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March 2011 ArticlesMarch 2011 Articles

28 Mar

Ilustrator Mulitple Art Boards

How did I ever live without them?

Illustrator multiple art boards were first introduced with Illustrator CS4. I am a long time user of both Illustrator and InDesign. Initially I thought, what’s the point of having mulitple art boards, I can use InDesign for that. Sometimes old habits are hard to break, so I confess it took me a while to embrace Illustrator’s multiple art boards. Now I can’t imagine working without them.

Here are some examples of my Illustrator work and why I love multiple art boards.

File management

I create simple product labels for one of my clients. Each set of labels contains 4-10 versions. Previous to Illustrator CS4, that meant creating and keeping track of 4-10 different files. Corrections rounds required opening and saving each file. Now I create one Illustrator file for each set of labels. The single file workflow saves lots of time especially when multiplied across many similar projects. It’s also much easier to keep track of my designs.


Spot Color management

I design a lot of direct mail postcards with full color on both sides. I create a single Illustrator document with two pages, one for the front layout and one for the back layout. With both front and back in the same document I can design with the same set of color swatches. This means I can make global swatch changes to update both the front and back colors simultaneously. Also, I no longer get the message “do you want to merge swatches”. I used to get this frequently when copying and pasting graphics with similar but not exact pantone color swatches.


PDF options

The multiple art boards can be set up with bleed margins just like InDesign. I set up my postcard layouts to trim size with a .125” bleed. This same setting is applied to all of the art boards in the document.

Illustrator new document

When saving proofs for the client, I save the PDF without bleed. This way my client sees exactly how the finished postcard will look, without having to visualize what area will be trimmed off.

email pdf settings

Multiple art boards are saved as multiple page PDF files, which further helps with file management for myself and my client.

When the job is approved I save a print ready PDF file that includes the bleed and all the marks. This is done automatically just like InDesign. I remember the old days of creating Illustrator crop marks to show the trim area of a design in Illustrator. Thankfully those days are gone too.

PDF print settings

These are just some basic reasons why multiple art boards save time and make sense. There are so many more reasons to love mulitple art boards so I'll keep writing about this subject. How do you use Illustrator mulitple art boards?


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08 Mar

Get Creative With Camera Raw Editing

How to resurrect a poorly exposed image.

final edited image

I shot this image while on vacation in Mexico. It was late in the day, but not as late as the final edited image suggests.

I really blew the exposure and initially rejected it for being so poor.

original image

This is the unedited version.

I like the mood created from the setting sun. I also like the kids playing in the sand with the older tourists wading in the water behind them. This picture really captures the spirit of Zihuatanejo Mexico. I was disappointed in myself for not getting the exposure right.

Fortunately, I shoot everything in the Raw image format. Sometimes under exposed raw images can be lightened and shadows recovered, but not for this image.

crop original

The exposure is so bad that there is no chance of pulling details out of these shadows.

Instead of fighting what I couldn't fix, I decided to work with what is there and what I like about the image to begin with.

All of the edits were done in Adobe Camera Raw. The exact same edits can be done with Adobe Lightroom. That means you don't have to own Photoshop to create an image like this. Amazon is listing Lightroom for under $250. Photoshop retails for $665.00. If you are new to digital image editing, consider buying Lightroom before you invest in Photoshop.

Camera Raw Editing

First, crop and straighten the image. The straighten tool will do both.


This is the straighten tool in Adobe Camera Raw.

crop screen grab

Drag the straighten tool along the horizon line. Next, pull the top and bottom crop handles in to get the panoramic crop. I often give my images a panoramic crop because I think of wide screen panoramas as telling a story. This image definitely tells a story, so it is perfect for the wide screen crop.

Screen Grab Settings

basic edits

Overall I brightened the image slightly, but I also cranked up the blacks. Instead of fighting the shadows I accentuated them. I sharpened it a little more than normal. Sharpening helps pop the highlights in a dark contrasty image like this.

HSL edits

These three HSL edits have the net effect of warming up the image and accentuating the gold tones.

split tone edits

Split toning is a great and probably underused color editing tool. The setting shown above gives a golden warm color to all the highlights, replacing any nuetral white with the goldish color.

Finally, I apply a slight post crop vignette, darkening the edges of the image.


Set your camera to capture in the Raw Image Format. Leave it there. Buy more scan cards if you need to.

Have fun with raw editing, whether it be with ACR or Lightroom. Push the sliders to the extremes and see what happens. Remember, you can NOT damage your image. Pixels can't be lost or damaged while working in raw because they don't exist yet. The pixels are generated when the image is opened in Photoshop.

Go back to some of your reject images and see what you can make from them.



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03 Mar

Insight on Metal – Exploration Atlantis

Composites, Metal, QR Codes and a peak into my creative mind.

To create is to explore. This is a simple fact. It’s easy to accept this fact but difficult to embrace. There is a fear of trying and failing, of wasting time and accomplishing nothing worthwhile. I think linearly, work linearly and try to stay focused on a clear goal at the finish line. Linear thought is great for production work but not so good for the creative process. Sometimes the end goal isn’t clear and that’s the point.

Fear of failure can paralyze creativity. I found some solace in reading “Art and Fear” while on vacation. I am not alone in my fears. The point is to keep doing, exploring, creating, making, and experimenting.

Exploration Atlantis, printed on brushed metal is both the result of a creative exploration and the start to many more creative journeys.

comp on Metal

This is a digital comp of the Exploration Atlantis on metal.

First Successful HDR Composite Image

I started experimenting with HDR composites last year. I wrote about the process in this article, Sidewalk Salvation. Exploration Atlantis was the first composite image I created that I really liked.

original image

This is what the image looked like originally.

I was pretty happy with the textures, the colors and the surreal scene created with the under water look. I was excited enough to share the image with a mentor. I asked him if the composite concept was worth pursuing. He assured me it was, told me he liked the image but wished the composition was a little tighter.

I considered his advice and came up with a better workflow. I used the new workflow going forward, but didn’t return to the Atlantis image until later.

Chosing an image for Insight on Metal Photo Art Show

Joe Nalven coordinated the Insight on Metal show for our PhotoArts group. Joe has explored images on metal for several years. He encourages PAG members to explore the possibilities. I was intrigued but unsure. I’ve seen many photographs and digital art pieces printed on metal. The images that stand out in my mind are the ones that look like they belong on metal. I needed a ‘reason’ to print an image on metal. It didn’t make sense to just print any pretty image on metal just because I could.

Joe sent me this email, “I know you’ve been waffling on signing up for the metal show. But I think it is worth doing.” I needed that kick in the pants, but I also needed an image with a ‘reason’ to live on metal.

I started thinking about the uncertainty of the process, the experimental nature of it, the fear of ending up with something I wouldn’t like, and from that I discovered my ‘reason’.

Exploration Atlantis jump started the HDR composite process, it would also jump start my exploration into print on metal.

Once I decided on the image I went to work recreating it. Using my improved workflow I was able to tighten up the composition. I also completely reworked the color.

My previous production work experience with a trading card company helped. High value collectable trading cards are often printed on foil board. I worked on Yugioh, Marvel, DC and professional sports brands so I am familiar with how ink looks on foil. A photograph printed on metal is very similar.

ready for print

Image shown without metal background.

I made the highlight areas completely white and the colors extra saturated. The new finished image actually looks pretty bad without the metal background. This is how it should be. The image now belongs on metal because it won't work printed on white paper.

framed final

The final piece on metal is beautiful. I am very proud of it and excited to hang it in the Insight on Metal show.

Insight on Metal PAG group exhibit runs from March 4th - April 11, 2011 at Calumet Photographic in Escondido, CA.

QR Codes – What does a QR code have to do with this exploration?

QR code

PAG member Larny Mack introduced me to QR Codes. I was surprised and disappointed in myself for not knowing about them sooner. Larny has written a couple very good articles explaining the QR Code possibilities.

A Brand new (Old) way to advertise
Mobile Websites - the new business card

I write an article every time I participate in a new PAG show. The QR code has the power to direct a viewer in the gallery back to the article on my website. With a smart phone and a free ap, my article can be viewed almost instantly.

I am embracing this technology for the first time in the Insight on Metal Show. I almost didn’t. QR codes provide direct access to websites viewed on a mobile device. My website is not yet mobile optimized. I know it should be, but I am done being paralyzed by excuses.

So the process isn’t perfect. It’s an exploration, a work in progress and that is the point.

What ideas are you exploring? Did you find me from the QR code on the wall next to my image? If so, leave a comment and let me know.


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