Using InDesign Object Styles

If you’re working on a book, manual or otherwise long document and you have a lot objects that you want to apply “styles” to (such as drop shadows, feather amount, borders, etc.), consider using Object Styles. Object Styles are similar to text style sheets in that they save the settings you apply to one object and place them in a palette for use on other objects. To use Object Styles, set up an object the way you want it to appear and go to the Options flyout menu of the Object Style palette. Select New Object Style, give it a name and click OK. Now that your style is set up, you can select several objects or one at a time and simply click on the Style in the list of the Object Style palette or assign a custom keyboard shortcut to apply the style.

Photoshop file formats for print designers

Photoshop is primarily used by print designers for graphic imagery and generally isn’t the “final” format for any particular piece of work. Most designers with very little exception end up with the files in either InDesign, Illustrator or Quark XPress. But Photoshop has a lot of users in other industries including video, multi-media and photography. For this reason there are a lot of file format options available when you go to save your file. Below is a brief explanation of some of the formats you may use or come across as a print designer, along with some opinions about them that I’ve formed over the years: Photoshop (.psd) Photoshop’s native file format and can be read only by Photoshop, Preview and few select other applications. When saving your file in the .psd format, you retain all editability of fonts, layers and effects. If you wish to use the .psd format with other applications you can tick a preference to maximize file compatibility to save a “flattened” version of the layered file inside the file so it can be previewed by the other applications. With Quark XPress recently adding the ability to import layered Photoshop files, the .psd format is probably the only format you ever need to use for print design – since it includes spot channels, clipping paths, transparency, etc. It’s about the only format I use anymore when dealing with Photoshop images. Bitmap (.bmp) The Bitmap format is a Windows-based format and is generally restricted to flat black and white artwork, though it can contain color. Because of its limited use even on the Windows platform, I don’t recommend using it for any real work. EPS (.eps) EPS, which stands for Encapsulated PostScript, can contain both vector and bitmap information in the file, but is very different than Illustrator .eps formatted files. EPS format used to be the preferred format by designers when a clipping path was used to “cut out” the background of an image for use in Quark XPress. With the release of InDesign and the updates to Quark, this file format has really fallen by the wayside. If you are saving your files as EPS, I recommend you use 8-bit TIFF preview and Binary encoding for maximum compatibility with other platforms. JPEG (.jpg) This format probably needs little explanation. JPEG or JPG, which stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, provides lossy compression to image files, thus making the image files much smaller than they actually were before compression. Most all standard applications (graphics and otherwise) can save or import the JPEG format, but it should be used with caution. Because JPEG is a lossy compression format, your images should be saved with the Image Options/Quality no less than 10 and the Format Options – left at Baseline (Standard) – anything less and you run the risk of image artifacts showing up. Large Document Format (.psb) Large document format is for saving huge files (300,000 pixels in any dimension) and can only be read by Photoshop CS and CS2. I can’t imagine the need for any print designer to use this format, but there probably is call to use it in the outdoor imaging markets. Photoshop PDF (.pdf) This is yet another way to save a PDF file which can include layers, alpha channels, spot colors and metadata, but gives you the flexibility of everything that the PDF format offers such as font embedding, flattening, etc. I really see no reason to use this format other than it allows you to set security options on an image file. Photoshop RAW This is NOT the same as digital camera RAW format, which is more of a digital negative. Photoshop RAW is really a bare-bones way of transferring the file between applications and platforms. I’ve never used this format or come across anyone else in the industry that uses it, and as a print designer I can’t see any reason start. PICT File and PICT Resource(.pct) The PICT format was used by older versions of the Mac operating system as the native way of displaying graphics in the OS. PICT images are rarely seen or used anymore. One way they may be used is when trying to pull graphics out of other applications that don’t offer a way to export the graphic to get it into Photoshop for further work. Scitex CT An old format used by early graphics technology in the pre-press industry. It has virtually no use anymore. TIFF (.tif) The TIFF file format has been around for a long time and is widely accepted as a “standard” format. TIFF, which stands for Tagged-Image File Format, can by saved as CMYK, RGB, LAB, Indexed Color, Grayscale and Bitmap mode and can include (as of recently) layers, alpha channels, paths, transparency and metadata – though only the flattened image is used by other applications like InDesign, Quark and Illustrator. TIFF used to be the preferred method of saving image files and is the most widely adopted format by the graphics industry, however with graphics applications accepting native Photoshop formatted files (.psd), TIFF’s days are probably numbered. Not only that, but the newer features such as the ability to save layered TIFFs appear to not work too well with other graphics apps like InDesign and Quark XPress and many print industry RIPs. If you do save your files as TIFF, you should make sure that the LZW Compression box is not ticked when saving to prevent any issues at print time. Photoshop DCS Desktop Color Separations (DCS) format is a version of the standard EPS format, and allows you save color separations of your images which includes spot-color channels. This used to be the only format you could use to place an image with spot color into a standard graphics application such as Quark XPress – but you can now simply save your file as .psd (layered Photoshop file). This format gives you the option of ticking check boxes to save the file as a composite file with a preview or separate files for each color used in the file which are joined later in the printing process. You may run across a few printers or applications that require the use of this format, but I highly doubt it. As you can see, the print industry has pretty much been limited to TIFF and PSD for the last few years, with even TIFF beginning to erode as the wide adoption of .psd compatible apps find there way into users hands. JPEG has a strong hold on the Web design field and as a means for backup of original images for most print designers, but I don’t recommend using it for much more than that. Overall the native Photoshop file format is all you should need for modern day applications and use.

Adding realistic fog to your images using Photoshop

Get more bang for your buck by depositing a fog bank into your landscape photos using the Dissolve brush mode and the Gradient tool to vary density. Fog is actually transparent unless you try to look through layers and layers of it. Then it becomes dense, and in some places, impenetrable.

The secret to realistic fog is to vary its density…

David Diotaveli offers a pretty decent tutorial on how to add realistic fog to your images.

Hide multiple Photoshop layers quickly with this shortcut

Many times when you’re working on a Photoshop document that has many layers, you want to see just one layer at a time. It’s a pain to turn off all the other layers, especially if you don’t use Layer Groups. You can quickly turn off all but the one layer you want by holding down the Option key and clicking on the eyeball next to the layer you want to see – all the other layers will automatically hide. To get all your layers turned back on, simply repeat the process.

Save time by dragging files to an empty frame in InDesign

Did you know that you can drag a graphic, photo, PDF or text file onto an empty frame in Adobe InDesign from the OSX Finder or Adobe Bridge and InDesign will fill that frame with the file you dragged. Not only does this feature save you the time of sizing the placed item once it’s in your document (because you already have that frame sized correctly, right?), but it can save you dozens of clicks in a navigation box if you already have the folder with those graphics and text files open in the Finder. You can also drag files from the Finder to InDesign without having an empty frame in your document, but InDesign just places them at 100% size in your document. This option is great if you don’t know where exactly you’re going to place the images just yet or what size you’re going to make them, but you want to see what they look like for comparison in your layout.

Create better PDFs by understanding the formats

Adobe AcrobatAcrobat PDFs were created a long time ago with the idea of creating a file format that was universally readable by any operating system with a PDF reader, regardless of whether or not you had the original program and fonts that created the PDF file. The idea was fantastic. Over time though, different versions of the PDF file format started popping up in Adobe programs, allowing great control over the creation of the PDF, as well as the ability to edit the PDF files – something not originally intended for the format. Today we have no less than five main versions of the PDF format to choose from, and even more standards when creating PDF files. It’s just gotten too confusing, in my opinion. Nevertheless, PDF is here to stay, and you had better know how to work with them if you want a smooth workflow and less problems when sending PDF files of your ads and collateral to publications and printers. Below is a very brief breakdown of the various PDF formats and standards used in the design and printing industry. Acrobat 8 (PDF 1.7) The baby of the bunch. Acrobat 8 just started shipping a short while ago, so not many applications can create an Acrobat 8 PDF, and even less can use them. Avoid this format for a while. Acrobat 7 (PDF 1.6) Not much changed from version 6 in this release. Some techno-geekery and that’s about it. I would guess that most people completely skipped this release, and it’s probably best if you skip using this format as well. Acrobat 6 (PDF 1.5) This is probably the version you should use for most screen resolution proofs, internal PDFs and for output with commercial printers. Lots of people have this version and it’s a proven winner. This version introduced layers to the PDF format and allows for JPEG2000 compression, a new JPEG format that uses better compression methods. This version also properly supports transparency in the PDF file. Acrobat 5 (PDF 1.4) This was the first version of PDF to support transparency and metadata support. While this version is also the first version (that I’m aware of) that is not a “flattened” format. There’s not much reason to use this version when creating a PDF file, as most commercial printers have moved on to newer versions. Acrobat 4 (PDF 1.3) This is the most widely accepted version of a PDF. Virtually everyone can open a PDF 1.3 file. It predates transparency and unflattened formats, but includes support for CMYK and Spot colors, so it’s probably the “safest” format to use when sending PDF files to smaller printers and publications for output since it offers the least amount of things to go wrong. Acrobat also offers pre-defined output settings called “standards” which aid you in creating better PDFs. These are not special formats, just ways of creating normal PDFs for specific uses. PDF/X-1a This is the absolute best way to send a PDF for output, in my opinion. It is the standard used by the vast majority of the printing industry. By requiring the PDF to have all fonts embedded, any transparency flattened, and the colorspace to be either CMYK or Spot color, the PDF/X-1a format (which is a 1.3 version file) is all but guaranteed to output correctly. PDF/X-2 Not a viable format except in special cases. This version of PDF was designed for specific workflows such as OPI. If you aren’t sure what that is, then you shouldn’t use this format. PDF/X-3 PDF/X-3 is basically the same as PDF/X-1a except that it allows RGB data in the files. The advantage to this is that it gives you the ability to maintain the most amount of color in your images, and the printer the most control over the file when they convert it to CMYK – resulting in better color conversion. Unfortunately, most printers don’t want that responsibility or flat-out don’t support it. It’s probably best to avoid this format standard as well. PDF/A The “A” probably short for “archive.” This standard was basically created to “future proof” your current PDFs. Files saved with this standard are more likely to work perfectly 10 years from now with any application that can read a PDF. This format is perfect for archiving old work when you know you aren’t going to change it or output it commercially. In closing, I’ll leave you with a bit of advice. To keep things simple, use PDF/X-1a for ads. This is the most universally accepted method and will yield the best results when you’re uncertain as to the capabilities and experience of the publication or printer who will be outputting the file. Use Acrobat 6 (PDF 1.5) when creating your PDFs when you’re confident that the printer knows what they’re doing and their RIP supports it properly. It allows for greater flexibility on their end. If you’re in doubt, fall back to the PDF/X-1a format.

Get better details when sharpening your image in Photoshop

To get sharpening on steroids, try using Filter>Other>High Pass on a copy of the layer that you want to sharpen. Make the layer’s Blend Mode Overlay, Soft Light, or Hard light. Try using smaller High Pass settings to emphasize small details in the image.

Typography tips: Using Em, En and Hyphens

Most designers don’t know squat about typography these days. Heck, most people in general know very little about typography and grammar. While these things will most likely go unnoticed by 95% of people, it’s the 5% who do notice that may be the deciding factor in you getting that next job or assignment. Here are a few tips to make you look smarter. You should use an em dash, which is the width of an em space, as punctuation — usually as a pause in your text and a change of topic. You make an em dash by hitting Option+Shift+Hyphen. En dash is used to set the phrase one through ten like so: 1–10. You make an en dash by hitting Option+Hyphen. And of course the hyphen is the most common “dash” in typography. It’s used to separate words and note the break in syllables of words. They hypen is simply the Hyphen key by itself (generally with no space on either side of it).

Getting better gradients in Photoshop

You wouldn’t think that making gradients in Photoshop as a skill, but let me tell you that it’s quite easy to see the difference between a good gradient and a great one. In the sample above you’ll notice the lack of saturation and harshness in the “good” and “better” gradients and how natural and realistic the “best” gradient appears. 9rules Network’s Mike Rundle has a Gradient Tutorial to help you make more realistic, vibrant gradients.

Fixing the “bold type” problem in InDesign

Adobe InDesignIf you’ve run into a problem where Adobe InDesign either prints, or exports as PDF, your document and some type is appearing bold when it shouldn’t be, there’s a simple explanation and solution. The problem is that you most likely have some form of transparency working on top of the type that is being affected. Many times it’s either a .psd file with a transparent background or an object with a drop shadow applied to it that is overlapping a box of text. During the flattening process, the type gets rasterized or outlined and this is what causes the “bold effect.” To avoid the problem, make sure that you either move the text on TOP of the object with the transparency, or better yet, put all your type on its own layer and move the layer to the topmost level in the Layers palette.