Linen versus Cotton Canvas

The word canvas does not refer to any specific material in the field of textile fabrics but is applied to a number of closely woven materials of relatively coarse fiber that are used for sails, tents, awnings etc. In painting, the term canvas generally refers to the material upon which artists paint, stretched across a wooden frame. It can be pre-primed or unprimed.


Unprimed linen and cotton canvas


Linen is by far, the better-quality support material because of its strength and resistance to decay. Woven from flax, the weave can show throughout many layers of paint. Most paintings created before the 1850s were made from linen which includes almost all of our most celebrated paintings in museums today. Since that time, Cotton has replaced linen’s popularity due to low manufacturing costs.

Primed with an oil primer this is the classical standard for oil paintings made using linen. An acrylic primer which is less expensive than oil primer, can be used with either acrylic or oil paints. Linen is difficult to prime and stretch properly, but it offers the smoothest and stiffest painting surface, one with proven longevity. Typically, an artist would not use a low cost primer on linen because it is so expensive. It would be similar to setting a rather large, high-grade diamond in a brass ring. If you’re going to invest

Some of the qualities linen has that makes it so attractive to painters are:

  • Linen is the most durable fabric to put paint on. Linen’s warp and weft threads are equal in weight so less susceptible
  • to the expanding/contracting problems created by moisture
  • Linen is very receptive to sizing and priming applications
  • Linen retains its natural oils which preserve the fiber’s flexibility and keeps the canvas from becoming brittle
  • Linen has a more “natural” weaved finish than cotton and is available in a variety of textures, weights and smooth or
  • rough finish

Cotton is desirable because of its affordable price and its ease of stretching.

Much less expensive than linen, it has become the most popular support for oil and acrylic painting. A properly prepared cotton canvas has longevity similar to linen, and is more flexible and easier to stretch properly. However, cotton is considered too flexible for very large paintings and is prone to sagging.

It is possible to stretch cotton tighter than linen, without straining the wooden support, because cotton fibers stretch more easily than linen fibers. Although not as strong as linen, a heavy grade cotton can make up for it’s lack of strength with its weight.

  • For both oil and acrylic painting, an acrylic gesso primer is generally used

Cotton duck. There are 10 grades of cotton duck which distinguish from one, the most heavy, to ten, the most lightweight. The grades refer to the weight and thickness of the cotton duck, and are standardized across most of the textile industry. Grades are assigned on the basis of how much a piece of fabric of a specific size weighs. Individual traditional names for each grade are still
used by some people, but they do not have specific grades attached.

Typical cotton duck for artists are:

  • #8 Extra-heavy: difficult to stretch)
  • #10 Heavy: stretchable but requires strength)
  • #12 Medium: typical weight for paintings)
  • #14 Light: easiest to stretch, prone to ripping under tension)

Students should never use linen unless the quality of their work and skill is comprable to that of a top selling artist. Even some of the most established artists don’t use linen as a support due to its price. This material also demands you use the highest grade primer and oil colour, which adds still more to the cost of linen.

There is also a PDF version of this post. Download it here.

Now you know.


All about artist’s paper

PAPER is one of the oldest supports used by artists. It was first developed in the 2nd century CE in China, it has become a mainstay of communication from writing to visuals and is an integral part of our life. The following are points every artist and designer should be aware of in regards to to its maintenance and proper care and handling. At the end of this post are some useful terminologies that explain the meanings and purpose of specific paper terms.


Deterioration of Paper: Causes and Prevention
The assumption is often made that if a paper is 100% rag, it is also acid-free and permanent But this is not necessarily so, and the reasons require some explanation. It is also assumed that an acid-free paper will not deteriorate, but acidity is only one of several factors which act on the destruction of paper.

Internal Factors
The internal factors which affect paper deterioration are established during the manufacturing process. They are: type and quality of the fibers, sizing material and the presence of acidic compounds. A paper described as 100% rag is made of cotton fibers, cooked and beaten into a consistency papermakers call rags. The beating process causes cotton fibers to interlock, thus creating the paper’s strength. Cotton fibers are nearly pure cellulose.
In order to assure fiber bondage in the presence of moisture, most papers undergo internal sizing. The sizing determines the paper’s resistance to water penetration and abrasion, creasability, finish, porosity, printability and surface bonding strength. This is accomplished with a number of different agents, such as rosin, animal glue and gelatin, starch, modified celluloses, synthetic resins, etc.
At one time, sizing was done primarily with rosin, held to the fibers by an astringent crystalline substance called alum (aluminum sulfate). Alum introduced acid to the previously neutral fibers. For a 100% rag paper to be acid-free, it must be sized synthetically, or with a process which requires no alum.

The potential permanence of paper is the responsibility of the manufacturer. In order to ensure this, the following ingredients should be excluded from the papermaking process:

  • Ground wood fibers
  • Concentrations of iron
  • Copper minerals
  • Alum/rosin sizing
  • Residual bleaching chemicals
  • Acidic compound

The symbol pH is a measure of the hydrogen ion concentration of a water solution and substance, and denotes if it is acid or alkaline. A substance with a pH value of 7 is neutral. Acids have pH values below 7 (1-6).  Alkalis have pH values above 7 (8-14.) So-called permanent papers are weakly alkaline, with a common pH from 8-10.
Most permanency specifications call for a paper with a pH of 6.5 or higher. An acid-free matboard, for example, has an actual pH of 6-7. If there are no residual alkaline salts in the board, it may become increasingly acidic with time. To increase longevity, the board can be buffered, a process which adds in an alkaline earth carbonate (e.g. calcium carbonate) at the pulp stage. Buffered boards have a pH of about 8.5 and an alkaline reserve of approximately 1-3%, and thus have
more potential permanence.
While pH is the most crucial internal factor responsible for a paper’s permanence, it should not be considered alone. Pulp type and quality, initial sheet strength, sizing agent and alkalinity must also be checked to ensure paper permanence.
External Factors
Besides the internal factors inherent in the papermaking process, there are also external factors which contribute to the deterioration of artists’ papers, such as light, temperature and humidity, air pollution and insects. Paper, like all organic material, is subject to the conditions under which it is used and stored. Therefore, the longevity of works of art on paper, given that the quality of the paper is good, is ultimately the responsibility of the artist and the collector. Due to the expense of handmade, acid-free and buffered paper products, it is certainly worth taking note of the paper enemies which reside within our homes, studios and galleries. tight. With all other factors being equal, works of art on paper will last longer if kept in the dark. Since they cannot be enjoyed and appreciated without light, it is wiser to think of ways in which direct light, with the irreversible chemical changes it imposes on paper, can be minimized.
Light has visible and invisible effects on paper, both of which can cause embrittlement and eventual deterioration. The most obvious visible effect of light is bleaching-the whitening and fading of paper color and some of the colors used to create the image. All light fades works of art on paper and fading is not reversible. Less light means less fading, and not no fading.
While this is occurring, invisible damage is also taking place. The ultraviolet rays in sunlight and fluorescent light cause chemical changes in the paper and accelerate the process of fading. Most of the light energy entering a room is converted to heat, but the minute fraction which is absorbed by paper is responsible for a process called photocatalyzed degradation. Paper which has been sized and exposed to dyes, pigments and dirt is vulnerable to complex photocatalyzed reactions. After oxidation occurs, the fibers in the paper are broken down until they are too short to stay bonded and embrittlement ensues. The effects of deterioration initiated by light will continue even after the paper is removed from direct light.

To minimize the effects of light, consider the following tips:

  • Avoid hanging pictures on a wall directly opposite windows, since the light there is greater.
  • Use louvered blinds or translucent curtains to moderate or redirect sunlight during the brightest hours.
  • Rotate the position of your pictures around the house every year to decrease the chances of fading.
  • Never work on, or hang, pictures in direct sunlight.
  • Cover your fluorescent lights with protective sleeves which filter out radiation.
  • Replace your picture frame glass with ultraviolet-filtering Plexiglas.
  • Varnish paintings with picture varnish containing a UV-absorber.

These two factors work as a team on the destruction of paper. Evidence proves that the lower the storage temperature of paper, the longer it lasts. The useful life of paper is approximately doubled with every decrease of 10° F. For homes and studios, temperatures between 65°-70° F are optimal Relative humidity is the ratio of the amount of moisture in the air, at any temperature, to the amount required at that temperature to saturate the air.
Current research suggests that paper will last the longest when kept at a relative humidity of 45%. Ranges of 50-70% are considered acceptable for private homes and studios. Some climates may require a winter humidifier and summer dehumidifier to maintain this standard. If humidity is too low, it can cause the desiccation and eventual embrittlement of paper. Too much humidity accelerates the growth of mold and the internal decomposition of paper. Mold is nourished by sizing and paper fibers, and can also feed on the binders used in pastels. The presence of rusty-colored patches indicates that foxing — chemical action of mold on the metallic salts in the paper due to prolonged, high humidity— is occurring. Exposure to direct sunlight for 1 hour, or enclosure in a closed container with thymol crystals for 2-3 days, will kill mold. Thymol is a fungicide, available at chemical supply houses and some drug stores. Since thymol softens oil paint, it should not be used on oil paintings.
While low temperatures are best suited to the storage of paper products, consistency of temperature is critical. Temperature/humidity fluctuations, called cycling, can often be more detrimental to paper than consistently high temperatures.  Cycling weakens, and eventually breaks down, the fibers of paper by causing expansion and contraction due to water contained within it.

Changes in temperature/relative humidity should be minimal (10° F and 10%), and gradual. Some ways to prevent mold and minimize deterioration due to heat and humidity are:

  • Maintain the lowest, most consistent temperature you possibly can between 60-70° F.
  • Keep humidity between 45-70%.
  • Avoid hanging pictures on the outside facing walls, especially if they feel cold or damp.
  • Avoid framing pictures directly against glass or Plexiglas without a spacer or mat, as this provides an excellent surface for moisture and mold.
  • Dust framed pictures regularly, as airborne mold spores are contained within dust.
  • Keep frames away from the wall by inserting small cork squares in the two lower corners of the frame. This creates good circulation and reduces chance of mold growths.
  • Avoid leaving pictures in a closed room or house for extended periods of time without some form of circulation or dehumidification.
  • Never hang pictures over a heating register, air duct or fireplace.

Air pollution
Large urban and industrial areas promote a process called sulfation, which occurs when flue gas constituents (water, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, etc.) react to form sulfuric acid. Sulfur dioxide gas is absorbed by paper, where it reacts with moisture to create a destructive sulfuric acid problem within the fibers. This is called acid hydrolysis — the reaction of an organic compound with water in the presence of acid. This process breaks down the cellulose, causing discoloration, embrittlement and disintegration of the paper fibers. At normal temperatures, it occurs very slowly, but at elevated temperatures, the process is greatly accelerated.  Sulfuric acid does not evaporate or leave the paper, even after removal from the contaminated area.
Other major pollutants include industrial smoke and particulate matter, photochemical oxidants and haze, motor vehicle emissions, solar radiation, temperature inversions and sodium chloride (prevalent in coastal areas). Solid particles found in polluted air accelerate the deterioration of paper. Dust and grime are abrasive to the surface of paper. In the presence of moisture and in combination with the acid droplets around dirt, they promote a corrosive process which penetrates the fibers as well. Many compounds are not dangerous themselves, but they promote paper deterioration because they form acids when they mix with atmospheric moisture.

If you live in the urban environment, the only way to combat air contaminants is through an air conditioning and filtration system.  While it is initially an expensive outlay, air conditioning with proper filtration will reduce restoration costs and capital losses of objects, and prove a good investment in time.
Paper contains ingredients, such as gelatin and glue sizing, wood pulp and flour paste, which are appealing to insects. Cockroaches, silverfish, termites and woodworms are the most common destroyers of paper. Silverfish love dark places and can make nice little homes inside frames as they nibble on sizing and wood pulp. Termites and woodworms like anything made of cellulose, as well as wood, so a rag paper picture in a wood frame is susceptible. Cockroaches can cause damage to paper by eating glue sizing or any painting media containing sugar.

To help prevent infestation of harmful insects:

  • Clean picture frames regularly.
  • Never store works of art in dark, damp places such as basements or attics.
  • Use screens on windows and doors to minimize insects.
  • Use powdered or aerosol insecticides if signs of insects appear.

Useful Paper Terms
Acid-Free Paper: Paper that contains no free acid. Acids have pH values below 7 (1-6). Alkalies have pH values above 7 (8-14). Specifications for an acid-free paper range from 6.5 to 7.

Acidity: The state of a substance that contains acid. Paper becomes acidic from the ingredients used in its manufacture, from the environment or both.

Alum: An astringent crystalline substance used in rosin sizing to hold paper fibers together and responsible for introducing acid into the paper.

Archival: A term describing the use and collection of government or corporate documents. Agencies that govern large archives, like the Library of Congress, set standards for their curation, called “archival standards.”

Bast Fibers:
Refers to a group of fibers commonly used in Japanese papermaking, including flax, gampi, hemp, jute, kozo and mitsumata.

Buffering: A process that neutralizes a paper’s acidity over time by adding an alkaline substance, like calcium carbonate, at the pulp stage. Buffering helps reduce the acidity of paper over time.

Cold Pressed: Mildly textured surfaces produced by pressing the paper through unheated rollers. Generally considered to be a surface between rough and hot pressed.

1) Wood frame resting on or hinged to the edges of the mould that defines the edges of the sheet in handmade papermaking.
2) Strap or board on the wet end of a paper machine that determines the width of the paper web.

Deckle Edge: Natural, fuzzy edges of handmade papers, simulated in mouldmade and machine-made papers by a jet stream of water while the paper is still wet. Handmade papers have 4 deckle edges, while mouldmade and machine-made papers usually have two.

The degree to which paper retains its original qualities with use.

Esparto: A grass from North Africa which makes a soft, ink receptive sheet (Basingwerk contains esparto.)

Fibers: The slender, thread-like cellulose structures that cohere to form a sheet of paper.

Filler: Generic term to describe the nonoxidizing clays or minerals added to the pulp at the beater stage to improve paper density.

Term used to describe the cutting, sorting, trimming and packing of paper.

Gampi: A bast fiber from the gampi tree used in Japanese papermaking to yield a translucent, strong sheet.

Gm/m2: The European measure of weight for artists’ papers. It compares the weights of different papers, each occupying one square meter of space, irrespective of individual sheet dimensions.

Grain Direction: Direction in which the fibers of machine-made paper lie due to the motion of the machine. When machine-made paper is moistened, the fibers swell more across their width than along their length, so the paper tends to expand at right angles to the machine direction. Handmade and mouldmade papers have indistinguishable grain directions.

Handmade Paper: A sheet of paper, made individually by hand, using a mould and deckle.

High Alpha:
A nearly pure form of wood pulp which has the same potential longevity in paper as cotton, linen or other natural fiber.

Hot Pressed: Smooth, glazed surfaces produced by pressing the paper through hot rollers after formation of the sheet.

The most common fiber used in Japanese papermaking, it comes from the mulberrv tree. This is a long, tough fiber that produces strong absorbent sheets.

Laid Paper: Paper with a prominent pattern of ribbed lines in the finished sheet. It is accomplished in handmade paper using a screen-like mould of closely set parallel horizontal wires, crossed at right angles by vertical wires spaced somewhat further apart The same effect is achieved in machine-made paper with the use of a “dandy roll,” positioned at the top of the wire in the wet end of the paper machine.

Linters: A general term for pre-processed pulp, cotton or wood, purchased in sheet form. Cotton linters are fibers left on the seed after the long fibers have been removed for textile use. They are too short to be spun into cloth but can be cooked and made into paper. Stiffer and more brittle than long-fibered cotton, linters produce a low-shrinkage pulp good for paper casting. They cannot produce a paper with the strength of cotton rag. Wood linters are called hardwood or softwood depending on grade.

Machine-made Paper:
A sheet of paper produced on a rapidly moving machine called the Fourdrinier, which forms, dries, sizes and smooths the sheet Uniformity of size and surface texture marks the machine-made sheet

Mitsumata: A bast fiber used in Japanese papermaking that yields a soft, absorbent and lustrous quality.

Mould: The main tool for hand-papermaking, it is a flat screen that filters an even layer of fibers through it to form the sheet In western papermaking, it is accompanied with a wooden frame called a deckle.

Mouldmade Paper: A sheet of paper that simulates a handmade sheet in look, but is made by a slowly rotating machine called a cylinder- mould. The machine was introduced in England in 1895. No mouldmade are made in the U.S.

Permanence: The degree to which paper resists deterioration over time.

pH: A measure of the hydrogen ion concentration of a water solution and substance, denoting acid or alkaline. A substance with a value of 7 is considered neutral.

pH Neutral Paper:
Paper made with any kind of pulp having a pH of 6.5 to 7.

Plate Finish: A smooth surface found on paper that has been run under a calender machine one or more times.

Ply: A single web of paper, used by itself or laminated onto one or more additional webs as it is run through the paper machine.

Pulp: A general term describing the beaten, wet mixture of stock used in making paper, whether its contents are wood, cotton or other fibers. Also called pulp finish.

Rags: Processed clippings of new cotton remnants from the garment industry for use in high quality papers.:
Rag Paper: Paper made from fibers of non-wood origin, including actual cotton rags, cotton linters, cotton or linen pulp. Rag papers contain from 2-100% cotton fiber pulp.

Rice Paper:
A common misnomer applied to lightweight Oriental papers. Rice alone cannot produce a sheet of paper. Rice-straw is only occasionally mixed with other fibers in paper-making. The name may be derived from the rice size once used in Japanese papermaking.

Rough: Heavily textured surfaces produced by minimal pressing after sheet formation.

Size: Material, such as rosin, glue, gelatin, starch, modified cellulose, etc. added to the stock at the pulp stage, or applied to the surface of the paper when dry, to provide resistance to liquid penetration

Sulfite: A term for pulp made from wood. Depending on how it is processed for papermaking, it can either be acidic or neutral in pH.

Surface-Sized: A term applied to a paper whose surface has been treated with a sizing material after the sheet is dry or semi-dry.

A term applied to a paper that has been surface-treated and/or impregnated with a sizing material in a tub-size press.

Vellum Finish: A slightly rough or “toothy” surface on a sheet of paper. Waterteaf – A paper with little or no sizing, like blotter, making it very absorbent If dampening is desired, this paper can be sprayed with an atomizer.

Watermark: Design applied to the surface of the paper mould which causes less pulp to be distributed in that area and results in the transfer of the design to the finished sheet

Web: The continuous ribbon of paper, in its full width, during any stage of its progress through the paper machine.

Wet Strength: The strength of a sheet of paper after it is saturated with water.

Wove Paper: Paper with a uniform unlined surface and smooth finish, generally made on a European style mould with a woven wire surface. Most papers produced are of this type.

How to recover a corrupted Illustrator (AI) File

Yesterday I was working on some designs for t-shirts in Adobe Illustrator. Today, when I try to open the file I get a message from Illustrator that says that Illustrator “Can’t open the illustration. The illustration contains an illegal operand.” WTH??

So here’s how to fix it. Most designers aren’t even aware that there is a feature in Adobe Illustrator called ContentRecovery. By default, this function is turned off. You can turn it on and then recover your file to correct the problem. These are the steps…

Enable content recovery
1. Quit out of Illustrator.
2. Locate your Adobe Illustrator Prefs, make a backup copy. Put the backup copy somewhere else (keep the original filename) and edit the original in your Prefs:
Mac: /Library/Preferences/Adobe Illustrator CS4 Settings/en_US/Adobe Illustrator Prefs
Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\\Application Data\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator CS4 Settings\en_US\AIPrefs
3. Using a plain text editor that can search, (I used Bean) search for this string: /enableContentRecovery 0
4. Change the 0 (zero) to a 1 and save it. Do not change its filename.

Correct the offending command
1. Launch Illustrator.
2. Using File > Open, hold down Command + Option + Shift (Mac), or Ctrl + Alt + Shift (Windows),  and click Open. Do not use Recent files or double-click the file to open. You want the full Open dialog.
3. Your file will be blank. Close the file without saving or altering.
4. Go back to your un-openable. You will now see a second file has suddenly appeared, with an underscore at the beginning of the filename. ( vs.

The underscore file is your recovered file. It will also be much larger than your original. Mine was 4.1 megs which shot up to 10.8. When you go into your file later and edit it, it will go back down to the size it was originally.

5. Open your recovered file in a plain text editor and search for something unique in the offending command message. I searched for the word “sugar”. This was a new TrueType font I had downloaded that day. I already knew it wasn’t what I would classify as a quality font, but it had a look I needed. (I also knew that third-party Truetype fonts can be problematic on Macs. I’ve had problems with them in the past.) I was able to find the exact line that matched the message.

You should note that I was lucky in that Illustrator gave me a direct quote of the offending command and because I took a screenshot of it, I was able to search for the exact string.


This is what I deleted in the Prefs file:


Save the Prefs file and close.

A word about finding the correct offending command
According to Adobe, there are two things to be aware of…
1. Postscript is a programming language. Functions toggle on and off. So when you delete, your line should start with: %AI8_BeginPluginObject and end with: %AI8_EndPluginObject. The presumed offending command should be between these strings. You must be sure to capture the entire piece of code.

2. Sometimes, your own patterns, textures, brushes, fonts can corrupt your file. Anything coming from a third-party, and including third-party libraries of any of the aforementioned etc. should be considered a suspect in the cause of your offending command.

Also, you should always be aware of how you built your file, whether you downloaded a new font or pattern and used it in your file, whether you’re working in an old file that was converted by Illustrator… even if you used a piece of someone else’s Illustrator art. All of these are clues to a starting point in your search for the error. Illustrator will not always give you clues.

Sometimes, you will have to search and delete every instance of the string. In my case, I just happened to find the right string quoted in the error message. As it turned out, I opened the file and it still loaded the font “Sugar”. The very first thing I did was convert it to outlines to remove it from the document font list altogether.

This is my recovered file…


How to make painting vanishes, mediums, balsams and resins

Here for your reading pleasure are a list of pdfs I’ve collected over the years. These files contain recipes for painting mediums, varnishes, balsams and resins. Included in this list of goodies are century-old master recipes. Some of the ingredients can only be obtained through the net, but it gives you something to add to your arsenal and a better understanding that the varnish you may be using is not all that there is out there. They contain definitions, techniques on how to make and use and drying times times of resins, oils and balsams. Some of these recipes claim to create jewel effects in the varnishes and resins while others claim to create a depth of field effect unlike any commercially available varnish.


  • Larch, Venetian and Strasbourg Turpentine
  • Canada & Copaiva Balsam


  • Fast-drying painting mediums
  • Copal concentrate and Canada Balsam
  • Canada Balsam And Copal
  • Cananda Balsam And Sun Thickened Oil
  • Canada Balsam, Double Mastic, Copal Concentrate & Oil
  • Canada Balsam Medium (Basic)
  • Copal Concentrate And Stand Oil
  • Copal Varnish Basic
  • Damar And Double Mastic And Wax
  • Damar-Oil Canada Balsam
  • Double Mastic
  • Egg And Damar Emulsion
  • Egg And Beeswax Emulsion
  • Gelatine Solution For Paper
  • Gesso For Panels (Technical Gelatine Formula)

Personally, I think it’s important to at least know how our predecessors worked with paint, before this information is lost to time forever. Some of these recipes have been in use for centuries before the advent of modern commercial varnishes and resins. Remember, I cannot verify their longevity but I can verify their authenticity.

Download the PDFs here:

Digital Stock Photography

AS DESIGNERS, Images and text are what make up any piece of graphic design. The text we get from the client or agency writers, and the imagery we create, have created for us or purchase online. Ideally, it would be great if the photography was unique to each piece, but uniqueness costs money and can get very expensive for the client. So what does a graphic designer do when he needs some artwork for a client, but doesn’t want to spend a lot of money? He turns to online stock photography.

A stock house is a distribution house for the photographer. They use their network to get the photographer’s work out there to the graphic designing public. When an image is sold, the photographer gets a percentage, depending on the license type.  If the license is royalty free, the photographer gets a small piece of the pie, but the image can be sold over and over again. If the license is rights managed, the photographer gets a much larger chunk of pie and in some cases, can control how that image is even used. In special cases, some rights managed images cannot be used by two different companies in the same industry at the same time. And there are variations.

So in a nutshell, most stock houses are generally the same in what they do but their definitions may be slightly different, particularly from country to country. It’s always a good idea to read everything about how they do their licensing when dealing with a new stock house.

Another consideration is time zone. If you are working on a project with a tight deadline (and who hasn’t?)and you need an image at a special size (let’s say that image is stocked in a smaller size only), keep in mind where the company is physically located. An ad agency in Toronto, Canada who needs the image by 3:00 the following day, won’t get it in time because their stock house in Sacramento California is not only three hours behind them, but wont even see the request until 12 noon Toronto time or 9 am Sacramento time.

Licensing There are two types of licenses: royalty free and rights managed. Each stock house deals with these two terms differently and it’s always recommended to read the fine print of any contract at least once. Don’t assume that if one company says you can do whatever you wish with the image, they all say the same thing.

Getty’s use of royalty free images means the designer purchases the image and uses it over and over again. The larger the image, the more he pays. Some places such as 123rf allows you to purchase a set rate subscription per image. Others such as  Shutterstock have single rates where you pay once, and download as many images as you require over a set amount of time, such as a year or 25 days. The longer the time period, the higher the subscription rate. The downside to royalty free images is that anyone can have the same image as you which means although you may have come up with a smashing design, your imagery is not so smashing after all.

Rights managed means (in most cases) the stock house may distribute the image, but the photographer holds the rights to how that image gets used. Getty’s use of the term is fairly straight forward. The designer negotiates with a rep on how he or she intends to use the artwork and pays based on a number of variables such as duration (how long the printed image will be in distribution), print copies (also referred to as circulation), image percentage (ratio of how big the image is in the overall printed piece) and so on. And those variables are in reference to each usage. Want to use it in web? Then there are a whole new set of variables to consider.

Now let’s say your client decides to add a brochure into the mix, the designer must then go back to the rep and negotiate a new license based on new usage. The downside to the uniqueness of rights managed images is that only a few people may have a copy of your image and it’s far more expensive than royalty free.

And while we’re talking about the downside, let’s not forget the downside of online digital photography itself. The one horrible aspect of such photography is that it tends to homogenize all design, everywhere. Anyone can have your images and as a designer, you loose your own uniqueness when you use it. Consumers become unresponsive to the same images appearing over and over again in all advertising. Digital Stock house catalogs can take on a bland and predictable appearance. Designers crave unique, edgey photography but rarely have the client budget to afford specialty photography.

Lens Correction in Photoshop

As a painter, I’m cursed. One of the things I have to always consider is documenting my paintings. What curses me is the curvature of the lens. By virtue of the curve, straight lines always come out curving around a bulge in photographs.  That’s the lens doing that. It’s called field distortion and it drives me crazy.

I could fix it by buying a lens for my camera that would correct it, but they’re expensive.

I could buy software such as DxO Optics Pro. It too can be expensive. DxO Optics Pro retails for $253.00 CAD.

I have Photoshop already… and guess what? It comes with a lens correction filter already (as of CS2). As it turned out, I had the perfect image to try it out on. I did a painting of Queen Street in Toronto from a series I’ve been working on of a row of buildings. As you can see in my original image, the distortion isn’t bad. But enough that I’m not happy with the way it is.

The second image shows guides to see just how far off it really is. Not much… but enough. Click for the enlargement to see the detail.

Original image

Original image


From the Filter menu, go to Distort -> Lens Correction.

That calls up a workspace window with controls on the right hand side and tools on the left.


The Workspace

The Workspace

Closeup of Menu

Here’s a closeup of the controls.

Remove Distortion is a setting that controls which way the distortion will operate, convex or concave.

Chromatic Aberration is when your channels or areas in your channels are not aligned and you get an offset occurring.

Vignette is when an area of your photograph is fuzzy and out of focus.

Transform refers to the entire image tilting in perspective top to bottom (vertical perspective) or swinging left to right (horizontal perspective).

The Edge and Scale settings refer to when the image is distorted to correct the aberration, the filter will squish in the image, pulling it away from the original edge of the image. This setting tells the filter what to put there in its place. The default is transparency, or in other words nothing.

So the first thing I need to do is straighten the image by rotating 1 degree. You can see the canvas exposed along the edges after the rotation. Had I changed the Edge setting to a fill colour, the exposed areas would be solid and not transparent.

Then I changed the horizontal perspective to -4 and the vertical to +6 to align the front picture plane to the viewer.

This was the result. It was enough that it represented what I wanted. Just enough to remove most of the distortion. I’m not going to fuss too much with it. The more I fuss, the less people are going to believe that this is what my painting really looks like.

From here, I used Free Distort to align and straighten the edges more

The final image

The final image

My finished file. 🙂

Open Source Design

Here’s something I came across a few days ago. Open Source Web Design. 1,280 downloadable web designs.

The Open Source Web Design project was founded in September, 2000 by Francis J. Skettino. The goal was to provide the Open Source community with quality web designs to help get people’s projects on the web in a way that is both organized and good looking.

An advocate of the Web 2.0 standard, this Philadelphia-based site proposes to share knowledge by spreading their webwares. Its a great idea and was the basis for learning html… share, copy, modify. Now THAT’s technology.