Digital Media Homepage

Subject: DMA - Digital media- 2014

College of Arts, Victoria University

Teacher Name: Lisa Cianci - email:
Course Coordinator & Education Manager: Alan Morgans - email:

Class Website -


Class 01 - Introduction to the Subject and Units of Competency

This subject will focus on the use of digital media technologies to support creative practice for artists.

Units of Competency

Each unit is broken down into elements and performance criteria.  The element is the topic for the unit and the performance criteria is content being delivered and assessed. The assessment of individual performance criteria is embedded in a number of assessment tasks.

Unit: CUVDIG502A Investigate technologies for the creation of digital art

Unit Description:

This unit describes the performance outcomes, skills and knowledge required to research and explore technologies available to artists working in any digital media. Given the rapid pace of change, one focus of the unit is on maintaining currency.

Application of the Unit:

Any practitioner who produces creative digital media work applies the skills and knowledge in this unit. Work could be completely digital or an integration of digital and traditional media. Technology exploration at this level is a largely independent activity with mentoring and guidance as required. It would normally include investigation of a range of technologies and processes to develop an individual professional style.


Element/Learning outcome

Performance Criteria

1. Research digital technologies

1.1 Research the detailed capabilities of different digital technologies and equipment

1.2 Evaluate current, emerging and experimental technologies

1.3 Investigate the relationships between technologies and the achievement of different effects

1.4 Determine cost and supply parameters for different technologies and equipment

2. Select digital technologies for in-depth exploration

2.1 Assess the creative and professional opportunities offered by different technologies

2.2 Determine limitations and constraints of particular technologies

2.3 Select technologies that suit own practice

3. Integrate technologies into own work

3.1 Explore different ways of working with technologies

3.2 Challenge and stretch the capabilities and uses of different technologies through experimentation

3.3 Develop own ways of working with technologies that achieve desired outcomes

3.4 Engage in informed discussion with others about the characteristics and opportunities of particular digital art technologies

3.5 Establish and follow safe work practices

4. Manage digital technologies in professional practice

4.1 Establish systems and habits to maintain currency of knowledge around digital art technologies

4.2 Develop ways of working that minimise waste

4.3 Maintain the quality and life of equipment and consumables through appropriate handling and storage


Assessment Tasks


Weighting (%)

1. Web Presence - Blog Setup & Customisation 30%

2. Video & Animation Project


3. Review of Mixed Reality Environments


4. Virtual Exhibition (group project)



Make sure you read the Subject / Unit Guide linked here for further detail on Units of Competency and Assessment.


Class Activities

1. Getting to know you

Each class member will speak briefly about their own creative practice and also their experience with digital media and web technologies so I can get an impression of the level of technical ability across the entire class. You are not expected to have any previous knowledge of the systems and applications we will be using in class, but some of you may have skills in these areas.


2. Photoshop Revision

Most of you have undertaken a Digital Imaging subject in semester 1 which would have provided you with some fundamental Photoshop and image manipulation skills. We will do some experimentation exercises with Photoshop today to see where everyone is at with this application - it will be necessary to have some basic skills with Photoshop to prepare images for assessment tasks such as the Blog & the Virtual Exhibition projects.

Today we will do a class exercise involving layers and blends in Photoshop to combine 2 or more images in an experimental imaging piece.

Some online tutorials to help you get started - note the tutorials on non-destructive Photoshop techniques:


Photoshop Layer Masks & Clipping Paths

Create 2 images that use these types of masks with complex objects...

These masks are 2 more examples of "non-destructive" image manipulation in Photoshop. A Layer Mask is attached to one layer only, and stays with that layer. A Clipping Mask is a separate layer that affects all layers linked to it. It will depend on your image and the effects you want, whether you use one or the other. Both are very handy to know, but may be a little confusing to use at first.

Layer Mask

To create a Layer Mask:

1. Open one of the "Flower" images (provided in the shared network area or in the small thumbnails below) in Photoshop and save it as a layer.

2. Create a new layer and drag it under the Flower layer. Fill this bottom layer with a colour, or paste one of the background images provided into this layer.

3. Select the Flower layer and then choose the "Add Layer Mask" button at the bottom of the Layers panel. You should now see a second thumbnail next to your flower layer image - this is the mask. By default it should be filled with white. The white area is the visible area of your layer image. To hide parts of your layer, use your paintbrush tool with black paint, and cover the areas that you want to hide, like the background. Layer Masks work with black and white pixels. Grey will be semi-transparent, so when using your paintbrush or other tool, you can set the opacity if you want a blended effect.

layer mask example

Getting the mask right can be difficult if you have a complex object. If your background is one colour, you may use the Wand tool to select a portion of the background in the image, then click back on the mask and fill it with black. There are many ways of getting the mask right. Practice is needed to become a masking expert.

To refine your mask, you can also use the Mask panel to feather the edges of your shape.

4. You should immediately see the mask activated in your layer. To remove the mask, you can drag it to the Trash can in the Layers panel, or to temporarily disable it, right click on the layer mask and choose "disable layer mask". You can always enable it later if you choose.

5. This is a great way to work with layers that doesn't destroy your original image. If you want, you can also save the masked layer to another new layer, with the mask applied, which is handy if you want to paste it into another Photoshop file. Just right click on the layer mask and choose "Refine Edge". You will see a range of options that include smoothing and other options for refining the mask. At the bottom of this panel, there's an option titled "Output". If you choose Output to "New Layer" you will get a new layer with the Flower image and no background - the mask has been applied.


Clipping Mask

A clipping mask is a separate layer that can be attached or removed from other layers, so in some ways it is more flexible. It also works with Opaque pixels and Transparency instead of White and Black - the opaque pixels are the visible area and the transparent part of the Clipping Mask Layer is the hidden part of the linked layers.

To create a Clipping Mask Layer:

1. Open one of the "Flower" images provided in Photoshop and save it as a layer.

2. Create a new layer and drag it under the Flower layer. Fill this bottom layer with a colour, or paste one of the background images provided into this layer.

3. Create a new layer in between the Flower and the background layers - this will be the Clipping Mask Layer. It seems unusual to have it underneath, I find it confusing myself, because I'm used to using Flash where masks are attached from the top.

clipping mask example

4. Grab your paint brush - the colour doesn't matter - and paint a shape of pixels that will form the visible areas of the mask. Just mask a rough shape at first, or perhaps select the flower layer, select the flower itself using the wand tool or similar to select the background, then Invert it to get the flower shape. once you have the dotted selection area, switch back to your Clipping Mask layer and fill the shape with any colour.

5. To activate the clipping mask layer, move your cursor over the line between the Clipping layer and the Flower layer and right-click. Choose the option "Create Clipping Mask" in the context menu. You should now see the Flower layer is indented with an arrow pointing down to the Clipping Mask Layer. The opaque shape in the Clipping Mask Layer should now be the visible area of your Flower layer.

6. Experiment with creating new layers on top of the Flower layer, and see what works and what doesn't work. You can also have semi-transparent areas with a Clipping Mask by having semi-transparent pixels in the Clipping Mask Layer.


Outcomes by the end of class:

Create an image with each type of mask we have looked at today. Show the images to me before the end of class.

There are other masks in Photoshop that use vectors and paths which can be useful if you want to import content to Illustrator or other vector applications. You can find many tutorials online for all kinds of Photoshop Mask techniques. Some of them are video tutorials which are quite good.


Grab these images to use for your exercises (right-click and Save As), or find your own images online:

purple flower white flower yellow flower abstract ice frost



3. Creating a Wordpress Blog - Uses for Artists

Using a blog as a method of reflective practice, self promotion, networking, exhibition and presentation of creative content and keeping place for documentation of artworks.

Even artists that use no digital media in their creative practice will eventually need to deal with web technologies in communicating with others, building networks, applying for funding and exhibition opportunities and managing or documenting their work (especially if it is of an ephemeral nature).

A blog can be used in a number of ways as stated in the Assessment Task 1 document. Wordpress, as the most ubiquitous of the free, open source blog applications, has many advantages for artists - especially as it is relatively user friendly to set up - you don't need to have any web design skills as most elements are enabled or installed by selecting a range of options in the setup "dashboard" area.

You don't necessarily have to use the blog posts as a journal style website if you don't want to (although you will need to do this as part of the assessment task). You may use the site to create static pages and image galleries, portfolios, and a range of other functionalities available from customising with widgets.

Today we will begin by getting everyone to create a blog. If you already have a wordpress blog, it's an opportunity to help one of your classmates with the setup process, or to spend some time on adding customisations and tweaking your widgets.

We may only get as far as creating a blog and choosing an initial theme - don't worry if your theme isn't really perfect for you. We will be looking at artist's requirements and what functionality we want from a theme. You can always change your theme without losing any blog posts that you may already have. Although, if you choose a radically different theme layout, you may need to consider how your media content will work in a different theme.

We will begin by going to the Wordpress User Guide at:

This is a very user friendly guide to get you started, with step-by-step instructions and pictures to help you. My role will be to get you started as a group, then to individually help you with the specifics that you want to set up on your particular blog.

Today you should try and read through:

1. Get the Most from

2. Get Going Fast: A Checklist

We will actually start creating the blog next week, but you will need to start thinking about a name for your blog - e.g.

The name must be unique, one word with no spaces or inappropriate characters, and this will be used in the URL - where your blog will be located.




Homework / Readings

Think about how you are going to use your blog. Think about it in terms of an artist's practice and how the blog might possibly be used to your advantage. How many ways could it be used? What's useful to you personally? Do some personal research into artist blogs




Some interesting websites and blogs by artists and designers


Some interesting image gallery sites (not blogs, but interesting ways of presenting visual content using web technologies)