Saturday, January 30, 2016

New Printer: Canon MG7700 PIXMA

Subheading: We now hate HP Printers!

OK.  I was ready to heave the HP Pinter out the 2nd floor window.  Seriously.  This was our 2nd HP Printer.  The last one had print head problems.  But the reviews on the 8600, when it came out, said those issues had been resolved.  So we bought it.  Partly because we were already familiar with the HP brand and already had the HP printer apps, etc.  Also, HP has this Ink Cartridge delivery system that Julie wanted to have ... only to find out after we bought the printer that it didn't qualify.  What????

Anyway, we had the new printer and it was doing fine.  We bought replacement ink cartridges as needed at Staples, recycling the used cartridges. It was probably only once or twice we ran out of ink of a certain color and didn't have a replacement handy.

But then weird things started happening.  Every time there was a windows update on our main computer, it would lose connection with the printer.  But not just the main computer - even our laptops couldn't print.  Couldn't figure it out.  I mean, the printer is on a wireless connection to the router!  Finally just uninstalled the printer and re-installed it and everyone could print again ... that is, until the next time there was a windows update.  Same thing happened.  So I uninstalled, reinstalled, and everyone could print again.  After it happened the third time I disabled the windows updates.  Ridiculous!

A couple of months later, while printing out a draft TpT product, the ink cartridge holder started making this grinding noise as it was printing.  Didn't sound good, but at least the printer was still working.  I took out all the ink cartridges and did a print head re-align - test page still printed, but that grinding noise was still there.  Well, that continued for about a week or so until there was an error message of a print head alignment problem.  I went through the realignment procedure again and got the printer working again ... until the next day when a different error message popped up: Printhead Alignment Failure.  Arrghhhh!  Now the printer wouldn't do a thing.

We went to the web site, found others had the same problem, many of whom bought new print heads or went through painstaking efforts to disassemble and clean parts and pieces, only to find some colors still not working or other problems.  Personally, I had had it with the printer and didn't want to spend another dime on it, nor another minute dealing with it.

Julie said, "Let's just buy a new printer."  And this time, she said to make sure we get one with the ink program.  So I started looking at the newer printers and reading the reviews. Ha!  Almost every HP printer I looked at had reviews of print head problems!  I said to Julie, "No way we're buying another HP printer!"

So, what to buy?  Reading reviews, it looked like the Epson printers go through too much ink.  The Canon printers looked good, and so did Brother.  Hmmmm, what to get?  Julie said it was up to me and, after looking through a dozen or so, decided on the Canon MG7700 PIXMA.  Why?  A number of reasons - wireless, all-in-one, and didn't see any bad reviews about print heads!  Also, the unit happened to be on sale at Staples.  Checked online for availability and the Staples closest to us didn't have any in stock.  But another store, only a few miles away further, had one is stock.  This was going to be the one!

Got up the next morning and headed to Staples just after it opened.  Found the printer ... looked smaller that what I thought, but it seemed to be well-designed.  Thought the paper tray looked a little thin, like it wouldn't hold much paper and we might have to constantly be adding more paper, but Julie thought this wouldn't be a problem.  So we bought it (along with an extra set of ink cartridges).

Here it is, just out of the box:
And it came with this instruction sheet (obviously not written in the USA):
But the instructions were clear and well-organized and the printer setup process went very smooth.  Installing the new ink cartridges was easy:

See the little lights on each ink cartridge?  Let's you know each is seated properly.  Of course, like the newer HPs, it also checks to make sure you are using official Canon ink cartridges - some people think this is a problem because they want to use different ink (or re-filled cartridges), but we don't see this as a problem - new ink cartridges are just the price you pay for printing.

Once the ink was in, the printer went through an alignment test and it printed this alignment page:

 I was also prompted to start the computer install - from the Canon website listed on the instruction sheet you get this screen:

From the website, a small program is downloaded onto your computer which you then click on to run the install.  This went OK, but next time I'll be sure to UN-check the extra photo editing software - don't need it!  Then the program went into the wireless setup and here the instructions weren't clear.  I ended up having to go through the setup a couple of different ways but finally got the printer to recognize the router and we were good to go!

Here's the test page printed from the computer:

And then I printed out the cover page of my latest Spring Activity Packet product:

Nice print - clean colors.  Love it!

The other computers at home instantly recognize the new printer as its on the wireless network, so no separate installs for the other computers are needed.  Very nice!  We'll see how it goes as we start really using the printer, but on Day 1 I call it a complete success!

Oh, and for what we did with the HP?  No, I didn't chuck it out the 2nd floor window (I just would have had to clean up the mess).  No, instead it was handed over to Staples, along with the unused and partially used print cartridges, for recycling.



Monday, July 27, 2015

Scrappy Buddies

Having spent a lot of time drawing my Friends characters, I decided I needed a change - not only to make some younger-looking kids, but also as a creative challenge to myself.  I'll be the first to admit my OCD-tendencies, but this clipart journey has already got me believing I can do things I didn't know I had in me.  All along I told Julie that I don't really do "cute", but with so many products now behind me, and me feeling more confident in my abilities, I started looking at reference images of more primary kids to start a new line of products.

I had already started my buddy series but thought I could even do younger.  Working in Illustrator (and Inkscape on my laptop), simple, clean shapes look great and so I had the idea to start a scrapbook style set.  The first set includes a number of little boys and girls, as well as a teacher:

And I also made grayscale copies of each figure:

But then another Teachers Pay Teachers seller told me there are many teachers that make products of blackline images only, and although the grayscale black and white images have a lot of depth, I went ahead and made blackline versions of each image and added them to the set:

So now the product has been updated to include 3 sets of each figure: color, grayscale, and blackline with white fill.

I already had the 2nd set completed and up for sale, so added blacklines of those figures too.  The second set includes more boy and girl figures and were fun to put together:

The 3rd set of Scrappy Kid Buddies has figures that are looser, more playful, with characters practically running and jumping off the page!

For the 4th set, the kids are even more active, as the scrappy kids are now on swings and doing other fun activities:

And now I've just uploaded a 5th Scrappy Kid set - with a boy and a girl in front of a whiteboard, in 6 different colors, grayscale and white-illed blacklines:

These sets have allowed me to believe more in myself and my abilities to make fun clipart sets, and I'm planning even more different sets.

Here are the links to these first 5 Scrappy Buddies sets on my Teachers Pay Teachers store:

Scrappy Kid Buddies and Teacher Clipart
Scrappy Kid Buddies 2 Clipart
Scrappy Jumping Kid Buddies 3 Clipart
Scrappy Playing Kid Buddies 4 Clipart
Scrappy Kid Buddies 5 with Whiteboards Clipart



Saturday, July 18, 2015

Are Using Custom Social Media Buttons Legal?

Custom blog designs are known to offer styles and colors for social media buttons (like Facebook and Instagram), but are these actually legal?  How about custom sets of Pinterest, Twitter or YouTube buttons?  I've been thinking about a new blog design (what I have now is one of the "standard" templates, although one I really like) and I've been looking at a lot of blogs, particularly teacher blogs of my fellow TpT'ers.  Most of the custom blogs I've seen have stylized social media icons to fit the design of the blog, and they look great.  So I started poking around and looking for custom buttons to help with my own custom blog design and I found a lot out there (most of which are free).  But at the same time, I also found some articles about these social media icons infringing on copyright laws, so I decided to dig a little deeper.

I guess I should say that I'm not a lawyer and this blog post doesn't contain any real legal advice - just me observation and opinion.  But when it comes to social media, most of these companies have policies against modifying their logos.  In other words, their logos are their "brands" and are trademarked, so they have a legal right to control how their logo is represented.

Let's take a look at some of these guidelines.


Twitter seems to be one of the logos I see most often changed - like the lower case "t" in a blue box for example ... but this is NOT their official logo.  Their trademarked logo is just a bird in a box.  And Twitter's guidelines not only talk about the logo, but also extend to their name and just about anything else related to what they do:
"The Twitter marks include, but are not limited to, the Twitter name, logo, the term “Tweet” and any word, phrase, image, or other designation that identifies the source or origin of any of Twitter’s products. Do not modify or alter the marks or use them in a confusing way, including suggesting sponsorship or endorsement by Twitter, or in a way that confuses Twitter with another brand. Use our official and unmodified Twitter bird to represent Twitter."

  • Use speech bubbles or words around the bird
  • Rotate or change the direction of the bird
  • Animate the bird
  • Flock the bird with other birds or other creatures
  • Change the color of the bird
  • Overprint or obstruct any part of the bird
  • Anthropomorphize the bird
  • Add special effects to the bird
  • Use old versions or any other marks or logos to represent our brand
Link: Twitter brand assets

So basically, Twitter is saying you cannot modify their logo and you cannot change the color of the bird.  Here is a quick visual guide to their logo:


Instagram is unique because it has two versions of its icon. The “Multi-Color Camera” is instantly recognizable, since it’s literally the mobile app icon. The simpler “Glyph” is actually the default icon that a brand should use. Instagram states that the Multi-Color Camera should only be utilized if you are encouraging users to download the app. Lastly, Instagram permits the Glyph’s color to be changed as needed, making it the only major social media company I know to allow this.

Link: Instagram brand resources

The Pinterest icon, or the “badge" as they call it, is different in that it’s a circle instead of the normal rounded square. Hence anything that isn’t a circle is automatically the wrong icon.

Link: Pinterest brand guidelines


What Facebook calls the “f” Logo is likely the most incorrectly used social media icon on the internet. As a rule of thumb, the correct icon is one solid blue with a white “f” that bleeds off of the box. And the "f" is NOT centered in the box.  If there are multiple shades of blue, a shadow, or a gradient, it’s likely the wrong icon.  Facebook also allows a white "shadow" of the box with a transparent "f" which allows the color of the background to show through.

Link: Facebook brand assets


Periscope seems to be the latest craze ... but they too have guidelines regarding their logo.

Link: Periscope press assets


And do you know what the official Bloglovin button is?

Yeah, A black square with a B and an apostrophe.  Not really graphic-friendly, and I haven't seen any sites that use this correctly.  More often than not, I see something like this:

And this would be wrong.

Link: Bloglovin Widgets

So, what about Teachers Pay Teachers?

Teachers Pay Teachers

I couldn't find any guidelines on their website so I decided to contact them and see what they'd say, and here is their response:
Thanks so much for writing in!
It's awesome to see this kind of excitement and passion for TpT. As you may know, using the TpT logo and name the right way is super important to protect our brand. So, if you do want to move forward with this idea, we have some guidelines for you to follow:
- Don’t use the TpT name or logo in a way that would confuse someone into thinking that a product, item, or anything else is made or endorsed by Teachers Pay Teachers.
- Don’t use the TpT logo or name in a way that would confuse someone into thinking that a website is run or endorsed by Teachers Pay Teachers.
- Don’t alter, stretch, condense, overlay, stylize, or otherwise skew our logo images in any way.
- Any product you create using our name or logo should be for fun or for promotion of your TpT store.
- Anything with the TpT name or logo should be shared freely or sold only to recoup costs of production.
I hope this clarifies. Please let me know if you have any questions or if there's anything else I can help with.
Team TpT
 Here is the TPT logo:

And they have this one without the text:





So, what will happen if I use a different logo for my buttons?

Well, these companies could choose to sue you.  Legally speaking, they own their logos, they have every right to control how they’re presented, and they COULD choose to sue you if they wanted.  But unless you’re making money from modified logos, you’re probably okay.

Although these companies COULD sue anyone violating these rules, they probably wouldn’t. First, I think these rules are primarily in place for two reasons:
  1. To regulate how their logos appear in marketing campaigns. So when an advertisement on TV says “follow us on Twitter”, they want to regulate how that logo appears. These are big, paid marketing campaigns I'm talking about.
  2. To prevent people from making money off of custom, modified versions of their logos.
So, I think if you are a blogger and don't have a website that is making money but has some modified social media icons in your sidebar to match your design, the big companies probably won’t care.

If you’re selling modified logos on Teachers Pay Teachers or Etsy, they’re probably more likely to care because then you’re making money off of their trademark.  One seller on Etsy had her store taken down because of a product she was selling which had modified social media icons.  Here's her story:

A Lesson In Social Media Icons & Trademark

But when it comes to you and your little blog with color-coordinated, matching buttons, there's a small amount of risk in using modified logos, but probably not something that could cost you your house. Let’s say Pinterest decides to go after people who have modified their logo. Their first step probably won’t be to sue you. Instead, they would probably first send you a cease and desist letter which says something like, “Please stop, you’re violating our policies.” So then you get the letter and change out your icons.

So, if you have different logo buttons on your blog, what should you do?

I’m not recommending that you ignore the law, which states you’re not allowed to modify these images. All I’m really saying is that YES you’re not allowed to modify them, BUT so many people do. The odds of you getting sued if you’re a just a blogger are extremely low. The odds of you getting sued without first getting a cease and desist letter are even lower.

But if you have a set of custom buttons for sale (or are thinking of making such a set), DON'T.

It's not worth the risk.

So, for ease of use, I've put together a Freebie product in my Teachers Pay Teachers store with the official trademarked logos.  Here's the link to the product:
Social Media Icons Clipart 

And, I guess I'll be sticking with this blog design for a while ...



Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Teachers Pay Teachers Conference in Las Vegas 2015 #tptvegas15

Let me just say, right at the start, the TpT conference was awesome!

To start with, its been about 4 1/2 years since I've been in Las Vegas.  That trip didn't go so well as out stay at the Monte Carlo wasn't a great one.  We determined the Vegas hotels were now more interested in making a buck than good customer service and we thought we'd never go to Vegas again ... that is, until TpT.  Last year, Julie attended TpT Vegas 2014 (by herself - I stayed home with the kids), so despite us saying we'd never go back, she did last year.

So, when the 2015 Teachers Pay Teachers conference was announced it would be in Las Vegas again, we decided we would both go.  We arranged our kids' schedules so we would be kid-free, booked flights on Jet Blue and a hotel room at Treasure Island (much, much cheaper than the Venetian).  I guess being on the architecture team that designed the Venetian doesn't mean anything to them as far as discounts ...

But it was great to see the Venetian again.  It was about 16 years ago when I was actually living in Las Vegas assisting with the construction completion of the Venetian.  I had already been working on the project as an architect for three years, but all of the flying back and forth (Boston-Las Vegas) was getting old so I volunteered to move out to Vegas through the project completion (and ended up staying a couple of extra years doing follow-up projects - but that's another story!).  

After 16 years, the Venetian still looks great!  I had designed and detailed the entire entry sequence, which included the moving walkways up from the sidewalk, through the Campanile, and over the Rialto Bridge.  The Campanile is still one of the best parts of any project I've ever worked on as an architect as I had to figure out how to make the tall tower look as real as possible, but using easy-to-fabricate products in panelized forms.  

The Rialto Bridge was also a challenge as I had to work with the elevator/escalator company that was making the custom moving walkways that go up and over the bridge.  

Oh, and the Venetian also looks great at night! (This shot taken from the bridge over to TI.)

Now, to the conference.  As I only opened my TpT store 6 months ago, I don't have a lot of personal experience as to who the TpT staff is and who the top sellers are.  Also, as a clip artist, I found most of the sessions are geared toward teacher-sellers who make products for teachers, not clip artists who make products for other teacher-sellers.  But it was still a great experience being at the conference and meeting so many great people!

The conference kicked off with a great start by Adam Freed and Amy Borrell Berner:

I then attended the clip art session by Michelle Tsivgadellis (the 3am teacher):

And later the Design Panel with Kimberley Geswein (KG Fonts), Nikki Casassa (Melonheadz), Michelle again (3AM Teacher), Julie Faulkner and Blair Turner:

And the Superpowers of PowerPoint (Michelle Oakes, Hope King, and Rachelle Smith), who looked great in their capes:

And Rachel Lynette!


The other sessions I attended weren't so great - not because the presenters did not do a good job (I think all were well-prepared and great), but because they weren't that useful in where I am in my TpT journey as a clip artist.  But that didn't stop me from meeting a lot of wonderful TpT'ers, and having a great time at other events outside of the conference, like the Primary Pack Kick Back at the Bourbon Room on Friday night!

Overall, it was a great trip for both the conference and being able to experience the Venetian again.  Here's a shot of Julie (A First for Everything) and Amy (Learning Lessons with Mrs. Labrasciano) in St. Marks Square in the Venetian:

And we also had a great dinner at Canaletto:

Can't wait until next year!  (But will it be in Vegas again?)



Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Ready for Vegas, Baby!

Last year, Julie went to the first annual Teachers Pay Teachers Conference in Las Vegas, without me.  It's not as if she didn't ask, but I had the kids that weekend and the extra plane ticket just wasn't in the budget.  Plus, I wasn't really in the business so while Julie was at the conference I didn't know what I'd be doing all day.

So, this year, with the teachers clipart business starting to take off, I'm going with her to this year's conference!  We made our plans back in February, got our plane tickets and hotel reservations, sadly, at the TI - couldn't afford the Venetian.  :-(

But it will be great to see the Venetian again!  We were last in Las Vegas together about 4 years ago and it was fun to see The Venetian after 10 years.  I spent 3 years back in the late 90s in Las Vegas working on The Venetian as an architect, first through the design back here in Massachusetts, then on site in Las Vegas during construction ... but that's another story, and what seems like a lifetime ago.

Now I'm excited to see The Venetian again, this time as a conference-goer, both in support of Julie (A First For Everything) as well as promoting my own business.  Just got my new KP Clipart button thanks to Nadine at  ... here it is:

So I'll be wearing it throughout the conference and hope to meet a lot of new people, many whom I only know through their TpT stores.



Monday, June 29, 2015

Space Rockets and Solar System Clipart

Yeah, finally finished!  I've just completed my latest space sets, Space Planets and Rocket Clipart and Space Paper / Backgrounds Clipart. 

I had done a Solar System set a number of months age, which looked like this:

And so to add to the solar system and planets collection, I've put together more planets, other cosmic images, UFOs, a space station, a satellite, and space shuttle & rocket images.  Here's what that clipart set looks like:

With this clipart set I've included a background of stars.  So I've also put together another set of images of different backgrounds, some with more stars, some with less, some with different types of stars, and a couple with Earth in it.  Here is what the background set looks like:

As with most of my sets, I include both color and black & white images - which with this space background set the B & W backgrounds look pretty cool!

Now that I have 4 sets of space-related clipart sets, I'm offering them all together in one bundled set - here's the cover image and a few shots of how clipart images from the different sets can be used together:

Here's the link to the Space and Planets Bundle Clipart set on my Teachers Pay Teachers site - the description also includes links to the individual sets for more information on each:

Space and Planets Clipart Bundle

I've had a lot of fun putting together these space-themed clipart sets.  I hope you enjoy them!



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Space Buddies

Continuing my Buddies series, I've just finished Buddies in Space!  I've always loved space - studying the planets and stars when I was (much) younger.  And yes, was even alive and somewhat remember when the Apollo space program went to the moon!

So, as I've started working on this series of clipart, I thought it would be fun to do a set of space images.  I already have a planet / solar system set of clipart I put together a couple of months ago so now I have a set with kids to go with it (and am already working on another space-related clipart set of other space images, like other planets, a satellite, a space station, and other rockets).

For this Space and Astronaut Buddies Clipart set, I've put together 4 buddies in space suits, 7 buddies in the space shuttle, and 10 rocket images with either 0, 1, 2 or 3 buddies at different angles so you can use the rocket either pointing up, pointing to the side or pointing at an angle.  Also included is a space background with stars.  All of these clipart images come in both color and black & white.

As I was making these, I wasn't sure how best to do the buddy faces as they are all either wearing a space helmet or are in a rocket behind glass.  So in Illustrator I grouped all of the head objects together and then changed the transparency and brightness levels so that the final images look like they are actually behind glass.  The "glass" that makes up either the space helmet or rocket window also has some reflective objects to help make it look a little more realistic.

Here's a link to the product on my Teachers Pay Teachers site:
Space and Astronaut Buddies Clipart