Monthly Archives: March 2009

Adobe eSeminars for photographers

If you’re interested in learning more about what’s in Photoshop CS4 for photographers (see previous detailed overview) and/or more about Lightroom 2.0, these live online seminars may be up your alley:

Adobe® Lightroom® 2

• Thursday, April 9, 2009, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM US/Pacific

Adobe® Photoshop® CS4 for photography

• Thursday, April 23, 2009, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM US/Pacific

Adobe® Lightroom® 2

• Thursday, May 7, 2009, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM US/Pacific

Adobe Photoshop CS4 + Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 – The pro photo solution

• Thursday, May 14, 2009, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM US/Pacific

This series is designed for professional photographers and photography enthusiasts.

Check out the site for details & registration info.

Tuesday Illustrations: Creeps, guns, & more

Electric Rain finds success with Configurator

“Goodbye seven-click, menu-driven plug-in launch…hello single-click access to 3D joy.” I’m really glad to see that Electric Rain has enhanced the usability of their Swift 3D.PS 3D plug-in for Photoshop by leveraging Flash panels & Adobe Configurator. On their site they posted a detailed overview of the panel creation process and benefits. Good stuff, guys.
Speaking of Configurator, thanks to all the folks who attended the Photoshop extensibility sessions that Jeff Tranberry, Tom Ruark, and I presented last week at Photoshop World. By popular demand Jeff has posted his slides alongside lots of other detailed notes on panel creation. More ambitious Configurator users will want to check out his notes on combining scripts with Configurator panels, including some details on how to package up external files using Extension Manager.

CS4 improves pressure sensitivity handling

In the comments section of my post about the Wacom Intuos4, I noticed an interesting comment from brushing engineer Jerry Harris:

If you are holding out on that CS4 upgrade, this tablet might entice you to reconsider. The Photoshop code that interacts with tablets had a great deal of elbow grease applied to it. The result is improved quality at the beginning and end of strokes, as well as improved response to pressure. PS now preserves pressure beyond 8-bit throughout the painting code, whereas before CS4, only 256 levels (8-bits) made its way to this code. This should be more evident when working in 16-bit layers where subtle buildup can occur in the buffers used during painting.

I need to add this point to the list of small-but-important enhancements listed in “CS4: Sweating the Details.”

Saturday Illustrations: All autos, all the time

Cue the Gary Newman…

Friday Illustrations

New Wacom Intuos4 rocks!

If you have the slightest interest in computer drawing tablets, you need to see this thing.

Back in college, probably 15 years ago (dang…), I somehow persuaded my parents to let me buy a Wacom tablet for my Mac. The device blew my mind, and I remember spending the whole day at the dining room table, drawing & painting in Photoshop and Painter. I knew it was a transformative tool.

I felt echoes of that sensation playing with Wacom’s new Intuos4 tablet. The new device shows the results of some close collaboration between Wacom & Adobe during its development.

Until now I’ve never really been satisfied with the feel of the contact between the tablet surface & pen nib, as it’s always felt to me more like plastic-on-plastic than pen on paper. The new surface, however, feels great. My wife tried it and immediately said, “Oh, it feels just like a Sharpie.”

The Intuos4 introduces a clever, iPod-style TouchRing. A button in the center lets you cycle the behavior of the ring, letting it change brush size, rotate the canvas, move up/down through the layers stack, and more (screenshot). Being recessed, the ring is much less likely than the previous TouchStrips to get activated accidentally as you drag your hand past it.

The tablet also supports a very cool on-screen “pie menu” that supports quickly switching tools & running commands. Pressing a key on the tablet invokes the menu contextually, under your cursor, and you can configure the commands associated with it (screenshot). It’s similar to the “tooldial” from Logitech’s deceased NuLOOQ device. Frankly I’ve always been bummed that Adobe apps haven’t offered this kind of menu, so it’s great seeing Wacom step up to the plate.

The tablet design team flew down from Portland a number of times during development to consult with Adobe teams. As we don’t design hardware, it was fun to play with the various plastic mockups to evaluate feel & functionality. Wacom’s Joel Bryant writes,

We worked with Adobe to understand what features we could add that most complemented the direction you were going with CS4 and get validation on some of the ideas that we had such as the ExpressKey Displays. One direction that was totally changed based upon Adobe feedback was using the Touch Ring vs. the existing Touch Strip design (customer research had them with even preference). From the Adobe perspective, the Touch Ring fit much better with the CS4 Rotate Canvas feature especially. So we actually made that change directly based on Adobe feedback.

Also, the defaults for the different ExpressKey and Touch Ring modes were based directly on Adobe feedback and we worked collboratively with Jerry Harris to get the right code into Photoshop to support it. We actually went back and forth with the Adobe team a few times with prototypes to validate that the overall Intuos4 design did indeed have synergy with the CS4 design.

I don’t want to gush all day, so I’ll wrap by saying congrats to the Intuos team on an excellent release. PC Magazine has posted a detailed overview, so check it out if you want a deeper dive.

New version control system for Photoshop

The folks at PixelNovel (whom I’ve mentioned previously for their FlickrShop & ComparePSD tools) have created Timeline–what appears to be a very cool Subversion-based version control system for Photoshop. As they describe it:

Timeline works as a Photoshop plug-in and features a unique user interface that allows you to always see the file’s history and save and get file versions without switching from the main Photoshop window. The plug-in is free of charge.

Together with the Photoshop plug-in the users get their own online space on the PixelNovel server.

One of the key features of the Timeline version control system is the web interface to your account. You (or your clients) can view all versions of your files online on any computer with Internet access, the comments for the versions, and also download individual versions in the PSD format.

This means that you can access your projects from anywhere in the world – either using Adobe Photoshop or any web browser.

As noted, the plug-in is free, and you pay for the service based on usage. I haven’t gotten to try it myself, but I like the idea, and the development team is eager to recruit beta testers. Check out their site for more info. [Via Anatoly Paraev]

Stop-Motion Photoshop

Heh–now this you don’t see every day: a pen & paper simulation of working in Photoshop:

The video was created by 15-year-old Josh Sunshine with a little assist from padre/Photoshop author David Asch (who used Photoshop Extended to color-correct the piece).
Man, thank goodness none of this stuff was available when I was younger. I’d probably still be holed up in my parents’ den!

Polishing the Adjustments panel [Part 3 of 3]

Bryan has now listed some of the benefits of the Adjustments panel in CS4. That doesn’t mean we think things are perfect, however. As Photoshop moves forward–especially as we do more things non-modally/non-destructively–we need to address any lingering legitimate usability beefs. Here are some possible refinements:

  • Enable an option (via the panel flyout) to have panel adjustment text fields take focus when an adjustment is created. If you pop the dialog form of Levels, you can tab into/among the various fields. You can’t set focus on the panel using just the keyboard. We should fix that, either by putting focus there automatically, and/or by adding a shortcut for the purpose (e.g. Shift-Return).
  • Similarly, add an option to auto-select the eyedropper tool and/or on-canvas adjustment tool when creating/selecting an adjustment layer. This would better fit the modal dialog form, where there’s no need to select a tool.
  • Enable a single-key mechanism for activating the on-canvas adjustment tool. (Ah, but what key? they’re all used).

Anything else?

The design of Adjustments in CS4 [Part 2 of 3]

On Thursday I talked a bit about how the Adjustments panel introduced in Photoshop CS4 fits in with the team’s larger vision for the product. Now I’ve asked my fellow Photoshop PM, Bryan O’Neil Hughes, to elaborate on some of the design goals that informed the effort. Bryan drove the development of this feature, so I thought you’d like to hear his perspective (in this post’s extended entry).
Continue reading

Sunday Logos

Saturday Illustrations: Fast cars, skiing toilets, & more

Adjustments & the future of the Photoshop UI

The new Adjustments panel in Photoshop CS4 is a polarizing feature. Some people love it; others, not so much. My job is to help improve things as we move forward, so I want to hear your feedback.

Just asking for comments in a vacuum, however, isn’t going to produce useful results. Therefore I’m planning to publish three related posts:

  1. The bigger picture of where we’re going with the Photoshop interface, and why
  2. An overview of the advantages Adjustments provides right now
  3. Some ideas on how to improve it in the future

As for feedback on this post, for now please focus on the big picture. The subsequent posts will provide a chance to gather specific, actionable feedback about the current & future versions of the panel. Preamble aside, please read on in this post’s extended entry.

Continue reading

Wednesday Photography: Skinless cams, LED interrotrons, & more

Lightroom baby develops perfectly

Tonight we got the delightful news that Ms. Harper Maeve Hogarty was born at 5:19 p.m. to Sarah Bailey Hogarty & husband Tom (also known as the PM for Lightroom). The wee lass is 7 lbs., 1 oz, 19.5 inches, and Tom is presumably compiling photographic evidence as I type. (Texting yesterday he wrote, “A Pi baby would have been awesome… Would like to avoid over-Irishing the baby with 3/17,” so I’m glad things worked out.)
Congrats, guys! [Update: Here’s a first photo.]

64-bit Adobe app performance white paper

The roadmap for Adobe apps becoming 64-bit-native is a bit complicated, with some (Lightroom on Mac & Windows, Photoshop on Windows) being there now, some (Premiere Pro, After Effects) largely there now, and some yet to come. To provide an overview & to outline some performance benefits, the company has created a white paper (PDF) on the subject. [Via Anita Engelman]
Update: In response to a question in the comments, After Effects PM Michael Coleman has added some more details:

Jerry raises a good question: Can a 32-bit app be architected to take advantage of 64-bit OS?
Prior to multi-core rendering, all rendering took place within the bounds of a 32-bit memory space. Today, parallel processing is the key. If After Effects weren’t architected to take advantage of 64-bit, all your processor cores would be using the same small chunk of RAM. Instead, multi-core rendering on a 64-bit OS can use up to 4GB per core. After Effects has been rendering faster because of this architecture since CS3 shipped back in 2007. And it’s been improved in CS4.
What about optimizations? Let’s say you only have 2GB of RAM. You might assume that you’re not a candidate for some of the improvements offered by using CS4 with a 64-bit OS. But this isn’t the case. After Effects uses RAM intensively, and it can do so more efficiently and reliably on a 64-bit OS.
In some respects, After Effects is a hybrid – a little bit like a Toyota Prius. Is it practical to be completely electric? Not yet. Does that mean that we should give up spectacular gas mileage and clean-burning technology now? No way. These are great advances and you don’t have to wait around for the Chevy Volt. Like CS4, the Prius is improving the world now. You’ll have to wait until 2010 for that Volt.
All things considered, CS4 and a 64-bit OS are probably one of the best investments you can make in 2009.

Sunday Type: Fast cars, tiny letters, & more

Saturday Photography: Beautiful bugs, great actors, and more

GridIron Flow saves Adobe designer's bacon

A number of folks on Adobe’s internal design team have been putting the beta of GridIron Flow through its paces. Among other things, Flow can automatically version your files (much like Apple’s Time Machine, but continuously as you work and without relying on an external drive).
I just saw this comment from designer Cynthia Fong:

Yesterday, I accidently saved over a file that I didn’t want to, so I opened
it in FLOW and retrieved my previous version. SWEET!

I’ve always said that the beauty of Flow is that it’s like an airbag–totally unobtrusive unless and until you need it. The software does lots of other things, too, but I think its file protection features will be the first to pay off for most people. You can download the free beta from the GridIron site.
(For the record, I don’t have any formal tie to or vested interest in these guys. I just dig what they’re up to & would have loved it in my previous life as a Web designer. If I could somehow clone myself, I’d go work on Flow in addition to Photoshop.)
Tangentially related: my new 17″ MacBook Pro just arrived yesterday (yeah!), and Time Machine did its usual scary-good job of facilitating transfer from one machine to another. The fact that I have last week’s browser history on a machine that showed up yesterday is pretty amazing. (FWIW I’d previously hit a file permissions problem when backing up to my Drobo, but these steps from MacFixIt got me sorted out–and I didn’t even manage to nuke my hard drive via Terminal. Thanks, guys.)

Great CGI storytelling

Here’s a little inspiration for your Friday. Filmmaker Bruce Branit has created World Builder, in which “a strange man builds a world using holographic tools for the woman he loves.” I’ve embedded it below, but it’s worth hitting the full-screen viewing button (next to the Vimeo logo).

This is how smooth and effortless I’d like Photoshop to feel.
Bruce was one half of the two-man team that produced the excellent 405: The Movie on their desktop computers back in 2000 (more info). Thanks to reader Cris DeRaud for the link.

Thursday Photography: DIY cyborg eyeballs & more

HDR panoramas demoed Thursday at SF PUG

“In just over 2 months,” reports Photoshop PM Zorana Gee, the San Francisco Photoshop User Group has “already gotten 380 members!” Tomorrow they’ll host a talk by photographer Lisa Yimm:

A photographer and VFX artist with a BFA in Photography, Lisa is the co-founder of HDR-VFX, based in Nyack, NY. Last year, she spent over 7 months on the road shooting HDR panorama-based virtual tours of Lexus Dealships across the US.

Things get underway at the Adobe SF office around 7pm. Here are the full details.

Wednesday Illustrations: Super Mario, free textures, & more

  • I love this crafty little Super Mario riff from NYC.
  • Omid Sadri made himself some awesome multi-functional businesscards: “There are three different cards within the set. One which suggests to use portion a of the card as a dental floss, one for cleaning under nails, and one for chewing gum.”
  • I’m digging Paul Lee’s crazy characters & punchy palettes.
  • Speaking of punchy, check out the colors & images in Jimmy Roberts and Brian Christopher’s collaborative project Exquisite Corpse. [Via]
  • Free resources:
    • There’s a big free texture archive on Flickr. [Via]
    • Sketchory hosts more than a quarter million Creative Commons-licensed sketches. (You largely get what you pay for, of course.) [Via]

Come speak at MAX in October

The Adobe MAX conference is already starting to take shape for this fall (Oct. 4-7 in Los Angeles), and the organizers are looking for good speakers. I’m told that the proposals are pretty geek-heavy so far (lots of emphasis on tools, how-tos, etc.), and we’d like to get more folks talking about their work & creative processes.
Check out Ted Patrick’s call for sessions & labs proposals for more info. And for inspiration, check out some of the presentations from MAX 2008.

Sunday Type: Comics, zombies, & more

  • Poor Papyrus: It’s on the hit list of this Simple Pledge. (Man, next thing you know, photographers will be told that black jeans & fanny packs are on the way out.)
  • “We meet again, my dear doctor…” Blambot presents a detailed but accessible survey of Comics Grammar & Traditions. [Via]
  • Graphic Mania features a roundup of fresh 3D typography. The fountain of type for the Zune Marketplace sorts me out.

Fun with Augmented Reality

Wikipedia describes “augmented reality” as “the combination of real-world and computer-generated data (virtual reality), where computer graphics objects are blended into real footage in real time.” Now it’s come to Flash, with some amazing results.
The GE Smart Grid site lets you print out a sheet of paper, hold it up to your Web cam, and interact with 3D graphics. I was all set to link to a quick demo of the technology, but it just went MIA from YouTube. No matter: here’s a demo of an interactive print piece for Mini:

Thanks to the open-source FLARtoolkit for Flash, augmented reality is popping up all over, as in this augmented Happy New Year’s card:

It’s even been combined with Twitter + t-shirt printing. For more info, check out David Pogue’s report from TED. [Via lots and lots of people]
Tangentially related: This funny example of “real-life multitouch” is, indeed, a sign of too much iPhone usage. (Seeing it reminds me of Photoshop QE Pete du’Fosse realizing that he was working too much when he found himself hovering a hand over his microwave’s keypad, getting frustrated when no tool tip appeared.)

If you use Adobe video apps…

…get lots of RAM, and if you use Windows, move to Vista 64 or Windows 7 64*.
You’ll be glad you did, as both After Effects and Premiere can address 4GB of RAM *per processor core*. That means that on an 8-core Mac Pro or Vista 64 rig, you could devote up to 32 gigs of RAM just to AE or Premiere.
Will all that memory benefit your projects? Depends on how big they are. Writer Jan Ozer produced some pretty amazing results with big jobs, in one case cutting rendering time from 68 minutes to ~10. Adobe DV evangelist Dennis Radeke has more info on the subject.
* Re: XP64, to quote the spinners in Blade Runner, “Move on, move on…”

Sweep the leg, Johnny

This week Sony introduced the $499 HX1 camera, notable as it offers a very cool “Sweep Panorama Mode.” This new mode lets you “click and drag” with the camera, pressing and holding the shutter button while pivoting up to 224 degrees horizontally and 154 degrees vertically. The camera itself stitches the images together on the fly, producing images with a max resolution of 7152×1080. Check out this demo video (low res but effective). A number of journalists I met on Tuesday at PMA were clearly impressed.

Coincidentally, I was just about to talk about using Photoshop to do something similar. Our little champ turned one on Monday, so we threw a birthday party on the weekend. My 24-70mm lens wasn’t nearly wide enough to let me capture the folks gathered around the table, so I fired off a quick series of frames, then tossed them from Lightroom to Photoshop for automatic stitching. (Here’s before & after.)

Photoshop’s Auto-Blend algorithm handled the moving people well overall, and in the one area that needed touching up, I was able to simply paint on the auto-generated layer masks to modify the blending. I was really pleased with the results.

So, it’s great to see cameras doing more automatically, but don’t forget that you’ve already got some interesting power at your disposal. (Bridge offers the same single-step hand-off to Photoshop for processing: choose Tools->Photoshop->Photomerge.)

New Photoshop plug-in creates & edits true 3D text and more

I’m very excited to see that Electric Rain has released Swift3D PS, a plug-in that lets you create & edit 3D layers within Photoshop CS4 Extended. According to their site, top features let you:

  • Create, bevel and extrude 3D text from any font in seconds.
  • Quickly create extrusions and 3D lathe objects with a Bézier pen tool.
  • Extend Photoshop’s workflow with After Effects CS4 Live 3D view.
  • Import, extrude and bevel existing 2D vector artwork from Illustrator or Flash.
  • Simplify 3D scene creation with targeted cameras & lighting.

Because it works inside Photoshop, the plug-in taps into the power and flexibility of Photoshop’s 3D system. After extruding some text, for example, you can still apply Smart Filters in Photoshop, paint the surface of the letters, rotate them directly in PS, and send them back to the plug-in for further updates.

Very cool; I’ve been hoping to see something like this for a long time. Swift3D PS should make it much faster and easier to create popular 3D text effects (like this) & more.

Check out some screenshots, and peep these 3-minute tutorials to see the system in action. The plug-in (Windows only at the moment) is downloadable in trial form and sells for $149 (with a 15% off coupon available now).

Update: What the heck, here’s a sample video (3 minutes):

Crashing surf, iPhone photo tools, & more

  • Clark Little is a man willing to suffer for his craft, taking a tremendous pounding from the surf in order to capture some spectacular images. [Via Winston Hendrickson]
  • iPhone photo tools:
    • QuadCamera, according to Macworld, “allows you to take four quick shots in succession with the iPhone camera, producing a single image divided into four quadrants.” [Via]
    • Our friend John Warner has released Focalware, a tool that calculates sun and moon position for a given location and date. “An example of Focalware’s practical use: a photographer is assigned to shoot in New York City on March 15, 2009 and the subject building faces 195 degrees but the photographer prefers raking light at an angle of 130 degrees. Focalware instantly computes a time of 10:28 a.m. with a sun elevation of 35 degrees as the time for the desired conditions.”
  • Is Congress really thinking of mandating that cellphone cameras emit a sound? Yes, really, it appears.
  • Ab Alto:

Tuesday Illustrations: Crayons as pixels, tutorials, & more

Camera Raw 5.3, Lightroom 2.3 now available

Lightroom 2.3 (Mac|Win) and Camera Raw 5.3 (Mac|Win) are now available as final releases on These updates include camera support for the following models:

  • Nikon D3X
  • Olympus E-30

This update also includes preliminary support for the recently announced Epson R-D1x (and R-D1xG). In addition, Lightroom 2.3 expands the number of languages supported & includes a variety of bug fixes, as described on the Lightroom Journal.

Users of older versions of Photoshop (CS3 and earlier) and Lightroom (1.x) can use the free DNG Converter (Mac|Win) to make files from the D3X, E-30, and over 200 other cameras compatible with their software.

Monday Science

It’s been a while since I last shared science-related bits. Without further ado:

Drive Photoshop with your iPhone

Oh, now this is cool: PhotoKeys is a $4 app that lets you drive Photoshop (switching tools, nudging layers, running actions, etc.) from an iPhone.  [Via Jesse Zibble]


I’ve taken it for a spin, and it works as advertised.  Setup proved to be a bit more time-consuming than I’d expected (involving installing a simple free server app, killing off my VPN connection, restarting the iPhone, and assorted trial and error), but all told it wasn’t bad.


It’s funny: thinking about the dearth of unused keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop, a bunch of us were talking about just such an idea the other day.  Cool to see that someone has already beaten us to the punch.


Of course, what’s really in short supply is another modifier key (a la Shift, Cmd/Ctrl, and Opt/Alt) or two.  Having another way to modify commands would open up exponentially more possible combos.  It would be brilliant if an app like PhotoKeys could add such a thing, but I think the bottleneck would be Photoshop.  That is, the app needs to open up a more flexible, general purpose way to accept inputs.  (How about MIDI, so you could hammer saturation with a whammy bar? ;-))


Out of curiosity, if Adobe were to create (or work with a hardware company to create) a simple, inexpensive hardware device, would you be interested in it?  What would it need to do/look like/cost in order to be interesting?  (This is one of those ideas that’s come up for years, so I’m just tossing it out there for consideration, not hinting at anything specific.)