Friday, August 28, 2015

A Smile is Worth a Thousand Words!

Smile Face

A smile may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes, it seems as though its value is so much more. A simple smile creates its own message without words. In many cases, the smile takes on a specific meaning because of the surroundings or situation in which it occurs. A quote from My Well-Being Presented by Humana 

Smile Face is probably one of the happiest and most versatile balloons that were ever made. It's certainly one of my favourites. I have been using it and its variations in my designs for many years!

There are many occasions that it could be used for;
  • Feel Better soon 
  • Thinking of You
  • Let's Celebrate
  • Happy Birthday
  • To Cheer You
  • New Baby
  • Christening or Communion 

And I am sure that there are more occasions that you can think of too!

At Qualatex®, we have such a fabulous range of Smile Face balloons to choose from, making it so easy for us to create fun, unique, exciting and of course sellable designs!

A few of the wonderful Smile Face balloons in the Qualatex range!

Here are a few of my 'Smile Face' creations, that can be adapted to suit so many different occasions!

Smile Face for Birthdays!

Sue Bowler CBA - The Very Best Balloon Blog
40 Brilliant Star #24170
U.S. Patent No. 6,782,675

This is such a great design. We have so many great Qualatex Bubble Balloons that we can work with to create the body and the message for our design, including these fantastic Milestone/Age balloons. 

I made a similar design for Valentine's Day using a Qualatex Deco Bubble for the body. Here is an easy to follow video clip that will show you how to use either a Deco Bubble or Bubble balloon to make these truly cute 'Bubble Guys'. Simply coordinate the balloons to suit the occasion that you are making the design for.

Funny Face Flower

Design created by Sue Bowler CBA
Funny Face Flower #18052/ #15384
U.S Patent No. 6,782,675

This design is made in a very similar way to the 'Bubble Guy'. By using bigger clusters at the base and two Deco Bubbles rather than one for the body, we can create a design that has greater impact and is perfect for room decor. 

Smiley Flower!
Design created by Sue Bowler CBA
I love this design! It's simple but so effective! The flower is made from helium filled 16" Smile Face latex balloons, remember to use Hi-Float to extend the floating time! The clusters in the centre (on both sides), are 5" latex balloons sized to 4.5" and 3". The flower is secured to a weighted base using a nylon monofilament line (which you cannot see). I then added 350Q for the stems from the base to the flower, securing the stem to the monofilament line at the midway point. I then added a few 160Q Green and Lime Green balloons to create leaves. This design can be recommended for a high impact delivery or for decor.

Smile Face Arch!

Smile Face Arch Designed by Sue Bowler CBA

What better way to make everyone feel happy and welcome when they arrive at the party! This Smile Face arch is fun, vibrant and extremely welcoming!

For this arch I have used a combination of 16" and 3' Smile Face latex balloons. The 3' balloon in the centre creates the perfect focal point. I added a hat and nose to this balloon for extra detail.

Naughty Smile & A Kiss Guy
Design by Sue Bowler CBA

Who can resist a 'Naughty Smile & A Kiss'? A super design for Valentine's Day! Ready for collection or delivery, this design takes less than 10 minutes to make!

Once again you can easy convert this design to suit any occasion. 

I have included the recipe below along with a job cost form so that you can work out how much you should be selling a design like this for.

If you are unsure how to job cost your work check out my blog - How much should I charge for that... how to price your work!

To Download this instruction sheet visit Sue's Recipes
Design ideas for working with these fabulous balloons are endless. I found this great design by Luc Bertrand CBA. Luc has created a wonderful little character design using Qualatex Taper balloons for the main body and arms.
To download Luc's recipe click here

I love this 'Bouncing Buddy'! This would make a great delivery design and bring a big smile to its recipient!

To download instructions for this great design

If you are ever looking for inspiration for your shop window then why not fill it with 'SMILES'! Using Latex, Microfoil® and Bubble Balloons®, you could display a range of different 'Smile Face' characters and wait and see the reaction that you get from your customers. I am sure that you will bring a little extra happiness to their day!

Happy Ballooning!


Monday, August 24, 2015

Market Your Business with a Stylised Photo shoot

Stylised Shoots have become a very popular trend over the past few years. They are great for showing off your style and creative ideas.  Not only are they great for marketing your business, but they are also a great way to network with venues.

Often a venue will give you very good rates on a room hire if you book the room on a day when it is rarely uses, or if you offer to give them free use of your photographs to promote their venue… there are always deals to be struck! 

Stylised shoots are your chance to create that beautiful event you have only ever dreamed of decorating. Make sure you hire a good photographer for the day or if you're on a very tight budget, find a group of local amateur photographers who would be willing to take photographs to gain experience and add to their portfolios!

Elegant tulle covered 3' latex balloon with vintage flowers
Balloon by Jacqui Young
Class Touch Balloons, Wishaw, Scotland

The stunning 3' balloon featured in this photograph is the work of Jacqui Young of Class Touch Balloons, Wishaw, Scotland. It was part of a stylised photo-shoot commissioned by the Scottish Wedding Directory.  Jacqui has worked with the Scottish Wedding directory since it's launch in 1996. 

Jacqui explains: ' I have always worked closely with them on photo shoots. Initially my business was in bridal and bridal accessories. I make tiaras and jewellery. I also did venue decor for weddings and parties. When I was expecting my son in 2002 I closed my shop to work from home with the balloons and tiaras. I then got a "proper job" still within the bridal industry until 2011. I didn't like the lack of freedom in my job so I started working with my husband who makes celebration cakes. I now concentrate on my balloon business which works well with his cakes. Throughout all of the changes I always kept in touch with the guys at the wedding directory and they are always willing to help. I get to use the photos as long as SWD are credited with the photography.They are always open to ideas and have already approached me to do another shoot with balloons in the near future. I Cant wait'!

Lifestyle Shots

Having photographs that show balloons in action, is another great way to market your decor to your customers. Remember we don't sell balloons; we sell the fun and excitement that balloons bring to an event or party!

Classic Balloon Decor Course - Design by Luc Bertrand, CBA

There are a number of Qualatex one day courses in Europe and U.S. that offer portfolio quality photographs in digital format to compliment the designs taught. This is a fantastic bonus as it gives delegates the opportunity to start marketing the designs as soon as they return to their businesses!

To find out more about these classes click HERE for Europe and HERE for the US. 

For more detailed photographic articles check out; 
APR/MAY/JUN 2007 Balloon Images - Tips for Taking Winning Photos by Cam Woody, CBA.
OCT/NOV/DEC 2012 Balloon Images - Put your best flash forward.
APR/MAY/JUN 2015 Balloon Images - Focus on photos that sell. 

And don't forget, Qualatex often has competitions in which they ask for you to submit your very best photographs! You never know—a good photo of your work could land on the cover of Balloon Images magazine, or in the annual Qualatex calendar! So, keep this in mind when you’re taking photos. 

Happy Ballooning!


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The importance of good photographs to market your balloon business.

Having great photos in our portfolios, websites, and our social media business pages can truly make a difference when it comes to promoting our company and more importantly the services that we offer!

Photo courtesy of Pioneer Europe Ltd.

Our portfolio makes up a big part of our company image, the type of balloon business that we are, and the type of balloon work we undertake. Let's be honest, when someone is searching the internet for a company to do a job for them, they only have the photographs on a website to grab their attention. Those photographs could ultimately lead to a fantastic ballooning opportunity!

Many years ago when I first started out, I made the huge mistake of filling my portfolio with as many photographs as I could, mostly showing the same decor but in different locations and in different colours! In those days (I am showing my age now), we did not have digital cameras or home computers and the quality of my photographs were very poor. 

Today, we have no excuse! With a little time and effort, and of course a camera, we can take good quality photographs!

Camera Types

The two most popular kinds of cameras are compact (also known as point-and-shoot) and digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras. Both can produce high quality results, but there are some basic differences that you'll want to note before choosing which one to buy.

Is the size and weight of the camera a big issue?
Due to their lens mounts and internal mirrors, DSLRs are simply bigger and heavier than most compact cameras. If you want a camera you can slip in a pocket or a small bag, then a compact is the best choice. 

Do you like composing photos using the colour screen?
Composing photos with a nice big colour screen is one of the joys of digital photography, but sadly it’s something which traditional DSLRs find tricky; until recently it wasn't even possible at all. 

How important is taking photos in low light?
DSLRs have physically much larger sensors than most compacts, which allow them to be more sensitive to light. This in turn means much better picture quality at higher sensitivities (the bigger ISO numbers) whether you’re shooting under low light conditions or with the fastest shutter speeds to freeze action. This is a key advantage of DSLRs.

One really great thing about compact cameras is that they come with the greatest range of pre-programmed modes for taking photos of portraits, nighttime, action, kids, etc. Another advantage of the compact camera is the price tag. For a fairly small investment, you can purchase a high-quality camera that will stack your portfolio with amazing photos... assuming you use it correctly.

A DSLR camera comes at a much greater price. But if you are looking for more setting options to fine tune your portfolio work, this could be your investment in future business.

Smartphones and Tablets
Having a camera included on your high-tech gadgets (such as Smartphones and tablets) is all the rage these days. They just make is so convenient to be able to snap photos without the hassle of carrying around an additional gadget. This is great for a day at the zoo with your family or a night out with your friends, but when your photo represents the work that you do and can make or break whether or not you get the job, sometimes it's worth a little extra hassle.

More tips for Superior Photos
In addition to having a quality camera, there are other things you can do to showcase your balloon work at its best:
  • Keep the background clear of clutter that distracts from your designs (if possible). When taking a photo of a design in your store or studio, use a solid-colour wall. Pieter van Engen, CBA recommends using an IKEA Roller Blind. It works perfectly as photo backdrop! They come in a range of colours including white and black. They can be mounted to the wall and pulled down when required! And best of all, they are inexpensive and work really well!
  • Enhance your photos with software that allows you to make basic edits such as cropping, adjusting white balance, or colour correcting. Check out my blog Making your photographs look professional with a little help from image editing. This blog will teach you how to work with some great tools that will help you to make your photographs look very professional.
  • Use a tripod to take clearer, sharper photos - especially those of close-up details or taken in low-light conditions. Tripods for digital cameras can be small lightweight, and inexpensive.
  • Lighting is such an important factor. Make sure the room is well-lit. Use bright lights and soft boxes. Soft boxes are a common piece of equipment used by photographers to create even, diffused lighting that reduces shadows and minimises overexposure of white items. 
Technical information and extracts for this blog have been sourced from the below mentioned Balloon Images magazines & from Camera Labs.

For more detailed photographic articles check out; 

APR/MAY/JUN 2007 Balloon Images - Tips for Taking Winning Photos by Cam Woody, CBA.
OCT/NOV/DEC 2012 Balloon Images - Put Your Best Flash Forward.
APR/MAY/JUN 2015 Balloon Images - Focus on photos that sell. 

Happy Ballooning!


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Making your photographs look professional with a little help from Image Editing.

How many times do you take a photograph of a design or of decor that you have made hoping to use it in your portfolio or on your website and are really disappointed with how it looks in the picture?

I suppose the first thing we need to look at is the camera we use. I use a little compact camera, as it's so easy for me to travel with. The great thing about my little camera is that I can set it to take pictures up to 10 MEGA Pixels, giving me high resolution photos. Personally, I have not had any success using my smart phone or tablet to take decent quality photographs. Don't get me wrong, they are great for taking snaps, but when your photo represents the work that you do, maybe it's worth getting a better quality photograph?

Even with a great camera we don't always get the perfect photograph. Maybe the background is not great or the lighting is too dark?

So how can we make our photographs look more professional?

Here is a photograph of a design that I made earlier this year when I was demonstrating on the Qualatex® stand at Spring Fair.  I found the most neutral background that I could (to make it easier for editing), and snapped my photograph. Once I returned home to my office, I looked through all my pictures and started the process of 'cleaning up'!

There are several things that you can do to make your photographs look so much better!

PicMonkey -

I discovered PicMonkey several years ago and love it! It's very easy to use and gives us many different editing opportunities. You can use the basic version free or pay an annual subscription of $33 to get PicMonkey Royale, which offer lots of extra goodies.

PicMonkey has 4 main function modes: Edit, Touch Up, Design and Collage, all of which you will be able to use for different purposes.

By simply opening your photograph in the Basic Edit function you can immediately start working on your image. You have several options to choose from:

  • Crop
  • Canvas Colour
  • Rotate
  • Exposure
  • Colours 
  • Sharpen
  • Resize

My aim was to make my design look brighter and lighter and used the Exposure function to achieve this. I would recommend that you try out all the different editing functions and see what each of them do as you can get some really great results.

See below for the before and after results. The design looks so much brighter; you can see much more detail in the balloons being used.

Here I have used another great function on PicMonkey to make this collage! By simply clicking on the Collage function, you get several layout options; there are even specific options to create your own unique Facebook cover or layouts for Pinterest or Etsy!

I now have my image looking so much better, but I would love to lose that background!

How to edit an image using Paths Tool in GIMP.


GIMP is a popular open-source image editor for Mac, Windows, and Linux that has slowly evolved to become a credible free alternative to programs like Adobe Photoshop. 

I've been using GIMP for a number of years now. And like anything new, it takes a little time to get use to it and all the many functions that it has to offer.

I have made a short video clip that will show you how to remove the background of an image. I will also show you how to change the background into a transparent (Alpha) layer that will allow us to add any colour or background that we want to use.

I am going to let you in on a little secret. Whilst writing this blog, I decided to do a little research and check to see if there was a better way to remove the background of an image than the way that I have been doing for the past few years, and guess what? There is! So after a few frustrating hours learning this new way, I am now ready to share this with you! It's actually very simple and quick, I just had to figure out a few simple things on my computer!

A few key step reminders:
  • Open image in GIMP
  • Open the toolbox if not already open.
  • Increase the size of the image (bottom left) so that you can easily trace around the edge.
  • Select Paths Tool from toolbox - see image on the right.
  • Using the Paths Tool set pointers around the edge of the image. 
  • Once you have connected the final point with the first point, click select, either by right clicking on the image or from the top toolbar.
  • In Select you now want to click on From Path.
  • Now click Layer and then Transparency, now click Add Alpha Channel - that will make the background transparent.
  • In Select you now want to click on Invert.
  • Now click Delete. That will remove the background and give it a 'Chequerboard' appearance.
  • In Select, click none.
  • Now Export the file making sure that you save it as a PNG file as this will allow you to save your image with a transparent background.

How to add a background colour to a PNG Image using GIMP

This next very short clip shows you how to add a background colour to your PNG Image using Gimp and Bucket-Fill.

So here it is, my 'cleaned-up' photograph with a white background! Now it's perfect to use on my website, Pinterest and my business Facebook page! Just make sure that you add your watermark to protect your image and to ensure that everyone know who created the design. 

I wrote a blog some time ago on how to create a simple logo and watermark, to read this blog CLICK HERE.

How to add a background colour to a PNG image using PicMonkey.

And finally, this last clip shows you how to add a coloured background to your PNG Image using PicMonkey. You can actually use GIMP for this purpose as you can change the foreground and background colours to different colours by simply double clicking on the black and white boxes and selecting the colour that you want to use. However, learning how to add a PNG Image to a Design in PicMonkey will give you so many exciting options!

And here is my final version of my edited photograph... just a little bit different from the original photograph. Once again using PicMonkey, I have added a frame and text; the creative options are endless!

This may seem a lot of information to learn, but I can assure you that it does not take long to perfect the techniques and the results are well worth the effort!

Have fun and happy ballooning!


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How to make a Quick Link Christmas Tree by Sean O'Kelly CBA

Christmas already! To be honest, early planning and preparation can only help your seasonal campaign. Having design ideas that you can propose to your clients is essential.

Last year I was asked to make Christmas Trees as part of the decor that I was making for a corporate Christmas party that I was decorating. 
I wanted to make something a little different from the norm and so I did a little research to see what ideas I could glean from the internet! 

My trees needed to be approx. 2m (6' 6") in height although they did not all need to be exactly the same. They needed to be robust and moveable to enable us to move them into position prior to the party. I also wanted to be able to add some shimmering tinsel and Christmas tree lights to bring my trees to life!

After looking at many different ideas, there was just one design that really stood out for me and that was a Quick-Link Christmas Tree made by one of my lovely ballooning friends Sean O'Kelly from Melbourne, Australia.

Rather than immediately emailing Sean and asking him if he could give me some tips and hints on how to re-create his design, I decided that it would be good for me as a Quick Link novice to try and work it out for myself. After several disastrous attempts, the first one looking much like a space rocket or torpedo (partially because I only had red Quick Links to practise with) and the second as a totally indescribable object, I decided it was a good time to give up and contact Sean (you can't say that I didn't try)!

Sean very kindly sent me his recipe, and with his permission I will share it with you in this blog!