Monday, March 30, 2009

Certificate borders

The term "Guilloche" (architectural ornamentation resembling braided or interlaced ribbons, New Oxford American Dictionary) is sometimes used to describe the intricate engraving-style backgrounds that appear in stock certificates, currency and awards.

Both Crestock and iStockPhoto are good sources for vector versions of Guilloche borders, ornaments, and backgrounds. Try searching for "Guilloche" or "Engraved Image".

This post was inspired by an article in the latest issue of Design Tools Monthly. If you're not a subscriber, you should check it out. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Convert a color PDF to grayscale in Acrobat 9

In a previous post, I described how to convert a color PDF to grayscale in Acrobat 8 Professional. The method I described in converts RGB and CMYK objects properly. But objects made up of 0% C, 0% M, 0% Y and 100% K convert to a value less than 100% black, depending on your color settings.

The good news is, this appears to be fixed in Acrobat 9 Pro. Here's how to convert a color PDF file to grayscale in Acrobat 9 Pro.

1. Open a color PDF file in Acrobat 9 Pro. The file may contain a mix of CMYK, RGB or spot color objects.

2. Choose Advanced > Print Production > Preflight.

3. Select the Convert to Grayscale PDF Fixup, and then click the Analyze and Fix button.

4. Give the file a name and location, and click the Save button. The entire PDF file will be converted to grayscale.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Understanding the Flash History panel

Recently I've been helping a number of "print" designers add Flash to their skill set. While Adobe did an admirable job of giving the CS4 versions of Flash, InDesign, InCopy, Illustrator, Photoshop, Fireworks, Dreamweaver and Bridge a common user interface, there are still many fundamental differences between the way Flash and the rest of the Creative Suite operate. This is apparent in the functionality of the Flash History panel, which operates quite differently than the History panel in Photoshop CS4.

To key to using the History panel in Flash is knowing where to click. To "back up" in time in Flash, you need to click to the left of the history step, in the gray bar on the left side of the panel. Or you can drag the slider up and down. Clicking on the name of the step like you do in Photoshop doesn't work.

An advanced feature of the Flash History panel is to use it to replay steps. In the example below, I've drawn a rectangle, then rotated, scaled, and skewed it. Then I selected a previously drawn rectangle, clicked on the Rotate step, and then command-clicked (Mac) or ctrl-clicked (Windows) on the Skew step. Next, when I click on the Replay button, the second rectangle will be rotated and skewed exactly like the first rectangle. Wouldn't it be great to see a History panel that behaves this way in a future version of Illustrator?

You may wish to make a couple of tweaks to your settings to make the Flash History panel work even better. First, in Preferences: General, consider bumping the number of Undo steps up to 300.

Second, in the History panel menu, choose View > Arguments in Panel. This will cause the dimensions of objects, rotation angle, etc., to be displayed in the panel.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Stock images with Photoshop Vanishing Point planes

The LiveSurface Image Library is a collection of hundreds of images of high-resolution blank billboards, building signage, packaging, buses, books, folded print objects and more. They are designed specifically to add your own artwork to the photos, to help you evaluate or present a concept on these surfaces. The images contain with masks, transparency, multiple layers and most importantly, pre-built planes for the Photoshop Vanishing Point feature (PS CS2 and later). These planes make it ultra-simple to project your artwork onto a 3D surface. Single images can be purchased inexpensively.

[via creativebits]

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Creating a Table of Contents, part 2

In part 1 of this series I described the best way to create and format a simple table of contents. The result is pictured below.

I don't like the way the multi-line TOC entries crowd the page numbers near the right edge of the frame. Most people would fix this by manually inserting line breaks (shift-return) in the text to cause it to break early. This isn't efficient for a long TOC, and it makes the text more difficult to edit in the future. Here's a better way.

1. Select the TOC text with the Type tool, and enter a value in the Right Indent field of the Control panel or Paragraph panel. This will push all the right edge of all the text to the left.

2. Enter the same value you entered in step 1, but negative, in the Last Line Right Indent field of the Control panel or Paragraph panel. This will pull the last line of text back out to the right edge of the text frame.

Using this method will make it easy to revise the TOC at any time without having to fuss with the formatting.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Creating a Table of Contents, part 1

I've been getting a lot of questions lately about the best way to format a Table of Contents (TOC) in InDesign. Here is the best way to create and format a simple Table of Contents.

1. Create a frame the width that you want your TOC to be.

2. Type the first TOC entry in the frame, followed by a shift-tab, followed by the page number for that entry, followed by a return. Repeat this for each TOC entry. The shift-tab creates a "right indent tab", a special kind of tab stop that causes the text after the tab stop to always right-align with the right edge of the frame. If you have hidden characters displayed (Type > Show Hidden Characters), the right indent tab will display like a regular tab character but with a vertical line through it, as shown below.

3. It's easy to add a dot leader before each page number, to help guide the reader's eye across the page from the TOC entry to the page number. Select all the lines of the TOC with the Type tool, and choose Type > Tabs to display the Tabs ruler on the screen.

4. Click in the white space above the ruler increments in the Tabs ruler to place a tab stop somewhere near the right edge of the ruler. With this tab stop selected, type a period or a period and a space in the Leader field in the Tabs ruler. (It doesn't really matter where you put the tab stop, or whether it is a left, right, center or decimal tab stop. InDesign CS2 and later uses the leader attributes of the last tab stop before the right indent for any right indent tabs that are created in the text.)

The beauty of this method is that you can change the width of the frame, or the size of the text, and the page numbers will still right-align neatly with the right edge of the frame.

Of course, for long TOCs, you should learn how to use Paragraph Styles and InDesign's automatic Table of Contents feature. But the best practices described here for formatting the resulting TOC still apply.

In the example above, I don't like the way the multi-line TOC entries crowd the page numbers near the right edge of the frame. Next week, in part two, I'll describe an obscure feature that will automatically prevent this from happening.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Scripting resources for InDesign

Adobe InDesign is fully scriptable, which means that anyone with a knowledge of basic programming skills with a language such as JavaScript, AppleScript or Visual Basic can learn to customize InDesign to automate repetitive or complex tasks.

I do quite a bit of InDesign script development for clients. JavaScript is my tool of choice, since it is cross-platform, working well on both Macintosh or Windows versions of InDesign.

I'm often asked for resources on how to get started learning how to program with JavaScript in InDesign. I wish there was a really good book I could recommend. But instead, you'll have to dig through the resources below:

Start by downloading these four critically important PDF files, published by Adobe, about scripting InDesign CS4:
Adobe Introduction to Scripting (CS4)
Adobe InDesign CS4 Scripting Tutorial
Adobe InDesign CS4 Scripting Guide: JavaScript
JavaScript Tools Guide (CS4)
Sample scripts that accompany the tutorials and guides above can be downloaded here.

Here are the equivalent PDF files for InDesign CS3:
Adobe Introduction to Scripting (CS3)
Adobe InDesign CS3 Scripting Tutorial
Adobe InDesign CS3 Scripting Guide: JavaScript
JavaScript Tools Guide (CS3)
Sample scripts that accompany the tutorials and guides above can be downloaded here.

There's a little bit of information about scripting in Adobe's online Help for InDesign [CS4].

Next, bookmark the InDesign Scripting forum on Adobe's Web site. This is a great place to learn from others about perplexing scripting questions.

Scripting InDesign with JavaScript by Peter Kahrel is the only recent book I've found that covers the JavaScript DOM (Document Object Model) for InDesign specifically. I highly recommended this book, available only as a downloadable PDF. Written for CS2, but most of the information is still relevant to CS3/CS4.

JavaScript: The Definitive Guide is a good general reference guide to the JavaScript programming language.

Dave Saunders, a prolific and talented scripter, posts occasionally to his JavaScripting InDesign blog.

Steve Wareham runs a blog where offers tutorials on how his various scripting projects were created.

Peter Kahrel, another prolific and very talented scripter, has several free scripts on his Web site. A good way to learn scripting is to examine and modify scripts written by others.

More scripts, both free and otherwise, can be found on Adobe's InDesign Exchange.

Happy scripting!