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

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.

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3 Reasons to Get Certified in Graphic Design

There are several great reasons to get your professional graphic design certification- here are three of them.

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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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