Make Good Art

“Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here.”

Neil Gaiman

Rumor Mill

Okay, I’ll admit it, I listen to gossip. Not your garden-variety office stuff, but online gossip. Or rumors, if there’s a distinct difference. All this week on blogs such as Cult of Mac and Gizmodo that Apple was going to release OS X Lion as well as new MacBook Airs and Mac minis today. There wasn’t official word from Apple about this, but “people in the know” were convinced that they’d be released today. Some of the rumors even got fairly specific by saying that Lion would be released at 1am GMT in England. Why there? Got me. But the “informed sources” said so, so what happened? I know I was checking last night, but nothing happened.

Well, after today (for the most part) came and went, so now it’s being “reported” that the Airs and Lion will hit next week or the week after. Honestly, nothing surprising there. Apple said Lion would drop in July. At some point, someone will be right. Broken clock right twice a day and all that.

I’m not sure I understand the mystery about when Lion is going to be available on the App Store. Are they giving a “July” deadline to just give them wiggle room if it’s not ready? Or is it so that blogs (yes, mine included) just speculate away as to when it’s going to happen and Apple gets more press? Possibly some other reason or any combination of the previous?

In a way, it’s sort of fun. I like new tech (see my Sidetrack post) but I’m not usually the first in line for it. But this time, Apple got me very interested in Lion and I’ll probably be downloading it the first day it’s out if the App Store doesn’t melt the first day. Whichever day that might be.









Adobe CS5/5.5 Printing Guide

The folks over at have recently released the the Adobe Creative Suite 5/5.5 Printing Guide. 140 pages of the best practices to print from CS5/5.5. If you are a Production Artist or a designer wearing an extra hat (nowadays, who doesn’t?) this is a terrific resource. It has chapters on Indesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and Acrobat. Inside each chapter, there are tips about color management, formatting, text and transparency. With this guide, you can make sure the files you prepare for print looking the way you and your client intended.

Did I mention it was free? Maybe I should have put that at the beginning. Yes, FREE!  Grab your copy of the Printing Guide here.






Of Mids and Milestones

The folks over at have announced the release of the newest version of Creative Suite, 5.5 coming in May. Of course, the first question is “Why a new version so soon?” Along with the announcement of the new version, Adobe also announced that instead of an 18 month cycle of new releases, there will be a 24-month release cycle with a 12 month mid-release. The mid-releases will offer some new features along with bug fixes. The 24-month, or “milestone”, release will be the major upgrade. Since all this is a new way of Adobe making their releases, we’ll see in 12 months how much of a milestone the new releases are.

You can find out about all of the new features of CS5.5 over at Adobe TV’s 5.5 channel. They have over 4 hours of video about the Design, Production and Web Premium Bundles. One of the great things about Adobe TV is that instead of a list of features, you get to see those features in action.

A new feature that Adobe is also rolling out is a subscription service for CS5.5. If you don’t want to pay out the large cost of one of the Adobe bundles, now you can lease the bundle or piece of software you need. The chart below are the prices listed on the Adobe site:

There’s no word (yet) on whether the subscription service will incorporate educational pricing or volume discounts. Also, as of now, you can’t “rent-to-own”. I’m hoping that this changes, because this would be a huge service for Adobe to provide. After paying out $570 for six months worth of Design Premium, you should have the option of purchasing the software at something of a discount. This being a new service, I would guess that some of the kinks will be worked out before this rolls out in May.

There’s a lot more information at about what each of the bundles includes. For a great visual of the new features in each, check out the videos at Adobe TV.







I’m a pretty big fan of technology in general, but I’m not obsessive about it. I like for technology to have real, tangible benefits, not just be techie for techie’s sake. I have an iPhone, but not the newest, biggest one. I have a Mac laptop, but not an iPad. And for years (okay, decades) I’ve been using a drip coffee maker that I could program at night and have a pot ready before my alarm even goes off.

Over the holidays, a visiting cousin casually mentioned that he had switched to a French press for his morning coffee years ago. At the time I only knew that it was a different method for making coffee but not much more. A few weeks and a bit of research later, and I am now a lifelong convert to the French press. These have been, hands down, the best cups of coffee I’ve ever made. Even the ones that don’t turn out good are better than anything that ever came out of my automatic drip machine. There’s something in the process, whether its the fact that the beans steep longer or the oils don’t get caught in the paper filter, that just make this coffee excellent.  I like technology when it has real and tangible benefits but some things are better without it.

While I was putting the drip machine away, I started thinking about where in my life technology had been allowed to roam free compared to the areas where I preferred the “old fashioned” way of doing things.

When I got a Wacom tablet a few years back, I used it all the time.  I could work in Photoshop, Illustrator, even surfing the web! Soon I found myself using it for sketches. But there was something off.  Something lacking. And lately I have found myself reaching not for the stylus when I want to doodle, but for a graphite pencil and sketchpad.  For me, this is one example of new technology not being as good as the analog tools it is there to replace.

We hear this debate going on between the Kindle (or pick your eReader) versus paper and ink books; Wii Fit versus taking a walk outside; a Skype conference versus a lunch meeting. Different people will have different views on which areas of their lives are okay to give over to the latest and greatest technology and which should be held back, done in a more humble, outdated manner. In my case it comes down to a hard cover book to read to my son for his bedtime story, pencil and paper for sketching, and my new French press for an old way of making coffee.

What bastions of obsolescence are you proud to call your own?

Crisp Type in Photoshop

Years ago, I used to work in a college town copy shop. The store was open 24-7 and I worked every shift there was at one point or the other. At the end of the semester, whether in May or December, the overnight shift could have more customers in than in the middle of the day.

The store was divided into departments: Full-Serve (behind the counter), Self-serve (several black-and-white copiers and a couple of color ones) and Computer Services. Computer Services at its height had two Macs and four PCs. During the two weeks before finals, there could be a line waiting for three hours. These were mostly the Design students, coming in groups to print out their final projects.

Usually, the computers and printers were self-serve. They had software on them that kept track of time and prints and the student would get a bill and leave. During these times, vacations for staff were on hold. Over the years, I had more than one student tell me, “They teach us design, not how to use the programs.” So we staffed an extra person on overnights to help exclusively in the CS department.

The Design students would pretty much lay everything out in Photoshop. Which would have been fine had there been any color printers in the Computer Labs on campus. They would then save their .psd on to Zip Disk (that might give you an idea of how long ago I’m writing about) and bring them into the store to print. If they remembered to bring their fonts with them, which was rare, the biggest complaint I heard was, “My type looks jagged.” My answer was always, “Yes, you used Photoshop.”

And that’s the attitude I’ve had about Photoshop for many years. Photoshop was for images, Illustrator or InDesign was for type. Of course, those two programs aren’t going to be replaced by Photoshop. Photoshop is not the first choice for long swaths of type, but if you want to work on a poster or book cover, there may not be a need for venturing outside of Photoshop.

Here are two screen captures of the same image:

(click on the pictures to see a larger view)

The left picture is a flattened Photoshop image. You can see that the type has the pixilated look you’d expect from rasterized type. The  image on the right is an Acrobat file that was saved out of Photoshop. It retains its vector information. The one thing to keep in mind is that the effects on the type (bevel and pattern overlay) have been rasterized but the stroke keeps its vector information. Even the intersection of the vector and raster of the image looks crisp.

While the settings depend on your printer’s requirements, this method will be fairly similar in most print situations. Chose File>Save As. Under the Format drop-down choose Photoshop PDF. Uncheck Layers as this won’t add anything to the file except file size. You might get a warning box saying that “The settings you choose in the Save Adobe PDF dialog can override your current settings in the Save As dialog box.” Click OK and you will go on to the Save Adobe PDF settings dialog. By default, the “Preserve Photoshop Editing Capabilities” box will be checked (the warning box wasn’t kidding, this is the same as having the Layers selection checked in the Save As dialog) so uncheck it.

Assuming that you were working in RGB, select “Output” and choose “Convert to Destination”. The drop-down menu will give you several choices, so you should get the settings from your print provider to make the proper selection here to get the best results. Then select Save PDF and you’re finished. Smooth type from Photoshop!

New Photoshop Training

Over at, Deke McClelland’s new Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Advanced is now live. Some time ago,  I went through his CS4 One-on-One courses and when he released his One-on-One: Fundamentals course, I wondered if I should spend the 17 hours on the new one. Deke built the CS5 from the ground up, so it has all new material that will get you up to speed on the newest version of Photoshop. With either the monthly or yearly premium memberships at, you get all the practice files so that you can either work along with the videos or try the techniques later. Included with the practice files are the “dekeKeys”, Deke’s own set of keyboard shortcuts (you don’t have to set your shortcuts to this, but it’s helpful to have yours and Deke’s match when going through the training; since you can have multiple workspaces, you can always convert back later).