Ridin' With Rio

5 Great Puzzle Gifts for National Park Lovers

5 Great Puzzle Gifts for National Park Lovers

You and I, we're National Park lovers.

One of my favorite aspects of creating puzzles from my own photography is that each time I cut a puzzle, I get to relive the experience from when I was taking the image. Luckily, with a lot of travel through our stunning National Parks system, and plenty of puzzles, I get to relive my experiences from those parks quite often.

Likewise, even better for me, is when I hear from someone who bought for themselves, or who was gifted one of our National Parks puzzles. They explain to me the significance that the image has for them and how they get to relive their experience while putting the puzzle together one piece at a time. They tell me tales of proposals, of healing, amazing times with their loved ones and more. It's perfect.

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Puzzles With Whimsy Pieces / StoryPieces

Puzzles With Whimsy Pieces / StoryPieces

You know exactly what a jigsaw puzzle is - you've been doing them since you were a kid! But, what are whimsy pieces and why are they so cool? At Wimberley Puzzle Company, we call these StoryPieces.

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Texas Capitol Gift Shop, Bullock Texas State History Museum - Austin Puzzles

Texas Capitol Gift Shop, Bullock Texas State History Museum - Austin Puzzles

Austin, TX Puzzles Announcement:

We're excited to announce that Wimberley Puzzle Company has partnered with the Texas State Preservation Board to provide puzzles at three of their wonderful gift shop locations in Austin, Texas! 

Puzzles are available at the following three Austin Texas gift shops:

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Just how big is a 1,000 piece puzzle?

Just how big is a 1,000 piece puzzle?

Well, a thousand-piece puzzle is a thousand pieces big... right?

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"Those are the coolest jigsaw puzzles!"

"Those are the coolest jigsaw puzzles!"

When she asked if those puzzles were just regular ol' puzzles, or if they also had the special pieces cut into them, I realized how bad of a job I was doing at actually showing off what I was doing! 

"Yes, ma'am. Those puzzles definitely have all of the fun, whimsical pieces."

And that's when the title of this Ridin' with Rio blog post created itself...

"These are the coolest jigsaw puzzles!" 

"Well, thank you!!" (I suck at taking compliments, by the way)

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Critique 101: How To Be a Better Designer (or everything else) Through Critique

Critique 101: How To Be a Better Designer (or everything else) Through Critique

Critique 101: How To Be a Better Designer (or everything else) Through Critique

Critique 101: How To Be a Better Designer (or everything else) Through Critique


Judger: the person that is criticizing; the critic.


Criticizing: analyzing and judging both the merits and faults of a work


Critique: the detailed assessment that comes from criticizing


Critique has such a negative connotation — it’s most often associated with a negative view of what’s wrong with something, and then often met with a reaction that stems deep within the gut of someone trying to defend their work, or simply brushing it off with an “I don’t care what you jerks think” attitude. But, criticizing and the subsequent critique is an invaluable element to the design process.

Why is it so hard to accept? We self-critique a project as we’re designing it, right? That element doesn’t feel right like that, in that place, at that scale, how about I do this… the process of iteration as you’re creating something is inherently self-criticism. Much of the issue with accepting criticism from external judgers is that we don’t know how to approach and deliver criticism. Quite often, feelings are injected into the criticism: I hate this, I don’t like this, I love this. Hate, like, love: all words that should never make their way from your brain to your mouth (or fingers if typing it up).

What is the piece or design trying to accomplish and did it meet those goals? What made it a success? What is hindering the piece from being a success in your eyes? What could it make it even more successful?


John: This really works for me because…

Jane: The use of … distracts me from the overall message of the piece.

John: The colors just don’t work for me. They fight for my attention and compete with one another.

Jane: The texture of this piece pulls it all together for me.


John, in what could be considered both positive and negative comments is a critic that is critiquing in both statements. Jane, with both positive and negative views is also a critic that is critiquing in both statements. Both John and Jane critiqued in a manner of what makes the design successful or unsuccessful in meeting the artists objective in their viewpoint.


Bob: I hate that you used comic sans.


Sandra: I think that’s the ugliest color.



Who cares, Bob and Sandra? Learn to criticize! Hate, think: those are statements of feelings and while they may be part of your interpretation of the work, should never be conveyed in your judgement of the work. If you’re curious why the designer used comic sans or that particular shade of baby puke green - ask them. What were you trying to achieve using Comic Sans? Why did you choose that color? In the absence of being able to have a discussion, one must use their critical analysis skills to see what the piece is trying to convey and achieve, and determine if the elements you felt were so disgusting actually just might work. Baby puke green and comic sans both have their places in design - maybe even together.

In both self-critique and critiquing others works, going about it the right way is key to making it successful.

How do we go about it the right way?

Describe, analyze, interpret, and judge.

The description step is only describing what’s in front of you. It’s simply what you see as facts. This is a portrait oriented, engraved wedding invitation, the material is acrylic, engraved on the backside of the material, it’s about 5x7”, it’s clear and white markings, it has rough lines in the engraving, using this fancy font, it has a dove flying, and so on.

Of all the features noted in the description of the piece, what do they suggest, what do they convey? How did that person do that? What’s most prominent? What jumps at me? What’s not prominent? Does it feel unified? Is it balanced? Is it too dark, too light? Do the colors clash?

The interpretation builds upon the description and the analysis to determine why they created it, why they made the choices they did, what’s the overall feel of the piece?

Description + Analysis + Interpretation = Do the elements work together? Does it convey what we interpreted the meaning to be? What distracts (doesn’t work) from the meaning? What contributes (works) to the artists intent?


What does this do?

It helps your other designers consider what people are seeing in their work in a manner that they can accept as constructive. But, even better, learning to critique others work does even more for you. It allows you to better self-critique and iterate your own works in progress. It also allows you to practice design without actually making anything at that point in time. The mental exercise of critiquing reinforces and also expands your overall knowledge and understanding of design, which will inject itself into your own designs.


Let’s do better.
By learning how to critique, others will become more accepting of critiques, and everyone benefits.






Multi-Layer Engrave Using Photoshop Actions

Step 1:
Open image in Photoshop


Step 2:
Decide how many layers you want your project to be. This image I will do two layers, placing the truck and most forward tree on the right on the front layer.


Step 3:
Process image using JB’s Photoshop Actions


Optional Step 4:
Tweak image if necessary for best engrave (for advanced editing techniques, see: https://wimberleypuzzlecompany.com/blogs/ridin-with-rio/jbs-glowforge-photoshop-actions-installation-and-playing)


Step 5:
If Step 4, making additional edits was performed, run JB’s Resize Edited Image action and specify the overall size of your final engrave along with resolution (enter 300 if engraving below 340 Lines per Inch). Save this document as FileName-Layer1.


Step 6:
Select the rectangular marquee tool from the tool bar menu and then click Select and Mask button that appears in the Options toolbar (usually located at the top of the Photoshop program)


Step 7:
With the Quick Selection tool selected, click the Select Subject button that appears in the Options toolbar and refine the selection as needed using the Quick Selection tool and brush selection tool. Select the subjects you want to add to the front layer — in this case, we will select the truck and the tree on the far right. If you don’t see anything in the preview, make sure the view mode is set to “Marching Ants.” As you’re working, you can switch between Marching Ants and Onion Skin to get a better view of your selection. Click OK to accept the selection.


Step 8:
With the selection made on your edited image, run the “#4: Test Burn Action.” This creates a new document at the same dimensions of your resized, edited image containing your selection. Save this document as FileName-Layer2.


Step 9:
From the new document created, select the Magic Wand Tool and make sure “contiguous” is not selected on the options toolbar. Click the transparent background, and from the menu, Select > Inverse. This inverts the background selection to select the objects.


Step 10:
Make sure the Paths palette is open. This is often attached to the layers palette — if not, you can activate the Paths palette by going to Window > Paths. Then, select the hamburger menu on the top right of the palette, and click Make Work Path. This will turn your selection into a real, editable path. Once it’s created, it should be automatically selected. Copy this path using either Edit > Copy, or Control-C (Command-C on Mac).


Step 11:
Go to Illustrator, open FileName-Layer2, and then paste the work path into this document. It will give you two options, either shape or path. I select Path. Position this if needed. An artifact of saving to PDF from Photoshop is that it creates a clipping mask. This can be either ignored in the Glowforge app, or deleted here in Illustrator. The path that is pasted will have no fill or stroke, so apply the stroke color that you use for cuts.


Step 12:
Save this file (layer 2) as an SVG file


Step 13:
Open your Filename-Layer1 document in Illustrator. This file will also have a clipping mask, but we can use it to our advantage to very quickly make a cut path for our layer 1 engrave. Select All and then Object > Clipping Mask > Release. The new path will not have a stroke or a fill — assign this path a stroke color that you use for cutting and then save the document as a SVG.




JBs Glowforge Photoshop Actions - Installation, Playing, Advanced Features

How To: Install and Run JB's Glowforge Photoshop Actions 

A quick overview of how to install JB's Glowforge Photoshop Actions. 

- Find your downloaded .ZIP file
- Extract
- Double-click the .ATN file to install into Photoshop (the install is silent, so don't click repeatedly unless you want a bunch of copies)
- Open an image in Photoshop
- Open the Actions palette (Window > Actions)
- Resize the palette window by dragging, so that you can see all of the actions
- The actions are in a folder, and only one action needs to be processed. Select an action, such as 2a, and click the play button.


How To: Perform Advanced Editing Using JB's Glowforge Photoshop Actions

The actions do an excellent job of processing most photos; some photos need a little more love though, or, need a bit of tweaking to accentuate certain aspects of the photo. 

To manually edit a processed photo, click STOP when the resizing prompt occurs.

Double-click the layer thumbnail (check the video for exactly what that is) to open the properties for that particular smart layer. 

Adjust accordingly.

The two layers that make the biggest difference to the final product are the Black and White Mix layer and the Shadows/Highlights layer. I would recommend starting there.


How To: Perform a Test Engrave on a Processed Image

A test engrave can be very useful for both making sure that you've nailed the details for a particular image, and making sure that your engrave settings on the laser are correct.

Once an image has been resized, do NOT resize it. This is why resizing is not an option in the actions, but a requirement. To perform a test engrave, process and edit your image as you normally would. 

Once you have the grayscale version, use the marquee tool (shortcut key: M) to make a small selection of your image on the area you'd like to test. Eyes, if it's a portrait, or any particularly difficult part of the image. 

WIth a selection made, run the Test Burn action to export a full-size crop of that segment of the image.


How To: Reset an Image to Original

Sometimes, you just mess up on an image. As Forrest Gump says, "shit happens." Part of getting this process right though is experimenting. What can you screw up? It's just a copy of your image. Experiment away.

But, if you ever want to start over, it's very easy. From your original, processed image (the one with all of the layers), just run the Reset to Original action and your image will be restored to its original state.



Looking Back at 2019

Looking Back at 2019

A long time ago, a good friend asked me for some advice. My reply was something along the lines of, "looking backwards while you're moving forward is only going to make you trip." That advice may have been right - or, may have been wrong. It all worked out in the best way possible for her though, so that's what is important. 

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Mobile Manufacturing: Traveling With a Laser

Mobile Manufacturing: Traveling With a Laser

Just over a year ago, Rio and I hit the wide open road and headed west to do something that sounded really awesome at the time… something that no one else seemed to be doing — mobile manufacturing - honest to goodness manufacturing while on the road. 

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