Cast Iron Cool

Lest you think Publicious is a stable of one-trick publishing ponies, only capable of rendering the creations of others onto screen and print, behold!


Yes, we have a soon-to-be published author in our midst. Read about Cinnamon’s upcoming book, The Everything Cast Iron Cookbook, at her blog, Poise.

Yummy! And congratulations to my multi-talented friend.

The book won’t hit the streets for a bit, buy you can pre-order it now at Amazon. At just over $10 it’s a steal. And if you order now, I’ll throw in some extra kerning for free.

Now if only I could get Eric to write a book on cocktails…

Publicious Links: The Real Balloon Boy Edition

He’s still up there. Somewhere. Alone. The poor balloon boy, captive of the merciless sky. Orphan of the atmosphere. My heart goes out to him. No, not that hoaxing chump whose dad sent up a Jiffy Pop bag and called 911. I’m talking about the real balloon boy. Pascal. Le garçon Parisien who has been riding the whims of the winds since 1956.


At least he was wearing a warm sweater. In retribution for failing to protect one of their kind from the neighborhood bullies, pauvre Pascal was kidnapped by a marauding band of garish helium hooligans, never to be seen again.


He would be in his 60s by now. Be brave, Pascal.

Now on to this week’s links:

Web 2.0 Journal has a look at the Nook (hey, that rhymes) vs. the Kindle.

2010 is going to be the Year of the E-book. Don’t take my word for it, PCWorld has a roundup of the new combatants in the War on Paper. Old Publicious pal Plastic Logic will ring in the new year in January with the QUE.

XML Journal has more on the Nook, and how Adobe worked with Barnes and Noble to get PDF and EPUB on the gadget.

Need to design and produce accessible PDF? Then you need to read Adobe’s resources on the subject. How to create accessible PDF from Word, InDesign, etc.

LiveBrush is yet another free and interesting drawing app.

‘Tis the season to be gory, and Naldzgraphics has gathered 45 horrifying Photoshop tuts. How to zombify, vampirize, etc.

Flash without ActionScript is like ice cream without hot fudge, whipped cream, and a cherry on top. That comes zooming onto your table from stage right. Enter to help you learn the magic words.

Flash on the iPhone? Sorta, kinda. Newsfactor has an article on Apple v. Adobe.

VectorTuts has a tut on creating a vector texture with a wonderfully old school twist.

Creately is an online diagramming app that’s either free (basic version) or pay what you want (souped up).

InsideRIA is a great site from O’Reilly for keeping tabs on developments in the rich internet app realm.

Lastly, thanks to Pariah Burke and his column Free For All on (required reading for destitute designers everywhere), for the heads up on FontCapture, a free online tool for making a font out of your handwriting. I don’t know why I think this is cool. I don’t try to write in Helvetica, so why would I want to type in Rankin? But I really do.

Till next time, think of Pascal, and keep watching the skies.

Blatner Tools Public Beta

aka InDesign on Steroids

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DTP tools has just posted the public beta for a suite of InDesign plug-ins that are the brainchild of my partner in blogging crime, David Blatner. I got a look at these a while ago and they are very cool. My favorite restores an ability I’d lost when I consigned Quark XPress to the dustbin of DTP history: the ability to assign any keyboard shortcut to any style. That was my #1 pet peeve when I switched to InDesign and remains a (healed over) thorn in my side to this day. In fact, Blatner Tools goes even further, allowing you to assign keyboard shortcuts to swatches and layers too. Other features include the ability to find and replace colors, automatically generate styles from unstyled content,  automatic fraction building, side-by-side comparison, and so on. If any of ths sounds cool (and I’m betting it will to 99.9% of Publicious readers), check out the public beta.

Now if only someone would make a DTP army knife for real!

Oh, and memo to the FCC and anyone else who cares: I have not received any compensation for this post, though I think David once offered to buy me a cookie after we had dinner. Nuff said.

On the Threshold of Photoshop Greatness

Yesterday I was reading an article on on How to Create a Stencil Look in Photoshop. I see this look all the time in ads, especially ones that want to convey artsy overtones, like the Gardner Museum’s After Hours Program. or something you’d see on the Montreal subway.

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You’ll get cleaner results with Illustrator, but Photoshop can get you almost there in much less time.

Anyway, the tutorial is a good reminder of Photoshop’s Threshold command, but as I read it, I was thinking how some images could be quite frustrating to Threshold. Finding just the right spot to divide light from dark may seem impossible….unless you remember that the most powerful adjustments in Photoshop can be performed on individual channels. You’re not limited to working with the composite channel when using Threshold, Curves, etc. Here’s what works on individual channels.

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Why is this important? Take for example, this picture of a fence.

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Say you wanted to include the fence in your stencil look, but not the sky or clouds. With the composite channel this is impossible. By the time you’ve blown out the sky, the fence is gone too.

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But if you isolate the Blue channel (just click on it in the Channels panel)…

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…you can immediately see that the fence and sky occupy two different ranges of values. Then, in the Threshold dialog, it’s a cinch to find the sweet spot.

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Now you need to apply that Thresholded channel to the whole image to work it into your composition. To do that, select the composite channel (again, just click on it at the top of the Channels panel) and choose Image > Apply Image. Then in the Apply Image dialog box, select your Thresholded channel as the source, and apply it using the Normal blend mode.

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Now the whole image is thresholded in a way that you could not achieve by working with the composite channel alone. Obviously, you’ll get the most powerful results from isolating channels on images with saturated colors. The more saturation, the more your channels will differ. Good times.

But wait, there’s more. When I’m struggling with an adjustment in Photoshop, I always remember the sage words of Photoshop author Dan Margulis, that every image has ten channels. Ten? Really? Yup. R-G-B-C-M-Y-K-L-A-B. By switching modes you can access ten different versions of an image instantly. For example, if you just want to isolate the blackest shadows, you can work with the K channel, Yellows, the Y channel, and so on. Actually, every image has an infinite number of channels, if you consider color profiles, but that is a story for another day.

Publicious Links: The Better Edition

I feel better. Thanks to the CVS-brand version of Zyrtec, I can breathe, sleep and surf the Web for the usual graphic goodies. With all the money I’m saving on tissues, I might even buy a new laptop. 

Kungfugrippe has a hilarious take on SnowLeopard and the cult of Mac.

Speaking of SnowLeopard, wikidot has a SnowLeopard compatibility list, so you can see if anyone else has got SoundJam to work in OS X 10.6 😉

If you’ve ever wanted to try out Adobe apps, but not actually go through the trouble of installing them, you can use Runaware to check out demos from within your browser. Not all apps are available, but Photoshop, Framemaker, and a few others are.

Discovered a cool RIA today, Fractal 4D. With it, you can draw some really cool vector shapes and export them to Illustrator.

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Speaking of Illustrator, didja know that the Illustrator team at Adobe has their own blog, with the cool moniker Infinite Resolution? You do now. sponsored a contest where kids could design their own high school yearbooks using InDesign. Judging from the looks of the winners (and even the honorable mentions) there are some scary-talented young InDesigners out there. 

ContentServ offers some interesting-looking Web to print solutions for InDesign.

ZenTextures has hundreds of cool, free textures for Photoshop 

Know those hip “painting with light” effects used the Sprint ads and elsewhere? Well, if you ever wanted to try your hand at it, check out Designmag’s post on Light Effect Brushes

On the other hand, if you’re designing a logo, Tripwire magazine has a huge set of logo design tips and tutorials.

Adobe wasn’t satisfied with just buying Omniture. They also scooped up online business solution Goodbarry. and rebranded it Business Catalyst. It’s not too hard to imagine a web designer clicking an Export to Business Catalyst button in Flash, Flex, or Dreamweaver soon. TechCrunch has more details.

Working on PSD files without Photoshop? Blasphemy! Yet, there is more than one way to skin a pixel.

I love restoring old photos with Photoshop. TipSquirrel has some good info on bringing back ancient faded photos.

If you ever need to illustrate a professional quality map, definitely check out Ortelius.

Lastly, Halloween season is here, and with it the Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack will once again be playing in our house nonstop. If you know any kids (of any age) who are fans of Jack Skellington (and you don’t mind a bit of über commercialism) check out Create Disney, where they have Flash drawing apps where you can make all kinds of creations with the Pumpkin King, and many other minions of the Mouse.