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 TutorialBoard.net 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.

Jostens.com 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.

Publicious Links: The Insomnia Edition

The thing about insomnia is…

Uh, sorry, spaced out there. The thing about insomnia is, I can never complete a thought after undersleeping for any extended period of time. Reminds me of the time my daughter was born. Little tyke didn’t sleep through till she was 4. That was about 1500 days of lousy sleep, give or take. So from 2002-2006, I had one long, unfinished thought. The upside was wakeful dreaming, so my PB&J could easily transmogrify into rattlesnake aspic, and the row of tulips in the Public Garden became soup ladles, gently chiming in the breeze. At least I think it was the Public Garden, maybe I just wandered into the kitchen scene from Goodfellas. Hi Hendry, how’s your mother? Still, I never saw anything so disturbing as the Bearsharktopus.

All this to say, I came up with a perfectly good theme for this week’s links, and then immediately forgot it. Or did I dream it? Oh well, on to the linkage.

First up, me. My latest post at InDesignSecrets, Find-Change Scripting Goodness. Wherein I point out some great scripts for formatting and cleaning text in InDesign.

The Light’s Right is offering a free Photoshop CS4 panel that is to the standard Unsharp Mask panel as a Swiss Army knife is to a butter knife. This looks seriously cool and I can’t wait to try it.

CarDomain Blog has an interesting post on how automotive designers use Photoshop. In it, the author uses the term “vexel” which I’d never heard before. Cute.

Kung Fu Grippe has a post taking Adobe to task for increasingly bloated, buggy software, and some advice for how to improve it. This article is part of what seems like a rising tide of anti-Adobe sentiment on the Web. Adobegripes is a blog devoted to crashes, bugs, and wtf dialog boxes. Maybe it’s just that Adobe’s grown so big and powerful that there’s no one else left to blame for your computer problems. Maybe trying to be all things to all users inevitably leads to application degradation. Maybe the Creative Suite should be smashed into a multitude of suitelets, targeting user needs with laser precision and speed. I use the Creative Suite apps every day, at home and work. I do my share of crashing, stalling, grumbling at bugs, stupid default settings, wonky tools, and missing features. I do the exact same thing with my Apple apps. Firefox is the crashiest app on my machine, by far, and I still like it. I totally agree that the Creative Suite apps are far from perfect. When I find bugs, I spread the word. Repeatedly. But context is everything. You may come across those wtf dialog boxes in the midst of hours of productive work. In the realm of training and support, I have dealt with lots of cases over the years where someone was pissed at the application, when really it was a case of RTFM. So if we’re serving up some blame pie, user error gets the biggest slice.

Tripwire Magazine has a Massive Collection of Stunning Photoshop Actions.

Ever heard of seam carving? If you use Photoshop, you will. CS5 is reportedly going to bring seam carving technology to Photoshop, and the world of retouching will never be the same. The fact that it’s going to apply to video too, is mind-blowing. Speaking of retouching, the movement in the UK and France to require labeling on retouched images continues to gain momentum. Although, I think they’ll just have to put a warning on the cover of some magazines stating that EVERY image inside has been retouched. Would save a lot of effort.

Finally, I did find the cure for my insomnia. Just swallow 2 Benadryl, and watch Microsoft’s so-bad-it-has-to-be-on-purpose-to-try-and-start-a-meme video “How to throw a Windows 7 release party at your house” Mission accomplished, Redmond.

Nighty-night.

The Return of InDesign on Vacation

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I’ve had a few requests to resurrect last year’s video monument to geekery, InDesign on Vacation. It lost its home on YouTube a while back, so what better place to put it than right here? I didn’t purchase the WordPress.com video upgrade, so I can’t directly embed the movie in a post or page. But thanks to the magic of InDesign, I can embed the movie in a PDF. It’s not the best solution, for sure (slow as heck to load) but once it’s loaded it plays fine, and it’s the best way I can think of right now. So without further ado, I give you last year’s smash hit, InDesign on Vacation.

And as a bonus, here’s the Extended Director’s Cut, which includes a special deleted scene.

Still can’t believe I got snubbed at the Oscars!

Publicious Links: The Sick Edition

Man, I am sick of being sick. Like half of Boston, I’ve been coughing for two weeks straight, day and night. I’ve been more concerned with breathing than blogging. I think I have a touch of the ol’ H1N1. Or perhaps the 0C0M0Y100K Plague. I keep thinking it’s got to go away soon. Though I have insurance, my “health” plan is sucktacularly rigged by some evil geniuses to discourage folks from seeking treatment, lest we risk getting slammed with massive medical bills should anything serious happen. It’s like a reverse lottery, where you buy a ticket each time you see a doctor. This is exactly what happened last year when I cracked my head. Thus, we have a strict “severed limb” policy in our household. Anything less is referred to as a “boo-boo” or “the sniffles.” On the upside, I have perfected the recipe for a Delsymtini.

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Enjoy the links, and remember to wash your hands after each click. 😉

Smashing Magazine has a Back to Scchool list of 40 Illustrator tutorials, some of which are mind bogglingly photo realistic.

SitePoint has a nice little tutorial on filling shapes with text in Photoshop.

Colorburned has a downloadable set of “57 tape” brushes.

Photoshopstar has a tutorial on making wooden applique effects in Photoshop.

CSSCreme has a bevy of cool Photoshop tutorials worth checking out.

Adobe made waves recently by purchasing the Web analytics firm Omniture for $1.8 billion. Either this was a savvy, bold move to the social media future, or a colossal overpaying blunder. Depends on who you ask.

Want a sneak peek into Flash CS5? Check out Flashmagazine’s report from Flash on the Beach 09.

Back in the glorious 90s, the vector world was divided between the Illustrator Hatfields and the FreeHand McCoys. Then one day, Adobe arranged itself a shotgun marriage to Macromedia and sent Cousin FreeHand off to live in the hills.  But it turns out reports of FreeHand’s death have been somewhat exaggerated. FreeFreeHand.org is a community site devoted to what some folks still believe is the best vector illustration app ever. And yes, they’ve found it works in Snow Leopard.

Vector-Art has a fun little collection of free recording studio design elements, like cassette tapes, microphones, etc.

I’ve been neglecting my InDesignSecrets duties lately, but here are a couple of little posts that may be “new to you.” Pasteboard Notes and Type OFF a Path.

Speaking of InDesign Secrets, Steve Werner has posted info on Creating eBooks in InDesign, a topic that will only grow more important now that Print est mort. I have my own Publicious take on creating eBooks in InDesign, though Steve’s may have a wee bit more useful info. 😉

Brushes, brushes, who’s got the brushes? Designrfix has what they claim to be the Ultimate Resource list for Photoshop Brushes. From the looks, they may be right.

GraphicsArtsOnline has a piece about a product called PageZephyr, which can extract content from Quark and InDesign files for re-purposing in ebooks etc.

Last, because you can never, ever get too much InDesign, here are links to every update ever, from 1.0 to 6.0.4 in Mac and Windows flavors.. Collect ’em all kids.

Till next time, have a nice …cough…gasp…wheeze…gurgle…thud.

Who Killed Print, Part 2

For those wondering where I got the “evidence” against cats, I looked no further than the bookshelf in my kids’ playroom.

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This book was published in 1986, which may explain some of the “fashionable” feline attire, and other details like phones with cords on them.

It got me to thinking, what would a sequel to this book look like? So here’s my take on..

How An E-Book is Made

I’m the design and production cat. I’m creating the template in InDesign and exporting the stories to InCopy.

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I’m the author. I’m writing the content directly in InCopy. I can see the fit and layout.

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I’m adding graphics, hyperlinks, and other interactive elements, plus running spellcheck and other QA.

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I’m tracking changes.

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I’m proofing.

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I’m outputting to PDF.

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I’m creating the book’s website.

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I’m publicizing the book on Twitter and Facebook.

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I’m desperate for Google Juice.

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I got listed on Amazon!

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Oprah likes my book!

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Now maybe I can replace this computer from 1986.

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LOL! I’m so glad print is dead.

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