Archive for May, 2012

InDesign FX: Creating spotlight effects

Published by | Thursday, May 31st, 2012

In this week’s InDesign FX video, I demonstrate how to create an effect that looks like a spotlight (or a flashlight) shining on the page.

Spotlight effect created with InDesign.

Example of a green spotlight (or a flashlight) effect.

You can use this effect to establish a dramatic mood, to draw attention to a particular element of your design, or to make something look sneaky and suspicious, like it’s lurking in the shadows.

For example, take our currently not-so-sneaky-looking cat burglar here.

Catburglar against brick wall.

He can’t really burgle properly out in the open. He needs to do his work in the shadows.

To accomplish this effect, start by creating a radial gradient that goes from white to black.

Creating a radial gradient that goes from white to black in InDesign.

Then apply that gradient to fill a rectangle covering the burglar photo.

Gradient applied to fill a rectangle in InDesign.

Next, change the blending mode from Normal to Multiply, and you instantly get a spotlight effect.

Spotlight effect created in InDesign.

For variations on the effect, you can adjust the colors and locations in the gradient stops, or try experimenting with different blending modes. Applying Hard Light from the Effects panel will lighten the background image where the gradient is lighter than 50% black.

Color Burn can also create interesting effects by saturating and darkening colors.

Adding Color Burn in InDesign to create spot light effects.

For members, I also have another new member-exclusive video this week in the library called Backlighting an Object. In that video, I show you how to make text and objects look like they’re completely lit from behind. It’s basically the opposite of the spotlight effect, but no less dramatic.

Backlight effect created 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 Secrets
• InDesign CS6 Essential Training
• InDesign CS6 New Features
 Deke’s Techniques


Registration for new webinar, Stop training. Start learning, now open

Published by | Thursday, May 31st, 2012

On June 5, 2012, at 11:00am PDT, will be hosting a free webinar that challenges the status quo of standardized training, and discusses the benefits of individualized online learning. Lead by’s director of learning and development, Jon Robertson, the webinar aims to show organization leaders how to help inspire their teammates to genuinely want to learn.

Topics covered in the webinar include:

  •     • An examination of the reasons many online learning implementations fail
  •     • An analysis of how technology is changing the way we learn, and
  •     • Discussion of how people learn, and why it’s important that your team stops training, and starts learning

If you’re interested in adapting an online learning program for your organization but feel that you could benefit from a greater understanding of how to approach education, please join us on June 5th to learn more about the education evolution currently transforming academia and how it applies to you, and the professional world.

Register for the webinar


This week’s featured five: Going mobile! From using your device, to developing applicatons

Published by | Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

It’s no secret that computer engagement is going mobile, with access via mobile devices predicted to surpass desktop computers in the next two years. So for this week’s collection of featured videos, I’ve chosen five free movies that focus on the theme of mobility, whether it be creating a WordPress site that behaves properly on mobile devices, learning to use your mobile phone or tablet more productively, or learning to develop your own mobile applications.


1. Customizing WordPress for smartphones and tablets
In this video from chapter nine of the WordPress Essential Training course, Morten Rand-Hendrickson shows you how to use built-in responsive themes and useful plug-ins to ensure that your content is presented in a usable form, regardless of screen size. The main takeaway? With a bit of appropriate planning, you can greatly improve your overall user experience by saving your viewers from the pain of having to zoom or scroll to view your carefully constructed content.


2. Accessing Evernote on a mobile device
Evernote is a great application for organizing and accessing your electronic notes, links, and other bits of critical information. (Admission: I use Evernote to collect interesting free movies from the library that I want to use in my featured five blog posts.) In this movie from chapter one of Up and Running with Evernote for Mac, David Rivers shows you how to get Evernote set up so that you can add notes via your mobile device. If you’re primarily working in a Windows environment, there’s an analogous movie in chapter one of David’s Up and Running with Evernote for Windows course, as well.


3. Using the iPhone and iPod Touch Maps app
Admittedly, using the iPhone (or iPod Touch) Maps application is a fairly straightforward proposition, but in this excerpt from chapter nine of iPhone and iPod touch iOS 5 Essential Training, Garrick Chow shares some insights into using the compass feature that I always found confusing. Not only can the Maps app help you discover what is around you, and how to get there, it can also help you orient yourself by showing you which direction you are facing in your current location. After all, it’s always good to start out heading in the right direction!


4. Identifying the four pillars of iOS development
For the developer types who have already figured out how to use their mobile devices, going mobile is more about focusing on the creation of mobile applications. As with any metaphorical or physical journey, it’s always good to have a scope of where you will start, where you will end, and how you will get there. In this excerpt from chapter one of iOS SDK Essential Training (2012), Simon Allardice shows you how to approach your iPhone application development, and elaborates on why tools, language, design, and process are the four pillars—or, the four important areas of content—that you need to have all together in order to build the applications that you want to make.


5. Exploring the mobile site
Finally, a collection of mobile tutorials wouldn’t be complete without a look at how you can take the library with you wherever you go via your own mobile device. In this movie from chapter one of the How to Use course, Garrick Chow demonstrates the features and functionality of our new mobile site, so you can get to learning wherever you are:


We’d love to know more about how you are using your mobile devices, and how mobile technology is changing the way you work, and play. Which activities have gone mobile in your computing life? Are there some jobs that still feel best done at your desk? Tell us a little about your relationship with your mobile devices in the comments section below.


Deke’s Techniques: Retouching photos to improve skin surface in Photoshop

Published by | Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

This week’s free Deke’s Techniques tutorial demonstrates a classic skin-surface retouch that keeps important elements like the mouth, eyes, and other character-defining detail intact. By judiciously applying a Smart Filter blur to the skin areas that need retouching, then masking the key defining features, you can ensure your model remains authentic looking and “recognizable by her own mother” (which is one of my favorite retouching guidelines from noted Photoshop diva Katrin Eismann).

To start the retouching project, Deke begins by selecting the skin with a new feature of the Color Range command in Photoshop CS6 that allows you to automatically select skin tones. Next, you’ll deselect the eyes, mouth, and other key areas that shouldn’t be included before applying the Gaussian Blur filter. This technique doesn’t rely on exact selections, so you’ll see how Deke uses the Polygonal Lasso to select major areas of the face that should be masked from the blur. After scaling back the blur opacity to realistic levels (we all have pores, after all), you can add back in areas around the nose and eyes that add character.

Here is the before image (left) and the retouched smooth-skin version, with all the things that make a face a face still intact (right):

Photoshop portrait retouching side by side.

To finish the effect you see above in the final image, members of should watch Deke’s member-exclusive video that shows you how to add vibrancy back to naturally discolored teeth without making them artificially white.

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

InDesign Secrets: Uncovering hidden running headers and page numbers

Published by | Thursday, May 24th, 2012

In this week’s free InDesign Secrets episode, David Blatner considers the annoying mystery of covered-up master page items, like headers, footers, and page numbers. Sometimes, although you may have used a master page to apply these items to every page, there are occasions when your headers, footers, and page numbers may get stuck behind a particular graphic or text frame on random pages within your document. In these cases, even when you try to send the obscuring object to the back (via the Arrange command), your running header or page number is still mysteriously hidden, probably because it’s on a layer that’s lower in the stack than the one that houses the offending item.

The answer, as David reveals in the video below, is to place these items on a new layer that sits above everything else. It’s relatively easy to grab master page items (running headers, folio information, logos you want on every page, etc.) and move them to the topmost layer where nothing can bother them. I have to admit that, while my own Photoshop files are full of layers to the point of possible obsession, I often forget to use and/or troubleshoot layers when I’m working in InDesign. David’s tip is a good reminder of how productive a little layer troubleshooting can be. It’s easy to think of folios as the bottom of the z-axis, or the canvas on which your individual pages are created, but it helps to break outside that thinking.

Note: If you’re a member of and you’re unsure about how to get started creating your first master page items, David offers some foundational training on how to use master pages and insert a running header that changes throughout your document in the Creating and applying master pages movie from chapter four of his InDesign CS6 Essential Training course. While this particular movie shows you how to work with master pages in InDesign CS6, the information also applies to earlier versions of InDesign as well. If you’re using an earlier version of InDesign and you want to be sure you’re seeing your own version of the interface in the movie, you can also find this movie in David’s earlier CS5, CS4, and CS3 InDesign Essential Training courses.

Meanwhile, David’s partner in InDesign secrecy, Anne-Marie Concepcion, has a new exclusive InDesign Secrets movie for members this week that discusses five tricks for impressing your coworkers with your mastery of InDesign guides. As a freebie tip—don’t forget, guides can also be applied to master pages to achieve convenient, consistent alignment across all of your document pages. It’s all about synergy in secrecy this week!

Anne-Marie and David will be back in two weeks with two more InDesign secrets.


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

Suggested courses to watch next:
• InDesign CS6 New Features
 InDesign CS6 Essential Training
• Creating Long Documents with InDesign

Deke’s Techniques: Inverting facial features in Photoshop

Published by | Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

When I first watched this week’s free Deke’s Techniques video, I was mesmerized by the way Deke inverted a portrait but left the eyes and mouth in the right-side up position. ‘Mesmerized’ might be a euphemism, because, really, I was sort of spellbound by the fact that I couldn’t immediately imagine why anyone would want to perpetrate this bizarre effect. Check it out for yourself in the free video tutorial below, then read on.

Arguably, at first, the inverted portrait on the right looks almost normal, even though we know in our human hearts (and eyes, and optical information processing centers) that something is wrong:

Photoshop effect: Inverting facial features in Photoshop.

But when you flip the entire composition, you realize just how wrong the altered face (now on the left, in case it’s not disturbingly obvious) actually is:

Photoshop effect: Inverting facial features in Photoshop image 2.

The truth is, that this is a great demonstration of how our eyes and expectations force us into reconciling a confusingly hard to pin down, altered portrait. More importantly, in the process of flipping the model while restoring the eyes and mouth to their original orientation, you can learn a great deal about creating impeccable Photoshop compositions, including how to tackle duplicated transformations, careful masking, and selective healing. You can also, should you choose, learn to create a flipped portrait that is truly unsettling.

In the end we have a portrait that’s more disturbing than it initially seems, and a technique that’s more grounded in solid Photoshop practices than one might initially suspect—ultimately, it’s a party trick that teaches solid Photoshop machinations.

Deke will be back next week with a more standard portrait retouching technique that will reorient your mind (and skin) back into place.


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

Suggested courses to watch next:
• Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals
• Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Fundamentals
 Photoshop CS6 Essential Training

This week’s Featured Five: Training beyond the tools

Published by | Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

The content team at strives to create courses that continuously help you learn the key technological tools that you need to get your job done, and we certainly aim to make sure you have the best and most up-to-date information on how to use your tools of choice, from Aperture to ZBrush. Over the last several months, we’ve also been working to include more big-picture training that focuses on best practices, core concepts, and widely applicable skills that aim to help everyone, including those who may already be more well-versed in tools and techniques, take their work and skill-set to the next level.

For this week’s collection of featured free movies, I’ve picked a few tutorials that demonstrate this kind of conceptual, ‘beyond the tools’ approach. Although some of these video examples live within courses that are centered around a particular application, don’t be distracted, or deterred, by the application context—these videos all aim to give you foundational information that will prepare you to work thoughtfully before you ever touch the keyboard, and will stay with you long after you’ve stepped away from your computer.

What sorts of larger, more conceptual skills are you looking to develop? If you have suggestions or ideas about ‘beyond the tools’ training you’d like to see, please share them in the comments section below.

1. Finding and capturing a good photo
In this excerpt from our Foundations of Photography: Composition course, Ben Long shares his thoughts on where to find good photos. You’ll find that the answer, if your mind and eyes are open, might be ‘anywhere.’


2. Understanding color as a signifier
In this movie from chapter one of the Photoshop for Designers: Color course, Nigel French takes a birds-eye-view approach to discuss the significance, meaning, and changeability of different colors, including discussion of the connotation of colors, and how there is no such thing as an absolute color. Before you think about how to apply color to your design in Photoshop, you may take some time to consider why a particular color is right for your message.


3. Refining a concept
In this excerpt from Digital Creature Creation in ZBrush, Photoshop, and Maya, Ryan Kittleson shares his practical advice for sketching and experimenting with sketches to make even the most whimsical of creatures. In this video you’ll see how Ryan approaches his doodling process, why he recommends creating lots of types of creatures to give yourself a variety of options, and what character analysis questions he asks himself to get to just the right design for a project, long before he ever launches an application.


4. Focusing and working to make yourself irreplaceable
You might be the office wizz with Photoshop, Word, or Excel, but are you spending your time working on the activities that make you valuable? In this excerpt from Dave Crenshaw‘s Invaluable course, Invaluable: Making Yourself Irreplaceable, you’ll get an introduction to Dave’s system for identifying how best to employ your time and energy at work.


5. Web form structure, and considerations taken when designing
In this excerpt from Luke Wroblewski‘s Web Form Design Best Practices course, you’ll get some big-picture advice on how to think about your web form’s structure, and what considerations you should keep in mind when designing forms for the web. In this video, Luke discusses the fundamentals of sequential, non-linear, and in-context forms, and why you might choose one over the other:


In this blog we talk about color, recognizing photography opportunities, the conceptual sketching process, web form design, and how to make yourself an invaluable asset to your team. These core concepts are just the tip of the iceberg—what sorts of larger, more conceptual skills are you looking to develop? If you have suggestions or ideas about ‘beyond the tools’ training you’d like to see, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

How to use the Pitch tool in Melodyne to tune a vocal

Published by | Monday, May 21st, 2012

Artists use Melodyne for corrective or creative pitch adjustments in nearly every genre of music. When using Melodyne for pitch correction, you may not hear the effect. However, when using Melodyne creatively, the idea is to hear the effect. Regardless of the application, the Pitch tool and its related subtools are often the tools of choice to create pitch alterations in Melodyne.