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BEST of 2006

Designers share their favorites...

This month, DTG readers and subscribers of the Design Cafe share some brief comments about designing for the holidays, and their favorite programs from 2006
      We hope you enjoy these thoughtful comments as much as we did. BRAVO! Each of these will win a great prize from the Design Center.

Be sure to check for next month's topic, and enter to have your comments posted here.

Alien Skin's Blow Up software is incredible!

Keith writes:
      "We had been using Geniune Fractals for the last few years, but BlowUp creates much better results and with the additon of the "Add Grain" slider, it keeps enlargements from looking too "plastic looking." (
Another software package that I discovered this year was iView Multimedia. This is an Adobe bridge-like software, but it allows you to search photos based on file names, folder names, meta tag info, etc. This product has saved us countless hours managing our photographer submissions. (
Our platform is Macintosh and my favorite software is anything from Adobe."
[END QUOTE] Keith is a desktop publishing professional from Charlotte, NC, USA www.streetandsmiths

(Be sure to read our report on the actual use of Alien Blow-up)

Favorite utility program XPlorer2

Steve writes:
      "This is my favorite utility program. It is called xplorer2 from, and there is a free and a pro version. It is essentially a file explorer replacement. I always have it open to help find files. The Pro version's search function is very fast. Here is the website: (i have no affiliation with this company) "
[END QUOTE] Steve is a self employed freelancer from Pitman, NJ

Devoted to Ventura Publisher

Marian writes:
      "There are some of out here who are devoted to Ventura Publisher, now owned by Corel. There is nothing else available that can deal with long documents the way Ventura can. I have been using it since day one, in the late 1980s. Its integration with CorelDraw and PhotoPaint is a phenomenon that more designers should know about. Corel has failed miserably in its marketing strategy for these products, but that doesn't affect the quality of its products."
[END QUOTE] Marian is a self employed freelancer from New City, New York

SOHO Organizer - works flawlessly

Elaine writes:
      "Great application to keep contact - SOHO Organizer - works flawlessly on the mac with Addressbook and iCal - when you make a change in Adressbook, for example, opening up SOHO Organizer will reflect the new change, and visa versa. You can add notes, additional contact info for each client, and print up great lists for you take with you in several formats. It's become indispensible to me!"
[END QUOTE] Elaine is a self employed freelancer from Coram, NY, USA

Great photos from $1.00

Bill writes:
      "I can not live without - Great photos from $1.00 - you can't go wrong. Many new images uploaded daily! Plus see designs other have created from photos they download. A very useful site! Another on I like is On that site you can download a free image daily.
Mac, Photoshop... of course!"
[END QUOTE] Bill is a design professional from Lititz, PA USA

The most fun you will have all year

Sandy writes:
      "Holiday designing is hands-down the most fun you will have all year. There are a great number of projects that I take on during the holiday season but my favorite and the favorite of all my clients is the customized recipe card. Holiday bounty, all our favorite foods, the nostalgic touch of "home" mixed with richly saturated colors and patterns all comes together on a recipe card to send a heartfelt holiday greeting. I will design my card front with a single photo or using a collage of images, something colorful and mouth watering, then add a unique design touch like a special Photoshop brush (like a leaf texture) and an Extensis photoframe edge treatment.
My favorite software, Photoshop CS, makes the "finishing" of the final image fast and easy. Add an appropriate headline and creativly layout the recipe text on the back, layering it with a watermarked copy of a cropped section of the front image. Simple.
The card can be given with food, or posted to your website as a fun holiday download. You can add your logo and contact info to the backside and pass it out at your networking and assocition meetings during the holiday season in lieu of your usual business card. The uses are endless and it can be used year after year while building a stock of designs! To make it easy for future reference, save one copy as an editable file (Illustrator or Photoshop layers) with the font outlined and then save one copy as a medium resolution jpg, easily referenced on my favorite PC platform's imaging software, Microsoft Photo Editor."
[END QUOTE] Sandy is a design professional from Dallas, Texas - USA

We make our own cards

Chris writes:
      "We make our own cards at the end of each year (Christmas cards, for you who relate...). I'm the family photographer (digital), so I always have shots of major events handy on my hard drive in folders organized by person/date). A letter-sized piece of card stock folded in half has room for highlights on each of our four family members plus a cover and envelopes that fit are readily available. The mailing list is about 30, which uses most of a color ink cartridge, but it's worth it to keep in touch and give something beyond wishes for "happy holidays." Each family member proofs or writes the copy, so we all participate. It's a good thing. (Wish I could attach a PDF.)"
[END QUOTE] Chris is a desktop publishing professional from Warrenton, VA USA

Company Christmas cards

Jennifer writes:
      " I think some of the best company Christmas cards I have seen include a nice photo of the department personnel. This can be done on glossy paper as an insert or on the front of the card (if your personnel are an attractive group!). At any rate, this can easily be accomplished with a digital camera, a little work in Adobe Photoshop and QuarkXpress, and with the help of a good printer. I use Mac OSX and the programs already listed above."
[END QUOTE] Jennifer is a design professional from Hastings, NE USA

More creative holiday designs

Rachelle writes:
      "I KNOW that students will always be more creative with their holiday designs when you don't jam trees, snow, stars and ribbon down their throats first!! (we use both mac and pc computers and adobe illustrator and photoshop)"
[END QUOTE] Rachelle is a trainer in education from Collingswood, NJ, USA

Reflections on being a designer

Amber writes:
      "I know that all design is subjective. Just because you earned good grades in college, does not make you a good designer, and just because you were told you knew nothing of design, also does not always mean you'll fail. Just because you know all the "rules" does not make you a creative. Rules are meant to be broken, and any good artist will step out of his comfortable box. You've got to believe in your own work rather than what other people tell you. What one person says is golden, another thinks trash.
I'm running MAC OSX on an Intel iMAC, my favorite software being Adobe's CS2"
[END QUOTE] Amber is a self employed freelancer from Clarksville, TN, USA

Happy January... and New Year!

And, that about wraps it up for this month. See'ya next month -- and don't forget to participate in another upcoming topic in the Design Center

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