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By Colleen Wheeler | Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Deke's Techniques: How to create an optical illusion

In this week’s Deke’s Techniques video, Deke McClelland takes an Adobe Photoshop journey into the eye-bending world of op art, creating a ’60s-inspired twist and bulge of checkerboard contortion. You won’t need a sample file or unsuspecting model to follow along with this one—just Photoshop, some black and white pixels, and a love of (and visual tolerance for) optical illusion.

The project starts with a simple square document, created in the Grayscale color mode to keep the high-resolution file manageable. (You won’t need any colors, so no sense making room for them.)

How to create an optical illusion in Photoshop

Next, Deke creates a 2 x 2 checker pattern by using the Rectangular Marquee tool set to a fixed size that’s equal to one-quarter of the total image. Once the upper-left square is filled with black, you can drag a copy to the lower-right corner by pressing the Alt (Option) key while you drag.

Create the pattern in Photoshop

With the basic unit of the pattern complete, you can turn it into a reusable Photoshop pattern by choosing Edit > Define Pattern. In this case, Deke aptly named it Checkers:

Name the pattern for the Photoshop effect

Deke then applies the Checkers pattern to a new blank 4800 x 3000 document. Click the black/white icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to make a new Adjustment Layer and choose Pattern. Then choose your Checkers pattern from the available patterns and set it to 50 percent to fill the document with small squares.

Create the pattern in Photoshop

Saving the pattern layer as a Smart Object allows you to warp it nondestructively with the Transform command. Choose the Warp icon from the options bar and set it to Inflate from the Warp pop-up menu. Then set the Bend to -100. The checkerboard is pinched inward:

Warp the image in Photoshop

The pinching motion of the Inflate transformation has pulled the pattern away from the edges. Deke adds more checkers to the outer edges by opening the Smart Object and doubling its size.

Example of the pinching motion of the Inflate transformation.

Deke then creates the round, prominent part of the illusion by applying the Spherize filter to a circle selection in the middle of the image.

Apply the Spherize command

To achieve the final effect, Deke applies two more doses of the Spherize filter, and the result is a swirling, bulging, some might say hypnotizing bit of Photoshop-created op art.

The final image

For members, Deke’s got another exclusive video called Op art experiment 1b: Rounded Windows, in which he turns a flat collection of rectangles into a curving wall of optical mystery.

Deke will be back next week with another mind-bending technique.

Suggested courses to watch next:

• The entire Deke’s Techniques collection • Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Intermediate • Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Intermediate

By David Blatner | Thursday, January 10, 2013

InDesign Secrets: Understanding Optical Margin Alignment

In this week’s free InDesign Secrets video, David Blatner explains the mysteries and transformations provided by the Optical Margin Alignment feature. Hidden in the Story panel, the feature allows you to align characters in a paragraph so they appear visually uniform rather than technically aligned.

For example, without Optical Margin Alignment, the punctuation on both the left and right edges prevents the actual letter characters from aligning:

How text looks when Optical Character Alignment is turned off

With the Optical Margin Alignment turned on (see the check box in the lower-right corner below), the quotation marks, hyphens, and even parts of certain letters extend beyond the frame to increase the appearance of graceful uniformity.

How text looks when Optical Character Alignment is turned off

In the video, you’ll also learn David’s tricks for fine-tuning the position of various characters. For example, I may want the D in “Down” in the title to align with the A in “Alice” in the first line. David’s secret solution involves an extra space and some negative kerning to push the quotation mark next to “Down” completely out of the frame, so the first full-fledged letter of each line starts in the same vertical position.

Alternately, you could decide you don’t want the quotation mark halfway down on the left of the paragraph to extend at all. In this case, David’s got a solution involving a mysterious invisible character that hangs out and pushes the other visible text back into the frame.

Meanwhile, David’s partner in InDesign secrecy, Anne-Marie Concepción, has a member-exclusive video called Changing the shape of any frame with the pen tool.

David and Anne-Marie will be back in two weeks with more InDesign Secrets.

Interested in more? • The entire InDesign Secrets biweekly series • Courses by David Blatner and Anne-Marie Concepción on • All InDesign courses

Suggested courses to watch next:InDesign FX weekly seriesInDesign CS6 Essential Training • InDesign CS6 New Features

By Colleen Wheeler | Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Deke's Techniques: Crafting an infinity symbol to match a specific font

In this free Deke’s Techniques video, Deke McClelland gives you the infinity symbol. The best part about this technique: you don’t have to settle for a one-font-fits-all symbol that doesn’t match your typeface of choice. Rather, Deke uses the Width tool and Variable Width preset feature in Adobe Illustrator to create an infinity character that honors the slopes and rhythms of a typeface that has no symbol of its own—in this case, Adobe Caslon Pro:

Use your typeface's numbers as your base for a custom infinity symbol.

Deke begins with a trick many school-age kids already know, using the Type Orientation command to turn an 8 on its side:

Use the Type Orientation command to turn the number 8 sideways.

Although, that’s not quite what we’re after. Let’s face it, this looks like an 8 on its side. But Deke uses that character to create a base outline for his new infinity symbol. After turning the sideways 8 to outlines, he uses it as a guideline to draw the primitive shape. (Be sure to watch the video to see how he cleverly uses the Path > Average command to find the right position for the anchor points.)

Use the sideways 8 as a guide to draw a rough infinity shape.

Next, Deke copies the primitive path and applies a thick 24-point stroke:

Deke uses the Width tool at each of the anchor points to thin out and thicken up the shape in a pattern similar to the other numbers in Caslon Pro—making the horizontal segments mostly thinner and the vertical ones thicker.

Customize the shape by adjusting the anchor points of your path.

After roughing in the general width variations, you can double-click a point with the Width tool to edit the points to an exact measurement. In this case, Deke sets the thin areas to 10 points and the thick areas to 24 points exactly.

Further customizing the width of the points.

The results are OK, but a little lumpy. This is due in part to the Variable Width feature’s reaction to a closed path (it works more elegantly on an open path). So Deke saves this pattern as a Variable Width preset, and then he can tweak it on a line segment, which is much friendlier to work with:

Saving the pattern as a preset.

Applying the new custom preset to a line, he can make sure the widths are precisely in place and aligned with the exact divisions along the line:

Making sure the preset is applied correctly.

Then this new Variable Width preset can be saved and applied to the original primitive symbol. The result is this graceful Caslon-esque infinity:

The final customized infinity symbol.

And since Deke’s Photoshop and Illustrator knowledge is seemingly infinite, he’ll be back with more Deke’s Techniques next week!

Suggested courses to watch next: • The entire Deke’s Techniques Collection • Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Intermediate • Illustrator Insider Training: Drawing without the Pen Tool

By Mike Rankin | Thursday, January 03, 2013

InDesign FX: Creating paper cutout letters

In this week’s InDesign FX video, I show how to create the effect of letters cut out of paper.

The final effect of letters cut out of paper.

The key elements to achieving this look include a combination of two transparency effects (Drop Shadow and Inner Shadow), a bit of vector masking courtesy of the Paste Into command, and your own creativity in scattering the letter shapes for some carefully composed “randomness.”

The cutout effect begins with a simple line of text.

The effect begins with a simple line of text.

The text is then converted to outlines and filled with a photo to simulate a surface beneath the paper. In this case, I chose a wood-grain texture. A small Inner Shadow applied to the letter shapes creates the effect of looking through the cutout letter shapes.

The text is converted to outlines and filled with a photo.

Adding a small inner shadow to create the cut out effect.

A second copy of the text outline is filled with a light black tint and given a small drop shadow. Then everything is placed atop a large frame filled with the same black tint to simulate a sheet of paper.

Fill a second copy of the text outlines with black and a drop shadow.

Close-up view of the second copy.

The final step of this effect is where you get to exercise the most creativity—scattering the letters by moving and rotating them.

Get creative with how you scatter the cut out letters.

Another nice thing about this technique: you can use it with any vector shapes you have or bring into Adobe InDesign from another application (like Adobe Illustrator).

Using any vector shape with this cut out effect.

I also have a member-exclusive movie in the library this week called Applying multiple strokes with layers. In this video I show two variations on how to create multilayered text by applying combinations of varying strokes and shadows.

Applying multiple strokes with layers.

Applying multiple strokes with layers.

Applying multiple strokes with layers.

See you here again in two weeks with another InDesign effect!

Interested in more? • The entire InDesign FX biweekly series • Courses by Mike Rankin on • All InDesign courses

Suggested courses to watch next:InDesign Secrets weekly seriesInDesign CS6 Essential Training • InDesign CS6 New FeaturesDeke’s Techniques

By Colleen Wheeler | Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Deke's Techniques: Creating a 2013 hexagonal calendar

This week’s Deke’s Techniques video celebrates the New Year by showing you how to create a one-page full-year calendar in Illustrator. The idea for using hexagons in calendars was originally inspired by the 2010 oeuvre of illustrator Germán Ariel Berra, but it seems Gérman has moved on from calendars in the past few years, so it’s Deke’s Techniques and Illustrator to the rescue for 2013.

The project begins by drawing a simple hexagon in the upper-left area of the artboard by using a shape tool set to a Radius of 98 points and a Sides value of 6 (naturally.)

Creating the initial polygon shape for our calendar

By default, Illustrator draws its hexagons with a flat side up, so Deke uses the Rotate tool to turn the shape 30 degrees:

Set the rotate angle to 30 degrees

Since this particular hexagon will eventually become the month of February, Deke sets the fill to medium blue, which he’s chosen to represent that month. He thickens the stroke to 2 points and sets it to white.

Note: You can choose any color you like, as long as it says “February” to you. I’m using the colors that have been stuck in my head since my parents gave me my first cool calendar (with stickers on the back!), likely to have been created in the early ’70s. It just so happens I like medium blue for February, too:

Set the color for your first hexagon shape.

Next, Deke duplicates the first stroke and applies a Transform effect at 95 percent scale to give the hexagon a double ring.

Duplicate the stroke and apply a transform effect to give the hexagon a double ring.

With the entire hexagon selected, Deke then drags duplicates into place to complete a row of four. The trick here is to click and drag the upper-left point of the original hexagon until you sense it snap into place on the right, holding down the Alt key to create a duplicate. After that, you can use Ctrl+D (Command+D) to create duplicates in the correct places. He then sets the colors for March through May accordingly.

Four hexagons as the base of our calendar

Next, he selects three of the four hexagons, and drags a duplicate row into place. These shapes are colored for June and July 2013 respectively. (Deke and I apparently agree that July is red.)

More hexagons placed and aligned correctly with their colors set.

Next, the appropriate number of hexagons are copied into place and colored appropriately to finish the year.

We now have twelve hexagons ready to be labeled.

Next, Deke creates the February month title by first clicking inside the “February” hexagon (not on the edge).

Adding the month names to the hexagons.

Move and position the month names within the hexagons.

To align the month properly, Deke switches to the Outline view, turns on the shape centers, and then aligns the February text to the center of its hexagon and drags out copies to the next three months. After changing the text appropriately for each month, he selects all the month text and uses the Move tool to set them at a distance of –41 points. This way all the months are centered properly and equally positioned from the top of their respective hexagons.

If you’re creating this project on your own, rather than using Deke’s files, you can drag copies of the months out to the other cells, position them using the same commands, and retype each of the names. (A year of Februaries would be short and cold and full of too many Valentine’s Days.)

To make the days of the week and the days, Deke has a very smart and efficient approach that he demonstrates in the second video of the week. (It’s like having two Tuesdays in one week; only it’s Wednesday!) In this video, you’ll see how creating a table of text allows you to quickly adjust each month for its appropriate number of days and starting day of the week. Here’s my completed calendar with my own type choices and color connotations.

The final hexagon calendar.

For members of, there’s yet another exclusive movie this week called Branding your calendar with a field of logos, in which Deke shows you how to create a pattern of your logo to fill out the rest of the calendar.

The 2013 Hexagonal calendar as a desktop wallpaper.

Deke will be back with another technique next week. Happy Hexagonal New Year!

Suggested courses to watch next: • Entire Deke’s Techniques Collection • Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Intermediate • Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Intermediate

By Anne-Marie Concepción | Thursday, December 20, 2012

InDesign Secrets: Ten secrets of the Story Editor in Adobe InDesign

In this week’s free InDesign Secrets video, Anne-Marie Concepción reveals 10 secrets of the Story Editor feature in Adobe InDesign. The Story Editor is designed so you can read text in a window that’s separate from your layout file, away from the distractions of the formatting and graphics.

But the Story Editor can also be handy in other situations, especially when it’s difficult or downright impossible to see in layout. If you encounter any of these scenarios in InDesign, Anne-Marie can show you why the Story Editor may be exactly what you need:

1. Changing text color 2. Sideways text 3. XML tags 4. Footnotes 5. Notes 6. Hyperlinks 7. Tracked changes 8. Inline or anchored objects 9. Overset text 10. Overset tables

All of which are easier to read, grab, and move around in the Story Editor. Check out the video above to see the Story Editor in action.

Adobe InDesign Story Editor

Meanwhile, Anne-Marie’s partner in InDesign secrecy, David Blatner, has an exclusive video for members in which he shares 10 ways to move an object in InDesign. The movie is aptly named Moving an object: Ten ways! and members can find the video with the entire collection of InDesign Secrets.

Suggested courses to watch next:InDesign CS6 Essential TrainingInDesign New FeaturesCreating Long Documents with InDesign

By Colleen Wheeler | Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Deke's Techniques: Hobbit-inspired text

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques video—inspired by the movie poster for The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey—Deke McClelland starts with the unsuspecting, decidedly unheroic text and takes it on a Middle Earth–inspired adventure into the lands of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

The result is that this ordinary-ish text in the before image below ends up looking as though it’s been chiseled and chewed all the way there and back again, with all the seasoned character one would expect, and as you can see in the after image:

Before and after of the final Hobbit inspired text effect.

Deke starts his project in Illustrator, where it’s easier to manipulate the shapes and sizes of the letterforms. The first step is to turn the text into outlines with editable paths that can be manipulated by Deke’s wizardry. He stretches the T, shrinks and adds an embellishment to the E, and adjusts the Q’s swash:

Using Adobe Illustrator to manipulate the shapes and sizes of the letter forms.

After swapping the stroke and fill colors and reducing the stroke width, Deke roughs up the edges with the aptly named Roughen effect. Choosing Effect > Distort and Transform > Roughen, he sets the Size set to an Absolute 1.2 points and the Detail (i.e., the number of roughening wiggles) to 17 per inch:

Using the Roughen effect in Illustrator.

Having suitably stylized the text shapes, Deke copies the outlines and pastes them into Photoshop. Note that when you bring this path in from Illustrator and use the Paste command, Photoshop gives you four choices for the type of Paste you want to perform. For this project, picking the Shape Layer option means you will retain the path outlines.

Bringing the text shapes into Photoshop.

If the task of Illustrator is to help create the shapes, then the destiny of Photoshop is to provide the texture. After changing the fill to white to improve visibility, Deke applies a layer effect, Gradient Overlay, using a couple of orangish shades for the gradient:

Using Photoshop Layer Styles to add texture.

To give the letterforms some volume, the next step is to add a Bevel & Emboss layer effect using the Chisel Soft technique option and appropriately adjusting the blend modes of the highlights and shadows (to Linear Burn and Linear Dodge, respectively.)

Using Layer Styles and the Chisel Soft technique.

The chiseling effect is a good start, but to really sell effect, Deke adds a texture layer (created from a photograph) and clips it inside the letters. Then he duplicates the texture, flips it around, and creates another clipping mask. After supplying a Color Overlay effect and dose of the Noise filter, along with some blend mode tweaking, the result is letters that look like they’ve survived a battle or two:

Adding a texture layer and a color overlay.

To really distress the text, Deke uses the Pen tool to draw some paths that look like proper battle scarred, dwarf-bitten divots, then uses the Subtract Front Shape command in the options bar to remove those areas from the shape layer.

Using the Subtract Front Shape command.

To keep the larger holes from boring all the way through the letters, Deke fills in the backs of the letters with a perfectly registered layer of colored texture, masked to take care of the letters’ more violent wounds:

Making the final touches to the text including colored texture and masking.

Finally, Deke adds in some supplementary, self-deprecating text, and voila:

The final poster in the style of The Hobbit.

The background of this image, by the way, is not Middle Earth or even the stand-in for Middle Earth known as New Zealand. It’s actually the Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Ireland (which stood in for the Cliffs of Insanity in the movie The Princess Bride, so it’s still a motion picture worthy locale).

Deke has a member-exclusive video called Enhancing a landscape photo in Camera Raw 7 that demonstrates how he enhanced a regular vacation photo to make this cinematic background.

Deke will be back in the new year with another Deke’s Techniques episode.

Suggested courses to watch next: • The entire Deke’s Techniques collection • Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Intermediate • Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Intermediate

By Mike Rankin | Wednesday, December 12, 2012

InDesign FX: Showing graphics as tiles

In this week’s InDesign FX video, I show how to create the effect of an image printed on a set of ceramic tiles.

Create the effect of an image printed on a set of ceramic tiles.

The key element of this effect is a set of frames that are identically sized and equally spaced.

A set of frames that are equally sized and spaced.

There are a few different ways you could go about creating these frames. You could use the Step and Repeat feature. You could hold Option/Alt and drag an existing frame. You could even use a script that comes with Adobe InDesign called Make Grid. But by far the quickest and easiest way to make this set of frames is to use the Gridify feature. You simply start drawing a rectangle by clicking and dragging with the Rectangle tool, and before you release your mouse button, tap your keyboard arrow keys to split the rectangle into multiple copies. Tapping the up/down arrow keys adds or removes rows of frames.

Use the Gridify feature to create frames.

Tapping the right/left arrow keys adds or removes columns of frames.

Tap arrows right or left to add columns of frames.

You can adjust the spacing between the frames by holding the Command/Ctrl key while tapping your arrow keys. You can also hold Shift while you release your mouse button to create a set of perfect squares. If that all sounds like a lot of complicated keyboarding, I suggest you just try it out. It’s actually quite intuitive.

Of course, the frames are just the start of this effect. After you have created them, you then need to make them act as a single object before you can place a photo into them. This is a perfect use for the Compound Path feature. Then you’re ready to place a photo into the compound path so a small portion of the image appears in each tile.

Use the Compound Path feature and place a photo into the compound path.

Finally, a few finishing touches are needed to create the look of ceramic tile. First, I like to round the corners a bit, using the Corner Options in the Control panel. Then I add some transparency effects like Bevel and Emboss and Drop Shadow to finish the look of the tile.

Create the look of ceramic tile.

If you want to take the effect even further, you can create a texture that looks like grout holding the tiles in place. For that, I use a frame filled with gray, enhanced with a large Inner Glow. The key for creating the texture is to add a lot of noise to the Inner Glow.

Adding the appearance of grout to the tiles.

I also have a member-exclusive movie in the library this week called Simulating chalk. In it, I show how to make live text or any object you create in InDesign look like it was written on a chalkboard.

Chalkboard effect

See you here again in two weeks with another InDesign effect!

Interested in more? • The entire InDesign FX biweekly series • Courses by Mike Rankin on • All InDesign courses

Suggested courses to watch next:InDesign Secrets weekly seriesInDesign CS6 Essential Training • InDesign CS6 New FeaturesDeke’s Techniques

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