Monthly Archives: February 2008

Make Photoshop sample colors outside the app

Thanks for all the feedback and suggestions about improving Photoshop’s color-picking tools.  I’ll reply to many of the comments once I get a few free cycles.

In the meantime, I notice that many people are asking for Photoshop to gain the ability to sample colors from outside the application.  That capability is there already: grab the Eyedropper Tool, then simply click and hold on a document, then drag elsewhere on the screen.  Notice that the foreground color on the toolbar keeps updating as you move your mouse.  When you let go, the sampled color will be your foreground color (or background color, if you were holding Opt/Alt when you clicked).  I’ve confirmed that this behavior works on the Mac, and I believe it’s the same on Windows, but I don’t have a machine handy on which to check.

Clearly this behavior isn’t very discoverable, but I’m not sure what would make it easier to find.  Some commenters noted that the color picker in Flash and other former Macromedia apps makes it easier to sample colors from outside the app: when you mouse away from the preset color swatches, it keeps sampling colors under the mouse.  That’s true, though I’ve often found that behavior annoying (i.e. I end up sampling things I didn’t intend to sample).

I’m glad the topic has come up, and I’ll bounce some ideas around with the UI and engineering folks.  Hopefully there’s a way to get the best of both worlds.

What color-picking tools do you like?

The Color palette in Photoshop (see screenshot) is, to be charitable, a bit long in the tooth. In particular, the little color ramp at the bottom is awfully small (occupying just 0.00072% of the screen real estate on at 30" monitor; yes, I did the math).

We certainly won’t break what’s working or force you to use a larger color picker than what’s there today.  Having said that, there’s clearly room for some innovation.

What kind of color-picking tools would you like to see in Photoshop?  Are there good examples you can share?  We’ve already batted around the idea of revealing kuler-like functionality in Photoshop (see very rough mockup).  What else would be cool/useful/powerful?


New AIR-powered Adobe kuler desktop

The crew behind Adobe’s kuler color harmony RIA has released a new version of the desktop color feed browser (screenshot).  You can check it out by installing Adobe AIR, then downloading the app.  New features include:

  • Browse color themes from the kuler website while offline (up to 100 themes cached per feed)
  • Drag and drop themes onto your own desktop as transparent "tear offs," which can be scaled and viewed over any application
  • Access themes from Mykuler (must be signed in)
  • Download themes as ASE (Adobe Swatch Exchange) files directly from the kuler desktop (must be signed in)
  • Browse the new RSS feed "Random"

Here’s the full feature list (PDF) in case you want all the details. [Via Sami Iwata]

Completely tangential but involving colors: Art Lebedev’s Optimus Tactus keyboard concept. [Via Scott Valentine]

Leather + multitouch = foxy

Ooh, now that’s nice: student Nedzad Mujcinovic has crafted “Livre,” a concept for a leather-wrapped, multitouch-aware electronic book.  Check out the photos as well as the overview.  Could a large e-ink screen, organic materials, gesture-based navigation, and a minimum of button clutter change the game and make e-books widespread?  It would be fun to find out. [Via]

In other cool device news:

  • Small format:
    • Like sketching ideas on cocktail napkins, but wish they were more expensive and susceptible to water damage?  Then perhaps you’d like the Napkin PC.  Naw, the concept is cooler than that–especially if you could combine multiple Napkin PCs into a single work area. [Via Jana Sedivy]
    • Inchworm brings sketching and painting to the Nintendo DS.  It was created by Bob Sabiston, the developer of the “Rotoshop” software used to create Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. [Via Greg Geisler]
    • Nokia envisions a future full of shape-shifting phones; peep the video for their Morph concept.
  • Multitouch:
  • CNET reports on startup company CeeLite (note: not the singer from Gnarls Barkley) creating flexible sheets of light, useful for wrapping on buses, poles, and other objects.
  • Researchers at Stanford have revealed details on their plenoptic camera work.
  • Alienware offers a cool, curved display for widescreen gaming.  I wonder how well it would work for design & photo editing.
  • Art Lebedev’s Photoshop-savvy Optimus Maximus OLED keyboard (mentioned previously) has started shipping.  You can see it being set up, or you can watch the droll Art himself work his geek-fu on a real live girl. :-)  [Via Jesse Zibble]

Fun with physics-based drawing

The great thing about computer-based drawing and painting tools is that they do exactly what you expect, over and over [reliability => productivity.]. That’s also what kind of sucks about them, though: happy accidents can be hard to come by.

Taking a different spin on things, Umeå University’s Phun is “an educational, entertaining and somewhat addictive piece of software for designing and exploring 2D multi-physics simulations in a cartoony fashion.”  Although it’s not a drawing tool per se, Phun mixes literalness with a measure of unpredictability.  Check out this video of it in action. [Via Jerry Harris & Jim Geduldick]

If that’s up your alley, take a look at Nelson Chu’s amazing MoXi watercolor simulation (details).  Computer power (GPU power in particular) is starting to enable sophisticated simulations on every desktop.  Look at the way an app like Little Big Planet leverages a great physics engine and redefines the process of computer-based creation (in this case using a PlayStation, but so what?).

It seems like every other day I read about some app or other using the Flash platform to partially emulate old versions of Photoshop.  That’s all fine, but I’m much more excited about harnessing the platform to build much richer, more immersive, and (optionally) less predictable creation experiences.  We can have the best of both worlds, and that’s what keeps me amped & in the game.

Poster Flava: eBoy on AIR & more

Naked saunas, 3D Flash globes, and other infographic goodness

  • My wife and I are nervously quizzing each other on these expert (and very funny) baby care instructions (boosted wholesale, it would seem, from David Sopp’s Safe Baby Handling Tips). [Via]
  • Wable is “a coffee table that displays a user’s web activity via physical bar graphing.”  Yes, I remember pining for such a thing not ever. (Are Venn-diagram kiddie pools next?)
  • Maps:
  • Signage:
  • Blogging software has made self-publishing seem simple, but beneath the covers, a whole lot’s going on.  Wired has a Flash-based diagram showing what all happens when one hits “Publish.” [Via]

Lightroom Podcasts #50 & 51: Photoshop integration & color correction

George Jardine has posted a pair of new video tutorials for Lightroom:

Three Options, Unlimited Possibilities (9:28)

In this tutorial I outline the basics of using Lightroom’s Edit in Photoshop command, specifically as it pertains to RGB files. You’ll learn what your three basic options are, and how they are best used to begin taking advantage of the incredible variety of workflows available, when using Lightroom and Photoshop together.

Subjective Color Correction (6:04)

In this tutorial I outline the basics of color correction, in a situation where the color and density of the photograph are wide open to interpretation. Make sure you start with a calibrated and profiled monitor, and then learn to trust your eyes to bring out the very best in your photographs, using the Adobe Lightroom Develop Module.

Both podcasts can be downloaded from George’s iDisk, and can be found on iTunes by searching under Podcasts for "Lightroom." [Via]

Of Eyeballs & iHoles

Apparently Canon is developing an Iris Registration Mode that will enable photographers to use their eyeballs to form a kind of digital fingerprint for their images.  Hmm… the tech sounds cool (well, provided it works better than the fingerprint scanner on my ThinkPad), but I’m not sure how it helps secure photographers’ rights.

What people want–and can’t have, as I’ve noted previously–is the ability to embed copyright data in images that are both easily readable and secure.  Iris scanning doesn’t address the fact that if you can edit the pixels of an image, you can get around copyright data in the image (through copy and paste to a new file, if nothing else).  And for all the talk of wanting secure metadata, I don’t see much use of the Digimarc technology that’s been bundled in Photoshop for ~10 years (allowing copyright to be subtly encoded into the pixels themselves), nor do I hear of many photographers passing around their images as secure PDFs (which offer 128-bit encryption, among other things).  So, unless I’m missing something (and please shout out some enlightenment if so), iris scanning doesn’t seem to change the game too much, at least as regards downstream image protection.  [Via Steve Weiss]

On a lighter eye-related note, check out Scot Hampton’s iHole–the camera made from an iPhone box.