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"Daughter of Bodyborders", and more!

For any of you who were following the CSS experiment in trying to use a body border as a background for a sidebar, headsfromspace has done the legwork on this (bless his polyvalved little alien heart!), and, as I feared, there's not much to be done about the problem in IE5, but he's come up with an alternative using a wrapper, and it's just as easy and simple as the original idea. Have a look at "Daughter of Bodyborders". It looks like this should work just about everywhere.

I've been far too into the blue/brown/grey/green muted thing lately, I think, so I wanted to come up with something pretty and lighthearted and a little exotic. I'm very happy with the results of my efforts in the set "Sea of Stories". I think these are pretty damn charming, and what's cute is that when you stack the first and third tiles, you get a little scalloped edge, as you can see in this example box.

I also need to mention that Anne has tipped me off to a great little pattern toy called Image Styles which you can download and try out. I've been having a party on my screen playing with it, though I've only scratched the surface of possibilities, I think. You can generate backgrounds with all sorts of effects with this, and you can also load up an existing image or pattern and go to work mutating that, with lots of fun results. It would have taken me quite some time to figure that out, though, so I'll quote Anne on how to do this:

"Start with a background tile of any size. Open a new image in the program the exact size of the background tile. Next scroll down the "effects" window on the right and click "image file" click image file again at the top of the new box and load in the background tile you're using. Next, click "add" at the bottom, then scroll down the effects list to "kaleidiscope" and click that. Now play with the sliding bars. As you make a change you can see what it would look like on a web page say, by hitting preview. To get out of preview click the esc (escape) key. Isn't it cool?"
The answer is "Yes!". Way cool.

Everybody loves creepy dolls. It's just an immutable rule of the Internet. We love creepy dolls and kittens. So go play with Scotland's Odd Wee Babydolls Who Just Aren't Quite Right from Shane. Silly, silly boy.

Posted by taz on August 25, 2004 at 03:10 AM in CSS, My Layouts, Patterns, Silly, Web Toys | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Mish-Mash Grab-Bag Catch-Up

Okay, here's the deal: I'm so far behind with everything that I've been wanting to post here that it's threatening to overwhelm and depress me, so in an effort to regain my equanimity I'm going to take advantage of the fact that Mr. Citrus Moon is working all day today, and make one long, rambling entry, adding items little by little in an effort to crawl out from under the pile a bit and maybe get my happy-happy groove back. I'm going to drink 2.5 glasses of wine (because that's how much I think I can drink and still leave enough for the pasta sauce I will also be tossing together today) and just throw a bunch of different stuff in here all higgeldy-piggeldy like (but really only because it gives me a chance to say "higgeldy-piggeldy"). Are You Ready? ...Okay, here goes:

In the spirit of the day, I give you, first of all, the Higgeldy Piggeldy verse collection to get you in the mood, and a pattern set lately in search of a name.

Op Ancient is a set that reminds me both of ancient mosaics and op art; I've made an example layout that stacks three of these tiles, but I didn't have time to actually do the CSS, so it's just a .gif, for the moment at least.

Blueberry Picker (hi, Aimee!) is a set I've been holding back on, because I have a kind of cool layout idea for this that I would like to mark up, but never mind - maybe later.

Hewn & Hammered is a site I've been meaning to post forever. It's a very attractive blog "all about Prairie, Craftsman and Mission Architecture, Art and Design", which is a great idea. I eagerly look forward to their promised "Textiles" gallery. Now, ordinarily, I should have something perfect to go with this post, but let's go for a near-miss instead: Snowdrop is a pattern that I put together using this French art nouveau fabric sample (from another site) as a source. It took me quite a while, because even though the swatch looks very straight and even, it actually isn't, which is always a problem when you want to use the actual original design from piece of fabric. In an image reproduction there are almost always irregularities on the vertical and/or horizontal axis, so it's usually quite a challenge to get something that will repeat properly. I loved this, though, and kept at it. If I had time, I'd do this pattern in about 20 different color variations. Anyway, have a look at the whole site -there are some beautiful things in there. Here is the category index.

I recently read Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike, which is basically a "prequel" to Shakespeare's Hamlet, and this is exactly the sort of book I love - a delectable of fusion of fiction, mythology, history and ethnology, all wrapped up in a fascinating, atmospheric tale. While still in the grip of the story, I created the dark version of this pattern set, which (at the time, at least) reminded me of a sort of medieval embroidered wall hanging. I named it "Grendel" in honor of that famous Danish beast of mythology. As regards the patterns, though, I have a problem. I have two monitors, both recently (supposedly) calibrated with the Adobe Gamma program. On one of my monitors, the dark versions in this set are perfect; on the other, almost too dark to make out. Which one is right(er)? I'd like to fix the brightness, if they are actually too dark, but I don't want to make them lighter than what I'm seeing on my primary monitor.... If you are seeing them as too-dark, do let me know. And, oh! I almost forgot! I have example boxes, dark and light.

Here's a set I made some time ago called "Song of herself"
; I don't remember anything about making this, or why I called it that. I also have no example boxes or layouts to show you on this one, so let me just take this moment to link to a fun zefrank tile toy: just keep rolling your mouse over the tiles to see the various permutations of each design. Then go have a look at the collage maker, the extra-cool "scribbler" (here's my scribbler output - nicey-nice) and all the other many, many groovy things at zefrank.

Here's a pattern couple I've called "Hansel" because for some reason they sort of remind me of a German fairy tale in which everything is quaint and rustic and pretty, and then, sure enough, someone has to come along who wants to burn you alive and then eat you. Here's an example box, but it's just a .gif, because I'm too lazy to do anything else at the moment.

So there you have it. I've finished my 2.5 glasses of wine, and I've made a tiny dent in my backlog pile, though not much headway with my "link-to" pile. On that front, let me at least leave you with MocoLoco, an elegant blog for modern contemporary design. Wallcoverings and floorcoverings are two of my favorite categories here, natch.

Ciao for now, babies.

Posted by taz on August 22, 2004 at 04:37 AM in Patterns, Site News | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

A Tip or Two on Making Patterns

This morning I had an email message asking about tips for creating tiles, and I thought it might be useful to publish the information here. These are the main tools I use: Many of Photoshop's regular plugins, but especially the "Distort" set; Sandy Blair's unspeakably useful Simple Filters; VanDerLee's "Unplugged" collection; Cybia's Alphaworks; and a set called "DSB Flux" from a group called "Digital Showbiz" that no longer seems to be with us. You can see the various Flux effects illustrated here, and if you search "DSB Flux download" you should be able to find it on the web (if not, drop me an email). I use other plugins sometimes, but these are my stalwart companions.

I also play around with any and all pattern generators that I find. Several of them are listed on my linkblog. Often I begin with a portion of an image that I like and then try to create some sort of pattern using that; some typical sources for these sorts of images would be botanical prints, illuminated pages, fabric swatches, and vintage illustration. Sometimes I spot some sort of pattern in real life that I try to duplicate digitally, and for fun I will often begin with blobs or strokes of colors that I happen to like together and see if I can make a pattern emerge from that randomness. I also use dingbat fonts as source material; something like "Pict Swirl", for example, (which you can find on this page can be very useful. I play around a great deal with layer transparency, color inversions, and sizing. I will frequently impose one pattern over another using layer transparency or the Alphaworks transparency filters. I often use PhotoShop's difference clouds to try to create a more nuanced effect when I don't want flat colors - this is usually how I get what I think of as the "silk" effect.

To risk being a little too poetic about the whole thing, for me, the process feels very much like I'm trying to "release" the pattern that I can almost see in an image. I have found that if you do it a lot, certain aspects of pattern design become like a second nature and you really don't have to think about it very much. In my early days, I would work very hard to force an image into a repeating concept, while these days it feels more like I just float along with it, following some more natural flow, which is why it's so very relaxing, and, in fact, quite meditative. Kind of "surfing the pattern", really. If I were starting this whole idea up fresh today, I would be tempted to call it something like "ZenPattern". Or something much more clever.

At any rate, if anyone has any specific questions, I will do my best to answer them; I'm sorry that my information so often has to do with Photoshop, but I'm sure just about whatever graphics program you use will have similar functions. If patternmaking intrigues you, I urge you to keep playing until you find your "voice", so to speak. Also, of course, I really want to put together a guest tile gallery, as I've mentioned before, so go on and get to work!

Posted by taz on August 20, 2004 at 02:34 AM in Patterns, Photoshop, Tips | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Barcode Stripes

I became fascinated with stripes recently, and made like, um... 30 different patterns? I picked out the ones I liked best to start off a possible "stripes series". I made these mostly in shades of brown and beige, but they colorize very, very easily (the text on the post page points out one that I quickly colored up with #669999 green). So, I was playing around with various techniques for creating the stripe patterns, and one of the things that I did that was kind of fun was to use an image output from a barcode generator as a starting point, just using the fill tool to color in the individual bars with hues from a given palette. The very best generator for doing this comes from Barcodes, Inc.. You can control the size and the resolution, and get your image in PNG or JPG. Perfect!

Also, go have a look at my latest page of Bloggrounds: 16 nice, small patterns in a color array I think of as "muted acid tones"; there's probably a real word describing this sort of palette, but I have no idea what it is.

And finally, here's one from the bookmarks (I haven't posted this already, have I?): "Wordworks" is an exhibition that includes "paintings, drawings, sculpture, and prints by 27 artists for whom words or text is a significant element in their work". An interesting idea with lots of possibilities.

Posted by taz on August 17, 2004 at 01:09 AM in Art, Patterns, Web tools | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Saving Grace

Here's a pretty little Sunday package for you: a new background group I've called Saving Grace. You may be able to tell that I like this set by the fact that it appears I've made way too many of them. Yes, it's true. What I love about these patterns is that they have a very comforting "English countryside subdued-chintz wallpaper-and-upholstery" sort of feeling, but when you begin combining them, they can become wonderfully "kimono-combo". Here's an example square that sort of shows this idea, I think.

I'm so far behind on posting any of my bookmarks, but let me just grab a couple that I've visited recently: The Medieval Bestiary and a timeline of Flemish manuscript painting, then, exiting our time machine for a bit, the wonderful Picture Mechanics, a site featuring some of the best known contemporary illustrators. What's great here is that you get links to everybody's personal sites, so if you find someone you are crazy about, you can go see more. Calef Brown is one of my favorites, and so is Cathie Bleck.

Posted by taz on August 15, 2004 at 03:01 AM in Art, Collections, History | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another CSS faux IFrame layout

And another new pattern set today. This one reminds me of ancient mosaics, so I've named it What Remains. I made an example box using a couple of these patterns, but then I liked the look so much that I decided to expand it into a full-fledged layout. Since I wanted to keep the box idea, I decided to use our faux IFrame idea again, to create this nice page. I also did a version with a colored scrollbar for IE6, though the validator is not at all happy about that idea. Pretty, though. (Of course, as always, anyone is completely free to use this layout if they would like.)

Posted by taz on August 12, 2004 at 04:35 AM in CSS, My Layouts, Site design | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

CSS experiments using a Body Border

So, I've been pretty busy the last few days with this and that, but one of the "this-es" and quite a few of the "thats" have to do with a very interesting, but ultimately disappointing CSS idea. As I was idly playing with a page layout idea somewhere along the line, I wondered what would happen if I put a border on the body element... Well, I tried this out - over a couple of days, actually - and ended up with about 30 pages of experiments doing various things. Some of these ideas worked brilliantly in Mozilla, and some were very cool in IE. Then I worked out one idea that I thought worked perfectly in both, that is a really handy little way to solve an irritating problem. By creating a sidebar using a border on the body you can get over that nastiness with the background color on the sidebar not extending to the bottom of the page. In this example layout, I just gave left and right borders to the body, with the left border wide enough to act as a sidebar menu, then I used absolute positioning on the sidebar section, and voila, a sidebar whose background color extends as long as the main text area, even if the sidebar contents are much shorter. Sadly, though, this simply won't work in IE5. If you are using IE6, you can see how it looks on this page in quirks mode. If you are using IE5, well, you see how it is...

This is really a shame, because the layout is so straightforward and easy that it's really beautiful. if anyone figures out a way to make it work in IE5, please let me know! I did come up with a couple of fixes that were either too compicated and silly, or just totally defeated the whole purpose in IE. So far I can't figure out anything that preserves the lovely simplicity.

In other news, we have new patterns that I love, love, love!

Posted by taz on August 10, 2004 at 02:05 PM in CSS, My Layouts | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sunshine... makes me happy...

Yo! I'm here, I'm here! I've been out the last couple of days enjoying the sunshine, and the "just-enough" breeze that's been keeping everything from melting down like a Dali landscape as it usually does around this time of year. I've also been surprised to see so many people around the city, since it's usually a ghost town for the month of August when everyone who can goes to the mountains or seaside. It must have to do with the Olympics, which will be beginning here (in Greece) in a few days; either people don't want to deal with all that extra tourism, or everything is too expensive to bother.

However, even though I haven't been here, I haven't been idle; I have sooo much stuff for you! First of all there's two new pages of bloggrounds, here and here, plus I have a nice set of "jade lotus" patterns, with an example box here. These designs came about after I was playing with one of the new green blogground tiles in this example box, and used the lotus image as an accent in the black bar. Then I thought, "well, why not make a pattern or two out of it?". If you are interested, you can find that font at the bottom of this page. And speaking of dingbat fonts, here's another nice type site with lots of ornamental and specialty fonts.

But wait, there's more! In the spirit of these sweet, white summer days, I also have sunny Carmelita, and if you don't like the patterns, well, you have to love the name, don't you? Here's your Carmelita example box. Don't you think that bottom accent pattern is precious? And you know what? Just because it's Thursday, and you're you (don't ever change!), I'll slide you this secret little pattern that I like a lot but which has just been sitting around gathering dust; I call it "pea hen" because it's not as flashy as a peacock, but has it's own understated charm.

Posted by taz on August 5, 2004 at 04:28 AM in Fonts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

60 Ways to Serve Ham

All right, now I'm just being silly. Inspired by artist Hanoch Piven (mentioned yesterday), I decided to give myself the challenge of creating a scene using every object in the Ontological Museum Department of Objects, except for the three drawings at the end of the list. My self-imposed rules were that I could rotate the objects, but not reduce or enlarge them in relation to each other, and I had to use the whole object - and not just cut out a piece to use for an arm or a head, for example. I did pretty well with with this; I only cheated with the sun (from the nautical chart), and I used everything except the recipe booklet cover. Yet, that didn't go to waste, either, for I have named my masterpiece "60 Ways to Serve Ham".

So, go check out the other groovy stuff from The Ontological Museum (and have a look at things they need), and its associated site, the International Museum of Collage. Mmmm. Collage.

Posted by taz on August 2, 2004 at 06:46 AM in Art, Projects, Silly | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Heads up! New example pages.

Here's an update on some more cool example pages using our tiles from headsfromspace: This page shows an example of a vertical text script, viewable in IE, and I love these new I-frame mimic pages using Chinaberry and Chrysanthemum Storm, plus there's this nice "sidewinder" gallery layout, which is neat way to handily fit a series of images onto a single page, and our heads was kind enough to go ahead and do the CSS on that "over the orient" layout .gif I showed you the other day: go take a look.

Posted by taz on August 1, 2004 at 05:57 AM in CSS, Site design | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack