Photo Editing Apps for Your Phone and Desktop
Regina Garay 

You’ve taken a great photo of a space you are working on – and the look is not optimal. Maybe it’s just a little dark, or perhaps you’d like to add your watermark, or add text overlays to the image before sharing on your website, blog, or social sites. If PhotoShop seems intimidating, there are several free and inexpensive options for both your desktop and your mobile phone. 

Let’s take a look at a few:

  1. SNAPSEEED – (Both iOS and Android) This is a free app that offers a lot of tools to enhance your images as well as photo filters. It is one of the most versatile mobile apps and not only is it very effective, it’s also a lot of fun to use and play around with as well.

  2. VSCO – (Both iOS and Android) This is one of the highest-rated camera apps and the choice for many pros. There are many custom editing features and beautiful preset filters. You can also share your work with other users. [Fun fact: If you’d like to have a styled look for your Instagram, search for ‘Instagram Themes’ on Pinterest. You will see many beautiful VSCO formulas to help give your Instagram feed a custom, branded feel.]

  3. PIC MONKEY – This is one of the easiest desktop photo editing apps and one of the most inexpensive as well. There are not only photo editing features, but there are also pre-made design elements and templates along with great text overlay capabilities.

  4. CANVA – A wonderful desktop editor that offers a bit more customization than PicMonkey, though some may not find it as user friendly. For those who prefer it, it is an excellent choice for creating PDFs, web/social freebies, and other printables. You can also edit and share graphic projects with a team.

  5. ADOBE SPARK – (Desktop and on iOS) This is an easy program for creating social graphics, web stories, and animated videos. It’s a user-friendly program that lets you customize any images or videos with pre-set templates, layouts, music, and themes. You can even record your own voice-overs!  

There are many more photo editing apps and in fact, a few peers also suggested Pixlr as well as Afterlight. In case you’d like to see your photos as works of art, try Prisma and if you have a pesky object you’d like to remove from your photo (i.e., photobombers, trash cans), TouchRetouch just might become your best friend! Let me know if you already use and/or have tried any of the above recommendations and I’d love to know some of YOUR favorites as well!

The Biggest Mistake
by Rebecca Slaton 

We are moving to a new state in 3 days.  I should be packing after work. Visiting with friends.  Or just resting.  But what I am doing late into the night is fixing past projects.  And why am I doing this?  Because I made the most common and avoidable mistake in painting:  Not giving myself enough time or money to do a job the way it should be done.

So I am standing outside, hunched over a table top with a rotary sander (because my dad sold our belt sander in the garage sale) to strip off a finish I applied a year ago. The problem is not product or technique. It’s just a fact that an antique table (which is sealed with a wax) has to be sanded down to raw wood to be restrained. I know this. I teach this.  But the client needed it finished by a holiday-stop me if you’ve heard this story before-and on a budget.  Instead of bidding the job to do exactly what the table needed I bid the job to give the client what she needed.  Now, I am giving this table the finish it deserves but on my dime and my time.

As I reflect back on my commissions before transitioning  fully into my new job, it is easy to see how I could have avoided the callbacks, extra hours and overall frustration.

  1. Evaluate the job as if time and money were not limited. How would you approach the project at each step to achieve the optimal result?

  2. Calculate what could possibly fail if you skip a step, change materials or rush the dry time. Does this failure mean starting over? Stripping off finish? Re-priming and painting?

  3. Figure what the costs of labor and materials would be to correct these mistakes. Usually it is double the time to correct a mistake.

  4. Ask yourself, “can I guarantee this work?” If the answer is a qualified “yes”-reconsider. If the answer is an unqualified “no” then either walk away or bid the job to do it right.

This is a truth. At times, there is no reliable more cost effective way to get the quality finish needed. Sometimes the best approach is to sand everything down and start over. There is a need to mud, sand and prime.  And some things-usually a cabinet or piece of furniture- are not worth the money it would take to save it.  

So be smart. Be realistic with your bids. Be brave and ask for what you need to do the job right. 

Or be me-sanding a table down at midnight wishing I had taken my own advice.

I Have No Idea What I'm Doing (And That's Okay)
by Aaron Wade Bailey

I am not going to divulge my actual age here, because I'd like for the IDAL universe to continue thinking of me as a young, roguish maverick with a flair for the dramatic and a penchant for sporting ridiculous hair.  But just between myself and those of you out there brave enough to actually read the idiocy I call my column, you should understand I am not as young or hip as I pretend to be.  I have been around the block multiple times, and not just because I refuse to ask for directions when I'm lost.

I have mentioned this before, and excuse me for repeating myself, but I spent my life after high school (I was not popular), and college (I dropped out), traveling and working as an entertainer for over twenty years.  It sounds cool, but it...well, okay.  It was pretty cool.  

But my point is that I met gobs of different people from every walk of life imaginable, and I learned an incredible amount.  I observed art and culture in every corner of the globe while performing for countless audiences.  To paraphrase Jon Bon Jovi, I saw a million faces...and I rocked a large fraction.

What am I getting at?

After all of that, and now several years into being a decorative artist, I still don't know my butt from a hole in the ground.  I often feel like I am no better today than I was when I started, and I know nothing about people, art, or life in general.

The last column I wrote was about my resolutions as an artist for 2018, and at first I considered writing this column about how much progress I've made in two months.  But rather than write "I AM STILL THE SAME FAILURE I WAS LAST YEAR" and hit "send," I figured I might at least write about what I've learned this year, as I try (and fail) to accomplish my aforementioned resolutions.  While I normally am a windbag (bet you didn't notice), I actually have only two things I've learned.  TWO.  But they are two things I really need to hang onto right now.

1) Every client is different.  While I try to get better and more efficient in every job I do, the client is the ultimate wild card.  While most are wonderful, patient, decisive people, sometimes I get blindsided.  Sometimes I completely misread a situation, and before I know it, they have done everything in their power short of pushing me off a ladder to complicate things.

All I can do is adapt and not stress out, which has been exceedingly difficult lately.  Since my last column, I've had a couple of tough jobs in a row, with changes upon changes, difficult demands, you name it.  But I can't change people, only the way I react to them.  I am trying to get better at rolling with the punches, and softening my hard edges.  As a guy who already looks like a villain in a Bond movie with a voice like rusty metal, it's difficult for me to not come off like a completely abrasive jerk.  But I am trying.  I hope you're trying to be more patient as well.

2) I am lucky (and so are you).  Why? Because I can also pick my own bosses, if I choose to.  If I decide I don't want to work for a client again, or if I get a bad vibe from a prospective job, I can walk away.  Not many people in other industries have that luxury, but the majority of self-employed decorative artists do.  That's awesome.  I've been on the other side, where I had zero say in who ran the show.  Not awesome.

I want to leave you with one more thing.  I don't know if many of you have heard of Shaun T, the exercise guru, but as a part of our efforts to make 2018 a year of positive change, my wife and I began a workout regimen in January around a series of his videos.  I've never been one to follow a specific workout program--let alone one in which I follow a video--but I found it so enjoyable we also attended one of his seminars in Orlando earlier today.  Not knowing what to expect, I even delayed turning this article in until the last minute so I could include some of what I might learn.  Well, I learned so much I can't include it all, but I want to share with you a nugget that relates to the point of this article, which I had already begun writing earlier this week.

One of the biggest things Shaun urged us to do was to be "Positively Selfish," meaning, it's okay to do things that are for yourself.  Especially if it helps you reach your goals, whether they be physical, mental, or career-related, you need to be positively selfish.

So, I learned today that saying "no" to working for a client I feel is not good for my business, while difficult, is okay.  Sure, sometimes I feel like I have to take every job, and bend until I break to unreasonable requests, but I don't have to.  Saying no is okay.   It's okay to be positively selfish.

More to come on the Shaun T seminar next column...but until something positively selfish for yourself this month.  You deserve it.

Reintroducing Golden Paintworks Lifestyle Finishes and Golden Pro Finishes.

It’s been almost a year since we introduced new branding on the products that were formerly known to the decorative finishing community as Proceed. While most of the actual products didn’t change, there were formula changes to the Metallic Paints, making them more opaque, and Fresco Texture (SAT) to reduce cracking. We also introduced some new products, including Protective Wax Topcoat and Venetian Plaster.

Some people were disappointed that we split up the line and others felt the “dumbing down” of the product names was done to attract the DIY crowd. While the product names are less technical and easier to remember, our goal in changing the names and updating the look was not to market to the DIY crowd, but rather to make the products more accessible to a wider professional audience through placement in more stores. We’d like talented decorative finishers like you to be able to get the products easier, and we’d also like to expand the market to other professional contractors that have decorative finishing abilities. As many of you know, there is a range of what’s possible with these versatile products, from a simple technique that a contractor experienced with a trowel can do, to many more nuanced and sophisticated techniques that take an experienced decorative artist to accomplish.

During the last year we’ve been promoting the products through industry trade magazines, including Paint & Decorating Retailer and American Painting Contractor. We’ve attended PDCA, IDAL, and the National Hardware Show. We built a new website, started a new Facebook page (Golden Paintworks), and have filmed several application videos for the Lifestyle Finishes products with more to come later this year. Please visit our website, to check out the new Resources section, watch the videos, and soon we’ll be launching an updated version of the Proceed calculator.

As we continue to work on the development and support of the lines, we are excited to announce that Dean Sickler will be joining our team full-time to assist in developing and leading a Paintworks Commercial Education Program. For the next few months, we’ll be developing curriculum and doing test runs of our programs in the greater New York metro area, but later in the year we would like to host a Decorative Applications Workshop for decorative finishers who would like to learn more about the products or potentially use them to teach with in their workshops. Stay tuned for more information on this and other programs as the details take shape.  We’re excited to have Dean on our team and look forward to all the ways he can help us grow and mature in the years ahead.

Please Follow Golden Paintworks on Facebook to stay in touch and watch our website for updates. If we can answer specific questions, please reach out to us at

Painter Denise Costantino

Bettering the Lives of Our Animal Companions
By Katie Fitzgerald

For many of us, pets hold a dear place in our hearts, even more so if that pet was a rescue.  

Writer Ann Brasco visited Eleventh Hour Rescue (EHR) in New Jersey where she fell in love with Sweetie, a basset hound mix. 

Because EHR relies on donations, Ann wanted to create a children’s book inspired by Sweetie’s life that would teach kids about animal adoption and raise money for EHR. But Ann needed an illustrator to bring the story to life.

Years early, Ann met Denise Costantino through a friend, and Denise had admired Ann’s writing. When Ann began working on the book, Denise came to mind. 

Denise Costantino of D & D Architectural Design is an accomplished decorative painter and artist. As a member of Metropolitan Artisans – the New Jersey chapter of IDAL – Denise was already involved with volunteering.

Denise was also an experienced illustrator and a life-long book lover. She holds a BA in Fine Arts from William Paterson University. While in school, Denise wrote and illustrated Window Under the Sea, for which she received an award from the Society of Illustrators. After college, she worked with National Geographic’s Children’s Book department.

Sweetie’s life before adoption was a mystery, but Ann knew she had been a stray. Because of her mysterious origins, Ann and Denise had free rein to imagine her story. 

The women crafted an adventure, which takes the courageous pup on a tour of The Garden State, its landmarks, and its creatures.

Denise began the illustrations by sketching with watercolor pencils to create thumbnail images for a storyboard. 

Denise met Sweetie and drew from that experience to animate the dog’s personality, but she also worked from photographs and listened to Ann’s descriptions to capture Sweetie’s spunky disposition. For the landmarks and nature elements, Denise researched and used her own photographs as references.

During the final painting process, Denise used watercolors (Kremer and Schmincke). For the highlights and details, she employed gouache acrylic. 

After the book was published, Denise continued her philanthropic efforts by going to libraries, donating books, and reading the story to children. During one visit, parents and kids enjoyed a meet and greet with both author and illustrator. Children and parents got to ask questions about the process of writing, illustrating, and being an artist. 

About her experiences, Denise says, "Life is a big storybook, with many different pages to fill. Whether I am sketching a mural for a client or creating an illustration for a future book, I always enjoy learning and sharing.” You can find Denise’s work at:  

The real Sweetie passed away, but her legacy of helping other animals lives on in the book lovingly crafted by Ann and Denise. One dollar from each purchase is donated to EHR. The book is available on Amazon.
Author Katie Fitzgerald owns A Fine Finish & works in the San Francisco/Monterey Bay areas. Find Katie’s blog at:

Book cover illustrated by Denise Costantino.

Denise Costantino illustrating with watercolors.

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