Monday, March 14, 2016

Creating AWESOME Displays & Signs for Your Classroom, School, and Other Professional Capacities

Hey All!

Are you getting psyched for NAEA2016? I know I am!

But, before my plane leaves for Chicago, I have an Art Show to hang, host, and tear down! I, not unlike many of you, am clearly insane. As part of the preparation for the Art Show, I designed project overview fliers to display alongside student work. I want the viewers to understand what the students are studying, what they are creating and why. I uploaded a sneak-peek of these fliers to my Instagram account (follow me at @artfulartsyamy) and many of you contacted me wanting to know what program I used to create them. . .

Allow me to introduce you to Canva!

Canva is a fun (and free) online design application. It "enables anyone to be a designer." Essentially, Canva is a super-intuitive, drag-and-drop design program that offers users the option to design from scratch or edit using a wide variety of templates. When you finish a design, you can easily export your creation as either a PNG or PDF file. Notice I keep using the word "easy." Canva is EASY to use. If you are thinking to yourself, "I don't have time to learn a new program" then think-again. I would argue that you don't have time to keep fighting with counter-intuitive word-processing programs when what you need is a design program.

If you're old-school like me. . .Think of Canva as the younger, hipper, and more sophisticated niece of Print Shop Deluxe. Oh yeah, remember that program?!

Here's a brief overview of how to get started.

1. Go to Canva and create a login
2. You will get a menu that looks like this (see below). And, yeah, those are a just few of the format options Canva offers. You can pick anything from a social media template to a resume template.

3. Click to pick a template.

4. Add and delete items to create your design. There are tons of cool fonts and font headers. 

5. Canva has tons of images you can inset. However, I find their library can be a little glitchy at times to search and some of their images have a cost to use (like $1; totally worth it btw). I'm a bit of a control freak, so I just upload my own images for free (yup, Canva allows you to do that too). You can upload JPG or PNG files. I prefer to use transparent PNG files because they look cleaner, but you can use either. Also, I like to use Pixlr to create my own images and then import those images into Canva. See, total control freak over here. In the image below, you can see some of the images I have uploaded. 

5. Canva automatically saves, but I like to still click on "file" and then "save" just to make sure. When you're done, just click on "download" in the upper right corner and select your output. 

And, that's it! See how easy it is?! 

I've had Canva for about a year and so far I've made:
-backgrounds for professional presentations
-sales cards to house my for-sale jewerly
-thank-you cards
-student fliers
-display fliers
-signs for school
-business cards
-other fun graphics

While Canva is free, you can  pay a monthly fee to access more features. About a week ago I upgraded because I use the program so often. One of the perks of the upgrade is you can click a button to automatically copy a design and reformat it into a different size. For instance, I took my jewelry cards and clicked a button to translate the design into a size and format for a thank-you card. Canva did ALL the work. It is such a time saver because instead of re-designing something, I can take an existing design, click to resize, and then tweak it to suit my new needs. GAME-CHANGER!

Here are a few of my Canva designs

Fine Arts Night Program

Graphic for Professional Development Presentation
reserved seating sign for school performances (made in about 2 minutes)

Project Display Flier for Art Show

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Middle School Lesson Plan: Digital Package Design

It's not secret I love teaching Digital Art. My only rub with the course is that sometimes I wish the students had a more tangible output. For instance, when you finish a painting you can walk around with that object. It can be a little bit more tricky when it comes to digital work. Sure, you can always print a picture, but it is harder to have a tangible object when you create an animation or video (which we often do).

I introduce graphic design (and pixlr) to my middle school students via a package design project. I use cereal because it is in a rectangle box (easy cover design) and the history of cereal is recent. It is super easy to discuss how the US went from eggs and oatmeal to granola to cereal. And, the cereal box hasn't changed much since it's inception. Almost all kid-oriented cereal boxes follow the same format: title, cartoon character, picture of cereal, and offer of free prize. Finally, cereal boxes often directly advertise to kids; it's advertising they understand. The students use pencil and paper to brainstorm and sketch, digital tools to design and create, and finally they use a print out of their work to actually sculpt their box. The project culminates with a "Press Release Writing Assignment" about the cereal.

Here is our process:
1. Presentation

2. Sketch and brainstorm (I use the image below to keep them on track!)

3. Use Pixlr to digitally create the cover of their box
     -click here for the directions on how to get started
     -click here for a handout I give students with Pixlr Tips and Tricks
     -click here for a gallery of royalty-free PNG transparent images I provide to students
     -students can search for more images on Kiddle or OpenClipArt
     -here is the cereal box template we use (also in the gallery of images I provide to students)
4. Students design a nutrition information slip
5. Students insert their nutrition information slip onto their cereal box and complete the rest of the box (each side should have something on it!)
4. Students email their work to me
5. I print student work
6. Students construct boxes and glue them to cardboard (so they stand up with ease)
7. Students complete the Press Release Writing Assignment

This project is awesome and it has a direction career connection. I love it when my students have an obvious, and direct way, to envision the different careers of artists.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Elementary Art Animation and the Plant Life Cycle

I love PiskelApp y'all. I love it so much. In fact, I think they need to hire an educator to help develop school projects using the program and I think that educator should be me. The art-connection is obvious, but the cross-curricula opportunities are endless.

PiskelApp, in case you don't know, is a free, web-based application powered by Google. It enables users to create frame-by-frame animations with ease. The default size is 32 pixels x 32 pixels (about the size of an emoji on your phone). This standard small size means that students can utilize 8-bit design. If your students want a larger (and therby more sophisticated) design, all they have to do is resize the image and change the pixel dimensions. 

I promise. It is easier than it sounds. The program is very intuitive. 

You can find my previous post about PiskelApp right here. 

This week, my Third Grade students used PiskelApp to create frame-by-frame animations of the water cycle. They reviewed the water cycle (which they've been learning about in Science class) and then we examined how to make a cycle using PiskelApp. This whole project took 45 minutes. 

Here's the overview:
-Go to PiskelApp
-Click on "login"
-choose your Google login (we use Google for Education on my campus)
-click on "create piskel"
-draw the first frame of your cycle (remember, you can start anywhere in the cycle
-hover over your first frame and click on the “duplicate frame” icon
-a copy of frame 1 will appear
-use the onion to see a "ghost" of frame 1
-edit frame 2 to show the next step in your animation (use the preview window to check your work
-continue duplicating and changing frames until your cycle is completed
-click on “export”
-change the dimensions to 800 x 800
-click on “Get Public Url”
-Click on the yellow link that appears
-a new window will open
-right click on your animation
-Choose “Save as” and save to your lunch number file (that’s where my kiddos save their work)