Monthly Archives: June 2006

In Dust we Trust

Sometimes you just know you’re among your people. A few years ago, when I was new to Adobe San Jose, someone parked & more or less abandoned a car in the West Tower parking garage. After a few months the car’s windows had grown almost totally opaque, coated by the unending flow of construction-related dust. And so, in classic Photoshop style, someone had drawn in the dust a little tabbed palette with a slider marked, “Opacity: 80%.” Yeeeah, thass’ my geeks
I thought of this when seeing the work of “dust artist” Scott Wade. Scott makes his filthy Mini into a canvas for reproducing everything from da Vinci to dogs playing poker; check out a gallery of his work. [Via] Maybe now I can convince my wife that I’ve been prepping my once-blue Jetta to be an artistic medium, not just letting it go to seed…
[For more on impermanent works, see previous entries on artists working in packing tape and chalk.]

Building the Brain Trust: Adobe acquires Pixmantec

Though by now you may have seen the news elsewhere, I’m happy to report that Adobe has announced plans to acquire the raw image processing technology of Pixmantec. (More details are in this FAQ.)
Adobe Camera Raw is already the overwhelming favorite raw converter (see p.23), and we’re delighted to have one of the world’s best raw-processing developers, Michael Jonsson, joining Thomas Knoll, Mark Hamburg, & the rest of the ACR/Lightroom team. It’ll be great to see what this incandescent group can do together, and we’re looking forward to being joined by business-savvy Pixmantec co-founder Kenneth Tang Laerke as well.
Welcome aboard, guys!

Bumpin' 3D desktop interface

BumpTop brings some fresh thinking to the 20+ year old metaphor of desktop organization. Check out this video to see how it combines 3D, physics, pie menus, and pen savvy to improve file handling.
Cool as it is, however, I was struck by what Merlin Mann has already written up: namely, that the future belongs to file management based on searching. It just isn’t possible for a traditional file system metaphor, no matter how slick, to keep pace with an explosion of data. We see this again and again:

  • Google cruised past Yahoo (i.e. Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle) when categorization couldn’t scale.
  • Smart folders (i.e. saved searches) in email take over when you can’t keep switching among your zillion mailboxes.
  • Desktop-level searching like Spotlight, Google Desktop Search, and Vista’s built-in engine become essential when your number of files overwhelms your ability to categorize them meaningfully.

Maybe, then, the future belongs to slick, forward-thinking UIs that rest atop great search plumbing. This, I think, is where Adobe could make a difference. Why not enable developers to create powerful, lightweight interfaces as they do in Flash (e.g. Felix Turner’s Flickr Related Tag Browser) and use those on the desktop in tools like Bridge? Flickr has thrived by becoming skinnable in interesting ways. There’s no reason that local file management should be less innovative.
For more info on BumpTop, see also the personal site of researcher Bill Buxton. [Thanks to Joel Bryant of Wacom for the link.]

Flash video, AE, InDesign, and more on Design Center

A number of new articles have gone live on the Adobe Design Center:

Thanks to Jen deHaan for the heads-up.

PUG Rock 07/11

The Photoshop User Group in San José is meeting at Adobe HQ (map) on Tuesday, July 11, featuring guest speaker Stephanie Lim, a photo illustrator at the San Jose Mercury News. Event organizer Dan Clark writes,

Fueled by high-octane pigtails and a steady diet of frozen yogurt, Stephanie Grace Lim is a photo illustrating designing machine. She has won hundreds of awards for her photography, illustrations and design. Among them, acclaim from Nikon, Society of News Design, National Press Photographers Association, California Press Photographers Association, Associated Press, National Headliner Awards, as well as winning Michigan College Photographer of the Year and a Pulitzer Prize nomination. In winter of 2007, Sherpas plan to scale the mountain of toys in Stephanie’s cubicle at the San Jose Mercury News.

We’ll have pizza and drinks at 6:30, and the meeting will start at 7:00 in the Park Conference Room. Now, excuse me while I get “PUG Life” tattooed on my abs. (You know I like the blackletter…)

12 Tips for Photoshop Text

This is one of those blog entries that start innocently enough, but which quickly become War and Peace in length. But take a second to scan it quickly if you find yourself setting text in Photoshop. Some of the tips will be familiar, but I’ll bet that others will strike you as new.
[Update: Photoshop Grand Master Russell Brown has now created a video to show off these tips–plus four more, just to outdo me!]

  1. Photoshop CS2 added a WYSIWYG font menu, so that you can preview fonts before applying them. But what if you want to cycle through fonts on the document itself? Select the name of the current typeface in the Options Bar, then hit the Up and Down arrow keys. That’ll cycle through the available fonts on your system.*
  2. If you find that you’re setting the same style of text repeatedly (e.g. Times New Roman 12pt underlined, no anti-aliasing), create a Type tool preset. Click the tool preset icon (you know, that thing no one clicks in the upper-left corner), click the New Preset button, and you’ll record all your current font parameters. (This works with nearly all tools, by the way.)
  3. It’s now much easier to change the settings for multiple text layers at once in CS2. Select the layers you want (Shift-click in the Layers menu to select a range, or Cmd (Mac)/Ctrl (Win)-click to select non-adjacent layers. Any changes you make to the font settings will apply to all selected layers. If you’re working with CS1 or earlier, this still works, but it’s a little more hidden: link together the layers you want to change, then hold Shift before changing the text properties.
  4. If you want to curse less, hit Cmd-Return (Mac)/Ctrl-Return (Win) when you’re done setting a line of text. That way, instead of adding a line break (Return), Photoshop will commit the text edit.
  5. If you’re setting paragraphs of text in Photoshop (e.g. comping up Web pages), and if the process consists of “type type type RETURN, type type type RETURN”–please, for the sake of your sanity, stop! You can simply click with the Type tool, then drag to create a text box (like this). This way, if you need to modify the dimensions of the text box, you don’t end up deleting & reseting tons of hard returns.
  6. Okay, that’s cool, but what if you want to fill not just a box, but some irregular shape? Draw your shape with the Pen tool (making sure to have it set to draw paths), then hover near the inside of it with the Type tool. The cursor will change & you’ll be able to type inside the path, like this. What’s particularly nice is that the path & text stay editable, meaning that if you adjust the path, the text will reflow automatically.
  7. Similarly, you can set text along a path. Draw the path, then use the Type tool to click near the outside of the path. Et voilátext on a path in Photoshop.
  8. Starting in Photoshop 6, it’s been possible to warp text by clicking the warp button on the Options Bar. Clicking it presents a range of options for warping type while keeping it editable. But did you know…
    • You can animate text warps. After creating a warp, create a second frame, change the warp, and hit the Tween button on the Animation palette. Boom–you’ve got something like this (but hopefully way less cheesy).
    • For more warping control of text, first convert the text into to a Smart Object (choose Layer->Smart Objects->Group Into New Smart Object). This provides two main advantages: you can apply a custom warp (pushing and pulling it freely, like this), and you can warp multiple text layers as a single unit. (Downside: you can’t animate a warp applied to a Smart Object.)
  9. Illustrator CS2 has added a bunch of kickass typography tools–a good deal richer than what Photoshop offers. But because Illustrator now shares a type engine with Photoshop, you can set text in Illustrator using features like the Glyphs & Open Type palettes, then copy the text, paste it in Photoshop, and keep it fully editable. (Just make sure you select the letters in Illustrator, rather than the whole text object, before copying, and that you’ve clicked with the Type tool in Photoshop before pasting.) Or, if you have a lot of text in Illustrator, try exporting a PSD file (via File->Export). The amount that can be preserved–including text on a path & text in a shape–is pretty amazing.
  10. Don’t blindly trust any program’s letter spacing. Take a minute to make sure your text looks decent, and adjust the kerning when letters pairs are too tight or loose. (Click between the letters, then Opt (Mac)/Alt (Win) + left/right arrow to adjust the kerning.) You may also want to see Geoff Stearns’ tips on setting good Web-res type. (The default settings for print-res work may not deliver the best results at 72dpi, and vice versa.)
  11. Hold down the Cmd (Mac)/Ctrl (Win) key while you’re working on a line of text. This will let you reposition the text on the layer, without first having to commit your edit.
  12. To select an entire string of text (everything on a layer), double click the layer’s thumbnail in the Layers palette.

Whew–hopefully some of that will prove useful to you. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some tips, so I may come back and update the entry later. If you’ve found tricks you find useful, please add them via the comments.
* If you plan to do this often, you might want to go into Photoshop preferences and raise the number of undos, since each change of font counts as an undoable step.)

Lightroom: 240,000 downloads and counting

Passing along a quick bit of good news: the Adobe Labs folks report that Lightroom has been downloaded more than 240,000 times since Beta 1 was posted earlier this year. The response from photographers has been tremendous, and these download numbers are Mac-only. As soon as we post a version for Windows (yes, we know–it is coming!), I expect download activity to go completely bananas. In the meantime, if you have a Mac handy & haven’t done so already, grab Beta 3–fresh off the compiler & ready for action.

Angels & Insects

Maybe it’s because dachshund-sized moths like to lay eggs on the side of my apartment, or because I used to draw the occasional beetle, but I find the photographic project Angels & Insects arresting, though far from comforting. [Via] In a similar vein, Attracted to Light, from Brooklyn-based twins Doug & Mike Starn, explores the interplay of light, darkness, and these airborne sweater-wreckers. You can flip through the book and check out images from the project online. [See also previous entry on PS & insects.]

Angels & Insects

Maybe it’s because dachshund-sized moths like to lay eggs on the side of my apartment, or because I used to draw the occasional beetle, but I find the photographic project Angels & Insects arresting, though far from comforting. [Via] In a similar vein, Attracted to Light, from Brooklyn-based twins Doug & Mike Starn, explores the interplay of light, darkness, and these airborne sweater-wreckers. You can flip through the book and check out images from the project online. [See also previous entry on PS & insects.]

Illustration sensations

  • Yukio Miyamoto creates gorgeous, photorealistic renderings using Illustrator. Click each image for a larger view, then roll over it to see a wireframe of the vectors underneath (as in this crazy Harley). [Via]
  • At lifeinvector Brooke Nuñez shows off similarly mad chops, and on her downloads page she offers a tutorial on using Illustrator’s gradient mesh to create a realistic red bell pepper. As on Yukio’s site, you can roll over illustrations to see how they’re structured. [Via]
  • Dropping jaws in an entirely different way, autistic savant Stephen Wiltshire–“the Human Camera”–has a superhuman ability to remember and reproduce visual details. In this amazing 5-minute film , Stephen draws a 5-yard panorama of Rome from the air, after seeing it just once from a helicopter. More on his life & a gallery of his work can be found on his site. [Via]