Monday, March 23, 2015

Free Moodboard Templates

The other day I shared some tips on creating effective mood boards. Gathering the visual inspiration is the fun and easy part, but putting it all together in an organized fashion can be time-consuming. So I've created a few free mood board templates for you to use in Photoshop to get you started!

A basic understanding of Photoshop layers and clipping masks is required. I've included instructions on a separate layer in the PSD file to give you some guidance on how to use these.

Feel free to ask in the comments below if you have any problems!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tips for Creating Effective Mood Boards

Being a graphic designer requires a certain level of telepathy to fully understand a client's vision before starting a project. Unfortunately there isn't a Skillshare class on mind reading (correction: there was, but it's since been removed). So using mood boards is the next best way to visually communicate ideas between parties and ensure everyone is on the same page before getting too deep into a design.

Mood boards have been such a helpful part of my process, for clients that know exactly what they want and for those that need a little help making sense of the ideas in their head. So I've written up some tips for making mood boards and a step-by-step of how I go about creating them.

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Quick Tips

Gather inspiration from all sorts of places

Search online (I use these sites: Pinterest, Dribbble, Behance, Designspiration, Tumblr, Flickr), browse through books, and look around your environment. Go out and take your own photos, browse through the stuff you have in your own home, peruse the shelves at the store.

When I designed the vinyl album art for Being As An Ocean's Dear G-d…, I pulled out my parent's old record collection and spent an hour observing design trends, font styles, textures, etc. The back of that album was actually based off a tattered copy of The Eagles' The Long Run. When I rebranded a nearby neighborhood, I drove around and took photos of the retro building signs, architecture, and preexisting artwork in the community (murals, paintings on electric boxes, etc). Inspiration is everywhere, so think outside your computer!

Focus more on styles vs final designs

It's good to include some examples of similar design styles, but avoid filling your entire mood board with other designer's work. Be inspired by similar styles, but don't set yourself up to imitate these designs. However, if you find yourself inspired by a design, save it. One of my past instructors used to tell us to save every design we took note of that way we could reference back to them and make sure we didn't subconsciously copy it. Keeping a private Pinterest board is great for this.

Instead of only referencing other designs, seek out different mediums. When I'm putting together a mood board for a logo design, I don't just look for other logo designs. I gather photographs, illustrations, book covers, patterns, textures, etc that all convey the style I'm going for.

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Process of Creating a Mood Board

01. Start with keywords that describe the project

Sometimes they're literal – either related to the brand name, the product, or target audience (for example, bison and jerky were literal keywords for The Dapper Bison); while other times they're more conceptual (words like rustic, masculine, and adventurous).

02. Search for images that represent the literal keywords

I usually use these as my main images. For example, for The Dapper Bison, my main images were of a bison, a jar of jerky, and a well-dressed gentleman. These main photos helped drive the vibe of the mood board.

03. Next find secondary supporting images

Look for photos, textures, patterns, lettering styles, etc that encompass the conceptual words, and also match or compliment the style of the main image.

04. Notice color trends between the images

Colors are packed full of meaning and have a huge impact on the mood. These sites have some great info on the psychology of color: Symbolism of Color | Color Meaning

05. Look for other images related to that color

Lucky for us, there are people on Pinterest who obsessively organize images in boards based entirely on color. Search for your particular color, select Boards, and browse through the multitude of images strictly in that color. Pick ones that further enhance the overall style of your mood board and carryout the keywords.

06. Reflect on your findings

As I search for inspiration, I throw everything into a private Pinterest board to later make sense of. Some of the images I was originally inspired by won't get used because they either don't work with the others, or they just don't represent the brand like I originally thought.

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07. Ask Why?

If you want to be more than just a pixel pusher, your design decisions need to have purpose. Ask why certain images inspire you or your client, or why they help influence the overall style of the mood board. For example, in my most recent moodboard, my client and I included a specific book cover because we loved the oxblood color, the Old Style serif all uppercase lettering, and the fact that the floral elements mixed in with the medieval weapons felt strong and powerful yet feminine. All of these observations helped influence the final brand.

08. Put it all together

There are many ways to assemble a mood board, but I personally choose to lay them out in a stylized grid in Photoshop. Use varying sizes to establish visual hierarchy – make the most important images larger and keep the secondary supporting images smaller. For more on that, check out 6 Principles of Visual Hierarchy For Designers.


I could write a whole nother post about crediting, but if you're going to share your moodboard online, give credit for the original works! Correct sources aren't often easily available on Pinterest (again, I'll save that for another rant), so Google image reverse search is your best option. Right click the image > Copy Image Address > Go to Google image search > Select the camera icon in the search bar > Paste the image URL and search. If you're lucky, you'll find the source of the original image on the first page. If not, you'll have to do a bit of sleuthing.

Hope this helps some of you! If you aren't already, give mood boarding a try. They're not only useful for communicating ideas in the beginning, but they're also a fun way to get into the groove of your project.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Moodboard - Arc & Ember

Just wrapped up a branding project for a blog client of mine, and I'm super excited to share the final designs! For now, here's a look at the moodboard we developed for the look-and-feel. My client described the project as "a collaborative online space for women who are connecting to their own bodies, strength, and magic." We drew a lot of inspiration from the Victorian fascination with Joan of Arc as a sort of mythic representation of feminine power. So we went with a style that was bold but still notably feminine, with a bit of a dark witchy undertone to it. Can't wait to show off the rest of this project! :)

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Chris & Hollyanne's Wedding

Hollyanne and Chris had a beautiful San Diego "winter" wedding at the historic Darlington House in La Jolla. In general, Chris is a pretty stoic kind of guy, but watching him light up at the sight of his gorgeous wife was so special. And how could he not? Hollyanne was one strikingly radiant bride! Also, I absolutely loved that they included their Boston terrier in the wedding as their best man. ;)

Monday, March 9, 2015

24 Before 25

Yesterday was my birthday, and as tradition, I've compiled a list of things I'd like to accomplish before the next one. It's easy to just let the years pass on by without a second thought, but as I get older, I strive to become a better person with meaningful experiences to look back on. Twenty-four is gonna be a crazy different year for me. I feel like I'm officially an "adult" with real responsibilities – as a wife, a college graduate, a business owner, etc. Twenty-three was all about figuring out what I want out of life and how I fit into the world. Now twenty-four is time to do the work and get things done. It's time for me to stop dreaming and start doing. So here are a few things I plan on doing this year.

01. Purge!

Throw out clothes that don't fit, underwear that got chewed up in the dryer, and socks with no matches. Clean up hard drives and delete duplicate files that are taking up space. Get rid of the unnecessary clutter and let go of things that bog down my mind.

02. Connect with more creative ladies.

Already doing this! My extraordinarily talented friend Lindsey Clark gathered a few artsy girls together for coffee one morning to talk shop, encourage each other, and overall do life together. I can't express enough how incredible it's been to have a group of like-minded women to share my journey with. (I'll probably talk more on this later in another post.)

03. Start agility training with Scout.

If you haven't noticed, I'm pretty obsessed with this dog. She is ridiculously smart and so much fun to train. But cattle dogs are a lot more high maintenance than other breeds when it comes to exercise, and they needs "jobs" in order to stay physically and mentally healthy. Heelers were pretty much built for agility and since this little pup is starting to turn the house into an agility course, I want to enroll in some official classes with her this year.

04. Make more photo books.

As we move further into a disposable and intangible digital age, I find myself craving analog. I want to be able to hold my memories and appreciate them more and more as time passes. Joy Cho gives some great tips for archiving your digital photos with intention, and I plan on using Artifact Uprising to make some photo books this year.

05. Learn to develop a Wordpress theme from scratch.

I dream of regaining my status as a unicorn (someone who designs and develops). I haven't kept up with the ever-changing trends in web design over the years and ended up falling behind, especially when it come to CMS. While I can code a responsive site from scratch using static HTML5/CSS, I haven't quite figured out dynamic coding for Wordpress. I'm determined to master it by the end of the year.

06. Take a trip to Portland.

Stumptown is next up on our random trips list. Hopefully getting tattooed while we're there and visiting old friends (and maybe making new ones?).

07. Finally finish some old projects!

I have notebooks filled with ideas, unfinished drawings lying around, and photos that were never edited. This is the year these projects will finally see the light of day!

08. Do something special for the important people in my life.

One of my best friends, Ali, has an incredible gift for making her friends feel especially valued. This girl has left gift baskets on my doorstep, sent hand made cards in the mail, and can be counted on like no other. I've always been more reserved in relationships, but this year I'm gonna strive to make sure those that matter know they matter.

09. Get good at stick n poke tattoos.

Some years ago, my husband started drawing on himself with a sewing needle and calligraphy ink. Considering I'm the better artist of the two, he's agreed to show me how to do it myself and use his skin for practice.

10. Throw a 90s party.

Nickelodeon style.

11. Attend a design / creative conference.

Whether it's Yellow Conference, Circles, Designer Vaca, or just a Creative Mornings talk in San Diego, I want to glean more knowledge from other designers, network with my peers, and be inspired by the success of others.

12. Do something outside my comfort zone for my business.

Reach out to a dream client, contact an agency for freelance work, or sell my work in a new-to-me way.

13. Cope with the fact that I won't be going to Comic Con this year. :(

Yep, it's the first time in 5 years my friends and I had no luck getting badges with the new "randomized" registration system. We'll have to figure out something else to do when July rolls around to keep our minds off it.

14. Start working on a new costume.

Hey, even though we aren't going to SDCC this year, doesn't mean I can't at least get ahead on a new piece for next time. Already been planning a new Star Wars couples cosplay. ;)

15. Plan a special getaway to celebrate our one year of marriage.

How have we already been married for 6 months?!

16. Break a bad habit.

If I have one habit that annoys the hell out of Dave, it's my dirty cup collecting problem. I make a chai banana shake every morning and then leave the cup on my desk. Repeat every day for a whole week and I suddenly have an army of dirty Mason jars stationed in my office. As I write this, there's currently 9 on my desk and two more in the bedroom… It needs to stop.

17. Master the art of baking one thing really well.

I love to cook and I'm pretty darn good at it. Baking, however, is not my forte. I don't plan to become a master baker, but I'd love to be able to make one thing right, if not really good.

18. Re-watch every episode of Pokemon.

At least up 'til the original trio separates at the end of Master Quest (season 5). Maybe I'm going through a quarter-life crisis and reverting to my childhood, but Dave and I wind down at the end of the night by watching old episodes from the Indigo League and playing Blue version on my Gameboy Color. And it's been the best decision we've ever made. 216 more episodes to go!

19. Own my expertise.

I have no fear of calling myself an expert on certain things, but I have a hard time feeling like my knowledge is worth sharing. I'd love to start revealing more creative secrets on this blog and maybe even put together a photography or design related ecourse.

20. Take better care of myself.

While I'm all about loving yourself as you are, I know I'm currently not at my best. Despite swearing I wouldn't let it happen, I completely fell victim to the newlywed weight gain. It's time to start getting my money's worth out of the gym membership I can't bring myself to cancel. And in the meantime: start whitening my teeth again, plan weekly meals, wash my makeup off EVERY night (not just when I feel like it), keep my nails mannicured, and get a dang haircut more often than once every 5 months.

21. Camp at Yosemite.

Haven't been since I was a kid, and I know I'd have a whole new appreciation for it now.

22. Do some sort of creative challenge.

I love the idea behind 365 projects, but I know I don't have the time or discipline to complete one. Maybe there's something else out there that would still be challenging, but more realistic for my work schedule.

23. Finalize my workspace.

There's a reason I haven't posted a home tour in ages, even after moving into a new place... Boxes still line my office floors and cords are slithering around the walls. I desperately need to take control of my creative space this year.

24. Keep not giving a f*ck.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Why I've Starting Photographing Boudoir

The first time I became interested in photographing boudoir was after second shooting a wedding with a good friend of mine. The bride wanted to recreate a photo she'd seen on Pinterest before getting into her dress. She was topless, her bare back towards the camera, and the light from the hotel room window passed through her veil. They easily got the shot in just a few clicks, but my photographer friend encouraged her to try a few other looks. She shyly covered herself, notably sucked in her stomach, and self-consciously moved only as she was directed. After a few more clicks, my friend flipped the camera screen around to her and revealed an incredibly gorgeous woman staring back. "Oh my gosh! I can't believe that's ME!" Seeing herself like that, maybe for the first time ever, triggered something. And what was only meant to be a quick shot turned into a full boudoir session as she rolled around in bed, made eyes at the camera, and increasingly became more and more confident with herself and her body.

I loved that moment so much. Yeah, the photo was intended as a gift for her soon-to-be hubby, but that experience was all for her. A beautiful self-transformation. As a photographer, I wanted to be a part of giving other women that same experience.

I need not remind anyone how much of Western women's lives are spent fussing over our bodies, feeling insecure about too much this or too little that. We constantly look back on how we used to be or long for an unrealistic future version of ourselves, never embracing the right now, just as you are.

One of my favorite quotes I've included in my sample book is:

“Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” - Coco Chanel

The great thing I saw happen when I offered my Valentine's boudoir promo so last minute is I had many women spontaneously decide to book a shoot right now. They didn't have a chance to "get in shape," get their hair did, or practice being sexy. In fact, one of my friends ate a Big Mac right before her session. And guess what? She looked stunning! Because she chose to be herself.

Which is why I also prefer to have my girls do their own looks. Some boudoir photographers offer full hair and makeup transformations (some even go as far as showing "before and after" photos in their portfolios as if it's some great feat that they turned this "ugly duckling" into a sexy swan). Those are the Groupon ads I see all the time. Women with loaded on eye makeup in pearls and high heels lounging in white sheets looking like soft-core sexed up parodies of what they think men like. Instead, my goal is to show women just how beautiful and every-day gorgeous they are, right now in their daily lives -- no professional styling, personal trainers, or stripper heels needed.

Of course, anything worth doing comes with critics. Since starting to post boudoir photos on my Instagram (with permission of course), I've lost numerous followers, and definitely experienced my fair share of judgement from some of my more conservative acquaintances. Their hatred of seeing other women being body-confident says more about them than it does about me or my work. No amount of negativity can take away the reward of watching the self-confidence pour in when these women realize how gorgeous they are on camera. My work never had this kind of purpose before – through these photos, I'm helping make an impact in other women's lives. I'll never get tired of hearing, "Oh my gosh! I look so good!" So I'll stop posting boudoir on Instagram once every woman has that same moment of realization. Until then, haters can deal with it.

Wanna book a shoot with me? Email me for more details!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Valentine's Gifts for Your Strange Girl

I'm beyond #blessed to have a man who nurtures and encourages my weirdness. I mean, he gave me a dead skunk as a wedding present; took me to the Museum of Death for our 6 year anniversary; and during one of our early dating years I told him I didn't want flowers for Valentine's day, so instead he filled a mason jar with dirt and stuck in a few twigs and foxtail weeds. No one embraces my strangeness quite like this man.

Don't know how to tell your own guy you want jewelry fashioned out of human teeth this Valentine's day? Or don't know what to get your odd lady? Check out my list of strange gift ideas for the girl who has everything weird.

1 // Indulge her affinity for the strange and unusual with this Freak of Nature crop top by Pretty Snake, featuring a pattern of familiar oddities and curious creatures.

2 // What girl doesn't love getting jewelry for Valentine's day? This beautiful buffalo tooth necklace capped with a gold filigree wrap has a special Victorian naturalist charm similar to the stag teeth jewels Prince Albert frequently gave his beloved Queen Victoria.

3 // And speaking of teeth, these human tooth rings are an especially sweet token of affection. Each real human molar is just as unique as your Valentine.

4 // Beyond the Dark Veil is a gorgeous collection of post mortem and mourning photography from the early 20th century Victorian era. Each image "speak[s] of love, loss, lives cut short, brave final hours, shattered families, and the depths of the human spirit."

5 // This chic matte black porcelain doll head mug is the perfect gift for the freaky coffee or tea drinker in your life. She's sure to think of you every time she takes a warm sip from it's lifeless noggin.

6 // For Strange Women is a botanical perfume boutique that concocts scents reminiscent of antiquity and nature. Their solid scents are sold in beautiful Victorian lockets, bottles, and compacts; and the intriguing fragrance names range from "Satin Corset" to "Coyote" and "Horse".

7 // This charming little beetle purse features a lovely screen print of a black stag beetle, a sexually ambitious insect that uses its signature antler-esque mandibles for courtship and battle against other males. So romantic.

8 // When in doubt, just get her a skull. Particularly an otter skull with gilded teeth. Bitches love skulls.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Newest Member of Our Little Family

Sorry for the radio silence lately, but my life has been consumed with raising our new fur child. If you follow me on Instagram, you've already seen lots of Scout, our 3 month old blue heeler. Dave and I picked her up in the boonies of Ramona, California and immediately fell in love!

If you aren't familiar with Australian cattle dogs (which most people don't seem to be -- we gets lots of "What is that?!" on our walks), they were originally developed by crossbreeding Collies with Dingos, and later with Dalmatians and Kelpies. They're one of the top 10 smartest dogs. I've grown up with some smart dogs in my life (my first childhood dogs were a Rottweiler and a doberman, and of course my current Rottweiler, Frankie -- who lives at my parents' place if anyone is concerned where she went, haha), but there is nothing like a cattle dog. I'm starting to understand fellow owners' obsession with the breed. I might be turning into a bit of a crazy dog lady. But training and spending my days with her has been so rewarding. They're not kidding when they say these dogs are smart. Within a week of having her, she already mastered sit / down / stay / come / shake / leave it / bring it / drop it / crate / and every command I really need her to know. This breed is notoriously known for being "velcro dogs", so you can be sure she follows me everywhere, sits at my feet while I work in the office, cuddles on the couch while we watch movies, and constantly looks up at me for approval and guidance. It's uncanny how much she understands and how well we're able to communicate with each other throughout the day.

I'm so looking forward to the journey this dog is going to take us on in the years to come.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Flying with Sam Golden

My friend Sam officially earned his FAA certified Commercial Pilot license after 5 years of hardwork and dedication. In celebration, we did a commemorative photoshoot (technically this was meant to be his Christmas present last year -- but now we had an even better reason to finally shoot!). Sam flew us out to a short landing strip in the middle of the nowhere, surrounded by nothing but desert and bare mountains. Such a fun afternoon and so exciting to fly over our beautiful city in this little plane!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Free Printable Christmas Gift Tags

Happy Friday everyone! Christmas is just around the corner. I haven't even finished my Christmas shopping yet, let alone started wrapping. But if you're ahead of the game, I've created some freebie holiday gift tags to spruce up your packages. All you need to do is download the file, print it onto cardstock, cut 'em out, hole punch, and tie with string or twine. I have a few different options -- big, small, colored, and lineart only. Feel free to use for all your personal gift wrapping needs!

If you use these these on your gifts, I'd love to see! Upload a photo and tag me on Instagram @stuckwithpins!

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