5 Cool New Color Scheme Tools

How do you pick a color scheme for your design projects? Do you browse various color palettes? Perhaps you employ tried-and-true color wheels. Both are good ways to develop color schemes, but if you want to discover fresh new schemes you might want to give the following five new and cool color scheme tools a try.

1. Interaction of Color

interactions

You might be familiar with Josef Alber’s “Interaction of Color,” a must-read for all graphic designers published by Yale University Press. Now, meet the iPad app, which features Alber’s teachings alongside interactive plates and videos. The app lets you learn more about color theory and helps you pick the perfect color scheme with its palette tool, which behaves “like paper.”

2. Flat UI Colors

ui flat

If you’re into flat design – the modern web and mobile design trend – then you’ll love this free flat UI color tool, which lets you easily copy numerical RGB and hex values for the most popular colors used in the Flat UI Pro palette. The only way this application could be better is if it included suggestions for complementary colors based on the colors you’ve added to your palette.

3. ColoRotate

color rotate

A new kind of color scheme development tool that lets you build palettes in 3-D, ColorRotate is available on the web or as an interactive iPad app. Click and drag your way to a new custom color scheme, then tweak adjustments on the sliding scale. Or, browse some of the other color scheme creations crafted by users who came before you.

4. Colorzilla

color zilla

The ultimate color tool for Chrome, even if it’s still in beta. Colorzilla lets you get the color of any pixel on any page, generate CSS and CSS gradients, analyze any URL to generate a color palette, and, of course, pick colors to add to a saved palette. If you use Google Chrome, add the Colorzilla extension to your browser (it’s free) and start picking colors today.

5. ColorBug

color bug

A light yet incredibly useful color scheme application for Windows, ColorBug is essentially a color picker tool that lets you drag and drop colors to multiple palettes, then make adjustments to those palettes right in the application. You can select different color code formats, create instant CSS gradients, and even generate color swatches for popular design applications such as Adobe Swatch Exchange (.ase).

Have you tried any of these color scheme tools? Which is your favorite, and how did it stack up to your usual method of color palette selection? Let us know in the comments!

[Ed.: This is an updated version of a post that was published earlier on Web Teacher.]

Guest Author’s Bio: Brian Morris writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company. Follow PsPrint on Twitter @PsPrint and Facebook.

Flash is Dead. Long Live Animate

Adobe Animate CC Logo

Flash has had a few hard years. HTML5 whupped its ass. So it’s going away.

Sort of.

In its place, Adobe will give us Animate CC, which loses the loser of a name but retains much of the function. There will be added functions, as well. Here’s Adobe’s announcement of the change.

To summarize the changes, here’s how Adobe describes what the new software will do:

  • Drawing, illustration and authoring
    • Vector art brushes – Modify the path of a stroke after it’s been drawn, and scale them to any resolution without losing quality. You can also make custom brushes and import brushes created with Adobe Capture CC.
    • 360° rotatable canvas – Rotate the canvas on any pivot point as you draw to get the perfect angle and strokes. You can even use this feature with a Wacom Cintiq!
    • Improved pencils and brushes – Draw smooth, precise vector outlines along a curve and get faster live previews.
    • Easier audio syncing – Control audio looping directly on the timeline, without having to code.
    • Faster color changing – Naming tagged colors lets you change one color and have it automatically update your entire project.
    • Colored onion skinning – Easily orchestrate complex animations now that adjacent frames can have different color and alpha values.
  • CreativeSync integration
    • Adobe Stock – Browse and license millions of high-quality photos, illustrations and vector graphics directly in Animate CC. You can even add life to static content by adding animations to them.
    • Creative Cloud Libraries – Access colors, vector graphics and brushes directly as you work.
  • Output capabilities
    • Multiplatform support: HTML5 Canvas, WebGL, Flash (SWF), AIR, video, and custom platforms (such as SVG) via extensions.
    • 4K+ video export – Export videos with custom resolutions for the latest Ultra HD and Hi-DPI displays.
    • Custom resolution export – Revitalize older content by resizing and optimizing them for any resolution, such as Ultra HD and Hi-DPI displays.
    • .OAM support – Export your project as an .OAM file for easy importing to Adobe Muse, InDesign, DPS and Dreamweaver.

The new Adobe Animate CC will be released in January 2016.

3 Ways to Add Instagram to a WordPress Blog

There are several choices open to you if you want to bring in your photos from Instagram into a WordPress blog: You can add a badge from Instagram, use embedding, or choose from a number of plugins.

How to Add Instagram to Your WordPress Blog

Place an Instagram Badge on Your Site

Sign in to your account on Instagram. There’s a “badges” option in the menu. A badge will put an icon on your site that links to your Instagram URL. It doesn’t bring in any images.

Instagram badges

Select a badge type and copy the code. I selected an icon, copied the code, and pasted it into Text view in a post. What showed up was a nifty little Instagram icon that linked to my feed on Instagram.com.

If I wanted this type of Instagram badge on my blog, I’d paste the code into a text widget in my sidebar, near my other social media badges and buttons. It doesn’t make much sense to put this icon in a post, because it will get buried over time.

Embed a Single Photo

You can put a single Instagram photo into a blog post using the Instagram “embed” option. Find the icon showing three dots next to the comment box and click it to see the embed option.

Embed a single Instagram photo

Instagram gives you the option to embed a single photo. Copy that code and paste it into the Text view of your post, and the photo will show up.

Instagram’s embed feature allows you to embed other people’s photos in your blog as well. The link to the original image on Instagram is included in the embed code, and shows up when you hover over the word “Instagram.”

Having this link included with the image skirts copyright problems by linking directly to the photo on the Instagram feed of the creator of the image.

WordPress Plugins

With a plugin, you get more than just an occasional image to insert into a post. There are plugins to create image sliders, to back up your Instagram photos to your WordPress database, or to place a small gallery of photos in your sidebar; others do even more. Most of the plugins below only require your Instagram username to work. The last one I mention gives you the option to set it up using the Instagram API.

DsgnWrks Instagram Importer, according to its description, “will allow you to import and backup your Instagram photos to your WordPress site. Includes robust options to allow you to control the imported posts formatting including built-in support for WordPress custom post-types, custom taxonomies, post-formats.” This plugin also imports Instagram video. When you first launch DsgnWrks Instagram Importer, you can set up the import to filter by hashtags or by date. There are a number of custom tags you can use to control the title and content of imported images.

Instagram Picture provides a way to add Instagram images to almost any position in your blog. You can use shortcodes, widgets, and PHP to insert images with this plugin. Here’s a screenshot from the developer of one of the widget styles you can choose with Instagram Picture. This plugin also has a feature for adding individual image to posts.

Instagram Picture plugin

Instagram Slider Widget will display a grid of thumbnails like you saw in the image above, but it also has the option to shows up to 20 images in a slider. You can set the number of images to include in the slider and set a time for how often the plugin goes to Instagram to look for new photos. Instagram Slider Widget has an option to insert the images into your WordPress Media Library, which gives you a backup of your Instagram photos.

Alpine PhotoTile for Instagram offers more options than the plugins mentioned above. It retrieves (but does not back up on WordPress) as many as 100 photos. According to the developer, “The photos can be linked to your Instagram page, a specific URL, or to a Lightbox slideshow. Also, the Shortcode Generator makes it easy to insert the widget into posts without learning any of the code. This lightweight but powerful widget takes advantage of WordPress’s built in JQuery scripts.” The lightbox feature on this plugin sets it apart from the others. Alpine PhotoTile for Instagram will insert photos in a page, a sidebar, or a post. Of all the plugins I’ve mentioned, it has the most and best reviews.

The WordPress plugin directory has many, many Instagram plugins; I’ve only scratched the surface with these four. The ones I’ve highlighted all have good reviews. I suggest you look at the number and quality of reviews when you consider any plugin. If you use a plugin yourself, it’s very helpful to the WordPress community (you) if you return to the plugin page and leave a review.

Keep in mind that a widget that doesn’t store your photos in WordPress, but instead reaches out to Instagram to retrieve photos, may experience delays in loading if the Internet is clogged up that day.

Many Instagram plugins allow you to display not only your own photos, but the photos of people you follow or photos with a particular hashtag. If you choose a plugin with that capability, check carefully for the copyright issues involved, and make sure the original creator of the image is linked to the photo. I can definitely see the value of a post with a slideshow based on a particular hashtag, say #blogher14. Enjoy sharing your Instagram photos on your WordPress blog!

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Good News for Bloggers from Getty Images

Getty Images Embed Tool

Getty Images Embed Tool

Getty Images announced a new embed feature that gives free, legal access to many images to bloggers for noncommercial use.

If you find an image on the Getty site, look for an embed icon(</>) from the search results or image detail page. Click that and you’ll get the HTML code to embed that image on your site.

Getty has images from news, entertainment, sports, archival and creative imagery content. This new embed tool takes the rights of its content contributors and partners into account, because images will include photographer attribution and, when clicked, will link back to gettyimages.com where the image can be licensed for commercial use.

For a look at the dark side of what this means in terms of advertising and to photographers, see Getty did what?

7 Ways to Use Instagram Direct To Market Your Business

Is your marketing campaign growing rather stale? A little “ho hum?” If your social media marketing mix is becoming a little too predictable, you may need to shake things up a bit. The perfect way to add a excitement and catch your audience off-guard may be to adopt a hip new social media tool.


This is a sign that your current campaign is not working.

Don’t worry if you are currently scratching your head asking yourself, “What hip, new marketing tool have I missed?” The answer is Instagram Direct. Yes, there’s a new tool in town and it is changing the way businesses market through social media.

What is it?

Instagram Direct introduces new features to the Instagram repertoire of tools by enabling you to select who you share your photos, messages, and videos with. And, after you have sent your message to this “select” group of followers, you can actually keep tabs on who has seen it. Furthermore, said followers will be able to respond in real time–triggering conversation.

How can you put it to work for you?

Here are 7 ways for your business to put this platform to work.

1. Attract the early adopters

Let’s face it. Early adopters and the cool, young crowd don’t want to hang out in the same place as their parents. That’s why Instagram Direct is a great way appeal to this desirable demographic. It’s new and it has not yet been populated by the supposed “past their prime” audience.

2. Showcase a new product

Creating a buzz about your company’s latest offering is the best way to ensure its success. Instagram Direct’s visual format is the perfect way to foster this. By sending your best customers and most avid followers an attractive image of your newest product, you will generate interest–especially if you encourage them to share it.

3. Run a contest

Everyone loves the chance to win and Instagram Direct is a great venue for running a contest. Ask participants to take funny snapshots of themselves with your product, ask them to come up with quirky advertisements, or create a new slogan. Not only will this generate a buzz and goodwill, but it will also provide your business with some great material to showcase on your website and other social media platforms.

4. Offer loyalty rewards

We all like to feel special. And we are more likely to frequent a business that makes us feel exactly that–special. Foster loyalty among your followers by sending them exclusive coupons, discount codes, or a special in-store deal.

5. Share special content

Offering your most avid followers access to special content is another great way to make them feel valued. You can share “behind the scenes” images, funny or touching customer testimonials, employee stories, product tips, and any other exclusive content that you think will best showcase your products and services.

6. Excel at customer service

Customers feel an affinity with businesses that provide them with personalized service. Instagram Direct will better enable you to do exactly that. If a client posts a photo or complaint about one of your products, you can respond to them on a one-on-one basis. Besides handling customer concerns and queries, you can also send thank you messages to your most active followers.

7. Glean Information

By following your followers, you will be able to see, firsthand, what they are saying about your business and your products. This will offer valuable insight into what is working and what is not.

Silence those yawns. Abolish those “ho hums.” By introducing Instagram Direct to your social media marketing mix, you can step out of the doldrums and experience renewed customer enthusiasm. Now that’s something to applaud.

Does your business make use of Instagram Direct? How?

Guest Author Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer and avid blogger. She is a unrelenting social media junkie who has written a bevy of articles on social media marketing, online reputation management, and pretty much every social media platform known to man. You can follow her neurotic and OCD ramblings at The Embiggens Project and Searching for Barry Weiss.

Image courtesy of photos.com

10 Awesome Free Photoshop Extensions

10 Awesome Free Photoshop Extensions

Photoshop is one of the most amazing pieces of design software ever created, and I, for one, absolutely applaud Adobe for adopting the software-as-a-service business model, which makes Photoshop and the rest of the Creative Suite more accessible to graphic designers everywhere. Another key component of Photoshop is the ability to extend it with third-party plugins. If you want to take Photoshop to the next level, download the following 10 awesome free Photoshop extensions today.

Skeumorphism.it

The days of high-gloss and texture are over – flat is in! With this Photoshop plugin, you can make your design flat in, well, no time flat!

Flat Icon

The Flat Icon plugin lets you instantly access more than 25,000 icons to use in your designs, right from Photoshop’s interface.

CSS3Ps

Crafting a compelling design in Photoshop is one thing, but turning it into workable CSS styles for websites is another. This handy Photoshop plugin automatically converts your layer styles into CSS.

BlendMe.in

Access thousands of vectors to use in your designs fast and easy right from Photoshop’s interface with this awesome plugin.

Interface Tools

The ultimate interface toolkit for Photoshop, Interface Tools eliminates the need to endlessly search for Photoshop tools and provides a host of other functions that streamline the design process, all free of charge.

GuideGuide

Grid-based layouts are the most attractive, but Photoshop makes it painfully difficult to work with grids. With GuideGuide, you’ll have properly proportioned grids in seconds.

Layer Guides

If you add guides to your layers, you know how tedious it can be to click, click, click for every single layer. Layer Guides adds guides to all of your layers with a single click.

Divine Project

PSD to WordPress designers take note: This is the ultimate extension for you, because it helps quickly convert Photoshop designs into workable WordPress themes. Zero coding required!

Web Font Plugin

Access Google and WebINK web fonts from Photoshop’s interface with this ultra-useful plugin.

CutandSlice.me

For all its advances, Photoshop is still old school when it comes to slicing graphics for the web. The Cut&Slice Me plugin makes it easy to quickly slice graphics for today’s web, including the capability to slice and capture all button states at once.

What’s your favorite free Photoshop plugin?

Author’s Bio: Brian Morris writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company. Follow PsPrint on Twitter @PsPrint.

10 Video Tools Designers will Love

[Note. Take a second look at this gem from the archives.]

The mass popularity of video presents opportunities for graphic designers to dabble into video editing. Even if you’re not going to do video editing professionally, learn enough to make it part of your skill set, because video is likely to rule the future. Get started or become a pro with the following 10 video tools for graphic designers.

1. Adobe After Effects

Adobe After Effects is often considered the de facto program for video effects, titling and compositing. The cons? It is not user friendly for those with no video editing experience, and the learning curve is steep.

Adobe After Effects

2. BorisFX

BorisFX is a plug-in suite that takes basic video editing programs to the next level. Superior keying and compositing tools adds another dimension to a basic editing platform, allowing you to do more with graphics and fonts. More importantly for novices, it simplifies effects so you can quickly add a professional touch to your videos.

BorisFX

3. Motion

Motion is the effects program that works in conjunction with Final Cut Pro ñ in other words, it is Apple’s answer to Adobe After Effects.

Motion

4. Adobe Photoshop

How does Photoshop fit into this equation? Not only can you alter video files, but you can also share work seamlessly with other Adobe programs such as Premiere Pro and After Effects. Photoshop puts most designers on familiar ground.

Adobe Photoshop

5. Smoke

You want high-grade, super-impressive special effects? Look no further than Smoke, available only for the Mac.

Smoke

6. Toon Boom

Toon Boom allows you to make quick and easy animations that maintain a premium appearance, without a steep learning curve.

Toon Boom

7. 3Ds Max

With industry-leading 3Ds Max, the only thing youíre limited by is your imagination.

3Ds Max

8. Adobe Premiere

Adobe Premiere is a fairly basic editing program, but when you combine it with the power of Adobe Creative Suite, it is so much more. Working in conjunction with Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects, you’ll have all you’ll ever need to create high-quality graphics and compositing in one package.

Adobe Premiere

9. Final Cut Pro

Much like Premiere, Final Cut Pro is a basic editing program, but with a decidedly Apple twist. It was a long-time industry standard for video editing; combing graphics, titling and compositing with ease.

Final Cut Pro

10. Ultimatte

Ultimatte started out as keying software, but then transitioned into hardware. If you are serious about compositing and getting the cleanest possible work on green or blue screens, then Ultimatte is a must-have tool.

Ultimatte

Guest Author Brian Morris writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company. Follow PsPrint on Twitter @PsPrint and Facebook.