Monthly Archives: January 2013

Roast Duck a la Wareing

I made Roast Duck using a Marcus Wareing recipe today – delicious, lovely and moist.  Thank you Mr Wareing.

Mr Wareing’s recipe:  http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/recipes/roast-duck-recipe-whole-duck

I did have to depart a bit as I was missing a few ingredients.  Some I wished I had, especially the Madeira.

  • Madeira – I substituted white wine and a little brandy.  Madeira would be better.
  • Leek – I added extra onion
  • Star Anise & Cinnamon sticks – I substituted two tsps of 5 spice.  Whole spices better but 5 spice contains both.
  • Garlic & Ginger – I used a squeeze each of the fresh purees.  Obviously fresh pieces would be better.
  • Chillies – Added a punch of course ground dried red chilli.

The liquor didn’t thicken enough to glaze the duck for the final roasting – I suspect because there was not enough sugar without the Madeira – but it was a joy to eat:  Moist with a slight kick of spice and a crispy skin.  We had a weird ‘crown’ roast – poor thing was missing its back legs and arse but its going to last one more meat meal for two of us and then the bones and left over bits will make a nice soup or stock.  I also have enough duck fat for a few weeks – looking forward to the roast tatties.  So my £5 special offer bird will have made 6.5 meals.  A lovely treat from not much more than a chicken.


I miss Mr Adams

Found quote of the day:

“It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes”

Douglas Adams


What was all that stuff about vectors for…

I thought you might like to see what all that stuff about vectors & blending colours in Photoshop was for.  I like to Illustrate my characters. I find it much easier to write about them with an image in my head.  Oddly the reverse of my feelings about watching the film before reading the book.  If I see the film first, its someone else’s imaginings that fill my head and I like to have my own image first.

So back to Fate. The first character I created.  I staged this image in Second Life (SL): making the avatar and finding the backdrop, taking a snapshot and messing with it in Photoshop.  One of the maddening things about SL is that they still have a transparencies bug which means the original image needed a lot of touching up to get the grass out of Fate’s wings particularly.  After that I separated her from the background and then played with colours, shadows and highlights till I was happy.  You might ask why not do the background and avatar separately.  I have tried but I haven’t managed yet to remove successfully the ‘bluescreen’ background colour from her transparent wings.

Anyway, the finished image:

Photpshop edited Fate in Sepia tones

Photpshop edited Fate in Sepia tones

And the image I downloaded from Second Life:

Snapshot of Fate unedited

Snapshot of Fate unedited


On economics as if people mattered…

I keep losing this quote so I am posting it here to keep it safe.  It is my favourite and one that has guided my professional life since my university tutor recommended the book to me about 20years ago:

“…The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity.  It would be highly uneconomic, for instance, to go in for complicated tailoring, like the modern west, when a much more beautiful effect can be achieved by the skilful draping of uncut material. It would be the height of folly to make material so that it should wear out quickly and the height of barbarity to make anything ugly, shabby or mean. What has just been said about clothing applies equally to all other human requirements.  The ownership and the consumption of goods is a means to an end, and Buddhist economics is the systematic study of how to attain given ends with the minimum of means.”

E. F. Scumacher, Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered 1963.

Thank you Adam.


Using Vectors in Photoshop

I have a very unsteady hand with both the mouse and my tablet and sometimes I need precise flowing lines.  The best way to do this is to use “Vectors” ie the “Pen tool”.  These are not so bad when you get the hang of them but I needed a lot of tutorial help to get my head round how Photoshop works with these.

THE PEN TOOL

The Pen tool uses Bezier Curves to make any complex shape you like.

You can place the shape approximately and edit once the curve is complete.  Start with the fewest anchor points you can get away with.  Note: You need one for each change in direction of the shape you are bounding.  To make smooth curve then the direction lines need to be at a tangent to the curve you are making.  The length of the direction line determines how much influence the associated action point has on the curve.

Pull out the handles and make the direction lines as tangential as you can then modify the length to roughly describe the curve you want.

Then locate the next Anchor Point.  If the curve bounds a closed shape then to complete hover the starting point till a little circle appears then left click to confirm.

  • Left click to locate an “Anchor Point”.
  • Release without dragging for Straight lines.  (I tend to drag anyway as I find them difficult to add later – I’m sure there is a better way than making a new anchor and deleting the old one.)
  • Hold and drag you will get the “Handles” for “Bezier Curves”. Handles consist of “Direction Lines” with “Control Points” at the end.
  • Use the “Path Selection” tool to move the vector curves you have made
  • Use the “Direction Selection” Tool (White Arrow button) to edit the “Handles”. You need to click the button then click anywhere on the curve outline except the action points to activate the Path.
  • Once highlighted, click on an Anchor Point to show its handles or on the curve between to see the two Direction lines/control points affecting that curve.  Click and drag the control points to edit the curve.  Keep the direction lines tangential to the curve at the anchor point to keep a smooth transition.
  • If a corner is wanted Alt-Left click the Control point in question and it will allow the two direction lines round that anchor point to move independently.
  • To remove an anchor point right click on the anchor point and choose “Delete Anchor Point”
  • To add an anchor point right click roughly where you want it and “Add Anchor Point”

There are two modes: “Shape layers” or “Paths”.  Paths are temporary things to help you draw the outline of something.  Shape layers are permanent smart objects of a single colour. You must select the mode before you start making your curves.

PATHS –  I use paths like this to make boundary shapes for textures I need to trim in conjunction with the magic wand fence.

  • Make your shape using the pen tool (Pen Button)
  • The pen menu will appear.  Mine is at the top of my window.  Choose the Path button.
  • Modify using the shape to get it just how you want using the “Direction Selection” Tool.
  • Create a new layer & make it active
  • Choose an appropriate pen or brush for your outline
  • Right click and choose Stroke Path & the tool you want to make the outline with (Note: if you want a good boundary to use the magic wand on then make the pencil or brush thickness at least 2px).  Also check you have chosen a contrasting colour to the background for your outline otherwise like me you wont know its worked.
  • Delete the path you made by Rick clicking and choosing “Delete Path” (Sadly you have to as you can’t hide it and you cant get out of vector  path mode till you do.  Let me know if you have found a way to store your vector paths.)

SHAPE LAYERS – I use shape layers to make graphic images using plain colours (Rather like making collages).  In this mode the paths are put on their own layer so you can keep them and modify them when you want.  Sadly so far I can’t see how to use them to make complex fences or how I can add an image rather than a plain colour.  The shape is used to create a mask.

  • Make your shape using the pen tool (Pen Button)
  • The pen menu will appear.  Mine is at the top of my window.  Choose the Shape Layer button.
  • Modify using the shape to get it just how you want using the “Direction Selection” Tool.
  • Double-click on the colour square in the layers panel to change the colour
  • Highlight the mask square in the layers panel to change the shape
  • You can use the “blending options” in the layers panel to add a gradient or emboss drop shadow, stroke etc.
  • You can also make groups called smart objects – I haven’t tried that yet but the videos below show you how.

Good Video Tutorials:

  • Raster/Vector/Bezier Curves –  http://faculty.rcc.edu/hewitt/Adobe_Photoshop/raster_vector_gfx/raster_vector.html
  • Paths – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EK07W73lm7Y
  • Shape layers – Part 1 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8wOuC0PiMI and Part 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWpxo9dBIQU

Three Knots

Not all those who wander are lost.

JACK MONROE

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