Category: Adobe Apps

Isolate your grouped objects for editing in Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator CS3 offers users a convenient way to edit grouped objects called Isolation Mode. In previous versions, in order to work on an object that was grouped with other objects, you would have to switch to the Direct Selection tool (white arrow), and then contend with trying to see just the path of the object you want to work on mixed among all the other paths. Isolation Mode allows you to double click an object you wish to work on which is grouped with other objects, and edit it as if it were no longer grouped. The advantage is that Illustrator doesn’t actually ungroup the objects, it just isolates them for you. It also offers the added advantage of fading out the other objects in the document to make it easier on the eyes. To exit Isolation Mode, simply right click (Control click) on the page and select Exit Isolated Group.

Quickly changing the ruler units setting in Adobe Illustrator

If your preferences are set to show the ruler units in Inches in Adobe Illustrator and you happen to be working on a Web graphic, you can quickly change them to pixels (or several other measurement units) by right-clicking (Control + Click for one-button mouse users) on the ruler and selecting Pixels from the drop-down menu. I can see the use for Points, but does anyone actually use Picas anymore?

Create a comic book halftone-dot effect for your Photoshop images

If you’ve got a particularly “uninteresting” image you want to use in your next design project and you’re looking for a way to spice it up a bit, consider adding a comic book style halftone-dot effect to your image. It’s quick and easy, uses only Photoshop’s built-in filters, and produces excellent results.

1. Choose your image.

Images with a decent amount of contrast and midtones work best, but virtually any image will do the trick. I chose this handsome little fella:

2. Duplicate the image.

Select the background layer from the layers panel and hit Command + J (or drag the layer icon to the new layer icon at the bottom of the layers panel) to duplicate the image layer. Label the new layer “Comic effect” or something meaningful.

3. Prepare for the filter

Make sure the newly created Comic effect layer is on top of the original layer (if you left the original layer set as “background” you should be good to go). Now hit the “D” key to reset your colors to solid black & solid white. Then hit the “X” key to invert them so white is the foreground color and black is the background color.

4. Apply filter

With the Comic effect layer selected, go to your menubar and select Filter>Sketch>Halftone Pattern. For now, just leave the settings at their default, which is usually: Halftone Pattern Size: 1 Contrast: 5 Pattern Type: Dot Hit OK. Your image should now look something like this:

5. Invert the image

With the Comic effect layer still selected, hit Command + i to invert the image. It should now look something like this: If we wanted to have a black & white image, we could probably stop here, but I want color, so let’s move on.

6. Adjust the blending mode

Go to your layers panel blending mode drop-down menu and select Linear Light. You can try any of the other blending methods, but I’ve found that Linear Light works with the most predictable results and requires less tweaking. Your image should now look something like this: The image is too “muddy” like it is, so we have one last adjustment to make.

7. Set the opacity

With the Comic effect layer still selected, adjust the opacity to your liking. For this image, I chose a setting of about 60%, but it really depends on the image.

Final Image:

I added a thick black comic-style border, and a thought balloon with a comic-style font to complete the theme. There are several variations of this technique, but I’ve found that just playing around with the filter settings and layer blending modes can produce a wide-variety of effects by themselves. For instance, in the Halftone Filter settings from step 3, you could choose Line instead of Dot. Play around with it and see what you can come up with.

Use Tilde to create outrageous Illustrator patterns and shapes

If you’re looking for something a little different for a background in Adobe Illustrator, try holding down the Tilde (~) key while dragging out a shape using one of Illustrator’s shape drawing tools such as line, circle, square, etc. Holding the Tilde key forces Illustrator to repeat the shapes in rapid fashion as you drag your mouse around the artboard. For fun, I set all the shapes to the same color, then went back and randomly chose a few dozen shapes and made them a different color, then set all shapes to Multiply in the Transparency panel. Try it and you may find yourself busy for an hour or so. Thanks to BittBox for the tip.

Photoshop Action Pack for Automator

Automator If you’re a Photoshop user running Mac OSX 10.4 or 10.5, you should be taking advantage of Apple’s Automator. Automator allows you to string a series of “actions” together to create a workflow. Think of them as shortcuts. The Photoshop Action Pack 3.7 provides 90 Actions which allow you to control a huge amount of Photoshop functions, and execute complex batch operations you just can’t do with Photoshop’s built-in Actions.

The following actions are provided in the new Action Pack:

Add Empty Adjustment Layer Flip Canvas
Add Graphic Watermark Gaussian Blur
Add Layer Glass
Add Watermark HDR Merge
Arbitrary Rotate Hue/Saturation
Assign Color Profile Invert
Assign Custom Profile Load Selection
Assign Epson 2200 Profile Maximum/Minimum
Assign Epson 2400 Profile Mono Gaussian Noise
Auto Color Motion Blur
Auto Contrast NTSC Colors
Auto Levels Ocean Ripple
Bleach Bypass Open as Raw Data
Change Bit Depth Open
Change Mode Paint Daubs
Change Pixel Aspect Ratio Photo Filter
Change Resolution Pinch
Channel Mixer Polar Coordinates
Clouds Posterize
Color Balance Purge
Convert to Profile Radial Blur
Copy Data to IPTC Reduce Noise
Copy IPTC to Spotlight Comments Render
Crop Resize Canvas
Deinterlace Resize Image
Desaturate Resize to File Size
Deselect Resize to X by 10%
Despeckle Restore Original File List
Diffusion Ripple
Do Action Scale Image
Duplicate Current layer Set Blending Mode of Current Layer
Dust and Scratches Shadow/Highlight
Edit IPTC Info Sharpen Edges
Exposure (CS2 only) Sharpen More
Filter by Aspect Ratio Smart Blur
Filter by Bit Depth Smart Sharpen (CS2/CS3 only)
Filter by Color Mode Sphereize
Filter by EXIF Strip Extra Channels
Filter by File Type Swap Colors
Filter by IPTC Threshold
Filter by Orientation Trap
Filter by Size Trim
Fit Image Twirl
Flatten Document Unsharp Mask
  Use Currently Open Documents

Version 3.7 is fully compatible with PowerPC and Intel-based Macs. In addition to the action bundle, an assortment of sample workflows is provided. The included 73-page manual gives you a reference for all of the included actions, as well as an introduction to using Automator, and strategies for building Photoshop workflows. The Photoshop Action Pack is free, but donations are accepted via PayPal.

Easily adjust transparency of layers and brushes in Photoshop

Adobe PhotoshopWhile most people know you can adjust the transparency of layers and brushes in Adobe Photoshop manually by using the sliders in the appropriate tool panels, many don’t know you can do it easily with just the keyboard. To adjust the transparency of a layer using the keyboard, simply click the layer you wish to adjust and type the percentage of transparency you wish to use. If you want the layer to be 54% transparent, just type 54. The same tip works for adjusting the flow (transparency) of brushes. Just select the brush tool (hit the “b” key) and type a number. If you want the brush to have a flow of 35%, just type 35. I love this tip for making small adjustments, rather than using the picky sliders which always seem to be a pain to make accurate adjustments easily.

Another Photoshop brush paradise

I’ve listed a ton of places to get Photoshop Brushes in the past. Today I have yet another to add to your bookmarks. PSBrushes has categorized thousands of Photoshop brushes along with convenient preview images for your download enjoyment. Categories like Grunge, Space, Plants, Oriental, and Fractals make it extremely easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. Some of the sets are quite large, containing over 80 brushes each. Others are smaller and very specific, with only 8 to 10 per set. All are quality sets.

Getting the most from InDesign transparency

Adobe InDesignLong, long ago, Adobe gave us transparency in InDesign version 2. In each subsequent version of InDesign, Adobe has added ways to enhance documents with transparency, making it even more enticing. There’s one thing that hasn’t changed, however, and that’s the need to flatten transparency for output to a PostScript device. In the article InDesign Transparency: No Longer the Forbidden Fruit over at CreativePro, you’ll learn everything you need to know to produce a successful printed layout when you download the PDF excerpt from InDesign Magazine.