April 10, 2006

ASK MORDY: Hatch Effects and "Photostrator"

Today's question comes from Ken Galli. Actually, there are a few questions that Ken asked, and I'll attempt to answer them in today's segment.

Is there an easy way to create the effect of having say 10% of a space filled with dots at the bottom of a rectangle or other feature and then have the percentage of dots filling the space increase to say 80% at the top?  I have tried gradients which don't seem to work.

I am learning a bit about Hatches as well which seem like they might work but so far I have not figured them out if they do!

In geology we often find what is called a fining upward sequence of sediment that was deposited by a decelerating current, say the deposit of a flood.  You end up with coarse material (pebbles) at the bottom and then finer and finer materials toward the top: bottom: pebbles > coarse sand > medium sand > fine sand > to perhaps mud at the top.  Usually, sand is shown with dots within an area or rectangle in a legend. 

Sigh. Hatch Effects.

For those who don't remember them, Hatch Effects (aka The Ink Pen) was a way to create stippling effects and other interesting "random" patterns. However, the user interface for the effect was quite complex and the result often was comprised of thousands of paths that made for files that took hours to print (or often, files that wouldn't print at all).

In Illustrator CS, the Ink Pen filter was removed and "replaced" with the Scribble effect. I use the word replace with care because while the scribble effect on some level can produce effects similar to what Ink Pen could do, there are PLENTY of things that Ink Pen could do that Scribble cannot. If you use Illustrator CS, you can pull the Ink Pen plugin from Illustrator 10 and drop it into your plugins folder to use it in CS -- but the plugin will not work in CS2.

However, there are other ways to simulate some of what Ink Pen did -- and some other interesting variations as well. For example, you could take a regular rectangle, fill it with a black to white gradient, and then choose Effect > Pixelate > Mezzotint.

There was a great thread about creating these kinds of effects on the Illustrator User to User forum a short while back which covered this topic as well.

Finally, if you're looking for some patterns that can represent different building materials, or things like stone or pebbles, you might look into a collection of pre-made Illustrator patterns from HotDoor.

Ken then proceeded to follow up his original question with a doozy:

Do you think that Adobe would ever combine illustrator and photoshop so that you would have a vector and raster package together like Canvas does it?

And what would we call it, Photostrator? :)

Seriously though, I wish I had a nickel for every time I have been asked this question. It's an especially popular question when I'm at trade shows. My instinctive response is usually "I hope Adobe never does that" -- but it begs more definition than that.

First of all, let's look at it from a pure business sense. Adobe makes money by selling Photoshop. Adobe makes money by selling Illustrator. By combining the two applications, you'd have to charge double for Photostrator in order to make back the same money. Adobe already knows that a large percentage of users own both programs -- so rather than shell out for two upgrades, they'd have to charge a large sum for a single upgrade. But that's purely a business decision, and let's instead focus on the technological side.

Photoshop is a mature product. As is Illustrator. Both have very specific uses. Especially when you consider the individual verticals that they serve. Add to that the fact that there's a distinct need for pixel graphics and vector graphics in the world of design. And while there are times when a job calls for both to be used togther, there are equally times when they need to live in their own worlds, with a full set of tools for support. Illustrator has 5 million lines of computer code. I don't know exactly what Photoshop has, but you have to figure it's somewhere in that vicinity as well. It's a minor miracle that a program with that many lines of code actually runs at all (with bugs and all).

Finally, think of this from a personal point of view. Photoshop is so complex, with so many features. Illustrator is likewise, complex and has tons of features. Combining the two would not only strike fear in any new user's heart, it would be extremely difficult to master. And remember also that pixels and vectors are two different paradigms and what works for one might not work for the other.

In closing, I prefer applications that specialize in what they do. And that those applications excel at the things they do. Looking forward, my dream is for these application to work better with eachother rather than join and become one. That means better integration. And when I refer to integration, I don't mean that the apps should share keyboard shortcuts, or similar features. Rather, true integration means the ability to move data between the apps with little or no loss of data. TO some extent, Illustrator and Photshop share that today -- with the ability to pass data back and forth while retaining live editable text, layers, transparency, masks, image maps, web slices, vector shapes, and more. Smart objects in Photoshop help too. Hopefully Adobe will continue down that route and allow additional constructs and attributes to be shared.


Newmango said...

I hope we never see a "Photostrator", but remember Super Paint? Combined vector and raster on different layers. Produced by Silicon Beach software, which was bought by Aldus, which was bought by Adobe...

However, I would like to see more integrated development between the two teams - Illustrator and Photoshop - at Adobe. It would be nice if, when CS3 is released, the different point products had a more consistant User Interface among them.

Also, the ability to switch back and forth easily between Illustrator and Photoshop can be sueful in creating a hatch-type blend. Photoshop can turn a gradient into a bitmap with discreet back and white groups of pixels, whcih can then be brought into Illustrator and Live Traced, and then further manipulated there.

BJN said...

I remember Canvas offered integrated vector and raster functions although I never used it. I'm surprised to see that acdsee has released a new version. Mac and Windows, too.

While I don't want Photostrator, I do want much better integration between the so-called suite components. The current integration is spotty and inconsistent. I'd really like to see the "suite" have integration worthy of the name.

I hope you understand that the you're asked this question a lot because there's a perceived need in the market. Perhaps a single application isn't a solution Adobe can offer, but that doesn't mean you should shrug off the question and not work integrated workflow solutions instead of handing out pat answers.

plugsnpixels said...

bjn mentioned Canvas--it is indeed a true vector/raster environment, on the same page, on the same layer if desired.

And once you've worked like that, not having to launch and juggle two or three or four different apps to create your layout/website/graphics/PDF, you get very spoiled! Even the intercompatibility of the Adobe CS suite seems artificially segmented by comparison.

I've published ezines using Canvas 8, 9 and X for design and output to PDF since 2001, easily bringing graphic elements into its integrated environment from both Photoshop and Illustrator as needed.

See http://www.plugsnpixels.com/ezine.html and http://www.plugsnpixels.com/canvangelist

As for Adobe doing something similar, it's a shame they don't, since they own all the necessary technology and may well pull it off better than ACD currently does. The various CS apps are usually sold as a suite, so the business aspect of this argument isn't entirely valid.

I can't see how this would hurt Adobe's sales. They could offer individual traditional Adobe apps as well as an integrated "super app". But if they aren't interested, let ACD know you desire further and more serious Canvas development.

greenmorpher said...

Folding the full P'shop and Illy together would be kind of counter-productive, but clearly, you haven't looked at Canvas -- or at least not in detail. Canvas is easily as good as Illustrator -- in fact, markedly superior in many respects -- and has been for years.

I switched from Illy 7 to Freehand 8, then a year later, to Canvas 7, and couldn't believe the sort of stuff Canvas could do that Illy, in particular, couldn't even begin thinking about.

Sure, Canvas's raster image module can't match P'shop, but it does everything and more than I need for medium level DTP in four colour. I went up to P'shop 5 -- but in terms of daily needs, I really stopped at about P'shop 4, I suspect! BUT I know that that is true of the work of a vast number of P'shop users -- probably a majority. P'shop is a fantastic program, but 95% of users I know don't need it. They actually need an image program that is simpler. Canvas provides that.

But the integration is the thing. It really spoils you. I'm working on a multipage marketing brochure. I just do EVERYTYHING right there on each the page. No need to go to another program. Do the whole tyhing in Canvas, type in the text (or import it), scan in pix directly or just drop them in from e.g. iPhoto, edit them on the spot, add drop shadows (Canvas had them years before P'shop InDesign), add some vector effects (hey, does Illy do anything like Canvas' Sprite Effects -- applying P'shop plug-ins to VECTOR?), and so on and so forth. All on the page.

Feature for feature, every program has advantages over others, but because Canvas is a Swiss Army knife it often can do stuff that other program combinations can do only with difficulty.

Adobe is at last chipping away at Canvas's integrated advantage, but it has a long way to go yet. Also the last two or so shippings of Illy and P'shop have seen them catch up with Canvas as individual programs (remember the fuss when Adobe introduced real, editable type in P'shop? You always could mix type and images in Canvas, and where Canvas used to be streets ahead of Illy on the vector side, the two are now punching at about the same weight).

And then there's the price ...

Where else can you get a vector + image + DTP + web + presentation bundle for $400 -- and all integrated?

Anonymous said...

Doesn't Adobe sort of already have that with a product called Fireworks? Oh that's right they're prolly going to kill that off in favor of Image"Not"Ready

marko said...

Canvas user since v3.5. tried PS/Illy once or twice, but way too complicated and too steep a learning curve for the average user... shouldn't have to take classes to make a simple B-day card!

I use Canvas 8 and X (Win) professionally (for large format posters, project illustrations, promotional materials, etc.) as well as personally (CD case layout, cards, guitar chord drawings). and the fact that i can save directly as PDF for distribution/review is more power to boot!

Just My 2¢ said...

Here's why Adobe won't merge the two products...

If you are going to combine everything and work in an integrated graphics environment, then people will expect an integrated environment. That means that Adobe "Photostrator" will have to fully support vector formats that are owned by others.

Ownership of raster formats isn't a big deal, but it's a very big deal to Adobe when talk moves to vector formats. In the vector drawing world, Adobe owns only one half of the pie. The other half is owned by Autodesk.
(Oh, yeah! CAD counts in this discussion.)

Each company is the 900 lb gorilla in it's world, and I bet you aren't going to see Adobe bending over backward to fully support Autocad drawings with scaled drawings, accurate dimensions, and the rest of the necessary baggage that travels along with CAD.

Why is this important? It has to do with market share. If Adobe simply produces "Photostrator", who will buy it? Existing Adobe customers and former owners of either parent product. Adobe doesn't make more money. The only way for Adobe to profit is to market this new product to folks on the other side of the fence who aren't already customers.

Just My 2¢ said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Teri Pettit said...


Re: "(hey, does Illy do anything like Canvas' Sprite Effects -- applying P'shop plug-ins to VECTOR?)"

Sure, Illustrator has been able to apply Photoshop plugins to vector objects, and update them live as the vector object was edited, ever since live effects were first introduced. Illustrator had live Photoshop layer effects before Photoshop did!

Most of the official Adobe Photoshop plugins already ship with Illustrator, but you can also use third-party filters. Just drop 'em in the Plug-ins folder, and if they use the right version of the Photoshop plugin API's, they will appear on Illustrator's effects menu. (Illustrator's emulation of the Photoshop SDK usually lags a version or two behind the currently shipping Photoshop.)

I was using Alien Skin's Photoshop 3 Eye Candy filters inside Illustrator in AI 9.

Illustrator's Photoshop adapter works by rasterizing the vector object with a buffer zone of extra background pixels, making a selection channel that corresponds to all the non-background pixels, and then running the Photoshop filter on that image with that selection. It means that filters that operate largely outside the selection (like making fire grow up from it or lighting streak out from it) tend to not work well, since they have insufficent space to work with and they don't look good against white or transparent backgrounds. They don't crash, they just tend to make nothing you can see. But ones that work inside the selection, like Inner Bevel, work fine.

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