"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

Adinkra iconic symbols

I found a great site for West African "Adinkra symbols" and their meanings. You can browse the index to see all the symbols, or use the search field to find icons related to "love" (the site's most popular search term), for example, or "death", which, quite interestingly, is in the form of a ladder.

Read about how Adinkra cloth is made and see some examples at the wonderful Adire, and learn more at the University of Denver's Adinkra page of its "Social Fabric" exhibit.

Not Adinkra, but maybe a little reminiscent of stamp/fabric patterns are some nice little backgrounds I made last night (whilst staying up much, much too late - like "here comes the sun"-late).

Posted by taz on July 20, 2004 at 03:01 AM in Art, Patterns, Textiles | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

dear daisy....

I've been playing with some large daisy border tiles that I think are pretty nice (Hi, Daisy! Hi Daisy!). Here's the vertical, and here's the horizontal; and here is one example, and here is another. (I actually made these a little too deep to fit well on the screen - you might want to view these in full screen mode....)

A couple of things picked up from MetaFilter: this page can tell you whether a site is good or evil ( is 1% evil, and 99% good - but then, so is, so take that as you may...), and iconomy's post on found alphabets. Also from ico, computer mascots! And now I'd like to invite everybody to go steal Shane's wonderful snail mail mailing label.

Posted by taz on June 27, 2004 at 03:59 AM in Patterns | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Paper Moon

Sue says "it occurred to me that some subtle, paper-like stripes would be extraordinarily useful in the Overalls format", which is not a bad idea at all. I haven't done much of anything in the way of parchment, marbling, or paper tiles because I've seen them done elsewhere much better than I can do them, but I can definitely see where having a semi-transparent version could be very helpful. So, for a regular thin-line notebook ruled paper pattern I went to the very best place I know for paper backgrounds, Webpaper, by Jay Boersma at re-Vision (you have to check out his "portals" here! Yep, keep clicking...)., where I picked up his narrowed-ruled white and made it into an OverAlls version. While I was it, I made some various parchment-y, and vertical-stripey OverAlls. It all begins here.

____________ l a t e r ____________

Okay, this has put me in an OverAlls frame of mind today, so here's another, a nice, big roaming pattern. This looks good with a lot of colors, but I especially like it with #FF0000 (second to the last box in the first column of colors) and some of its neighbors, as well as with many of the darker hues, such as #006666 and #006699 (middle of the top row).

Posted by taz on June 18, 2004 at 02:06 AM in Patterns | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Inspiration Gallery

Two new pattern sets up for your delectation today, "fleurbish", and "Mayor of Mobile" (never mind - I give up trying to figure out the reasons for my own titles...). I vote for "mayor" as an extra-fine little group - great for cross-pollination!

And now a link that should keep you busy for quite a while: The Inspiration Gallery has wonderful, wonderful tile patterns, a button maker, repeating borders, and a "web page color composer", but as much as I adore these things (and you know that I do), the site earns my eternal gratitude with its online "Jeopardy" game. I was obviously not thinking too clearly when I left the U.S., failing to realize that I was also leaving Alex Trebek. My old sorrow wakes and cries... But this helps!

Posted by taz on June 15, 2004 at 03:59 AM in Clip art, Games, Patterns | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Color me Illuminated!

Hey, look at this great-looking blog that is using one of my favorite background tiles! Very nice - bravo, Blue Pencil!

Today I have something just a little bit different for you that started with this very interesting site about iconography that I'm having a good time exploring. Most of the images here are from illuminated manuscripts, which I love, and so I decided to borrow a portion of an illustrated border I found here to create a repeating design. Although they will tiles both horizontally and vertically, these patterns are really meant to be used as border tiles. I've made these 120 pixels wide, but they will look great in any border space from 85 to 180 pixels wide (you can go narrower or wider - I just don't like how they look as much). Now, let me explain the tiles that you see on the download page: the first one basically keeps the the original colors of the original manuscript, including background color, the second is an intensity-inverted version, and I gave the third one a typical web-page-white background.

The next two, however, are horses of a different color, which is to say that they these are examples showing how you can key one of the basic tiles to fit in with whatever color you are using on your site. For example, for these last two tiles I imagined that I had a site that was using #336699 as a main color, so, in PhotoShop, I began with the black-background tile, and with my first color on the toolbar set at #336699, I used Image: Adjust: Hue/Saturation, and clicked on the "Colorize" box, then I went to Edit: Fade Colorize, and faded the effect to 54%. Then I did exactly the same thing with the white-background tile. Of course you will need to change the mode of the .gif image first (under "Image") to RGB.

By the way, you may have trouble opening images in the site I linked to using Mozilla - I had to switch to IE to get the nice little drop-down image box (which you can enlarge).

Posted by taz on May 31, 2004 at 04:41 AM in Art, Collections, Patterns, Tips | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Prodigal returns... with gifts!

I'm sorry I've been away so long! I've been busy, of course, and then, it's always hard for me to recapture the blog momentum after an extended leave, so part of it was just inertia. But I come bearing gifts! I have a slew of new patterns, and though of course I'm prejudiced, I really like all of these. First of all, we some nice, lighthearted retro patterns for spring: Unsquare in both a light and dark version; peachy keen Little Dora (this one also looks great if you change the color 180 degrees); and my favorite, Cindylou, with an example box here. And with summer creeping up, you may be interested in my hot, hot, hot Bahia Baby (with example box). I really like the stripe-y, fabric-y look of the first tile. Finally, I have a couple of lovely "designer-sheets"-style patterns, which may sound kind of strange, but some of the nicest patterns I see around can be found on sheets that are much too expensive for me to buy! Anyway, take a look at Fleurbelle and Sedonia, with example boxes here and here.

And if all that wasn't enough to get back on your good side, let me just point out two other great pattern sites: Pattern-Bomb, with wonderful little small-scale designs, and Barracuda, with some really lovely tiles offered in a selection of colors. I've listed both of these spots in the LinkBlog, but wanted to point them out here in case you missed them; you should spend some time poking around the other pages of both of those sites to find other cool treats. So, there you go. Are we friends again?

Posted by taz on May 19, 2004 at 02:40 AM in Patterns | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack