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Michael Johnson

Gaming Screenshots as an Art Form

Flexibility is one of the most fundamental cornerstones of artistic expression. This doesn’t just apply with already established art forms either, as it also reflects the new and constantly evolving avenues which our artistic appreciation can take.

One of the most recent forms that has been becoming increasingly visible is that of static gaming images as art. Of course, games themselves consist of enormous quantities of art assets but, as we commonly see in photography, images when properly framed can account for more than just the sum of their parts.

Borrowing from the Old, Relying on the New

Perhaps the most obvious component of this burgeoning art form comes from the classic discipline of photography. Light, framing, focal length, and so many other forms of image manipulation raise their heads here, and these have benefitted heavily from improving graphical horsepower.

Rising graphical standards through better in-game textures, model quality, lighting techniques, anti-aliasing, and antistrophic filtering have all been growing increasingly convincing in recent years, and these are only a few of the technologies involved.

While depictions of realism have obviously seen some of the biggest leaps in believability, it should also be noted that stylised graphics like those from cell-shaded games have also made significant strides in recent years.

Aiding in this more traditional appeal to photography is the inclusion of what is known as a photo mode in many newer games. This is usually triggered through the pause menu or by performing a special button combination, which then pauses the action and opens up the photo tool.

This tool then allows players to fully rotate and tilt the camera, change its distance, add filters to the screen, remove certain characters, add borders, manipulate saturation and brightness, and otherwise play with a whole host of other options.

In effect, this gives more freedom than a real-life photographer could ever find, which can give rise to some astounding artistic pieces. Take a look at a few from Redbull, for the recent PS4 Spider-Man game, to see just a hint of the possibilities here.

Building the Business

The other side of this equation is afforded through the inclusion of humanity as a means of guiding expression and understanding. Before taking a look at how we accomplish this today, however, we need to examine the place screenshots have had in gaming’s past.

Primarily, screenshots were a form of advertising above all else. By placing images of the most exciting parts of a game on the back of the box, a studio could show their games in the most measured way possible. This could allow them to draw from parts of high action or the areas where games possessed the most graphical fidelity.

This was so important, in fact, that it sometimes involved less than honest practices and, more recently, helped shaped the current form of console gaming. On rare occasions, the screenshots on the back of the gaming box would only include images from the best-looking version of a multiplatform release, for example, while the game included within might never match these standards.

When it comes to the most recent generation of consoles, gaming enthusiasts have lamented the emphasis of resolution over frame-rate. This very deliberate choice has allowed games to look amazingly good in still images like screenshots, though it inevitably makes the gameplay itself suffer as a result of less fluidity.

Better in screenshots, and better for their art, but less helpful to those invested in more mobile depictions of gaming art.

Taking from the Human Aspect

In terms of bringing the visibility of gaming and the art within to mass attention, few developments have been as influential as game streaming. Giving space to both the game and the human participants, this goes for a different tact than just in-game illustration, relating human response and feeling back to the game with a direct line.

There is a modern classic style in taking screenshots from live gaming services like Twitch, UStream, and YouTube, for example, in times of success, failure, frustration, or comedy. Selecting the right moment, and using this to capture emotion is an incredibly effective system and one that has inspired memes the world over.

This doesn’t just apply to these services either, as casino online services utilise game streaming to offer interactive classics such as blackjack and roulette though the likes of live casino games. These are more interactive, and all the more effective at conveying and setting a mood because of it.

Static, Moving, and Virtual

As graphics and animation only improve, and the gaming market continues to grow, it is inevitable that we will see a greater emphasis on gaming-related art in the future. With the introduction of new tech like virtual reality, this could even take the form of fully immersive images, which could shape the medium in ways not yet conceived.

Offering itself as one of the more communal and participatory illustrations of art, from the assets to the placement and capture, this opens doors to an interesting future of collaboration. Regardless of how you see gaming itself, these possibilities are certainly expansive and exciting.

5 Quick Ways to Enhance Portrait Photos

People nowadays snap a lot of portraits, ranging from headshots to selfies, or even group photos. Considering how popular portrait photography can be it is no surprise that most editors have tools to enhance them – but PhotoWorks is particularly noteworthy.

Not only will PhotoWorks provide you with numerous ways to enhance your portrait photos, but its tools are designed to be extremely intuitive and user-friendly. With their help you’ll be able to quickly touch up and improve your portraits as a professional would.

Automatically Balance the Color and Light

Many photos suffer from bad lighting that makes them overexposed, underexposed or affects their colors. In PhotoWorks you can fix that with a single click by using the auto enhancement module.

It is up to you whether you want to correct the light or color balance, or both. Referring to the histogram will let you check the tonal distribution and decide which option to use.

On top of that if you want you can fine tune the adjustments further by using the manual settings to directly alter the Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, Hue, Saturation, and more.

Remove Unwanted Glare

Glare is another common issue that can affect your portraits and make the skin texture look greasy. Fortunately learning how to remove glare in PhotoWorks is easy – and you’ll have several options that you can use.

The easiest way to remove glare is with the Remove Face Shine option in the Portrait Magic tool. It will get rid of the glare on your portraits with a single click.

In some cases you can use other methods to remove the glare however, such as adjusting the Highlights slider, using the Adjustment Brush, or with the Clone Stamp. Each option is different, and suffice to say you’ll be well-equipped to handle any type of glare you encounter.

Fix Red-Eye Effects

If your camera flash was too close to the subject, you’ll end up with portraits that have glowing red eyes – which is what is known as the red-eye effect. That can be fixed quickly using PhotoWorks’ specialized Red Eye Removal tool.

Once you select the tool you can use it to paint over the red eyes in your portraits to fix them. For best results you should adjust the size of the brush, and zoom in to the photo to make painting over the affected area easier.

Whiten Yellow or Stained Teeth

Yellow or stained teeth can make your subjects look older and make smiles look less attractive. However it is easy enough to whiten teeth in your portraits using the specialized preset in PhotoWorks’ Portrait Magic feature.

Not only will the whiten teeth preset help you to make smiles look more radiant and give your subject a set of pearly whites, but you’ll get to control how much you want to whiten the teeth using a simple slider.

Conceal Skin Imperfections

Removing small skin imperfections can be tricky, and over-editing can make your skin look unnatural. That being said if you want a quick way to conceal skin imperfections such as acne, wrinkles, scars, or even eye bags you can use the Healing Brush in PhotoWorks.

As a smart editing tool the healing brush will automatically identify the best area to sample and let you conceal any skin imperfections by simply painting over them. It works best on small imperfections, and you can adjust the brush size to allow for a more precise selection.

The feather and opacity options can help soften the edges of the mask that is applied to make it blend in more naturally.


Overall you should be starting to see how easy it will be to enhance your portrait photos and make them look their best using PhotoWorks. Most of the tools require just a single click or a few simple adjustments using convenient sliders to apply them to your photos.

To be perfectly honest the features described above are just a small selection of the full scope of PhotoWorks’ tools. As you explore its features, you’ll see that there isn’t much that it can’t do, and it will let you really come up with portraits that look like they’ve been snapped in a professional studio.

Featured image by Simon Wijers

Why is the Mona Lisa So Famous?

Creativity and Art

Ever noticed that whenever people have a discussion about art somehow it diverts to become a topic on creativity. But many do believe that the two have no connection whatsoever. Creativity is not art but we can definitely say that art is creativity.

The reason why we are so comfortable saying that is because art is design, the ability to manipulate anything that comes to mind. It does involve a little bit of creativity but it is not creativity. Art is the freedom of interpretation that has no rules, unlike south african casino games they have many rules. You can decide to see a different thing from what everyone else can see or hear or feel. That is art.

The famous painting of Mona Lisa is worth talking about. It is not a usual thing when people mention art and do not mention the painting of Mona Lisa.

Mona Lisa Playing Cards

What really is the fuss about this painting. Seeing it for the first time well we bet you all have thought, ok, this is just a pretty woman with a nice smile and looking very modest. With no jewelry or makeup whatsoever. But is that what this is about?

We would like to think so. But again it is also because of the talented hands of the legendary Leonardo da Vinci. Only the real artists would understand the meaning of detail. The Mona Lisa painting shows the handling of sfumato among other great techniques that only the talented and skillful are able to possess, just like most of the creative online casino games visit site if you would like to see more.

If you are to look at that painting very carefully you will think it is a photo that was taken. And with that, you fail to find a reason for the admiration for the great painting.

What better way to appreciate the painting but to have Mona Lisa playing cards. To be honest it would only make sense this way. Playing cards have paintings that are ancient and very artistic. And we did mention that there is no art without Mona Lisa. And there you have it enjoy using Mona Lisa playing cards.  

Featured image by Juan Di Nella

5 Points on Great Logo Ideas

A great logo plays a significant role in any successful company as it goes a long way in creating an appealing and catchy visual impression of a brand. Although logo maker software can help you create a professional and stunning logo, you shouldn’t rely solely on the intuitiveness of the program because each business is unique. A logo design isn’t one-size-fits-all; it should be tailored to portray specific unique aspects of your business in an exclusive way. Here are some great logo ideas that can help you come up with a killer logo that will be recognizable by your clients whenever they see it and remind them of the great experiences they’ve had with your business.

1. Understand your audience

Before everything else as far as logo designing is concerned, you need to understand your target audience and the best way to win their loyalty. Identify that which they value in your business. It could be that they value speed in the way you serve them, the quality of your products, affordability of your product and the like. You can do a little research to identify that.  Your logo should feature at least one particular thing that your existing and target customers value or likely to value about your business. That thing should also be part of the business’ values.

2. Strive to be unique

In as much as you might be tempted to go with the trendy logo design, uniqueness is key as it sets a business apart from others. Uniqueness in a logo creates an impression of the exceptionality of a business, even in its operations. As such, ensure that you create a logo that you are convinced that none other out there looks similar. Well, it’s not easy to come up with an original thing, but it’s possible. Just take your time to give it the best shot.

3. Color matters

The color palette has very significant influence on the impression of your logo as colors bear different meanings and convey different ideas.  You can either use the brand’s color(s) or any other color(s) that you are certain will bear the intended meaning and convey the message you want to be communicated to the target audience. You can conduct research to understand different colors and their respective impressions to ensure that you don’t go wrong with your color pallet choice.

4. Keep it simple

The best logo is that which a targeted person will easily understand the message it conveys. There’s no need for giving the target audience a hard time as they take ages to analyze the logo. In as much as you might want to show off your typographical prowess, you need to understand if you create a complicated thing, most likely it won’t give you the desired results. The main aim of a logo is to represent a brand in a way that will make it memorable for the people to which it’s directed. A complex logo won’t be memorable. On the other hand, a simple and powerful one will be easily memorable and so, stand the test of time.

5. It’s even easier with online resources

In case you need some inspiration to create a stunning logo design, you can turn to online resources such as logo maker software.  There, you’ll get an array of design tools that will help you customize a logo that will accurately reflect the brand at hand as well as the related products.

A logo is a very vital component in the marketing of a business or brand. Therefore, its creation should be given the attention it deserves. Particularly, ensure that you implement the above five ideas.

Featured image by Aleks Dorohovich

Kickstart Marketing With Free Stock Music?

Most entrepreneurs approach marketing from a visual standpoint, and rightly so. The way your logo, website and social media posts has a tremendous influence on consumers. But, if you want your brand to stand out, add music to your videos, websites, and social media posts.

Finding The Right Music

Music isn’t just a dash of something extra to make your work pop, it’s expected by consumers. Background music gives YouTube and Instagram videos more polish, making them catchy and professional. And the public will trust your brand more if your marketing efforts have that extra spark music gives. Thankfully, you don’t need to hire a team of expensive songwriters to create unique music. Finding royalty free music is easy, and there are thousands of tracks to choose from.

Royalty Free Stock Music

Social media spurred the need for background music because of the explosive success of YouTube. Personal and professionally made videos needed background tunes to make them stick in the minds of the audience. Most content creators at the time couldn’t afford to commission unique music, so they discovered royalty free stock music.

Rights managed music is where the marketer pays royalties to the composer of the tune depending on how many times they use the song. Royalty free stock music is the opposite. The composer licenses the music or sells it outright to a royalty free library. This allows the music to be used repeatedly without paying royalties to the writer of the music.

Why Music Works

Even before the dawn of the internet, marketing has used music to great effect. Countless television commercials and radio jingles have sold products and created brands. The reasons are numerous, but here’s the science of music made simple.

Almost everyone has a tune that reminds them of a certain place or time. This is because the brain processes emotions and memories in the exact same place it processes music. Neuroscientist David Levitin has studied music and how it works with emotion. According to him music is an evolutionary obsession that bonds humans with the song and the images that accompany it.

Music provokes an emotional response in the listener, and it creates an associated memory too. Obviously branding hinges on emotions and memories, so adding music to the marketing mix is an easy decision.

Branding With Music

We can use music for different purposes. For instance, you can use it to target a specific demographic. If your target audience is 18 -30-year-olds, adding hip-hop beats or other contemporary tracks would be extremely effective. Looking to corner the high brow, intellectual type? Use classical music tracks. Music can take a boring ad or social media video and take it from boring to unforgettable.

Selecting The Right Music

Be careful to select the music that fits your brand best. This seems like a simple task, but often marketers fall short when choosing background music. Ask yourself a few questions about your brand, and the image you want to project before selecting the music. For example, if your brand is a fashion-forward cosmetic line, do not choose a ballad about love and loss. Not only is it a questionable choice, but it would confuse the target audience. If you are marketing funeral services, playing an upbeat dance tune would definitely be a no-no.

The other thing to keep in mind is the rhythm of the video you create. You want to match the music to both the mood and to certain beats. Syncing the beats of the words spoken, and the music makes the video appear seamless and professional.

Make Music Work For You

Music is important to people’s lives. It is scientifically proven that human beings respond emotionally and physically to songs, making the message of your marketing more memorable to the listener. Whether you have a small marketing budget or a bottomless purse, music will make your efforts stand out. Use the power of music to drive sales and promote your brand in a cost-effective way using royalty-free stock music.

Featured image by Simon Noah

3 Ways to Motivate Yourself When You Hit the Wall

Keeping motivated when everything in our bodies screams to stop can be difficult. Hitting ‘the wall’ during a particularly tricky task can be easier than continuing and finding that elusive solution to the persistent, nagging problem. Finding motivation can be hard enough, maintaining it can be even more difficult, but hope should not be abandoned. Here are some techniques to deal with getting motivated and staying motivated, from how students continue studying to how supermarkets keep custom. Following similar advice could help get you motivated or break through the wall.

Taking tips from students studying at university seems counterproductive, given the reputation students have for (not) actually studying. But as each university produces thousands of graduates every year, there is obviously something that keeps students motivated through several years of study. Breaking up larger tasks into smaller, manageable chunks is the essence of the student journey. Taking inspiration here could be as simple as breaking a large task into halves, then halving it again, until each step in the task seems more realistically achievable. Counting percentages to completion can help motivate as each step forward spurns you on to finish whatever it is you started.

Taking inspiration from the world of business and how companies motivate customers to use their services can be interesting. Plenty of shops and cafes run loyalty schemes that reward customers for repeat purchases. This motivates them to choose to patronise a particular store over another when thinking of buying something they need. Online casinos also have neat tricks to attract customers, as can be seen through the bonuses offered at particular casinos seen in the source here. The motivation offered here uses a mechanism whereby the user receives a reward for completing a task or for achieving a certain level of completion. To help you beat the wall, set milestones that warrant such rewards and – rather than rewarding customers – you reward yourself when you reach one.

Another outside-the-box way to motivate yourself is to turn whatever you’re doing into a competition. Take tech giants Apple and Samsung, for example, whose motivation for completing designs and churning out new smartphone models is to be in healthy competition with one another. Motivating yourself by competing – either with someone else or just your own record – could unlock a competitive streak that ensures you get the task done. Nothing helps motivation more than winning – or, at least, not losing. According to this piece, Science has proven that competition is the best form of motivation when it comes to exercise. Fitness professionals surround themselves with those who motivate them to improve and there is no reason why this technique wouldn’t work across the board.

Motivation can be easy to say but impossible to find, but there are countless ways of breaking through and finding it. Sometimes the best way to pull yourself out of a tricky situation is to look at how others break themselves out of their own binds and break through that wall. It may inspire a spark of genius that gets the wheels moving.

Featured image by Fabio Comparelli

Networking for Creatives: Socialize Your Way to Success

Being a creative, whether you work in design, film, writing, or art, can feel like a relentless uphill struggle. When you’re first starting out, one of the biggest challenges is simply getting a paid commission, never mind racking up million-dollar deals.

In the creative industries, the work, unfortunately, does not speak for itself. Making a name for yourself is one of the single most important factors in determining your success. This means that any creative needs to a master of networking. This doesn’t come naturally to many people, but there are a few tricks that any budding designer needs to know about making those crucial connections.

Here’s your guide to networking for creatives. 

Source: Raw Pixel

Step One: Establish Your Online Presence 

If you’re a designer, chances are you already have an online presence in the form of a blog. So much of your creative network will be formed online, so you need to stretch your digital presence as widely as possible. Make sure your LinkedIn is up to scratch and try and connect with as many other creatives in your field as possible. Be very active on social media and be sure to offer commissions via Twitter DM or Instagram. Use a creative-only social network such as in order to establish yourself with the right people. 

Step Two: Join the Right Clubs 

Effective creative networking is about running in the right circles. At the most basic level, this can mean joining Facebook groups for local creatives and consumers looking for the kind of work you offer. You can also join members’-only clubs for creatives such as Soho House or LIBRARY. Beyond this, you’ll want to be a part of a members’ club full of other successful people who will be able to get you the work you want. If you’re an online gaming fan, the members’ only Club Royale by Mr Green is an effective way to place yourself with high rollers and successful people who could turn out to be the magical connection you’re looking for. 

Source: Helena Lopes

Step Three: Meet Your Heroes 

Any budding designer has a list of people they look up to, people that inspire you to work harder so that you can reach their level one day. These A-list designers and creatives are not as untouchable as you might think. Reach out to your role models on Twitter, or do your research and find out which events and meet-ups they’ll be at. Connecting with big names will not only help boost your own profile as an artist, but could also be the start of a career-changing professional relationship. Many successful designers are all too happy to help others succeed, so never hesitate to approach your role models. The worst they can say is no and you’ll likely still walk away with some useful advice. 

Final Step: Know Your Worth 

Finally, when you’re starting out, it’s important to know your worth. Working for free is an inevitable part of the journey, but learn to assert yourself. Too many companies try to pay designers with “exposure”, but this doesn’t put food on the table or pay the bills. Don’t be afraid to ask for cold hard cash for your work, just as any other professional would. 

Featured image: Raw Pixel

3 Important Facts About Converting Video Formats

Being able to convert video formats has become essential nowadays, especially if you’re managing lots of video files, using different types of devices, or sharing and distributing videos in any way. It is easier than ever to convert video formats as well nowadays, as there are many user-friendly video converters as well as online converters that can be used.

However before you start to convert your videos between different formats, there are a few important facts that you should be aware of:

Store the original video file in its original quality

As far as possible you should always store the original video file in its original quality. That is due to the fact that while it is possible to downscale the video or lower its bitrate to optimize it for certain devices, upscaling or increasing its bitrate won’t restore its original quality.

If the original video file is an uncompressed or lossless video file that is too large for you to store, you should consider compressing it once into a more accessible format with better compression (such as MP4 with H.264). While not ideal, you can at least store that copy in as close to the original quality as possible.

Of course if storage space isn’t an issue, keeping a lossless copy of the video file is ideal – and it is often what is done during professional video production.

Avoid transcoding a video file multiple times

Transcoding is basically when you convert a video format from one codec to a different codec. Because each codec uses different compression, some data from the original video will be discarded.

If you were to just transcode a video once that lost data won’t be that noticeable. However if you transcode the same video multiple times (e.g. from H.264 to H.265 to H.264 again, and so on), eventually the data that is lost will start to add up and affect the video quality.

That is why you should always try to avoid transcoding any video file multiple times. Additionally it is another reason why keeping the original video file is a good policy – since you can transcode different versions of the video directly from it and minimize the data loss.

Always check for hardware acceleration and not just software support

When you play a video in any format on any device, it needs to be decoded from the compressed video file before it can be displayed. That decoding can either be handled on a software level (i.e. software support) or can be offloaded to the hardware.

As a rule it is always best if the codec you use is supported by the hardware of the device it is going to be played on. Software decoding is not only processor intensive, but also consumes a lot of power – which can be an issue on devices with a limited battery life.

In contrast hardware decoding is more efficient and requires a fraction of the power, making it certainly the preferable option. The only downside is that it takes time for devices to have hardware support built-in.

Actually converting videos from one format to another is the easy part, especially with a user-friendly movie converter. For example you could try Movavi Video Converter if you need one with a wide range of supported formats.

Regardless of the converter that you use each of these facts will help you to convert videos more effectively while preserving their quality. On your part, all you need to do is make it a point to keep them in mind the next time you need to convert a video.

Featured image by Wahid Khene

5 Reasons Your Computer Might Be Running Slow

Thanks to the growth of technology, it’s now possible to work at home and find success. However, it can be hard to achieve that success if your work computer is not running at peak performance. In fact, if your tools of the trade are lagging, it can be crippling to your online business.

There are few instances more exasperating than a new laptop or PC which takes all day to run programs or execute tasks. While you may be tempted to pull your hair out and purchase a new machine, your slowdowns may be preventable. To that end, we will discuss several avenues you can pursue that very well may be the cause for your computer’s slow performance.

Your Hard Disk Space is Full

As time goes on, you will inevitably download programs, applications, photos, files, and other types of data to your computer. These things take up memory, with some filling up more space than others. If you are making your living in graphic design, you will no doubt use up more memory and hard disk space than would someone who merely uses their computer for internet browsing. For this reason, it is advised that you purchase an external hard drive.

Eventually, as more and more files are saved, your central processing unit will inevitably run out of space or grow dangerously close to that capacity. Memory is necessary for programs to run smoothly and it’s recommended that you leave at least 15%-20% space of hard disk available for your computer to be able to run at peak performance. Consider downloading a program like WinDirStat in order to view disk usage statistics and then use it to remove some unnecessary files. If you wish to manually check your disk space, take the following steps:

  • Hit Start
  • Open Windows File Explorer
  • Click on your PC
  • Look below the Windows (C:) to see the percentage of hard disk space available
  • If the hard disk is full, remove programs that take up space

Programs are Running in the Background

A common culprit for computer slowdowns is background programs that automatically and continuously run without your directive. Such programs like ESET are necessary to protect you from malicious software but should be set to scan manually by your command, rather than on a continuous loop. Continuous scans use up a ton of space and processing power, which in turn lead to slower speeds. In order to see background programs and the CPU percentage they require, take the following steps: 

  • Open up Windows Task Manager
  • Go to Processes
  • Click on hidden and visible programs
  • Double click the programs you no longer want to run in the background
  • Hit “End Task”

Monitor Refresh Rate

The refresh rate of a monitor can have a marked impact on input lag. For designers, such issues can seriously throw off your ability to operate at peak levels. Your time management might be thrown entirely out of whack by this small but annoying slowdown. Read up on your monitor refresh rate, including what it is, how to view it, and ways to change it.

Stop Auto Launch

Many programs to try and launch automatically every single time you turn on your PC. While our four productivity apps for students are fantastic, if they are set to auto-launch, they can lead to lags by diverting memory and processing that should be working elsewhere. If you wish to stop the auto launch, take the following steps:

  • Open up Settings
  • Hit “Applications”
  • Click “Startup”
  • Uncheck apps you do not want set to autorun

Remove Browser Add-ons

Browser extensions are fantastic tools that can improve your time on the internet. That said, they may be responsible for slowdowns, especially if you have a lot of them running at one time. Sometimes extensions crossfire and send out conflicting commands that affects speed while browsing. By clicking on “manage extensions,” you can see which add-ons you are running and how much space they take up.

Last Word

Computers are very sophisticated tools so there are several explanations for why they may be running at a snail’s pace. Carefully go through all of these suggestions to see if they are, in fact, the cause underlying your computer’s laggy performance before buying a new device.

Featured image by RawPixel