Avoid unwanted “bold type” and odd, shaded boxes in your InDesign document

Adobe InDesignYou may have come across a situation when you print or make a PDF in Adobe InDesign where some of your type appears bolder than the rest of the text – and it’s not because you wanted it that way. Here’s a brief explanation of what’s going on. When you use transparency in your document, either by placing a layered PSD file, using glow or drop shadow effects or setting an object’s transparency to something other than 100% Normal, AND that object is on TOP of your text, the file is “flattened” when you print or export to PDF. Flattening is essentially rasterizing or outlining the text which interact with the transparency area. You can adjust the settings in your preferences, but you cannot avoid the process. This can sometimes make the text appear bolder than text that is not underneath the immediate area of the transparenct object.

To avoid this flattening issue, simply make sure that your text is either on top of any objects using transparency, or on a layer which is higher up in the layer order than the layer containing the transparency.

Along the same lines, you may also notice that sometimes your document looks fine in InDesign, but when you print or export, some objects have a slightly lighter box around them, almost like a bounding box. This can occur when you place an image that is in the RGB color space into your CMYK-based InDesign document. This is especially noticeable if you place a layered PSD file on a CMYK background in InDesign and the image you place either has edges that don’t meet the frame edges in the object container (such as a circular image placed in a square frame). It can also happen if you place a colored image as your background of the entire page in InDesign. You won’t notice it when you export or print unless you set a drop shadow (or some other form of transparency) in your InDesign document on top of the RGB background. The solution is simple. Make sure your Photoshop images are all CMYK.

Get more accurate results with the Photoshop Eyedropper tool

If you work in Photoshop, you’ve probably used the Eyedropper tool at one point or another. Most users simply select the eyedropper tool and click on an area in the image to grab the color they want and that’s the end of it. But did you know there’s a more accurate way to select the color you want? When you use the Eyedropper tool, the default is to select one single pixel as a basis for the color you want to choose. So let’s say you want to choose the orange colored background in the photo above. If you use the eyedropper tool at it’s default, you might end up with a color you weren’t counting on due to the fact that there are many colored pixels that make up that orange, such as tan and brown, and the tool will only choose the one color that the curser is directly over. To get a better representation of the color you want, select the Eyedropper tool and go up to the toolbar and you will see “Sample Size” with a drop-down menu. Click the menu and select 3 by 3 average. This will look at a 3 pixel by 3 pixel area and average the colors to give you your selection, which is much more accurate and probably more closely represents the color you’re looking for.

Paper: Going against the grain

You don’t have to be familiar with every detail about paper and printing to be a good designer. But wouldn’t you like to know why a brochure fold is more ragged and bumpy than you planned, or why ink is cracking along the fold? Find out why grain direction matters and how to use that knowledge to improve your designs. Sabine Lenz has a quick article covering paper terms and what they mean for you as a designer.

Backing up your iPhoto libraries

iPhotoOne of the things I disliked about iPhoto in the past is that it was a bit of a pain to backup your carefully organized photo libraries from the Finder. But there is a simple solution if you’re running older versions of iPhoto. You can backup individual libraries in iPhoto simply by selecting the library or film roll you want in iPhoto and going to File>Export and select a folder (or create a new one) to place a copy of the photos into for backup purposes. This folder can reside on the main drive, an external drive or server. Thankfully, with version 6 of iPhoto, Apple has made it easier to make sensible backups via the Finder. First, visit your ~/Pictures/iPhoto Library folder. Inside that folder you will likely find a few folders worth noting titled “Originals” and “Modified.” These folders contain more folders which are named according to the film roll name in iPhoto. This makes it very easy to find the specific photos you wish to backup. Obviously, the modified folder contains copies of the images you have modified through iPhoto’s built-in tools or through an external editor.

Photoshop sharpening tips for designers

Virtually every image you bring into Adobe Photoshop—whether it be a stock image or from a scanner or digital camera—will need at least a little bit of sharpening. This is just something we, as designers, have to deal with in the digital age. Many photographers will balk at such a statement: if they’re good and take pride in their work, the photo is close to perfect in their eyes to begin with. However, once the photo is brought in to your Mac and your image manipulation is complete, a loss in sharpness is almost always present, no matter how perfect the original photo, negative or slide was. A recently published article at Macworld.com titled Photoshop Sharpening Tips for Designers offers some tips for sharpening your images.