Archive for July, 2012

Deke’s Techniques: Hand-coloring artwork in Photoshop

Published by | Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

In this week’s Deke’s Techniques, Deke will show you a range of tips and tricks for coloring a line drawing in Photoshop. Although filling in black outlines on a white background seems like a fairly straightforward task at first glance, there are a lot of ways to inadvertently spill your colors outside their designated areas. Even in a simple drawing like this one, you can see there are lots of nooks and crannies to deal with:

Line drawing created in Photoshop.

The key to keeping everything in place is leveraging the myriad powers of Photoshop layers. In fact, using layers often means you can color way outside the lines and let a layer higher in the stack fix your ‘mistakes.’

The first step is to separate out the black lines from the white background, so that you can paint on the layers in between. The cleanest, most efficient way to do this is to use the image to select itself via the Channels panel. Command-clicking (or Ctrl-clicking in Windows) the RGB channel automatically selects all the white areas, then inverting the selection gives you a selection of clean black lines.

(For more on using Channels to make clean, efficient selections in Photoshop, members should also check out Chapter two of Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Fundamentals.)

Once you move the black lines onto their own layer, you can then delete them from the background leaving a clean white backdrop and room to paint new colors on layers in between.

The topmost of these layers is a ‘sky’ layer, filled with blue via the Paintbucket, that ends up being a cover for other roughly colored areas of the image.

To see what I mean, here are the small areas of the image colored in roughly using a combination of the Marquee and Lasso tools, the Fill command, the Paintbrush, the Paintbucket, and the Fill Behind feature with the sky layer turned off:

A Photoshop line drawing colored in with big blocks of color.

And here’s the final image with the blue sky layer restored:

Hand-colored image colored in Photoshop.

As you can see, once the sky layer is restored, since it resides at the top of your Layers panel—on top of your other color fills, but under your black lines—it covers up all the overfilled areas and leaves a cleanly hand-colored image.

For members of, Deke also has another technique in the library this week called Creating a custom wave pattern in which he shows you how to fill the sky in this image with a wavy, askew pattern:

Hand-drawn Photoshop image with wavy pattern in the background.

See you back here next week when Deke returns with another twist on this high-tech coloring book project.

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 CS6: New Features
 Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Fundamentals

InDesign FX: Creating a peeling sticker effect

Published by | Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Little things mean a lot. It’s true in many aspects of life and it’s also true when it comes to creating great graphic effects. This week’s InDesign FX tutorial, Making Peeling Stickers, is another great example of how several small details can add up to a big impact.

Peeling sticker effect created in InDesign.

The effect starts out with a simple circle, which is transformed into the peeling sticker by the addition of several key details.

The first of these details is literally small: a tiny drop shadow, placed directly behind the circle to simulate a paper-thin material.

Tiny InDesign drop-shadow placed under a shape to make the shape appear dimensional.

The second key detail is creating an object that makes it look like part of the circle has been peeled up and curled over. In the video, I show how to use the somewhat obscure Scissors tool to create this object. Many users may not be aware that InDesign even has a Scissors tool, but this often overlooked tool can be very handy for creating the kinds of shapes needed for cool effects.

Using the InDesign Scissors tool and Swatches panel to create a peeling sticker effect.

A subtle gradient fill applied at the correct angle makes the backside piece seem curled.

Adding a subtle gradient fill in InDesign to create the illusion of a peeled sticker corner.

Then for the ultimate finishing touch, I make the appearance of some sticky glue residue left behind where the sticker peeled off. For this, all you need is a white-filled copy of the original circle, reduced in opacity.

Using InDesign to create the illusion of a glue residue with a white-filled copy of the original circle, reduced in opacity.

The point here isn’t so much the technique. It’s the idea that taking the time to think things through, and come up with that one extra key detail from real life, is what makes for a great effect. Viewers may not notice it consciously, but that’s the point. Details like the glue residue aren’t there to draw attention to themselves—they’re there to contribute to the overall effect and make it something remarkable.

For members, I also have another new member-exclusive video this week in the library called Tips for Text Stroke Effects. In InDesign you can stroke live text, but the only type of stroke you can apply is a single solid stroke—you can’t apply anything fancier like dashed, dotted, hashed, wavy, or striped strokes to live text. In the Tips for Text Stroke Effects video, I show how to get around this limitation and open up all kinds of possibilities for fun text stroke effects.

Multi-colored InDesign dotted-line text stroke effect on black background.

InDesign scribble-style text stroke effect on chalkboard background.

InDesign thread-style text stroke that looks like sewing on fabric.

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

Tips for getting your kids interested in programming

Published by | Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

It’s summer! It’s July! Your son or daughter has been decompressing from school for nearly a month, and now they’re bored, feisty, and looking for something new. Resourceful parents dig deep into their bag of tricks for something—anything—to keep the son/daughter from bugging their brother/sister. I, personally, like to think of this boredom as a window of opportunity to convert non-productive screen time into a learning experience, or, more specifically, a window of opportunity to spark an interest that may lead young minds toward wanting to know more about the skill of programming.

Young boy typing on keyboard with red computer.

Sure, in the big picture, summer is all about getting outside, playing ball at the park, swimming in the pool, and, more or less, finding new and inventive ways of getting into trouble. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not advocating taking up residence on the couch. What I am suggesting is that along with that physical activity, summer is also a great time to stretch minds.

Programming is a real-world tool that provides context for structured problem-solving, math concepts, and improved study habits. That being said, of course no red-blooded kid is going to willingly dive into something as “boring” as programming. Seriously—video games are a much more amusing way to consume screen time than staring at a bunch of cryptic incantations written in some useless programming language. Are you kidding? Learn programming? Learn ANYTHING? I know kids that would rather cut the lawn than get stuck behind a textbook.

If your kid is the “I’d rather mow the lawn” type, here’s a thought—tell your kid they could amuse and amaze their friends by building their own video game. It’s entirely possible that they may end up creating something like Angry Birds or Farmville.

Image of Angry Birds App in Facebook, used as an example of Facebook gamification.

While your son or daughter's first programming initiative may not be as exciting as Angry Birds, practice makes perfect and the creation of basic Facebook games is a great gateway into the world of programming.

Facebook is a great platform to introduce  programmingahem—writing games. Facebook programming can be done with JavaScript—an extremely useful language to know— and Facebook games can be created for free. Plus, Facebook is something “the kid” will already know about. You’ll just need to supply server access (something Ray Villalobos walks you through in Building Facebook Applications with HTML and JavaScript.)

How to get your kids started

Getting your kids started may end up being the hardest part of this initiative. You’ll need to use your parenting super-powers of persuasion to introduce the idea and fire up their enthusiasm. This should be far easier than convincing them to floss their teeth, but there may still be some resistance. Back in my parenting days, I found it easiest to have this sort of conversation over an ice-cream cone.

“Hey,” I would say, using my nonchalant voice. “I was just reading about Facebook games. Have you heard anything about them?”

My kids would respond positively. Possibly launch off into an enthusiastic dissertation about their latest engagement with cows, birds, or jewels.

“I heard it’s not too difficult to create them yourself,” I would say. “If you’re interested, I think I could dig up some instructions and you could build one. What kind of game would you build?”

…and we’re off to the races.

Of course, this means that you—the parent—also need to follow up and help them get un-stuck at times. I recommend sitting down with them to watch the introduction to Ray’s Building Facebook Applications with HTML and JavaScript course together. Maybe start by building your own game with them so that you develop some empathy. I’d also recommend that you let them build a game on their own, as it can be entirely too easy for a parent to take over the project, leaving the kid on the sidelines. There’s great benefit in letting them control their own destiny, and make their own mistakes. Besides, you’ll be amazed at how fast they pick this stuff up and learn things you probably overlooked.

What to expect, and why it’s ok if their first initiative isn’t epic

To be honest, the first game is going to be pretty simplistic and much less sophisticated than what a wild imagination might hope for. Remember to reassure your kids and remind them that it’s just their first game, and it doesn’t mean they won’t ever write the epic game they envision. To assist your son or daughter’s first attempt, you might want to use some of the sample JavaScript source code for games you’ll find by googling “simple javascript games.” If you use one of those programs, be sure to remember to credit the original author.

Once your son or daughter makes it over the hurdle of the first game, you’ll find their desire to learn more about JavaScript will naturally feed itself. To aid you in your next steps, the training library has a slew of programming courses, ranging from fundamentals of programming all the way to five hours of in-depth JavaScript training.

Don’t be fooled, though—the training videos in the library are only tools to help you encourage your kids to be life-long learners. In the end, you’re the parent with secret ninja skills of persuasion and encouragement. We’re only here to be your trusty sidekick.

If you have kid programming stories, or tips to share with other parents, we’d love to hear your thoughts! Please leave a comment and let us know your story, and keep us updated as you and your son or daughter progress.


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

Suggested courses to watch next:
• Building Facebook Applications with HTML and JavaScript
• JavaScript Essential Training (2011)
 Practical and Effective JavaScript
• Foundations of Programming: Fundamentals

Featured five: Video training for administrative professionals and more

Published by | Saturday, July 21st, 2012

For this edition of featured five free videos, I’ve chosen five sample movies from courses in our Business segment, all geared toward the needs of the administrative professional. This weekend a group of those amazing folk who keep business running and thriving is gathering in Texas for their Education Forum and Annual Meeting. The theme of the conference is focused more than ever on education and training, and our Business segment has some excellent follow-up accompaniment to those sessions. (Of course, solid training in business-related topics doesn’t just pertain to administrative pros!)

One of our most popular authors for Business tools training, Gini Courter, will be teaching several sessions at EFAM, and I thought it was a good time to round up some of the excellent training Gini and her fellow Business authors have created.

Viewing the task and to-do lists in Outlook from Outlook 2010: Time Management With Calendar and Tasks

In this video, Gini Courter reviews the difference and view options for Outlook’s Tasks and To-Do lists.  If you’re already using Outlook for email, these are definitely features that allow you to turn email into activity. The course focuses on how to use Outlook 2010 to handle both business and personal schedules, from making appointments, to creating and completing tasks, to color-coding calendars and tasks for at-a-glance review.

Responding to Twitter @mentions from Social Media Marketing with Facebook and Twitter

In this video, our popular Social Media Maven Anne-Marie Concepción explains how you can use the @mention feature on Twitter to hear what people are saying or asking about your company. Social media has become a critical activity for many businesses, and Anne-Marie’s course covers not only the fundamentals of social media marketing, but also the basics of creating a top-level online presence.

Choosing the fonts for your Word document from Word 2010 Essential Training

For any business document, the recipients gets their first impression from the way you choose to format your words, particularly which font you choose. In this movie, Gini Courter goes over font formatting in Word documents so you can choose the font that best serves your communication. The course this movie comes from delves into the functionality at the heart of Word: creating, editing, and formatting documents.

Understanding how to hold effective meetings from Effective Meetings

Meetings that feel like a waste of time or a confusing deluge of information are a common occurence. In this movie, Dave Crenshaw discusses the three principles that inform an effective meeting. Dave’s course is focused on establishing a simple, usable framework to get the most from meetings, and provides insight into how to effectively schedule, conduct, and follow up on meetings.

What can you do with InfoPath? from InfoPath 2010 Essential Training

We’ve all had to face forms in our business days that are tedious and complicated to read, let alone fill out correctly. Microsoft InfoPath allows you to develop a clear, beautiful, effective form, so that the information can be gathered and analyzed easily. (And for EFAM attendees, you’ll get an in-depth view from the presenter herself!)

Whether you’re an administrative pro on your way to Texas for EFAM, someone holding down the fort (and holding the fort together) day-to-day, or just a person who wants to thrive in the business environment, the Business segment in our library is dedicated to helping you develop critical skills. Let us know if there are other topics you’d like to see addressed in our library in the future.

Congratulations to our Adobe CS6 Master Collection winner

Published by | Saturday, July 21st, 2012

In June 2012 we offered our Facebook fans a chance to win a copy of the Adobe CS6 Master Collection. Please join us in extending a big congratulations to member Trish S., the lucky Floridian who took home the prize! Adobe CS6 Master Collection giveaway winner with software package.
If you weren’t the lucky winner, fret not! Thirteen Adobe CS6 courses are currently live on, including five Photoshop CS6 courses, and full-length courses covering InDesign, Dreamweaver, After Effects, Illustrator, Flash, and more. To see all 13 CS6 offerings, visit our Adobe CS6 page on


Interested in more?
• All 13 Adobe CS6 courses on
• All five Photoshop CS6 courses on
• All Fireworks CS6 and Premiere Pro CS6 courses on

An introduction to LESS and Sass pre-processed CSS languages

Published by | Friday, July 20th, 2012

Getting started on something new can be challenging, especially when the shear number of competing technologies that do similar things can make it tough to choose which one to give your attention to. One of the hot new trends in web design is CSS pre-processed languages and there’s two big ones vying for your attention—LESS and Sass. LESS and Sass are both ways of writing CSS code with a syntax that allows you to use features not yet available with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), such as variables, nesting, conditionals, and more.

What are pre-processed CSS languages?

Pre-processed CSS languages add features to CSS that aren’t there yet—like variables, conditionals, and functions. They’re called pre-processed, because their final step is a processing, also called compiling, that converts the pre-processed language to regular CSS. In a nutshell, what you use on your site ends up being plain vanilla CSS, but comes as a result of processing the LESS, Sass, or other pre-processed language files you create.

Why use pre-processed CSS at all?

It’s hard enough becoming proficient with CSS, HTML, JavaScript, and jQuery, so if you can do the same thing with CSS, why would you want to submit yourself to learning an additonal language? Whether or not learning LESS or Sass is right for you comes down to whether or not the new languages will make you better, faster, or more efficient. Both LESS and Sass introduce variables into CSS, which I have found to be a very efficient detail that has made learning the new languages worthwhile for me.

For example, when you build a large web site, there’s usually a palette of colors you’re using throughout the site, and you might, for instance, be using one color for your article headlines that you also want to use on your links in the bottom navigation.

Example results of Less and SASS coding.

Example of web site design using the same color for article headlines and bottom navigation links.

Doing that with CSS is pretty easy:

CSS code that alters the color text within a web design.

While that works well, what if you wanted to use that same color in 20 or 30 selectors, or in gradients with a bunch of different browser prefixes? Both Sass and LESS will allow you to create variables which make global changes on elements a breeze. The code for this color application—with the assigned variable @myColor—looks like this in LESS:

LESS CSS pre-processed code that alters web design color. 

And—with the assigned variable $myColor—like this in Sass:

SASS CSS pre-processed code that alters web design color. 

Looks pretty much like CSS, right? Both LESS and Sass let you use the regular CSS code you already know so you really don’t have to learn a whole new way of doing things—just some additional rules. Even if the only thing you get out of pre-processed CSS is the ability to use variables, that alone will save you a lot of time, and it’s technology that saves you time that you need to spend your time investigating.

Using a Compiler application

Unfortunately, when you use pre-processed languages like SASS and LESS, you do need to compile the code into CSS. That can be done in a variety of ways. LESS, for example can be downloaded as a Javascript file that can be added to the project, or as a command-line tool for either your local machine or your server. Sass installation is also a command-line install. They try to make things easier by letting you define which folders should get automatically processed, but I still wouldn’t describe it as a user friendly experience for your average designer (which is why most graphic designers who use CSS have never tried using LESS or Sass).

Thankfully, there are some compiler applications that take care of processing files for you, and update things visually. My favorite application for compiling pre-processed languages is CodeKit. It handles LESS and Sass really well, and it also lets you process Haml, CoffeeScript, and even JavaScript.

A screenshot of the CodeKit compiler.

The CodeKit compiler.

You can also have CodeKit ‘mini-fy’ all of your files, not just your CSS. That means that it can spit out a different version of your code without comments, tabs, or extra spaces, which will make your files a lot smaller (something I recommend that you be doing regularly anyway).

If you use frameworks like BootStrap or jQuery Mobile, you can import them into your projects through CodeKit from a central location. When a new version of jQuery comes out, you can simply replace one copy and all of your projects will auto-update with the latest copy.

On a PC or Linux machine, things are a bit less rosy. There is a nice LESS compiler called SimpLESS which helps, but it’s not as feature-full as CodeKit.

Get Started

There are many more things you can do with LESS and Sass. If you’ve been on the fence about them, I recommend you give them a shot. Starting simply with variables is easy enough if you are already familiar with CSS, and if you’re like me, you’ll find using variables will make your life immediately easier. Even if you’re into command-line tools, I recommend you take a look at something like CodeKit or SimpLESS.

Should I use LESS or Sass?

Both LESS and Sass are pretty good, especially if you’re just getting started. For me, LESS has a bit of an edge since I’m currently digging into Twitter’s Bootstrap Framework, which makes it a breeze to scaffold and build web sites quickly (it is written in LESS). Sass takes the cake if you’re working with Ruby on Rails projects since it was written in Ruby. Ultimately, which pre-processed language you choose doesn’t really matter since they’re both tools that will make you more efficient, and that’s always worth an investment in time. Pick one and wedge it into the workflow for your next project. It may take you a bit longer to finish, but it will also change the way you code for the better.


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

Suggested courses to watch next:
CSS: Core Concepts
 CSS Fundamentals
 CSS3 First Look
 Managing CSS in Dreamweaver

InDesign Secrets: Setting an exact space between objects or frames

Published by | Thursday, July 19th, 2012

With all the alignment, guideline, gap, and measurement tools in InDesign, you’d think spacing two objects a specific distance—say 1cm—apart would be straightforward. But as David Blatner reveals in this week’s InDesign Secrets, there are some tricks to getting that space exact.

Example photo visualizing two objects spaced 1cm apart.

One option is to use math. InDesign math, that is. In other words, you measure the Y value of the bottom edge of the upper object, then set the top edge of the lower object to that value +1cm. InDesign makes this easy. You can type the math bit directly into the Y value field.

Another option, and one that allows for much more efficiency, is to use a (potentially) hidden part of the Align panel, the Distribute Spacing feature. As David reveals, there’s a numerical field right in the panel where you can tell InDesign how much space you want between two distributed objects.

As a bonus secret, David also shows you how to use the Text Frame Options dialog box to set the edge of one object a specific distance from the baseline of the first line of text in a frame beneath it.

The Baseline setting in the InDesign Text Frame Options dialog box.

The Baseline settings in the Text Frame Options dialog box allow you to set the first baseline of text a specific distance from the top of the frame.

Whew, that’s a lot of secrets in under six minutes!

Meanwhile, David’s partner in InDesign secrecy has an exclusive episode this week for members of on fixing last lines of text that are too short.

David and Anne-Marie will be back in two weeks with more InDesign Secrets!

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

Suggested courses to watch next:
• InDesign CS6 New Features
 InDesign CS6 Essential Training
InDesign CS6: Interactive Documents

Deke’s Techniques special edition: Show us what you’ve learned

Published by | Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Deke’s Techniques has been a ‘living’ course of Photoshop and Illustrator tutorials that has grown over the past year and a half. This week’s Deke’s Techniques not only celebrates the entire collection of well over 100 techniques Deke has created so far, but also challenges you to show us what you’ve learned from them in a home-recorded training video of your own.

Riffing off things he’s shown you in Deke’s Techniques episodes 9557782, and 94, this week’s tutorial shows you how to take past techniques and creatively work them together to transform an ordinary car in a mundane environment, into a ravishing hot rod, complete with posh background and glamorous flame stripes.

To do this, you must think creatively about how Deke’s past masking, composition, and other special effects techniques may be applied to a project other than those demonstrated in the weekly videos, and also about how those new-found nuggets of information could work with one another.

Car with paint, flames, and new background applied in Photoshop.

As an added bonus, there are also five free tweaked techniques available on this week that show you how Deke took the original techniques and adapted them for this mega car transformation project:

–Masking and blackening a car (based on episode 055)
–Drawing a multi-part vector mask (based on episode 082)
–Masking and painting a shadow (based on episode 094)
–Integrating blades of grass into tires (a bonus bonus video!)
–Making a (ridiculously) dramatic sky (based on episode 077)
–Adding flame stripes to a car (based on episode 009)

To help you with the challenge portion of this week’s Deke’s Techniques, we’ve also put together an area on that includes the special techniques listed above, as well as a series of bonus videos on how to record a training video of your own. You’ll need this information because Deke is challenging you this week to do what he has done—combine multiple techniques into one fabulous training video.

Deke’s Techniques: The Challenge is a three-category contest—Photoshop, Illustrator, and “Anything Goes”—so you can use your weapon of choice. In each contest category, you’ll take what you’ve learned, or gleaned, or surmised from three separate Deke’s Techniques tutorials, combine them into one project, and make a training video of your own to explain it.

The complete rulesillustrious judges, and fabulous prizes are all explained at (Hint, there may be a subscription and Adobe CS6 package amongst said fabulous prizes.)

Watch this week’s video to see Deke’s approach, then get to work creating one of your own.

Deke will be back next week with another free technique (which may just be the thing you were looking for to complete your challenge video)!


More Information!
The entire Deke’s Techniques collection
Deke’s Techniques: The Challenge support page at
Contest entry rules and info at