Category Archives: How to

How to Create Great Album Art with an iPhone.

Snap, Filter, Frame, & Forget ’bout it.
In Circles

Shameless bragging aside, we get great positive feedback for the artwork featured by TVC. Varied styles, colours, and subjects keep the art fresh and interesting. But here’s the dirty little secret: almost all of it is done effortlessly on a smartphone. It’s true!

Getting a smartphone/tablet really opened up opportunities to capture and sketch out ideas on the spot. And that’s really what it comes down to.  You’ll be surprised what great things you can create when you always have the tools you need, right when inspiration hits. In this article we cover a few of the choice apps used to help capture and transform those ideas into really great art.

Note: this article was written with iOS devices in mind, but should apply to the android equivalents.


iOS CameraMost smartphones these days come with great cameras, which takes care of most of your snapping needs. For example, the latest iPhones come with 8MP cameras, with some android devices clearing 12MP, and great sensors. The only real trick is to remember to take lots of pictures. You’ll never know when an otherwise bland picture could transform in to great filter art.

ProTip: When playing around with some of the filters/apps mentioned, make sure to take note of how they react to shapes, lights, and colours. Knowing what makes the apps tick will help you identify those really awesome app-friendly shots out in the real world.



“The secret of perfect image-processing is the skillful blending of fresh, imported pixels, precise color temperature, and the fastest numerical filtering. Percolator packs your images with well-rounded, full-bodied color — every time.”

Hands down our favourite filter. Integral to the theme of the 2011-2012 EP collection, this filter is featured in a lot of the album art. Percolator takes a loaded image and uses colour and tone averages to create a circle-mosaic of the original picture. Custom settings allow you to change the style, size, and overall blend of the circles. Check out some of the examples below:

Clusterfunk Fingerpaint Clusterfunk Percolator

So what happened here? Well, we fired up one of our first artsy apps, Sketchbook Pro, to make that gorgeous little finger painting. Then we saved it to the camera roll, booted up Percolator, played around with the settings, and brewed the second picture. That was it! BOOM, album cover.

Clusterfunk Front

Some other funky examples:

Dandruff Frontit started with nothing. Frontit started with nothing.

Percolator has a lot of great options worth checking out. Really, sometimes you have no idea what cool creations you’ll get unless you put the pot on the boiler.


“Instantly create beautiful etched illustrations from any photo! Experiment with twelve stunning styles you can tweak to fit your image perfectly — it’s easy and fun to turn your photo into a unique work of art.”

Want to raise the classy-ness factor of your web art? Etchings can do that for you by rendering your stock picture in a hand-drawn “etch” style. We’ve adopted the etch filter style throughout the website, behold!

Beach Beach Etch

We know, it’s shameful. All this time you thought these were hand-drawn beauties, but alas. 

An Etchings App Photo


“You’ve probably heard the tired cliche about a picture being worth a thousand words. We’ve taken this phrase quite literally and created WordFoto, an app that turns photos and words into amazing typographic works of art.”

WordFoto brings a unique twist to the mosaic-type filter category. Enter a few words into a list within the app, and WordFoto analyzes your photo to a create a mosaic of the original using your customized words. Change the font, size, saturation, etc. to create your unique WordFoto mosaic. We used this app to create the album set list for our summer 2011 EP, “Clusterfunk”, with outstanding results:

Clusterfunk Pigeon Clusterfunk Back


“Halftone turns your photos into unique, vintage comics that friends and family will love! More than a simple “photo filter” app, Halftone makes it easy to add paper styles, captions, speech balloons, graphic stamps, and fonts (including built-in comic fonts).”

Although we haven’t used this app for any official releases as of yet, the opportunities have been quite tempting. Halftone creates classic paper-printed comics out of your original picture. Choose the paper type, “printer” type, and add captions to your creations. We aren’t going to divulge our devious plan for this app just yet, but you’ll know it when you see it ;) Here’s a sample from one of our play-throughs.

ISWN Halftone

The Honor Roll

Here are some other apps we’ve experimented with that may tickle your fancy.


Retromatic: “Remember those cool posters back in the 50’s? Neither do we, but Retromatic gives you the ability to create collage style images reminiscent of the groovier times. “Retromatic provides 17 original retro-style filters, 11 background images and 30 authentic retro-style ornaments. All these images aim to reflect a social atmosphere of early 20 century.”


ColorsplashColorSplash: “Color Splash lets you quickly and easily give photos a dramatic look by converting them to black and white, while keeping your chosen details in color. This effect draws the viewers’ attention to the colored areas, creating striking images.”




Gridditor: “Gridditor shows you four filters at any given time, one in each cardinal direction with your original image at the center. The farther you go in any direction, the stronger the effect gets. By arranging the previews in a grid, you can see the effect of applying multiple filters at once letting you edit faster, and showing you creative possibilities you may not have considered otherwise.”




“Diptic lets you combine and edit photos to create awesome collages that can be shared with friends and family via email, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr or Posterous. With text captions, 14 filters, rounded borders with pretty textures and 165 customizable layouts, there are unlimited options to create unique photo collages!”

Initially created by the Flickr community, Diptic gives you a plethora of  options for framing your new artistic creations. Set the aspect ratio, choose the number and orientation of embedded frames, select and position your pics, add some final effects, and send it to the press! The framing in our albums and our business/download cards were all made with the help of Diptic!

In Circles


“With stylish templates which are already within the application, you will be able to create posters without great effort. When you get the job done of first step making posters, you can utilize various effects and decorates to complete the chic posters your own. This App is for you to create posters to promote and invite your friends at your party, concert, birthday etc.”

Okay, we’re going to take little detour from apps for album art. But this is equally important for you burgeoning artists out there. Phoster provides appealing and unique templates to create appealing posters.

Have an album release? A gig announcement? Just want to seek attention? Well enough of those boring MS Paint posters with the comic sans font (no, seriously. Enough). Use the apps mentioned above to create some art unique to your project and use Phoster to make the details of your event stand out, without making eyes bleed.

Although there’s a lot of room for improvement (for example, no undo or landscape mode), the entry price was well worth it for a tool far better than what I was already using. Even the smallest effort can help set you apart ;)


Forget ’bout it.

This really isn’t rocket science. And once you get in the habit of snapping pictures frequently, messing around with filters, and using frames effectively, you’ll find yourself making amazing art before you know it. Not to mention, it’s really fun!

So try out the apps (most have free versions available to test-drive), keep snapping, and let’s see those beauties! Post your creations in the comments, and if you find any cool apps out there, tell us about them!

it started with nothing. Bonus

How to Build a Pedal Board

a.k.a GORM.

Let’s get something straight. I’ve spent a ton of time and money on my pedals. Figuring out exactly which ones I need, and spending the extra few mullah to get the extra smooth sheen that maybe two people in the audience may notice. But it’s my sound – it’s the heart of it all. So when it comes to the pedal board, it’s serious business. Not only because I want something great to house my precious babies, but stock boards you find at stores are way overpriced and are hard to customize to my needs.

Enter GORM, an $11 IKEA shelf that dreams of being so much more.

The Idea.

After I arrived at my perfect pedal lineup (I know, I know. Can one ever be satisfied?), I realized that I needed a pedalboard. I thought to myself, “boy, it would be nice to afford food tomorrow. There must be a way I can make one for cheap, with my own two hands even!” After my first failed attempt, I did what any sensible person would do; I fired up Google.

A quick “how to build a pedal board” search later, I came across this handy little forum thread. In the thread, “Armchair Bronco” took me on a narrated step-by step photo journal of how he turned a bland unassuming shelf into a wicked custom pedal board.

Needless to say, I was sold. A solid wood construction, nice long slats to place your pedals, spacing between slats for cable management, customizability (both aesthetically and functionally), and, did I mention, cheaper?

I won’t go into too much detail in the steps, since Armchair Bronco did such a great job, but here’s a quick synopsis:

  • Get this thing + exactly 2 bottles of Stella Artois (make sure they are the bottled kind) and a pack of frozen meatballs from the IKEA cafeteria (this is extremely important, you’ll see why soon!)
  • Choose one of the two boards as your main board.
  • Sand that main board until it is silky smooth.
  • Use the side panels from the second board as support brackets on the bottom of the main board (so your hoofs don’t break the board in two when you’re rocking out).
  • Use a slat from the second board as a front panel, and to also raise the front of your board up towards you. You should be able to use the nails already provided by IKEA.
  • Screw in some rubber feet. I used one on each end of the front panel, and one on each of the bottom two corners on the side panels.
  • Get some Velcro tape and smother a little bit of that on. Mmmm mmm. Oh yeah.
  • Mount your pedals and use the gaps between the slats to route your cables.
  • Consume the two bottles of Stella Artois in celebration and look at your bag of frozen meatballs in complete awe of how an internet stranger managed to get you to buy them.
  • Bonus!: tie in a power bar into the empty space by the front panel under the board.
  • Double Bonus!: get a woodburner (either the kit and/or artist with said kit) and customize that front board into a beautiful tapestry of your inner mind.

The Result.

Top View

My first pedal layout. As you can see, there is a lot of room to be creative with your pedal layout. The slats will allow *most* of the cables to be hidden, leaving only the power cord from the daisy chain to run out from the board to the wall. If you look closely, you can see the support bracket between the gaps just below the muff and above the FS-5U.

Side View

The front panel does a great job of holding the board up, adding strength, and hiding the messy cables from the crowd. The rubber feet work really well at adding a little height and keeping the board steady.


Damn. That is one sexy board. Now I just need to find a wood burning artist!

Here’s my current pedal board layout. As you can see, I added the TU-3 and TR-2, and adjusted the layout accordingly.

The Conclusion.

After having this board for a few months, I can happily say that it is doing VERY well. There has been no give in the joints and the board is as solid as the day I made it. For transportation, I bought a very cheap keyboard gig bag ($10 from Tom Lee!!), which fits the board perfectly with just enough spare room for extra cables.

So there you have it! Simple! Brilliant! Affordable! If you give it a go, let me know how it went in the Comments!