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Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign: A beginners guide to choosing the right Adobe graphic software

Choosing which Adobe Creative Suite graphic software is right for my project The Adobe Creative Suite offers an array of industry-leading software products for graphic design, web design, professional photography, video editing, and much more.  For any aspiring designer looking at the Adobe software choices, there is a lot of overlap between the graphic design products (and for good reason!). If you are confused as to which product is right for you when you decide to tackle that new, creative project, it is helpful to know the key differences between the three major graphic design programs in the Creative Suite: Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Adobe Photoshop: Photoshop is the industry leader in raster image graphics creation and manipulation software.  A raster is a grid of pixels, so any raster image is going to be composed of pixel information.  Each pixel can hold color, brightness, contrast, and other information.  When you get a large amount of pixels together in a document, it creates a recognizable image that the human eye can process. Adobe Photoshop is one of the best software tools for editing your raster images.  If you take a photo with a digital camera or camera phone, you can use Photoshop to make professional edits such as changes to brightness, color information, and much more. However, Photoshop can be much more than an image editing tool.  It can also create new designs from scratch.  You can combine images or selections of images from several sources and use advanced layer techniques to create a new image that is greater than the sum of its parts.  The blending and combination of many small images, plus the control of all the pixel information makes Photoshop an incredibly powerful graphic design tool. Adobe Illustrator: Illustrator is a vector graphics application, which is a completely different method to generate an image than a raster.  Instead of using pixels like a raster graphic, vector graphics use paths and points to create objects based on mathematical proportions.  For this reason, vector images can be scaled to any proportions without losing quality. Graphic designers mainly use Illustrator for corporate identity projects like logos and brochures, but the design possibilities are endless.  Vector images will have less detail than a raster graphic because there is not the high resolution of pixels in the document.  However, the advantage of “scalability” and ease of use with these types of images makes Illustrator the “go-to” for these projects. Adobe InDesign: Once you have designed your graphics in either Photoshop or Illustrator, you may be ready to layout your images into one final design.  Whether for print or web, Adobe InDesign is an essential tool for digital layout. InDesign is built to replace the manual design layout process.  Popular features of the program include text styling and threading, master page options, and smart guides.  In addition, there is a wide array of long document features to help you keep that long document organized. When you are finished, InDesign can output the design into the proper media and includes some handy features to mark-up your design for the web or prepare a file for commercial printing. Similarities All three of these Adobe products have some cross-over between them. While Photoshop is intended for raster graphics first, there are some vector tools built into the program.  In addition, Illustrator is primarily to create vector graphics, but it definitely allows you to place raster images into the designs and can handle the translation of the two types of images.  Last, while InDesign is not thought of as an editing tool, there are some basic editing features...

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3 Reasons to Get Certified in Graphic Design

Over the last decade, we’ve seen an explosion of amazing design content, partly fueled by the popularity of online marketing and small business startups. Everything from logos and flyers to website icons and Facebook banners- the world of graphic design is more in demand than ever before. While many students are choosing to major in the design fields in college, the majority of the talent market is coming from post-graduate people looking to expand their expertise, round out their skill set, and break into this fresh and exciting industry. Many community colleges and online institutions offer certifications in graphic design, and it may be difficult to choose the one that’s right for you. Luckily, at the Digital Workshop Center (DWC), you can be sure that your instructors are real people working in the fields that they’re teaching about- unlike some online schools. They also provide straightforward and practical education at a seriously affordable price, along with offering financing plans so you can stop worrying about the money and focus on your blossoming career! If you’ve been considering a certification in graphic design, here are three great reasons to sign up for classes at DWC today! It will boost your resume It’s a crowded job market out there, so any professional skill you can add to your resume brings you serious field advantage. As more job seekers are shifting to include freelance and contract work, the successes are coming to those with the most real-world certifications and hands-on experience. A four-year university degree is a nice thing to have, but focused skills in marketing, design, website building, and multimedia often have an even bigger pull with prospective employers. More businesses are coming to see the benefits of hiring someone with a variety of usable skills, not just an expensive diploma. The Advanced Graphic Design Certification will spruce up your resume and is a worthwhile investment for anyone between jobs or looking to make a career change. Hands on instruction in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign will make you stand out above the crowd.  It may provide extra revenue streams Since design work is something you can do from the comfort of home, many artists and creative professionals have taken to selling their work on the side. Some have even found full-time success this way. Websites like Creative Market and others like it provide a platform for talented individuals to sell their graphics and mockups directly to the public. There is a potential customer pool out there for anyone proficient in digital photography, logo design, icon design, website building, and online marketing. And the best part is you can create your designs once, package them for download, and continue to sell them over time- all you need is the initial investment in your education and an entrepreneurial spirit. Everyone from working professionals to students to stay at home parents can take advantage of the high demand for graphic design. And who said art could never pay the bills? It will make you self-sufficient Small business owners are often overwhelmed by all the aspects needed to launch and run their ventures- beyond the initial inventory acquisition, there are dozens of other jobs that must be accomplished and positions to be filled before true success can be achieved. Many of them end up contracting with professionals to help with those things, and graphic design is one of the biggest aspects where people look for assistance, often at a significant cost. But wouldn’t it be easier if you could create your own logos, marketing materials, and website? More and more businesses owners are coming...

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Set, Forget InDesign Styles for Consistency

In my opinion, one of the marks of a professional graphic designer is consistency. It is so important to make sure that fonts, colors, and design elements are consistent throughout a project, but also across an entire company brand. Design consistency gives a feeling of familiarity and provides the consumer something to recognize about your products or services. When Adobe InDesign was introduced in the Creative Suite in 2002, it came with a bundle of new features that helped designers ensure consistency across documents. One of the easiest ways to do this was to use Adobe styles. In most of the graphics programs in the Adobe Creative Suite — including Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator — there are multiple panels referring to style. An Adobe style is simply a package of style information that can easily be applied to your document objects. In Adobe InDesign, there are separate panels for character styles, paragraph styles, table styles, cell styles and more. Each of these is intended to help you create the style and then easily deploy it as needed. By connecting all of your relevant objects to the style, you can easily make one change to the style definition and it can be re-applied to all associated items. For example, a paragraph style may contain the font, spacing and alignment information for different types of paragraphs. This concept alone can save you hours of tedious cleanup work. It also reduces human error and guarantees that all similar elements have the same appearance. However, these concepts can be taken to a much higher level. Adobe InDesign also has a way to create a pattern of styles throughout your project. For example, many print documents follow a familiar flow to organize the content. You may have a header, followed by a sub-heading, a first paragraph with an interesting design for the first line of text, and then subsequent body paragraphs. A feature of a style called Next Style allows you to set up an order for styles to follow. All you would have to do is set the style of header and then tell InDesign to flow the Next Style to ensure the remaining styles follow from there. Each style will remain connected to the source to allow for quick changes and consistency. There are far too many other-style related features and time-saving tricks than I can mention in this short column. I hope you try to use styles in your Creative Suite projects and find new ways to become more efficient with your design work. [Originally posted in the Coloradoan on...

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Fun with Adobe Creative Suite Panels

The possibilities with Adobe Creative Suite are endless. For this reason and more, Adobe CS has become the industry standard for graphic design, video production and many other creative professions. Programs such as Adobe’s Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign have revolutionized several industries and are now more accessible to the average consumer than ever before. At the Digital Workshop Center, we consistently see students who have been forced into these complex programs by their employers in the hopes they’ll be able to bring design work in-house. However, Adobe CS is designed for personal computers and, therefore, has a ton of options centered around customizing the program to best work for you. Whenever I open any of my Adobe programs, I first open and arrange the panels to best suit my needs. Adobe panels are common in almost all CS programs — they’re the small, moveable pieces within the greater Adobe puzzle. Each panel is focused on one group of commands. For example, in Adobe InDesign you have the Pages panel, which gives you all the choices you need to create, arrange and manage your pages. While you could also use the text-based menus at the top of the program, the panels are typically easier to understand. Each panel also includes a menu is in its top-right corner. The panel menu provides additional commands or options to help you fine-tune exactly what you need. Another feature of the Adobe panel system is that you can easily group or dock panels. By default there’s a dock section on the right side of most Adobe programs. This section usually has a dark-gray background separated from the design area of the program. You can fit all of your desired panels into the dock or drag and drop panels in any order you want. In addition, you can re-size the dock or collapse it to save you space. The size and resolution of your monitor is a huge factor in how you will arrange your dock, but don’t be afraid to play around with different arrangements. The more you use an Adobe CS program, you’ll learn which panels you need for your work. When you have all the panels opened and arranged the way you like, I highly recommend saving that as a workspace, which takes a snapshot of your program’s environment so you can easily return to that arrangement as you see fit. There’s no limit to the number of panel workspaces you can create and it works well to create different layouts for different types of projects. For example, you can create one workspace for your graphic design projects, another for web projects and maybe one for advanced typography. Through the window menu in any Adobe CS program, you can easily manage future workspaces. When a new student opens Adobe for the first time, I think there’s always a brief feeling of anxiety, maybe due to the amount of commands on the screen. However, if you embrace the panel system and get used to the similarities across all Adobe Creative Suite programs, you will see the logic behind panels and start to enjoy it. Stu Crair is the owner and lead trainer at The Digital Workshop Center, providing digital arts and computer training instruction in Fort Collins. Reach him at (970) 980-8091 or stu@fcdigitalworkshop.com. [Originally posted in the Coloradoan on...

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Getting Picky with It: Photoshop’s Pen and Magic Wand Tools

Out of everything Adobe Photoshop enables you to do, selecting objects in an image will probably be one of the most commonly used functions. It’s one of the fundamentals of photo editing, after all. By cutting, copying, pasting and deleting selections, you can pick and choose what parts of an image you want to isolate or remove. The Ellipse and Rectangle Select tools might be handy, but they limit you from selecting complex objects. That’s where Photoshop’s Magic Wand and Pen tools swoop in to save the day.   Magic Wand First, we’ll show you how to use the Magic Wand to make selections. The Magic Wand automatically creates selected areas based on defined shapes and areas with the same hue. It defines borders based on contrasting colors. As long as an object doesn’t have heavy shading or complex colors, this tool is a one-stop shop to making quick selections. To get started, open an image in Photoshop by using File > Open or by click-dragging an image into Photoshop. We went with a Spider-Man logo. The blue background and red icon offer a pretty decent contrast, which helps the Magic Wand create a more defined selection. After, select the wand tool from the Tool Panel.   With the Magic Wand, all you need to do is click within an object to create a selection. In our example, however, we don’t get perfect results because the Spidey logo actually contains a few red hues. But, that’s alright, we’ll show you a few tricks. Here’s what our original selection with the wand looks like:   As you can see, the dotted lines representing our selection aren’t quite right. The edges don’t fully envelope the legs or spider body, and the selection excludes a chunk of the central body. Instead of being satisfied with this lackluster selection, we’re going to use a function called Inverse. By going to Select > Inverse, our selection chooses the borders outside the icon rather than color values within. The good part is that we have a better selection of the Spider-Man icon. The bad part is that we also selected our blue background.   Fortunately, we can exclude the blue background from our selection by going to Select > Deselect and clicking on the blue background. Now, we just go to Edit > Copy and our red bug icon can be pasted into a new document.     The Pen is Mightier No disrespect to the wand, but the Pen tool is a stronger, more versatile tool to create selections. The Pen does much, much more than creating selections, but creating selections is undoubtedly one of its handier uses. For this example, we’re using a Spider-Man illustration where his pose and color rendering make the Magic Wand useless. Take a look at how the wand selects Spidey: Not so great, and even the wand tricks I showed you won’t help much. This is a job for the Pen tool. In the Tool Panel, the Pen tool looks like an old fountain pen. With it selected, you want to click around your object’s contours. Each click creates an anchor point represented by a tiny block. It’s best to zoom in on your object to set tighter anchor points around your object. You can never have too many anchor points, but don’t go overboard. Take advantage of smooth contours and space out anchor points when you can to save you time and tedium.   If you don’t have the steady hands of a surgeon, you will probably set a few anchor points way off the mark. Just use...

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How to Create a Basic InDesign Layout

When it’s time to pull your graphics and text together into one document, Adobe InDesign is the place to be. Be it a flyer, poster, brochure, newsletter, magazine or other media, if you need to create layouts with text and images, use InDesign. Yes, Photoshop lets you create text boxes. But, comparing Photoshop’s Type tool to InDesign’s layout features is like comparing a house cat to a panther — they share a couple genes but one is clearly beefier. In this experiment we will create a basic document in InDesign, incorporating several boxes of text with images. Along the way we’ll point out some handy tips, and if you like what you see, check out our InDesign classes. We’re only scratching the surface here. What’s Up, Doc? Start off by creating a new doc in InDesign. Go to File > New > Document. You will see other options like new Book or new Library. Ignore those for now. Like any time you’re opening a new document, a window will open where you can set document features such as page count, margins and so on. We’re skipping document features here. There’s plenty to cover as is. Filling in the Blank After creating a new InDesign document, you should be staring at a big, blank document. Sometimes getting started can be a little difficult, so if you want you can use the Frame tool to create a blueprint for where you want text and images. With the Frame tool selected, click-drag over your canvas. This creates blue boxes with a big “x” running through them. Here, we used the Frame tool to get a decent idea for the spatial requirements for our headline, sub-headline and text body. The Frame tool doesn’t set anything in stone. Likewise, our final layout hardly resembles the the blueprint. But, that’s okay. As long as you get the ball rolling, the Frame tool did its job. These frames won’t show in a printout or digital copy of your final layout, but if you want to keep your canvas clean you can delete the frames by selecting them using the Select tool and (obviously) clicking Delete on your keyboard. Framework to Fireworks With an idea of what to do, you can now start putting some content on your InDesign page. We started with text. Using the Type tool, we created three text boxes (all in the same layer). You can create new layers for each text box by clicking the New Layer icon in the Layers panel. But, for a simple design like ours, you may not need to do that. Text boxes can be reshaped at any time, so you don’t have to get your boxes perfect from the start. As you can see from the image above, the headline and sub-headline text are stylized. Specifically, the text has a red fill and a new font. With the Type tool selected in your toolbar, the taskbar atop your document offers a ton of features to customize your text. Now that the headline and sub-head are somewhat set, we can move onto other elements. First, we’ll play with the text body. Breaking up text into columns helps give a layout some structure. It also improves readability–people seem to like information in bite size chunks. So, we’ll create columns for our body. Click on the Select tool (the black pointer) in the toolbar and click on your body of text. You know the text box is selected when you see “handles” (square knobs) on the corners of the box. You will notice that a different toolbar appears over...

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