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Dash of Inspiration: Image Quality – Excessive Effects

August 5, 2013

A Dash of Inspiration, A Cup of Creativity by Doreen

Image Quality: Excessive Effects

Let’s keep this series going by moving through the IMAGE QUALITY grouping of the Submission Guidelines, and next up  is:

IMAGE QUALITY: Excessive Effects       

The Submission Guidelines state this:

Artists should use a light hand when using special effect filters and blending options offered in digital software. There are many tutorials on the Internet on the use of the various filters available. Filters are not intended to be used in their default settings; it often takes a lot of tweaking and the use of more than one filter or blending mode to achieve an attractive image. A filter will not save a bad photo. Declines may include, but are not limited to: excessive beveling on objects, text and borders, overuse of digital filters, poorly executed effects, poor blending from masking and background removal, etc.   

Excessive Beveling: We chatted about this when we discussed text effects. Same things apply. When it comes to beveling, the difference between pleasing and excessive is a very fine line. In general, beveling is outdated and just not seen in current professional design practices, unless it’s use is barely noticeable. Don’t bevel your image edges, your text, elements within your designs unless your choice is done on a very small portion of your card image and done with a very light touch.

Poor Blending:  Many of us like to remove the existing background and replace it with a better choice, or remove the subject from a photograph and create a collage using bits and pieces. I do a lot of this type of creation and GCU accepts them, however; you need to master background removal, masking and blending techniques or your creations will be declined.  Leaving bits and pieces of remaining background, halos around the edges, sharp or jagged edges are all signs of poor technique and will result in declines. We’ve already talked about this subject, so here is the article as a refresher and/or reference.

image august 1

Overuse/Poorly Executed Digital Filters/Effects: Excessive use or poorly executed use of digital filters are a sign of ‘an amateur at the wheel’. Learn how to combine ‘effects’ with a light hand and choose your subjects carefully when applying digital filtering. All digital imaging software offers filters to manipulate the image, such as; Watercolor, Dry Brush, Poster Edge and so on. These are fun to play with and its great to learn what each application does, however, the effects can be very obvious that digital filters were applied and in many cases using factory settings, therefore creating results that are excessive and artificial.

To really make use of these filters and begin to create something unique, you should experiment with combining these filters on separate layers then use your blending tools; such as opacity and masks to calm the effects down. Your goal should be to actually blend the filter with the photograph or completely transform the image into a realistic looking traditional painting, not simply lay the filter on top of the photograph and consider it done. These filters, when painted on and blended in, are great for pulling out texture, blending colors and giving a true painterly look. When layered on with default settings, they are obviously created by the inexperienced digital artist and will most likely be declined, not only by GCU, but by Stock Agencies, Publishing Houses and gallery exhibits.

image august 2


  • Stay away from Poster Edges and Posterize effects unless you are recreating a ‘retro poster-type’ effect. These are not filters that can be used on every subject, they are a limited use filter and in most cases your greeting card image will be declined if you use them without understanding their purpose.
  • When you choose to use digital filters like the Dry Brush or Watercolor filters in a program like Photoshop, learn to paint these effects on separate layers using layer masks, and only to portions of your image.
  • Watch your highlights and shadow areas carefully for loss of detail and make adjustments.
  • There are thousands of tutorials out there for all types of imaging software showing various techniques on how to create a realistic painterly effect from photographs. If you want to create these effects, research these tutorials and find a process that works for you to create a real work of art not a piece of art that is very recognizable as having digital filters slapped on top of a photograph.

image august 3

Next week we’ll finish the Submission Guidelines: Image Quality section by discussing Lighting/Flash Eye. Till next week, I hope I’ve inspired you to go look through your store and see if you can weed out any images that the reviewers will find during their weeding which might have excessive effects.

For great resources & tips visit the SalonOfArt

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 5, 2013 8:22 pm

    This is a very common misstep and reason for decline on GCU. We see a lot of photographs that appear the artist has:
    a) tried to save a poor photograph by applying a filter
    b) applied the filter / effect globally in the default setting

    Excellent visual examples Doreen!

    • August 6, 2013 2:36 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Mindy. Very true, those new to digital tools often mistake these filters as life-savors for poorly exposed, out of focus photographs … sadly, most of the time it’s quite obvious when that has been done.

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