Sunday, August 5, 2012

Digital Stamping? Here, Have a Cupcake

How do you feel about digital stamping?  ...ever tried it?  Back in the day the big debate in the stamping world was "cute" vs. "weird".  Now we're debating what it is that constitutes stamping itself.

What's the Difference?

With digis (digital stamps), instead of transferring ink from rubber to paper, your printer produces the image from a computer file.  Nothing goes kerchunk.  There's no rubber; only pixels!  Of course, there are advantages to using digis.  They can be resized to fit your layout, flipped, or altered in any number of other ways by using graphics software like PhotoShop, PhotoShop Elements, InkScape, Gimp, and others.  Lower cost is another advantage of digital vs. rubber.  Often the price per digi is less than its rubber counterpart, and delivery of digital images can be as fast as your internet connection, with no shipping charges.  Storage space is not an issue, either.  Need to store 1,000 stamps?  No problem--if your hard drive or external storage media can't handle it, you can store a virtual room full of digis on one thin CD.

Digital Formats

Digital stamps are usually offered in ".png" or ".jpg" format--sometimes both.  The acronym "png" (pronounced "ping") stands for portable network graphics, which is a compact method for storing image files.  One of the advantages of png over jpg is that png files support transparency.  The transparency attribute makes using a digital stamp something like using a physical stamp in that the transparent pixels of the .png file are like the portion of the rubber stamp that doesn't receive any ink.

jpgs can't deliver transparency.  In a .jpg file, what would be the un-inked portion of a rubber stamp (or the transparent pixels of a digital stamp) translate as the color white.  Let me show you in pictures:
Left side (blue) is in .png format.  Right side is in .jpg format.

Notice how the blue background of the image on the left side shows through the cupcake?  The cupcake image itself has only one color:  black.  Any pixel that is not black is transparent (in this case allowing the blue background to show through the frosting).

Think of it as using a rubber stamp on acetate.  Whatever pattern you place behind the stamped-on acetate will show through un-inked areas of the image.

Contrast that with the image on the right.  With a digi in .jpg format, we have two colors:  black, and white.  The .jpg shown here includes white pixels in the image itself, and also in the background.  The original blue background is completely obliterated by the jpg's not-transparent, pixel-heavy self.

White background?  Not always a great thing.  Opaque frosting on the cupcake though? Yes.  Whereas the image on the left includes only black and transparent pixels, the image on the right includes black and white.  To get the best of both worlds (transparent background and opaque frosting) you're going to have to (digitally) paint white behind the frosting in the first image, or erase the background of the second image.  Those are two options anyway.

I'm using black-and-white in my example, but actually digital stamps can be any color, or multiple colors.  Some sellers offer digis in color, much like you'd find with digital scrapbooking elements.

Pirate?  Just DON'T.

Before we move on, I'd like to address the issue of piracy.  It is not o.k. to download someone's digital artwork--even if you paid for it--and then share that file with someone else without permission from the seller.  Some companies' policies go even further to state that you may not sell any item created with their images.  Some want you to provide accreditation of their company on the back of your finished artwork, or online if posting on the internet.  Please know your seller's attribution policy, and abide by anti-piracy rules.  Piracy hurts everybody.

Have a Cupcake, On Me

O.K. so let's say you've acquired a digi by proper means.  Take the cupcake (links to download are at the bottom of the post), for instance.  You have my permission to use it for your own personal projects.  If you use it on the internet, please give me credit by including a link to this post.

What to do with it?   Well, you could print that lone cupcake onto cardstock.  Either format will print the same in this case, since the white background will be ignored by your printer (unless you have access to a super-wham-o-dyne printer, white ink is not an option).  Once printed, many users then cut out the image and use it in their artwork as an applique, adding color afterwards as they would do if they had stamped it with rubber.

What Else Can You Do with Digis?

Another way to use digis is to manipulate them in their native environment, a graphics program (see above for links to various platforms).  The ATC below was made entirely in PhotoShop Elements, then printed onto heavy cardstock.  I added an ATC back (find some I made here) and off it went to my swap partner.

And Here's Where the Debating Starts...

As a rubber stamper, I object to the term "digital stamping", but not to the process itself.  If graphics is the goal, then I'm more interested in the result than in the method used to get there.

On the other hand, some do object to the use of software in their craft.  They don't consider something that was ultimately printed by a computer to be in the same category with handmade items.

I'm all over the fact that we crafters have yet another medium, digis, at our disposal.  Because it is another medium, it needs to have a different name than "digital stamping".  That's just dumb.

Let me know if you come up with anything.

And now, please do have a cupcake or twenty.  On me.
PDF of 20 cupcakes (5 each of four images) on scribd.  These are intended for printing onto card stock and cutting out.
PNG of a single cupcake on DeviantArt (you might need to create an account there--it's free though).  This one has a transparent background.
JPG of same image.  White background. 


Do not share the images I've offered here, but do link back to this post.  If you end up using the cupcake(s), I'd love to see a photo of your creation (post a link in the comments).

Thank you!

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