Sunday, February 7, 2010

We Moved!

The site is now completely a WordPress blog. Please visit

http://www.scrapshotmagazine.com

See you there!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Serif Releases Digital Scrapbook Artist 2!

This is such exciting news! One of the reasons I love Serif is because they are constantly improving their products. I'll be reviewing DSA 2 soon, but meanwhile, here is the press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Serif Releases Digital Scrapbook Artist 2
New high-end crafting tools and techniques make digital scrapbooking more realistic than ever


ANAHEIM, CA, January 22, 2010 – Serif, a leading independent design, publishing and creative software developer, today launched a brand new version of its digital scrapbooking title, Digital Scrapbook Artist 2. Packaging advanced digital scrapbooking techniques in a fun and easy-to-use program, this software makes the creativity of a craft store accessible to all PC users.

All are invited to learn more about Digital Scrapbook Artist 2 and participate in product demonstrations at the Craft and Hobby Association’s (CHA) Craft Super Show and 2010 Winter Convention and Trade Show in Anaheim, CA. From January 22-23, at the CHA Craft Super Show, Serif will be available in booth #701; from January 24-28, at the Convention and Trade Show, Serif will be available in booth #1766.

Building on the success of its predecessor, this latest version offers even more crafting tools and more advanced scrapbooking techniques like professional-quality blending, which has never been seen before in dedicated scrapbooking software. A huge range of natural brush strokes and photo-realistic materials, embellishments, scissors, stitches and more make beautifully crafted scrapbooks more realistic than ever, and now with a built-in PhotoLab, users can make sure their photos are picture perfect without needing to buy any other software.

“After the success of Digital Scrapbook Artist we were keen to get to work on the next version and I’m delighted to announce that it has now arrived and makes truly stunning, photorealistic scrapbooks easier to create than ever,” said Gary Bates, Managing Director of Serif. “Digital Scrapbook Artist 2 offers a fun, affordable way to become a digital scrapbooker regardless of experience or artistic ability; and with a huge range of crafting tools and techniques, Digital Scrapbook Artist 2 makes digital scrapbooking even more realistic!”

Key features and benefits of Digital Scrapbook Artist 2 include:

  • Scissors and Punches – users can choose from heaps of different decorative scissors blades, just like in a craft store, and punch out designs from any material or embellishment.
  • Image Cutout Studio – removing distracting or unwanted backgrounds, to give subjects total focus with just a few quick brushstrokes, is easy using this handy imaging tool.
  • Blending – a wonderful new feature for seamlessly blending an object or photo with textures and materials. In just a simple click, photos will take on the appearance of any material!
  • Stencils – a lovely range of brand new stencils will enhance scrapbook designs, or alternatively users can easily create their own using objects and embellishments.
  • Realistic brush strokes – brush on photo-realistic paint, glitter, beads, stitches and more to create authentic, natural-looking scrapbook pages.
  • PhotoLab – Digital Scrapbook Artist 2 now comes with its own powerful built-in photo editor for fixing and enhancing digital photos from within the software.
  • Help when needed – with instant access to video tutorials, on-screen prompts and a comprehensive User Guide, help is always available whenever it’s required.
  • One click sharing – scrapbooks can be uploaded to DaisyTrail.com with just a click of the mouse, sent as an attachment via email, exported as a PDF for professional printing and as any popular picture file type including JPG, PNG, GIF, and more.
  • Scrapbooks and more – users can be more creative than ever using Digital Scrapbook Artist 2, which offers the flexibility to create not just digital scrapbooks, but greetings cards, wedding invitations and much more!

Digital Scrapbook Artist 2 is compatible with Windows 7 and retails at $49.99. Existing Serif Software users should contact (800) 557-3743 for further information on upgrade pricing. Digital Scrapbook Artist 2 is available today directly from Serif and will be arriving soon in major retailers such as Buy.com, Fry’s Home Electronics and Amazon.

To schedule a time for a one-on-one product demonstration and briefing at the CHA Winter events, please call Christina Beavers at (401) 351-9507 or email at serif@matternow.com.


About Serif
Serif is the publisher of the award-winning software range that includes PagePlus®, PhotoPlus™, DrawPlus™, WebPlus, AlbumPlus™, MoviePlus™, PanoramaPlus™ and Digital Scrapbook Artist® and more. Founded in 1987 with the aim to develop low-cost alternatives to high-end publishing and graphics packages, Serif has been repeatedly praised for its powerful yet easy-to-use software which has put professional effects and demanding publishing tasks within the reach of ordinary PC users around the world. Now with over 6.5 million customers worldwide, Serif has over 200 employees at its head office, development and European sales centre in Nottingham, UK and its North American sales operation in New Hampshire, US.


Media Contact:
Christina Beavers
Matter Communications
401-351-9507
serif [at] matternow [dot] com

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Digital Designer Spotlight: Shabby Princess (and her awesome calendars!)

There's a reason I rave about the digital designer called "Shabby Princess" during my workshops. The girl is a class act, offering everything from amazing "freebies" to calendar and "Piece-A-Cake" quickpages that can make creating pages a snap. I'll never forget deciding on the Saturday before Father's Day that I wanted to create a "memory book" for my Dad as a Father's Day gift. (Nothing like waiting 'til last minute, eh?)

No problem at The Shabby Princess Shoppe. I was able to purchase the Blue Skies & Mud Pies album and put together an 8-page 8x8 album, complete with journaling. My father loved it.



I especially wanted to highlight her versatile calendars. There are one-page, two-page, CD-size, and poster-size calendars to choose from. One year I created a CD calendar, placing the small pages within a CD jewel box. They were a big hit, especially since it was the perfect size to place near a computer monitor. Another year I created a two-page per month calendar, complete with my relative's birthdays noted on the appropriate days. This was another big hit with my family, who often forgets whose birthday is when!

If you've not discovered Shabby Princess yet, you're digital stash is missing out. The great thing about calendars is you still have plenty of time to complete one to give as a holiday gift. Calendars are always a popular item, but a custom calendar with personal photos will go a long way with Grandma and Grandpa - not to mention the rest of the family. Have fun scrapping!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Serif's PagePlus X4 Review

Serif recently released the newest version of their desktop publishing program, PagePlus X4. If you've not been able to tell, I've been a huge fan of Serif ever since my husband introduced me to the software seven years ago. They were kind enough to send me a copy of their latest version for review.

I've been upgrading throughout the years, just purchasing PagePlus X3 earlier this year. PagePlus X4 builds upon X3's innovative photo editing studio tools and adds even more functionality. I've recommended PagePlus for its intuitiveness and ease-of-use for the newbie. For years, I've used PagePlus as my "go-to" program for digital scrapbooking. After spending just a few minutes with PagePlus, you'll see why. I also have Serif's Digital Scrapbooking Artist, which is a program especially designed for the digital scrapbooking enthusiast. But PagePlus X4 focuses on providing the resources needed for any individual or business to publish newsletters, brochures, magazines, posters, flyers, and cards just to name a few!

Here are the new features for PagePlus X4:

PhotoLab: Edit images using professional tools and effects in the new PhotoLab to give your pictures the look you want without the need to open a separate photo editing program.

Review: It is so convenient to have photo-editing tools right at your fingertips without having to open (or buy!) another program! Serif has beautiful effects. Not only can you alter the properties of the photograph (changing brightness, hue, saturation, etc.) but you can apply special effects such as softening or creating an oil painting portrait. Out of all the versions, this one has the most complete photo editing studio I've seen.

Learning Zone: Easily accessible from the redesigned Startup Wizard where you can open templates, ‘How-To’ topics, printable tutorials, videos, and much more.

I have to admit it. I've a soft spot for video tutorials. Serif has increased the number and quality of their videos and tutorials. There are plenty of helpful topics such as how to create a flyer, business card, or logo. The tutorials are straightforward and easy to follow. The PDF's are also well-written with clear instruction. And I still say that Serif's forum has the best community around when you get stuck with a project.

Dynamic Guides: When moving objects around the page, guidelines will appear when your selection is near the top, middle, bottom, and sides of other objects, margins, and pages allowing you to layout your page neatly — and fast.
I was thrilled to see this addition. At work, my desktop is a Mac computer and within one of their programs, dynamic guides already existed. It is enormously helpful when you are trying to align objects and yes, makes the layout process so much more efficient.

Improved PDF Import: PDF Import is now more accurate and you can import cropped data to fit the current page area. Embedded Type 1 fonts are now supported as well.
True story: I created a publication with PagePlus X3 and converted it to a PDF. I was at work and realized I didn't have my regular laptop with me. However, I had uploaded the PDF to an online storage site and could retrieve it with my newer laptop, which had PagePlus X4. I needed to edit the PDF and wasn't sure how it would transfer into the newer program. Plus, I knew I had used images that were on my older laptop.

Well, no worries! Everything transferred perfectly with the text placement, fonts, and images. The only hitch was that I didn't check my hyperlinks and after the small edit, re-saved it as a PDF and sent it to our contact list. It wasn't until after I started to have some questions come in that I realized my links didn't transfer. So be careful with your links but everything else should transfer just fine.

Anchored Objects: Keeps associated text and pictures together during editing so no matter how much you need to change the content, your text and images will always be where you want them.

I don't work too often with this feature but it's great to have when you need to keep a certain object connected with a particular portion of text. Great addition for those who work with newsletters and brochures.

Word and OpenOffice.org Import: You can import and edit text and pictures from Microsoft Word — including Word 2007 — even if you don’t have Word installed! The importing and editing of OpenOffice ODF documents is also supported.

This is also a great addition. Most of the world creates their documents in Word or OpenOffice. (I use OO more than anything.) Now you can import and edit those documents without having the programs.

Picture Frames and Borders: These are great for displaying photos in a document or jazzing up newsletters and brochures.

Because I'm a scrapbooker, I already have plenty of frames and borders, but it's nice for PagePlus X4 to have a selection to choose from.

Backwards Compatibility With PagePlus X3: PagePlus X4 publications can be opened and edited using PagePlus X3 – and of course PagePlus X3 and earlier files can be opened and edited in PagePlus X4.

This will come in handy for those who work with other individuals who are using the later version of PagePlus. It's nice to know that you can send a publication to someone who has an earlier version and they can still edit it.

Logo Studio: This is one of my favorite parts of the program. Sometimes your publication may need just a little "oomph" and a quick logo is the perfect way to add it. PagePlus X4 not only has a nice variety of logos, but they show you a few ideas of how to use them. You also can break up the group and use a portion of the logo to even further customize your publication's appearance. You can also edit a logo's size, color, and position as well as add special filters to make the logo have a glass, metal, plastic, or other effect.

All in all, it's an excellent value for $99 (even less if you're upgrading!). I use PagePlus for my scrapbooking pages at times, and also other publications. If you're looking for a program to create brochures, newsletters, flyers, or any printed material, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better value than PagePlus X4. Check it out!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Transitioning from Paper Scrapbooking to Digital Scrapbooking

Whew! Sometimes I do wonder if I take on a little too much. But we live in a world that has so much available! Has there ever been a time when so much has been so accessible?! Methinks not.

So, last time you heard from me was in February, which was gosh - five months ago! I still love my Serif program, PagePlus X3. Now they've come out with PP X4! Serif is never one to rest on their laurels. They are always trying to develop better features and their dedication to doing so only lights me up, more.

I'm also working with their scrapbooking program, Digital Scrapbook Artist. It is one of the best programs I've come across for making the transition between paper and digital. Here's why:

DSA uses the same terms for the digital equivalent of a paper tool or technique. That's important. Many paper scrappers aren't sure if they want to dive into the digital world. Hearing phrases like "sharpen unmask" or "burn and dodge" only adds to their reluctance to enter into this very exciting hobby. However, if they hear words like "crop" and "scissors," they have an idea of what those terms mean. DSA uses such terms and even actions to achieve the look a paper scrapper wants.

Everything is in one spot. Daisy Trail is the store to purchase digital kits and elements to work with DSA. Once you purchase the kit, you are given a link to "unzip" the files and they are automatically added to your DSA stash. When you open the program, you are given a choice of which kits to load into the program. Once you choose your kit(s), you open a new scrapbooking page and then will have everything you need already within the program. No need to import images from other files unless you want to. Digital kits and elements from other designers can be imported as "Photographs" and you can use them as needed.

I'll be working on more "stuff" in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned and happy scrapping!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Review of Serif's "Digital Scrapbook Artist"

I received this program over a month ago. Between the holidays and illness, it took me some time to finally sit down and play with it. I have discovered that Serif, has done an absolutely astounding job in anticipating a digital scrapbooker's needs.

I was prepared to be courteous and say, yes - it's a nice program, and good value for the cost; however, after playing with it more, I realize this program deserves so much more. At times, I was blown away by the tools and other times amazed that not only did Serif match Adobe Photoshop Elements with editing selections, they went beyond by making the editing process so much easier than Adobe PSE.

After installing, you open DSA to be greeted by a window asking if you want to use one of their digital scrapbooking kits to create a page or create your own. There is also an option to open saved work or even view tutorials.

If you choose to open one of their themes (there are two, Dollhouse and Enchanted), you will be given the option to choose one of either four or three pre-made templates. You then have the option of adding your own photographs and moving the current selection of embellishments, or remove and add your own.

The themed scrapbook pages are located within the Content Pack Manager. My only request at this point would be that Serif would eventually find a way to allow a digital scrapbooker to add their own stash of digital kits to make it easier to "drag and drop" from the selection menu on the left.

If you choose to work within the Content Pack Manager, you will see tabs on the left side for: Photos, Embellishments, Backgrounds, Frames, Materials, Letters, Layout. Within the themes, there are elements available for every tab. However, you cannot add, say, Suzy Q's Fancy Flowers to the embellishment tab. The "Add" button only works for whatever is in the Content Pack Manager.

To use your own digital kits that are already on your hard drive, go to the Photos tab and click "Add." Then you will have the opportunity to add as many images as you'd like.

A nice feature of the program is that it automatically sizes the page to a 12x12. You can also go into the Page Setup to choose 8x8 or a custom size. Once you have the size you want, you can then create your digital scrapbook page.

As I've often told my students, the reason why I like Serif's software so much is because of its intuitiveness and ease-of-use for the beginner. Many would like to try digital scrapbookiing but are often intimidated by a program such as Adobe PSE. Adobe produces excellent software, but I've found that there is a rather large learning curve with their programs. With Serif, someone new to the hobby will have a relatively easy time adapting to the program and using its many features. Someone with more advanced skills will discover that Digital Scrapbook Artist can still provide a diverse array of tools to use. The beauty of Serif's programs is that it uses what you bring with you - whether you're a novice or an expert.

One feature that I was very curious about was the "Cutout Studio." Those who have been attracted to digital scrapbook pages often wonder how someone was able to "cut out" an image from a photograph. Within a photo editing program, this technique is called "extraction." It usually entails bringing up the tool and using the mouse to remove the background and also tools to "Keep" parts of a photograph that were accidentally removed.

DSA's "Cutout Studio" did an excellent job in removing the background of a photograph. In fact, I found it a much smoother process than Adobe's PSE. I especially liked the zoom bar in the bottom right of the preview program instead of having to click on a magnifying class to increase the size of the photograph (which is necessary for detailed removal of the photograph's background). The "Keep" brush (which will add part of the photograph it automatically removed from the beginning if too much was removed) seemed to intuitively know what part of the photograph I wanted to keep. Once I held down the Shift key as I clicked with the "Keep" brush, the selection lines automatically joined to define the outline of the photograph I wanted to keep. The "Discard" brush was then used to clean up small areas I wanted to to remove.

Bottom line - the "Cutout Studio" was quicker and easier than Adobe Photoshop Elements. Plus, I now have the added bonus of having this feature available in my digital scrapbook designing software instead of having to bounce back between two programs. That to me was worth the price of admission!

Serif's DSA has several features that I know will thrill the scrapbook artist. Included are collections of often used elements such as brushes and special effects. For those who are unfamiliar with a digital "brush," think of it as a real paintbrush. It can be filled with color or, a pattern. In the case of DSA, there are brushes that are glitter, flowers, and even stitches. Let's say you would like to surround a photograph border with stitches. In DSA, all you would need to do is click on the Paintbrush icon at the top of the page, choose from the selection of stitches located in the "Global" file under the Brushes tab, and then with your mouse, outline the area you want "stitched." The program will then add those stitches exactly where you want them! And as always, there is that lovely "Undo" button if they weren't placed in the exact spot you wanted.

Serif managed to do something that I have not seen before. In the toolbar, there is a tool called "Scissors." Intrigued, I started to play with it. I am no expert with this tool, by any means, but what it did was amazing. Let's say you have a digital paper that you like, but you wished you could only use a piece of it. Enter the "Scissors!" Using this tool, you will "cut" the paper in whatever shape you want. You have a choice of scalloped edges, zig-zag, square, straight and many, many others. You can then "cut" the paper into whatever shape you want. After, click the half of the paper you don't want and voila! It disappears and you are left with a digital paper that looks as though it's been cut with a pair of decorative scissors!

The "Scissors" tool also has preset scissors paths, such as the shape of a circle, square, flower, or arrow, to name a few. If you choose the preset option, all you need to do is size it on whatever you want "cut" and then click to remove the outside area. The tool will then immediately "cut" your image into the shape you want. Very quick and very, very easy!

Finally, I'd like to talk about the drop shadow feature. I'm a bit particular when it comes to drop shadows. Some digital designers include elements in their kits that are already shadowed. I like it if they have another set of elements without shadows because it allows me to play with my own preferences. Serif's PagePlus X2 program has a nice drop shadow tool but the Digital Scrapbook Artist went even further.

Once you determine the intensity of your shadow, and the distance between the shadow and your image, you can then click on the "Advanced" button and click on the edge of the shadow. The tool enables the user to "pull" the shadow out or to the sides, placing the shadow exactly where they want it. Sometimes an off-set shadow looks more realistic. The Advanced feature allows a user to experiment until they get just the right effect.

I know that I have only touched the tip of the iceberg with describing what this program can do. There are a few quirks such as dragging a 12x12 sized digital paper onto the blank scrapbook page only to find it "lands" much larger and I have to resize it. However, this is only DSA 1.0 and I know Serif's developers will be quickly working on improving on their features. Still, it is an absoutely impressive start. As I said, I was blown away by the sophistication of the program and adaptability for someone who has had experience with Serif's desktop publishing program, PagePlus, Jasc's PaintShop Pro, Adobe's Photoshop Elements, and even Serif's PhotoPlus programs. Here is a video that will show a few of the features I mentioned:



In essence, a digital scrapbooker can open Digital Scrapbook Artist to create a digital page and never need open a photo editing program. DSA does it all - from editing a photograph to extractions to adding special effects. A truly jaw-dropping value for $49.99. Click here to find out more.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Auld Lang Syne

2008 is quickly coming to a close. Were you able to scrap all your family's special events? If not, digital scrapbooking provides a quick and easy solution for your scrapbooking needs. In no time at all, you can create a gorgeous digital scrapbooking page, ready to be printed by either an online service, your local camera shop, or even at home if you have a large enough printer.

Stay tuned. I have a very special product I'll be reviewing soon!