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How to Design a Postcard that Transforms into a Picture Frame21:54 with Mat Helme
In this episode of Exercise Your Creative we will create custom letterpress post cards which transform into picture frames of Treehouse's Mike the Frog. Not only is the design process broken down step by step but the print process as well.
[Treehouse presents] 0:00 [Exercise Your Creative] 0:04 Hey, what's up? Mat Helme here with another exciting episode of EYC. 0:08 In this epidsode, we're going to be taking a look at the process 0:12 of creating a custom postcard for Treehouse. 0:15 The project objective was to create a custom postcard which has an interchangeable badge 0:18 on the back of each postcard as well as an area for a hand-written message. 0:23 I was given this task by the User Growth team here at Treehouse. 0:28 I really love designing for these guys, because they always allow me 0:32 to push the envelope when it comes to creativity. 0:36 My thought going into the project was this: 0:39 I knew right off the bat I wanted to make this project letterpressed. 0:41 Reason being, any card or item that's letterpressed always adds value to it. 0:46 Also I wanted to make this piece appear old-fashioned, almost antique-like. 0:51 Maybe give it a wooden texture somehow. 0:56 Now, when they told me we needed to make a postcard, 0:58 I knew we needed to give it another purpose. 1:00 The reason being is this: Whenever you get a postcard in the mail, 1:03 you do 1 of 2 things. 1:07 1, you hang it on the fridge, or second, you'll throw it in a pile of paper. 1:09 So I knew we had to have another purpose for this. 1:13 This is when it hit me: Let's create a custom postcard 1:16 that turns into a picture frame of Mike the Frog at Treehouse. 1:19 This way, they can put it on their desk, and it won't be lost in a pile of paper somewhere. 1:22 Now, I know I can create that wooden frame and give it that antique look. 1:27 So first I head to the web, and I grab as many pictures and ideas as possible. 1:32 I want to keep in mind, I want these 3 things: I want old, I want brown, and I want wood. 1:36 Also, I went and got samples from Mama's Sauce. 1:40 Now, Mama's Sauce is 1 of my favorite hand-craft printers. 1:43 These guys are like the best-kept secret in the hand-craft printing industry. 1:46 Reason being, there's no guidelines. 1:50 There's no downloaded template, and put your graphics in. 1:52 So after gathering all of my inspirational pieces from the web, 1:56 I went ahead and dumped them into Photoshop 1:58 and created six 8½ x 11 layouts that I would then print and glue on foamboard. 2:01 This way I'm not printing out every picture, hand cutting each 1 of them, 2:09 and then placing them on the mood board. 2:13 It would just take longer; this is just a faster way to do it. 2:15 [?Slow keyboard music playing?] 2:18 Then I fastened it to the wall in front of the sketching desk 3:00 and added any other print pieces I had on hand to use as inspiration. 3:03 Our next step is mocking up the postcards. 3:07 The tools I used for this were construction paper, 3:09 marker, glue, cutting board, and Exacto blade. 3:12 I wanted to create this mockup for a number of reasons. 3:16 1, to see if we could actually make it work. 3:18 Second, to make sure the team was on the same page as me as far as the design goes. 3:21 And third, to see how much this would actually cost. 3:25 So I went ahead and made a quick mockup by simply cutting the construction paper out 3:28 and placing the content that's needed on the back 3:32 and making a quick illustration on the front just to pitch my idea, and they loved it. 3:37 So now we're ready to move forward. 3:41 The next step is sketching. The tools I used for this were: 3:43 a pencil, a piece of paper, and the environment that I had created 3:46 with the mood board I had hung up. 3:49 For the front, I wanted Mike the Frog at Treehouse Island 3:51 as if her were posing for a photo. 3:54 So I split the illustration up into 2 pieces. 3:57 I had the island, which I had to create, which is going to be the background, 3:59 and then I have Mike the Frog. 4:02 By splitting it up, I'm able to move Mike the Frog around on top of the complete background. 4:04 To draw Mike the Frog, I used an old sketch I did for the T-shirt as reference. 4:09 [?Fast music playing?] 4:13 Once I felt I had a solid sketch, it was then time to move on to the inking. 4:20 The tools I used for this were tracing paper and an ink Bristol brush. 4:25 I simply put the tracing paper over the sketch and began inking with the Bristol brush. 4:28 I used the thick-to-thin line technique, as I usually do with my illustrations in Illustrator. 4:33 The basic rule for the thick-to-thin line technique is that wherever the lines meet 4:38 or wherever there's a drop shadow, the line will be a little bit thicker, 4:42 whereas the end points of the lines will be thinner. 4:46 The same rule goes when we create it in Illustrator, 4:49 and you'll see this in the technique breakdown. 4:52 [?Fast music playing?] 4:53 When I'm finished, I take a photo with my iPhone, 4:59 and I'm ready to bring this into Illustrator. 5:01 Now, before I begin designing the postcard, let's take a look at the technique breakdown. 5:04 Before we begin illustrating the postcard, I want to show you the techniques 5:10 I will be using throughout the design. 5:13 I like to refer to this technique as a thick-to-thin pen technique. 5:15 You really only need 2 tools: the pen tool and the width tool, 5:19 and there's really only 1 rule you need to follow. 5:23 And that's when the 2 paths intersect, or 3 paths, or more, 5:26 basically those paths need to be a little bit thicker than the end points. 5:30 And I can show you in a quick example. Say, if we make a smiley face with the eyes closed. 5:35 [?Slow music playing?] 5:40 There's 1 eye, there's 2 eyes, and let's create the mouth. 5:42 [?Slow music playing?] 5:48 And we'll do a line for the teeth. There we go. 5:56 And some smile marks 6:01 right at the ends of the cheeks there. All right. 6:04 So let's make these halves intersect here. Zoom in. 6:07 Select tool, and make them touch. Perfect. 6:12 And good. Line all these up, and there we go. 6:17 Now let's duplicate this so we can look at it in comparison. 6:23 Zoom out, center these in here inside the art board, nice. 6:26 All right. So we'll use the thick-to-thin line technique with the right face here. 6:33 So like I said, the end points usually want to stay pretty thin, 6:38 and then wherever there's a drop shadow or wherever it would intersect-- 6:42 so that would be like the lower part of the eye here. 6:46 If the light's shooting down, it would cause a shadow underneath the eyes. 6:49 So that would be thicker, and then wherever this intersects here, that would be thicker 6:54 usually because it causes a shadow; so what we can do is select both of the eyes 6:59 and change that width profile from uniform 7:07 and make it go from thin to thick. 7:14 Now, what I want to do is make this a little bit thicker, and this a little bit thinner over here. 7:20 So I'll press shift w. What that does is it grabs the width tool over here. 7:24 So we're able to actually make that thicker, make that thinner, make that thinner. 7:29 And you can see that right there is much different than this over here. 7:37 And we can actually do the eyes a little bit different, just to give them a little bit more 7:40 of a characteristic from one to the other. Nice. 7:45 And the smile. So with this, with these end points, we want to make these really thin, 7:50 and then this really thick where it intersects, like so. 7:54 Same on the other side. 7:59 And this middle would be thicker because there would be more of a drop shadow. 8:04 And this would be a little bit thicker out here. 8:08 And this here. Grab it. There we go. Nice. 8:13 Now for the bottom part of the mouth, we're going to make this really thick down here 8:21 because there would be a drop shadow and this still thick but not as thick. 8:25 So what we can do is actually up the stroke like so, and that right there is pretty good. 8:30 Now let's just make the bottom a little bit thicker, 8:37 and thin it up here and here, and same goes for the teeth. 8:40 Now the teeth, we want this thin and this thick out here. 8:46 So again, let's bump up the stroke, 8:51 and then we can make this in the middle just a little bit thinner. 8:54 Perfect. Let's up the strokes a little bit. There we go. 9:00 Nice. Now let's take a look at these in comparison. 9:04 For the back of the postcard, I'm going to be using a significant amount of text. 9:10 Now, in most cases, when you send a file to the printer and there's text in it, 9:14 you want to create that text into an outline, because if the printer doesn't have that font, 9:18 it won't show up correctly. 9:24 So as an example, I can take a word like "create" 9:26 [?Slow music playing?] 9:29 and as you can see here, it says create clearly. 9:35 But if we switch the view to paths or outline, we don't see any paths or outline. 9:38 Now let's look at that in comparison to this rectangle. 9:46 You can clearly see there's paths here. 9:49 Now when we switch back over to preview, you see the fill. 9:52 So what we want to do is take this text and turn it into an outline. 9:58 We can do that by simply selecting the text and create outlines. 10:01 This also can be done by going to type and create outlines. 10:05 So now when we shift over to the view of outline, you can see create now has an outline. 10:10 Now I like to do this for most of my artwork. 10:17 So anything that goes to print, if it has paths like what we just created with the smiley faces, 10:19 you can see these paths are the same thing, 10:25 and that's because we're in outline view. 10:28 Now if we switch back over to preview, it looks much different. 10:30 So what we want to do is take this set, object, path, outline stroke, 10:32 and now when we look at it with an outline, you can see there's actual outlines. 10:40 Now when they cut the plate for letterpress, if this were going to letterpress, 10:48 it would cut these paths. So what we want to do is merge these. 10:52 We can do that by selecting it, opening up our pathfinder and select merge, 10:54 and all of our paths line up. 11:01 So moving forward, we're going to be using the technique of 11:04 the thick-to-thin line, and then taking all of our artwork, creating a new file 11:06 and then merging and outlining all of the text and paths. 11:11 With that said, let's get started. 11:16 [?Synthesized music playing?] 11:18 Now that the print file is set up, the front and back are in different layers, 13:30 I'm ready to send it off to Mama's Sauce. 13:33 Here we are at Mama's Sauce in Orlando, Florida, 13:37 where we're getting our custom postcards printed for Treehouse. 13:39 To my left we have Brooks, who is the director of marketing for Mama's Sauce. 13:42 Brooks, how're you doing? >>I'm doing pretty good. >>All right. 13:46 Brooks, can you tell us a little bit about Mama's Sauce and what you guys do here? 13:48 Sure. Yeah, Mama's Sauce is a screenprint and letterpress print shop, 13:51 specializing in customizing art processes for the strange ideas that designers come up with. 13:55 [Mat laughing] And that exactly was my thought when I was designing for the postcards. 14:00 I didn't know exactly what I was going to be designing, but I knew 14:05 I wanted to come to Mama's Sauce because there's no guidelines when it comes to printing. 14:09 These guys can basically fabricate and customize anything. 14:12 So with that said, Brooks, can we head on inside and take a look at the process? 14:16 That's my favorite. >>All right. 14:20 [?Slow bass music playing?] 14:22 ?Oh the right thing to decide? 14:42 [?Slow bass music playing?] 14:49 So the first step in printing the Treehouse postcards is screenprinting, 14:55 because it runs on a larger sheet; so we can get the big sheet done, 14:58 then bust it down to smaller sheets to run on our other presses 15:02 that have different tolerances and specifications. 15:04 All of the screenprinting is handled by our master screenprinter, Jesse Adams. 15:07 Jesse, do you have anything to tell us about the screenprint of the Treehouse postcards? 15:11 The first thing, every time, is to check over the art. 15:16 Make sure it's up to spec. 15:19 Our processors have very definite limitations, >>Uh-huh. (affirmative) 15:22 >>and we have to always make sure that we're working 15:26 well enough within those that we can guarantee that we'll output--what we output is top quality. 15:28 [Mat] Sure, sure. Yeah. Like up to how many colors can you do without getting too, 15:34 I guess, gnarly with the actual print? Do you know? 15:40 [Jesse] From a theoretical sense, there's no limit. >>Okay. 15:44 >>From a practical sense, going more than 6 gets a little crazy. 15:48 >>Little crazy? >>When you put water-based ink onto a sheet of paper, 15:53 >>Uh-huh. (affirmative) >>Paper changes shape. 15:58 It grows, it expands from the added moisture content and then the moisture drying out of it. 16:00 And you're always kind of balancing what you're actually doing, what you're putting on the sheet 16:06 with how it's going to affect the physical properties of the paper. >>Okay. 16:10 [Brooks] All right, so the next step in printing the Treehouse postcards 16:15 was the letterpress printing. So we've printed the screenprint on a large sheet, 16:19 cut it down to a smaller sheet, and this allows us to save on printing costs 16:23 as well as maximize our impression strength on a smaller area. 16:26 And all that printing is handled by Hogan, our letterpress printer. 16:30 [Hogan] This is a Heidelberg Windmill, and it is from about, anywhere from 1954 to 1956. 16:34 >>Okay. >>Around there. So right now we have the press running in sort of a neutral mode. 16:43 >>Okay. >>It's a clutch-driven press, so you can see the fly wheel over here 16:50 is just spinning and the press isn't moving. >>Okay. 16:53 >>And that's because the clutch isn't engaged yet. 16:55 [Mat] Okay, so you've got your roller set, right, and then we load it back, 16:57 so now you're applying the ink? Is that correct? 17:01 [Hogan] So it's kind of cool. The good thing about letterpress that's a little different 17:03 than screenprint is the amount of ink that it takes for us to print. 17:06 It's far, far less. >>Oh, really? Very cool. 17:10 >>And we put the base right in here; so we have your card, 17:12 and we use the same registration corner, so it'll go in the slot here, 17:15 and what we do is set these suckers to grab the sheet. 17:18 And it will actually feed the sheet down, and then they pick it back up and pull it out. 17:22 >>Awesome. 17:26 [?Slow bass music playing?] 17:28 So our next process after the letterpress is the die cut, 17:35 because we're actually going to have stands that go on the back of the postcards 17:39 allowing us to turn it into a picture frame. 17:41 And our friend Rob here is going to show us exactly how he die cuts the back. 17:44 >>Yeah. So basically what we have in the press is a die, which is a block of wood 17:47 that has cut rule and score rule built into it. 17:54 So once we put a piece of paper down on the platten, it pushes together with the die 17:57 and pops out from the sheet of paper the actual back stand, 18:03 and puts a score straight into the side of it so that you can fold it easily 18:07 >>Nice. >>so that it'll work. 18:11 >>So you're actually getting the actual crease and cut in 1 shot. 18:13 >>Mm-hmm. (affirmative) >>Awesome. >>Yeah. >>Very cool. 18:16 And this machine is the--? >>This is the Kluge. >>The Kluge. >>Mm-hmm. (affirmative) 18:19 [?Slow bass music playing?] 18:24 [Mat] Now, Brooks, before I leave, can we take a look at some of the print projects 18:28 you guys have done in the past, to really show where the creativity can go? 18:32 Yeah, sure. The ones that kind of pushed the envelope a little bit. 18:38 I'll start with this beauty here, designed by Clark Orr. 18:40 He came to us with this concept for a themed show at Gallery1988, 18:44 and for lick-able wallpaper from the movie we all know and love. 18:48 >>Yeah. That's awesome. >>Already sort of pushing some of the limits 18:52 in some ways, in terms of numbers of colors and some tight registration, 18:55 but we decided to take it a step further. 18:59 We ran it by Clark, and he was really into the idea. 19:01 So we actually mixed this with some fragrance oils. 19:03 We did a lot of research in what would work well with water-based ink, 19:06 and so we actually developed different fragrances for each of the colors on the poster. 19:09 >>That's amazing. So you can sniff the print? >>Oh, yeah. Do you want to--? 19:14 >>Yeah, I want to sniff it. >>This is legal in most states. >>Wow. 19:17 >>Yeah. >>That's awesome. >>Yeah. So that's nice. 19:21 We like keeping that 1 around. It is not super tasty, though. 19:24 So we didn't make it all-the-way lickable. >>Aw, we need to make it, make lickable ink. 19:27 >>We're working on it. We have our best man on it. >>Yeah, snozberries. >>Exactly. 19:31 This is a real fun 1, by our friend Mike Casebolt. >>Yup. 19:34 >>A really fun wedding invite where you have the forest here, opening up. 19:37 And so optimizing with our custom die cut, custom folds, multiple colors inside and out, 19:44 and then it has space for the response card, for the directions, 19:50 and the accomodations information. >>All separate pieces. >>Right. 19:56 Casebolt just using the process to the zenith of its potential. 19:59 And then over here, this 1 was designed by our designer here, Austin Petito, 20:03 and this was actually my personal wedding invitation for my bride and I. 20:08 >>Okay. >>And then, so when you take out the invite, everything's waiting for you 20:12 like a little surprise. >>That's awesome. >>And you've got the RSVP here, 20:17 it's letterpress 2-color, the accomodations, registry information inside there, 20:21 and then some Florida jasmine just to represent--because we had an outside wedding, 20:26 >>Right. Yeah, sure. >>Kind of going with the Almanac and collecting specimens, 20:32 >>That's awesome. >>Little figures for everything there, and we did 20:35 the custom die cut here and stacked 13 sheets deep. 20:38 My wife and I were actually in the back just spraying and hand placing this adhesive. 20:41 You can see the thickness that was created just by individual die cuts. 20:45 >>Yeah. >>I think we die cut over 2,000 sheets just for 120 invites. >>Wow. 20:48 It was an adventure. [Mat laughing] but yeah. >>That's awesome. 20:53 >>There is a lot of different ways you can go with it. >>Awesome. 20:56 Well, I really appreciate it. >>Sure. >>And I'll be back soon to pick up the postcards. 20:58 >>I like that. >>All right. >>Thanks, Mat. >>Thanks, Brooks. 21:01 [?Slow bass music playing?] 21:04 [Some time later. . .] 21:18 [?Soft drumming music?] 21:22 As you can see, the final product turned out amazing. 21:32 Mama's Sauce did a great job constructing the design and making it happen. 21:34 Even the packaging the cards came in just shows the TLC that they put into their products. 21:38 I'm super excited with our final product and had a lot of fun with this project. 21:43 Until next time, have fun, and Exercise Your Creative. 21:48
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