How-to use the Adobe colour picker to choose a colour palette

adobe colour picker

Helloooo! Here’s a fresh video for you today – it’s one of my favourite colour-picking tools that I share with my clients. There are lots of colour picking programs around, but I like sharing the Adobe colour picker because it’s easy to use and has some useful features – you can extract colour from your favourite image, you can tweak sample points, and you can save your palettes. (You can also share your favourite palettes with the Adobe community, and you can also explore other people’s palettes too.)


Julie x


How to Color Patterns in Illustrator

(How to Color Patterns in Illustrator: Guest post by Sew Heidi.
We’ve been working on colour this month, so I thought this would be a fitting one to finish with! Heidi always writes such great posts, and this is no exception. Enjoy.)

I’ve watched many designers fight through the process of recoloring seamless repeating patterns. They’ll drag the pattern out of the swatch panel, edit it, and then drag it back in. Are you guilty of recoloring patterns this way? If so, you’re not alone – but I will help you break this bad habit, and show you a much quicker, easier and more intuitive way to do this. Ready? Let’s go!

What You’ll Need:

Note: This tutorial also applies to recoloring artwork / objects that are not or do not contain repeating patterns, but the example below will be done with a pattern.

Step 1: Access Illustrator’s Live Color Feature

Select an instance of your pattern in your file and choose Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork (1) or click on the color wheel icon (2) in your control bar.

Step 2 (for versions AI CC 2015 and newer – if you’re on AI CC 2014 and earlier, skip to Step 3): Reset Colors

In the CC 2015 update, Adobe released a new Live Color feature that automatically recolors the artwork based on recently used colors. I personally dislike this new feature and haven’t been able to find a way to turn it off (perhaps you will like it in which case you’re in luck!).  If upon launching Live Color, your artwork automatically changes colors, you may want to reset to the original colors. Do this by clicking the eye dropper icon (1) towards the upper right to “Get colors from selected art”.

Once you click this, the original colors will be restored.

Step 3: Using the Live Color Interface

Upon launching Live Color, you will see 2 lists of colors: Current Colors (1) in the left column and New Colors (2) in the right column. The Current column contains the colors that your artwork is currently made up of, and the New column contains the colors that you will be changing your artwork to.

Step 4: Swapping Colors

If you want to swap color positions, it’s as simple as dragging and dropping colors over each other in the New column. In the below example, I’ve taken the middle caramel color and dragged it onto the dark brown color in the top position (1).
illustrator_color_patterns_step3-1.1You can see now that the color positions in the pattern have been swapped (2) and the New column reflects the new color positions (3).

Step 5: Merging / Overwriting Colors

If you have too many colors in your artwork and you want to merge them, you can drag the colors from the Current column into the New column (1).
You will now see in your artwork (2) and in the New column (3) that the caramel color has over written the dark brown color.

Step 6: Choosing Brand New Colors

You may want to completely change the colors of your artwork, which is easy to do! Double click on the color in the New column that you want to change (1). This will launch the Color Picker (2) where you can select any color you want. If you want to choose a specific color from your Color Swatches, click Color Swatches (3).
illustrator_color_patterns_step3-3.1Your Color Swatches are now loaded (4) (which may just be the default AI swatches unless you’ve defined custom swatches). Note: only solid color swatches will load here, you will not see pattern or gradient swatches. If you want to switch back to the Color Picker, click Color Models (5).
illustrator_color_patterns_step3-3.2Once you’ve selected new colors for some or all of the color positions, your artwork should show the recolored results (6) and the New column should reflect the new colors you’ve chosen (7).

Step 7: Randomly Change Color Order

This is one of my favorite features in Live Color as it will often give you color results that you may not have thought of on your own. With only 3 colors, the results aren’t super exciting, but if your artwork has more colors, you can click this button many times to quickly get a ton of different color options. Simply click the “Randomly change color order” button (1) to watch the colors change in the artwork.
Below you can see 2 different colorways (2 & 3) I’ve quickly created using this button.

Step 8: Accepting the New Colors

Once your artwork is recolored and you’re ready to accept the changes, you are almost ready to hit the OK button. Before you do this however, make sure that the check box for Recolor Art in the bottom left corner IS checked (1). If this is not checked, the artwork will not actually be recolored and you will lose all your changes. Once you have double checked that this box is checked, you can hit OK (2)!
Once you’ve hit OK, have a look at your swatches panel. You will now notice, you have the original swatch plus the newly colored swatch (3). Every time you create a new colorway of your pattern using Live Color, it will automatically create a new swatch instance for you – so cool!

Not Just for Patterns!

Remember, the Live Color feature is not just for patterns! You can use it to recolor any artwork in Illustrator whether it’s solid blocks of color or solid blocks of color and patterns. It also will recolor both strokes and fills. Simply select the artwork, choose Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork and swap, overwrite or choose completely new colors. Be mindful that when using Live Color for artwork other than patterns, you may want to create a copy of the artwork first (1). Unlike how AI creates a new pattern swatch of your new colorway, it will not automatically create a new instance of your artwork.

And Last But Not Least, the Live Color Disclaimer: There is No Undo!

I get asked all the time and see designers trying to do it all the time: cmd/ctrl + Z while in Live Color. Unfortunately there is no “Edit > Undo” within Live Color. This is true both while you are inside the interface and after you’ve hit “OK”. If you are in the Live Color interface and define a new color using the Color Picker, then accidentally overwrite it, there’s no way to get it back.  Additionally, if you hit OK and then want to jump back one step into the Live Color interface to modify some of your changes, there is no way to do this. Choosing Edit > Undo will simply change your pattern back to the original colors.

This disclaimer aside, Live Color is by far the fastest, easiest and most efficient ways to color patterns and other artwork in Illustrator. Give it a try and I promise, you’ll never go back to your old ways!


Heidi B describes herself as the “Fashion Tech Evangelista”, and has been working with and teaching Illustrator for more than 15 years. If you get the impression she knows her stuff, you’d be right – and she’s got some pretty cool tutorials on her website to prove it. You can find her at

THE 10 things to get you flying on Instagram : Part 1

THE best 10 things to get you flying on instagram


Instagram. It’s all about the image, so make it work for you!

It’s a great business tool, and I’ll get to why in a minute. But you don’t have to – of course you can simply use Instagram for your own amusement and to share your life with friends because it IS a lot of fun, especially if you and your friends enjoy a bit of good photography. You could even consider having two accounts – a public one for business, and a private one for family and friends (find out how to set an account to “Private” here).

If you want use it for business you need to be a bit strategic about the quality and types of images that you share. You should always be aiming for high-quality photos, because that’s what gets the likes, the comments and the reposts.

First up: like all social media, there are no legitimate, quick ways to build up a genuine audience. It can only be done with time; by following other accounts, liking their images and commenting. And it takes lots of time, so don’t think it’s a quick way to get your message out there.

The good news is that according to Search Engine Journal, Instagram has the highest rate of growth of new users, growing by 9% over 2014, whereas Facebook didn’t grow at all. And if you’re using it for business, consider that Facebook uses algorithms to filter what gets into people’s feeds at the moment, whereas Instagram still feeds through everything, so that all your images get shown to all the people who are following you (if they’re looking at the right time).

And if your audience is young, the news is even better. Roughly half of internet-using young adults ages 18-29 (53%) use Instagram. On top of that, instagrammers are a highly engaged audience too – half 0f ALL users (49%) use the site daily.

It sounds so good, and you want to be there, right!? So, how do you get people to follow you? How do you build an audience of adoring fans?

As I said, it does take time. But there are lots of ways you can optimise your chances of being found, and today we’ll go through the two most important things – your Bio and your Images.


Instagram is THE best thing for your biz. Here's the top 10 things you need to succeed ~ Click To Tweet



Just like your “About” page on your blog, you need to make sure your profile is complete because your followers want to find out about you!

Absolutely include your profile pic, and make sure it’s one that fits your brand. If you’ve got a professional pic, here’s the place to use it – if it’s the same as you’ve used on other social media, all the better. You want people to recognise you/your brand!

As for your description, you only have 150 characters for your bio, so make sure it says exactly what you’re about, and make it vibrant and interesting. You can use it to add in a special specific hashtag, as I’ve done – “For my latest work, follow #tractorgirlmakesnewtops” – or you can use it for a call to action (e.g. point them to your opt-in), or another web link.

I love my friend Sarah‘s bio – “Most days you’ll find me at home. Just knock.” Now I know it doesn’t tell you anything about what she does – but it is so welcoming and friendly, and it is too sweet to resist. Even though she doesn’t say what she does in her bio, it is completely apparent on her feed – all her images are of the things she’s made; clothing from gorgeous vintage fabrics. Her username, APieceOfPieShop, also let’s you know that she’s selling it, and of course, she’s got a link to her shop in her bio as well. YES there’s a spot to list your website, so USE it. Make sure your potential customers can find you outside Instagram.

Another great bio is from Jess Van Den of CreateAndThrive. Her bio reads “Practical, actionable info to help you build a thriving handmade business. #CreateandThrive emojiBlog + podcast + guides + courses + #ThriverCircle”. It says EXACTLY what Create & Thrive does, and offers you two hashtags to explore straight up as well.



If you’re a photographer, and think (like my friend Lisa) that you feel you’re somehow cheating by taking a little snap with your phone because it’s not a ‘real’ camera, think again.

Your iPhone is not a substitute for your ‘real’ camera; think of it as another tool in your arsenal. It is a different beast, and you should consider it as a separate medium to your camera-based photography – just as knitting is different to crochet, or poetry is different to prose. Consider its parameters – it is a fixed small, square format, and there are limited aspects you can tweak with regard to lighting, colour, and focus. So think about those parameters as challenges to your creativity, and see what you can make with them! And remember that if you’re a photographer you already have an advantage over lots of other instagrammers, because you understand composition, don’t you!?

Still feel like you’ve lost control over your images? Stop grinding your teeth in frustrated angst. You CAN get more control over your images with some cool apps, such as VSCO CAM, Afterlight, and SnapSeed. But it really depends on what you’re after – my photography is pretty simple, and I find I don’t need the extra fancy stuff. Apart from taking the images with the Camera function on my phone because it has better basic edits than Instagram, for the moment I’m happy simply using the cropping tools, and just tweaking the lighting and contrast.

I rarely use filters either, but if you choose to go that way make sure you stick to the same one or two for all your images, as you want your feed to have a cohesive feel to it. Why?


my morning view

my morning view


I’m glad you asked. If you’re using Instagram for your brand, you need to start with a clear focus on what you intend to put into your feed. Sticking to a clear theme means that whoever comes across your account will know what you’re about and jump on board if it resonates with them.

It’s important to take lots of photos, and then choose the best ONE to share. Edit your pics before posting – straighten horizons, crop out unwanted details, tweak the contrast and lighting, etc – it can make all the difference between ho-hum and beautiful.

You also need to build a particular photographic style. You can do this through how you style your products, whether you add text to the images (marbleandblossoms does this cleverly by adding in a printed card to the photo), what colours you use, and so on. This is why it’s important to stay with the same few filters – they are all quite different and can alter the mood of your images substantially. Personally, I love clean lines, textures and patterns, and more minimal, balanced compositions, and I always try and present my landscapes as well as my products that way.

Having said that, the other thing is not to be boring. Don’t keep on posting the same old stuff just because you know it’s going to get likes. Mix it up! Oh, and pleeeez don’t post endless photos of your feet, of your morning coffee, or of your duck face.


rural textures

rural textures


Ensure your feed is consistent in quality. Would people choose to follow you if they scanned it now? Quality is much more important than quantity. It’s so easy to check out someone’s feed, and make a snap decision as to whether they’re worth following or not – so make it beautiful. Stick to your brand persona and show off your talents.

Now, I’m not a smartphone expert, but if you want particular advice about how to get the most out of your phone’s camera, you can try these articles.

Lauren Conrad – How to take the perfect Instagram: Lauren shares a few great photography tips, as well as some tips on how to use Instagram’s own photo editing tools. AND she doesn’t often use the filters – most photos don’t need them.

* iPhone Photography School – 10 Quick Tips – they might be quick in the sense that they are explained succinctly, but they might not be quick to do.  Like a lot of things in photography (or any other creative field), these tips may take a long time to master. But once you’ve got the ideas in your head, they are awesomely powerful.

* Artifact Uprising – Mastering Mobile Photography – Another excellent collection of photography tips for mobile phones.


What to show? Of course, show your work, and work in progress. You can also share sneak peeks of new products, and a great one is to show off your items being used by happy customers. Include scenes from your everyday life too (we want to know you’re a real person, and what you’re interested in!). Use it to introduce your team members – even if that’s just you and your cat….


green plaid top - detail

green plaid top – detail


Plan your content (I know I’m really the worst at this and I tend to do it ad hoc – it’s a case of putting up my favourite pic from the last day or two of landscapes from my farm, or details from around my house, and sometimes the latest thing I’ve made). OK yes, so I plan to get planning ;D ! The best advice I’ve come across on this is to have a mix of planned and spontaneous. For instance, you could have a theme for the month, and intersperse it with snaps from your workbench.

Post only one or two pics per day at most (don’t overwhelm you followers), and not less than one every few days. If you want to build a following, you need to constantly be adding new content!

Once you have a collection of images (like about a hundred or more), go back through and see which ones were the most popular (the most likes, the most comments) – Iconosquare can tell you this stuff. Then, try to think about why they got that attention. People often respond for emotional reasons – was it beautiful, funny, intriguing? Is it something about the subject matter? If you hit on what’s working for your business, do more of it!

Iconosquare can also look at what times of day and days of the week are best for you to post, and in fact has a great range of statistical tools to help you analyse lots of stuff about your Instagram account.


So that’s about it for today. There’s lots there to work on, and I’ve still got two more posts to go on this subject!
So get cracking.

And in the mean time, catch me over on Instagram at tractorgirlmakes. I would love to connect with you!


Have you got any burning questions about Instagram?  Please ask away! Let me know in the comments below and I will find you an answer. Guarantee! 


With love, Julie.

Bonus! Free downloadable PicMonkey alignment grid

PicMonkey Alignment Grid
free downloadable

free downloadable picmonkey grid



You know how in yesterday’s post I was bemoaning the fact that it’s stupidly hard to align and centre objects in PicMonkey because they don’t offer any tools to do so, or any kind of grid? Well, I’ve fixed that! I’ve put together a really simple tool – a grid as a transparent overlay, marked in convenient halves, thirds and quarters. I’m providing this as a FREE DOWNLOADABLE, so use it for yourself with your next project, and/or you are most welcome to share, share away!


How to use it.

1. Download your transparent grid HERE, and save it to your computer in an appropriate folder.
Make sure it’s saved as a .png file, so it retains its transparency (saving it as a .jpg will automatically give it a solid white background).

2. Open your background image in Picmonkey.

3. Click on Overlays, and Your Own. Choose the grid (it’s called “picmonkey alignment grid”), and click on Open.

4. Resize to cover your whole image by dragging the corners to the edge of your background image. My grid is square, but if you hold the shift key down while you drag the corners, you can change the proportions so that it will cover rectangles too.

5. If your background image is dark, the grid might not show up very well – no probs, just play with the Colour settings and Blend Mode in the Overlay pop-up box until it’s got the best contrast against your image.


picmonkey tute - alignment grid1

Overlay colour set at black shows the true colours of the grid. Some lines on the grid are difficult to see.



picmonkey tute - alignment grid2

Overlay colour set at white shows the grid much more clearly.


6. Add your other elements, and align them with the grid by dragging them around when you see the four-headed arrow, which should appear when you hover over the highlighted object box.


picmonkey tute - alignment grid3


7. Delete the grid. You should be able to select it by clicking on the solid circle in the bottom right of the grid.
And there you go! Perfectly aligned text.

(p.s…. You can also download my beach pic as a free stock photo, here.)


picmonkey tute - alignment grid4


How easy peasy was that!? I’m actually a bit gobsmacked that nobody’s thought of making something like this before. But I’ve searched and searched… aaah well. Now it exists! Hooray!


Now. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say if you’d like better alignment tools in PicMonkey, then just don’t. Get yourself onto Canva instead. PicMonkey is set up for photo editing (especially photos of people – and it’s fab for this) but not graphics; it’s unlikely they’ll be adding any alignment tools anytime soon. Canva, on the other hand, is specifically set up for graphics; it has a fabulous ‘snap’ functionality which allows you to have text and images that line up perfectly, every time. It also allows you to put in your own guidelines, display grids, and you can display the pixel position of any element. And it’s free. Yes, there are some things it can’t do (the paid version has more functionality of course), but there are workarounds to just about every shortcoming.

I’ve been teaching people how to use Canva over the past year or so (and no, I’m not affiliated with Canva in any way; I just want people to make better graphics). If you’re interested, my free 5-day challenge to ‘Conquer Canva’ is starting again soon. It’s aimed at teaching you the tech, as well as the design skills you need to create great graphics, so you don’t have to waste time learning everything by trial and error, AND you learn how to create beautiful images your audience responds to and loves. You can find out more about it here –

See you there?

Julie XX


Small biz how-to: Make product labels with PicMonkey

Another tutorial on PicMonkey? Yes yes of course! Because it’s easy and it’s free and you can do fabulous things with it for your business 🙂 In this one, I get to grips with making beautiful packaging, as presentation is another indispensable tool for grabbing your customers’ attention and making them fall in love with you.

So without further ado, here’s how to make product labels with PicMonkey.


DIY labels

DIY labels with PicMonkey


I wanted something a bit more modern than retro, which means I need something clean, flat and fresh. One minimalist trend at the moment is to layer a white shape over a pattern, so I started with this pattern in fresh, clear colours.


watermelon stars by tractorgirl

watermelon stars by tractorgirl, made using



There are several websites you can download patterns for free – but as always, check the licencing! Some are free only for personal use and not available for commercial purposes. I didn’t want to bother with all of that, so I made my own pattern in ColourLovers, which is also a free online program (and VERY fun!).


Step 1. How big does your image need to be?

SO! There’s a bit of maths involved here, but don’t panic. Just make sure you measure and double check everything before you print, so you get the size you’re after. Take it slowly and write it all down logically so you don’t confuse yourself.

Print quality is something you need to consider – a good quality print is at 300dpi (dots per inch), although an OK result can be achieved at 150dpi. What this means is that for an A4 sheet of paper printed at 150dpi, your total image needs to be 1240 pixels x 1754 pixels, and for the same A4 printed at 300dpi, your image needs to be 2480 pixels x 3508 pixels.

How many labels are you going to print onto your sheet? If you’re printing at 150dpi and there are 2 across the page and 3 down, each label image needs to be about 620 pixels by 584.  If you’re going to buy printable sticky labels, the sheets are already precut into various sizes so that will dictate the image size you need to work with.


Step 2. Getting it to the right size

Go into Picmonkey, click on Edit and load up your background pattern. Go into Crop, and get your image to the size you want – either by using Crop, which will cut the edges off, or with Resize, which will simply shrink your image.


Step 3. Designing your label

Here’s the simple and fun part! Go into Overlays. Choose whether you want a simple Geometric, or something a bit fancier – scroll down PicMonkey’s list to find Labels and Banners. Click on the one you want, and resize it by dragging the corners.  The default colour is black, but that’s easy to change by adjusting the colour in the pop-up box – I’ve changed mine to white.

Centre your circle (or label shape) within your image. There are no specific tools in PicMonkey to do this (booo PicMonkey – this is a basic thing!), but you can either do it by temporarily overlaying a grid (you’ll have to upload one of these yourself as an Overlay, set the Fade to 50%, align what you need and then delete the grid layer), or by simply by grabbing the nearest ruler out of your kid’s pencil case and measuring the screen.
****Update! I’ve made a transparent grid to help you do this. It’s yours for free here! ****
Don’t try and do it by eye unless you’re a ninja.

Next, pop in your text. Go into Text, click on Add Text, then choose your font/s (I’ve used a PicMonkey font for most of it (Special Elite), and Goblin for tractorgirl, which is a font loaded on my computer). Then click in the box that appears on your image and add in whatever you need – item name, ingredients, etc.


tractorgirl - picmonkey tute


Finally, flatten your image by clicking on the Combine icon, second from the right on the top of the screen, or simply just hit Save. Name your file, choose the best image Quality (“Sean”) on the right, and then hit Save to My Computer.


For the next part, you’ll need to close that image (click on the cross at the top right); PicMonkey will drop you back to the main page.


Step 4. Getting your collage sheet to the right size

Click on Collage, and then it will ask you to choose a photo to upload. Choose your label image.

Go into Layouts, and choose the 3 x 3 in Square Deal – we’ll change the dimensions next.

You’ll see the dimensions listed underneath the collage grid. Make sure the proportions aren’t locked – the little lock icon should be grey (click on it to lock – it will show blue). So for A4 at 150dpi, click on the left-hand dimension (width) and put in 1240, and on the right (height), put in 1754.


Step 5. Getting the right number of cells and adding images

Click on the Images icon on the top of your left sidebar – it will already show your label image. Click on Open Photos, and add in your label image again – keep on adding in as many copies as you need to fill your page.

If you’ve got too many collage cells (e.g. I just want 2 across and 3 down), just hover over empty cells until the cross appears in the corner and click on that. If you need to add in some more cells, drag one of your label images over and hover in between cells – a blue area will be highlighted where the new cell will be. (If you’re not sure how big/where the new cell will be, drag your image around to different areas of the collage to see what happens with the cell position.)


Drag your images one by one over to the empty cells and presto! A page of perfectly sized labels to print.


tractorgirl - picmonkey tute - label collage3


And as before, when you save your image, do so at the best quality (“Sean”) – every little loss of information from your image means lower print quality. Your products are worth the best, aren’t they!?


(p.s. you can download my pattern Watermelon Stars to use as you wish for free! And you can even recolour it. Here.)




Did you like that one? Not too hard really, was it? 😀

If you’ve got any problems, tricky issues or any other questions about PicMonkey, or about labelling your products, I’d love to know! Hit me up with a comment below.

AANNNDDDD…. What would you like to know next? Would you like to have a tutorial about how to make neat-o patterns in ColourLovers? Because that’s awesome fun too. Suggestions please!!!


All my best always,
Julie X