Category: Adobe Apps

Blow Up 3 makes stunning image enlargements effortless

The situation is all-too familiar, and frequent. You’re working on a large poster and your client sends you a 3×5 photo to work with. Using Photoshop’s image sizing tools are of no help, and other 3rd-party options are overly slow and complex. This situation is where Alien Skin Software’s Blow Up 3 shines.

Blow Up 3

Blow Up 3's simple interface offers a very Mac-like simplicity

Blow Up 3 focuses on simplicity, as evidenced by a quick look at the interface of the Photoshop plug-in. A large preview window, and an input area with just a few controls are all that is necessary to enlarge your images with stunning results (see image later in this article). (more…)

Selecting cells with the keyboard in your InDesign table

Selecting InDesign Table Cells

Selecting individual InDesign Table cells, and the content in them, is easy with the keyboard

If you use Tables in your InDesign document, selecting individual cells with the mouse can make your fingers sore. Instead, use the Tab and/or Arrow keys to move between them. Maybe you already knew that. But did you know that you can click the cell you wish to work with and hit the ESC key to select the entire cell (perhaps to fill the cell with a color) and hit ESC a second time to select the content inside the cell (to change the font, for example).

Give your InDesign text a “highlighted” appearance

Ever want to give your text in Adobe InDesign a highlighted appearance but not want to bother with creating a separate piece of artwork to overlay? It’s a simple effect to create, with the added benefit that it sticks with the text when it gets reflowed.

Highlight effect in your InDesign text

Adding a highlight effect in your InDesign document text doesn't require separate artwork

To create the effect, take note of the point size of your text (you’ll need to know that later). Now select the word(s) you want to highlight, click the fly-out menu of the Character Panel and choose Underline Options…. In the dialog box that pops-up, click the Underline On and Preview check boxes so you can view the effect in your document as you make adjustments.

To customize your highlight choose the line type from the drop-down menu, most likely you’ll want a solid line. Now choose a color (any color in your Color Panel) is available to use. You’ll want to do these steps first so you can see the results as you customize further.

Now adjust the Weight of the underline to be a few points thicker than the point size of your text – in the case of the sample image above, my text was 12pts, so I made the underline 14pts. Now adjust your Offset amount by a few negative points so that it overlaps your text – in my sample, -3 was just the right amount. Finally, click the Overprint check box to give it a more realistic effect (overprint will really show if your text is a lighter color). Now just hit OK button to apply the effect.

Highlighted text sampleYou could stop here, but you’ll notice that the highlight begins and ends exactly at the edges of the first and last letter of your highlighted word(s) – as you see in the top of the image at the right. While this isn’t that big of a deal, it’s not quite as realistic as it could be. To extend the highlight effect to just a tiny bit before and after the text as you see in the bottom half of the image, add a space before and after the word and reduce the Tracking amount of each space. I used -140 for the sample image to show how this adjustment affects the highlighting, but you may want to reduce the space even further to avoid unsightly gaps.

If you want to apply this effect to more text in your document, you may want to save the effect as a Character Style.

Where to find Adobe Photoshop custom Workspaces on your hard drive

PhotoshopIf you’re like me, you set up custom Workspaces in Adobe Photoshop. I like having certain panels located in certain places, some fully open, and some reduced to icon-only state. Saving those panel locations makes it easy to return Photoshop to your preferred setup quickly and easily if you move Panels around during a work session. It also allows you to have different configurations for different tasks, such as one setup for general Photoshop work, and another for color correction.

Recently I did a clean install on my MacPro, and wanted to pull my custom Workspaces from a backup so I wouldn’t have to re-configure them – a time-consuming task. But where does Adobe Photoshop store these custom Workspaces?

They’re found where you would probably most expect them to be:
Users/[your user name]/Library/Preferences/Adobe Photoshop CS5Settings/WorkSpaces

Make a backup copy of this file for easy recovery if you decide to reformat you drive at a later date – it’ll be easier to get up and running again when the time comes.

And if you’re interested in finding where other custom files and preferences are stored, you can visit this knowledge base article on Adobe’s website.

Turn your image into a beautiful work of art with Snap Art

Alien Skin Software released Snap Art 3 a while back, and I’ve been playing with it for a while now and found it to be yet another excellent Photoshop add-on from my favorite plug-in maker.

Snap Art 3 is definitely made for photographers, but designers can make use of it as well. It’s easy to use, highly flexible, and at $199 it’s affordable for what it does. Not only do the multitude of effects work on photos, but you can apply Snap Art filters to videos imported into Adobe Photoshop Extended as well.

Snap Art sample

Snap Art turns your images into works of art

I won’t bother to go into all the filters and features, you can check them out on the Snap Art examples page. But know that Snap Art now offers a Detail Mask feature that allows you to adjust the details in specific areas of your images. Very slick! All of Snap Art’s oil paint, watercolor, pencil, charcoal, comic art, and dozens of other filters, offer non-destructive editing. And experimenting is easy with the large preview window.

Snap Art 3 works with Photoshop CS4 or later, Lightroom 2 or later, and Photoshop Elements 8 or later, on a Mac running OS X 10.5 or newer, including in 64-bit mode. A downloadable demo of Snap Art 3 is available.

Pixel perfect art when rotating layers in Photoshop

When you’re working on your pixel-perfect artwork in Photoshop, some common functions like moving, rotating and pasting can undo your hard work, resulting in a blurry mess. In fact, if you’re not careful, rotating layers in Photoshop can damage them in a very noticeable, pixel-mashing way – as illustrated below. But with some small changes to your workflow, you should be able to maintain the highest-quality artwork from the start to the end of the project.
Pixel-perfect rotation
Marc Edwards at Smashing Magazine has a great pixel perfection tutorial outlining a few methods that most designers are unaware of that avoids the problem.

One of the easiest solutions that I’ve used for years is to simply change the rotation orientation to the top left axis when rotating objects.

How to apply pseudo-HDR image enhancement to your photos

Sometimes even a photo that has been composed perfectly needs a little something to really make it pop. Or maybe you just want to jazz it up for use in a text-heavy document. There’s a simple way to give it a pseudo-HDR effect using Adobe Photoshop, or even Pixelmator.

Pseudo-HDR effect

The original image lacks the oomph we're looking for

The original image above is really nice. It’s well-composed, has great depth and color, and would probably be fine as is. To give it some punch, you make a duplicate of the background layer by hitting Command + J, and set the Layer Blending Mode to Overlay using the drop-down menu at the top of the Layers panel.

Pseudo-HDR effect

Adding a few layer copies can boost the overall color & contrast

While the image already shows boosted color and contrast, try duplicating that newly created layer again using Command + J. The Blending Mode should already be set to Overlay, but if it isn’t go ahead and do so. As you can see in the image above, the effect is quite stunning. But if you feel you went too far, adjust the Transparency of the top-most layer until you’re satisfied.

Creating precision guides in Photoshop with the GuideGuide panel

Before you ask, the answer is no, there is no error in the headline. The name of the Adobe Photoshop Panel add-on is GuideGuide. It has a silly name, but it’s one of the more useful add-ons I’ve seen in quite a while, and it’s absolutely free.

Guide Guide panel

GuideGuide is a custom Panel you add to Photoshop which makes creating precision guides as simple as entering some numbers and clicking an icon. Rather than go into loads of detail, I encourage you to check out the GuideGuide page Cameron McEfee has put up for sharing his creation. If you’re a web designer creating comps, or a graphic designer looking for precision column guides, this Panel is going to make your life MUCH easier!

Mac OS X Lion and Adobe Creative Suite: what you need to know

Lion and Adobe CS

The question of the day: Will Adobe CS apps choke on Lion fur?

I received several emails since yesterday morning asking why I hadn’t posted an extensive review of Mac OS X Lion. I’ve already stopped replying to those emails, and thought it better to update everyone on the most common subjects.

Why no review of Lion on The Graphic Mac?

If you go through the archives here, you’ll find that I’ve never really reviewed the latest Mac OS X upgrades. The reason is simple. Everyone else already has it covered. Seriously, if you really want to read re-hashed press releases from Apple you don’t need me to do it. The features found in Lion are awesome. The updated interface is awesome. The new Mail is awesome. And for the most part, everything works just as before.

Just buy it, it’s only $30 and it’s awesome.

I’m running Adobe Creative Suite version X, will it work with Lion?

I run Adobe Creative Suite 5, so that’s the only version I can comment on with first-hand knowledge. In short, it works just as it did in Snow Leopard. And I mean that literally. Adobe CS apps don’t take advantage of any of Lion’s new features like Versions, Full Screen, Restore, and some multi-touch gestures.

There are a few issues with CS apps running under OS X 10.7, which Adobe has outlined in this Knowledge Base article, but for the most part they are minor.

Do the Adobe CS apps run faster or slower in Lion?

See comments above. They run just about the same as they did in Snow Leopard – whether you consider that fast or slow is a matter of opinion.

When will Adobe update their apps to work with Lion?

I work for an ad agency, not Adobe.

Is it hard to get used to running iOS on a desktop Mac?

No. But that’s because the idea that Lion is iOS for the Mac is way overblown. Apple has implemented a few features from iOS, ALL of which can be turned off or simply ignored. Other than the interface colors, and a few other minor tweaks, it’s not a whole lot different than running Snow Leopard.

That being said, if you’re unhappy with the direction Lion has taken, you’re going to really hate the next few years. If you buy a new mouse for your Mac today, it’s not far-fetched to say it’s probably the last one you’ll ever use (if it’s a decently made one, anyway). That spaghetti string of cables behind your desk is probably going to get a lot smaller in the coming years. Everything is going wireless – including the charging of your iPhones, iPods and other small devices.

I believe we’re on the front doorstep of a new revolution of change in the technology industry. In closing, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

Add Instagram effects to Photoshop for free

For those of you who love to use Instagram on your iPhone and wish you could have those same simple effects available to you in Adobe Photoshop – REJOICE!

Instagram Photoshop Actions

X Pro II Photoshop action compared to the original Instagram filter

Daniel Box has made a set of Instagram Photoshop Actions that come extremely close to reproducing several of the Instagram filters in Photoshop.

They’re free, so give ’em a try!