RGB vs CMYK–Which should I use?

Having taught and worked with Adobe Photoshop for many years, I get asked many basic but good questions about it by new users. One has to do with color, and the color systems we use in a picture. There are several that Photoshop can use, but the two most common are RGB and CMYK. The question: Which is best?

The fundamental difference between the two is, RGB is meant for use on screen, and CMYK for print. The terms used to describe how they work are “additive primaries” and “subtractive primaries”, which refer to how these systems show white. For RGB, imagine standing in a dark room with a white wall. Take three flashlights, with color filters (red, green, and blue) and shine them on the wall. Where the three colors overlap, they seem to make white light (the opposite of what a prism does with white light—see Pink Floyd’s album THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, specifically the cover—and the back cover.) So the three additive primaries add up to white.

Additive Primaries

With CMYK, the example is even simpler—a piece of paper going through a color printer may have areas where no ink or toner has landed. And the color of the paper we usually use? White, of course. So when the colors are held back, or subtracted, from a spot on the paper, that spot stays (or is) white.

Subtractive Primaries

But we need black ink too, because the dyes or pigments only sorta make black, and a normal eye can see this. So the printing folks added it for completeness.

In doing this, though, we get a couple of problems, and it takes a little thought to get round them. First, because the RGB system normally involves a screen that illuminates itself, it can show more subtle shadings of color than a piece of printed paper (which, unless you’re using radioactive inks—shame on you!—does NOT glow in the dark). The term Photoshoppers and graphic artists use is the “gamut”, which is wider/larger for RGB than for CMYK (where the ink/toner can smear a tiny bit and mess up the shadings). And a printout can’t show all the shades that a screen can. By definition, therefore, printout will always look a little less intense (“saturated”) than onscreen images.

Color Gamuts

And second, any Photoshop image saved in the CMYK system will use 33% more space on disk, regardless, than if saved with RGB. Why? Because the number of color “channels”, how many kinds of color there are in the picture at minimum, is three for RGB, and four with CMYK.

So which should we use?

If you’re scanning in a photograph you want to clean up and reprint (say, from the early 1900s), CMYK will work better, because what you’ll see on screen is what will come out of the printer. But if you’re scanning for archival purposes, scan in CMYK if possible to get a realistic version of the image, THEN change to RGB. Since RGB’s gamut is wider than CMYK’s you won’t lose any subtleties or shadings, but you will get a smaller file on disk. And you can scan in CMYK, do all your work, then save in RGB for later. Best of both worlds. Just have to make sure we understand the tradeoff of size, gamut, and storability.

Photoshop CC 2017 Property Panel Update

November of 2016 has seen an update to the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite which includes Photoshop. I have already posted one article on the changes to the New Document window and another article on the updates to the Liquify Filter.

The focus of this article will be on the changes to the Properties Panel in Photoshop CC 2017. The last couple of updates have seen improvements to the Property Panel, but this by far is the biggest change.

Take a look at this screen capture of the 2015.5 Property Panel in use.


The Properties Panel contains absolutely no information about the selected layer.

The same layer selected in Photoshop CC 2017 now includes x and y coordinates as well as width and height data.


Here is another example this time with a text layer selected. First in the 2015.5 release.


And now in the 2017 Update.


In addition to the x and y coordinates available previously we now can change the font, font size, alignment, and color. Additionally there is an Advanced button that will open the Character Panel.

All of these changes are designed to accomplish one thing, making each task more efficient by limiting the number of panels we need to open.

The Properties Panel update is a welcome change to Photoshop CC 2017.

Photoshop CC 2017 Face-Aware Liquify Update

If you remember the last update to Photoshop (Summer 2016) we shared a post about the new Liquify Filters Face-Aware feature. It turned out to be a wonderful addition.

The filter addition would naturally recognize the facial region and let you modify eyes, nose, mouth, and face shape. Working on a face or multiple faces became much easier.


But there was a drawback…there was only one set of adjustment tools for the eyes. Which meant the changes would be applied equally to both eyes.

Photoshop CC 2017 has addressed this issue and has fixed it. The Liquify Filters Face-Aware settings include two sets of controls for the eyes; one for the left and one for the right. Eye size, height, width, and tilt can be set for each eye independently.


Thank you Adobe. A great filter is now even more powerful and an easier to use utility.


Photoshop CC 2017 New Document Window

Sometimes the changes to an application are subtle, sometimes not so much. Last year’s Start Workspace in Photoshop was one of those not so subtle changes. Just a few weeks back Adobe’s Creative Cloud application suite updated to its 2017 version and Photoshop has added another one of those not so subtle changes.

Selecting File > New in the menu bar or the New button within the Start Workspace has resulted in dialog box similar to this for a number of years.


If you expanded the Document Type menu you were presented with several choices including; Clipboard, Default Photoshop Size, U.S. Paper, International Paper, Photo, Web, Mobile App Design, Film & Video, Iconography, Art & Illustration, Artboard , and Custom.


This is no longer the case. The New Document window is much larger and although some of the old menu categories remain the window is completely revamped.


Each of these presents a screen with a series of default sized blank documents, and also pre-built templates available through Adobe Stock.


Many of the templates are free and there is a search option that will take you to Adobe Stock online so you can look at the other options available.


Once downloaded the resulting file will contain a series of scenes, layers, or artboards and each item will be on its own layer ready to be used as you see fit.


All the custom options are still there but Adobe has added through Adobe Stock many start-up options. You don’t have to start with a black slate if you don’t want to.



Select and Mask Workspace: Photoshop 2015.5

Photoshop has continued to refine the selection tools available and the latest update, June 2016, is no exception.

Gone is the Refine Edge tool, or better yet, not gone but improved and placed in its own workspace.



I have two images I would like to combine and masking out the unnecessary bits of the second image pictured is a simple task which has been made easier. Once photo number two has been added as a new layer to the first image and sized so our participants are approximately the same size we’ll choose the Quick Select tool. Notice there is a new choice in the Options bar, a button labeled Select and Mask.



Clicking the Select and Mask Option takes us into a new workspace and lays out all of our tools in a new window. All the options you’ve used in the past with the Refine Edge tool are here and a few more. The View Mode now includes Onion Skin with a transparency setting that makes masking even easier than it used to be.



After all adjustments have been made clicking the OK button will apply the mask and return you your standard workspace.


I’ve seen a post or two on Adobe’s Community forum concerned that the Refine Edge tool was gone. Have no fear, it’s still there it has been renamed and resides in the Select and Mask workspace.

Creating Maxfield Parrish Clouds Using Photoshop

I was recently leaving the parking lot of a local business when the cloud formation in front of me reminded me of a painting by American painter and illustrator Maxfield Parrish. If you are not familiar with his work here is a painting called Ecstasy that was commissioned for the 1930 General Electric Mazda Lamp Calendar. The model was his daughter Jean Parrish.


The clouds I was looking at were beautiful and saturated with color because it was close to sunset. I grabbed my phone, took a picture, and went about my business. Imagine my disappointment when I looked at the photo later that same evening and this is what I had captured.


No worries…that’s one of the many reasons we use Photoshop.

Step number one was to get rid of the power lines, street lights, and poles. My tool of choice was the Spot Healing Brush with Content Aware active. Simply setting the brush size and dragging over sections of the poles and power lines with this tool and next thing you know; unsightly clutter removed.


I wasn’t 100% sure how much of the image I wanted to keep so the next thing that needed to go was the building in the lower left-hand corner. Selecting that area with the Rectangular Marquee tool and using Content Aware Fill was all it took. By the way, this was all being done to a copy of the background layer.


Now it was time to decide what part of the image stayed, and what would be cropped. If you think you might change your mind later don’t forget to uncheck Delete Cropped Pixels in the Options bar. That way all of the image is still available.


Now to enhance the image with one of those layers that almost any photograph will benefit from; a Levels Adjustment. Or some of you may prefer a Curves Adjustment. Either way we are adjusting the tonal quality of the photo. Removing the vale as it were, and tweaking our contrast. At this point I’m 90% there.


One more step and we are complete. Just a slight bump in saturation done by adding a Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer.


When complete we have a sky that would be the perfect backdrop to any Maxfield Parrish painting. And all it took was a little imagination…and Photoshop.

Face-Aware Liquify: Photoshop 2015.5

The Liquify filter has been part of Photoshop since version 6.0 which was released in September 2000. Over the years there have been a variety of improvements in this filter and the newest release is no different.

There is an entirely new facial recognition portion to the Liquify filter. It works on one face or many faces as long as they are full frontal views. It doesn’t work on profiles. There are separate settings for eyes, nose, mouth, and face size.

Let’s take a look at what it can do. We’ll start with a photo from Adobe Stock.









With a few adjustments to each of the four facial areas our original photo now takes on a new appearance. A narrower face, raising and narrowing the nose, thinner lips, and making the eyes a little smaller looks like a different person.



Straightening an Image Using the Crop Tool: Photoshop 2015.5

Sometimes the picture is perfect…almost. You see, while the composition is excellent that slight tilt left or right throws the image off. Photoshop has offered a couple of different tools over the years that will allow us to fix this issue but not without additional doctoring.

With Photoshop’s latest release (2015.5 June release) they have knocked it out of the park. Let’s take a look at a simple example. Here is a shot of downtown Memphis, TN. taken from the observation deck of Memphis Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid.


It’s a decent enough shot but the slight tilt of the camera puts the horizon at an angle, which you can see in this screen capture from Photoshop.


The tools we’ve used in the past, primarily the ruler tool, would allow us to straighten the image. But then we would end up needing to crop the image to take care of the white or transparent background that became visible where the picture rotated. The crop tool also allowed us to rotate an image to straighten it, and CS6 even proportionally cropped the picture as we rotated it. As a matter of fact, that’s still an option as you can see here. The area between the orange lines is what will be cropped.


Ideally we could rotate the image and not need to crop the finished product.

Enter a new usage for Content Aware that is associated with the Crop Tool. The Content Aware algorithm continues to amaze as it finds its way into more and more tools. Now all you need to do is check the Content Aware checkbox in the Options Panel when you select the Crop Tool.


Rotate the image so the horizon is level, press enter or click the Commit current crop operation button and watch in amazement as the picture is rotated and the areas that would normally be blank are filled based on surrounding pixels.


No pixels lost and a perfect horizon line. Thank you Photoshop and thank you Content Aware!


Font Matching: New to Photoshop 2015.5

Have you ever seen an ad before and wondered what font was being used? That’s probably not the type of question you ask of just anyone, but in the world of graphic design…well that’s a different story. The latest release of Photoshop, 2015.5 June release has a new feature that will help answer that nagging font question.

Let’s use this image as our example and we’ll place some sample text above it to test our results.


With the image containing our unknown font open in Photoshop we’ll need to designate the area to sample from, so using the rectangular marquee tool simply draw a rectangle around the text you’d like to sample.


Next, using the menu select Type > Match Font.


After having selected Match Font from the menu, a new Match Font dialog box will open. The dialog box will be divided into two sections. The upper section will offer suggestions from your installed fonts. The lower section will offer suggestions from the available fonts at Typekit.


Then it’s just a matter of doing some comparisons’. Choose an installed font for your sample text and see how much it does or doesn’t look like the font being sampled.


In a perfect world we would always find an exact match, but that’s not where we live and there are hundreds of thousands of different fonts that exist. It will find the closest suggestions it has based on what you and Typekit have.

It can be a true time saver.



Photoshop Image Adjustment Layer

The art of photography has changed dramatically with the advent of the smart phone. Today everyone is a photographer, and pretty much all of those photographs need some adjustment. Enter Photoshop with the ability to adjust your pictures in a non-destructive way.

The Adjustments Panel in Photoshop includes 16 different types of adjustments that can be applied to your image as a separate layer. By doing this as a separate layer none of the pixels in the original image are altered. The benefit to you of course means you always have your original.

Let’s take a look at two of the most common adjustments: levels, and hue/saturation.

Here is a beautiful image of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco taken from a passing plane. At first glance everything looks great but truth be told it could use a little help.


This image shows the histogram, or tonal range of or picture. Notice the two orange triangles on either end. They indicate where black should start on the left side (0) and where white should start on the right side (255). By moving the sliders, the circled options, we have re-established those tonal beginning points. The mid-tone slider has also been adjusted to drop the mid-tone just a touch. The resulting changes have a dramatic impact on the image.



One additional adjustment to our image will be beneficial. We’ll bump the saturation (color intensity) just slightly to improve the coloring in the lower left-hand corner.



The difference is subtle but just enough to help the image pop.

Change Colors Using Blending Modes in Photoshop

There are times when everything about the picture you’ve just taken seems to be perfect. Then, when it comes time to use it, you discover one key color just doesn’t work. Or you need the same item in more than one color.

Using Photoshop one solution is to apply the color needed to a new layer and change its Blending Mode.

Take our automobile example for instance. The photograph captures the essence of the car but the ad needs to feature a new, hot color.


Our first step is to add a new empty layer above the car layer. There are several ways to do this but we are only going to mention one which is the keyboard shortcut; Ctrl+Shift+N on Windows , or Cmd+Shift+N on a Mac.

This adds a new layer above our background layer. We’ll rename this new layer “paint job” by double clicking the name in the Layers Panel and typing the new name in its place.

Next we’ll change the foreground color in the Tools Panel to the new color we want on our car. If you know the RGB color value you can click the foreground color swatch to open up the Color Picker Panel. Then type the RGB values in the appropriate location and click OK.


With a new layer in place and the color we what selected the next set would be to use the Bruch Tool to paint over the car on the new layer. It doesn’t have to be perfect, we can clean things up later.


The magic happens in our next step. Once we’ve painted over the existing color and it looks like our next example image we change the Blend Mode of this new “paint job” layer from Normal to Color.


Voila! A new car with a new paint color. There may be a little clean-up work needed on the “paint job” layer, but that can be handled with the Eraser Tool.

tesla-blend-mode-color (more…)

Photoshop Interface Easter Egg

Easter eggs in software have been around since 1978. The term was made popular by developers at Atari after game designer Warren Robinett placed his name as a hidden message within the game Adventure. Finding the message was like going on an Easter egg hunt.

Today, Easter eggs are hidden gems within software applications, operating systems, and DVDs. The developers at Adobe are no strangers to this concept.

The new dark interface settings within Photoshop have given the development team a wonderful location to place an Easter egg. To get to these settings we need to open the Preferences panel and we can do so by selecting Edit > Preferences > Interface on a Windows computer, or by clicking the Photoshop menu and going to Preferences > Interface on a Mac.


Inside the Interface portion of the Preferences panel there are four square buttons at the top of the dialog box. They represent our four different color settings. Clicking on each one allows you to lighten or darken the UI (User Interface). The Easter egg is changing those buttons to either coffee cups or slices of toast.


Hold down Ctrl+Alt+Shift on Windows or Cmd+Opt+Shift on a Mac and click on one of the buttons…they change into coffee cups. Do the same thing again…they change back into square buttons. One more time…they change into slices of toast. A fourth click while holding down our key combination and they return to square buttons.


photoshop-preferences-interface-toast (more…)

Photoshop; Finding an Image Center

There are times when it would be helpful to find and mark the exact center point of an image. Let’s discuss a few ways this can be done.

The most manual way of doing it can be done by opening the menu option, Image > Image Size, or using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+ Alt+ I on Windows, or Cmd+ Opt+ I on a Mac. Using the width and height you can determine the halfway mark and drag a couple of guides into place.



Another way of doing this would be to open the image. Show the rulers either using View > Rulers in the menu or the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+ R on Windows or Cmd+ R on a Mac. Then using the menu option Select > All or Ctrl+ A on Windows or Cmd+ A on a Mac, select the entire layer. Using the Move Tool check the Show Transform Controls checkbox in the Options bar. You should now see a “target mark’ in the center of the image. Drag a horizontal and vertical guide to this position and you are set.



How about a third option? Using the same first two steps as the above method, while the background layer is selected, choose Edit > Free Transform in the menu, or Ctrl+ T on Windows, or Cmd+ T on a Mac. This will show the same “target mark” in the center of the image. Place your horizontal and vertical guides and you are good to go.

Here’s one last way of showing and marking the center of an image. Using View > New Guide Layout in the menu, select two rows and two columns with a 0px gutter for each, click ok and you are done.

center-point-guide-layout (more…)

Photoshop Tips and Tricks; Rotate View Tool

There are times when you discover a tool or technique that has been there for a while. I believe all Photoshop users experience this at some point. The Rotate View Tool is one such tool for me.

It was introduced with Photoshop CS4 and I must admit I was blissfully ignorant of its existence for a long time.

Having come from a fine art background I have spent many hours drawing, and painting. When you cannot rest your hand on a part of the canvas because of wet paint, or need a better angle of attack to finish a sketch the easy approach is to rotate the canvas on the easel or the paper on the desk. Sometimes it is more about the flow of a line because you are left or right handed. The left side of a curve is easier to draw than the right side because of wrist motion. Rotating the paper or canvas makes that easier to accomplish.

When you are using some of the same drawing tools in Photoshop the same issues arise. Whether you are drawing with a mouse or a tablet it would be great to have some of that same flexibility on a computer that exists working on paper.

That is where Photoshop’s Rotate View Tool comes to the rescue. In Photoshop CC 2015 pressing the letter R as a keyboard shortcut, or left clicking and holding the mouse button down on the Hand Tool will reveal the Rotate View Tool.


Now you can move your cursor onto the image, left click and rotate the image while a compass like symbol displays the direction of the rotation as you drag. You also have the option of typing the degrees of rotation in the option bar. Now your natural left or right handed flow is easier to control.


Once you have finished using the brush you can return the image to its normal position by clicking on the Reset view button in the option bar while the Rotate View Tool is active.

It is a simple tool, but like all tools, invaluable when you need it. I am happy to have stumbled upon it and wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!

Creating Fractions, Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.1

Photoshop’s Glyphs Panel can create custom fractions.

In a previous post we talked about the newly added Glyphs Panel to Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.1. Now let us take a look at using fractions from this panel.

Most fonts will supply a few fraction glyphs like our example using Arial, but you and I both know that those 7 fractions will not cover all of our potential needs. That means we will need to create a custom fraction for our text.


We will begin by opening the Glyphs Panel either from the Type menu, Type > Panels > Glyphs Panel or the Window menu, Window > Glyphs.


For our example I have chosen to undock the Glyphs Panel and place it to the left of our text. Undocking a panel is as simple as left clicking on the tab with the panel name and dragging it where you would like to use it.


Our next step is to narrow down the glyph choices. You will find a drop-down menu in the center of the panel. We are looking for Numerators.


The only thing we will find within the Numerators category will be numbers 0-9 all classified as numerators or the upper value of a fraction. Double clicking the number you need is all it takes to insert it into your text, as long as your cursor is in the correct location.


Now we need a slash to separate the top number of our fraction from the bottom number. That can be found in the Glyphs Panel drop-down menu under Math Symbols.


Double clicking the fraction slash will insert it wherever your cursor is.


That leaves the denominator, which can be found in the Glyphs Panel drop-down menu under Denominators.


Double click the value you need and as simple as these few steps have been you now have the exact fraction your text requires.



Glyphs Panel, Adobe Photoshop CC 2015

A Glyphs Panel has been added to Photoshop

Those of you that use Illustrator or InDesign have had access to this panel for some time now. But, Photoshop for some reason has taken it’s time in making it available.

Well, it’s finally here! The June 2015 release of Photoshop has seen fit to include a Glyphs panel. We defined glyph in another article so we will just direct your attention there.

We have two different ways we can open the Glyphs Panel. We can select Type > Panels > Glyphs Panel in the menu or select Window > Glyphs in the menu as well.



Once the Glyphs Panel is open it gives you access to all the alternative characters the selected font makes available. Adding an accented character, fraction, or decorative character is as simple as finding it in the panel and then double clicking it to insert it into your text.


Change the Open File Workspace, Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.1

Show Recent Files Workspace When Opening a File.

Some of the most recent changes we have seen in Photoshop CC 2015 began with the code name Spectrum. This name describes changes to the applications involving the darkened user interface. We introduced the new Start Workspace in a previous post, and today will continue by discussing a change you can make to the File > Open settings.

Normally when you have a file open and wish to open an additional image you either select File > Open from the menu or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+O on Windows, or Cmd+O on the Mac. This brings up you operating system standard dialog box to open a file.



Now you have an option to change that by selecting Edit > Preferences > General on Windows, or Photoshop > Preferences> General on the Mac. The preferences window has a new selection “Show ‘Recent Files’ Workspace When Opening a File. In this same preferences window you will notice an informational message telling you that workspace changes will take effect the next time Photoshop is started. That’s application speak for close and reopen the application to see it work.


Once you have restarted Photoshop, when you choose to open a second file instead of the standard open dialog box the Recent Files workspace opens on the right side of the window. It offers the same settings as the new Start workspace. If you decide not to open a second image there is a close control in the upper left corner of the workspace or you can press the Esc key.


Quick Export, Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.1

Export artboards, or layers using Quick Export

Photoshop has offered numerous file options for saving an image over the years. Selecting File > Save As from the menu currently offers over 20 different file formats.


Frequently there is the need to save images for publishing online. The menu choice of File > Save for Web (now File > Export > Save for Web) was something I used on a regular basis. So often as a matter of fact it is one of the few 4 key keyboard shortcuts I use (Ctrl+Alt+Shift+S).


Either of the methods described will save the entire image depending on layer visibility. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could save layers, groups, or artboards separately; not as PSD files, but as jpgs, gifs, pngs, or svg files.

With only the layer, group, or artboard selected we can use the Layers panel menu option and select Export As. The new Export As dialog box opens allowing us to choose file type, size, resampling, meta data, color space conversion, as well as image scaling. The image scaling option even allows the same image to be exported in multiple sizes.




Want to save it as a png? The same menu has a simple Quick Save as PNG.

The standard File menu offers an Export Preferences window that will let you establish your settings choices when you use File > Export > Quick Export as…

photoshop-export-preferencesCreating online content just gets easier and easier with each new release of Photoshop CC.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.1; What’s New Pt. 3

Part 3:

Font Filtering and Searching

With each new version of Photoshop working with fonts continues to improve. The addition of Typekit and filtering font names as you type have both been great additions.


With the latest update, November 2015, a few more choices emerge.


i.  Fonts can be filtered based on their classification: Serif, Slab Serif, Sans Serif, Script, Blackletter, Monospaced, Handwritten, and Decorative.

ii.  You can display fonts that have been synchronized from Typekit.

iii.  The fonts you will be using on a regular basis can easily be starred for future purposes.

iv.  You can also filter fonts based on visual similarity.

As simple as these additions seem they all aid in working with fonts whose listings can grow to epic proportions over the years.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.1; What’s New Part 2

Part 2:

Customizable Toolbar



The toolbar has been a part of Photoshop dating all the way back to version 1.0, released for the Mac in 1990. It has gone through a variety of changes over the past 25 years, most of them involving arrangement of tools and the addition of new tools.

In the first nine versions the toolbar was a two column layout, period. Then with the release of Photoshop CS 3 they added the ability to toggle between a one column and a two column layout.

The latest release, Photoshop CC 2015.1, has added a new, fascinating option; customizing the toolbar.


Either from the edit menu…


or using the newly added Edit toolbar button, which appears as an ellipse within the toolbar itself…


you can open the Customize toolbar property window. Now the buttons can be completely cleared, regrouped, rearranged, or added to the Extra tools list. Anything added to the extra tools list will become part of the new edit toolbar button.


Your new toolbar arrangements can even be saved as presets and loaded when you desire.

After years of being able to modify menu options, create custom keyboard shortcuts, and set up personal workspaces, customizing the toolbar is a welcome addition.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.1 What’s New

Part 1:

Start and Recent Files Workspace

After installing the November release update to Photoshop CC 2015 the first thing (actually the second, cause the first is the new splash screen) you will notice is a new default workspace.


The new Start workspace provides access to recent files, libraries, presets, open, new tutorials, Adobe stock photos and syncing to CC libraries. It can be set up in list view, which is its default, or thumbnail view. It displays by default when you launch Photoshop or when no files are open.

There are two ways to dismiss the Start workspace. You can press the esc key to temporarily dismiss the screen, or you can click on Edit > Preferences > General and deselect “Show ‘Start’ Workspace When No Documents Are Open” to turn it off.



5 Tips for Photoshop Users

Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference.

Tip 1: We’ve all used the ever popular Save As to prevent messing up a photograph and not being able to go back afterward and edit out our changes. A much simpler approach to work in a non-destructive manner on an image is to create either an empty retouching layer or an image copy retouching layer. When using the empty retouching layer approach remember to check Sample All Layers in the options bar.


Tip 2: To return a property window to its default settings, simply hold down the alt key (Windows) or the opt key (Mac) and the cancel button will switch to a reset button. After clicking reset, simply release the alt/opt key and it returns to cancel.



Tip 3: There have been several times over the years where an added lens flare was that last little touch to make an image complete. The frustration arose when trying to precisely place the lens flare where it should go. The lens flare property window is often times less than cooperative with this accurate placement. The solution involves using the info panel to find the x and y coordinates where the lens flare will go, and then alt (Windows) or opt (Mac) clicking inside the lens flare panel thumbnail image to bring up the precise lens flare property window. Plug in the x and y coordinates found earlier and it now rests exactly where we wanted it.


The last two tips are for people using Photoshop for web page design.

Tip 4: Photoshop makes it increasingly easier to design for the web. Not only do we have web page size choices as part of creating a new document, but we can also use the New Guide Layout window (found in the View menu) to establish a layout grid. Number of rows, columns, column width, row height, and margins can all be assigned from within this window. You can even save your favorite grid as a preset for use over and over again.



Tip 5: After establishing a grid to be used for your web page you can start placing images and shapes to accommodate text blocks. Once your layout is complete, let Photoshop tell you what CSS you’ll need to place each item in your page. Select the image or shape to be placed and use the layers panel menu Copy CSS command to generate CSS directly to the clipboard. This generated CSS can then be pasted into any text editor, such as Dreamweaver or Brackets. Photoshop will even generate CSS3 code for gradients, drop shadows, and rounded corners.



Using Adobe Bridge Instead of Windows Explorer

Adobe Bridge CC is a separate application that can be downloaded as part of your Creative Cloud subscription. For years it has been an additional application that came with familiar programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign. Its real purpose escaped me for years and I mostly ignored its existence. That is until a little over two years ago.

I was doing graphic design work as a contractor for a major hotel chain. Mostly small composited images that went along with weekly articles for an internal newsletter. The number of images could range anywhere from one to two dozen each week. Different brands required different logos, required different color palettes. There were many resources for me to use in different file formats, and that was when I remembered one of the key benefits to using Bridge in a Windows environment.

Take a look at the image below and tell me what the Photoshop, Illustrator, PDF, or InDesign files contain. Pretty much impossible to tell isn’t it. I do know which ones are Photoshop files versus Illustrator files, but that’s about it.


Now take a look at the same folder’s contents using Bridge.


Every file, no matter the format, has a thumbnail that lets me see the actual content. Now imagine you have fifteen different Illustrator logos all for the same brand, each one just a little bit different. Each thumbnail would let me see the subtle differences and allow me to select the correct logo. This may sound incredibly simple, but it is huge when you have hundreds of images you are working with.

Add to that some of the filtering features Bridge makes available and you too many find yourself singing its praises. And that barely scratches the surface of what you can do with Bridge. Batch processing, adding meta data and/or keywords, and synchronizing color settings are all tasks that can be performed using Bridge.

It’s all part of your Creative Cloud subscription, check it out.

New, Active, Default Features


Have you ever opened the latest version of an application and discovered that a new feature was a default setting? This one goes all the way back to 2010 when Adobe released their fifth version of the Creative Suite.

Many applications have some sort of zoom tool. Most of the time it’s a drop-down menu with some size settings, or in the case of graphics programs like Photoshop there is a tool that looks like a magnifying glass.

This zoom tool has worked the same way forever. Select the tool from the tools panel, click on an area of your image and it will zoom in on that area. Click again, it does that same thing. You say you want to zoom back out, just hold down the alt (Windows) or option (Mac) key and a little minus sign shows up by your cursor letting you know the zoom direction has been reversed.

Another usage of the zoom tool would be to draw a marquee around a specific section of your picture to zoom in on that section. That’s where our story changes with the release of Photoshop CS5.

The first time you chose the zoom tool and attempted to draw a marquee around a section of your image you started zooming automatically, almost uncontrollably. After playing around you realize if you drag right, it zooms in, and if you drag left it zooms out. Okay, I get it, but is this the only way it works?

The answer is no, but it is the new default setting and it has a name: Scrubby Zoom. Sounds more like Scrappy Doo’s artistic cousin than a tool setting. It will be active by default if your computer supports OpenGL which is a 2D, 3D rendering API.

If you like it; no harm, no foul. If it’s not your cup of tea you can deactivate it simply by unchecking Scrubby Zoom in the Options bar after selecting the zoom tool.

Five years later it’s still the default setting, and in my case, is still turned off. It’s just not my cup of tea, but you may love it.

Typography: Part 3

In Part 1 we began with a simple classification of the different typefaces used today.

In Part 2 we took a simple look at some of the basic character components.

In Part 3 we want to make the users of Adobe products aware of a wonderful service that is available through the Creative Cloud.

Back in 2009 Jeff Veen, Bryan Mason, Ryan Carver, and Greg Veen, all originally part of the Measure Map/Google Analytics team began a company called Small Batch, Inc. Its purpose was to make font usage on the web far more accessible by introducing a product called Typekit.

Designers had been painfully aware of the limitations associated with font usage online since the webs beginning. At best there were about 14 fonts most designers could count on being installed on the average user’s computer. Did you think everyone was really that crazy about Times New Roman, Arial, or Verdana? (more…)

Typography: Part 2

In Part 1 we began with a simple classification of the different typefaces used today. We kept things simple and broke them down into 5 different groups; serif, sans-serif, monospace, handwritten, and decorative.

In Part 2 we will take a simple look at some of the basic character components. This is not an extensive listing of all the possible bits and pieces that make up a font, but rather a basic sampling of some more common terms associated with typefaces.

There are well over 100 components that can make up a character set. Several of the ones listed might even be referred to using a different term. A tiddle is also a dot, the mean line can also be called the midline. In the example below the letter g is used to demonstrate 2 components, but is made up of at least 5 including; ear, bowl, counter, link, loop, and descender.

So, while you are reading this, understand that hundreds of designers over many centuries are responsible for making your life easier, and more entertaining all due to the simple little font.


Typography: Part 1

This will be our initial look into the world of text. All those letters that we string together to form books, online articles, blog posts, and the like.

Most mere mortals pay little attention to the how and why of assembling all those words into a form worthy of consumption.

“Typography is to literature as musical performance is to composition: an essential act of interpretation, full of endless opportunities for insight or obtuseness.” ― Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style

This series will begin with a simple classification of the different typefaces used today. To keep things simple I, and many others, have chosen to break them down into 5 different groups; serif, sans-serif, monospace, handwritten, and decorative.