sized to fit a standard (#10) business sized envelope, and I'm out of plastic sleeves that size, so I'll have to order more before I can sell these. I'll have to get more envelopes, too.

(Apologies for the terrible photos. The first and last were shot just now, with my iPad, and the Blogger app doesn't work very well with the iPad's camera. Some really weird things happening with framing. The other two images I took earlier, still using the iPad camera, but from within the native camera app, so at least they're framed better.)


Carol said...

Great image, Niko! I'm always impressed with your cuts.

Nicole Silvester said...

Thanks! I have a lot of fun with them.