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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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After Effects Can Help Build Better Business Graphics

As our visual culture continues to grow and video content becomes more important to your business’ sales and marketing efforts, you should become familiar with software tools to help your business grow. Adobe Creative Suite has become well known for its photo editing and vector graphic applications over the past decade or so, including Photoshop and Illustrator. Today, Adobe After Effects has emerged as an industry leader for creating motion graphics. And for good reason. According to Adobe.com, After Effects allows you to “deliver cinematic visual effects and sophisticated motion graphics using the industry standard for animation and compositing that offers you complete creative control while delivering unparalleled performance.” In other words, you can now create the same sleek, modern video designs that you often see in professional commercials at your home or office computer. As with any software program, there are some preferred practices when using After Effects that can help you be more successful. First, you should always remember that After Effects is intended for short video sequences and animated text graphics. Typically, this means less than five minutes of video. After Effects helps you create the visual 2D and 3D graphics, but be sure to use the proper tool to put your whole video together. Once you have all of your pieces ready, from After Effects and video clips, I would suggest that you use a video editing software such as Premiere Pro to put your whole project together. In addition, while you could incorporate audio into your video sequence within After Effects, you might want to look for an audio tool such as Audacity to do a better job and allow you more control. In After Effects, there are more than 200 presets and effects you’ll want to dive in to. The more experience and knowledge you can gain on the built-in features, the better you will be able to create professional sequences. Learning After Effects can be difficult to start, but I promise that you’ll enjoy the results of a little bit of hard work. As the visual culture continues to grow and more video content becomes necessary for your business, you should consider After Effects as a good tool to keep you ahead of competitors. [Originally posted in the Coloradoan on...

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Adobe Photoshop Menu Bar Tutorial: Using Logic to Find the Function You Need

Many people new to Adobe Photoshop and other Adobe Creative Suite programs feel like a deer in headlights. Sure, many of Photoshop’s tools will be completely new, and the software is, without question, complex. But, coming into your first projects, we can guarantee that you know at least two things: some items in the main toolbar and the goals of your project. With these things to build off of, we can help you make educated guesses where to look for the design-enhancing whatchamacallits and thingamajigs in Photoshop with good old-fashioned logic and imagery. File & Edit Menus Let’s start simple. Looking at the Photoshop interface, you’ll notice the File and Edit menus in the main navigation. If you have ever used computer software before, then you should be familiar with this Adobe Photoshop Menu Bar. When should you look for tools in the File subhead? Well, what’s the definition of “file?” A file can be any document type. It can also be defined as a place to hold documents. So, whether you need to create a new document or move an existing document into Photoshop, File is the first and last place to look. Oh, you can also save here, but you already knew that, didn’t you? The Edit menu appears in many programs besides Photoshop, but it offers different tools depending on the software. Like other programs, tools that literally edit your document, like the Undo, Cut, Copy and Paste reside here. Simple enough. Other popular tools like Fill and Stroke are trickier animals, though. Unlike other effects that add elements to a layer, such as a shadow or highlight, Fill subtracts from a layer’s visibility. Like an editor with a red pen, it cuts down on visibility. Stroke fills selections with any color and thickness. So, imagine that editor’s pen again, but as a pen that can make a mark in any shape  color and thickness, and you mastered Stroke. Select Menu Making a selection is much like pointing at something. You’re essentially telling Photoshop, “Hey, check this out.” Photoshop responds by making your selection the objects you can change. The Select menu solely handles the magical dashed line of your selection. This menu holds useful tools like Deselect and Grow. For those frustrating moments when you can’t get rid of a selection box, the Deselect tool, well, deselects. Useful for creating borders around text or other objects, Grow makes a selection area bigger. Isn’t logic grand! If you’re really on your game, you’ll realize that you can use the Stroke tool in the aforementioned Edit menu to paint your selection. Though more of an intermediate or advanced function, Edit in Quick Mask Mode comes in handy when you want to create a specific, intricate selection. A good way to remember this is to think of a real mask. Wearing a mask hides your face. Well, this tool automatically makes everything “hidden” under a pink mask, and you can use a brush or pencil to reveal what you want selected. Image Menu Having a plan will save you time and stress. For example, establishing how big of a document you need should be one of the first things on your check-off list. So, the Image menu might be one of the first places you visit when starting a project, as many of its tools alter the properties of your document on a macro level. For example, with Canvas Size you grow or shrink an entire document. With Image Size you adjust the size of a graphic or photo on top of the canvas. The Mode submenu—which should only...

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Adobe Photoshop Tool Palette Cheat Sheet

Ever try to navigate your way through Adobe Photoshop, only to wonder what all the funky little icons mean? Here is a quick cheat sheet of Photoshop’s specific tool palette to help you out. Also, check out our Adobe Creative Suite Tools post to find out what all the other icons do!

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