Do you need to replace sensitive information in a screen capture? Let me show you a couple of tricks that may make your life easier.
I’m working in the Adobe booth at Photoshop World this week, fielding questions about Creative Cloud and various applications. It’s gratifying when I can solve a problem for someone, but sometimes not being able to solve the problem leads to a different kind of reward—learning something new.
A gentleman brought his Microsoft Surface Pro 3, complaining that the Photoshop interface components are so small on the hi-DPI Surface screen that it’s almost unusable. He was right—icons, tools, and panel text were hard to read, and controls were challenging to select, even with the fine-point Surface stylus.
Lowering the display resolution worked, of course, but then all other applications were huge, with components falling off the screen.
Several other booth folks tag-teamed on the problem, but it was Adobe’s Russell Williams (a 2014 inductee into the Photoshop Hall of Fame, by the way) who offered the solution. In Photoshop CC 2014, you have the option to activate experimental components—features that haven’t been officially incorporated into Photoshop—with the caveat that these features might not be fully production-ready yet. One of the experimental features lets you scale Photoshop’s interface @200% to accommodate a high-density display (Note: it’s available—and necessary—only on Windows; hiDPI display has been possible on Mac Retina displays since CS6).
To access experimental features, just choose Edit > Preferences > Experimental Features.
So it was a good day—the Surface owner is back in business, and we all learned something new.
Here’s more information on experimental features in Photoshop CC2014: http://adobe.ly/1lIUwIk
Last night (7/25), the Adobe Creative Cloud desktop app deployed an upgrade. I was minutes away from a presentation, so I wanted to dismiss the update, but there was no option to decline; it was either upgrade or quit. I couldn’t quit, because I wanted to show the features in ACC. The other two speakers had already run the update and seemed to have no issues, so I took a deep breath and ran it. For good measure, I rebooted. To set up for my first topic, I opened a PSD with missing fonts, and received no “missing font” warning, and no offer to go shopping for fonts on Typekit. Photoshop locked up, and I had to force quit.
Unfortunately, I was about to demo that very feature in front of about 200 people. I force-quit, rebooted, then quit and relaunched the desktop app, and Photoshop still wouldn’t show the missing fonts alert (even though the affected type layers sported yellow triangles). I was running out of time.
I sidestepped the issue by showing how to get fonts from Typekit through a browser, and by some miracle, a font actually synced and showed up in my fonts list. I applied it, and I think nobody knew. But I was a bit flustered, and afraid that something else would go awry.
After the session, I futzed around more, with no success; it still wouldn’t trigger the Missing Fonts alert. Finally, more out of aggravation than hope, I wiped out the Photoshop preferences — and that fixed it. Not just in Photoshop, but in all the other apps, too (beats me).
When I got home, I ran the ACC update on the desktop Mac, with the same results; somehow, it warped Photoshop’s connection with Typekit. And when I wiped out the prefs, everything was fixed.
This is under Mac OS 10.9 (Mavericks); anybody else have this experience?
Smart Objects offer some wonderful flexibility in Photoshop; they allow endless transformations without a cumulative loss of data, because each transformation is a fresh start from the original data, whether that data is raster or vector. Why, you can even open a Camera Raw file as a Smart Object, which allows you to go back to the Camera Raw data for color correction, noise reduction, or straightening—it’s the ultimate in non-destructive editing.
But there are two scenarios in which Smart Objects act a bit dumb.
Rendering Vector Content
If you create a Shape layer or text layer in Photoshop, then save the file as a Photoshop PDF, the text or shape will render as vector when the PDF is placed into InDesign or Illustrator. If you save the file as a PSD, the vector content will display and render as pixels, at the resolution of the underlying image.
However, vector Smart Objects will render as pixels even if you save the file as a Photoshop PDF. My take is that the vector Smart Object data is used as a resource to generate pixels, and not directly available to other applications. It’s not a showstopper, but something to consider; in some cases, you might be better off pasting (rather than placing) vector content, manipulating the vectors, then converting to a Smart Object.
If you assign a blending mode to a layer, then convert that layer to a Smart Object, the blending mode is honored within that image.
However, if you place an image with a layer using a blending mode (thus making it a Smart Object on the way in the door), blending modes are NOT honored. I’ve used shadows with the Multiply blend mode as an example, but this applies to all blending modes.
On Monday, May 6th, in the AdobeMAX keynote prefaced (somewhat ominously) by a driving instrumental snippet from the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post,” Adobe announced that the next versions of its creative tools will be designated “CC” — and will be available only via Creative Cloud subscriptions. This means the end of perpetual (conventional) licenses. Adobe will continue to sell perpetual licenses for CS6, but only by download — no boxed software. The new CC tools will become available on June 17th.
There are compelling new features in CC:
- Camera Shake Reduction
- Camera Raw as a filter
- Intelligent Upscale
- Smart Sharpening
- On-object transform controls
- Area Type to Point Type conversion (and vice versa)
- Images in Brushes
- Auto-generated corners for Pattern brushes
- Greatly improved EPUB export
- 64-bit native (and this was a ton of work)
- De-Carbonized for future enhancements on Mac (another ton of work)
- QR Code generation
As for other applications, you’ll have to consult www.adobe.com: I’m a stodgy old print person, so I confess that I’m ignorant of what’s going on with the Web and video applications.
Pricing and Installing Nitty-Gritty
- You can now buy a year of Creative Cloud with one payment.
- If you own Creative Suite 3 or later, you can join the Cloud for $29.99/month for your first year. After that, the price goes up to $49.99/month.
- If you own a perpetual license for Creative Suite 6, you pay $19.99/month for your first year (and then $49.99/month in subsequent years).
- As with perpetual licensing, you can install on two computers (yours—not yours and your brother-in-law’s). And since the software is downloadable, one could be Mac, and one could be PC (no crossgrade charge). While the licensing implies that only one computer can be used at a time, I have CS6 running on my laptop and desktop at this very moment. InDesign and Photoshop are open on both, with no yellow terror alerts warning me that I’m going to Software Hell as a result. In my heart, I don’t think I’m violating the spirit of the license, since I’m one person. [suddenly, there’s a knock at the door…] Realistically, though, my arms aren’t long enough, nor am I sufficiently ambidextrous to truly be using both computers simultaneously.
- If you need Cloud applications on more than 2 computers, you’ll need another Cloud subscription, and another Adobe ID for additional subscriptions (no big deal; I have a bunch of Adobe IDs so I can test DPS stuff).
- As with the current version of the Cloud, you have to be online only to download and install the software. The software is installed on your computer, just like any other software. Once a month, it silently “calls home” to ensure that your credit card has been successfully charged; that’s the only time you have to be online. (There’s talk of more lenient arrangements, requiring the computer to check in over longer periods, and even more “conventional” arrangements possible for government agencies.)
- If you end your subscription, you’ll still have any files you’ve created, of course, but your software will stop working after a 30-day grace period.
- Don’t need all the programs? You can subscribe to individual products. But if, like most of us, you use more than one program, it makes more sense to just do the Cloud subscription. It gives you access to all the applications, plus numerous services, such as 20GB of Dropbox-like online file storage, free (basic) Business Catalyst hosting for a site created with Adobe Muse, and a free Behance ProSite account.
How do I feel about this change? I’m not utterly surprised — it does mean steady revenue for Adobe, and they swear that we will be given frequent new features to “sweeten the pot.” But I thought we’d be given a one-version warning before they pulled the trigger. I gather that Cloud adoption has been faster than Adobe anticipated—perhaps that hastened this move.
What should you do?
Well, it depends…
Stick with a perpetual/conventionally-licensed copy of CS6 if:
- You work alone, and submit finished files to print providers.
- You don’t anticipate creating EPUBs (or you’re happy tweaking the exported coded)
- You aren’t interested in Muse or the Edge family of products
- You plan to keep this computer and current operating system forever
What might force you into the Cloud:
- The need to collaborate with Cloud subscribers using newer versions
- The need to buy a new computer with newer operating system that doesn’t support your copy of, say, CS3.
- The need for Cloud-only applications such as Muse or the Edge products
- The need for features available only in Cloud versions of applications
I’m in an odd position: because I’m a trainer and writer, I have to keep current. But even when I was in prepress, I always upgraded my own software immediately, just because I loved playing with new stuff (and I had to stay ahead of the jobs coming in). So my natural bent would probably drive me into the Cloud. Mind you, I still have all my old versions, both for historical curiosity (“when did we get that feature?”) and to handle antique files in their native habitat (“It’s a PageMaker 6 file? How…quaint.”)
On top of that, I do freelance work for Adobe: I present at printer-sponsored co-hosts and at AIGA events. So I have no choice but to install the latest and greatest. So you might question my objectivity—fair enough. But I truly am trying to maintain my natural cynicism nonetheless. So, with that in mind:
Pros for Adobe:
- Steady revenue stream is good for bottom line (and that means that people I really like at Adobe get to keep their jobs)
- I’m trying to think of another, but that pretty much covers it. UPDATE: As someone remarked to me, maybe this means that the teams aren’t forced to exactly the same release schedule, since features can come “down the pipe” as they’re ready. That could benefit the development teams (and consumers).
Cons for Adobe:
- This could really piss off customers: the appeal of an optional Cloud may not carry over to the forced Cloud. If people don’t upgrade, revenue sags.
- Even if Adobe backs down from the forced Cloud, the bad taste will remain in the mouths of the disgruntled.
Pros For Users:
- Access to every application
- Cross-platform installation
- New features without additional upgrade costs
Cons For Users:
- You’re leasing software: stop paying, it stops working.
- Printers will either have to obtain multiple individual subscriptions, or use the (more expensive) Teams subscription.
- Government and other corporate agencies will have to make special arrangements for Cloud subscriptions, to accommodate firewall and other security concerns.
What About Compatibility?
The potentional for incompatibility with clients’ and collaborators’ versions isn’t new—I have numerous clients who are still using CS4 (especially on Windows). That’s why I keep all my old versions. Adobe has said that they will make every version from CS6 forward available, which implies that, even when “CC3” is released, subscribers would be able to download and install CS6 applications. So this sounds like we’ll have a continuum of versions available for those situations. How will any changes in file architecture affect us? Well, given that, for example, InDesign CC can export IDML that can be opened in CS4 or later, I don’t anticipate problems in the very near future.
I currently have CS4, CS5, CS5.5, CS6 Cloud installed on both my laptop and desktop computers. I used my AIGA 15% discount to purchase a PC version of CS6 Design Standard, and a Mac version of Design Premium, so I have “hard” versions of CS6 that I can install on both platforms if necessary. And if I wake up all my old laptops, I have everything back to the last century. Why, look—here’s my installer for InDesign 1.0.
Tell Us How You Really Feel
So, am I pro-Cloud or anti-Cloud? To quote an old coworker, “I feel strongly both ways.” Want to hedge your bets? If you’re not yet a Cloud subscriber, join AIGA at the Supporter level ($150/yr) or above, and take advantage of the software discount benefit to get a copy of CS6, and keep that on the back burner. Join the Cloud, see if you like it. If you don’t, you always have CS6 to fall back on when civilization collapses (which is imminent, given that elementary schools are not teaching cursive writing, basic grammar, or multiplication tables).
I’ll be frank— I don’t like the idea of leasing software. I know that software is licensed for use, not ownership, but it doesn’t evaporate when you have a conventional perpetual license. I don’t resent the fact that I “rent” my cellphone, cable, and internet services. But I wouldn’t want to lease a car, or rent my house. I can’t quite put my finger on what makes me uneasy about this, but I’m not fond of the idea. Despite the advantages (easy download, tons of features, the promise of constant improvements), the software now seems less real. Less mine.
Then again, it’s not exactly like leasing a car, since the software is not unchanging. If car leases were like Creative Cloud, I’d walk out to the garage one morning to find that I now had heated seats and a sunroof, without an increase in my monthly lease. I could get used to that.
I will soon have to present the new Creative Cloud model to groups, and I’ll be interested to see how they respond. Or maybe I should say “I’ll be steeled” for their reactions: maybe I’d better download “Whipping Post” to serve as the soundtrack.
It may be much like this:
What do you think?
Let’s get something straight: Photoshop is NOT a page layout program!
While it’s been true that we could create text and vector shapes for some time in Photoshop, the addition of Paragraph and Character styles in Photoshop CS6 made me cringe—it’s like an endorsement of bad behavior.
I understand that someone who knows only Photoshop might be tempted to create projects with text in Photoshop. I recently heard of a photographyer submitting his files for an 80-page coffee-table book…as 80 layered Photoshop files. As we say here in the South, “bless their little hearts, they just don’t know any better.” But that’s no reason to encourage it. So I see these new features in Photoshop CS6 as tantamount to handing a firecracker to a baby.
Printers, you can now look forward to proud clients bringing their sell sheets to you as ginormous Photoshop files, bragging that they’ve used styles. And then you can look forward to explaining to them why their text looks pixelated on the proof. That’s because, even though text is editable in Photoshop, it’s rendered as pixels, whether you output directly from Photoshop, or place the image into InDesign and image from there.
But wait—all is not lost!
While it’s better to handle text and vector content in Illustrator and InDesign, there IS a way to render vector content correctly from Photoshop.
The trick is to save the file as a Photoshop PDF.
- In the General options, check “Preserve Photoshop Editing Capabilities.”
- In the Compression options, choose “Do Not Resample,” and turn off compression.
The result is essentially your completely editable Photoshop file—layers, vectors, text and all—in a PDF wrapper. To other applications (such as Acrobat or InDesign), the file is a PDF. But if you reopen the PDF in Photoshop, nothing is lost—the original Photoshop file is there for you.
While vector and text edges are nice and crisp, effects such as bevel and emboss (or the ubiquitous drop shadow) can only be accomplished by pixels. Such content will take on the underlying resolution of the image.
When you place vector content from Illustrator into Photoshop, it’s automatically converted to a Smart Object, which allows you to perform endless transformations with a fresh start each time. So you’d think that Smart Objects would be rendered with vector edges, but they’re not: while the vector reference is stored within the Photoshop file, it only serves as a source for pixels. Even saving as a Photoshop PDF will not force Smart Object content to render as vectors. Counterintuitive, I know, but that’s the deal.
Here’s a comparison of the fate of vector content in PSDs and Photoshop PDFs (click to enlarge).
Now that you know how to maintain vector and text content in a Photoshop file, just promise me you’ll use it only for good, never for evil (by which I mean something like a 24-page catalog in 24 Photoshop files; that’s just wrong).
I’ve uploaded a Zip file containing two Photoshop exercise files and a PDF step-by-step guide to help Photoshop users overcome their fear (or hatred) of the Pen Tool. Here’s the link on the Practicalia website. It uses some simple geometric shapes, starting with straight segments and corner points, then moves up to curved segments. To get you ready for drawing around real objects, there’s a helpful bit on changing directions — corners to curves, and back again. Finally, the time-honored Photoshop ducky is used to give you a taste of using the Pen Tool on more organic shapes.
Maybe I’m just resistant to change. But I don’t care for the new drag-&-zoom feature in Photoshop CS5. I believe Nature intended for you to drag a zoom marquee to enlarge an area of the photo, and it’s an old habit. In CS5, the same drag zooms the image enormously, as if it’s pulling it toward you, without centering on the area you’ve intended to capture. I looked in Preferences and the User Guide for a way to disable it, to no avail. So I settled for gingerly clicking and cursing under my breath.
I mentioned this to a group of SAS folks I was training in CS5 this week, and one of the guys sent me an email afterward, calling my attention to the “Scrubby Zoom” option in the Options bar. Doh! Now, of course, it’s obvious. If I’d known it was called “Scrubby Zoom” instead of “Pain-in-the-Butt Zoom,” I could’ve looked it up. Now I know, and I’m passing it on to those of you who like the Old Ways better.
*If you live in the South, no translation is necessary. But, for the rest of the world, the subject means: “Had it been a snake, lurking so close, in the same obvious location as the Scrubby Zoom option, it would have bitten you.”
JUST TO CLARIFY: This is only true for images in which the first layer comp hides some effects (aka layer styles). If the first layer comp only involves hiding some layers, without hiding any effects, all is well. It’s not a showstopper (once you know about it) — it’s just One Of Those Things. This advice applies whether you’re using the image as button artwork, or just as static artwork in the InDesign document.
When you’re building complex Photoshop files, Layer Comps are a great way to store the visibility of layers that constitute versions of the image. For example, if Layers 1, 3, and 5 are Version A, Layers 2, 4, and 6 are Version B, and Layers 7, 8, and 9 are Version C, you can create three layer comps that let you access each version of the image with a single click. A Layer Comp can also store the position of layers, as well as the visibility of Layer Styles (such as drop shadows, inner glows, bevel & emboss, etc.). Layer Comps make it easy to keep track of versions while you’re experimenting, and when you want to quickly show a client those versions without trying to remember which eyeballs to turn on/off. 😉
Layer Comps can also be invoked by InDesign’s Object Layer Options feature, to control the visibility of layers and effect in placed PSD files; this is especially handy when you’re creating different appearances for interactive buttons. It was while creating buttons that I discovered a bug in the way InDesign handles Layer Comps. If you use Object Layer Options to manually turn layers off and on, all is well. My images had just one layer, but multiple effects (aka fx, aka Layer Styles) applied to the single layer. So I couldn’t invoke separate layers in InDesign, and had to rely on Layer Comps to control the visibility of effects that constituted each version of the button art.
I discovered that, unless you have the first Layer Comp in the Layer Comps panel list selected when you save the file out of Photoshop, you’ll never be able to reveal that first Layer Comp in InDesign. It allows you to select the Layer Comp, but ignores its settings and instead displays the layer comp that was selected when you saved the file. So you can never invoke the first layer comp in InDesign, unless it’s the selected comp when the image is saved.
As you can see in the image above, the first layer comp should just be the plain green text. But InDesign displayed the “Add Rocks” layer comp when I invoked the plain green text comp. Aaarghh (and, of course, it was late at night).
Moral of the story? If you’re relying on Layer Comps in InDesign, make sure the first layer comp in the Layer Comps panel is selected when you save the image, even if you think you won’t use it. It’ll save you the confusion and frustration that had me banging my head on the keyboard at midnight!
If you’ve ever had to silhouette a girl with windblown hair, you know what a challenge it can be to create the perfect mask. I’ve always used channels, duplicating the best one and using Levels, Curves and judicious handwork to create a mask. As long as the subject has some contrast with the background, there’s hope, but, even then, it can be time-consuming.
The ideal masking solution faithfully captures the shape of the subject, maintains translucency and soft transitions, and can be used non-destructively. It’s not a simple problem to solve, which is probably why I haven’t found a product that fit all requirements — until now. All of the other products I’ve tried erase background pixels rather than creating a separate mask. Some do a better job of maintaining transparency, some aren’t much better than using the Magic Wand. But I’ve found only two products that create non-destructive masks with nice, transitional edges: Power Mask, and EZ Mask, both from Digital Film Tools.
Both products do a great job; EZ Mask is just a bit, ah, easier (natch). When you see a product named “EZ Mask,” it’s tempting to think… well, you know. But trust me: it’s wonderful! Let me show you…