April 7, 2014

How to Recolor Complex Artwork in Illustrator

Back in version CS3, the fine folks at Adobe breathed new life into Illustrator -- the ability to choose and modify color like never before. Originally labeled "Live Color" (which made zero sense), these new color capabilities were handicapped by an incredibly complicated user interface.

The other day, designer Keri Labuski posted a question in the LinkedIn Illustrator Group:

"I am having a hard time recoloring a complex piece of artwork that I purchased on iStock. Need recoloring advice!"

This sounded like the perfect case for using the Recolor Artwork feature in Illustrator. Keri was kind enough to share her file with me, and so I recorded a short video clip on how to do it:

Of course, the color features in Illustrator are incredibly powerful, but you need someone to walk you through them. A while back I recorded an entire course at lynda.com called Illustrator Insider Training: Coloring Artwork, where I go step-by-step through it all. The course was recorded in Illustrator CS5, but the features are mostly unchanged and you'll still find it helpful even with Illustrator CC.

March 27, 2014

Adobe sneaks new infographics tool for Illustrator

Most people are familiar with the creative side of Adobe's business, now known as Adobe Creative Cloud. Others aren't as familiar with Adobe's other side of the business -- focused on marketing -- and known as Adobe Marketing Cloud. Each of these powerhouse "clouds" if you will, meet annually at a big conference. For the creative folks, it's Adobe MAX. For the marketing folks, it's Adobe SUMMIT. A popular segment at each of these conferences is called "sneaks" where Adobe engineers will show some of the cool things they've been working on.

The Adobe SUMMIT 2014 conference is going on right now in Salt Lake City, and last night, they had their Sneaks session -- and they showed some technology they are working on that allows you to use a template from Illustrator and overlay real-time data to create what they dubbed "AutoInfographics". 

For a good while, AutoInfographics was trending on twitter (it *is* after all, a marketing conference). From the screenshot above, you can clearly see it running in Illustrator. And it looks AWESOME.


January 22, 2014

White lines and fat lines in PDF files

My good friend Von Glitschka posted the following tweet the other day:

Many people experience this issue, along with another good one -- seeing white lines within PDF files. Both of these screen artifacts (and they are just that -- screen artifacts -- they don't show up in print) are caused by the same culprit -- antialiasing. As I explained in this previous post, antialiasing is a double-edged sword. It solves some problems (gets rid of the jaggies), but it can also introduce other issues (on-screen artifacts). It's like any medication -- it aims to solve one thing, but often can introduce side effects.

You can easily get rid of the side effects (the white lines and the fat lines) by disabling the specific antialiasing settings that introduce them -- directly in Adobe Acrobat Preferences. The two culprits in this case are Smooth Line Art and Enhance Thin Lines.

For a more in-depth understanding of when these issues occur, why they occur, and how to adjust your settings to get rid of them, I recorded this 12-minute clip for your viewing pleasure:

If you have additional questions about either of these issues, don't hesitate to drop a comment into this post or the YouTube link.


By the way, I didn't mention this in the video clip above, but it's POSSIBLE that you could see these white lines appear in print. How? OK, let's assume this scenario -- you create an ad in InDesign or Illustrator and create a PDF/X-1a file. This is a GOOD move on your part. Sending a validated PDF/X-1a file is the best way to submit files to someone else when they are going to print it.

The assumption is that the person who receives your file will open the PDF in Acrobat (or place it into InDesign) and then print it from there. If that's the case, all is right in the world and your clients will sing your praises (although they will surely still only want to pay you barely minimum wage).

HOWEVER, there are those (evil people) who will choose to open your PDF file in Photoshop. Perhaps because they think this is better. In that case, depending on how the file is saved from Photoshop, those white lines could get baked into the file itself (as once the file is in Photoshop, it's all converted to pixels). I've seen "smart" prepress operators think that due to the white lines they see in Acrobat, it's better to open the file in PS instead and then apply blurs or other effects to try and "get rid" of the white lines. This is silly behavior and can cause numerous other problems in the PDF (i.e. loss of spot colors, font hinting, etc).

Bottom line -- if you have a PDF, print it from Acrobat or InDesign (or Illustrator). NOT from Photoshop. Your designers (and clients) will thank you.

January 7, 2014

My DIY iPhone Studio

Every so often, I need to take photos of products or objects -- be it for documentation, something I want to post or sell online, or otherwise. I also wanted to experiment with stop-motion techniques. I was able to assemble a mini photo studio for almost zero cost.

Here's how I did it:

1. I have an old iPhone 4 lying around. It's actually broken -- something with the speaker and the microphone. So it's useless for making phone calls. But it's fully functional as a camera.

2. I purchased a cheap tripod for the iPhone. Gorrilapod sells one for about $20. Amazon has some as cheap as $5.

3. You can use the Apple earbuds with the remote as a cable release. I learned of this from this great buzzfeed article. Pressing the "+" button on the remote activates the camera shutter. This makes it really easy to avoid camera shake/blur as well as take multiple stop-motion photos where the camera remains stationary.

4. An ordinary sheet of white paper. I had some lying around the house, but you can easily pick up a large sheet for less than $1 at any office supply store. I taped it down to my desk and to the wall behind it, allowing for a subtle sloped curve, which mimics the setups you'd find in a professional photo studio. It results in photos that seem to have no background.

5. I took my desk lamp and used it as a light source. I can easily position the object and the light to get just the right shot.