Archive for October, 2012

Deke’s Techniques: How to create a Halloween-worthy headless stranger

Published by | Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

If last week’s Deke’s Techniques episodes on various ways to carve a pumpkin in Adobe Photoshop weren’t enough spooky spirit for you, then you’ll be pleased to discover that this week’s episode shows you how to create a headless stranger who haunts this eerie forest:

background photo of a misty forest

Deke begins with this unsuspecting gentleman whose head is still decidedly intact:

Photo of a person

Using the Calculations command (twice), he isolates his hapless subject in an alpha channel. Then, some devious hand painting and a cruel inversion of the channel result in this mask:

A layer mask of the figure outline

Deke then lops of his model’s head with a clever selection applied to the mask, and methodically reconstructs the stump by cloning the victim’s collar and scarf on a new layer:

The composite photo of the figure without a head

Next, he places his now headless stranger into the misty woods, tormenting his subject further by stretching him vertically with the Transform command:

A headless man in a misty forest scene

Deke then drains his victim of all color with an adjustment layer and dissolves away the legs with a gradient mask:

The stranger in the misty scene and the Layers panel

In his final act of imaginary Photoshop treachery, Deke uses the Save for Web command with the quality set to Low to degrade the picture (since you wouldn’t have a tack-sharp shot if your hand was trembling as you were ran running from a headless man stalking you in the woods!).

The final photo composite of a headless man in the woods

Don’t worry. The good-natured, benevolent Photoshop master Deke will be back with a less spooky technique next week. Happy Halloween!

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 One-on-One: Intermediate
 Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Advanced

An introduction to mic types and how they work

Published by | Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Have you ever wondered how dynamic, ribbon, and condenser mics vary in function, price, and utility? Or how a mic picks up sound, and how that mic’s pickup pattern might affect its placement in the recording process? In this blog post, I will explore these questions offering visual examples from our recently released Audio course, Audio Recording Techniques.

Negotiation: A conversation or a wrestling match?

Published by | Saturday, October 27th, 2012

Still image of two people have a negotiation meeting, taken from a course

If the idea of negotiation makes you cringe, you’re not alone. For many people, negotiation is a loaded proposition. Yet if you were to track your conversations for one day, you’d be surprised to learn how often you’re actually negotiating, that is, having discussions intended to reach an agreement.

In the workplace we often find ourselves angling to be included in special projects, asking for help in meeting a deadline, or trying to convince our manager to let us telecommute one day a week. In our families, we negotiate with our children over peanut butter or baloney sandwiches, with our spouses over Hawaii or San Francisco as possible vacation venues, or with our parents about who will host the winter holiday family gatherings.

Social scientists who study negotiation tell us about that half the population thinks the negotiation process is as enjoyable as a root canal, while the other half experiences it more like a sporting event. But no matter where we land, negotiation is simply a conversation with innumerable subjects and a single end: agreement.

What we don’t like about the idea of negotiation is the moment of impasse that happens when we disagree. We don’t like the smell of conflict, and having to steel ourselves to solve a problem or get what we want. Think used car salesman, a micromanaging boss, an office mate who eats lunch at your desk, or the perennial favorite, asking for a raise.

Getting comfortable in negotiation requires two things: learning the vocabulary of the strategies and tactics you’re already employing every day, and consciously practicing them to achieve your goals.

In my course Negotiation Fundamentals, I teach interest-based, mutual benefit negotiation. In response to member requests for a live-action role-playing scenario that illustrates negotiation techniques, I have also added a new video that demonstrates the conversational quality of negotiation, and highlights the collaborative strategies and tactics used along the way. This video is available to both members and nonmembers, so I encourage you to watch it and share your thoughts in the comment box below.


Interested in more?
• All business courses on
• All courses by Lisa Gates

Suggested courses to watch next:
• Managing your Career
• Time Management Fundamentals

• LinkedIn Essential Training
 SEO Fundamentals

What is Windows 8 going to change?

Published by | Friday, October 26th, 2012

The user interface for Windows 8 blurs the line between tablet, desktop, and smartphone. That’s a good thing.

The Microsoft Build conference starts October 30. For a week developers will be exposed to the latest Windows technologies, analysts will write megabytes of blogs, pundits will tweet reactions both pro and con, and the way we experience computers will change in dramatic and obvious ways.

The new Windows 8 interface

For developers and users alike, the Windows 8 interface is an in-your-face change. No longer based around overlapping windows and desktops, information and applications are now presented as colored tiles. It is possible to slip back into the traditional Windows interface where each running application is visually separated with windows that can be dragged on top of each other, hidden, and closed; but most of the time the new Windows looks, and functions, very much like a well-designed webpage.

Opinions are harsh. Windows traditionalists miss familiar icons such as the Start menu, Control Panel, File Explorer, and Close button, and are finding the years they spent deciphering the nuances of utilities to now be irrelevant and useless. Worse, users stumble into the traditional Windows interface, but have no idea how to return to the new tiled interface, and developers find creating applications now requires new ways of programming, use of new interfaces, and new ways of thinking about interacting with users. What was Microsoft thinking?

DOS to Windows, windows to tiles, desktop to phone
In 2011, computer vendors shipped more smartphones than desktop computers further supporting the idea that handheld devices—such as smartphones and tablets—are pushing desktop and laptop computers into obsolescence. Apple and Android are battling for first place, with Microsoft scrambling for a piece of the action. Dell, the king of laptop manufacturers, has lost almost half of its value in eight months. The future is painfully clear, and it looks like a handheld device, or smaller.

Microsoft correctly reasons that making improvements to an interface that depends on a keyboard and mouse is corporate suicide, but what about our former Windows Vista user futilely searching for the Windows Start button? Is there nothing to be done for them?

Short answer: The pain is only temporary.

Long answer: We’ve done this before. New interfaces, like apps or tiles, are simply normal innovation. They’re disruptive, sometimes annoying, and the first iteration is often clumsy, but the process is normal, expected, and necessary. is working on a collection of classes for developers and users of Windows 8. In the early part of 2013, you can expect to see courses that show how to get started with the Windows 8 developer tools, as well as more in-depth training intended to assist with advanced developer questions.

Nobody on Star Trek uses a mouse
Science fiction explores a possible future, and most science fiction computers don’t use keyboards or mice; they use gestures and voice recognition. Our grandchildren will think our computers are quaint.

Personally, I have enough years under my belt to remember the jump from CPM, to DOS, to Windows 3, and the jump from my beloved Apple IIe to Macintosh OS X. Each was a move away from a known paradigm to something better. Everything changed for the traditionalists invested in the existing technology, and boy, did they complain.

But the number of people using the new tools soon outweighed the traditionalists. New users with curiosity about how the system does work, rather than assumptions about how the system should work took over.

Here’s to a lifetime of learning!


Interested in more?
• The full Windows 8 Preview First Look course on
• All operating systems courses on

Suggested courses to watch next:
 Windows 8 Metro App First Look

• Windows 7 Essential Training
 Migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7

InDesign Secrets: Embedding your images so they don’t go missing

Published by | Thursday, October 25th, 2012

In this week’s InDesign Secrets episode, Anne-Marie Concepción addresses the dreaded lost image phenomenon, which occurs when Adobe InDesign can’t find your linked images and lets you know with glaring red question marks (circled in pink below to make them extra glaring):

InDesign document with lost link red question marks circled

The presence of glaring red question marks in your actual layout (and not just your Links panel) is courtesy of InDesign CS6, but the lost images phenomenon is familiar to users of earlier versions of InDesign as well.

Anne-Marie’s solution is simple: embed your images. That way they can’t get lost if you move the image folder or send the document off to a client without a separate file full of graphics. An embedded Photoshop file even retains its layers.

The first step is to find the original image and relink it (you’ll have to solve that challenge on your own). Then right-click on the image in the Links panel and choose Embed Link:

Adobe InDesign Links panel with the Embed Link option selected

Your image is now permanently part of your file.

As easy as this is, you should be aware of two potential disadvantages to embedding your file. First, when you embed your images you no longer have the benefit of automatically updating links, but if your graphic is stable and not going to change (like a logo), then it’s really not a an issue. Second, embedding images makes your InDesign file significantly larger. But as Anne-Marie notes, it’s not 1993, and while you may not want to embed hundreds of images, the increased file size you’ll see from embedding a handful of images for an in-house document is not the obstacle it used to be.

One other note: you can’t embed a video file or another InDesign file.

What I find particularly fascinating is if you embed a graphic file within your InDesign document, the encompassing InDesign file behaves in some ways like a zipped archive. If you wish to unembed the graphic later, you can create a new “original” right from InDesign. For certain scenarios, this is an elegantly simple solution to the lost image syndrome.

Anne-Marie’s partner in InDesign secrecy, David Blatner, has a member-exclusive video in our library this week called Adjusting leading inside a paragraph, in which he explores customizing InDesign stroke styles.

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


Interested in more?
• The entire InDesign Secrets biweekly 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 FX


Deke’s Techniques: Carving a pumpkin in Photoshop

Published by | Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques video, Deke celebrates his favorite holiday by showing you how to carve a ghoulish but gorgeous graphic into the face of a pumpkin using Adobe Photoshop.

First, start with an image of an otherwise unsuspecting pumpkin:

Original photo of a girl holding a pumpkin

Next, draw the face you want carved into your pumpkin on a transparent background. For this evil grin, Deke used a Wacom tablet and his own vivid imagination:

A scary face in Photoshop, drawn with a Wacom tablet

With the face drawn, Deke adds the face to the original photo using the Transform command to get it to the size and angle he’s looking for:

The scary face positioned onto the pumpkin in the original photo

A mask, created with the Color Range command and some hand-crafted detail, removes parts of the face that have spilled off the pumpkin onto the girl’s arm:

The composited photo modified with a mask

A variety of layer effects—a drop shadow, color overlay, and outer glow—along with an application of the Median filter, digitally carve the face into the pumpkin flesh.

The composited photo with a variety of layer effects in the Layer Panel

The final touches are added by duplicating the mouth of the face, coloring the teeth white, and giving the teeth some transparency by changing the blend mode in the Layer Style dialog box.

The final composite of a girl holding the now-carved pumpkin

For members, Deke also has another exclusive Halloween video this week called Simulating a glowing jack-o’-lantern, in which he shows you how to create a classic glowing-eyed jack-o’-lantern effect, starting with the a fresh, faceless pumpkin image.


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 One-on-One: Intermediate
 Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Advanced

Lessons learned from organizing a local BarCamp event

Published by | Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Photo of Downtownd Deland

A few months ago I decided to organize a local BarCamp in the Deland, FL area. It’s a small town with an old fashioned downtown district between Orlando and Daytona Beach. As the event came and went in early October 2012, we saw 163 registered people attend and over 20 speakers present. For a small town in Florida, it was a very successful first event.

If you’ve never been to a BarCamp, it is a fun and informal gathering of tech-minded people. Attendees are encouraged to present or help out in organizing the conference. I had never organized an event before, so I learned a lot from the experience. In this article, I share some of the lessons I learned, including a few of the online tools and choices I made when creating the website and mobile app for BarCamp Deland.

Lesson one: Asking for volunteer support

Putting together a tech event involves a lot more than can be handled by one person, so my first step was to gauge interest and potentially recruit some local volunteers to help coordinate the event. I casually brought the event up in conversation with people who I knew would be great speakers, helpers, and organizers, and who had the experience, resources, and access to others that could make or break the event.
If some of these people were in my corner, I felt it would be much easier to get things done.

When asking for support, it helps to have a direct way to reach your event volunteers. Facebook was one way that worked surprisingly better than email for me. Your Facebook community usually consists of close friends and family, it provides a quick list of your immediate contacts, and people tend to respond quicker to Facebook Direct Messages than email. Facebook is also a helpful promotional tool as your event volunteers can help spread the word by sharing and liking the event on their personal Facebook pages.

Lesson two: Asking for sponsorship support

Since I had no prior event planning experience, I talked to some of my friends who had put together tech events in the past and asked for advice on how to organize sponsorships. There’s nothing like experience to show you how to do something, and these people gave me some amazing tips and contacts.

When asked about sponsorship, Jose Caballer from This Week in Web Design suggested I target potential sponsors who I had reasonable access to, and then supply them with a list of the following questions:

  1. What is the event (workshop, conference, seminar)?
  2. Who will attend this event? (List your demographic, their needs, and how many people you expect to attend.)
  3. What will your audience get out of this event?
  4. What will the sponsors get out of this event? (The best benefit is probably product awareness because sponsors want access to your attendees who are potential consumers of their products.)

Another friend, Dee Sadler of A Box of Pixels, told me to create a list of companies I love and ask them for support. I cold-called or emailed several companies, and while I never heard back from some, I was able to get a lot of giveaways, some software, and even money to help with the event. About half the sponsors I signed on for the event came from this list.

Lesson three: Building a responsive event website

The website for BarCamp Deland

To get started on the BarCamp Deland website, I first purchased the domain name From there it was a matter of deciding what I needed my website to do so I could choose the necessary tools to build it. I knew the site would only have a few pages, and it was important to build a responsive site that didn’t take too long to put together. Considering my needs, I chose Bootstrap using LESS to build the CSS files.

I was surprised at how quickly I was able to build the BarCamp Deland website with Bootstrap. Instead of taking days to build the framework and scaffold the responsive template, Bootstrap gave me a great framework that allowed me to put the site together in just a few hours with virtually no JavaScript. Bootstrap is built with LESS, so that also made writing the CSS easier.

I managed the site build in GitHub, and I also placed my project in Dropbox as a secondary backup. While GitHub is superior for project management, one of the great features of Dropbox is its ability to perform incremental backups, which archive every saved version in a Dropbox folder. If you ever delete a file and want access to an earlier version, the incremental saving makes it super easy. This feature alone has saved my bacon more than once.

Certain information, like the list of speakers and sponsors, needed to be reused in different places but the site really didn’t warrant building a database, so I used mustache.js to build templates that pulled in a JSON file. Editing the JSON file, allowed me to quickly update the information on multiple pages and widgets.

I only needed to write a small bit of JavaScript to ensure the Bootstrap templates adjust and hide the third column when the users viewed the site on a smaller screen, and also used the jQuery Cycle plugin to handle fading and sliding some graphics, and the speaker’s promo on the homepage.

I used PHP, but just minimally, to divide my pages into small modules and to use the include() method to pull files in as needed. This allowed me to reuse modules on different pages and easily swap out content.

Online tools

Of course, organizing a BarCamp means having an event website, but it also means dealing with registration and emails.

For registrations, I used Eventbrite, which offers free events a complimentary account option that lets you build surveys, view metric reports, and email your registration list with event updates. Eventbrite also offers an Entry app, which is an easy way to check in people on the day of the event.

Eventbrite has many tools, including the ability to see metric reporting charts

Eventbrite also has a strong API and tools to integrate extras like a countdown and a registration form. Unfortunately, all the pages aren’t optimized for mobile devices so some elements (like the registration form) can be a little hard to navigate from a smartphone.

Mobile web app

The two parts of the jQuery Mobile app
Unlike most conferences, BarCamp speakers aren’t prescheduled, which means most BarCamps have a dynamic schedule on a physical bulletin board that is adjusted in real time as speakers arrive and sign up for time slots and venue locations. Since our venues were very far apart, I wanted a schedule that attendees could check on their phones so they wouldn’t have to walk over to the bulletin board to see the speaker list.

I used jQuery Mobile to build the web app, which came in two parts. The first part of the app displays the dynamic schedule, as well as a list of venues and general information about the event. The second part is what allows organizers to enter the info about speaker time and location onto the schedule. Since all this info had to be stored and updated, I created a MySQL database and used PHP for MySQL access.


Overall, making the connections, planning the event, and working with an awesome team to bring BarCamp Deland together was really fun, and building the website was actually the easiest part. If you’re interested in using any of the code I mentioned for your own event, you can download it through GitHub.

InDesign FX: Creating picture frames in InDesign

Published by | Thursday, October 18th, 2012

This week’s InDesign FX video highlights the ability to apply multiple effects to a single object, and how to apply those effects to the object as a whole, or to targeted areas like the fill or stroke. I consider this to be one of the most important features for working with graphic effects in Adobe InDesign because it would be impossible, or impractical to create many kinds of interesting effects in InDesign without this kind of flexibility.

Take, for example, the picture frames in this week’s video:

Finished picture frame effect in Adobe InDesign


These frames are made from a combination of four transparency effects: Bevel and Emboss, Inner Glow, Inner Shadow, and Drop Shadow. Three of these effects are applied at the Object level in the Effects panel, so they apply to the entire object, including the stroke. But one of the effects (Inner Shadow) is applied to the fill only.

Adobe InDesign Effects panel

It’s the application of the Inner Shadow effect to the fill that allows us to have the small shadow that sits inside the stroke, and thus inside the picture frame. Little details like this go a long way when creating high-quality visual effects.

Here’s another image, without the Inner Shadow applied to the fill:

Frame without the Inner Shadow fill

And with the Inner Shadow applied to the fill:

Frame with the Inner Shadow fill effect

See the difference? By targeting that little shadow in just the right spot, we get an extra bit of realism.

Because it’s always important to be efficient with effects, I also show how to save the picture frame effect as an Object Style, so you can apply it to photos with a single click.

I also have another member-exclusive movie in the library this week called Customizing stroke styles, which shows the useful and sometimes surprising effects you can get from custom stroke styles.

In the video, I show how to create stroke styles that adhere just to the corners of a frame:

Corner stroke styles made in Adobe InDesign

Stroke styles that bracket a paragraph:

Bracket stroke style made in Adobe InDesign

And even stroke styles that look like Valentine hearts:

Heart-shaped graphic stroke style

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


Interested in more?
• The complete InDesign FX bi-weekly series
• 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