Archive | Mini Tools

WATCH: Handy Tool for Copyright Permissions

Someone said it so well. . .

Have you ever wanted to quote someone – maybe on posters you’re creating on – and wondered how to get copyright permissions? Or if, indeed, you needed permission at all? One resource is the US government: US Copyright Office. That lets you search by works created since 1978. Then what?

But how about simply conducting a copyright permissions search by typing in an artist’s or writer’s name? Try WATCH!

What is WATCH?

The University of Reading (Reading, England) and the Harry Ransom Center (Austin, TX) together offer a searchable database of copyright contacts for writers, artists and prominent figures in other creative fields. These are the companies who can authorize (license) copyright permissions.

Read the information about the database on their About page. Note the head’s up for totally relying on WATCH as the be-all, end-all of copyright / permission information, but this is a great start.

To try it out, I enter Winston Churchill’s name. He was a very quotable person in the 20th century!

Search box for Churchill

Search box for Churchill

The results in the second box indicate with whom I should check before quoting Churchill, especially for commercial use such as for Zazzle designs. (BTW, I have zero idea if they do grant permission or not; I did not contact them.)

Winston Churchill results

Winston Churchill results

If a search turned up a licensing company, I assume I have to seek permission to use work from that artist or writer. If it turned up blank, I’d think I might be ok, but I learned better with the Oscar Wilde example!

The results for Oscar Wilde are more ambiguous on WATCH because they have notes about differing UK and USA rules AND an address in France! I don’t understand this one at all, I have to say.
Oscar Wilde search results

I used to believe that if a work pre-dated 1923, it was ok to use. Well, maybe. Maybe not. So, I try to check it I’m going to quote someone. I also double-check the source of a quote – you would not believe how many quotes are falsely attributed to Kurt Vonnegut, for instance!)

I, myself, had some Oscar Wilde quotes removed from Zazzle which was a puzzle. Wilde lived from 1854-1900, so his work would ordinarily have gone into public domain by its age. This was one of the tricky ones! I don’t pretend to understand it, but I believe it has more to do with trademark than copyright. This particular writer’s info is perhaps not fully addressed by the WATCH site. (They caution you for good reasons!)

Since I had products taken down, I did a separate Google search on “Oscar Wilde copyright” and was taken to a website of a licensing company, CMG. The Official Web Site of Oscar Wilde has more info (FAQ) and links back to CMG.

 Permission and

There are differences in using quotes in editorially, commercially and personally, so be sure to check! If you stand to make money utilizing someone else’s words, art, or other creative work, you may very well have to gain permission and possible a licensing agreement. What that entails, you have to find out on an individual basis. If you do pursue it, know that

  • You may or may not get permission.
  • You may or may not be able to afford the conditions under which you could get permission.
  • The cost of not finding out may be even higher, however!

For those of us creating on if you have permission to use someone else’s work, you may want to post a notice on your site AND contact Zazzle to show proof of that permission. Zazzle has been known to remove alledgedly offending products without warning and, often, without much recourse for the artist. An ounce of prevention saves a ton of problems later!

On the Zazzle help page,the acceptable content guidelines note:  No text or images that infringe on any intellectual property rights including, but not limited to copyrights, trademarks and rights of privacy/publicity. More info about the Zazzle copyright policy may be found on this help page.

There are always people looking out for other artists who will report designs they think infringe on someone else’s rights. (That’s not the ideal protocol, but it happens.) Additionally, licensing companies may do automated searches of the web to look for possible violators. Zazzle undoubtedly has a list of artists, writers, celebrities, companies, etc whose intellectual property may not be added without permission.

If you have ever had something taken down, you know how troubling that may be. This is one way to help yourself stay out of trouble!

As artists and creators ourselves, we should understand this subject from both sides. 🙂

Note: I am not a lawyer, nor offering legal advice. The information here may be outdated by the time you read this! And IP law is evolving all the time. WATCH is one tool available on line to help you research intellectual property concerns. It’s important to understand that there are different kinds of rights out there and intellectual property law is a complicated subject. Another online tool you should become familiar with besides the Copyright Office noted above is the US Trademark Office search.

Writing without Repetition – A Tool for Using the Right Word

Like, you know those days when you can’t come up with new words? And every sentence is like, you know, just like all the others? (throws hands up in air)

No one wants to write or read that boringness, of course. Really, you WANT to be using the right word in your writing. You just can’t think of it!

Sometimes your brain is tired or the word you want is elusive. Perhaps you need a word you don’t even know yet! Experts do tell you not to use $5 words when 5¢ ones will work, but IMO, $2 words can be very snazzy.

[snazzy: flashily stylish]

Actually, apropos is probably a better word

[apropos: of an appropriate or pertinent nature]

When the perfect bon mot is hidden away from your fingers – find it with this very sweet (free) online thesaurus which I found today via It’s a great tool for writers, bloggers and product tagging. And, likely, keywords. You know, the obvious ones are so close to us that sometimes we don’t see them!

Even sweeter for a visual person with a word on the brain is the Graph Word feature! (Look for it on the menu bar.) It draws out a diagram showing all the words related to the word you enter. And it color codes them by part of speech: noun, verb, adjective, adverb.

Check out a graph of the word brain.  (Caveat: maybe not for those of us with attention issues. . . )

I bet there’s an unexpected word or two for you – there was for me!brain word map from graphwords.comEnjoy! And let’s all write more snazzy, apropos sentences using the right words, ok?

Planning title and tagline font combinations for your website

You don’t have to create a logo on your website! On WordPress, for instance, you can use built-in fonts to create a sharp title and tagline combination. Oh, you’ve been doing it that way, already? It’s not Arial / Arial / Arial, is it? I hope not!

But you probably know you can can waste WAY too much time creating font combinations for websites.

If your WordPress theme, for instance, gives you dozens of Google fonts and embedded fonts to choose from, do you try all of them? Or just stick with the default?

The Web Font Combinator screenshot

The Web Font Combinator screenshot


Font Combination Tool

I found a sweet tool the other day to test out combinations of fonts: the aptly named The Web Font Combinator by Chip Cullen.

You can change the title line, tagline and paragraph text to your own words or just leave the default. Then start trying out different fonts in combination with each other. Handily, you can adjust the font sizes and the line height of the body text. You can also reverse from black-on-white to white-on-black. Or check out the punk version in yellow and pink.

According to the site “Currently this tool only uses fonts supplied by the Google Font Directory, as well as a handful of common system fonts.” I found that the theme I was using didn’t support all those fonts, so I checked back and forth.

Without going into guidelines for typography ( I couldn’t go far, if I wanted to), consider how you will often see a bold font title with a smaller font tagline in a lighter color below. The tagline is more often italicized than the main text. Your body text needs to be really readable unless your posts are super-short. Arial, Garamond, Verdana, Helvetica and other system fonts are safer bets.

The width I was playing with on my 15″ laptop was about 860 pixels. If your site is 960px across (a standard size), this is a good width to judge how well our text will actually appear on the screen. You probably will not want to use two lines as I did in the example above.

Try it out for yourself – did you come up with any surprises? I started liking Rock Salt, myself.


It’s much easier to create BAD combinations, so be careful with cutesy fonts or you could get something like this!

cutesy fonts look bad

cutesy fonts are difficult to combine!


Colorzilla is a great tool for designers

colorzilla tool imageColorzilla is a great little tool that sits up at the top of your browser window and lets you take color readings from any point in the browser window.

With this tool, you can easily pick a color out of your photograph or design image as you work on Zazzle (or any other POD) and use the result to give your text, border or background the best coloring. It makes a huge difference to your finished product!

Here’s a six step process of using Colorzilla to color some text using a candy jar.


Start with default color text and chosen image on product, here a candy jar.
jar with default color text


Switch to design view and use the magnify glass to see a close-up of the design.

candy jar

Click on the Colorzilla eye-dropper and touch the point to a desired color within your design.



Click the drop down arrow on the Colorzilla tool and choose the Hex color without the pound sign. That will copy the number for you.

choose option

Step 5:

Open the text color box. Paste the new color number that you just copied over the old one and hit return to lock it in.

jar with default color texthex color

Step 6:

Check out the new color on your text in the product view. Good? OK, you’re done! It is a big improvement!

finished candy jar

With Colorzilla, giving your products a finishing professional touch is a lot easier! It’s available as a free add-on for Firefox or Chrome. Or you can go to Colorzilla to download it.