Monday, August 20, 2007
Creative Photo Projects
Fun ways to put your photography to good use, from classic to high tech
Design A Postcard
By Dave Willis
Sometimes the classic sharing techniques are the best, and postcards have a personal, "just for you" nostalgia. Online digital labs offer great flexibility and make it easy to upload your image and design your card. If you prefer the do-it-yourself ethic, there's an array of ready-made postcard stock for your inkjet printer—some already have the address lines and stamp box preprinted for you.
For the occasional postcard that's going to one or just a few recipients, printing yourself can be the fastest way to get the job done. Online labs take some of the guesswork out of the process, however, and are an especially better choice when you need to print large volumes of cards, such as the typical holiday greeting.
Many companies, like Mpix.com, offer drag-and-drop style templates that will lead you through the process of designing your postcard. Before you even begin, you should go over fundamental considerations like size, coloring (black-and-white, sepia-toned) and format. Most companies accept JPEG or TIFF, so it's best to stick to those.
If you prefer to control the process yourself, a basic postcard layout will have two considerations: the image and the text. Plan your layout so that the image and the text complement each other. You can print images to either or both sides, but make sure to leave room for personalized greetings. An image is worth a thousand words, but sometimes just a few words will mean more than the image. If you do have the urge to use more images, you can still add text by adding it to the image itself. Most popular image-editing software will have this capability, but if you prefer extended text and font options, try a Photoshop plug-in like Alien Skin's Eye Candy 5: Impact (www.alienskin.com).
When sizing the image for upload to an online service, research the size recommendations of the service that you'll use. Most labs will offer customized dimensions, but they're often more expensive, so you may want to stick with the basic sizes, up to 5x7 inches, that most companies suggest. Some may ask you to oversize the image at a full bleed to allow some excess border for cropping, so be aware that your image may lose some of the edges if you don't follow the instructions.
There are a variety of paper types, as well, from smooth to canvas to matte, and you should select the kind that you find the most pleasing aesthetically. Most people prefer a glossy shine to their image, which is often provided by an optional UV coating that will protect your postcard as it travels.
Image resolution will be at the discretion of the lab you work with, so check to ensure that you meet its standards when submitting. Most recommend a bare minimum of 300 dpi and suggest a higher resolution whenever possible. Generally accepted color spaces are RGB (Red, Green, Blue) and CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black). Black-and-white images should usually be in grayscale.
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