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Archive for the ‘The Graphic Details’ Category

The Graphic Details: Resources and Freebies and Tutorials, oh my…

March 11th, 2009

Since I joined Twitter a couple of months ago, I’ve learned about countless sites out there that offer all sorts of graphics tutorials, tips, resources, downloadables… So much helpful, creative, inspiring stuff out there. Below are just a few of the design- and freelance-related links that I’ve collected from the tweety banter. ENJOY!




Great resources


FREE design stuff!




Small Business + Blogging (design-related)


Geeky + fun


I’ve been astounded by just how much talent is to be found online, and coupled with generosity in many many cases. Schmanks for sharing, folks

[Since I've learned about all these resources, I've become reluctant to continue adding my own low-tech tutorials here... Not that I thought that I was the first to come up with blog lessons or anything, but there's just SO much amazing stuff already out there that I'm less motivated to add to it. So these Graphic Details posts will be sparse, methinks!]

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The Graphic Details: I’m backed up. What about you?

February 9th, 2009

Lately, I’ve had multiple friends lose bunches of files — accidentally trashing folders, not being able to find elements of projects, computers crashing… So this post is not specifically about any graphics program but, rather, about how to organize and keep your files as safe as possible; this might be helpful for anyone who’s a freelancer, or if you have a lot of precious files.

Two pieces of advice for keeping your files safe.

1) Get an external hard drive.

The picture above is of my super-cute (though now antiquated) Western Digital 500 GB “My Book”. I think I’ve recently seen ads for 2 TB drives (four times the capacity!) for the same price I originally paid… Ouch.

For a lot of these, you can automate back-ups. Personally, I’m finicky about how things are organized, so I back my files up manually every week or so — just a simple drag & drop, and it takes minutes each time. The HD is always plugged in and sits on my desk, ready to use when I need it (whether to unarchive something from two years ago or to do a back-up).

I cannot stress enough how great these puppies are. They can save you a LOT of heartache. If all your music, work, photos, etc are only on one machine, I’ll find it hard to feel very sorry for you when things hiccup (and they will), and you lose everything; it’s fully preventable these days.

2) Get your info off-site.

In case anything happens to your home, or if there were a robbery, it would be ideal to have yet another copy of your files somewhere else. You can buy server space online these days, I’ve heard. If you do this, then you simply upload your files to somewhere remote.

I go the old-fashioned route and burn DVDs of everything. Basically, as I wrap up projects, I put them in a “Burn” folder, and when there’s enough to fill a disc, I burn one, which I then eventually bring to my parents’ house. Chez Bob & Loretta, there is a shoebox that contains over 70 CDs and DVDs of projects and photos that date back to 2001. Especially if this is your livelihood, it is worth the trouble.

A few other tips for how to keep things organized and prevent “Oh NO!!” situations…

  1. The importance of a smart naming convention. When you’re naming your files, if you make sure they make sense and will land in the correct order within a folder, life will be much easier. For my work projects for 2009, each docket begins with “09″, then whatever numbered project it is, then the client, then the project. So for example, “09-001 Y_WomenOfDistinction” was the first docket I opened this year, it’s for the YMCA-YWCA, working on the Women of Distinction Awards. As I do this, the projects always stay in order and are clear.
  2. Trash nothing. If you’re about to open a file and work on it… STOP. Make a copy of it first, change the name, THEN open it and do your work. Keep all your old versions in an “Old” folder within the project folder. You can always trash this stuff after the project is finished. Too often, clients will come back and say “Let’s go back to mock up 2!” **And for any projects where you convert text to outlines, ALWAYS keep a text version of the file too! I promise, you will kick yourself if you don’t!**
  3. Folders are your friends. I use them like a mofo. All my active dockets are directly in my Freelance folder. But then I have folders for “Awaiting feedback”, “Burned to CD” (for files I think I might need to access soon, even if they’re backed up), “Done (Unburned)” (stuff that needs to be invoiced and burned), etc. This helps me keep track of the flow my my process and priority-making.
  4. Project organization. For each project, I use folders for: 1) Final print/production files (I asterisk these so they go to the top of the list); 2) old files that will eventually be trashed after the project; 3) PDF or JPG proofs; 4) received (any files the client sends me); and 5) working files (if I do any photoshopping, this keeps all my layered docs in one place).
  5. Protect your computer. Apparently, now that there are more Apple-users, there are also now more Mac-targetted viruses; this means getting anti-virus software for the first time. If you’re on a PC, you should already be using this. And, as always, be smart about what you open or click on.
  6. Do preventative stuff. On my Mac, I try to do the Disk Utility > Repair Permissions thing every month or so (look in Applications > Utilities). In lay-terms, this basically does an overall clean-up for when your machine is doing its thing. I also use MacJanitor, which is a free download. It’s a quick version of a cleanse, and often solves mini-hiccups I’m having.

I’ll stop here — you’re already a trooper if you’ve made it this far. If you have anything to add though, please do so! This kind of info is invaluable; I wish someone had told me about it instead of having had to fumble my way through.

The next couple of tutorials will be about masks in Photoshop. I’ll do a beginner, then an more involved one… starting next week!

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The Graphic Details: Adjustment Layers in Photoshop (Intermediate)

January 17th, 2009

So you’re in Photoshop, muckin’ around with a photo you took — using the main menu’s “Image > Adjustments” tools like Levels, Color Balance, Brightness/Contrast… But then, maybe you:

  • want to keep some effects you’ve achieved while tossing others;
  • like what you’ve done, but can’t remember how you got there; and/or
  • want to apply the same changes to another photo you have… but can’t replicate what you did.

Adjustment Layers can save the day! I use these puppies constantly to keep track of everything I do and to keep my original images intact.

Open up a picture that needs touch-ups. At the bottom of the Layers pallette, click on the half-black/half-white circle, and you’ll see a drop-down list with the same tools that are available under the “Image” main menu items:

If I select “Levels” from this list, play with the sliders till I’m happy, then click “ok”… the Levels settings are now SAVED AS AN ADJUSTMENT LAYER, overtop the photo:

The key here is that the original photo layer (called “Background”, as it is whenever you open a digital photo in Photoshop) is UNAFFECTED — whereas if I’d made the change through the Image main menu tools, the only way to get the original photo back is to undo the adjustment.

Say I create another Adjustment layer — this time, “Color Balance”. Once I play around with the sliders and click “ok”, it’s ANOTHER layer saved overtop everything else:
You get the point: I can keep adding more and more Adjustment layers over the original shot.

So what??
So the beauty of these Adjustment Layers is that you can:

  • RE-ADJUST the values for each layer, as often and as much as you want (see red in example below);
  • hide or show the adjustments layer by layer (see green in example below);
  • drag and drop them into another photo file, and then the adjustments will be applied — ALSO appearing as Adjustment Layers there (NB: you can do all the layers at once by shift-clicking them before dragging them over — very efficient!)

***NB. If you want to keep the Adjustment Layers intact, save your image as a Photoshop file (PSD) with layers. This keeps everything intact, and you can always go back and make more changes if you feel like it.

If you’re going to develop this photo, post it online, or import it into other programs such as Word or Powerpoint… you will also have to save another version (a JPG, most likely). As soon as you do this, the graphic still looks the way you’ve fixed it, but ALL Adjustment Layer info is lost, since there are no layers in JPG files.

What if you add Adjustment Layers to a layered file?
This is a portion of the cover of a hockey summer camps brochure I’m currently working on:

The various graphic elements in the file are, as you can see, on different layers in the file. I would like to brighten/whiten the player’s uniform. I add a couple of Adjustment Layers overtop the player — and now the player’s uniform is nice and bright! But there’s a problem… while I only want to affect the player, the Levels and Color Balance affect ALL the layers below:

To fix this, I simply hold Option (Alt on a PC) while I click BETWEEN the “Player” and the “Color Balance” layers — when I do this, an arrow (hilighted yellow in example below) appears on the Color Balance layer, telling me that it ONLY applies to the Player layer. I do the same thing: hold Option (Alt on a PC) while I click BETWEEN the “Levels” and “Color Balance” layers, and again, the arrow appears — this now tells me that the two Adjustment Layers apply only to the Player:

So play around to your heart’s content, and know that as long as you save the file as a layered Photoshop file, you can always go back and re-jig more without losing the integrity of the original image.

As always, please comment to let me know if I’ve missed anything or need to clarify — and also if there are any topics you’d like to know more about. Happy adjusting!

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