Reuters: Oddly Enough

(ARA) - Nothing says how much you value a person more than a personalized handcrafted card or gift. And making your own can be far easier on your budget than buying from the store. So consider putting your creative skills to the test this year.

Where to start?

No need to be a computer guru
First, assess your computer's capabilities and obtain the right software. The more RAM (amount of memory) the computer has the better, according to Keld Bangsberg, academic director in Media Arts & Animation at The Art Institute of Portland in Oregon. This will allow you to store many photos and video files, which take up room in your hard drive. "Machines with a minimum of 4 gigabytes are recommended. You don't need a high end machine to accomplish good work, but having a machine that doesn't fight against you is helpful."

For software, Ric Peterson, The Art Institute of Seattle academic director in Photography and Video Production recommends Adobe products, which he says are the "industry standard." Consumers should be able to find a wide range of new software these days for photo and video editing, particularly on Apple platforms.

Plan the project for success
For crafty projects such as greeting cards or a memory album, try to go beyond just selecting the right photos. Add special touches that represent your family, your interests, where you live, favorite vacations or beloved pets. This can include scanned images of your child's artwork, a postcard, famous quotes or poems, for example.

Bangsberg also recommends thinking about foundational elements such as color and what kind of mood the color conveys. "Ask yourself are you working within a color palette that is compatible, or are the colors disjointed, and don't match?" he adds.

When tackling video, the best way to get started, according to Peterson, is to map out a small storyboard to plan out the shots. Another aspect to consider is how you frame your scenes - you can use close-ups to focus the attention and perhaps heighten the moment, or use broad vistas, where the camera is farther away.

Learn to 'release' creativity
For most novices, learning how to release your creativity may be the most difficult challenge.

"Practice is the most surefire way to getting better in any creative endeavor," says Bangsberg. "First, find a simple way to get your ideas recorded. Don't expect perfection on your first try, it's all about capturing the inspiration when it strikes."

Norton Young, department director in Advertising and Graphic Design at The Art Institute of Portland, agrees. He recommends carrying a small journal so you can write down anything that is a trigger such as words, color combinations, or objects that you can work off of later.

To spark ideas and concepts, also try changing up your routine. Young explained that we tend to rely on what we know, which can be a creative block and that the best approach is to put yourself in a new frame of mind. He offers these tips in how to get your creative juices flowing:

* Put yourself in an unfamiliar situation or place.

* Observe objects around you and think about two items that do not normally go together and how to make them one concept.

* Read different magazines and watch television shows you normally do not view.

* Try new foods or listen to different music genres.

"Looking for inspiration in areas you are not used to seeing is the key," adds Young. To learn more about The Art Institutes schools, visit www.artinstitutes.edu.Personalize your greeting cards and gifts for the holidays
Category: Lifestyle