Bring on the New: CS4 is out

September 24, 2008 at 4:22 am (News) (, , , , , )

I just posted a review on the newly release CS4 over at my new bloggin home. Includes links to a number of video resources for further exploring the cool new features in CS4.

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New Blog Officially Launched

September 20, 2008 at 10:56 pm (Misc, News) (, , , , )

If you have been reading my feed then you will know that I have been working on launching a new blog that is self hosted. Well today is the day that it is live. I will be posting here from time to time still but most of my posting will happen over at the new blog SFN aim. See you there.

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A.Viary Phoenix First Impressions

September 9, 2008 at 4:08 am (Reviews) (, , , , )

Jumping off themes in a recent post I was looking around for alternatives to the Adobe line of products. As I plan to switch to a Mac at home in the coming months I was also kinda looking for an alternative since I already have CS3 on my PC.

While was looking a friend of mine twittered asking me if I had tried out a.viary yet. He had sent me an invite to the private beta a few weeks ago and honestly I had totally forgotten about it. Well today was the day that I actually sat down and tried to use Pheonix which is supposed to be the image editing program akin to Photoshop.

To start with the interface is beautiful.

A.Viary Pheonix Interface

A.Viary Pheonix Interface

Right away I hit a bit of a snag. When taking the capture of the beautiful interface I found that Phoenix did not read the content of my clipboard. I wasn’t sure how to change the screenshot settings in XP to save a file to the desktop and after a quick search it didn’t appear that there was a way so I found a freeware screenshot app called MWSnap. With this little app installed I was really ready to use Phoenix.

I am currently in the process of moving this blog to a self hosted solution so I figured I could use Phoenix to build a few of the assest I would need to make that happen. I started with the header paper texture.

I found that Phoenix does not currently support native .PSD files so I couldn’t use the layered assest that I had ready from photoshop. I did have .jpg files as web ready templates so I decided to work with those and see what happened.

The canvas I had already created in Phoenix was to narrow so it prompted me with options. Did I want to resize the image I was importing or the canvas I was working on? I chose to resize the canvas and moved on with the work. Next I imported some torn paper edges that I could use to make the paper layer look torn. Finally I imported the paper texture that I would be using to make the header of the page. This final file was fairly large being a high rez paper texture and took quite a while to load into Phoenix. I assume that this is the fault of my web connection though not of the online software.  Now with all of the assets in place I can really get down to work.

The tools seemed basic enough, meaning my prior PS experience made it so that they just looked right to use. One of the big complaints I had early on was that the keyboard shortcuts I was used to for the most part just didn’t work. Some did like Ctrl + D did remove a selection but V did not bring up the move tool. Ctrl + did zoom in but Ctrl 0 did not fill the screen. This is just annoying either don’t have them or have them all. In between left me guessing if they would work or not. It was must more cumbersome to get around in the program without keyboard shortcuts. Anoter irritation is that I couldn’t figure out how to have more than one document open at a time. So I had to work on the header for the blog and then go back and work on the screenshots for this post.

There is an okay selection of preloaded brushes and I honestly don’t know if you can load your own brushes or not. I didn’t seem that way to me as I poked around the interface but I could have missed it.  Here is the header I cam up with from Phoenix. (It was actually lost since my internet connection went down).

Overall I would say that this shows some real promise. One only has to look at the featured images to see the power that A.Vairy has.  The site says that you can download this as an Adobe Air app but with some more searching on the forums I couldn’t actually find where or how to do this. Having a local copy running on .air would probably solve some of the speed issues as it would take out your intenet connection (mine actually failed part way through this tutorial). When this is actually available it will mean a big jump forward for the app.

I am really hoping that in the future this will start to work. I would love to get away from the expense of the Creative Suite and would even be happy to pay a monthly fee for an app that ws as powerful as photoshop so I could get all of the updates. I do need a copy to run on a desktop as I don’t always have an internet connection that is fast. So what will I do? Keep on checking back with A.viary to see if it really starts to catch up to Photoshop.

Many thanks to 3frain for the beta inviet to A.Viary. Check out his sites below:

www.futurevis.com

http://www.efrainm.com/Home/index.php

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Making Brushes in Adobe Photoshop CS3

August 30, 2008 at 8:01 pm (Free stuff, Tutorials) (, , , , , , , , )

I started this tutorial with the intent of making some woodgrain brushes. The tree image I picked to work on yeilded better grunge brushes though so that is what we will look at today but stay tuned for some free wood grain brushes later this week.

Also remember to save your work regularly. I had Photoshop crash on my part way through writing this and lost a bunch of work. Don’t be stupid like me.

Today we will look at building some grunge brushes in Photoshop CS3. You can download the source picture and all of the brushes I created from here. It’s a big file with print quality brushes and fairly high rez photos. If you want to add these brushes to an existing set see the end for an explanation of how to do that. Also see the bottom for the licensing.

For things that naturally exist I like to start with some source pictures so for wood I obviously took pictures of wooden objects around my house. When taking thebpictures you want to make sure that you are getting as much detail as possible, so don’t be afraid to play with macro modes or different angles to get more contrast. For objects that are not shiny (like stucco which is useful in developing grunge brushes) using a flash to bring out more contrast can yield some amazing results.

Today we will start with a picture of a tree outside my house. Which can be found in the download at the beginning of the tutorial.

The first thing I do is to duplicate the layer and save it out as a native photoshop file so that I no matter what I do I have a copy of the original. Brushes in photoshop are based on gray scale. If a part of a brush is totally black then it will paint with 100% of the colour you have selected. If it is totally white then it will not paint anything at all. This also follows that any percentages of black will be percentages of the colour that you selected.

With that in mind we will start by using an adjustment layer with the black and white adjustment layer.

Black and White Adjustment layer

Black and White Adjustment layer

What we  are looking for now is a high degree of contrast. I just play around with the sliders till I get something that starts to look cool. Depending on your picture some sliders will have no effect on the image. You can see below the settings that I used on this picture.

Black and White Adjustment Layer Settings

Black and White Adjustment Layer Settings

With our adjustment layer in place select the image again and lets adjust the levels. This is found under Image/Adjustments/Levels (CRTL + L or Command + L). Again what we are looking for is a high degree of contrast between black and white. I just play with the sliders till I see what I want but look below to see the settings that I used for this particular picture.

Level's Settings

Level's Settings

Now we have the basis for a good brush or really many brushes. Before we can continue we need to select the adjustment layer and the tree and convert them into a smart object. This will allow us to come back and adjust the image later if we want. If you are in an earlier version of Photoshop that doesn’t support smart objects just merge the layers. There are a number of cool spots in this tree so I will make some selections with the marquee tool and layer them via copy (accessed with a right click or control click over the selection). I generally like to make a new group and put each brush in the group just to keep things organized. Try to keep your selections roughly square if possible as we will be making square brushes later. To constrain proportions hold the shift key while making the selection. The exact size isn’t as crucial as we will use Illustrator to vectorize the images in a second so we can make all of them the maximum of 2500px x 2500px at 300ppi. So layer away till you feel you have all of the parts you want. Also don’t forget to select the main layer of the image after each new ‘layer via copy’ action. Don’t forget that you can also turn off the main layer to see which parts have been used or not used for brushes.

Preview of Layers Panel

Preview of Layers Panel

Now we need to open Adobe Illustrator so we can make the brushes the maximum Photoshop size. In Illustrator just make a basic print document size is irrelevant.

New Adobe Illustrator Document

New Adobe Illustrator Document

Now we need to go back into photoshop and use the move tool (V) to drag a layer into Illustrator. Just do one layer at a time. To do this select a layer and select the move tool. Once you start moving the layer you can press ALT + TAB on PC (Command + Tab on Mac) to switch between applications and let go of the layer in Illustrator.

With the new object in Illustrator selected to to the Object menu and down to Live Trace/Tracing Options. Check the preview box so that we can see what is happening with the tracing. For my image I just used the stock settings but don’t be afraid to play with them till you have something you like. I always check off the ‘ignore white’ box as well because I feel it gives me a better idea of what the brush will look like in the end. Try it without if you want and let me know what happens or just keep along with us. You can see the stock settings I used below. Commit the tracing by clicking on the trace button.

Live Trace Options

Live Trace Options

Now lets copy the object in Illustrator which can be done with a key command (CTRL + C in windows or COMMAND + C in Mac) or can be accessed from the edit menu. Once we move back to Photoshop we need to create a new document. It should be 2500px X 2500px at 300ppi so that we are building a brush for the maximum size available in Photoshop. If you are planning on making brushes often as I do then I would save this document set up at a preset to save time over the long haul.

New Photoshop Document Preset

New Photoshop Document Preset

When you go to paste the object into Photoshop make sure you choose to paste it as a smart object. Use the handles on the corners of the object to stretch it to the full size of the new document. Now we are almost there. At this point if you are happy with the brush then we would continue. If you don’t like it then you can ‘paint’ on it with other brushes till you get what you are looking for. Remember that you need to paint in black to add to the brush and white to subtract from it. I like what I have so I will get ready to save it as a brush.

Before we can save a brush we need to make sure that it will be in the group we want. I have lots of grunge brushes already so if I was just doing this for myself I would go to the brush panel and select the grunge brushes I wanted to add to.

If you are starting a new brush ‘group’ then we need to clear the brush panel first. You do this by going to the edit menu and selecting the ‘preset manager.’ Once in the present manager select the first brush and then hold shift while clicking on the last brush. Now we are going to click on the delete button. Don’t worry we are not deleting these brushes from our system just from the brush panel

Once you are happy with the brush you need to save it. We do this by going to Edit/Define Brush Preset. Now Photoshop is going to ask you for a name for the brush. I’m not entirely sure why it does this. I can’t recall ever seeing the name of a brush again. If anyone know please let me know. I just save the brush out and don’t worry about it.

Once you have saved a new brush to the brush panel you need to save the brushes or you will loose them (I learned this the hard way months ago). To do this go to the fly out menu and click ‘Save Brushes’.

save your Photoshop brushes

save your Photoshop brushes

If you want Photoshop to automatically load the brushes each time you open it then you need to save them in the correct spot. On a PC you find it at C:/Program Files/Adobe/Photoshop/Presets/Brushes. On a Mac you find it at Applications/Photoshop/Presets/Brushes. I have slighly simplified the paths as ‘Photosop’ will usually include the exact version you are using and sometimes the name ‘Adobe’ infront. So that’s about it. If you make some more brushes pleaes provide links for the rest of us to download and use. Also if you make any artwork with the brushes I would love to see it.

To combine brush sets use the flyout menu and select the first set you want. Use the replace option that is offered. Then select the second set and click the append option. Now with both sets loaded use the flyout menu and save the brushes as whatever name you want.

Below is a picture of the 10 brushes I created from the 2 tree pictures.

Photoshop Grunge Brushes

Photoshop Grunge Brushes

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Free Shape Brushes for Photoshop CS3

August 18, 2008 at 7:29 pm (Free stuff) (, , , , , , , )

I made some brushes for Photoshop of some shapes. They are free to use but not to distribute. If you use them send a link my way. I would love to see what you do.

Shape Brushes

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