Archive for March, 2012

InDesign Secrets: How to make InDesign drop caps

Published by | Thursday, March 15th, 2012

In this week’s free InDesign Secrets movie, Anne-Marie Concepcion takes you from making the simplest InDesign drop cap, to creating more sophisticated options using character styles, anchored objects, and text wraps. She starts by showing you how to create the simplest three-line drop cap, similar to this example:

Simple three-line InDesign drop cap

Next, she shows you how to apply a character style to make your first letter stand out in a different font or color.

Yellow character style applied to InDesign drop cap

During the movie, she also shows you some options for changing the size and position of your first letter so that it aligns just the way you want, yet remains fully editable and in flow with your document. Finally, Anne-Marie concludes by showing you a trick to wrap your text around the drop cap using an anchored object. It’s still a bit of a workaround, but it’s something Anne-Marie’s fans are frequently asking her about. Here, I’ve used it to make my text sidle up to my fancy W drop cap:

How to wrap text around an InDesign drop cap

InDesign makes adding this bit of typographic interest fairly routine, and you can see it all in action from Anne-Marie in this week’s free tutorial:

Meanwhile, David Blatner (Anne-Marie’s partner in InDesign secrecy) has a new exclusive video for members all about making two-state buttons in interactive documents.

Both Anne-Marie’s and David’s fresh secrets take you from old-school text layout to new frontier interactivity this week. See you back here in two weeks with more InDesign Secrets!


Interested in more?
• The entire InDesign Secrets bi-weekly series
• Courses by David Blatner on
• Courses by Anne-Marie Concepcion on
• All InDesign courses

Suggested courses to watch next:
• InDesign CS5 Essential Training
• Creating Long Documents with InDesign
• InDesign Styles in Depth
InDesign CS5: Interactive Documents and Presentations

Deke’s Techniques: Creating synthetic lightning in Photoshop

Published by | Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

It’s time to upgrade your Photoshop weather machine with this week’s free technique from Deke. Back in November, Deke showed you how to create a synthetic rainbow entirely out of Photoshop magic. In this week’s free tutorial, Deke shows you how to intensify your dark and stormy scenes by adding a 100-percent artificial, but no less striking bolt of Photoshop-based lightning.

Start by simply painting in a black lightning-shaped brush stroke. Then, by ingeniously selecting parts of your bolt, you’ll apply the Difference Clouds filter to randomize the edges, and an unusual Levels command setting to convert that blobby line into a tendril of light. Then, with some carefully applied Blend modes, some Gradient masks, and a hint of brushed-in contact spots for eerie glow, you’ll finish up your truly believable lightning effect.

Creating lightning in Photoshop

The entire procedure takes some concentration and diligence, but in the end you’ll be rewarded with a flash of creative control, and ready to illuminate any scene with this high-impact effect.

And if that doesn’t satisfy your desire to control the elements, Deke’s got an exclusive members-only movie this week called Creating a driving rain effect in Photoshop, in which he, you guessed it, shows you how to create driving rain.

Photoshop weather at your fingertips, all courtesy of your benevolent meteorologist Deke.

See you back next week with another free technique from Deke!


Interested in more?
• The entire Deke’s Techniques collection on (updated weekly)
• Courses by Deke McClelland on
• All Photoshop courses on

Suggested courses to watch next:
• Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Mastery
• Photoshop for Designers: Layer Effects
Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Fundamentals

New Adobe Labs release: Adobe Shadow

Published by | Friday, March 9th, 2012

I love using Adobe BrowserLab. It’s a great way to check how your sites look on different browser platforms. But I’m even more excited about Adobe Shadow, a new Adobe Lab that allows you to test your web sites on mobile devices by creating a dynamically-updating connection between your devices. In layman’s terms, this means that you can visit a web site on your desktop browser and simultaneously preview it on multiple phones and tablets. So, as you browse through different pages on your desktop, the mobile devices also update their screens.

Adobe Shadow working on multiple interfaces

Adobe Shadow in action working on multiple interfaces.

Setting up

Getting everything to work takes a few steps. First, you’ll need to download the Shadow desktop application from Adobe Labs. On a Windows machine, you’ll also need to install Bonjour which allows for auto discovery of devices. The Bonjour installer is included with the Shadow download and it’s already a part of Mac OS, so no need to install it there.

After downloading and installing the Shadow desktop application, you’ll need to download and install the Google Chrome extension for Adobe Shadow. You can download the extension from the Google Chrome Web Store.

Finally, you’ll need to download the Adobe Shadow app for each mobile device you want to use (it’s free!). You can do that from either the Apple App Store or Google Play, but it’s probably easier to just go to your respective device’s store.


Connecting to devices

Once you’ve got everything installed, make sure the following is true:

  1. Your Shadow desktop application is running.
  2. Bonjour is installed and running on your machine (automatic on Mac, but an additional install on a PC).
  3. You’re using the Chrome browser and have installed the Adobe Shadow extension.
  4. Your mobile devices and your desktops are in the same network and the network has Internet access.
  5. You are running the Shadow apps in every device you want to test with.

When you first run the Shadow apps on your phones, you’ll see your desktop appear as a device to pair with. At this point, you have to type into your desktop a series of numbers supplied from the Adobe Shadow app.

Adobe Shadow insallation: Entering code

Once your devices are hooked up, any website you browse on your desktop will show up on all of your synced mobile devices. The cool thing about this is that if the site you’re browsing uses media queries to target different devices, your mobile devices will automatically display the correct version on each device.

You can interact with each device as if it were running its own browser, which, essentially, is exactly what’s happening. As soon as you go to a new tab or a page on your desktop, all mobile devices will automatically update. I tested this on a Galaxy IIs, an iPhone, a Galaxy Tab, and an iPad, and it works flawlessly. This is not like the static version of the page you see with BrowserLabs—Adobe Shadow offers a dynamic page you can interact with in real time.

Even better, Adobe Shadow’s desktop client ships with a tool that let’s you inspect the DOM. This inspection works nearly exactly like the WebKit Developer tools, so you can change text, delete elements, modify javascript, css, html, and anything else you want, and the mobile device will update with those changes applied.


Shadow Tips

Shadow does create a persistent connection to your device and uses a wireless radio to continuously try to reconnect to your device so Adobe suggests that you use Shadow with a device that is plugged into a charger. Make sure you close or hide the app when you’re not actively using it.

To accomplish some of its magic, Shadow is also using a Phonegap tool called weinre (WEb INspector REmote) that allows you to set up a server for doing some of what the Shadow Lab is doing on a local server. For this reason, inspecting the DOM requires an active Internet connection, and the process can be a bit slower than just browsing through pages because Adobe is temporarily running a copy of weinre on its servers.


Interested in more?
• All developer courses on
• All web + interactive courses on
• All courses from Ray Villalobos on

Suggested courses to watch next:
Mobile Web Design & Development Fundamentals
Titanium Mobile App Development Essential Training
Web Site Planning and Wireframing: Hands-On Training
Flex 4.6 and AIR 3.0 New Features for Mobile Apps
Web Form Design Best Practices

InDesign FX: Drawing starbursts and sun rays

Published by | Thursday, March 8th, 2012

In this week’s free video, I shed a little light on drawing starbursts and sun rays directly in InDesign. You can draw these fun shapes quickly and precisely by starting with a very simple shape like a triangle.

The start of an InDesign starburst

In this case, the triangle represents a single ray of sun light in one-point perspective. To make the rest of the rays, you simply duplicate the original shape, rotate it, and then use the Transform Again command to create all the copies you want.

InDesign Startburst example

In the video, I show you how to add a little scaling, and a little masking via of the Paste Into command, to end up with a sunrise over fields of green.

InDesign sunburst project: Graphic sunrise over field of green

When it comes to starbursts, you can easily create simple ones with InDesign’s Polygon tool. But if you’re willing to invest a small amount of extra time to use the Rotate + Transform Again method, you give yourself many more options, including, the ability to create multi-colored starbursts. You can also use more complex starter shapes, and rotate multiple shapes at once to create interesting patterns within the starburst.

Multi-color InDesign starburst

For members, I also have another new video this week in the Online Training Library® called Scaling effects. In Scaling effects I discuss how to scale objects that have Bevel and Emboss applied to them so that the Bevel and Emboss effects scale with the object itself.

Scaling to include Bevel and Emboss effects in InDesign

I also discuss those other times when you might want to scale just the object and not the Bevel or Emboss effects, and I show you how you can have it either way.

Scaling objects—but not their effects—in InDesign


See you here again in two weeks with another InDesign effect!


Interested in more?
• The complete InDesign FX course
• All InDesign courses on
• All courses by Mike Rankin on

 Suggested courses to watch next:
• InDesign CS5 Essential Training
Creating Long Documents with InDesign
• InDesign Styles in Depth
InDesign CS4: 10 Habits of Highly Effective Pros

Using After Effects blend modes to stencil text and create color effects

Published by | Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Blending modes in Photoshop and After Effects are often taken for granted, but neither application started out with these features. When blend modes were introduced into After Effects around Version 3, they literally blew my mind. The idea that you could mix still images together had been long established in Photoshop, and the thought of being able to do that with animation and video was incredible.

Flash forward to the present and blend modes are incredibly well documented, but even with all this documentation, I’m often asked “what can I do with them?” In this week’s edition of Design in Motion, I’ll show you some of my favorite blend modes and how you can use them for type effects and color correction.

After watching this, if you’re ready to learn a lot more, After Effects Apprentice 04: Layer Control from Chris and Trish Meyer is filled with tips and ideas on how to get the most out of blend modes in After Effects.

Don’t forget that you can also watch Photoshop courses on, and the blend mode information there directly translates to After Effects.

Interested in more?
• The full Design in Motion series on
• All video courses on
• All courses on After Effects
• Courses by Chris Meyer on

Suggested courses to watch next:
After Effects CS5.5 New Features
After Effects Apprentice 04: Layer Control
After Effects CS5 Essential Training
CINEMA 4D: Rendering Motion Graphics for After Effects

Deke’s Techniques: Creating a Ninja Turtle tattoo in Photoshop

Published by | Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

At first glance, it seems like this week’s free technique is just about chasing down a recent Internet meme, the Ninja Turtle nose. For a while, way back at the end of 2011, this fun little trick of turning celebrity noses into ninja turtle characters was quite the rage. So Deke decided, rather than risk offending any of his friends, he’d set out to apply this technique to his own proboscis in Photoshop. (Turns out Deke’s nose is perfect for this effect. Destiny!)

Example of Photoshop "Ninja Turtle nose" effect

But, as mentioned, this technique isn’t just about learning how to create a specific effect that’s undoubtedly soon to be replaced by something that has something to do with cats. Deke’s technique for making this effect will take you way beyond the next great Internet amusement. By picking a color from his portrait to colorize the turtle outline, using some layer effects to “bleed” the outline into his skin, and then applying the appropriate adjustments and blend modes to the color fill, Deke actually reveals some key concepts that could be used for any digital tattoo effect. He also walks you through the simple but vitally useful step of adding to your polygonal lasso selections on the fly. And, of course, you get to learn all of this while listening to Deke—with all gravity, expertise, and sincerity—draw a cartoon turtle on his own nose. A lovely combination of the useful and the ridiculous.

And for meme-loving members of, Deke’s got a couple of exclusive videos, one called Putting a tongue on a duck, and another called Mapping a dog face onto a duck that plays with an effect you’ll never be able to un-see once someone has pointed it out to you—the fact that ducks wear dog masks:

Mapping a dog face onto a duck with Photoshop

So meme your creative memes this week, and Deke will be back next week with another free technique.

Interested in more?
• The entire Deke’s Techniques collection on
• Courses by Deke McClelland on
• All Photoshop courses on

Suggested courses to watch next:
• Photoshop for Designers: Layer Effects
Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Mastery
• Photoshop for Designers: Layer Effects
• Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Advanced Blending
Infographics: Area Bubbles

All about Branden Hall, interactive architect and digital maker

Published by | Monday, March 5th, 2012

This week we celebrated the release of a new series entitled Branden Hall: Interactive Architect and Digital Maker. The series features an in-depth interview that co-founder Lynda Weinman conducted with Branden last year, along with a tour of some of Branden’s most interesting work.

So who is Branden Hall, and why did we think it was important to talk with him?

     • Branden has been associated with for a long time, having been a featured speaker at many of the early Flash Forward conferences. This photo is from the 2004 conference in San Francisco. Notice the exciting technological advance that Branden was describing: the transition from ActionScript 1 to ActionScript 2!

     • Branden has long been a thought leader in the use of digital technologies, including, and perhaps especially, Flash. Along with some other young developers and designers, he was responsible for exploring what Flash was able to do in its early years, beyond even what Macromedia originally envisioned.

     • Along with Joshua Davis, he was one of the guys who gave IBM’s Watson the animated “face” that “he” uses to celebrate “his” defeat of human Jeopardy! opponents. When Watson’s face moves and changes, it’s because of the team of programmers and designers who made it do that.

     • As the web has evolved, Branden’s work has evolved with it. His Endless Mural project shows how combining the web with new technologies like HTML5 can create crowd-sourced art collections that are available to all.

Over the years, Branden has led the way in showing how technologies like Flash and HTML5 can be used in innovative and exciting ways. In this mini-documentary, Branden gets to tell us a bit about how he comes to his ideas and how they’re realized. I could go on and tell you more, but this video series lets Branden tell you about it himself. We hope you enjoy it.


Interested in more?
• The full Branden Hall: Interactive Architect and Digital Maker segment
• All developer courses on

Suggested courses to watch next:
Flash Professional CS5 Essential Training
Building Mobile Apps for Multiple Devices with Flash Professional
HTML5 First Look
HTML5: Messaging and Communications in Depth
Big Spaceship, Digital Creative Agency

Character rigging in Maya

Published by | Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Animating characters in Maya can be a lot of fun. Fighting with a difficult character rig, however, can sap the joy out of animating. Character Rigging in Maya is a course designed to help you create character rigs that are both robust and easy to animate.

A deeper, more technical update to the Maya 8.5 Character Rigging course, Character Rigging in Maya covers the basics of Maya’s rigging tools, then goes deep into how these tools are used to create a complete character rig, including skeletons, forward and inverse kinematics switches, and the skinning of characters to skeletons.

Some of the more technical topics covered include expressions and scripts that help automate the rig and make it easier to animate, and the process of creating an advanced facial rig that shows a variety of ways to create sophisticated controls to manage complex facial expressions (which I find particularly useful.)

If you’ve seen the Character Animation Fundamentals with Maya course on, you may notice Character Rigging in Maya creates its rig with the same character used in the animation course. It’s not the same old character, though—we’ve have thrown in a few updates to the rig to make the character rigging techniques even more interesting.

We’re very committed to character animation here at, so if you’re into animation, stay tuned for more character courses in the coming months.


Interested in more?
• All Maya courses on
• All 3D + animation courses on
• All by George-Maestri on

Suggested courses to watch next:
Maya 2011 Essential Training
Maya 2011: Modeling a Character
Character Animation Fundamentals with Maya
Game Character Creation in Maya