Category: Adobe Apps

Advice: When to use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign

I belong to a lot of design forums and Facebook Groups and the question I see more often than I care to think about is “which app should I use to do X?” Should I design a logo in Photoshop, build an ad in Illustrator or InDesign, etc.

If you’re new in the graphic design field, or just never used Adobe’s Creative Cloud applications, take a look at this 30-minute video from Adobe Evangelist Terry White.

There are always exceptions to every rule, but in general:

  • Photoshop is for photo editing.
  • Illustrator is for logo design & custom illustration.
  • All the pieces should be brought into InDesign for layout and export to Acrobat PDF files.

The ONLY design rule that (in my opinion) has absolutely no exception: Design your logo in Illustrator. You’ll thank me later.

InDesign CC 2017 update + tips

InDesign CC 2017Adobe released an update to InDesign on Friday, and though it’s not a major update, it contain some changes worth noting.

The long-and-short of it for me is: mehhh. The first thing I did was turn on the Use Legacy “New Dialog” in the General tab of the preferences so I can avoid the highly annoying New Document dialog box that cuts off the Margins & Bleed entry areas to make room for giant useless icons for standard documents that used to live in a tidy little drop-down menu.

The new “Spectrum UI” is a huge leap backwards. You used to be able to adjust the brightness of the entire interface with a slider in the prefs; tweaking it just to your liking. Now you have four options: Dark (too dark for me, and too much contrast), Medium Dark (can’t decide if it wants to be dark or light and fails at both), Medium Light (which has no contrast at all and makes the entire interface look like a giant gray box), and Light (which is bright but useable).

I like the “flatter” interface, but it’s nothing to write home about.

Since David Blatner did a whole lot of work writing it up, I’ll point you to his review at InDesignSecrets.

Since you’re heading over to InDesignSecrets, take a look at these tips while you’re there:
Adding Alt Text to Images With Object Export Options
Naming Items in the Layers Panel

It’s nice to see Adobe updating InDesign regularly, but I’m starting to feel a bit neglected with the lack of new features, bug fixes and overall speed increases.

Find the missing font in Adobe InDesign

InDesign font info panel
Most designers know that InDesign offers a find fonts feature to change fonts or locate missing fonts in your document. It’s located in the menubar under Type>Find Font… However most designers never go past the “Replace With” font feature.

The problem is if you have a document with numerous pages and lots of colorful imagery, even when InDesign highlights the missing font (or the one you want to substitute) it can be hard to see.

The simple way to find the pesky hidden font is to hit the More Info button in the Find Font dialog box. The dialog box will expand with a list of font statistics, at the bottom of which will tell you what page(s) the reticular font is on—even if it’s on the pasteboard.

How to make your Adobe Illustrator documents much smaller

If you’ve used Adobe Illustrator for any amount of time, you’ve probably created a complicated piece of artwork. Those files can be fairly large, making file transfer and storage cumbersome. Thankfully there’s a simple way to drastically reduce your file sizes.

When saving your files, choose the native AI format. This offers you the most flexibility, and the ability to reduce the files. You’ll also want to tick the Create PDF Compatible File box. This allows Illustrator to recover the file should the program crash.

Illustrator Options
In the Illustrator Options dialog box that pops up, tick the Use Compression box. That’s it! Instant smaller files.

Now you may have guessed that ticking that PDF Compatible File box also adds some overhead to the file, so if you’re looking for the smallest file size possible, go ahead and uncheck the box.

Illustrator file sizes
As you can see in the image above, the original Illustrator file weighs-in at 101.2 MB. Saving the file with PDF Compatibility and Compression reduces the file to 63.7 MB. Unchecking the PDF Compatibility box reduces the file even further to 25.4 MB in size.

That’s a big savings!

How to use InDesign’s Span and Split Columns feature

Nothing drives me crazy like working on a file that another designer created that doesn’t know about InDesign’s Span or Split Columns feature. There’s just no need to create a separate Text Box just to have the headline go across the top of two columns of text. It’s a pain in the behind. Span Columns to the rescue!
InDesign's Span Columns
Following close behind is when a designer wants to have two, three or more columns of bullet points in the middle of their text flow and doesn’t realize that you don’t have to create a separate multi-column text box in the middle of the text flow and then use multiple carriage returns to leave space for it. Edit the text above that separate text box and you have to move the text box with the bullets every time. Such a pain. Simply use the Split Column feature.
InDesign's Split Columns
If you don’t know how to use them, Erica Gamet has a great how-to article at CreativePro on how to use Span and Split Columns feature.

Easily switch between Photoshop’s Layer Blend Modes

When you have a multi-layer Photoshop file and you want to set one of the layers to Multiply, Overlay or one of the numerous other Blend Modes, you can click the drop-down menu in the Layers panel, but that can be tedious.

An easier way is to use the keyboard shortcut. Simply have the layer you want to switch Blend Modes on selected and have the Move, Lasso or other tool that doesn’t use Blend Modes (such as the Brush tool) active, and hit Shift + (plus) or Shift – (minus) to cycle through the different Blend Modes.

The shortcut works with tools that DO offer Blend Modes (such as the previously mentioned Brush tool or the Gradient tool) as well.

Incidentally, if you use the Multiply Blend Mode as often as I do, you’ll be happy to know you can simply hit Shift + Option + M to quickly apply it without cycling through it or bothering with the drop-down menu. Other often-used Blend Mode Shortcuts include Shift + Option + S applies Screen, Shift + Option + C applies Color.

Getting more from InDesign’s Eyedropper tool

InDesign Eyedropper Options
Most designers new to InDesign think the Eyedropper tool exists solely to choose a color from an image or other object on the page. More experienced users know just how powerful it can be, and much easier it can make things.

Not only can you choose colors, but you can apply fonts, styles, colors, transparency and more to other objects with simple clicks.

Take a look at InDesign Eyedropper Tool Tips over at CreativePro for a look at this highly useful tool.