Archive for August, 2011

Deke’s Techniques: Drawing trendy swirls in Illustrator

Published by | Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

This week, Deke draws you into a swirling vortex of spirals, by showing you how to create custom curlicues in Adobe Illustrator. Although you can find swirly patterns everywhere these days from business cards to painted fingernails, the spiral is actually a classic enough form to have an Illustrator tool expressly named for it. By using a source image of carefully crafted embellishments as a guide, Deke shows you how to employ the spiral tool, and then customize your shape with a host of other Illustrator features. This week’s free movie will show you how Deke made this curly creation (in black, below):

As you’ve probably noticed, Deke likes to share his weekly techniques in under ten minutes. Ten minutes in Deke-time is usually around 11:30, but even with that grace period, this technique spins by very quickly. You may find that you’d like to have a little better grasp on paths, joins, and transformations in order to get your swirls in shape. If you’re a member of the Online Training Library®, check out a couple of useful chapters from Deke’s Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Fundamentals course; Chapter 4 will guide you through basic line art drawing and Chapter 7 will show you transformations and edits at a more relaxed pace.

And members will be treated to two exclusive videos this week as well. In the first one, Deke creates the swirls by using Illustrator CS5′s wonderful new Variable Width tool. In the second movie, Deke will show you how he created another variation on ornamental objects.

Every week, there’s a new technique from Deke. (And sometimes, for members, there are three!)

Interested in more?
•The entire Deke’s Techniques  collection
• Courses on Illustrator in the Online Training Library®
• Courses by Deke McClelland in the Online Training Library®

Grouping layers in After Effects: Expressions

Published by | Monday, August 29th, 2011

The three most recent installments of Chris and Trish Meyer’s After Effects Apprentice series have covered three different approaches to grouping layers in After Effects. Each approach has its own strengths and weaknesses; mastering all three means you can choose the right approach for a particular task—or combine them for the ultimate in power and flexibility. Here’s an overview from the third in the series, After Effects Apprentice 09: Expressions.

Expressions allow you tie an individual parameter of one layer either to the identical parameter of another layer, or to a different parameter of the same or different layers—even across compositions. This makes it the most targeted and most flexible approach to grouping in that you can target specific properties, and leave others untouched.

One of the biggest advantages of expressions includes the ability to keyframe just one property or layer and have others follow (and update) automatically. However, this is just one use of expressions; many other functions are possible, including the ability to automatically loop or randomize the animation of a layer.

Watch the entire course: After Effects Apprentice 09: Expressions.

Creative Inspirations bonus feature: Stefan G. Bucher

Published by | Friday, August 26th, 2011’s documentary team is pleased to announce an addition to the Creative Inspirations series: bonus features. Starting this week, we’ll begin to roll out a series of extras that were produced to enhance the viewing experience of our flagship documentary series.

After release, we often screen our films for a theatre audience and bring the person featured in the documentary to the screening to be interviewed on camera. The topics discussed are frequently derived from feedback we receive from our members. These bonus features put you in the front row, and let you become inspired all over again.

Stefan G. Bucher

After the screening, Stefan G. Bucher answered audience questions during his interview with Terry Lee Stone.

This summer, had a special screening of Stefan G. Bucher, Designer, Illustrator, and Writer in the Ahmanson Theatre at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. After the lights came up, Stefan came up on stage to enthusiastic applause to be interviewed by Terry Lee Stone, a writer and creative strategist who teaches the business of design at Art Center. This lively discussion (which included audience Q&A) covers a wide range of topics and brings us up to date on Stefan’s most recent endeavors. Highlights include Stefan’s thoughts on choosing projects and (the question that’s on everyone’s mind) what’s next for the monsters! As usual, Stefan brought along his sharp wit and wonderful sense of humor.

The bonus feature can be found at the end of the table of contents on the documentary page: Stefan G. Bucher, Designer, Illustrator, and Writer.

InDesign Secrets debut: The hidden Autoexpand text feature

Published by | Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Welcome to what I now like to call ‘InDesign Thursdays’. This week, we’re launching a new course that is chock-full of secret InDesign tips and tricks from the very folk who bring you the InDesign Secrets website and podcast, authors David Blatner and Anne-Marie Concepción. Every other week, either David or Anne-Marie will be here with a new video, free to all, that will demonstrate a hidden trick or obscure feature that will make your InDesign life more efficient, friendly, or fun. In this debut free episode, Anne-Marie shows you how to turn on InDesign’s somewhat hidden Autocorrect feature and then use it to take your tedious-to-type text and ‘shorthand it’ with something you can quickly key.

Members of the Online Training Library® will also get access to an exclusive new InDesign Secrets movie every other week, hosted by Anne-Marie or David. This week’s members-only video features David showing you how InDesign can do mathematical calculations for you. Need to move something in your layout two centimeters, but your ruler is set to points? No worries, David shows you the many ways you can type mixed measurements (even arithmetic operators) into InDesign’s number fields and get instant conversion.

Next Thursday will feature another free installment of InDesign FX from Mike Rankin.

Interested in more?
• Courses by Anne-Marie Concepcion
• Courses by David Blatner
• Courses on InDesign

WordPress 3.2: New look, new features, new possibilities

Published by | Thursday, August 25th, 2011

The updated WordPress admin dashboard. The new design features a more minimalistic and streamlined approach to the content.

WordPress 3.2 was released on July 4th, 2011, followed by the 3.2.1 release on July 12th. If you are learning WordPress, you’ll find that although the content in our current WordPress 3 courses is still relevant, the user interface may be different as new features are added to WordPress.

Our current WordPress courses include:

WordPress 3 Essential Training (covers both and self-hosting through
WordPress 3: Creating and Editing Custom Themes
WordPress: Creating Custom Widgets and Plugins with PHP
WordPress 3: Building Child Themes
WordPress 3: Developing Secure Sites

I asked author Morten Rand-Hendriksen to summarize the changes in WordPress 3.2 to help anyone who is working through our WordPress courses. Here’s what he had to say. again ranked among fastest growing private companies

Published by | Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

We’re very proud that has again been ranked as one of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S. in 2011, according to Inc. magazine’s 500|5000 company listing.

Inc. 5000Ranked as number 1181 out of 5,000, is also number 13 in the Inc. 5000 Top Education Companies category. Like all companies included in the Inc. 500|5000 listing,’s position was based on the percentage growth of annual revenue over a three-year period. is among the 5,000 companies individually profiled by Inc. in this year’s roundup of entrepreneurial leaders.

We’re really proud that this distinguishes among both educators and entrepreneurs. Our continued growth is really based on how well we have continually adapted to our members’ needs by creating the highest quality training that we can. We strive to develop compelling content that all of you can count on as software and the market changes, and we do our best to give you even more than you expect.

Want to be a part of Check out our current career opportunities at

Grouping layers in After Effects: Nesting and precomposing

Published by | Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

The three most recent installments of Chris and Trish Meyer’s After Effects Apprentice series have covered three different approaches to grouping layers in After Effects. Each approach has its own strengths and weaknesses; mastering all three means you can choose the right approach for a particular task—or combine them for the ultimate in power and flexibility. Here’s an overview from the second in the series, After Effects Apprentice 08: Nesting and Precomposing.

Precomposing allows you to select one or more layers, and create a new composition for them to reside in. This new precomp is then automatically nested—in other words, it becomes a single layer—in the original composition. This technique is the most comprehensive approach to grouping, as anything you do to resulting nested layer—including changing its opacity or applying effects—will affect the grouped layers.

In addition to grouping layers, intelligent use of nesting and precomposing to build a hierarchy of comps allows you to rewire the rendering order (order of operations, such as transformations and effects) for After Effects, as well as reuse common elements in multiple compositions, which in turn makes it much easier to accommodate client changes.

Watch the entire course: After Effects Apprentice 08: Nesting and Precomposing.

Deke’s Techniques: Coloring the stripes on a zebra

Published by | Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Although you may have heard that a leopard can’t change its spots, a zebra can definitely change its stripes with a little help from Deke and Photoshop. In this week’s free technique, Deke adds a little pizazz to an otherwise monochromatic creature, by changing the black stripes on a zebra from black to red, green, and blue.

The color itself is applied pretty haphazardly, then Deke efficiently reins it in with an easy-to-craft layer mask using the Color Range command you saw in last week’s technique, only even easier to apply. After employing a little advanced blending and then cleaning up the mask by hand, Deke manages to defy conventional wisdom and take the tediously typical zebra on the left to the flashy figment of Deke’s imagination on the right.

Before and After Zebrae

This technique can be effective for changing all sorts of black areas of a photo into another color, and the results are realistic. Try variations on Deke’s technique in your own projects and let us know how it works. Who knows, you may be able to change those leopard spots after all.

There’s another new free video next week, and members can see the entire collection (along with some exclusive movies just for members).

Interested in more?
• Deke’s Techniques
• courses on Photoshop in the Online Training Library®
• courses by Deke McClelland in the Online Training Library®