When You Need To Do More Than Just Print; Easy Editing, Snappy Art, And More Actions

“To err is human—and to blame it on a computer is even more so.”—Robert Orben

Wi-Fi and printing are two words I never expected to use together in a sentence, but after working with Epson’s (www.epson.com) Artisan 700 All-in-One I can’t imagine it any other way. For openers, the Artisan 700 is compact with a sleek Porsche-like profile, has a built-in 2400dpi resolution scanner, and prints and copies in black and color. It’s fast, too, and can print text at up to 38 pages per minute, 4x6 photos as fast as 10 seconds, and an 8x10 in 50 seconds. Built-in card slots on the front panel, including one for a USB flash drive, let me print directly from a memory card but best of all the built-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet networking allows Mary and I to share the printer.

This is an especially good deal when we’re working in different parts of the house using our laptops. No more trips upstairs to plug the printer into the laptop and make a print. Either of us can print from wherever we are—in the kitchen or the garage. Standing only 5.9” tall and with an easy-to-view 2.5” LCD screen, the Artisan 700 along with its big brother the Artisan 800 have redefined a moribund genre of office peripherals. The Artisan 700 costs less than $200, while the Artisan 800 is $299.99 and adds a wireless fax, an automatic document feeder, and a higher resolution (4800dpi) scanner. Both models offer Epson’s automatic photo correction feature that lets you preview image enhancements directly on the built-in LCD, allowing you to rescue some photos that might have otherwise been tossed out. You can even automatically remove redeye. And get this: using the Print and Share app ($6.99 at the iTunes App Store) you can make prints on either printer directly from your iPhone.

Watching The Aurora
Light Crafts’ (www.lightcrafts.com) Aurora is a powerful yet straightforward editing, organizing, and photo-sharing Windows-based software that can bring out the best in your digital snapshots. Aurora’s visual photo editor simplifies photo editing by suggesting improvements to photos in an intuitive WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) manner. A pop-up image selector lets you see a range of improvements and pick exactly how an edited photo might look after clicking on the desired effect.

© 2008, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved

For example, the Relight tool essentially “turns on” the light inside the image, creating better looking and more realistic photos. You can straighten, adjust color strength and warmth, crop, zoom, and eliminate redeye in a simple and intuitive way. Aurora lets you import photos from your camera or computer, rearrange and rename them, then organize, tag, and rate all of your favorites for later viewing and retrieval. It offers online back-up services ($4.95 per month) to ostensibly keep photos safe and makes sharing photos easy with publishing tools and a built-in interface with sites like Flickr and Facebook. Aurora can be downloaded for $19.95.

Digital Art? It’s A Snap
Alien Skin Software’s (www.alienskin.com) Snap Art 2 is a Photoshop-compatible plug-in that’s designed to turn your photography into works of art with a single click. OK, and maybe just a few slider tweaks, too. It simulates individual brush strokes and canvas textures, producing results that emulate handmade art, especially when they’re printed on canvas. The plug-in lets you get a jump-start on image manipulation by choosing from hundreds of preset styles along with 10 different kinds of natural media effects, such as oil paint, watercolor, and pencil sketch. You can then use the familiar Alien Skin interface to customize everything in your digital palette from brush size to paint thickness and produce your own signature look.

© 2009, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved

Snap Art 2 applies thousands of brush strokes and lets you choose where you want more detail, making it a great tool for creating stunning portraits. Printing Tip: To provide the sharpest, clearest details make sure that you re-size your image to the final image dimensions before running Snap Art 2. You can use Photoshop’s Crop tool or Alien Skin’s own Blow Up plug-in to do the re-sizing. You’ll get the best results if your image resolution is set at 300dpi, but Alien Skin suggests that you can drop the resolution down as far as 180dpi without losing too much detail, especially when printing on canvas or thick fine art paper. They don’t recommend going below 180dpi.

Taking Action With Craig
Craig Minielly’s (www.craigsactions.com) new Craig’s Actions Toolkit and Craig’s Stylers, along with enhanced updates of Studio Workflows and iTones Workflows, are must-have Photoshop Actions for photographers looking for ways to separate their work from the competition and increase productivity at the same time. Craig’s Actions Toolkit includes actions for production, enhancement, and retouching. The Stylers includes 70+ special effects action techniques that can be subtly applied as a simple wash or full strength to an image to produce highly dramatic and edgy artistic statements. There’s also a set of video tutorials to show you how, but I suggest that you start with a visit to Craig’s site to see specific before and after examples.

© 2008, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved