InDesign tip : #29

adobe’s prerelease program is a brilliant way to contribute to the development of future software releases. this is what adobe has to say about the program :

“The goal of a Prerelease Program at Adobe is to solicit early feedback on new features and bugs in order to produce a unique and a bug free product that can deliver maximum results.”

it’s not something you can just sign up for — you have to apply, giving your areas of expertise, years of experience, etc. and if adobe think you may have something to contribute you’re in. you can apply to be part of adobe’s prerelease program here

if you get accepted into the program you get a sneak-preview of some of the cool stuff currently in development — some of it is just tweaks to existing tools — some of it doesn’t make the cut because it just doesn’t work, or whatever — but some of it is truly awesome — like this new menu that’s in the very early stages of development :
screen grab of beta design menu
(apologies, the conditions of the prerelease program forbid showing screen grabs of the actual functionality)

the top few menu items are pretty clunky at this early stage and will probably only be useful to talentless desktop publishers in the first few incarnations of this menu. but the basic concept is sound and there’s already quite a bit of evidence from the beta-testing that one day these will be really powerful features of InDesign.

the last two menu items are the ones with immediate application for designers. as you can probably guess, these allow for quickly testing different colour sets and font sets throughout a document. these rely on the user correctly assigning swatches and type styles onto which the test colours and fonts can be temporarily mapped. if you’re happy with the results, just confirm your choice and all your swatches and/or type styles are updated accordingly. a cool thing about this functionality is the capability to switch between up to three different colour sets and font sets — giving you all the experimental scope you need.

adobe keep things pretty tight, so it’s hard to know if this menu will make the cut for CS7. there is a positive vibe on the review forums, but there’s also a lot of concern about some of the more obvious bugginess — so it might be a bit longer before we see this menu released for real.

if you’re excited by this kind of future functionality, then you’re exactly the kind of person that adobe needs to help with testing and reviewing. so apply for the prerelease program and have your say.

keep grunting

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InDesign tip : #28

with a little bit of effort you can turn poor typography into ok typography in your body copy. unfortunately, InDesign doesn’t really allow for great typography — but that’s something we’ll touch on in a moment. this post is about automatic kerning, justification and hyphenation.

the first thing to check when you’re working with a particular font is what result you get with each of the automatic kerning options — metrics and optical. which one of those is best for a particular font depends on how good the type designers were at doing their job.

when you choose metrics you are using the mathematical settings created by the typographer. a well created font will have metrics for all the most common character pairs — specifying, for example, the amount of space that should appear between ‘AB’, which will (at least, should) be different from the amount of space that appears between ‘AV’. these metrics are generally known as kerning tables.

when you choose optical you are asking InDesign to override the typographer’s kerning tables and space the characters more or less visually based on the shapes of the characters.

here are a couple of screen grabs showing the same portion of text using the two different automatic kerning methods :
screen grab of text set with metric automatic kerningscreen grab of text set with metric automatic kerning

as you can see, neither of these methods is perfect. ‘his’ and ‘and’ are undoubtedly better using metrics kerning, but ‘winston’ and ‘musing’ are better when using optical kerning — the metrics don’t come up to scratch. and this for a font called Adobe Garamond Pro — you would think we should expect better from the metrics.

and here’s why InDesign doesn’t allow for great typography and why, in at least this one aspect, Quark shits all over InDesign. with Quark you have the option to correct dodgy metrics by editing the kerning tables. so, with Quark we could get in there and fix that diabolical ‘mu’ combination in the kerning table and then it would be corrected for every instance throughout the entire document. InDesign allows no such finessing — we are stuck with the shitty kern-pairs that come with the font or we take our chances with optical kerning.

so, when working with a new font, always check both automatic kerning methods to see which will give you the least disappointing results.

ok, now on to justification. the default justification settings that come with InDesign are simply insane and lead to this kind of abomination :
screen grab of poorly justified type

this is because the default justification settings look something like this :
screen grab of poor justification settings

those numbers are invariably going to lead to shit results. all the adjustments to a line of text happen between the words — none between the individual characters — and those adjustments range from 133% word spacing (big gaps) down to 80% (words running together).

settings which make just a little more sense look something like this :
screen grab of better justification settings

… and will lead to better results — not perfect, but better :
screen grab of better justified type

right, last we have hyphenation and, again, the defaults are ludicrous :
screen grab of default hyphenation settings
just the fact that automatic hyphenation is turned on by default is silly enough — because InDesign is not that great at deciding where a hyphen should appear within a word. but the rest of those settings will, AGAIN, invariably lead to shit results — like this :
screen grab of text using default hyphenation settings
four hyphens in the first seven lines and the very first word on the page is the second half of a word from the previous page — just atrocious.

most jobs do not require automatic hyphenation — you should add your own (discretionary) hyphens, where appropriate, as you set the text. if you really must use automatic hyphenation (eg. you’re laying out vast tracts of text like a novel) then you should uncheck all those check boxes and adjust the other settings to something more like this :
screen grab of better hyphenation settings

the improvement to the type is simply indisputable :
screen grab of text using better hyphenation settings

but wait, there’s more …
once you come up with a bunch of settings which suit your sensibilities you can make them your very own defaults — just the same as you can change so many of InDesign’s default settings. just make sure you have no documents open then adjust the justification and hyphenation settings through the paragraph panel (under the type menu) :
screen grab of paragraph panel and dropdown menu
those will be your new defaults for every new document from now on.

keep grunting

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InDesign tip : #27

ok, so, here’s the deal with ruler guides … there’s probably handy stuff you don’t know yet …

let’s start with the basics. you click-drag a guide from a ruler (if your rulers aren’t showing, hit cmnd-r). if you want a horizontal guide, drag from the top ruler. if you want a vertical guide, drag from the left ruler. BUT if you accidentally drag from the wrong ruler, just hold your option key before you let that button go and your guide will change orientation. cool.

if you want your guide to only traverse the page, you drop it on the page. if you want it to extend across a complete spread or across the pasteboard, drop it on the pasteboard. simple.

you can also drag a horizontal and vertical guide at the same time — hold your cmnd key and click-drag from your origin (these guides always traverse the spread/pasteboard) :
screen grab of two guides being dragged from origin

to select a guide, just click on it. to select a bunch of guides, click-drag over them. to lock your guides so they can’t be selected (and moved or deleted) go view > grids & guides > lock guides. to lock individual guides (rather than the whole lot) just select and lock them the same as you would an object — object > lock — or cmnd-L.

and you can lock all the guides on a particular layer by double-clicking the layer in the layers panel and then checking the lock guides box in the layer options window that appears (notice you can show/hide guides on a particular layer here too) :
screen grab of the layer options window

an active (selected) guide is the same colour as the active layer. so, if you’re having difficulty seeing a guide as you drag it because the guide is the same colour as the background, just change the colour of the layer or choose a different layer to drag the guide on to.

the colour of a placed (deselected) guide is determined by your ruler guides settings. find this under your layout menu. setting the colour here only affects the guides you create from here-on-in. already existing guides maintain their original colour. change an existing guide by selecting it and then choosing ruler guides (which you can also access with a right-click once a guide is selected). go crazy.

screen grab of document with multiple guide colours

this is also the place to set the view threshold of a guide — that is, the magnification level below which the guide will no longer be visible (unfortunately this isn’t terribly accurate — eg. in CS6, guides with a view threshold of 100% don’t disappear until 55% — you just have to get over it). if you want the guide to be visible at every magnification level — set the view threshold to 5% (the minimum magnification in InDesign) :
screen grab of the ruler guides window

to quickly hide or show all guides use cmnd-; (also see the difference when you just hit ‘w’ — making sure your text cursor isn’t active at the time, of course — this is called preview mode).

to delete all guides on a spread right-click (or cntrl-click) a ruler and choose that command from the dropdown. this can also be accessed through view > grids & guides (this does not affect locked guides) :
screen grab of ruler contextual menu

but you might prefer to do it entirely from the keyboard — select all non-locked guides with cmnd-opt-g and then just hit delete.

to delete all guides throughout an entire document you need a tiny little script which you’ll find all the way back in InDesign scripting : lesson 01

if you just love precision (and don’t we all) you can use your control panel to place and distribute guides exactly where you want them. this screen grab shows what the control panel might look like with four vertical guides selected :
screen grab of control panel with guides selected

and now for tricky guides …
if you double-click the top ruler you’ll get a vertical guide in that position (left ruler gives you a horizontal guide, of course) — this is a great way to get a bunch of guides on the page quickly, before dragging them into exact position.

but the tricky guides are the ones you get if you use this method with the option key selected. they are partially protected guides. you can’t select them with the cmnd-opt-g method and they won’t be deleted when you choose delete all guides on spread. but these guides can still be selected and moved with your mouse and they can be deleted once they are selected. tricky — and handy.

note that the default view threshold of the tricky guides is the same as the magnification level at which they were placed. to change it, simply select the guides and right-click to access the ruler guides window.

but wait, there’s more …
if you want to place a whole bunch of guides in a regular pattern you can use create guides under the layout menu. this not only lets you create the familiar looking columns but also the less common but still-quite-functional-really rows :
screen grab of the create guides window
screen grab of document with guide grid in place
rock on

and there’s still even more …
if you like to work by placing items on a page and then dragging guides to match the edges or centres of your placed items then you really should play around with the AddGuides scripts (both applescript and javascript) that come with InDesign. select your item/s and double-click the script in the scripts panel (window > automation > scripts OR window > utilities > scripts) and you’ll get a dialog box something like this (the javascript version is a little different) :
screen grab of Add Guides script window
automatically placing as many guides for as many objects as you want :

and we haven’t even started on guide preferences, snap to guides and smart guides — but you probably already know all about that stuff.

keep grunting

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Photoshop tip : layers

here are a couple of handy tricks for working with layers.

this image is going to be deep-etched. we first have to turn the background layer into an active layer (notice the lock in the layers panel) :
screen grab of initial flattened photoshop file

to achieve that, just double-click the layer. this will open a dialog box asking you to name the layer. if you’re happy to just use the default name (Layer 0) — hold down your option key before you double-click to bypass the dialog. but in this case a different name was applied :
screen grab of file with layer made active

now, we’re only a couple of sentences in and it’s already time for a rant …
if you are going to deep-etch an image, DO NOT DESTROY PIXELS. there is absolutely no good reason for permanently erasing a background. you should always use a mask instead. you can read more about making masks here. masks are created with the mask button at the bottom of the layers panel :
screen grab of masked photoshop file

if you click the new layer button you’ll get a new layer above the currently selected layer or, if no layers are selected, at the top of the layer stack. but if you want the new layer beneath the current one, or at the bottom of the stack, hold the command key as you click :
screen grab showing new layer added

to name a new layer as you create it, just hold the option key as you click the new layer button. this also works if you are duplicating an existing layer by dragging it onto the new layer button (but not if you are duplicating with the right-click method).

now we need to add a logo from another file. first you need the new file in a separate window in front of your working file (so that you can see both files) then just click and drag the layer you want from the new file’s layers panel into your working file. you can also do this with multiple layers (just command-click to select multiple layers) :
screen grab showing one file being dragged onto another

to make things a little easier, hold the shift key as you click and drag. this will place the new layers dead centre :
screen grab showing new art in the centre of the working file

to rename an existing layer, double-click on the name in the layers panel.

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Photoshop tip : masking

let’s start with a belligerent directive … if you are going to deep-etch an image, DO NOT DESTROY PIXELS. there is absolutely no good reason for permanently erasing a background. you should always use a mask instead. if you make a mistake or change your mind or whatever, it’s easier to alter a mask than it is to reclaim lost pixels. ok, you’ve been warned.

a mask is a non-destructive way to create a transparent or translucent portion of a photoshop layer. the mask appears next to the image in the layers panel. white areas are totally opaque, black areas are totally transparent, and grey areas are somewhere between :
screen grab showing a basic mask

it may be a little easier to see the difference with a red background :
screen grab showing the basic mask with a red background

different images require different approaches to deep-etching. here’s one way to do one kind of image.

we need to get rid of the white background of this image so we can put it on a black background. to start with we can make a quick selection with the magic wand tool or by using the color range command under the select menu :
screen grab showing initial selection

this is not a perfect selection however, because the chrome highlights are white too and have also been selected. if we use this selection as our mask we’ll get big black spaces in our chrome — not pretty. refining the selection is a perfect job for quick mask mode (hit the Q key) :
screen grab showing the initial selection in quick mask mode

zoom in and use your brush tool to paint in the missing areas. you can change the colour and transparency of the quick mask by double-clicking the quick mask tool near the bottom of your tool panel :
screen grab showing the refined selection in quick mask mode

now you can exit quick mask (Q) and create the actual mask by hitting the add layer mask button at the bottom of the layers panel :
screen grab showing initial application of layer mask

well, that’s not quite right — we’ve masked out the bike instead of the background. not to worry, there are at least two easy ways to fix this : either undo and hold your option key as you click the add layer mask button; or click on the layer mask and hit command-i to invert the mask.

now we can see the mask is not quite tight enough — there’s a white halo around the bike. this can be fixed by selecting the layer mask and choosing filter > other > minimum (this example only needed a 1 pixel contraction) :
screen grab showing the minimum filter being applied to the layer mask

the next obvious thing to fix are those shadow areas under the wheels. you can do this by painting directly onto the layer mask with your brush tool, or you could make a selection and fill it with black (again, on the mask itself, not the image) :
screen grab showing a further refined layer mask

the only problem now is those disastrous spokes. let’s have a closer look :
screen grab showing closeup of badly masked spokes

now, you could try patching all that up with a lot of brush and eraser work, but here’s a simpler way. first, use the brush and eraser to completely mask out all the spokes and do a basic cleanup (tip: you don’t actually need to swap between the brush and eraser, you could just swap between a black brush and a white brush — whatever you find easier) :
screen grab showing closeup of cleaned up spokes area

next, disable the layer mask (shift-click on the layer mask) so you can see the original image. and use your pen tool to draw straight paths for each of the spokes :
screen grab showing closeup of spokes area with mask disabled

here are the completed paths with the top layer turned off so you can see them easily :
screen grab showing closeup of spokes area with finished paths

make a new layer, select your brush tool and set it to a fine solid brush (this example uses a 1 pixel, 100% hardness brush), then select your path in the paths panel and choose stroke path from the dropdown menu. if the resulting lines are not quite strong enough you can just stroke the path again with the same settings — try that before opting for a bigger brush :
screen grab showing closeup of spokes area showing new lines

now select the lines by holding down the command key as you click on the layer preview in the layers panel. turn off that top layer and hit command-h (hide selection) so you can see what you’re doing. click on the layer mask and hit delete. if the result isn’t strong enough, just hit delete again :
screen grab showing closeup of spokes area showing new masked spokes

bonza :
screen grab showing completed mask

as mentioned, this is just one way to mask this image. feel free to share your favourite way.

keep grunting.

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