Graphics File Naming System

One of the least glamorous but potentially most time and frustration saving habits you can acquire is to adopt a good file naming system and then use it consistently. A good file naming system can save you hours of time when you are trying to find an image. This is particularly true if you tend to save several versions of a file.

graphics fileA complete graphic file name should include: item name, color mode, resolution, and file format. An example would be Trees_CMYK_200.psd. This type of attention to detail in file naming, while perhaps a bit cumbersome, will make your file management and location chores much easier. In addition, it will make it easier to identify your graphic images.

Right on Spot: Maximizing Spot Color Value in Adobe InDesign

We love color, and we know you do, too. While budgets don’t always allow for four-color work, two-color printing projects don’t have to look drab or dull. Adobe InDesign allows you to define a whole range of swatches based on any two ink colors, providing you with the options you need to make your project look great.

So how do you go about using this feature? Here are the steps to take:

  1. Open the Swatches palate and bring up its flyout menu. (Click the arrow in the upper right-hand corner to do this.)

new color swatch

    1. Select New Color Swatch.


    1. Create a color swatch for each of the colors you will be using in your design. (Choose Spot from the Color Type menu.)


  1. Once both swatches are created, go to the Swatches flyout menu again, and select New Mixed Ink Group.

new mixed ink group

    1. Click in the gray boxes to the left of your two swatches.


    1. Give each color an initial value (we recommend starting with 0%), a repeat value (equal to the number of steps you’d like the program to take to reach 100%), and the increment you’d like the value to rise with each of those steps.Keep in mind that the final percentage cannot exceed 100%. That means if you start with 0% and choose a repeat value of 10, your increments would have to be 10% or less. Or, if you start with 0% and choose a repeat value of 4, your increments could go as high as 25%.


  1. Once you’ve set your values for both ink colors, hit Preview Swatches. A list of swatch colors using varying percentages of each ink will then appear. Use these in your layout to add variations of color without worrying about adding another color of ink to the project.

new mixed ink group

Text-Formatting Shortcuts for Illustrator

Puppy with LaptopYou like to save time, right? And you care about puppies, true?In design (or any business), time is money. Anything that can save a few seconds and eliminate tedium is a good thing. Shortcut key combinations do both.Of course, designers typically fall into one of three camps when it comes to using shortcut key combinations. The first group use them religiously. The second prefer the mouse. The third would use shortcut combinations… if only they could remember them. If you fall into that third category, here’s a list of text-formatting shortcut key combinations built into Adobe Illustrator:Effect

Increase type size incrementally
Decrease type size incrementally
Increase leading incrementally
Decrease leading incrementally
Increase baseline shift incrementally
Decrease baseline shift incrementally
Increase kerning/tracking incrementally
Decrease kerning/tracking incrementally
Restore kerning to Metrics and tracking to 0
Toggle automatic hyphenation
Left-align paragraph
Right-align paragraph
Center paragraph
Justify paragraph (except last line)
Justify paragraph (including last line)





So what does any of this have to do with puppies? Nothing really. We were just curious.

Using Clipping Paths in InDesign CS5

Imagine a world where everything had to fit nice and neatly into its own little box, with four sides, four corners, and… wait. Scratch that. Boring idea. Fortunately, our world is not boxed-in. Instead, it’s filled with distinct angles, free-flowing curves, unusual shapes, and out-of-the-box edges that make life anything but ordinary. So why do so many designers limit themselves to rectangular images when designing projects in Adobe InDesign?

Because raster images have to be rectangular, you say. It’s part of the software.

True, yes, but not a good excuse – especially when clipping paths are so readily available and easy enough to use.

Clipping paths allow you to hide the part of an image you don’t want to appear on the page. Anything inside the clipping path will be visible, but anything outside of it will be transparent. That’s right. Transparent. As in invisible, unseen, and – most important – able to let other page elements flow over top without getting hidden from view.

So where have clipping paths been my whole life, and how can I get started? Glad you asked.

Clipping Path Step 1

Getting Started

The easiest way to add a clipping path to an image is to create the path in Photoshop, then import the image into InDesign with the clipping path already in place. Use the Path tool in Photoshop to create the path, save the image as a TIFF, EPS, or PSD file, and import it into InDesign (File > Place). Select Apply Photoshop Clipping Path on the Import Options dialog box. InDesign will then clip the image accordingly.

Refining the Path

After importing the image, you can alter its clipping path fairly easily. Just select the image you want to refine using the direct selection tool. The clipping path you imported will appear. Click and drag on any points along this path to reshape the image and refine the edge. As you alter the clipping path, additional details from the original image will be hidden or revealed.

Clipping Path Step 2

Converting the Path to a Frame

Once you’re finished fine-tuning your path, you can convert it to a standard frame by choosing Object > Clipping Path > Convert Path to Frame. This will lock the path in place for you.

Choose Your Own Path

InDesign will let you choose any path created in Photoshop as the clipping path. To choose a path, highlight the placed image and choose Object > Clipping Path > Options. Select the Photoshop Path option from the Type menu in the dialog box that appears, then choose a path from the list. Preview your selection, and select OK when you’re satisfied.

Stop letting InDesign’s restrictions for image dimensions paint you in a corner (or put you in a corner, like Jerry Orbach did to Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing). Break free with clipping paths – the Patrick Swayze of InDesign tools. (Cue “I’ve Had the Time of My Life,” then fade to black.)

Fix Distorted Photos with Photoshop’s Lens Correction Filter

Lens Correction Filter

You’ve taken what you thought was the perfect photo, only to discover that the lens on your camera has distorted the image in some way. Objects appear to be bending or bowing. The perspective is skewed. Or maybe the corners are dark. Whatever the situation, the Photoshop Lens Correction filter may be able to help.

As its name implies, the Lens Correction filter makes minor alterations to your photos in order to fix problems caused by the limitations of your camera’s lens. Issues such as blurriness, improper focus, or a thumb blocking half the picture are not covered. However, perspective issues caused by poor camera angle are.

Lens correction was available in previous versions of Photoshop, but with CS5, Adobe added auto-correction capabilities that use actual data from your camera’s lens to correct most minor problems quickly and effortlessly, without any real human intervention. (Yes, the machines are getting smarter; be afraid.)

The Lens Correction filter works with 8-bit and 16-bit RGB and grayscale images only. Raw images or those with metadata work best. To get started select Filter > Lens Correction. Photoshop will display a status bar and update its database of lens profiles.

Adobe provides built-in profiles for a wide assortment of cameras and lenses that make it easier to get very precise and accurate filtering results. Dropdowns are available for camera make, camera model, and lens information.

If your particular camera or lens is missing, don’t worry. An online search tool allows you to find additional cameras and lenses not included with the software. If you prefer to create your own profile, you can do that, too. Just enter your camera’s specs into the online profile creator tool. Profiles obtained or created in this manner can then be added to the list for future reference.

The filter’s auto-correction features include geometric distortion, chromatic aberration, and vignette (that darkening of the corners mentioned above). Unfortunately, “subtract 10 pounds” and “make 10 years younger” are not options (yet). Checkboxes make it easy to choose the settings appropriate for you. An Auto Scale Image option tells Photoshop what to do in case changes will affect the photo’s canvas size. Choices include filling additional space with a white, black, or transparent background, or enlarging the image to fill the space.

Custom correction settings are also available, in case you want to fine-tune your results.

Nobody’s perfect – and neither is your camera lens. The Lens Correction filter helps to counteract some of these imperfections.

Creating Photoshop “Actions”

So, you’ve used Photoshop for awhile now and are fairly adept at cropping, working with layers, changing colored photos to black-and-white and the like. Have you ever had this happen? You tinkered around with a picture for awhile using Photoshop, and ended up with an image that was creative and different. The only problem is, you can’t remember how you arrived at that final look. Actions What you need to learn now is something called “Actions.” In Photoshop, an “Action” is a digitally written record of the steps you’ve taken to enhance or alter a photograph or image.


Some advantages to using Actions are:

  • you’ll save time and money
  • you can customize actions to fit certain workloads
  • you can share actions with others
  • you can make a hard copy of an Action you’ve developed, which can become a tutorial for you to use anytime

There is so much that can be done with Actions, it’s actually beyond the scope of what can be presented here. We’ll just touch on the basics. To create an action, use the Actions palette. The Actions palette is accessed one of two ways: Use the menu command: select Windows > Actions or Use the keyboard command: type Alt+F9 (Windows) or Opt+F9 (Mac) This will open your Actions palette. The palette then becomes your best friend as you create a series of steps to alter a photo, make a record of those steps, save that record and then re-play those steps in the future to achieve the exact same effect with another photo. Applying Actions to batches of photos Not only can you alter an individual photo using Actions – you can alter large numbers of photos with Actions. And the beauty of it is, you don’t even have to be at your computer while this is happening. To process a batch of images, first be sure that the action you want to use is loaded into the Actions palette. Then go to the Batch dialog box (File > Automate > Batch). The Batch dialogue box contains four main areas:

  • Play. Choose the action you want to assign to the Batch command.
  • Source. Select the images or folders of images you want to alter.
  • Destination. Determine the destination for the images you’ll be processing.
  • Errors. Photoshop logs any errors that might occur during processing.

Some Action tips Author Al Ward, Photoshop expert and self-proclaimed addict, suggests a few things to keep in mind as you set up your own actions.

  • Use as few displayed dialog boxes and stop messages as possible.
  • Establish color codes for your actions.
  • Keep the names of your actions as short and descriptive as possible.
  • Use keyboard shortcuts.
  • Save your actions frequently.
  • If you include a Save As command in an action that saves a file as a JPEG, be sure that the Save As Copy check box is checked in the Save As dialog box.

Fine Tuning Typography

The fine line between ordinary and extraordinary design lies in the details. While great attention to detail is placed on layout, often overlooked in document creation is the text itself. In the days of yore, professional typographers would peer over the printing press to ensure that the typeset was truly a work of art. Typographers would, quite literally, make certain that the “i”s were dotted and the “t”s were crossed.

While typographers in the print shop may have fallen to the wayside, typographers at digital foundries take special care to craft highly functional pieces of digital type that can truly sparkle in the right hands. However, unless you know where they have hidden their tools, your electronic documents may be missing their finery. In QuarkXpress 8, the ability to bring out the best of typography are just a few quick clicks away.

Working With Special Characters.
Working With Special CharactersWhat you see on your keyboard is just the start of what lays hidden within many fonts. Bullets, accented characters, monetary symbols, and much more lurk just beneath the surface. Some special characters even include multiple shapes for you to chose from to bring out the best in your document. These special characters can be found in the Glyphs pallet of the Windows Menu.

To add a special character, open up the Glyphs pallet in the Window menu, and then scroll to locate the character you would like to use. Double-click the glyph and it will be placed in your document. If you have a few glyphs you find yourself favoring, you may wish to save them in the Favorite Glyphs area at the bottom of the Glyph Pallet by dragging and dropping them into the open boxes.

Creating Fractions
Creating FractionsWhile you can easily create fractions using numbers and a slash, the results can lack the refinement that actual fractions lend to a document. For a more polished approach, you can utilize QuarkXpress’ built in functionality to give your fractions the detail they so highly deserve.

To create your fraction, simply highlight your text, and chose Style > Type Style > Make Fraction. This will convert those unsightly displays of 1/ 2 and 1/ 4 into more elegant 1/2 and 1/4. Even complex fractions can be expressed with a more refined appearance with just a few quick clicks of the mouse.

Applying Ligatures
Often times, certain combinations of letters can cause your type to look a bit more shabby than it should. Notoriously, “fl”s and “fi”s can become crowded with some typefaces. Ligatures are special glyphs that represent a character pair, and can help remove the awkwardness to those type combinations. Fonts can easily be substituted with ligatures automatically in QuarkXpress if you know where to look. Simply click on Enable Ligatures in the Character tab of the Measurements pallet.

Applying Ligatures
Typography may no longer be the first thing you think of in document creation. But thanks to QuarkXpress 8, your documents can still have the look of “hands on” craftsmanship like that of the typesetters of old. With a little attention to detail and a little knowledge of QuarkXpress’ powerful tools, you can bring back the fine art of typography to your documents.