Tag Archives: Tools of the Trade

Tools Of The Trade #19: Spice Up Your Blog With Photoshop Actions Plus 5 Tips To Make the Most Of Them!

Nubby Twiglet | Spice Up Your Blog With Photoshop Actions Plus 5 Tips To Make the Most Of Them!

Today, we’re going to chat about Photoshop actions! I’ve been using the A Beautiful Mess Complete Collection of actions for about 6 months now and after giving most of them a test run, I wanted to share some examples of how I edit my photos daily for this blog. If you’re not familiar with actions, they are presets that you can quickly apply to any photo. Because you can adjust the opacity of layers, they can be as subtle or punchy as you’d like.

Below, I’m sharing some “mixes” as well as some tips to make the most of your actions!

Nubby Twiglet | Spice Up Your Blog With Photoshop Actions Plus 5 Tips To Make the Most Of Them!

Like many of you, I crave bright natural light but my house doesn’t always provide that. Light leaks can really brighten up the edges while a blue-toned filter can cool things down for a more editorial look.

Nubby Twiglet | Spice Up Your Blog With Photoshop Actions Plus 5 Tips To Make the Most Of Them!

Often, the difference with actions can be very subtle. I wanted the snow to feel brighter and the photo to have a warmer tone but the overall effect isn’t all that dramatic — it’s about slight adjustments.

Nubby Twiglet | Spice Up Your Blog With Photoshop Actions Plus 5 Tips To Make the Most Of Them!

Every once in awhile, a photo calls for extra drama and black and white actions can quickly add that impact.

Nubby Twiglet | Spice Up Your Blog With Photoshop Actions Plus 5 Tips To Make the Most Of Them!

Using actions, I was able to punch up the citrus hues and really show off the hardwood floors here.

Nubby Twiglet | Spice Up Your Blog With Photoshop Actions Plus 5 Tips To Make the Most Of Them!

It’s not necessary to go overboard with actions just because you have dozens to choose from! A few slight tweaks just add to the overall atmosphere.

Nubby Twiglet | Spice Up Your Blog With Photoshop Actions Plus 5 Tips To Make the Most Of Them!

Even in a great room, photos can feel a little flat. By adding the sun flare, the overhead light feels stronger and more welcoming.

Nubby Twiglet | Spice Up Your Blog With Photoshop Actions Plus 5 Tips To Make the Most Of Them!

Using dashes of color can can really tie the contents of an image together. I love this yellow spot!


5 Action Tips

Nubby Twiglet | Spice Up Your Blog With Photoshop Actions Plus 5 Tips To Make the Most Of Them!

If you’re a fan of actions like I am, here are five tips to make the most of them:

1. Don’t get intimidated.

If you’re new to actions, they’re ridiculously easy to use. This tutorial can have you up and running in a matter of minutes.

2. Study the style of others.

Take a look at the blogs you admire — what makes their photos stand out? Are they bright and airy or dark and moody? Are the tones saturated or subdued? Once you determine what you like visually, it will be easier to come up with your own style.

3. Develop your own unique mix.

For the most part, I never use a canned action as-is. I mix and match and develop a secret recipe. This is important for creating a signature look for your blog. On a daily basis, I always start with the same exact mix on each photo and then tweak it to bring out unique elements. Take the time to make your own blend — people will notice!

4. Don’t go crazy.

Just because you have dozens of actions at your fingertips doesn’t mean that you have to dip into each one! There are about five I default to at all times and then, for special occasions, I mix it up. If you add too many, the mix may become muddy and look amateur.

5. Simplicity equals a sense of timelessness.

Remember when Instagram came out and everyone applied heavy yellow-orange filters? Looking back now, those images look terribly dated….and I’m guilty of it, too. If you keep your processing very light and clean, it will age better as trends and tastes evolve.

I hope this study of actions has inspired you to come up with your own mix! If you have any questions about actions, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.


All actions: A Beautiful Mess.
All photos (except portrait): Shauna Haider. Portrait: Made U Look.

Tools Of The Trade #18: What WordPress Theme Is That?

Nubby Twiglet | Tools Of The Trade: What WordPress Theme Is That?

As a designer, when I land on a cool new blog and fall in love with the design, I’m often curious: is it built from scratch or is it a theme?

When Star was in town for a Branch meeting a few months back, I mentioned how much I liked a particular site and wanted to design something similar for a project. I couldn’t tell if it was based off a theme or not. Right then, she pulled up What WordPress Theme Is That? and answered my question. Within seconds, I’d located the theme.

Even better, What WordPress Theme Is That? not only detects what theme is being used but also what particular plugins the site is using. What a timesaver!


Featured site: What WordPress Theme Is That?.
For even more design resources, check out past Tools Of The Trade columns right here.

Tools Of The Trade #17: Death To The Stock Photo

Nubby Twiglet | Death To The Stock Photo

Why is it so difficult to find good quality stock photography at an affordable price?! So much of it is just downright cheesy. And, it can be very time consuming to dig up. That’s why I love Death To The Stock Photo so much.

Sign up and each month you will receive a link to download a bundle of free, high quality photos that you can use to illustrate blog posts, client projects, mockups and more. I’ve been a subscriber for a few months now and each pack is solid — no primary colored backdrops, creepy smiles or corporate handshakes in sight! You can get a good idea of the quality from the newest spring-themed pack above. Beautiful, right?

One of the most common questions we get from students at The Blogcademy is where they can find high quality images to illustrate their blog posts if they don’t have the means to take their own photos. Well, here’s your holy grail.

And, if you’re a designer mocking up projects and need some good general background images, they work great as well. I actually just used a few in the Chutzpah Creative post!

What are you waiting for? Sign up now and say goodbye to questionable stock photography forever.


All photos: Death To The Stock Photo
Check out even more Tools Of The Trade posts here.

Tools Of The Trade #16: Resources and Tips For Newsprint Projects

Nubby Twiglet | Resources and Tips For Newsprint Projects

When most of us think of newsprint, cheaply printed weekly papers or tabloids come to mind. We wouldn’t usually push it into the realm of high-end promotional pieces. That view is starting to shift, though as creatives want a more tactile way to share their work. While glossy, magazine-style paper looks great, some folks want something with a little more edge and grit. In a way, it’s exciting taking an old-school, tried-and-true medium and turning it on its head.

Nubby Twiglet | Resources and Tips For Newsprint Projects

Until recently, I knew nothing about the world of newsprint. I’d designed magazines and stacks of promo pieces but never anything that made its way to newsprint. But then Luke Copping, who always seems to be ahead of the curve when it comes to these sorts of things, came to me with the idea of doing a 32 page piece. It was time to scour the internet for suitable printers! Here’s what I learned along the way…


Recommended Printers

We quickly narrowed down our prospects to two printers and a combination of their samples are featured in this post.

The first is Linco Printing, which is based in New York. Linco is great if you’re located in the U.S. and want to work with an established printer with a great reputation — they also did the Design Sponge paper, which turned out beautifully. The downside is that traditional printers are used to doing huge runs (think weekly papers) so for it to be cost effective, you’re going to have to commit to a lot of papers, probably a thousand at the very least.

After getting an exorbitant quote back because our run was just too tiny, we did some more digging and landed on Newspaper Club. Now, this site has major style and is easy to use. Not only that, but they’re able to produce small runs in multiple formats. Score!

Nubby Twiglet | Resources and Tips For Newsprint Projects

Nubby Twiglet | Resources and Tips For Newsprint Projects

Because this was a higher end promotional piece featuring Luke’s photography, we went with the traditionally printed tabloid in the improved format. The improved format is on brighter, whiter stock and really pops. The weight of normal newsprint is about 30 gsm and this is 52 so it definitely has a more premium feel.

For you U.S. folks, Newspaper Club is based in the U.K. so when dealing with their guidelines, be warned that they are in millimeters. Their templates are super easy to use and as long as you follow their export instructions, you’ll end up with great results.

The one tricky part is that Newspaper Club doesn’t offer traditional proofs so triple-check what you’re uploading! Their customer service also checks your files and gives you the thumbs-up before it hits the press.

Nubby Twiglet | Resources and Tips For Newsprint Projects


Printing Tips

• Always start with a template provided by the printer if possible. A lot of them have specific margins set up and if your design moves into them, it won’t be able to be printed.

• There’s no need to have your images placed at any higher resolution than 300 dpi. Newsprint isn’t meant to be the highest quality so you won’t see improved results with higher resolution.

• Most newspapers are printed in multiples of 4 pages. Design accordingly!

• What you see on your brightly lit computer screen won’t always translate as well to newsprint. Newsprint tends to be thin and absorb a lot of ink so coverage can vary.

• It’s a good idea to stick with images that have a lot of contrast. If they’re too dark, they can look muddy on newsprint.

• If you use any black and white photos in your pieces, they have to be set to grayscale.


Newsprint Samples

If you want to compare samples like I did above, you’re in luck! Request some from Newspaper Club here and from Linco Printing here.

If you do print anything, let me know. I’d love to see it! And I’ll be sharing the outcome of Luke’s piece on the Branch blog soon!

Tools Of The Trade #15: Present&Correct Office Supplies

Nubby Twiglet | Tools Of The Trade: Present&Correct

Readers are always emailing and tweeting me, inquiring about where they can find cool office supplies. If you’re on the hunt for goodies that are anything but run of the mill, Present&Correct is an absolute treasure trove.

They take great care to photograph their finds, many of which are one-of-a-kind and sourced throughout Europe. New life is given to long-forgotten supplies like French post office labels. And if vintage prints and ephemera are your thing, you’ll also love their blog.

Nubby Twiglet | Tools Of The Trade: Present&Correct

Small businesses with a clear passion for what they do make the world go round. And even better, Present&Correct now have a brick and mortar shop in London.

P.S. Their Pinterest boards are off the hook!

Tools of the Trade #14: Dribbble

Nubby Twiglet | Dribbble

Designers have been using Dribbble for a few years now to share snippets of their works in progress. Even though I’ve been a big fan of the platform for quite some time, I only joined very recently because like many of you, I didn’t think I could possibly take on another social media platform — managing another account on top of everything else stressed me out. But every time I clicked through and checked out the amazing work others were sharing, I felt the pull of wanting to be a part of the community and finally joined in the fun.

For creatives, one of the highlights of Dribbble is that it provides an environment to get constructive feedback on your in-progress projects — it reminds me of the absolute best parts of design school. Engaging in an immediate critique with your design peers is so valuable.

There are a few other benefits of Dribbble as well:

• They have a job board that employers have to pay to post on so the offerings are really high quality.

• It’s a great place to make connections. I’ve already engaged with so many designers I never knew existed before I joined. The community is a friendly, welcoming bunch.

• If you upgrade to a pro account, you can have an icon next to your name that shows you’re available for hire.

• Businesses looking for a reputable designer can search and see who’s active and shares a style that meshes with theirs.

• A lot of work that gets shared on Dribbble inevitably makes its way to Pinterest and opens up a much larger audience for the designer.

Are any of you on Dribbble? Let us know in the comments so we can check out your work!


Credits: 1. Branch, 2. J Fletcher Design, 3. Anthony Lane, 4. Emma Robertson, 5. Hendrick Rolandez, 6. Branch and 7. Mary Frances Foster.

Tools of the Trade #13: DODOcase

Nubby Twiglet | DODOcase

When it comes to protecting your tech gear, who wants to sacrifice style? Since the day I bought my iPad, I’ve used a DODOcase to keep it safe. Handmade in San Francisco, DODOcase exteriors resemble hardcover books (which it seems these days, are going the way of the extinct bird). My version is a special Pan Am edition, which is quite fitting with as much travel as I do! There are dozens of options for iPhones, Kindles and more.

DODcases are super slim but really tough. I love how well-made they are and there’s no plastic in sight — the interiors feature a carved wooden frame to keep devices snugly in place.

Nubby Twiglet | DODOcase

Because a lot of you use iPads to tote around your digital portfolios, I like that DODO offers a customization service that can add your branding to your case. If colorblocking and bold, geometric patterns are more your style, try the customizer.

What do you use to protect your tech devices? Any other cool recommendations?


All images: DODOcase.
More Tools of the Trade posts can be found here.