Author Archive

Deke’s Techniques: Creating Spirograph-style art in Illustrator

Published by | Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques episode, Deke McClelland uses Adobe Illustrator to recreate the classic Spirograph toy effect. Rather than watching this work take shape with a pen stuck into a plastic gear, Deke shows you how to grow your Spirograph shape with the simple application of dynamic transformations viewable in the Illustrator Appearance panel. In fact, all you have to do for this effect is draw one single circle in Illustrator, then duplicate and transform your circle’s stroke to create the hypotrochoidic shape. (Deke’s Techniques, bringing you great graphic techniques and free vocabulary expander words!)


As you can see in the video above, Deke begins this technique by selecting the central circle in a simple circular logo design:

Simple circular logo design

By simply selecting that circle, using the Transform command to make the circle an ellipse, and duplicating the ellipse over and over with variations, a familiar Spirograph pattern begins to quickly take shape. You can see from my Appearance panel screen capture below that this effect is the result of multiple transformations.

Adobe Illustrator Appearance panel showing many transformations of an ellipse to create a spirograph

In the end, the skeletal logo we started with becomes the intricate, refined logo we see below, complete with outer circle, thin edge around the inner circle, and intertwining ellipses in the center created by transforming the original outer circle.

Final project with spirograph-style art created inside the inner circle of the original logo

Even if you’re new to Illustrator and not particularly gifted at drawing, you can achieve this technique with some concentration and Deke’s advice. (And if you are new to Illustrator, this is also a good lesson on how to use the Transform effect.)

For members of lynda.com, Deke also has an exclusive movie in our library this week, called Tracing scalloped gear teeth around a circle, in which he dynamically adds gear-like teeth to the outer circle of our example logo using a similar type of dynamic Illustrator approach.

Deke's spirograph-style logo with gear teeth added on the outer rim using Adobe Illustrator

Deke will be back with another free technique next week.

 

Interested in more?
• The entire Deke’s Techniques weekly series on lynda.com
• All Illustrator courses on lynda.com
• All courses by Deke McClelland on lynda.com

Suggested courses to watch next:
• Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals
• Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Fundamentals
• Illustrator Insider Training: Rethinking the Essentials

 

Deke’s Techniques: Creating a hand-carved wood effect in Photoshop

Published by | Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques, Deke uses Adobe Photoshop to create the effect of hand-carved letters in a wooden sign. I don’t mean embossing typed-out text into a wood background, but rather, making hand-drawn letters look like they were manually carved into an old wooden sign many years ago and weathered over time. To create this effect, Deke uses the fairly uncommon Dissolve blend mode. While Dissolve is seldom used, for this particular effect it provides the gritty, worn edges we’re looking for. If you want to watch the video right now, here’s the episode:

If you prefer a step-by-step visual walk-through of this technique, here’s how it’s done:

Starting with an old wooden sign masked against an appropriately desolate background, Deke begins his technique by hand-drawing some white letters on to their own layer using a Wacom tablet.

Adobe Photoshop Layers panel with background, sign, and "go away" lettering as layers.

The next step is to make the letters soft and more or less invisible. Deke starts by setting the fill Opacity to 0% in the Layers panel so that the writing disappears. Next, he brings back the edges of the now invisible letters by applying a white drop shadow. To do this, click the fx icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to bring up the Layer Style dialog box. Within the dialog box, set the color of your drop shadow to white, the Opacity to 100%, and the blend mode to Normal. In order to ensure the original characters don’t cut holes in the drop shadow (which will become the basis for the letters from this point on), Deke unchecks the Layer Knocks Out Drop Shadow check box in order to see the shadow all by itself (minus the actual letters that informed it).

Layer Style dialog box with Drop Shadow option highlighted

In order to get the dithered-edge effect that will simulate carved, weathered wood, Deke applies the seldom-used (and, in truth, seldom-useful) Dissolve blend mode to the drop shadow. Although Dissolve is problematic in most situations, for this technique it works well. Setting a Distance value of 0 and Size value of 10 creates noisy, ratty edges.

Layer Style dialog box with Dissolve blend mode selected

The next step is to turn the letters into a layer mask, so that you can ultimately make a selection that includes both the shape of the letters and the effects you’ve applied. Deke starts by creating an adjustment layer beneath the Go Away character layer that’s filled with black. To do this, click the layer with your sign image to make it active, and then click the black-and-white circle icon to bring up the  fill/adjustment layer pop-up menu at the bottom of the Layers panel. Choose Solid Color from the pop-up menu, and set the color to black. Next, go to the Channels panel and grab the white letters off the black background by Command-clicking (or Ctrl-clicking on a PC) the RGB channel option to automatically select the white characters, and deselect the black background.

Channels panel with options to create noise in the "Go Away" layer

Once Deke has the selection he wants with all its great noise-infused edges, he turns off the original Go Away character layer and black background layer and duplicates the sign image layer to serve as a base for where he’ll create the carved letters. Since, in its original incarnation, the sign layer once served to mask the sign against the background, you’ll see the duplicate you made of the sign layer also has a layer mask that is no longer needed (or wanted). Right-clicking on the layer mask and choosing Delete Layer Mask from the contextual menu gets rid of your layer mask and puts you in a position to add a Go Away–shaped layer mask to the new sign layer. Clicking the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel will create that mask based on the currently loaded selection.

Layer panel with the noise-infused "Go Away" layer mask added

Because the letters are filled with the sign and they are set against the very same sign, they’re invisible ghostly placeholders until Deke applies some layer effects. First, the carving gets burned into the sign by applying an Inner Shadow effect. After clicking the fx icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and choosing Inner Shadow, he sets the color to a dark brown (Hue: 30, Saturation: 100, Brightness: 25), sets the blend mode to Linear Burn, sets the Opacity to 50%, the Distance to 15 pixels, and the Size to 25 pixels.

Layer Style dialog box with the Inner Shadow option highlighted

To add some differentiation around the outline of the letters, Deke next adds an Outer Glow layer style. Since the Layer Style dialog box is already open, he can just click Outer Glow from the left-hand list. After setting the color to the same dark brown used for the inner shadow (Hue: 30, Saturation: 100, Brightness: 25), he changes the blend mode to Linear Burn again, sets the Opacity at 55%, and the sets the Size to 2 pixels.

Layer Style dialog box with the Outer Glow layer style option highlighted

Finally, Deke applies color to the inside of the carving by clicking Color Overlay from the left-hand list within the still-open Layer Style dialog box. Using a color of Hue: 30, Saturation: 75, Brightness: 35; a blend mode of Hard Light; and an Opacity of 40%, he fills the Go Away letter area with a rich dark brown. Clicking OK at this point applies all three layer effects.

Setting the Color Overlay opacity in the Layer Style dialog box

In order to give the carved area an appropriate sense of depth, Deke moves the wood grain inside the letters down by unlinking the image from its mask (click on the chain-link icon between the sign image and Go Away layer-mask thumbnails) and nudging the sign image down five pixels. You can do this by clicking on the thumbnail with the sign image to make it active; then, holding down the Command key (or Ctrl key on a PC), press the down arrow button five times.

Moving the wood grain inside the lettering with the Layers panel

Finally, to turn the stray pixels around the outlines of the letters into little bits of Photoshop-simulated wood grain, Deke applies a bit of motion blur. Clicking the Go Away layer-mask thumbnail to ensure he’s only applying the blur to the mask, Deke chooses Filter > Blur > Motion Blur, sets the Angle to -3 (to match the direction of the wood grain), and a sets a Distance of 5 pixels.

Photoshop Motion blur dialog box

To compensate for the softness created by the blur, Deke lastly applies a bit of sharpening by selecting Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen, then setting the Amount to 100, the Radius to 1, and the Remove setting to Lens Blur.

Photoshop Smart Sharpen dialog box

And here is the final effect:

The final project

You can see this entire technique in detailed action, including on-the-fly tips and insights from Deke, in the video above, or by navigating to video number 160 on the lynda.com Deke’s Techniques series page. Please let me know in the comments if you like this expanded combination of text instruction alongside video, and if you find it helpful.

And, of course, since we don’t want you to really go away, Deke will be back with another technique next week.

 

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

Suggested courses to watch next:
• Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals
• Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Fundamentals
 Photoshop Blend Mode Magic

 

Deke’s Techniques: Compositing clones of yourself in Photoshop

Published by | Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques episode, Deke shows how to clone yourself with Photoshop, so that you’ll never be lonely again and always have someone else to do the laundry. Well actually, he creates a composite image featuring clones of his friend and lynda.com director Jacob Cunningham. But you could use the advice Deke shares here to have a full on party, concert, or company meeting with yourself.

Despite the name of this episode, there is not a single pass of the clone stamp tool in sight. Rather, working with a dozen separate images in different poses that Jacob shot of himself, Deke shows you how to mask all the Jacobs into one realistic scene (well, as realistic as one guy having a fight with himself, breaking up the fight with himself, and having nine other himselves looking on can be).

Each additional version of Jacob needs to be carefully masked into place. Deke uses an entire arsenal of Photoshop tools, from a simple rectangular marquee, to a deftly placed gradient mask, to meticulous hand painting. In the video, he considers each new addition to the composite, then troubleshoots the new challenges that each shot presents. Adding all these images together, he eventually arrives at this wonderful festival of Jacobs:

A progression of images, starting with three images of different "clones" and then a final image of them composited together into one realistic scene in Adobe Photoshop

For members of lynda.com, Deke has an exclusive movie this week in which he shows how to light this scene consistently and have the characters cast shadows on one another.

Deke will be back next week with another free technique.

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

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

InDesign Secrets: Revealing the secret history of an InDesign document

Published by | Thursday, August 30th, 2012

In this week’s unlocked InDesign Secrets video, Anne-Marie Concepción shows you a useful trick for revealing the hidden history of your InDesign document, using the Component Information screen. By holding down the Command (Mac) or Ctrl (Windows) key and choosing About InDesign (under the InDesign menu on a Mac, or the Help menu in Windows), you will reveal more information about your document than is normally available. This can be useful if you’re troubleshooting a problematic document.

A breakdown of the Component Information screen in an Adobe Indesign document

At the top left, you’ll see the current technical information about the build that you’re working with. This can be helpful in the event you’re speaking to tech support or colleagues in an InDesign forum, where you might be experiencing known issues with your particular version. On the right is a list of information about the plug-ins that were used to create the document. Don’t worry over the ominously named Missing Plug-ins list. It just means whomever created the document had those plug-ins installed, not that they are critical to opening your document.

But the juiciest bit of history is presented in the lower left area. Here you can read all about which version of InDesign your document was originally created in, whether the document had ever been recovered from a crash, and all the times that the document was saved using Save As, and more.

So if, for example, your text wraps were behaving oddly, you could find out that you’re working from a document that had been created in InDesign CS2 and thus might get a clue as to why your CS5 document wasn’t honoring text wraps correctly despite showing all signs that they should. (This really happened to me in my book-editing days; we had been updating a book—about InDesign, ironically—from previous editions for so long that we’d outgrown the way the program constructed text wraps.)

Anne-Marie notes that if you want to keep pesky task-mastering editors and other technical folk from knowing your complete document history, you can export your document to an IDML file and erase all traces. For lynda.com members, check out InDesign Secrets episode 010, where David Blatner describes the INX/IDML conversion process.

Meanwhile, for this week’s exclusive InDesign Secret, David Blatner has a video episode in our library that shows you how to create custom running heads based on section markers. Since section markers aren’t an outwardly facing element of your final document, this is a handy tip for automating your running heads behind the scenes.

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 lynda.com
• All lynda.com InDesign courses

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

Deke’s Techniques: Creating an optimal Facebook cover image in Photoshop

Published by | Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques, Deke McClelland shows you how to create a perfectly spaced, sized, and positioned Facebook cover photo. Sure, you could take your chances and upload a carefully selected photo for your cover image, then hope limited repositioning controls in Facebook let you adequately present your creative vision. Or you could watch this week’s movie and find out how to craft your cover in Photoshop ahead of time, to present a vision that’s exactly what you want for your Facebook page.


The key to getting things positioned precisely is creating a template that allows you to plan your composition exactly. Specifically, here are the dimensions that you want:

Template of a standard Facebook cover with dimensions marked

Although the 851 x 315 dimensions of the standard Facebook cover is fairly common knowledge, the key to ultimately having your cover and the smaller inset profile picture work together with technical accuracy is to anticipate in Photoshop how the two will visually interact. In this project, Deke’s goal is to have text that spans across the cover photo actually look as though it begins inside the smaller profile photo. (His kooky brush tiki man also spans across both images.) This requires some deft use of smart objects, layer masks, duplication, trimming, and of course, the Save for Web command. Here is the result of Deke’s project:

Final Facebook cover art with text spanning seamlessly from inset into banner

Of course, you can extrapolate from this technique to create your own professionally crafted cover photo for your own personal or business page. And members of lynda.com can watch this week’s exclusive video, in which Deke continues the project by showing you how he got his inset profile image to work as part of the larger cover photo, replete with letter D and the handle of the brush character positioned so that they flow from one image to the next.

Learn more:

• The entire Deke’s Techniques weekly series on lynda.com
• Courses by Deke McClelland on lynda.com
• All Photoshop courses on lynda.com

Deke’s Techniques: Creating tile patterns in Illustrator

Published by | Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Although tile patterns have been around since the early days, Adobe Illustrator CS6 has a new Pattern Options panel that helps you wrangle your repeating pattern into place. In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques episode, Deke shows you how to use this feature to create a seamless pattern of arithmetically defined spirals (those same spirals he showed you how to create in last week’s free movie.)

Deke begins by arranging the spirals in a cluster that will become the core pattern element, and showing you a few tips for getting that cluster arranged. Once you’ve got your base the way you want it, select it and choose Object > Pattern > Make to enter pattern-editing mode in the new panel.

Deke demonstrates how the panel gives you options for the type of tile you want (a standard grid, an offset brick pattern, or a hexagonally repeating tile) as well as how you want the pattern to offset and overlap. The result is this sea of swirls:

Spiral pattern made using the Pattern Options panel in Adobe Illustrator CS6 to create a tile effect

Thanks to the pattern maker’s ability to make copies, this can easily be duplicated with different colors, overlaps, sizing, and more, like this:

Tile pattern made in Adobe Illustrator CS6 modified and colored using the Pattern Options panel

There are a couple of qualities to this panel that may not be intuitive (like when to click Done versus when to hit the Esc key). Deke explains all within this week’s episode.

If you’re not working in Illustrator CS6 yet, but would like to explore tile patterns, Deke also has an exclusive movie for lynda.com members this week called Making a hex pattern in CS5 and earlier that shows you how to explore working with tiles in earlier versions of Illustrator.

 

Interested in more?
• The entire Deke’s Techniques weekly series on lynda.com
• All Illustrator courses on lynda.com
• All courses by Deke McClelland on lynda.com

Suggested courses to watch next:
• Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals
• Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Fundamentals
• Illustrator Insider Training: Rethinking the Essentials

Featured Five free videos: A first look at Microsoft Windows 8 and Office 13

Published by | Friday, August 17th, 2012

A new version of both Windows and the Office suite are on the way later this year. Last week, we released two new courses designed to give you a glimpse into these latest offerings from Microsoft. Right now, you can download preview versions of Windows 8 and Office 2013 to try out. So for this installment of the Featured Five, I’ve chosen five free videos from our new Office 2013 First Look and Windows 8 Release Preview First Look courses. In each one, author David Rivers gives you a look at what’s to come.

A first look at Windows 8 and Office 13

1. Understanding the different versions of Windows 8

Windows 8 is planned to release in October and, as with previous versions, there are various editions to choose from. In this video from the Introduction chapter of Windows 8 Release Preview First Look, David goes over each edition of Windows 8 and its intended audience: Windows 8 (consumers and home users), Windows 8 Pro (tech enthusiasts), Windows RT (those who buy it preinstalled on ARM-processor), and Windows 8 Enterprise (bulk business customers).

2. Using gestures and touch in Windows 8

One of the real paradigm shifts in the way Windows 8 works is the ability to use touch, or what Microsoft calls gestures, whenever you’re using a touch screen, mobile device, or in some cases a mouse. Some of the gestures are intuitive if you’ve been using a touch-screen smartphone with any regularity. Other gestures may make sense only after David shows you how to use them. This video from chapter one of Windows 8 Release Preview First Look, introduces Windows 8 gestures, how they look in action, and how to use them to navigate the Windows 8 interface with ease.

3. Working with the Photos app in Windows 8

One of the features of Windows 8 is a home screen with app icons that look similar to those you’d see on a mobile device. One of those apps, Photos, helps you organize and view your digital photographs, regardless of whether your photos currently live on your camera, hard drive, Flickr account, SkyDrive, and so on. In this video from chapter two of Windows 8 Release Preview First Look, David shows you how the Photos app works.

4. Integrating Office 2013 with the cloud

When you’re working with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or other Office 2013 applications, the default location for saving your documents will be the cloud-based SkyDrive. Of course, you’ll still be able to save things to your local hard drive, as David demonstrates in this video from chapter one of Office 2013 First Look.

5. Tracking changes and conversations in Word

Although you may have used Track Changes in previous versions of Word, there’s a new option called Simple Markup that makes reviewing changes a much less cluttered experience. As David shows in this video from chapter two of Office 2013 First Look, when changes are made to a document using Simple Markup, a simple red vertical indicator appears to the left of a text area that has been revised. Then, to see the changes made, and who made them, the red indicator line can be clicked to reveal the details of an edit, one edit at a time. This new tool lets you see changes, and keep track of editing conversations, but it also lets you scan through a relatively clean document.

Members of lynda.com can watch the complete versions of both Windows 8 Release First Look and Office 2013 First Look in our library.

Which features do you think bring the biggest potential change to your work?

 

Deke’s Techniques: Drawing a perfect spiral in Illustrator

Published by | Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques video, Deke McClelland shows you how to create a spiral in Adobe Illustrator. Actually, he shows you how to make a couple of different spirals. One is a logarithmically defined spiral created with the Spiral tool (in other words, the kind of spiral that Adobe engineers may think you want). The second is an arithmetically defined spiral created with the Polar Grid tool (or, the kind of evenly spaced spiral that Deke set out to create in the first place).

Side by side comparison of an engineer's spiral (logarithmically defined) and Deke's spiral (arithmetically defined)

To orient you to the swirling mass of spirals, Deke explores the built-in Spiral tool and demonstrates some of its limitations, for instance showing that the point where you begin your spiral has no predictable bearing on how your spiral takes shape in a document. You’ll also see which keyboard commands are available for swiftly changing the size and shape of the spiral swirls.

The logarithmic spiral—where the distance between the curves changes as the spiral moves outward—is not what Deke had in mind. Rather, he was on a quest for what mathematicians (and diligent readers of Wikipedia) call an Archimedean spiral, where each curve is the same distance from the next along a polar axis.

To tackle the Archimedean spiral, in the second phase of the video Deke creates a set of evenly spaced concentric circles using the somewhat obscure Polar Grid tool. After ungrouping the bottom half of the circular grid from the top, he then deftly moves the bottom half of the grid over one circular increment, reconnecting concentric circle number 13 on the bottom half to concentric circle number 12 on the top half to form two intertwining, evenly spaced spirals that would make Archimedes proud. After selecting one of the spirals and setting the stroke to red, Deke arrives at this mesmerizing effect:

Final black and red Archimedean spiral made by offsetting two intertwining, evenly spaced spirals

For members of lynda.com, Deke also has a movie available in our library this week called Drawing a perfect nautilus shell in which he shows you how to create another type of spiral from a single triangle, with this result:

Nautilus shell-inspired spiral made from a single triangle using Adobe Illustrator

See you back here next week when Deke returns with another spiral-inspired Deke’s Techniques tutorial.


Interested in more?
• The entire Deke’s Techniques weekly series on lynda.com
• All Illustrator courses on lynda.com
• All courses by Deke McClelland on lynda.com

Suggested courses to watch next:
• Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals
• Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Fundamentals
• Illustrator Insider Training: Rethinking the Essentials