Create a halftone-dot effect in Adobe Illustrator

A while back I posted a link that would show you how to create an interesting halftone-dot effect in Photoshop. Recently, a reader left a comment on the post asking if there was a way to achieve the same effect in Illustrator. I’m happy to report that there is, and I’ve put together a tutorial to show you how. Step 1: Create a shape in Illustrator that you wish to convert into the halftone-dot effect. I chose a star. To achieve the mixed-size dots, you’ll want to use a gradient, and to make it easy later, you should probably start with a simple black color. Step 2: Select the object and select Effect>Pixelate>Color Halftone… from the menu. The color halftone dialog box will open where you can enter some numbers to adjust the appearance of the effect. Set the Max. Radius to 10-15 pixels. This will determine the size of the largest dot in the effect. Go ahead and leave the screen angles at the default setting. Hit OK. The star is now converted to a raster image. The darkest areas of the star have the largest dots, and the lightest areas have smaller dots. We are now half way there. We need to convert the raster image to vector. Step 3: With the star still selected, go to Object>Expand Appearance in the menu. Now select Object>Live Trace>Make and Expand from the menu. The star is now a full vector object. You can select each dot individually if you choose because they’re all vector shapes (see step 3 in the image above). But you probably want to add some color. Step 4: If the star is on a white background, everything will appear to be perfect. But draw a box, fill it with color and send it to the back by hitting Command-Shift-[. You’ll notice that the inside of the star remains white. If you want it to be transparent, you have just a bit more work to do. See the image at the right for an example of what I’m talking about. Use your Direct Select tool (the white arrow) to select any white are in the newly created halftone dot area. Go to Select>Same>Fill Color in the menu. Now that all the white areas are selected (including the white bounding box around the star, hit Delete. You should be left with nothing but the dots now. Now select the star again and add a color to it as you would any other object. Because the star is a compound path, all the dots will be colorized. That’s it. You have your halftone-dot effect, and it’s a fully-editable vector object in Illustrator. Why would you want to do it in Illustrator? Because many sign shops and screen printers require everything to be a vector shape depending on their production methods. Plus, it adds a little more flexibility for later editing. I chose to use a one color object for the sake of keeping this tutorial simple, but you can apply the same technique to a full color object for different results. See the image above with the same star filled with a color gradient.

PDF font subsetting explained

I’m often asked about Font Subsetting when exporting and creating PDF files using Distiller or directly from InDesign, so I thought I would post this explanation of what Font Subsetting is. When generating a PDF, it is possible to include only those characters in a font that were used in the document. This partial font is called a “Font Subset”. You adjust font subsetting in either the Acrobat Distiller job options or InDesign’s export dialog under “Subset fonts below X%”. The percent represents how much of the font is used in your document before it gets embedded in the PDF file. So a setting of 100% would mean that the entire font would be subsetted in the PDF file, while a setting of 5% would mean that you would have to use nearly all the characters available before the font would be subsetted. The primary advantages of subsetting fonts are that it not only reduces the PDF file size, but RIP’s (raster image processors) are forced to use the subset font even if the system has the full font available. Your PDF is slightly larger than other PDF files, but is also less likely to have problems with substituted fonts when output. Disadvantages of font subsetting are that it prevents your output provider from making edits to the PDF file if necessary, while still maintaining font integrity.

How to avoid flash blow out in your digital photos

You’ve been in the situation. You’re up close to your subject in a low-light situation, you take the picture and the flash goes off. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime shot – but when you check the photo, it’s completely washed out and white from the flash. Digital Photography School has 7 Strategies for Avoiding Flash Blow Out in your digital photos. One of the techniques I really love using is #4 on their list, commonly referred to on digital cameras is “night mode.” This mode uses a technique called slow sync flash, where the camera shutter stays open a little longer to allow more light in, and then the flash goes off at the beginning or end of the shot. This method allows you to allow more ambient light from the background, while still freezing the action when the flash goes off. The technique can produce stunning results.

InDesign’s hidden graphic replacement tool

Adobe InDesignOne of the highly publicized features of InDesign CS3 is the ability to “load” more than one graphic when you use the Place command, showing you a small preview of each graphic as you place them.While the ability to place in a graphic frame our outside one is nothing new, you can hold down the Option key and click on a graphic frame which already contains a graphic and it will be replaced with the new graphic you currently have loaded to place.

InDesign’s Print dialog secrets

InDesign has a nifty feature built-in to the Print dialog box. The page proxy box in the bottom left corner of the dialog box can show you page dimensions and scaling info, as well as page offset, gap, image direction and more. Simply click on the page proxy to run through the different previews you see in the image at the right. Of course this isn’t a goldmine of super-valuable information, but it can come in handy, especially for those who do a lot of printing on in-house high-end printers. Often times I hit print, make all my settings and then forget the page size of my document and have to exit the Print dialog just to check the size of the document to make sure it will print without scaling, etc.

Create a 3D wireframe effect using the 3D tool in Illustrator

A wireframe effect outlines the countours of an object but leaves each surface transparent – see the image at the right. Creating these effects usually involves a 3D modeling program. Adobe Illustrator has changed that with its 3D effects tool. You can reduce any 3D object you create to a wireframed object, and it’s not as difficult as you might think. Matt Kloskowski has a fantastic tutorial on how to create a 3D wireframe effect at IllustratorWorld. You

Moving facing pages to get rid of the orphan first & last page in Adobe InDesign

Adobe InDesignA reader recently contacted me with an issue he was facing with regards to a booklet he was working on that was setup as Facing Pages in document setup. His issue was that in his 8-page document, page 1 and page 8 stood alone as single pages, while 2-7 were spreads. Whatever he tried, he couldn’t move page 8 in the Pages panel to the left of page 1 where it would appear when printed. This makes it quite difficult to print mockups, or create crossover images on the front and back cover. While this behavior is “normal” for InDesign (and Quark) and is no problem for commercial printing, some people simply want to see it on screen as it will appear when printed. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to “fix” this issue. With the 8-page document open and set to facing pages, your Pages panel will look like the image to the right. Page 1 stands alone, 2-7 are spreads, and page 8 stands alone. To make a mockup on your own printer, you want page 8 to appear just to the left of page 1 – which will allow you to stick pages 8/1 to the back of pages 2/7 and pages 3/4 to the back of pages 5/6, fold them in half and put them together just as they would appear when printed. Simply moving the pages as is will do nothing but change the page order in your document, but leave page 1 and page 8 as stand alone pages. Not exactly what you’re looking to do. To fix the problem, simply uncheck the Allow Pages to Shuffle item in the Pages panel flyout menu as seen above. With that done, you can now selectively move pages 1 and/or 8 (or whatever the first and last page numbers are in your document) to their rightful place in the Page order to allow you to print them the way you want (see the image at left). The hitch? You’re probably going to have to adjust the auto page numbering options if you have your pages set to auto-number. But this is a simple task and can make life easier when printing proofs. While I explained to the reader why this InDesign feature works the way it does, I completely forgot to tell him how he can get around it. Hopefully he’s still reading here and will find the solution he was looking for. Sorry man, my bad!

Create a new layer BELOW the current one in InDesign

Adobe InDesignMany times when you’re working with multiple-layered documents in Adobe InDesign (you did know there are layers in InDesign, right?) you find yourself creating a layer and immediately moving it beneath the current layer you’re working on. It’s tedious work constantly moving the newly created layer down in the list of the Layers panel. You can easily create a new layer and have it appear BELOW the currently active layer by holding the Command + Option keys down while you click the New Layer button in the Layers panel. This tip works in CS2 and CS3, by the way.

Save time and space with InDesign Workspaces

Adobe InDesignIf you’re the type who likes to have their InDesign panels in a certain spot all the time, or like to have certain panels open for certain types of projects, you simply must take advantage of Workspaces. Workspaces allows you to save your panel locations for use at any time. To save your Workspace, set your panels up the way you like them, then go to Window>Workspace>Save Workspace… Name your workspace when prompted. That’s it. To test it, move your panels around, close some, open some others. Then go back to Window>Workspace and select the Workspace you just named from the list. Your panels should all snap back to where they were when you saved. You can set up multiple Workspaces. I have one for when I’m working on text heavy documents in which I have most of the text-related panels like text wrap, story, character, styles, etc. open. Then I have another one for “all-around use” which have totally different panel locations. If you work on multiple computers, you can bring your Workspace with you, though it’s not quite as easy as it should be. To bring your Workspace with you, navigate in the Finder to: Users/YourUserName/Library/Preferences/Adobe InDesign/Version 5/ Workspaces. If you’re still running CS2, the path is the same except substitute Version 4 for Version 5 in the file path. In that folder you’ll see an XML file named after the Workspaces you’ve saved. Simply burn it to CD or email it to your other computer and place it in the same folder on that computer. Workspaces aren’t exclusive to InDesign. All the Adobe Creative Suite 3 applications have them, and work in much the same way. Photoshop goes a few steps further in that it also allows you to save any custom keyboard shortcuts and menu customizations you’ve made in the Workspace as well.