Category Archives: Up From Obscurity

Scanning the past

Wired News reports on Kodak’s efforts to develop high-volume scanning technology for old prints. These machines analyze the images, then categorize them & assign metadata by recognizing faces, print size & shape, handwriting, and more. Sounds like a cool & fairly painless way to get shoeboxes full of snapshots into a computer.
This reminds me of a little-known but powerful feature in Photoshop. The Crop & Straighten Photos command (“Lift & Separate” to its friends) is found under File->Automate in Photoshop CS and above. The command takes a bunch of photos scanned at once (like this) and turn each into a separate cropped, rotated image (like this).

Insanely obscure scripting feature o' the day

I considered calling this post “Most Obscure. Feature. Ever,” but then I remembered the tweaky labyrinths woven as Russell Brown bribed various engineers for little improvements. In any case, knowing this tip would qualify anyone as Photoshop Illuminati:

When accessing File->Scripts in Photoshop, first hold down the Opt/Alt key. Instead of running the selected script, Photoshop will open it in the ExtendScript Toolkit (Mac/Win)–itself quite a well-kept secret.

Hey, I said it was obscure, but it could be a useful way to inspect anything from layers to PNG to Flash gallery creation. Thanks to Tom Ruark, Photoshop engineer & Russell’s collaborator on the Image Processor script, for pointing this out.

Non-destructive raw editing with Smart Objects

Sometimes in the course of development, you find that a feature design can flex to accomodate things you didn’t plan at the start. We devised Smart Objects to enable a new level of Suite integration (letting Illustrator data stay live and editable inside Photoshop (see demo)), to allow non-destructive scaling/rotation/warping of layers, and to enable parent-child relationships (edit one, update many). We knew the design had legs, but we didn’t know if we’d have time to extend it to raw camera data in CS2.
Fortunately Chris Cox and Thomas Knoll were able to make it possible to place a raw file into Photoshop, and the technique is becoming a sleeper hit. When placed as a Smart Object, the raw file is embedded behind the scenes. The upshot is that you retain access to the full complement of raw data (and the Adobe Camera Raw feature set) even while applying adjustment layers, dodging and burning, adding masks, healing dust spots, etc.
Ben Long’s latest article on covers the technique (“It’s a non-destructive dream!”–nice!). You can also see Russell Brown demonstrate it in this video, and you can download Russell’s scripts that facilitate integration here.
So, the next time you hear someone crowing about non-destructive editing, remember that not only have we been doing this for the last three years with Camera Raw; we’re now taking it to a new level, letting you keep data intact while leveraging the unique power of the Photoshop tool set.

Up From Obscurity: Adobe Proxy

Big company, big products–something’s bound to get lost in the shuffle. With that in mind, I’m going to try creating an “Up From Obscurity” category to shed light on features, resources, and techniques that deserve more prominence.
First up: Adobe Proxy. Anybody remember the late Adobe Magazine? Well, it’s born again (sort of) in Adobe Proxy, a glossy quarterly focused on All Things Design (profiles of design shops, links to actions on Adobe Exchange–another great/totally obscure resource–etc.). Check it out at
[Edited 3:15pm per comments below]