Tag: visual stories (Page 1 of 2)

Resources for Visual Artists: Public Domain Images

As a blogger and artist, I am constantly struggling for high quality images to use in posts and pieces. Royalties can bleed you dry, especially for something as trivial as a rant or simple blog.

BlenderDiplom has come to my rescue. These sites are filled with royalty free, public domain images that are actually high quality.

Resources For Public Domain CCO Images

Share the love in the comments and let us know some of your favorite image houses.

(Five) Tips from a Designer, continued

In the last article, Reema Yeager brought us very practical tips to enhance our design. Now, she picks up where she left off.

Color or Colour

Color is very subjective, but there are general human psychologies that nearly all of us react to. Learn what colours mean, color psychology seems trivial but can have a huge impact on your project. For example: green – depending on the exact shade – can mean money or nature; blue – depending on the specific hue – can mean warm and inviting or cold and distant; yellow is a strong color that people either love or hate, period, it can also make babies cry more and elderly – especially in hospice care – shake more.

Combinations of colors can be pleasing or unsettling. Monochromatic colors (eg shades of grey to black) can be pleasant but boring, they need an accent color or two to bring life to them and draw attention to important items. Complimentary colors are complete opposites on the color wheel (eg orange and purple), they can be vibrant and contrasting when paired together, but they fight for dominance. Analogous colors are colours that are next to each other on the color wheel (eg green, blue and purple), these are often found in nature and are pleasing to the eye, but they recede and it becomes hard to tell what is important. Stay with a simple pallet and follow #1


To bring all the above points together, find or create a theme that your work revolves around. Make that theme narrow, but not too tight (eg water vs river; horror vs supernatural fiction). Too vague and you don’t know what to focus on, too tight and you won’t have enough inspiration material (eg mental disorders vs OCD handwashing due to fear of germs; high-end sports cars vs Lamborghini Diablo). Why do you need themes? It helps you pull inspiration to create your color scheme, find a balance, know what to focus on, and stay consistent.

Putting it all into perspective

I’ve recently worked on a new showroom design for a client, as well as their new website, marketing materials and presentation standards. In other words, their branding. While they had a logo, colors (royal blue and intense orange) and fonts picked out, they didn’t have consistency. Their former space and branding was alright, but it didn’t follow the above principles. The sales team had to explain to their clients what their mission and goals were, it was not self-evident. In the initial stages of design I researched their culture, clients and business model, called The Canoe Theory. I gathered inspirational pictures and reference materials to create a theme: canoeing down a river. For each of the above principles I asked myself, what would I see canoeing down a river and how does this translate into the design? I was able to create a simple color pallet for the showroom: blue and orange shades that subtly transition from before sunrise (cool, dark and intense) to mid-day (warm, bright and light) from the front to back of the showroom.

I could understand what balance I needed to strike, there’s some angularity and rigidity in the canoe, but then there’s fluid natural forms in the foliage and water, so the design is angular but juxtaposed with rounded, soft edges. Because of this theme, I could focus on simplicity, if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t belong (on the existing presentations there was a lot of information that was not necessary, and so they were streamlined to show only pertinent information that fit with the whole brand). And, finally, I had all of these things guiding me so I could create consistency (eg all the artwork, abstract or otherwise, is centered on that feeling of nature you might experience while canoeing). This has become their brand. The story they were telling is now intuitive to client’s who’ve never heard of them, clients “get it” without being told. Now the story they tell their clients enhances their design, not the other way around. From digital to physical, the same principles apply no matter what you’re creating.

This post is by Reema F. Yeager, a designer, storyteller, artist, and good friend.

(Five) Tips from a Visual Designer

You’re probably wondering, or guessing, what a visual designer really is. “Designer” is a description that applies to so many professions and niches that it’s hard to know what it really means even if you are one. What I mean, is someone who visualizes everything and uses design principles to bring that concept from idea to reality. That’s who I am.

Tips to keep in mind when you are creating your next project:

  1. Consistency
  2. Less is More
  3. Balance
  4. Color
  5. Themes


Whatever you do, work on or create, keep it consistent! Keep consistent formatting, consistent colors/fonts/sizes/visuals, consistent layouts and styles, etc… Decide what you like or want or need for your project and keep repeating that over and over, everywhere. More than 3 fonts, more than a few layout styles, more than a few colors, basically too much going, on starts to look like a hodge-podge (technical term, lol).

Less is More

This started with the Bauhaus movement and became the foundation of minimalist design. Look at any high-end brands now-a-days, and you’ll notice a recurring theme: Minimalist. Less is more because the viewer knows what to focus on. It also makes the designer acutely aware of what’s really important. Ask yourself, what content, features, and extras can you cut out and still keep the integrity and intent clear to the viewer or user? Can you use images instead of words to get your meaning across? Are you using the right medium to get your ideas across in a simpler, more impactful way? Don’t be afraid of blank (negative) spaces, these are equally important. This leads into the next tip


There’s a balance of content vs negative space; large vs small; dark vs light; organic or fluid vs rigid or angular. This also includes too much vs too little; too big vs too small; too colorful vs too bland, and yes, there is such a thing as too minimal. There’s symmetrical and asymmetrical balance. Asymmetrical is still balanced. You might have lots of little items on the left that is balanced by one large item on the right. Asymmetrical can also have a grid or pattern that bounds items together. Our subconscious notices imbalances even if our conscious mind doesn’t, and we instantly feel uneasy and don’t know why. Balance allows people to focus on what’s important, not why we dislike what we are seeing. You need to find a balance so your content/idea/product shines.

This post was by Reema F. Yeager, a designer, artist, storyteller, and good friend of mine.

The Future of Content: Immersive and Expansive

This post is part of The Future of Digital Content series, which discusses six traits I believe will be at the heart what content will look like in the coming years. These traits form a roadmap that lies at the heart of my research and experiments. The traits also work together, mixing and meshing, to paint a picture of how our future selves may read, watch, learn, and listen.

Read the rest of the series.

Let’s recap real fast. We are talking about what content may look like in the future. How is the line between books, television, internet, apps, and other content forms blurring? With shortening attention spans, how will content evolve?

So far, we’ve touched on five:

  1. Mulit-access – we want our content delivered in many different ways.
  2. Multi-modal – we want content that includes several forms of communication (video, text, sound, etc)
  3. Interactive – We want to take control of our destiny (or content). It should respond to us. Personalized.
  4. Collaborative – Working together with readers and other creators to build something more than we could ourselves.
  5. Social – In real live and in cyberspace, social between authors, characters, and readers.

Now, at the end, we reach immersive and expansive. My personal favorite.

Stories have universes, and we want to explore more than just the small part we see in a video or read in a book. Immersive means that we will be able to surround ourselves and explore content on our own terms. Expansive means that content will link together with other content.

To be honest, the inspiration for these traits come from Comicpalooza and other awesome scifi/comic conventions. For those who don’t know how they work, you basically shove thousands of (comic book, sci-fi, anime, and associated awesomeness) fans into a convention center for a weekend. Let the madness begin. The fans bring their favorite stories to life in really interesting ways: dressing as their favorite characters, creating new characters, writing their own stories based in the world, and creating a myriad of art, games, and other materials. This “fanverse” is not canon (not part of the official story), but often becomes just as important to the fans.

It may sound a little weird, but its a lot of fun. And this growing phenomenon can teach us about the future of content.

Expansive Content

This centers around the concept of a “storyverse,” another feature of my research into narrative identity. A storyverse is usually seen in two different ways, as the universe the story happens in and as the universe of story-related stuff in the real world. For clarification sake, I’m going to break these into two different terms.

The Storyverse

This is the world, the galaxy, the universe of the content itself. This is best seen in fiction, where you have characters playing out in a setting. The reader/audience only sees a small part of that universe — whatever the storyteller wants them to see. But, we can imagine that a character has extended family we never meet, lives in a city with unknown streets, and has lived a life beyond the 400 pages of our book. We don’t get to see everything. Most often, the feeling of a story being just part of a universe is what makes a story shine. You’ve heard of three-dimensional characters and internally-consistent worlds? This is the storyverse.

Increasingly, we are seeing storytellers let the reader into more of the storyverse through bonus features, short stories, and connected series.  In this way, we get to choose our own path as we discover the storyverse. There are extra storybits “out there” for us to play around with. For the moment, let’s stick with “cannon” or official bits of the storyverse.

These extra bits don’t have to be bits at all. Look at Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere or the new Marvel movies. In both cases, there are many stories weaving in and out of each other, connecting with  one another, and building a more complete storyverse than a single, linear story can provide. There are many points of entry and many paths through the narrative.

We can see an expansive trait easily in fiction, but it can be just as powerful in non-fiction content. Think of news articles that relate together, articles connected, and bonus features around social media. We are already seeing this everywhere and it is only going to get stronger.

The Metaverse

If the storyverse is all the official stuff of the story or content, then the metaverse is all the other stuff, the stuff outside cannon. For fiction, these are fan stories, cosplay, licensed artwork, and (most) video games just to name a few. It can (and should) be much more though. What about discussions happening around the story? I mean actually embedded in the page. What about comments and markup? These things ring even more true for non-fiction.

The metaverse is where your readers engage with the storyverse.

This is going to happen, regardless of what you do. What will make content successful in the future is an intentional plan to facilitate this metaverse. How can we encourage this interaction, this creation, this collaboration? Those are the content pieces that will win.


Immersive Content

Immersive content surrounds the audience, engaging more than one or two senses. It makes the content part of their world, part of their life. We can see this clearly already with virtual and augmented reality.

Virtual Reality, we will define as engrossing reality. Something that completely surrounds and captivates your audience. The VR headsets are the best example of this so far. Augmented Reality is the accepted term for something that adds to but doesn’t replace the audience’s perception. Things like Google Glasses, which overlay a screen onto the real world would fit here. I would add Engaging Reality in which content engages as many senses as possible, not just sight and sound. Think of interactive theatre or those wonderful scratch-and-sniff stickers.

This may all seem out there, but we are already seeing a lot of this happen. As the future becomes the present, these traits will creep into our content. The most successful — the most memorable, powerful, and effective — content will be intentional about how it is immersive and expansive.

The Path Ahead

This leaves us at the end of our Six Traits of the Future of Content. We have seen how the content of the future (and increasingly of the present) will be multi-access, multimodal, interactive, social, collaborative, and immersive and expansive. The winners of the war for attention will use these traits and create some truly mind-blowing content.

This isn’t the end of the discussion, though. These are my predictions, but no one has the crystal ball, and the future will unravel as it does. I will continue my research and my writing and we will see what happens. How the world will surprise us.

This isn’t even the end of this series! We’ve introduced some basic concepts, but how do we make them work? How do these elements fit together? What is the workflow to create these bits of awesome? Stay tuned, Bat Friends.

This is just the start and the future will be awesome!

Books for Visual Artists

The folks over at BlenderGuru have compiled a great list of books that every (visual) artist should read. Its a wonderful list, so check it out. I have picked the four that I feel are the most important to build a foundation in visual storytelling. The descriptions are quoted from the original.

  • Digital Lighting and Rendering ““ The CG industry”™s go-to book on creating appealing art. It tackles one of the hardest concepts to understand: Lighting. I”™ve been the proud owner of this book for over 5 years and refer to it several times a year.
  • Universal Principles of Design ““ A must have book for any artist or designer. Extremely useful for creating images that are actually based on sound design principles, as opposed to guesswork.
  • The Non-Designer”™s Design Book ““ Explains the fundamental principles of graphic design and typography. Whether you”™re designing a website, business card or flyer. This book explains how to make it look visually captivating ““ in plain easy.
  • Picture Perfect Practice ““ A fantastic book on composition, that although is written for photographers, applies equally to cg art.

Read the rest.

Understanding Composition

Let’s focus on the mixed-media part of mixed-media, interactive stories. As we walk down this road, we look at all the different ways a story can be mixed-media: music, images, photography, collage, and the like. Invariably, these stories will include some visual component.

If we are going to include visual storytelling, its important to do it right. Now I can’t draw a straight line to save my life, but that doesn’t stop me from collaborating with those who do. It helps to speak the language; to understand the ground rules.

The folks over at blenderguru.com have created a fantastic tutorial video on the basic rules of composition.

What You”™ll Learn

  • Why a lack of composition knowledge can undermine your efforts
  • The 3 stages of a well composed image
  • The most common mistake artists make
  • Simple rules to create more engaging artwork

Be sure to check out the original, especially the comments section. They can be very enlightening 🙂


Visual Storytelling Archetype Examples

I talk a lot about archetypes. I also talk a lot about visual stories. While doing research for my author blog, I came across a great article that show how to use archetypes in visual stories (like advertisements). Check it out. It changed my thinking about how to use archetypes to connect with audiences!

Five key campaigns using visual storytelling archetypes to engage audiences | Curve.

Basic Color Theory for Visual Artists

If we are interested in mixed-media stories, that means we should be using more forms of media, right? Absolutely. Visual components of stories are the most popular. Think graphic novels and even film. So, even if you are not the one who is actually rendering these images, it is important to have a basic understanding of what makes visual stories sizzle.

One thing that will bring your work from “hey, that’s alright” to “wow, I’m blown away” is the right use of color. Be very careful about which colors you choose. Most masterpieces use less that 12 actual colors (that includes shades) and they are chosen very, very carefully. Using whatever color you feel like at that moment is the sure sign of an amateur  Creating a solid color palette for each project also makes your life a lot easier and helps you to work faster.

Here’s the best intro to color theory I’ve found. It’s really simple and easy to read.


And here are a couple good videos:

Lemme know what y’all think by commenting below!

Visual Composition and Storytelling

My passion is for mixed-media stories; tales told by alternating mediums. Two of my current projects, Allyson Darke and Phantom Hearts, both alternate between novel-like prose and fully rendered image sequences not unlike fleshed out storyboards. I will talk more about this process later. As I explore what it means to tell a visual story, I’m reminded of a couple basic but incredibly important rules of composition.

Please note: Rules are made to be broken, but only for a specific reason in a specific place.

The Rule of Thirds

RuleOfThirds-SideBySide” by Tadrart01.JPG: Pir6mon
derivative work: Teeks99 (talk) – Tadrart01.JPG. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Rule of Thirds says that “an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.”

Read More

How to Storyboard (some good links)

If we are interested in telling stories through mixed-media, then we must be ready to use all the tools of our trade. Visual stories can be some of the most powerful. I am currently putting the finishing touches on a story that alternates between novel text and full-spread images (similar to The Invention of Hugo Cabret). While working with my co-author (Reema), I learned just how important storyboards are. Even if you are not a visual storyteller. Even if you are the word-smith or music tsar, having a good grasp on storyboard fundamentals is an absolute must. So, here is a list of good, easy to grasp videos and resources to introduce us all to the world of stories through pictures.

Read More

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