Design - Post archive

InDesign FX: How to simulate a ripped background

Published by | Thursday, May 17th, 2012

In this week’s free InDesign FX video, I demonstrate how to simulate a hole or rip in the background of a design. It’s a quick, fun effect that opens up creative possibilities as you imagine what might lurk beneath the page.

Simulating a ripped page in InDesign.

Similating a ripped text page in InDesign.

The three key ingredients of the rip effect are the Pencil tool, Inner Shadow, and Paste Into. The first step is to draw a jagged shape with the Pencil tool (and drawing jagged shapes are the Pencil tool’s forte). Next, apply an inner shadow to make the shape seem like it’s under, rather than over, the other objects in your design. Finally, paste a photo or another text frame into the jagged shape, and, Voila, a rip!

InDesign technique that simulates a rip with text showing through.

For members, I also have another new video this week in the library called Creating a Breakthrough Effect. In that video, I show you how to take the rip effect one step further by adding an element that looks like it’s coming through the hole in the page.

Creating an InDesign rip effect with an object coming through the rip.

Watch out, those tusks are sharp!

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 CS5 Essential Training
InDesign CS5 New Features
Deke’s Techniques

Deke’s Techniques: Making a model emerge from water in Photoshop

Published by | Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

This week’s Deke’s Techniques tutorial demonstrates how to take an otherwise land-locked model and make her appear to emerge from water. The key to this deceptively simple technique is to create a properly aligned, reflected version of the model’s image, that is based on a common smart object so that any changes to the original are reflected in the duplicate.

After you flip the duplicate upside down, your first step is to create a soft transition between the two images. In this video, Deke shows you how to set up a gradient transition in the intersection between the rightside-up and upside-down versions, so that no seams are visible between the two. Once you reduce the opacity of the reflection and add a water layer (adjusted to taste with a color overlay), you’ll arrive at the refreshing effect on the left below.

Girl reflected in water in Photoshop.

To make the properly wavy reflection on the right above, members of can watch this week’s exclusive movie titled in which Deke shows you how to create a progressive ripple pattern that you can use for any Photoshop image.

See you back here next week when Deke will return with another versatile, reflective technique.


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

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

This week’s Featured Five: Choosing your Photoshop course

Published by | Monday, May 14th, 2012

For this week’s featured five new tutorials, I have a sampling of movies from five different Photoshop courses we offer in the library, each with a slightly different approach, scope, or focus. With the announcement of CS6, we’ve updated three of our mainstay Photoshop training courses, and when you combine that with our existing content, it can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start or which course is right for your needs. Here are some quick descriptions and free movie samples of five of our Photoshop offerings, from the encyclopedic to the specific, to help you figure out which one is right for you in your current state of expertise and interest.

Are you looking for more direction on where to start with Photoshop? Let us know what you’re looking to accomplish below in the comments section, and we’ll share our ideas about where to begin.


1. Photoshop CS6 Essential Training
In general, Essential Training courses at are designed to give you comprehensive knowledge of a software application and a solid foundational overview of the product from a real-world perspective. In the case of Photoshop CS6 Essential Training, this means author Julieanne Kost stays focused on the most important tools for photo editing and compositing, with just the right pairing of ‘how does this tool work’ and ‘why you want to use it and when.’ Essential Training courses are great for watching start-to-finish for the big overview, or if you need focused instruction on a tool, or set of tools, you don’t quite understand. For example, in this excerpt, you’ll see how Photoshop’s Liquify tool can be used judiciously in a variety of different real-world portrait retouching scenarios:

Note, if you’re working with an earlier version of Photoshop, there are Photoshop CS5 and CS4 essential training courses available in the library as well.


2.  Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals
The fundamentals course from the Photoshop One-on-One series also covers the core concepts of working in Photoshop, but veteran Photoshop instructor Deke McClelland approaches his training as though he were your private one-to-one tutor. Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals is great if you’re looking for more insight into how tools integrate with one another, or if you prefer to learn through “mini-project” examples that develop over the course of a movie or a chapter. In this excerpt from chapter four of the course, you’ll see a six-minute lesson on blending, and, specifically, how to work with three distinct features: Opacity, the History panel, and blend modes:

Deke has been creating a version of the One-on-One Fundamentals course in the library for several years, so if you’re working with an earlier version you can find this specifically tailored instruction for Photoshop CS3, CS4, and CS5 as well.


3. Photoshop CS6 for Photographers
Using Photoshop can mean different things to different people and this course is notable for it’s focus on the needs of a particular set of Photoshop students—photographers. In this course, Chris Orwig, a noted photographer and photography teacher, details the features and techniques surrounding photo enhancement and retouching, preparation for print and online publishing, and much more. He also teaches some of the foundational science behind digital photography, including this discussion of pixels and bit depth:

Chris has been teaching this photography-centric Photoshop course for several versions of Photoshop, including Photoshop CS3 for Photographers, Photoshop CS4 for Photographers, and Photoshop CS5 for Photographers. He has also created several in-depth courses on photography-critical topics including portrait retouching and creative effects.


4. Photoshop for Designers
In the Photoshop for Designers series, talented designer Nigel French digs deep into Photoshop with a specific focus on the needs of graphic designers. The series is broken up into five full-length courses, each exploring a particular aspect of Photoshop including textures, colors, type essentials, Shape layers, and layer effects. Often, when you’re using Photoshop for graphic design, you’re starting with a blank canvas and creating artwork out of pure pixels, which is the case in this excerpt from chapter one of the Photoshop for Designers: Color course which covers how to create a color wheel using Photoshop’s blend modes and layer effects.


5. Photo Restoration with Photoshop
In this course, professional photo restorer Janine Smith describes how to use Photoshop specifically to restore, retouch, and enhance old or damaged photos. In addition to covering methods for fixing everything from exposure, to stains, colorcast, scratches, and tears, Janine also shares how to evaluate damaged photos before beginning the restoration process. A course that offers lessons through exploration of an example project, this course includes a hands-on photo restoration that takes an image from a damaged start to a restored finish. In this video from chapter nine of the course, you’ll see a before and after of the course project restoration, and a run-down of the improvements Janine will help you tackle, including, the restoration of a major crack through the subject’s face, color alteration, and the removal of several major damage spots:

The course was recorded in CS5 but it’s real strength is the best-practices approach that Janine takes to photo restoration, so you should find valuable information here even if you’re still working in CS4, or if you’ve just forayed into the brave new world of Photoshop CS6.

Photoshop is a complicated program that can be used in infinite ways for a variety of creative endeavors. The team at is dedicated to making sure you can find a course (or maybe three) that really provides the depth of coverage, level of context, and variety of specific interest that you need. Are you looking for a place to start with Photoshop? Let us know here, and we’ll share our ideas about where to begin.


Memories of a Friend: Reflecting on the life of Hillman Curtis

Published by | Friday, May 11th, 2012

Silence is the sound of finality. And that was all I heard when I received the news that Hillman Curtis was gone. Hillman was a huge inspiration to me and many of you know him from his films, books, or conference talks. He had a stunning visual sensibility, thoughtful eyes, and a kind and creative heart. I like how one of my good friends put it, “Hillman had a gentle and quiet side to him in which he allowed his work to pass through to become much bigger.”

Hillman Curtis portrait.

By any yardstick, Hillman was a big success. Yet, to be successful it typically requires talking loudly or at least talking a lot. Hillman proved that wrong in his own quiet way. He forged a path that many of us in the creative arts community follow today. And this wasn’t a passive act—Hillman was a fighter. In one of his books he wrote about the experience of feeling a bit old and tired and then going to a boxing gym for a lesson. After attempting to box, a trainer came up and said, “I can tell that you’ve boxed before, but you have a couple of fundamentals wrong.”

The trainer continued, “First, you’re crouched over, all covered up. You have to use your God-given gifts. You’re tall. Stand up straight. You’re also facing the bag sideways. Square off on your opponent; otherwise you can’t throw the right.”

Hillman reflected, “That was a pretty standard boxing lesson. But that morning I took more from it. First, I should stop covering up and stop hiding from the world. Second, I should acknowledge my blessings, stand up straight, and face my opponents. This could be anything—a client situation, a creative challenge, or a career shift. And finally, and most important, I should ‘throw the right.’ The right is the knockout punch, but by throwing it you leave yourself vulnerable to getting hit, perhaps even knocked out yourself. But you have to throw it to win—even to compete.”

Throughout his career and life, Hillman wasn’t afraid to “throw the right” and to reinvent himself. And he did so, not with ego-filled abandon, but with inspiring calm. In this way, he charted a unique and inspiring course for others to follow.

With Hillman gone, who now will lead the way?

Hillman Curtis speaking at the Flash on the Beach conference.

In the silence of trying to make sense of this loss, I started to dig through my archives. I came across photos from different conferences like Flash on the Beach (above) and Flashforward (below) from a few years back. The photo below was actually a mistake at the time – I’m surprised I didn’t delete it. I only focused on Hillman and not the rest of the crew—Lynda Weinman, Bruce Heavin, and Brendan Dawes. Now in retrospect the mistake seems to be fitting. Hillman brought such clarity and simplicity to his work. He stood apart and in sharp focus. And by his example, he provided inspiration to others with details of how he created his work in books or presentations. Hillman seemed to never have anything to hide.

Hillman Curtis with Bruce and Lynda Weinman.

That was of course until he started to show his acclaimed work. He always preferred to let it speak on its own. That’s why I love this photo of him ducking down and out of the way while his film played above. The work was his voice.

Hillman Curtis presenting at the Flash on the Beach conference.

Hillman’s voice wasn’t something that just appeared—he intentionally developed it over time. He enjoyed being with other artists and friends like in the photo below.

Hillman Curtis with friends.

Recently, while interviewing Hillman, I asked, “What character qualities should an artist nurture and develop?” He responded, “Curiosity. I think this is key… at least for me. I go into every shoot open eyed, expecting to be challenged, and expecting to be surprised. I fully expect that whatever preconceptions I might have about the shoot will get blown out of the water and something far cooler will replace it.”

Hillman was curious and kind. I think the two went hand in hand. When he travelled, he would often bring his son or family on the trip. Below are a few pictures of Hillman and his son Jasper. You get the idea. He wasn’t just a great musician/designer/filmmaker. He was a great husband, and friend, and Dad.

Hillman Curtis with his son, Jasper.

Later in my interview, I asked, “What’s your advice to the aspiring artist?” He responded, “Well, first maybe lose the ‘aspiring’ part. Be an artist. Period. I also think that this year could hold some real opportunities for the person who has neglected their desire to do art. Some will be confronted with less work and more free time. Embrace it. Embrace your ideas.”

Stand up straight. Throw the right. Be an artist today.

I keep thinking about how I want to do something to keep Hillman’s spirit alive. Perhaps it’s our turn to make that project we’ve been burying inside? If you have any of your own plans, ideas or memories, we would all be grateful to hear your thoughts. And thank you for taking the time to read and to collectively share in this loss.

Finally, I just wanted to say thank you to Lynda and Bruce, as I knew Hillman because of them.


Humbly Yours,
Chris Orwig


InDesign Secrets: Linking a table to an Excel spreadsheet for easy updating

Published by | Thursday, May 10th, 2012

In this week’s free InDesign Secrets episode, Anne-Marie Concepcion shows you how to place Excel spreadsheets into your InDesign documents as tables, and walks you through the process of linking your table and your original Excel spreadsheet to avoid having to manually update and reformat every time a colleague updates the spreadsheet in Excel.

I have to admit I find this tip vitally compelling, particularly because tables in InDesign are still a bit of a mystery to me. (I have Diane Burns’ InDesign Tables in Depth course in my queue for this very reason.) Once I establish how I want the formatting to work in a given table, the last thing I want is to have to re-establish said formatting on an entirely new table. Of course, the second to last thing I want is to painstakingly make manual data changes to an existing InDesign table (no matter how pretty I made it.)

InDesign table example.

Example of a table with formatting created in InDesign.

In this video, Anne-Marie explains the process for creating linked tables that save you from the hassle of manual updating or reformatting. Your first step is to set the Preferences so that InDesign knows you want spreadsheets to come in as linked files. In the File Handling portion of the Preferences dialogue box, you’ll select the Create Links When Placing Text and Spreadsheet Files option in the Links section.

InDesign Preferences dialogue box example.

With this option selected, when data in your native Excel sheet is updated,  you will see a notification in the Links panel letting you know that your spreadsheet has been modified. Just double-click on that notification, and the data elements of your table that have been modified will update automatically, with no need for you to reformat your table. (OK, sometimes you may need to reestablish the header row or adjust cell size.)

If you are looking for more consistent table results, Anne Marie recommends creating a table style before placing your Excel file, and then applying that table style when you are placing your Excel table into InDesign. If you are new to table styles, I recommend checking out Michael Murphy’s InDesign Styles in Depth, in this case, specifically chapter six which covers table and cell styles.

Note that you may not always want every single spreadsheet table you place to update automatically, so remember to uncheck the Create Links option as soon as you are done working with the table you want linked, or find yourself facing updates where you don’t expect them.

Meanwhile, exclusively for members of, Anne-Marie’s partner in InDesign secrecy, David Blatner, has a movie that shows you how to create electronic sticky notes in InDesign.

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

Interested in more?
• Start your 7-day free trial to today
• The entire InDesign Secrets bi-weekly series
• Courses by David Blatner and Anne-Marie Concepcion on
• All InDesign courses

Deke’s Techniques: Placing type on a circular path in Illustrator

Published by | Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

This week’s free Deke’s Techniques is the first recorded in Illustrator CS6, but aside from the new dark interface atmosphere, there’s nothing in this technique that can’t be done in earlier versions of Illustrator. Which is to say, placing type on the top and bottom of what appears to be the same circle still requires some finesse, even in this era of Illustrator CS6. In today’s tutorial, Deke will show you exactly how it works.

This technique is ultimately a matter of understanding how to stack two different circles, using the alignment setting and Smart Guides to your advantage, and then adjusting the scale and tracking of the text to finish the effect. The result is type placed on a circular path, with the center of each letter aligned, like you see in this fiercely aligned logo:

Photoshop logo with text places evenly around the entire circle.

For members of, Deke’s got an exclusive follow-up movie called Making flared type on a circle that demonstrates how to convert your text to an art brush for those times when you need your letters to bend and flare with the curve of your circle, rather than aligning at the center of each letter. This technique is especially handy when you need to change a long word like tortellini to a word like milk that is much shorter and contains a very wide first letter.

See you back next week when Deke shares another free technique!


Learn more:

• The entire  Deke’s Techniques series on
• All Illustrator courses on
• All Design courses on
• All courses by Deke McClelland on

InDesign FX: Shearing to create 3D effects, part one

Published by | Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Of all the transformations you can apply to objects in InDesign, shearing is probably the most difficult to understand and use. Trying to use the Shearing tool without a little training beforehand can be an exercise in confusion and frustration. But don’t despair—you can use shearing effectively in InDesign. In this week’s free video, I will show you how.

You may be wondering, if shearing is so fiddly and so fickle, why one would even want to bother with it. One great reason is the Shearing tool’s ability to take a simple photo and make it into a 3D book.

Basic book cover. Example of shearing tool before.

Book cover created using InDesign shearing.

While, Inner shadow and beveling both contribute to the overall effect in the example above, shearing is the key ingredient, and if you can master it, you can do all kinds of interesting things that you can’t do with any other tool in InDesign.

The book cover in this week’s free InDesign FX video is made up of two main elements, both sheared around the vertical axis. The front cover is sheared 10° and the spine is sheared –60°.

InDesign Shear tool window example.

The back cover and the pages are made from copies of the front cover.

Creating a book cover out of a basic image using InDesign shearing.

In the video, I show how to apply shearing by selecting an item and then double clicking on the Shear tool. That is the only way to have precise, numerical control over both the angle and the axis around which you’re shearing, and the best way to add shearing to an item, in my opinion.

Example of book cover with InDesign shearing applied.

Once you try shearing this way, you may never go back to dragging with the Shear tool or using the Control panel. For members, I also have another new video this week in the online training library devoted to shearing effects. Not surprisingly, it’s called Shearing to Create 3D Effects, Part 2. If your particularly partial to dragging with the Shear tool, or looking for a reason why you may choose one shearing technique over another, in the video, I show how you it is indeed possible to successfully drag with the Shear tool to make different variations on a magazine effect.

Magazine effect created with InDesign shearing.

Open magazine effect created with InDesign shearing.

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 CS5 Essential Training
• Creating Long Documents with InDesign
InDesign Secrets

Deke’s Techniques: Reflecting type in water with Photoshop

Published by | Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques movie, Deke shows you how to make a text reflection appear in rippled water. You’ll start with this miraculously floating text set on top of a photo of gently moving water:

Text reflection step one: text on image of water.

Next, Deke shows you how to create a base reflection by turning the text layer into a Smart Object, copying it, then using the Free Transform command to stretch the copy out and invert it. Then the real magic of this technique happens when Deke shows you how to create a displacement map from the water’s ripples, and how that map can be applied to the reflected letters. In order to ensure that the effect edges are smooth and believable, and that the letters get aligned correctly with the feet of the original text, you’ll need to pay close attention to the fairly sophisticated way Deke goes about building the displacement map in the free video. The end result is this study in serenity:

Photoshop text reflected in water.

For a real study in relaxed reflection, this week’s member-exclusive Deke’s Techniques movie, Reflecting water back into type, shows you how to represent the waves of the reflected letters inside their original source letters. Yes, it’s a reflection of a reflection:

Photoshop type with wave relfection expressed in letters.

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


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 CS5 One-on-One: Mastery
• Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Fundamentals
 Photoshop CS6 Beta Preview