Archive for June, 2011

Douglas Kirkland and Gerd Ludwig discuss photography, business, and Chernobyl

Published by | Thursday, June 30th, 2011
Photojournalist Gerd Ludwig at his home in Los Angeles (Jim Heid photo).

Photojournalist Gerd Ludwig at his home in Los Angeles (Jim Heid photo).

Successful photographers must combine their creative passion with the ability to evolve along with the industry—and the economy. That’s just one of the messages in our new course, Douglas Kirkland on Photography: A Conversation with Gerd Ludwig.

In this latest installment of his series, Douglas visits his friend Gerd Ludwig, a photojournalist best known for his work in National Geographic magazine. Ludwig has taken a special interest in Russia and the former Soviet Union—in particular, the people and stories surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Ludwig has photographed Chernobyl several times over the years. He wanted to return to document the conditions there today, but support from the traditional publishing industry wasn’t there. So he turned to the crowd—specifically, to, the crowdfunding website. He created a project proposal containing text and video descriptions of his project. He raised more than $23,000 from 435 backers and in March, he departed for Chernobyl.

Douglas visited with Ludwig in his home on the day before he left, and the course includes a tour of his gear and a look at how he packs for an expedition. When he returned, he and Douglas met in our studio to look at Ludwig’s photos and talk about Chernobyl today.

Capturing the conversation between Douglas Kirkland and Gerd Ludwig (Jim Heid photo).

Capturing the conversation between Douglas Kirkland and Gerd Ludwig (Jim Heid photo).

On his latest trip, Ludwig also shot video in the depths of the poisoned reactor using a tiny video camera strapped to his protective helmet. As he says after he and Douglas watch the footage, video is “the new work of a photojournalist or documentary photographer.”

And Ludwig’s photos? They’re powerful and moving visual essays on the nightmare of Chernobyl and on how the area is being changed by residents who have moved back, and, incredibly, by tourists who visit to take photos.

Douglas Kirkland on Photography: A Conversation with Gerd Ludwig is a bit of a departure for us, a combination of instruction and inspiration. We hope you’ll watch and let us know what you think.

Deke’s Techniques: Drawing a heart in Illustrator

Published by | Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Draw a classic heart in Illustrator

Yes, you heard it right. This week, Deke’s Techniques gives a little love to that occasionally daunting yet imminently lovable drawing tool, Adobe Illustrator. Although many of you know author Deke McClelland as a Photoshop maestro, in today’s technique, Deke returns to one of his early digital loves and shows you how to draw a classic heart shape in Illustrator. If you’re Illustrator-phobic, as I have been known to be, let me assure you even I was able to draw this shape by following Deke’s clear instructions.

The steps are fairly simple, and employ only a few easy-to-use tools: the Arc tool, the Reflect tool, and the trusty black and white arrow tools (officially known as Selection tools). By adjusting curves drawn by the Arc tool, we safely avoid the far more complicated Pen tool. And, in the end, what could be more a more appropriate command for joining two halves of a heart than using the Join > Paths command in Illustrator CS5. Ah, vector love. So unpretentious, uncomplicated, and mathematically defined.

Of course, sometimes you want your declaration of love to be florid, eye-catching, and just this side of over-the-top. Or maybe just the other side of over-the-top. For subscribers to the Online Training Library®, this week’s new exclusive video in the Deke’s Techniques course features that same heart shape taken to a glossy extreme in Photoshop:

And of course, members can view the entire collection of Deke’s Techniques here. You’re bound to find something there to love that will make your creative day just a little easier, sweeter, or more exciting.

We’ll be back next week with another free technique from Deke, in which Deke goes 3D. See you (in your 3D glasses) next week!

Related links:
Deke’s Techniques
courses on Photoshop in the Online Training Library®
courses by Deke McClelland in the Online Training Library®

Organize your layers with After Effects Apprentice 07: Parenting

Published by | Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

After Effects compositions can quickly become difficult to manage. The more layers you have, the more layers you need to keep track of, position, and keyframe. This becomes an issue particularly when the client has changes to your carefully crafted animation.

One solution is to take advantage of parenting, which is the ability to link together multiple layers inside the same composition. In this short-yet-deep project-oriented course, Chris Meyer demonstrates how to set up a parenting chain, explains what does and does not get passed from parent to child, and discusses what makes a good parent (hint: sometimes you need a neutral third party). Along the way, Chris spends considerable time showing how you would use Parenting in real-world situations, including creating finished animations employing techniques you’ve learned in previous After Effects Apprentice courses such as using the Graph Editor; being aware of safe areas; creating a custom text animation from scratch; and timing animations to music.

This video course is the first one that breaks pattern from the corresponding chapter in Chris and Trish Meyer’s After Effects Apprentice book. Parenting—the subject of this course—and nesting (treating entire compositions as single sources inside other comps) will each get their own shorter stand-alone courses here on This gives Chris and Trish a chance to stretch out more on individual subjects. This course on parenting also contains material not found in the After Effects Apprentice book.

Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) ships; new features course in production

Published by | Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Apple shipped Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) yesterday—and for those of you wondering if will be publishing training for FCPX, the answer is a resounding Yes. Our first course is in production and we are shooting to publish it by the end of July.

This isn’t simply a new updated version with new features—in many ways, Apple is positioning this as a brand new product. As such, existing workflows are likely to be dramatically impacted. We’ll cover all the new features and how existing users will be impacted in our upcoming Migrating from Final Cut Pro 7 to Final Cut Pro X course. Watch for sneak peeks here on our blog as we finish edits. Get more info about FCPX on the Apple web site.

Jim Babbage covers what’s new in Fireworks CS5.1

Published by | Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Recently, I asked Fireworks CS5 Essential Training author Jim Babbage to give us a rundown of the changes to Fireworks in Creative Suite 5.5.  I wanted to find out if there were changes that would help make your work lives easier. Here’s what he had to say:

Creative Suite 5.5 has been out for a little while and while Fireworks didn’t receive a 5.5 designation, it did—like Photoshop—get a 5.1 update. Basically what this means is that no new features were added to Fireworks, but there were some under-the-hood tweaks applied to make Fireworks run better, or perform certain tasks more efficiently.

For a complete rundown on the major updates to Fireworks 5.1, check out the Adobe Fireworks Team blog.

Granted, these are all small things, but they add up to some important fixes in Fireworks, and I think they set the development team in good stead for future versions of my favorite web graphics application.

And current CS5 users, never fear! You have not been forgotten. Adobe will be releasing a patch for 5.0 users. This patch will include all of the bug fixes that are going into CS5.1. It will not, however, include the subscription engine that is part of CS5.1, so it will not fully upgrade CS5.0 to CS5.1.

To identify the different builds, you can check the build number. The full CS5.1 internal build number will be 11.1. If you apply the 5.0 patch, the internal build number will be 11.0.1.

Deke’s Techniques: Putting wings on a horse

Published by | Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

In this week’s free episode, Deke gives you wings. Well, he gives a horse wings. In truth, he gives a horse wings that formerly belonged to a goose. No matter—the bottom line is that you end up with your very own mythological creature. This week in Deke’s Techniques, you’ll learn how to use Photoshop to mask complex creatures and create silhouettes from real-world photographs. In Deke’s example, here are the two photographs that eventually make up the composite image:

We’ll start by applying some contrast-controlling adjustment layers to begin the process, then use some old-school brushing techniques to turn the contributing creatures into crisp silhouettes. The result is this magical creature:

Although the end result is (artistically speaking) a silhouette, in truth it’s a mask. And masks can be infinitely useful, way beyond your species-mixing fantasies. If you’d like to learn more about masks from Deke, check out Chapter 26 of Deke’s Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Mastery course. You’ll also learn how to use the pen tool to solve problematic masking challenges. You can take a more in-depth look at how to master the pen tool by checking out Chapter 27 of the same course.

Every week, there’s a new (and free) technique from Deke. And members can see the entire collection here, along with some exclusive members-only techniques.

See you next week!

Related links:
Deke’s Techniques
courses on Photoshop in the Online Training Library®
courses by Deke McClelland in the Online Training Library® featured on today

Published by | Friday, June 17th, 2011 on is featured on today.

An interview with our founder, Lynda, was featured on the front page of this morning. Read about the motivation behind our company, our growth, and our courses: A Paywall That Pays Off:’s Quality Content Farm is Educational

Deke’s Techniques: Fixing badly kerned composite characters

Published by | Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

If you, like Deke, recoil at the sight of badly kerned text, then this week’s type-geek technique is just for you. Sure, adjusting the spacing between full-fledged characters is fairly straightforward in Photoshop: Click in between two characters with the type tool and use the Alt (or Option) key in combination with the right and left arrow keys as needed. Simple, intuitive, effective. But what about the percentage symbol, for instance? It’s actually made up of three sub-characters (a small superscript zero, a fraction-slash, and a small baseline zero). Figuring how to kern between those three components is just the kind of challenge Deke likes to take apart. And taking apart the percent character is the key to this technique.

So imagine that you have this ’100%’ text (against a background of 100% wood-free wood Deke created in last week’s free episode). It’s easy enough to kern the number characters closer together, but when you do, the percent symbol looks oddly loose, as you can see indicated by the cyan circle below. The percentage symbol uses about twice the space as the other characters. Also, the fraction character (the slash) is extending beyond the top and bottom of the respective small zeros, as indicated by the magenta lines below.

By changing the text to outlines, separating out the paths of the component pieces of the symbol, and adjusting them, Deke was able to create this much more aesthetically pleasing version:

Every week there is a new free technique from Deke, in which you get to benefit from Deke’s obsessions as well as his creativity and Photoshop and Illustrator experience. Members of the Online Training Library® also have access to additional exclusive techniques. In fact, this week Deke will show you how to take this painstakingly kerned text and emboss it into the wood background.

Are there similar detail-level design problems that vex you into the wee hours? What are your typographic pet peeves?

Related links:
Deke’s Techniques
courses on Photoshop in the Online Training Library®
courses by Deke McClelland in the Online Training Library®