Top four ways to style layers into your image

If you are playing along with this week's Creatively Squared challenge, you'll be playing around with layers. So here's four ways I've LAYered it up to give you some inspiration.

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The flatLAY

Layering is a very effective tool in flatlays to add complexity and depth to a composition. I often layer books, journals or cards over different papers or prints to achieve this. I try to keep the tones similar and add contrast with different patterns, shapes or pops of colour. You can also use different textures for added layering. I always finish the flatlay with what I call 'fillers' such as scissors, flowers, tapes, pegs, any props really that can be useful in filling those pesky gaps in your composition. Just make sure they are still relatable to the overall theme of your flatlay.


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The shelfLAY

I love layering a shelflay, or more commonly known to you and me as the 'shelfie'. I often start by layering frames [odd numbers like three work best] of varying sizes, materials and heights. I always think of an imaginary right angled triangle when selecting my frames so that the composition doesn't become too symmetrical. The prints I select to fill the frames are generally different but always tied together by something, usually complementary tones or the overall theme. I am also obsessed with combining typography [like letterboards] with florals, patterns and prints. To balance the shelfie and add some detail, I again add complementary 'fillers' along the shelf. My layered shelfies often fill the frame, but of course these principles can be pared back for a more minimal look with the frames off centered to one side and more negative space created around the shelf.


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The stackLAY

Layering is an obvious tool for the stacklay as the name suggests but it goes beyond just layering some items on top of each other. A mix of hard and soft things are good layering items to create contrast. For example, a book forms a good base for materials to be layered upon it. You can add a focal point on top of this stack to draw the eye. In this case I've chosen a basket which I have filled. The pom poms of the booties become the perfect draping element over the stack to add another layer of depth. I have again finished the stack off with some 'fillers' like flowers or bows to balance it and fill any gaps. 


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The hangLAY

I don't do many hanglays so this was the perfect opportunity to finally get hubby to put up my new wooden expandable coat rack and get my hanglay on. Again, select items that are complementary and related to the overall theme of your hanglay, and obviously items that hang well. You can always cheat and add a bit of white tack to items so they keep straight or hang nicely. I've chosen a fairly paired back approach for this one. Always be mindful of balancing your composition without it becoming too symmetrical. Again, the imaginary triangle approach comes in handy...in this case it's an upside down one.

So go forth and layer up your best LAY for this challenge.

Marisa @marisa.young

Arrangement Therapy and the Art of Finding Joy in Playing with Colour

Do you find it therapeutic to create? Taking a break from screens and indulging in some unstructured creative play can help you relax and unwind. It's no wonder that the popularity of mindful adult colouring books has risen over the past few years. The same meditative qualities of colouring-in can be found in creating simple geometric arrangements using pattern and repetition to ground yourself and find calm.

Alternatively, participating in more active creative activities can be highly energising, bringing immense satisfaction and joy. Playing with colour can enhance your mood and the idea that applying different spectrums to find balance and bring harmony is found in many different schools of thought. Why not take an intuitive approach to colour play and experiment with the colours you are naturally drawn to; the chances are you will be able to easily access your chosen colour palette using items from your home, garden or pantry.  

We have a very special guest blogger this week who knows a thing or two about having fun with a splash of colour. Hanni, the creator of the beautiful Instagram account @craftplanter finds joy in the arrangement of foraged treasures and everyday items. Hanni's aesthetic is experimental, playing with scale and shape while exploring all the colours of the rainbow. Creative Ideas come to life within these colourful squares and Hanni's arrangements are a vibrant medley of organic and structured compositions.

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1. Start by gathering your objects. 

I am a huge proponent of using what you have around you.  (I've made plenty of flatlays with toys my kids have left on the floor!)  Look for objects that are small and that you have plenty of.  Go on a walk and gather treasures  from nature, peek inside your pantry, or raid your craft closet. The possibilities are endless!


2. Choose a background.  

If you are crating a complicated flatlay, keep your background clean. I usually use a plain old white posterboard! You can experiment with a more textured background (such as a wooden table or pages from an old book) if you are creating a simpler design. 


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3. Decide what shape to create. 

I gravitate toward making squares with my flatlays (which I've nicknamed "flatsquares"), but you can create any shape you desire. Do you want your final design to create a circle? A star? A map of France? 


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4. Sort your objects. 

I sort my finds by color...you could also sort by size or texture. It's MUCH easier to find that one tiny blue piece that you need if it's sorted out ahead of time!


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5.  Begin arranging.  

Here's where the magic begins! Start laying out your items, keeping like with like as much as possible. Your flatlay will be more visually pleasing if all the green objects are together and transition into all blue objects. (The one exception to this I can think of if you are creating a repeating pattern.) Minimize the space in between items - they should not be touching, but should be very close together.


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5. Keep playing. 

There's no right or wrong here! Just relax and keep moving your objects around until you are pleased with the result. It's eerily similar to playing a game of Tetris! Flip things around, rotate them, turn them on an angle. If a piece isn't working, you don't have to use it! If you were planning on making a circle, but it isn't working out, switch it to a square.  You are making the rules here - you can change whatever you want!

6. Photograph and edit. 

Take your photograph directly above your flatlay, being careful not to step on it. (I've done that more than once!)  I always *always* look at the images before taking the flatlay apart. A photograph will often showan edge that's not straight or an object slightly misaligned that I've missed.  Once you have an image you are satisfied with, crop and edit as you desire.

The Best Apps of 2017 for Curating the Perfect Instagram Feed

One of our most popular blogs ever was a review that Nikki wrote in January about the best apps for curating and scheduling the perfect Instagram grid. If you haven't seen it you can read the article here: Top 4 apps for curating the perfect Instagram feed

Since then a lot of the apps we discussed have introduced new features and we have also been impressed by others that we hadn’t originally included. Rather than update the previous post we thought it was best to just write a brand new one, so here it is!

 

PLANN

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Plann was the first ever scheduler that I tried, it has a simple interface and easy to use drag-drop feature that allows you to move your posts around until you find the perfect grid configuration. Plann also gets bonus points for it’s amazing hashtag archiving tool that lets you save groups of tags ready to post. This is a real time saver in my opinion!

Cost: Free download. Little: $0USD/month; Basic: $3USD/month; Premium: $5USD/month; Unlimited: $9USD/month The free plan allows you to upload 10 photos a month.

Why we like it:

  • User friendly. You don’t have to spend time watching tutorials. It’s very easy to use.

  • Drag and drop arrangement (Note - this feature only works on images that you haven’t posted yet, you can’t rearrange your existing posts, we get asked this question a lot!)
  • Save hashtags. You can store your favourite collections of hashtags ready to copy paste straight onto your future posts.
  • Editing tools and filters. These are some of the great new features that were added since Nikki’s previous review. The crop is really helpful if you are sharing screenshots (like Creatively Sqaured challenge features!) and there are also lots of cool filters to try out.
  • Share gallery with another user. If you are working with a team in managing an Instagram account, this is a cool feature that keeps everyone in the loop.
  • Import from Dropbox and more. This was another dealbreaker from Nikki’s original review that has been updated in the newest version of the app.
  • Save to camera roll feature. This is helpful if you edit the image within the app but want to save it to your phone for further use.

Things to consider:

  • There is a bit of lag when you do bulk uploads especially with videos.
  • Mobile only - No desktop version of the app is available
  • There is no media library for you to save posts you aren’t ready to place into your grid yet

In conclusion:

Use it if you want a simple, low cost visual solution to planning the perfect feed.
Aside from the lag time when doing bulk uploads, nearly all of reservations that Nikki had about Plann from the previous review has now been addressed. In addition to it being a really easy to use visual planner I think the ability to save hashtag collections is this apps secret weapon! For what you get it is quite reasonably priced at $3 a month for unlimited use


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At the time of the previous review Unum was a firm favourite among the Creatively Squared ladies. We particularly loved the ‘phantom mode’ feature where you could hide your existing posts which would show you how your feed would look if you deleted any of the photos from your grid. This feature isn’t as useful now that Instagram as introduced their archive feature as you can now hide your posts within the app and reinstate them later if you want. Unum does have another great feature called ‘grid shift’ which allows you to toggle the view between your upcoming posts and how the grid will look right after the next one goes live. It also has basic analytics, editing and drag drop to rearrange your photos in the gallery. You can save drafts and captions which includes a recent tags feature for remembering hashtags you use regularly

Cost: Free download. Select: $4.99USD/month; Elite: $6.99 USD/month. The free plan allows you to plan up to 18 images in advance.

Why we like it:

  • Move multiple images at once. Unum has made rearranging photos super quick and easy.

  • Save captions. No more last minute cramming on what to say in your posts.

  • Tile splits. This is such a cool feature. You can split your image into nine tiles, so you can make one big epic post stand out in your gallery. .

  • Cool editing tools. It has all the necessary options you need to edit your photos-from brightness to memes.

  • Calendar overview. You will have a view on all the scheduled posts so you would know if you missed a date or if there are overlapping posts.

  • Add other Instagram accounts. You can do so for free and it is unlimited!

  • Draft mode is a great feature that allows you can play around with different versions of your grid and save them as a draft to compare what looks better.

  • Temporarily delete images with ‘Phantom mode’. If you need to know how your gallery would look like without a certain post you can hide it from view and the grid will rearrange without it.

Things to consider:

  • It’s super slow to get started, especially if it is your first time and all the previous Instagram posts are being loaded on the app gallery. Uploading a single photo has a few second lag time as well.

  • Does not allow imports from Dropbox nor Google drive.

  • No save to camera roll feature.

In conclusion:

Use it if you want to experiment creatively!

Unum has some wonderful features and you can get a lot of mileage out of the free version of the app. It is great for experimenting with your feed and makes it easy to try new things. However the app itself is not the most intuitive or easy to navigate but once you familiarise yourself with everything it can do there is a lot to love.


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Later is another app that you can use to schedule your Instagram posts. I love that there is a desktop version of the app and the search and repost is a great way to add content and moodboard images from other Instagram accounts. I like that you can build up a library of content that sits there ready to post but the downside to this is you have to manually schedule each one if you want to preview how it will look in your feed. The free account only allows you 30 posts per month so if you don’t want to lose all your credits you then have to remember to unschedule them until you are sure you want to post them!

Cost: Free Download. (For Individuals) Plus: $9USD/month; (For Businesses) Premium:$19USD/month; Starter: $29USD/month; Brand: $49USD/month

Why we like it:

  • Plan from desktop, laptop, and mobile. If you like to edit and schedule your Instagram post on a screen that’s bigger than your smartphone, Later gives you that option.

  • Media library option is great as it allows you to build a supply of images ready to post. You can also upload from your Dropbox or Google Drive accounts.

  • Add other social media accounts. Aside from Instagram, Later also let you schedule posts for Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. This is heaven-sent if you want to distribute the same content throughout your other social channels.

  • Search and repost feature is amazing, as we feature a lot of different peoples photos on the Creatively Squared account this means we aren’t losing quality by screenshotting the images to share them.

Things to consider:

  • Pricing. If you post more than once a day this scheduler is on the more expensive side of the spectrum for personal use.

  • Can’t edit photos. This is a bit of a turn-off for me. Even though I edit my photos prior to uploading, I’d still love to have the option to play around with brightness, saturation, and filters before I post my pictures.

In conclusion:

Use it if your content is ready to post and you are super organised and know what you want!

The free version with 30 posts per month would be fine for most people but if you post more than once a day you will need to upgrade to the paid version. I would say this is the best scheduling tool, and although it has a grid view feature, I wouldn't say it is appropriate for creative planning. I am a Google Drive user so I love that I can add images from there as well as Dropbox and being able to access it all from the desktop makes it extra convenient.


So let’s wrap it up for you:

Choosing the right app for you is a personal choice and the different features will appeal to different people. All of these apps have the same basic functionality and promote safe posting via notifications, analytics and support multiple Instagram accounts.

PLANN - Use it if you want a super simple, easy to use and affordable planning tool for Instagram that gives you creative control over the visual look of your feed

UNUM - Use it if you want something that allows you to be a bit more creative and experimental and you don’t mind a bit of a learning curve

LATER - Use it if you want a powerful social media scheduling tool for staying super organised and keeping your current visuals consistent.


 

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