Archive for August, 2011

Grouping layers in After Effects: Parenting

Published by | Monday, August 22nd, 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 first in the series, After Effects Apprentice 07: Parenting.

Parenting allows you to attach an entire layer to another. The child layer keeps its own animation, which is then also affected by the position, rotation, and scale of the parent layer (note that effects and opacity are not passed from the parent to its children). For example, you can attach several layers to one parent, reposition just the parent, and all of the children will move as well. The same goes for scaling the parent: All of the children will be scaled by the same amount, keeping their same relative sizes and positional offsets. A parent can have multiple children, and you can set up parent/child chains where a layer in the middle is both a parent and a child. All of the layers stay in the current composition.

Watch the entire course: After Effects Apprentice 07: Parenting

InDesign FX: Exploring The Effects Panel

Published by | Thursday, August 18th, 2011

InDesign’s FX can be so much fun, it’s tempting to just dive right in and start working with them, even if you’re not all that familiar with the controls. You can certainly accomplish a lot armed with nothing more than curiosity and patience, but to really get the most out of these tools you should spend a few minutes to familiarize yourself with them. That’s the purpose of this week’s free InDesign FX video. You use this information every time you work with InDesign’s effects. When you know where everything is and how to use it, you’ll naturally have a more enjoyable and productive time.

The video starts with a tour of the Effects panel controls. You’ll see all the places where you can adjust blending modes and opacity. I’ll show you where and how to target FX to the various levels of an object to produce different results.

Cool effects

There are also some nifty efficiency tips in the video. After watching it, you’ll discover how to tell which effects have been applied to an object without opening the dialog box. You’ll also know how to save time and effort by copying FX from one object to another with a simple drag and drop.

I also demystify two settings that have puzzled many InDesign users over the years: Isolate Blending and Knockout Group. They both are used to limit the effects of blending modes to specific objects on a page, and they’re well worth mastering.

Finally, I demonstrate the workings of Global Light. This is an important tool for making your effects consistent throughout a document by giving them the same light source via Angle and Altitude settings.

Global Light

Getting a handle on Altitude in particular is the key to mastering the Bevel and Emboss effect. You’ll also understand how Global Light can sometimes cause objects with effects to unexpectedly change when you move them from one document to another (and how to prevent this from happening).

For members, I have another new video this week exclusively in the Online Training Library® on how to create long cast shadows using Type on a Path. And I’ll see you here again in two weeks with another free InDesign effect.

InDesign FX complete course
courses on InDesign in the Online Training Library®
courses by Mike Rankin in the Online Training Library®

Deke’s Techniques: Changing the color of a car

Published by | Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

In this week’s Deke’s Technique, Deke McClelland shows you how to change the color of a car in Photoshop. I know what you’re thinking (if you’re a seasoned Photoshop user and/or classic car online sales guru), Targeted adjustment tool plus Hue/Saturation, and I can change anything that’s not the same color as anything else. But how often does that work? According to Deke, it often leaves something to be desired. So in this week’s technique, Deke gives you a nuanced approach for changing that car from everyday, empty-calorie candy-apple red to a rich, worth-its-weight-in-gold sheen. The key is making a quick, but essential, mask.

And the key to the mask in this case is the impeccably named but often overlooked Color Range command. If Photoshop can ‘see’ what’s red, then you can use Photoshop’s vision to create a mask that then lets you apply your hue adjustment in a more controlled way. Then you can colorize the isolated red on the car and change it to a purer gold. In the end, your custom set of wheels goes through this transformation:

Red before, Gold after

It’s Deke, giving you the keys to a customized set of wheels, free to all in this week’s complimentary technique. And for members of the Online Training Library®, the members-exclusive video this week will show you how to make that car a deep, mysterious black, while retaining all the shine and sass. Check this out:

Black car

Every week, a free technique from Deke!

• Start a 7-day free trial at today
• All of Deke’s Techniques at
• All courses on Photoshop at
• All courses by Deke McClelland at

jQuery projects courses now cover two coding environments

Published by | Monday, August 15th, 2011

In March, we started publishing a new series of video tutorials called jQuery Projects that takes members through the creation of a specific project, such as an interactive photo gallery. When author Chris Converse wrote HTML and jQuery code in his examples, he used Dreamweaver.

Shortly after the first course was published, we started receiving comments from members saying they were not Dreamweaver users—and while they could still follow along with Chris, they wished he had used a straight coding environment instead.

To figure out what members wanted for future courses, we polled members who had written to us to find out whether we should continue to use Dreamweaver as the editor, or switch to using Aptana Studio (note: we proposed an Eclipse-based code editor such as Aptana Studio because it’s free and available for multiple platforms).

It turns out that the respondents were split right down the middle. So now, we are trying out something new: giving you two versions of each project to choose from; one using Dreamweaver, and one using Aptana Studio. Here’s are samples from one of our courses.

Using Dreamweaver: Create an Interactive Video Gallery with jQuery and Dreamweaver

Using Apatana Studio: Create an Interactive Video Gallery with jQuery 

Check out the series so far:

Create an Interactive Video Gallery with jQuery 
Create an Interactive Video Gallery with jQuery and Dreamweaver
Set a Marquee to Autoplay with jQuery
Set a Marquee to Autoplay with jQuery and Dreamweaver
Create an Interactive Map with jQuery and Dreamweaver
Create an Interactive Photo Gallery with jQuery and Dreamweaver
Create an Interactive Homepage Marquee with jQuery and Dreamweaver

With more projects coming your way soon, including

Create Animated Rollovers
Create an Animated Bar Chart

Have other projects you wish Chris would teach in the series? Leave us a comment on this post.

Deke’s Techniques: Capturing your (mythological) monster in motion

Published by | Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

This week, that ever-wily Deke thinks of an ingenious way to cover your Photoshop tracks. If you recall, last week’s techniques (both the free movie and the members-only video inside the Online Training Library®) were about combining photos of three real-world creatures to create one other-worldly one. But as we all know, no missing link photo is ever going to be credible if it’s not noisy, blurry, and oddly exposed. Turns out, the key is to actually shoot an unstable picture of your Photoshop screen with your camera, then add a few more helpings of weird exposure (inside Camera Raw), grain (the noise filter in Photoshop) and more blur (of the Gaussian variety).

Here is Deke’s final photo-documentation of his pseudo creature:

Editor’s note: Deke’s creature was so elusive that I had to experiment using the technique on another mysterious creature “captured” in its natural environment. For my particular version, I used my iPhone set to HDR mode, pointed it at my screen where I’d paused this week’s video, and twirled the phone to make the motion. Still scary, I think. 

Every week there’s a new free technique from Deke. And next week we’ll move from this uncommon creature to a very ordinary Photoshop task: changing the color of a car. And as normal as that sounds, even the everyday task requires good technique. Find out Deke’s technique next week.

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

InDesign FX Debut: Using a drop shadow to create a blur in InDesign

Published by | Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Welcome to a new video series on InDesign transparency effects. I am so excited to share ways of using InDesign—yes, InDesign—to create cool visual effects that you may have thought you could only get from Photoshop or Illustrator. My favorite techniques are those that are simple but non-intuitive, ones that make sly use of InDesign’s tools in unexpected ways.

To kick things off, this week’s free video shows how to combine blending modes and drop shadows to create a blurred effect. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it unlocks all kinds of interesting design possibilities.

Why would you even want to create a blur in InDesign? I can think of two main reasons.

First, there are times when you’d like a design element to have a soft edge, and none of InDesign’s feathering effects is up to the task. This is especially true in the case of text, where feathering can be difficult to control and can quickly ruin delicate letter shapes. A drop-shadow blur works much better for creating a soft focus on text.

Second, you can use blur to simulate textures and materials with indistinct edges. For example, in this week’s video, I show how to use drop shadow blur to simulate graffiti, so that the Pencil tool becomes essentially like a spray paint tool. I also show how to change text into wispy skywriting and gritty sand (with the help of some digital noise). Check them out:

InDesign Blur Effects

As with all the techniques I’ll be sharing in this video series, drop-shadow blur is an efficiency booster, because you never have to leave InDesign. Text remains live, editable text. There’s no need to switch back and forth between applications or update linked graphics. There’s no art file to go missing in action. When you need a change, you make it right in your layout. And perhaps best of all, when you do your effects in InDesign, you get to see them in the context of your design. It’s a very natural way of working, that I think you’ll quickly come to appreciate.

I have another video exclusively for members available in the Online Training Library® on how to create properly interlocking objects right inside InDesign. And I’ll see you here again in two weeks with another free InDesign effect.

Since 1995, Mike Rankin has enjoyed working in nearly every aspect of publishing production, including design, project management, layout, illustration, prepress, XML workflow, technical support, and training. Along the line he became an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop and InDesign. He blogs at, writes articles for InDesign Magazine, and speaks at InDesign User Groups and conferences. He’s the author of The InDesignSecrets Guide to the Adobe InDesign ACE Exam and The InDesignSecrets Guide to Graphic Effects. This is his first course for

New feature: Browse the latest releases by subject

Published by | Thursday, August 4th, 2011

The latest releases box, now with subject tabs

The Latest releases box on the home page is one of the first stops for many members to find new courses. To make it easier to find courses in the categories that you’re most interested in, we’ve added tabs that let you browse new courses by subject.

Each of the subjects also has its own RSS feed, so you can get notified of the newest releases you care most about. Learn more about RSS in Chapter 1 of the How to use course.

To send us your feedback about this or any other site feature, click on the site feedback link on the bottom right of any page on the site. Or visit the contact page and choose the topic you’d like to tell us about from the drop-down menu.

New feature: List of last-viewed courses is now on the home page

Published by | Thursday, August 4th, 2011

The new "my course history" box

A lot of members have asked us for an easier way to get back to what they were recently learning when they log back in to, so we added a My course history section on the home page. Now, you can instantly see the last five courses you’ve watched. Click any course title to go to its table of contents, or click more » to see your entire course history.

To send us your feedback about this and any other site feature, click on the site feedback link on the bottom right of any page on the site. Or visit the contact page and choose the topic you’d like to tell us about from the drop-down menu.