Archive for November, 2012

InDesign FX: Making Translucent Objects

Published by | Thursday, November 29th, 2012

In this week’s InDesign FX video, I show how to use the Bevel and Emboss feature in combination with the Hard Light blending mode to simulate translucent objects like soap bubbles.

Creating translucent objects in InDesign

As its name suggests, the Hard Light blending mode is meant to create an effect of a strong light being shined on an object. When Hard Light is applied to colors lighter than 50% gray, the effect will lighten an underlying object. When Hard Light is applied to colors darker than 50% gray, the effect will darken an underlying object. And when Hard Light is applied to exactly 50% gray, it becomes transparent. You can observe this by filling an object with a white to black gradient, then applying Hard Light, and placing the object over something else in your document.

Filling an object with a white to black gradient

Placing an object over your gradient.

So, if we want to create something like a translucent bubble, we can start with a circle filled with 50% gray and use the Bevel and Emboss effect to create a highlight and shadow.

Use the Bevel and Emboss effect to create a highlight and shadow

Then apply Hard Light to make the 50% gray fill disappear, while retaining the shadow and highlight created by Bevel and Emboss.

Apply Hard Light to the object.

It’s also worth noting that this use of Hard Light works best with documents that use RGB Transparency Blend Space. This does not mean that you can’t create translucent objects in documents destined for print output. But in order to retain the look of those translucent objects, you must not flatten transparency or convert to CMYK when you export a PDF from InDesign. You can perform flattening and color conversion tasks in the PDF in Acrobat, or you can rely on your print service provider to do these jobs. For more information on how to get InDesign FX to print correctly, read my blog post Getting Effects into Print.

I also have a member-exclusive movie in the library this week called Mocking Up a Film Strip. In it, I show how to add details around a series of photos to make them look like a strip of film.

Mocking up a film strip.

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

Deke’s Techniques: Creating a glowing cabochon jewel in Photoshop

Published by | Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

This week’s free Deke’s Techniques video is one of those delightful projects where Deke manages to create something precious entirely within Adobe Photoshop. In this case it’s a rounded shimmering jewel.

Deke starts with nothing more than the plain black ellipse you see on the left, and builds the glowing amber cabochon on the right using little more than Photoshop layer effects (and a suitable background of marble and gold chain, of course).

The before and after images of the jewel effect

First, he applies a red fill with a subtle gradient to the ellipse.

An elipse with a red gradient fill in Adobe Photoshop

Then the layer styles begin. The first layer style creates a 20-pixel-thick brown stroke that will eventually serve as the gold ridge around the jewel:

The stroked ellipse with the Layer Style dialog box

Next, Deke applies a substantial Inner Shadow effect that uses the Cone Inverted contour setting to really establish a rich, round glow:

The ellipse with an inner shadow effect

Applying a dark red Inner Glow effect adds volume:

The ellipse with an added inner glow effect

Deke then employs the Bevel & Emboss layer style and chooses a Pillow Emboss style effect with a Depth value of 400% to shape the edges of his gemstone. For the Pillow Emboss shading, he chooses a very pale orange as the Highlight mode and dark reddish brown for the Shadow mode. (Note at this point how much the preview swatch in the dialog box looks like a faceted gem itself!)

The ellipse with the Bevel and Emboss effect

Before he closes the Layer Style dialog box, there’s one more effect to apply; a Drop Shadow where the jewel as a three-dimensional object would reflect against the marble.

The ellipse with a drop shadow effect

The final polishing comes from a few shape layers made into crescent shapes with the ellipse tool. With the right blend modes applied and an unorthodox use of the Drop Shadow effect, the elliptical shapes become glossy highlights, and, voila, Deke has created a precious jewel from nothing but pixels!

The final cabochon effect and the Layers panel

For members of, Deke also has another video this week called Cutting and brushing light on a gem that further refines this jewel effect. Here’s what cutting and brushing light on a gem looks like in beautiful picture form:

The finished jewel effect in Adobe Photoshop

Deke the Photoshop Alchemist, turning black pixels into glowing amber. He’ll be back with another free technique next week.



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


InDesign Secrets: Customizing the Story Editor preferences

Published by | Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

In this week’s free InDesign Secrets episode, Anne-Marie Concepción reveals the secrets of the Story Editor and how to set preferences to make it even more useful.

The Adobe InDesign Story Editor gives you a view of the text of a given frame or series of threaded frames, with no distractions from layout or formatting. For instance, if some crazy person decided to set text in this headache-inducing way:

InDesign Story Editor Example

You could view the text in the Story Editor in this much more readable format:

InDesign Story Editor View and Preferences

In the video, Anne-Marie describes the Preferences settings you can choose to set the text, background, and cursor to your liking. It’s a great way to remove text from a complicated surrounding so you can concentrate on the words.

Meanwhile, Anne-Marie’s partner in InDesign secrecy, David Blatner, has an exclusive video for members called Setting the size of text exactly with this free script that shows how to use a special script to control the exact size of your text.

Anne-Marie and David will be back in two week’s 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: How to make a hand turkey in Photoshop

Published by | Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Here in America we have a long-standing tradition of giving thanks every November by tracing around our hands and decorating the drawing like a turkey. In this free video, Deke shows you how to release your inner artistic child by creating a hand turkey in Adobe Photoshop.

Although many of us learn this technique in kindergarten, the Internet provides galleries of evidence that the practice is not limited to youngsters. In fact, since many of us learned this skill when we were fearless children, the act of decorating a hand tracing for Thanksgiving can be quite liberating!

The first step is to trace your hand. Since this will be a Photoshop project, it’s preferable that your tracing yields a result that looks like an electronic outline. There are as many options for accomplishing this as there are recipes for Thanksgiving turkey. Deke traces around his hand on a Wacom tablet. I shot a picture of my hand with Photo Booth, opened it in Photoshop, and used the Pen tool to trace a path around it. Because wiggly lines add to the nostalgia of the project, my ineptitude with the Pen tool has a benefit for once! Regardless of which method you choose, you’ll need to end up with the outline on an otherwise transparent layer and a white background layer:

An outline of a hand


Deke notes that you should be sure to trace your wrist as well, since those lines are great for establishing the feet. (They didn’t teach me that in kindergarten!) On separate layers, he adds some feathers, a handsome face with beak and waddle, and feet:

The hand outline with turkey-like features

After setting up a layer-based barrier to ensure the colors stay within their respective coloring book–style lines, it’s safe to fill in the feathers, beak, and waddle with the Paint Bucket tool. To ensure that the colors fill their entire areas, Deke uses the Minimize filter to expand the colors just past the inner edge of the outline. (The Minimize filter reduces transparent areas, so the colored areas actually grow.)

Different color fills in Adobe Photoshop

After coloring the body a decidedly human flesh color, Deke adds an Inner Shadow effect to the hand area to give it some volume. He duplicates and adjusts the Inner Shadow for each area of the hand:

The colored turkey drawing with an inner shadow effect

After inexplicably deciding his turkey needed underwear (except that it’s a chance to show you how to paint carefully, erase judiciously, and tweak the inner shadow to the appropriate color so that it looks correct against white), it’s time to give the “flesh” some texture. By applying several filters to a smart Smart Object layer filled with nothing but black, Deke sets that layer blend mode to Overlay and clips it to the Body layer below.

Drawing with texture added


Aside from letting you recall the joys of one of your earliest art projects, much of the whimsy of this technique comes from the fact that there is a lot of room for personal expression. I mean, you’re beginning with your own distinct handprint, and then you can modify the colors, embellishments, and textures as you wish. Here are my observations from creating my own hand turkey (as seen on the left below):

1. Unlike Deke, I’m right-handed, which of course means my turkey is facing the other way. While this may seem trivial, it actually means I had to flip my Inner Shadow effect to the mirror image of Deke’s. So Deke used an angle of -125 degrees, and I had to change mine to -55 degrees to give volume to the analogous areas of my turkey.

2. Tracing an image of your hand with the Pen tool is great practice for learning how it works since there are lots of subtle curves required to create a hand outline. Plus, if you mess up it just adds to the homespun nature of your turkey.

3. I made different decisions on colors, textures (I actually used the Stained Glass filter instead of Grain), wrinkles, and of course wardrobe.

Two final Turkey hand drawings made using Adobe Photoshop

But clearly, Jenny and Jake—as I’ve affectionately named our turkey friends—are personal expressions of the same general approach. It’s a great way to have nostalgic fun while learning useful features of Photoshop.

Meanwhile, members can give thanks for an exclusive movie this week called Creating a depth-of-field cast shadow, in which Deke gives his turkey a realistic shadow.

Deke will be back with another technique next week. Happy Hand Turkey Day!

• 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
 Ed Emberly, Children’s Book Illustrator


Responsive download, not just responsive design

Published by | Monday, November 19th, 2012

When considering a responsive design for a website, many web designers and developers only consider the layout. While it is key to ensure the layout and composition make use of the user’s screen size, the download time should also be considered as part of the user experience.

To really understand the concept of designing for responsive download, we first need to take into account that CSS can be used to add imagery to HTML elements of webpages. From there it becomes more apparent that CSS3 media queries can be used to alter imagery, as well as layout, based on a user’s screen size.

With this in mind, the <header> is one HTML5 element to focus on when planning a web layout. Typically the header area of a website is used for corporate branding, navigation, and imagery that sets the tone of the design. When creating a responsive web design, three or more sets of CSS rules will need to be specified based on the user’s screen size. These CSS rules will then in turn make adjustments to the sizing- and layout-based properties of the header elements based on available screen real estate. If we use CSS to specify imagery to be used in the header area, we can also drive more of the design tone with CSS.

Example of CSS driven imagery

Now, with CSS driving the imagery for the header element, combining CSS3 media queries with image assignments allows the imagery to adjust based on screen size. This allows designers to use larger, less compressed images for larger screens, while smaller screens reference smaller, more compressed images.

The ability to call on CSS referenced images that have varying dimensions and compression settings results in reduced download sizes and times for devices with smaller screens. This means the same HTML and CSS files will call on files for small- and large-screen devices, but the files called on for small-screen devices will be up to one-fifth the size of those called on for large-screen devices.

Three different images sizes created for a responsive web design with responsive download

This technique can be used in many elements of a responsive website, including photography galleries, graphics and diagrams, and even navigation or promotional elements. The amount of compression you apply to smaller images can be greater due to the higher pixel density of modern tablet and phone screens. That being said, compression versus quality has always been a trade-off on the web, so experiment with settings that will decrease file size while still maintaining the integrity of the original image. Also, make sure to always test your work on multiple devices if you get the chance.

If you’re interested in learning more about responsive web design in the library, consider checking out Creating a Responsive Web Design from Chris Converse, or Responsive Design Fundamentals from James Williamson.


Interested in more?
• All web design courses on
• All courses from Chris Converse on

Suggested courses to watch next:
• CSS: Core Concepts
 CSS3 First Look
 HTML Essential Training


Getting started with Bootstrap customization and responsive design

Published by | Friday, November 16th, 2012

Recently I’ve been using a really awesome framework called Bootstrap to put small websites together. In this article, I’m going to guide you through the basics of the Bootstrap installation process, and how the Bootstrap framework can be customized for a responsive web design.

The end result of this tutorial will be a custom Bootstrap website (you can see the final website here). If you prefer to skip the basics and get right to the Bootstrap code, you can download the code directly from GitHub.

Why Bootstrap?

Bootstrap is a framework that provides an easy-to-use 12-column grid system for a 940 pixel wide container as well as a fluid layout grid that adjusts to the size of a browser. Included in the framework are customizable, well documented features—such as dropdown menus, buttons, tabs, breadcrumbs, modals, tooltips, and carousels—that can be implemented without any handwritten JavaScript.

Our finished website

InDesign FX: Making 3D Type

Published by | Thursday, November 15th, 2012

In this week’s InDesign FX tutorial, I show how to create a variety of 3D effects with the Bevel and Emboss effect in Adobe InDesign. In this video, I use several instances of Bevel and Emboss along with Drop Shadows and Inner Glow to create a realistic replica of a California license plate.

The final California license plate made using Adobe InDesign

To start this technique, I show how to use an Outer Bevel to make raised letters that look like they were stamped in metal.

Raised type made using the Outer Bevel effect

An Inner Glow with noise helps to add some realism by roughening up the edges of the letters.

The type with an added Inner Glow with noise

Without the noise, the edges of the letters were too razor sharp to look real. I often find that adding deliberate defects, even subtle ones, can make an illustration like this look more realistic.

A close-up look at the top-left corner of the license plate reveals three different uses of beveled transparency effects:

The registration month sticker in the corner of the license plate

The addition of a small Inner Bevel creates a highlight at the bottom of the registration month sticker, which adds a little thickness. An Outer Bevel applied in combination with an Inner Shadow creates the look of the screw hole. And by applying a larger Inner Bevel to the fill of the license plate, I can make it appear raised, while keeping a flat border.

At this point, you might be wondering how I knew to use all these specific effects. The answer is that I started by finding a real California license plate to use as a reference. I happened to have one handy, so I just set it next to my computer while I worked, but I could have just as easily worked from a photograph. When you’re trying to create a realistic effect such as this, I think it’s essential to work from a reference, so you can study the details of the object and identify which effects to apply. Then it’s just a matter of tinkering with the settings until what you see on your screen approaches the real object (or photograph).

I also have a member-exclusive video in the library this week called Making a 3D object, in which I show how to use some vector drawing techniques along with Bevel and Emboss to create a bar of soap.

a bar of soap made in Adobe InDesign

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



Interested in more?
• The complete InDesign FX biweekly 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

Approaching career development for long-term gain

Published by | Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

In today’s hectic and connected world it’s easy to get consumed by day-to-day responsibilities and forget about the importance of bigger-picture thinking and planning. November is National Career Development Month, and the ideal opportunity to reserve time to focus on your own career goals. Think of this as an opportunity to focus on a life-long pursuit and create a bit of Zen for your long-term career health.

Career development is a continued quest, much like the practice of yoga, the refinement of painting techniques, or the goal to complete an annual half-marathon. Like any other skill, it requires intention, focused effort, time, and both short- and long-term perspectives.

Making time to peruse your goal is a great place to start. To ensure you have time to devote to life-long career planning it often helps to block time off in your schedule and declare your intention to a supportive mentor, co-worker, friend, or relative.

Once you set aside time in your schedule, you need to determine the best way to allocate that precious time and effort. The most obvious tasks include writing an effective resume, preparing a compelling cover letter, and networking. However, before investing time in these activities, it is worthwhile to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. While working on resumes and cover letters will surely help get you to the next step, updating your paperwork cannot constitute a long-term career plan on its own.

Rather than look at career planning as a time to get writing a better resume checked off your list, consider thinking about career planning as an opportunity to ask yourself some critical, self-reflective questions. These questions could be “What activities or type of culture make me happy at work or school?” or “Where do I want to be in my career in five or 10 years?” An honest exploration and self-assessment can improve your likelihood of success and happiness, and since preferences will likely change over time, it is helpful to revisit this type of career self-assessment on a regular basis.

Creating a support network of like-minded friends and co-workers may also be beneficial. During my time at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, I volunteered as a career coach and led a success team that helped students to stay focused and on track by facilitating peer-to-peer discussions about networking, informational interviews, cover letters, and resumes. Even if you do not have a formalized program like this available to you, you can start your own career-planning group with the goal of progressing your career, as well as that of others.

In today’s rapidly changing job market, career development has grown into a life-long pursuit that requires continual self-assessment, networking, and goal setting. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can approach your own career development, check out Insights from a Career Coach, Achieving Your Goals, and Job Search Strategies in the training library.