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Preview: Real World Illustrator

Real World Illustrator

A blog about Adobe Illustrator and design in general

Last Build Date: Sun, 15 Apr 2018 03:11:04 PDT

Copyright: Copyright 2006, All Rights Reserved

Illustrator Groups are DIVs

Mon, 17 Aug 2015 14:56:48 PDT

If you're a web designer or a web developer, you're probably familiar with core concepts like the difference between HTML (structure), and CSS (presentation). You're probably also familiar with the DIV tag -- a way to clearly indicate intent for different kinds of content on a page.

DIVs are like containers. And what's cool about them is that you can also apply attributes to them. For example, a DIV may have its own background color, so as you add more text within the DIV, the background grows to enclose all of the text.

This is basic web 101 stuff.

But when it comes to using Adobe Illustrator, I am finding more and more people who don't truly understand that structure and presentation -- and essentially DIVs -- play an essential role in the world of vector graphics.

Back in 2011, I created a series of courses on called Illustrator Insider Training -- where I went deep into revealing how Illustrator works under the hood. How vectors REALLY work, and providing a true understanding of what paths, anchor points, fills, strokes, effects, groups, and layers all are. In that course, I ultimately teach you how to "read" an Illustrator file (similar to using View Source to understand how a web page is built).

In this movie below, I talk about just how similar Illustrator and basic web design concepts are:

allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="315" mozallowfullscreen="true" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="560">

Recently, Von Glitschka asked a question about how to achieve a certain effect. The solution was to use groups to advantage... but only if you really understand the power of groups does the simple solution make sense.

Here's the video that I recorded that discusses Von's initial question (how he could apply a gradient to a brush stroke) and my solution and explanation:

allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" frameborder="0" height="266" src="" width="320">

If you want to truly master the art of using Adobe Illustrator, don't try silly tutorials that claim to teach you how to use Gradient Mesh or how to make a 3D logo. Spend time on truly understanding what makes every Illustrator file tick. You'll thank me for it.

Adobe Illustrator CC 2015: Best Upgrade Ever?

Mon, 29 Jun 2015 06:50:22 PDT

We're all familiar with software upgrades. Back in the day, upgrades were packed with numerous features and were launched with fanfare and huge marketing events. I still recall attending the PageMaker 5 launch event, where, to a packed theater in NYC, Aldus proudly unveiled the new toolbox featuring a Rotate tool.Today's business model has changed, and huge feature-laden releases every couple of years have been replaced with more frequent releases that are smaller and more focused. Perhaps more importantly, with the rich toolset that we already have in place, companies like Adobe have turned towards modernizing their software code and improving upon their existing tools and features to make them better.A good example of the above is the JDI initiative that was started by the Photoshop team a few years back. Normally, new features are carefully planned and agreed upon by various team members. Engineers are then assigned to implement those features, systematically completing one and moving to the next. The Photoshop team undertook an initiative to specify certain days in the software development schedule called JDI days or "Just Do It" days. On those days, engineers were free to go back and modify or improve existing features in the product. These changes were based on things that either the engineer didn't have time to do initially, or things that members requested, etc. Now, almost all teams at Adobe have JDI days. These are valuable, because sometimes, a small modification or improvement can translate to hours of work saved or a huge reduction in frustration on the side of the user.But sometimes there is work that goes beyond a small feature... beyond a modification... beyond something "big" like a new tool or feature. And sometimes, that work is invisible until far into the future when it is finally realized. In the case of Adobe Illustrator, the future has (finally) arrived.Years back (in 2012), the Illustrator team made a serious investment in rewriting the application from the ground up. Illustrator CS6 was touted as being 64bit (I wrote about it here). That groundwork enabled the Illustrator engineers to do significant work under the hood. Just making it 64bit didn't make the difference, but without getting there first, additional work wasn't possible. The exciting work began in earnest AFTER the release of Illustrator CS6.Fast forward to last week, when Adobe released the 2015 version of Adobe Illustrator CC. In my humble opinion, it is probably the best upgrade in Adobe Illustrator history.It contains numerous small enhancements that make every-day work better, such as an improved Shape Builder Tool, a significantly higher zoom limit, as well as preferences for using the rubber-band effect when using the Pen tool.It contains incredible under-the-hood functionality that translate to a reliable platform, such as GPU support for the vast majority of today's computers (Mac included), significantly faster performance, and crash protection (similar to what InDesign has had since the beginning of time).It contains a glimpse at what the future can bring with the new CC Charts feature. Granted, this is a preview and is (extremely) limited in scope. But as we saw with Illustrator CS6, you can't look at the CC Charts feature now... but rather what it enables for the future.If you haven't had a chance to explore this new version, I'd highly recommend giving it a spin. And if you've been holding out on moving to Adobe Creative Cloud, this is probably the time to go all-in and take advantage of what is the best Illustrator upgrade ever. [...]

Illustrator Gets a Performance Boost (for some folks, anyway)

Sun, 03 Aug 2014 12:14:23 PDT

Everyone wants to go fast. Speed is everything. A while back, I posted an article with a collection of tips to help make Adobe Illustrator (and those who use it) perform at faster speeds. Continuing my use of totally awesome movies (I used Top Gun for the previous blog post), I'm relying on Keanu Reaves and Sandra Bullock to kick this blog post into an explosion of Illustrator goodness. OK, I think I'm reaching too far here... let me spare you and get to the details.In past years, you've certainly heard that great strides have been made in speeding up performance in applications like Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and After Effects. The pixel-driven apps have seen these great performance gains because of how they rely on specific hardware found on modern graphics cards installed on your computer. A computer uses a CPU (Central Processing Unit) to function. When you hear of "multicore" or "multiprocessor" machines, it refers to a computer that has more than one CPU (and software distributes tasks to multiple processors when possible to reduce computation time). Graphics cards, however, may also feature something called a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). This GPU, which contains its own memory, is optimized to draw graphics on your computer screen. If software (like Photoshop for example) is programmed to send tasks to both the CPU and the GPU, you can see tremendous gains in performance.Sadly, while all of its friends (Photoshop, After Effects, etc) zip by in fancy sports cars, Illustrator has struggled to use its legs and feet to keep its Flintstones car on the road. Why? Primarily because as a vector-based application, Illustrator can't take advantage of the GPU which is primarily optimized for processing pixel-based information.But that's changing.NVIDIA, a company that makes high-performance video cards has been working closely with the Illustrator development team at Adobe to bring GPU support to Illustrator. In the latest update to Illustrator (the 2014 edition of Illustrator CC), Adobe has added support for some of the newer NVIDIA video cards (primarily in their Quadro and GeForce series). The GPU on these cards are able to take advantage of something called NV Path Rendering, which is a technology built into OpenGL that supports vector-based artwork and rendering. Using these NVIDIA cards with Adobe Illustrator can translate into screen redraws, panning, and zooming that averages 10x faster in performance (in many cases far exceeding that number).At the time I'm writing this, GPU support is available only using certain NVIDIA cards, and only on Windows computers. Why not Mac? Because the NV Path Rendering technology uses parts of OpenGL that are not supported by Apple (yet). Both Adobe and NVIDIA are still working very closely together to find ways to bring GPU support to the Mac platform, and have both committed to doing what they can to support their Mac user base (I have spoken to folks on both side who are very much aware of how welcome the Mac support would be).That being said, if you regularly work with incredibly complex Illustrator files and suffer from performance issues, and you are only able to work on a Mac, you might think about this: Subscribers to Creative Cloud are able to install and run two copies of software at any given time. And one can be running on Mac while the other on Windows. Assuming you have a supported NVIDIA graphics card on your Mac, you can install Apple's Bootcamp, Microsoft Windows, and Illustrator for Windows, at which point you'll be able to take advantage of GPU performance.Of course, if you're in the market for building the fastest possible machine for working with Illustrator, the good news is that you now have an option. Hopefully, these options will only continue to improve for all of us, but for now, Papa's got a brand new ride.For more detailed technical information from NVIDIA, check out their FAQ. [...]

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Unboxing and First Impressions: Adobe Ink and Slide

Thu, 19 Jun 2014 10:06:39 PDT

Yesterday, Adobe announced their newest additions to Creative Cloud, and at the same time, also announced that their much-anticipated stylus and digital ruler — formally known as projects Mighty and Napoleon — now known as Adobe Ink and Slide, are available.The event was streamed live over the internet, but was presented live in NYC, and I was lucky enough to be in the live audience. After the event was over (and the live stream ended), David Wadhwani told the NY audience that there would be “One More Thing” – everyone would be going home with their own Ink and Slide hardware. A woman sitting near me literally flipped out. You know those clips you see when the Beatles or Elvis performed on the Ed Sullivan show? Yeah, it was like that.Adobe Ink and Slide is sold as a single package for $199 from Adobe’s website, and since there’s a lot of interest in it, I thought I’d document my own first experiences. So here is my unboxing and first impressions with Adobe’s first hardware offering.As you would expect from Adobe, the packaging is beautiful. One of the Adobe product managers told me that the team was as proud of the packaging as they were of the product they’ve built. The packaging has the look and feel of something from Apple. Clean and white.So basically, the contents of the box are Ink (the pen), Slide (the ruler), a carrying case/charger, a USB cable, and a cleaning cloth.I figured I’d charge Ink (Slide doesn’t require any power to work), and plugged it into the USB port on my computer. The charger is magnetized, so Ink slides right in and “snaps” into place. An LED ring around the base of the charger glows and pulsates, indicating that Ink is charging. I’m red-green color blind, and one of the most annoying things about technology is that just about EVERY digital indicator uses red/green/amber to indicate some form of status. News flash to all those engineers out there – THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME TO COLOR BLIND PEOPLE. The folks at Adobe are very kind to us color blind folk (there are cool features in Photoshop and Illustrator to simulate how your designs will look to people who are color blind), so while Ink is charging, the LED pulses. But once Ink is fully charged, the LED glows solid and cycles through all the colors of the rainbow. Kudos to Adobe for really thinking about these details.At this point, I’m ready to start using Ink and Slide. To turn Ink on, I press and hold on the button on the barrel of the pen until the LED at the top of the pen starts to glow with all colors of the rainbow. With Ink now powered up, I’m ready.To start, I’ll need to download the two new mobile apps to my iPad -- I have the iPad Mini (regular, not Retina). I downloaded both Adobe Line and Adobe Sketch. To start, I’ll use Adobe Line. After launching Adobe Line, I am prompted to sign in with my Adobe Creative Cloud account. And in order to get started with using Ink, I have to open a document (or create a new one). At the upper right of the screen, I can click on the Pen icon to pair Ink, which I do by holding the tip of Ink to the red target circle for a few seconds. Next, I tap the Edit Ink button to set up and personalize my Ink, which is a 4-step process.First, I choose a color. Ink is highly personalized and in an environment where there may be other Inks around, I want to be able to quickly identify mine by the color of the LED at the top of the pen. Pretty cool, as I move the pen around the color wheel, the LED glows with that color, helping me choose. Naturally, I choose yellow.Next I give my Ink a name. Then, I get to choose a profile that matches how I hold a pen. This helps with palm rejection. I’m a lefty, so I find this very helpful. The final step is to link my Ink to my Creative Cloud account, which will allow me to use Ink to access things like my kuler themes and or clipboard items.With that done, I’m now ready to draw!I’ll post detailed reviews of my experiences with the mobile apps[...]

The Adobe Illustrator Story

Fri, 30 May 2014 07:58:06 PDT

Adobe recently released a short video (about 20 min) entitled The Adobe Illustrator Story, featuring interviews and insights with John Warnock and influential personalities throughout the years, including Ron Chan, Bert Monroy, Russell Brown, and Luanne Seymour. I am lucky to count them among my friends (although I have yet to actually meet John Warnock).

I am honored to have had the opportunity to be a part of the Adobe Illustrator team and to have helped work on making that application do what John so eloquently stated in the video, "I think what we've been able to do is just release the creativity in people and allow them to think anything they want and to be able to create it."

Here's the full video:

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" mozallowfullscreen="" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="500"> The Adobe Illustrator Story from Terry Hemphill on Vimeo.

How to Recolor Complex Artwork in Illustrator

Mon, 07 Apr 2014 07:59:41 PDT

Back in version CS3, the fine folks at Adobe breathed new life into Illustrator -- the ability to choose and modify color like never before. Originally labeled "Live Color" (which made zero sense), these new color capabilities were handicapped by an incredibly complicated user interface.

The other day, designer Keri Labuski posted a question in the LinkedIn Illustrator Group:

"I am having a hard time recoloring a complex piece of artwork that I purchased on iStock. Need recoloring advice!"

This sounded like the perfect case for using the Recolor Artwork feature in Illustrator. Keri was kind enough to share her file with me, and so I recorded a short video clip on how to do it:

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//" width="560">

Of course, the color features in Illustrator are incredibly powerful, but you need someone to walk you through them. A while back I recorded an entire course at called Illustrator Insider Training: Coloring Artwork, where I go step-by-step through it all. The course was recorded in Illustrator CS5, but the features are mostly unchanged and you'll still find it helpful even with Illustrator CC.

Adobe sneaks new infographics tool for Illustrator

Thu, 27 Mar 2014 08:51:24 PDT

Most people are familiar with the creative side of Adobe's business, now known as Adobe Creative Cloud. Others aren't as familiar with Adobe's other side of the business -- focused on marketing -- and known as Adobe Marketing Cloud. Each of these powerhouse "clouds" if you will, meet annually at a big conference. For the creative folks, it's Adobe MAX. For the marketing folks, it's Adobe SUMMIT. A popular segment at each of these conferences is called "sneaks" where Adobe engineers will show some of the cool things they've been working on.

The Adobe SUMMIT 2014 conference is going on right now in Salt Lake City, and last night, they had their Sneaks session -- and they showed some technology they are working on that allows you to use a template from Illustrator and overlay real-time data to create what they dubbed "AutoInfographics". 

For a good while, AutoInfographics was trending on twitter (it *is* after all, a marketing conference). From the screenshot above, you can clearly see it running in Illustrator. And it looks AWESOME.


White lines and fat lines in PDF files

Mon, 17 Feb 2014 18:49:23 PST

My good friend Von Glitschka posted the following tweet the other day:Hey @Adobe will you ever fix this preview bug? It's nearly a decade old now. My client: "Your pdfs make the “l” (el) look bold."— Von Glitschka (@Vonster) January 21, 2014Many people experience this issue, along with another good one -- seeing white lines within PDF files. Both of these screen artifacts (and they are just that -- screen artifacts -- they don't show up in print) are caused by the same culprit -- antialiasing. As I explained in this previous post, antialiasing is a double-edged sword. It solves some problems (gets rid of the jaggies), but it can also introduce other issues (on-screen artifacts). It's like any medication -- it aims to solve one thing, but often can introduce side effects.You can easily get rid of the side effects (the white lines and the fat lines) by disabling the specific antialiasing settings that introduce them -- directly in Adobe Acrobat Preferences. The two culprits in this case are Smooth Line Art and Enhance Thin Lines.For a more in-depth understanding of when these issues occur, why they occur, and how to adjust your settings to get rid of them, I recorded this 12-minute clip for your viewing pleasure: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//" width="560">If you have additional questions about either of these issues, don't hesitate to drop a comment into this post or the YouTube link.ADDED:By the way, I didn't mention this in the video clip above, but it's POSSIBLE that you could see these white lines appear in print. How? OK, let's assume this scenario -- you create an ad in InDesign or Illustrator and create a PDF/X-1a file. This is a GOOD move on your part. Sending a validated PDF/X-1a file is the best way to submit files to someone else when they are going to print it.The assumption is that the person who receives your file will open the PDF in Acrobat (or place it into InDesign) and then print it from there. If that's the case, all is right in the world and your clients will sing your praises (although they will surely still only want to pay you barely minimum wage).HOWEVER, there are those (evil people) who will choose to open your PDF file in Photoshop. Perhaps because they think this is better. In that case, depending on how the file is saved from Photoshop, those white lines could get baked into the file itself (as once the file is in Photoshop, it's all converted to pixels). I've seen "smart" prepress operators think that due to the white lines they see in Acrobat, it's better to open the file in PS instead and then apply blurs or other effects to try and "get rid" of the white lines. This is silly behavior and can cause numerous other problems in the PDF (i.e. loss of spot colors, font hinting, etc).Bottom line -- if you have a PDF, print it from Acrobat or InDesign (or Illustrator). NOT from Photoshop. Your designers (and clients) will thank you. [...]

My DIY iPhone Studio

Tue, 07 Jan 2014 08:55:12 PST

Every so often, I need to take photos of products or objects -- be it for documentation, something I want to post or sell online, or otherwise. I also wanted to experiment with stop-motion techniques. I was able to assemble a mini photo studio for almost zero cost.

Here's how I did it:

1. I have an old iPhone 4 lying around. It's actually broken -- something with the speaker and the microphone. So it's useless for making phone calls. But it's fully functional as a camera.

2. I purchased a cheap tripod for the iPhone. Gorrilapod sells one for about $20. Amazon has some as cheap as $5.

3. You can use the Apple earbuds with the remote as a cable release. I learned of this from this great buzzfeed article. Pressing the "+" button on the remote activates the camera shutter. This makes it really easy to avoid camera shake/blur as well as take multiple stop-motion photos where the camera remains stationary.

4. An ordinary sheet of white paper. I had some lying around the house, but you can easily pick up a large sheet for less than $1 at any office supply store. I taped it down to my desk and to the wall behind it, allowing for a subtle sloped curve, which mimics the setups you'd find in a professional photo studio. It results in photos that seem to have no background.

5. I took my desk lamp and used it as a light source. I can easily position the object and the light to get just the right shot.

2014 Illustrator Tool of the Year: Graph

Fri, 20 Dec 2013 11:12:10 PST

In a shocking turn of events, this year's Adobe Illustrator Tool of the Year prize was awarded to 9 tools. The Column Graph tool was chosen to officially represent the other winners, which include the Stacked Column Graph tool, the Bar Graph tool, the Stacked Bar Graph tool, the Line Graph tool, the Area Graph tool, the Scatter Graph tool, the Pie Graph tool, and the Radar Graph tool.

The Width Tool (Shift-W), who fought through thick and thin and who was the popular favorite, was not available for comment.

On a more serious note, today's designers live in a world filled with data. More often than not, the challenge is trying to discover what data NOT to include in a design, rather than figure out how to present data in the first place.

We live in the age of the infographic. Not because they are trendy. Rather, they solve real problems. There is so much data out there, and designers have the ability to translate the right data into the right visuals to help people make the right decisions.

While the Illustrator Graph tools are basic in nature, they offer a powerful way to translate data into visual form. The sheer fact that they only create basic grayscale shapes forces the designer to interpret the data, and to decide how to best present the story. It's not up to Illustrator's toolset to create trendy infographics. It's up to the designer to tell a powerful story that others can understand.

Here's a video from my Creating Infographics with Illustrator course that offer five tips on creating great infographics:

frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"> If you aren't familiar with using the Graph tools in Illustrator, here's a movie from that same course that shows it in action. This example is interesting because I'm using the Graph tool to help build an illustration -- not necessarily to build a standard chart (i.e. Excel):

frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">

Don't get me wrong -- the Graph tools in Illustrator are in dire need of repair. They could be modernized and built to work far more efficiently. But even in their current state, they get the job done. And with the tremendous amounts of data that designers are going to be working with in 2014, the Graph tool will become a designer's best friend.

Paper and Pencil

Fri, 13 Dec 2013 09:30:13 PST

Last year I received a holiday gift - an iPad Mini (thanks Lynda and Bruce! - working at is awesome). At around the same time, I made a decision to sketch and visualize my ideas more often. (Just as a point of reference, it had previously been my habit to do ALL my creative thinking in Illustrator directly -- I credit Sunni Brown and Von Glitschka for inspiring me to think with my pencil.)I'd never been committed (disciplined?) enough to carry around a sketchbook with me at all times, and I'd also amassed a rather large collection of moleskins and notebooks of all shapes and sizes, and never had all my ideas in one place. I was hoping that the smaller form factor of the iPad mini would help -- and I was actually surprised how much of my work could be done on the mini, especially when traveling or running around the office, etc.With my background, I was also already quite familiar with many different mobile apps - like Adobe's Ideas and Photoshop Touch, like AutoDesk's SketchBook Pro, and various other apps. I tried most of them. They were "ok". These apps were also sophisticated (layers, vectors, tools, commands, multi-finger gestures, etc), and as such, required thought. What I was really looking for was a tool to quickly capture ideas.I stumbled upon an app called Paper, by a company called FiftyThree. And I fell in love with it.The things I love most about Paper are:It's simple. No layers, no complexity. No technical tools -- just plain tools I'd find on my desktop -- a pencil, a pen, a marker, a watercolor brush, etc. There's a very basic zooming feature, but ultimately, you have just the screen to work with. What you see is what you get. No zooming in and out, no panning. Just capturing ideas quickly.The tools feel right. The Pencil draws like a pencil should. It works as I would expect. Light lines, that get darker as I work with them. There's no pressure sensitivity, but line weight is adjusted based on speed, which feels very natural.It organizes my thoughts. This is bigger than I can express. I juggle multiple ideas -- constantly. All other apps work with the same traditional computer-based file system. I can save my files, and if I wanted to, I could create folders. But in reality, it's a mess. There are no files with Paper. You create notebooks -- little moleskins -- and you can have unlimited pages in each notebook. I create a dedicated notebook for each project I'm working on, and it's easy iterate on ideas within a project, or to move from one project to the next.So I love Paper. It's fantastic. But I was getting tired of using my finger. And thus, I began the search for a stylus to use with my iPad mini. I've tried many. Most disappointed me. I finally settled on the Pogo Connect. I wasn't happy with it, but it was the best I could seem to find.About a month ago, FiftyThree announced Pencil - a stylus that had some pretty cool features built into it. Since I loved Paper so much, I decided to order Pencil. Today, Pencil arrived, and I'd like to share my experience with it.IT'S FREAKIN AWESOME!Ok, here's some more detail: Pencil comes in a lovely package. I ordered the Walnut finish. It feels REALLY nice in your hand. The shape is flat, not round. Weighted a bit more towards the front, it's a bit heavier than the pogo connect. You cannot compare the feel to the connect. It's not even in the same vicinity. To activate Pencil, you tap on the Pencil icon in the Paper app. It's easy. FiftyThree also recommends that you turn off the multitasking gestures features on the iPad (I highly recommend you follow their recommendation). When you're using Pencil within the Paper app, you get some pretty rad functionality. Palm rejection is by far the best. I can finally rest my hand against the screen and draw at the same time. It's comf[...]

Desktop fonts come to Typekit and Creative Cloud

Thu, 08 Aug 2013 14:38:21 PDT

Back in 2011, at their Adobe MAX conference, Adobe announced the idea of a new offering, dubbed "Adobe Creative Cloud". Very few people (even, dare I say, within Adobe) really had a good understanding of what that new offering was or would be. At that same conference, Adobe also announced that they had acquired Typekit. At their 2013 MAX conference, Adobe formally presented the Creative Cloud offering. Lots has been discussed on Creative Cloud (this post is one example), and my stand has always been that Creative Cloud is a new offering that could be interesting. But that since this is a subscription-based service, and in reality, a shift in many ways, the onus is on Adobe to prove to me that Creative Cloud is worth it. If you compare Creative Cloud to previous editions of Creative Suite for example, the outlook is "cloudy" at best. But moving forward, Adobe is going to have to prove itself by offering ongoing value to its customers. Well Adobe, with today's announcement about desktop fonts coming to Typekit, you've got my attention.Included with your Creative Cloud subscription is a service called Typekit, which gives you the ability to use real fonts on the web. If you do web design, it's actually pretty awesome. (Note to self: If I would take a few minutes out of my day, I should probably give some type-design love to my own blog.) But Typekit has always been for use on websites displayed in a browser. What if you want to use those fonts to design things in Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc.?Adobe announced today that they are starting to roll out access to their new Desktop Font feature. You can sign up for it yourself here. I was lucky to get an early invite and I tried it out today.Um, WOW.More so than simply having access to all those wonderful fonts -- the user experience is phenomenal. I still recall the issues I've always experienced with fonts over the years. You know -- where some formats work in some places, and sometimes one app sees them but others don't, etc. With Creative Cloud and Desktop Fonts from Typekit, it's so wonderful that I actually caught myself clapping with applause in my basement office. Here's what the experience feels like:1. First, you go the Typekit website, which has always been a pleasure to use. You can quickly browse fonts, preview text, and quickly find what you need. You then click the "Use Fonts" button that pops up when you hover over a font.2. Next, a window pops up asking how you want to use the font -- on the web, or on your desktop. You just check the box to sync the font to your computer using Creative Cloud and click Done.3. Third -- well, actually there isn't a third step. Once you perform step 2 above, the font is automagically downloaded to your computer and stored in your system where ALL applications can see and use it (even non-Adobe apps). Your Creative Cloud application manager conveniently lists all the fonts that you've synced, and provides quick links back to Typekit's website where you can manage your synced fonts or find new ones.As a designer, you want access to an always-growing huge library of fonts (I said "access" -- not use all at once in a single document). With Creative Cloud you get that, all wrapped up in a no-nonsense package that's easy to use.If this is a sign of what Adobe will be continuing to offer with a Creative Cloud subscription, then I can honestly say that Adobe seems to be taking this idea of providing ongoing value in a subscription model seriously. And I'm listening. [...]

A Typography Documentary

Thu, 08 Aug 2013 13:44:10 PDT

I remember spending hours (and precious allowance $$) looking through and buying Letraset rub-down sheets. My first [paying] job was as a typesetter. I used to have a sign on my wall that read "Whoever dies with the most fonts wins" I despised those $25 "font explosion" CDs when I was a young designer -- knowing they were filled with cheap knockoff low-quality fonts, yet I still secretly wished I had such a large collection of fonts to choose from. I remember having meetings with our creative director specifically to discuss what paper and fonts we were going to use for annual report projects.If type and typography mean just as much to you as it does to me, then I know you'll find the following documentary about the late Doyald Young to be a gem. The entire documentary -- embedded below -- is free, courtesy of -- and please feel free to share the link (there's a button at the bottom right if you want to share it).Doyald Young, Logotype DesignerDoyald Young, Logotype Designer | by Doyald Young View this entire Doyald Young, Logotype Designer course and more in the library.If you'd like to learn about typography, here's a link to a curated playlist on [...]

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My [Fleeting] Digital Life

Fri, 02 Aug 2013 10:09:50 PDT

Tell me if you can relate to this...The other day my dad and I were going through boxes of old photos. He actually lost a fair amount of family memorabilia in Hurricane Sandy -- but there was still plenty to go through. Many photos I've never seen, including this one of my grandfather, whom I have no memory of (he died when I was 3 years old). There were stories shared over a long afternoon -- stories I'd never heard before. The photos and the stories they told were especially meaningful because they weren't MY past experiences, they were those of previous generations. In other words, they weren't sentimental to me because they reminded me of past experiences that I had in my own life. They were precious to me because they allowed me to experience something that was a part of my past -- that I had never experienced before. It provided a glimpse of what preceded me. Perhaps this feeling is also amplified by the fact that photos weren't taken as often in previous generations, so finding a good one that captured the moment is something to appreciate and cherish.Today, we snap photos without a second thought. Those photos are stored on phones, memory cards, hard drives, and the like. Looking ahead 40 years from now, how will I be able to share images and stories from my generation with my own children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren? I have movies and slideshows that I've painfully edited which are burned into a slim silver disc called a DVD, that is currently collecting dust on a shelf because alas, I have no computers with DVD drives anymore, nor does my AppleTV-equipped TiVo-enabled flatscreen TV.I'm sure I'm not the first one to lose sleep over losing family photos Yes, I've spent many weekends backing up photos to the numerous online options, which isn't a solution because who knows what company will be around, and who knows if there will be an internet in 40 years? I could print photo books, and perhaps I should spend more time with that as well.But what REALLY got me thinking about this wasn't the photos. Like most of you, I am what the world society has dubbed a creative. I create things. Just because I've chosen to create art though, doesn't make anyone else less creative. We are ALL creative. We just create different things. When you create things that are physical, you can revisit them over time. You can study them. And more importantly, OTHERS can view it, experience it, and learn from it. The simple idea of studying something like art history -- allows you to learn from a master by seeing their artwork. It is physical. It exists. It is enduring. In truth, that's what fascinates me about things like the Dead Sea Scrolls. Today, just about EVERYTHING we create is digital. We don't keep diaries, rather we post our feelings to blogs, Twitter, or Facebook. We capture photos and videos on our smartphones. We create art on tablets or computers. Hardware, software, and file formats change faster than ever before. If you're like me, you still have SyQuest cartridges filled with QuarkXPress files and Zip disks with Flash animations (who snicker at their new DVD neighbors that have recently joined them on the same shelf).It seems like what we create is for NOW. What we create is fleeting. What we create is here today, yet gone tomorrow. I think of all the great things I've designed... all the things I've written... all that I've created. And most of them are digital. And they are fleeting. And I wonder how those things will be passed on to future generations. Not just to my own children, but to those who dream of creating in the future and who can learn from my own experiences. How will the next few generations study the work that our own generation ha[...]

Understanding Adobe Creative Cloud

Fri, 02 Aug 2013 08:05:09 PDT

There's been a lot of controversy around Adobe's move to Creative Cloud as well as their moving to a subscription-only product offering. This is obviously a major shift in approach for both, Adobe and their customers, so I thought I'd write a post to provide an angle at how to look at this move. A few things before I do, however:- I do not currently work at Adobe. However, I did once work at the company over 10 years ago, when I was the product manager for Illustrator.- The information I share here is simply my own opinion and my own ideas from my experience having worked at Adobe and from what I know in the industry in general.- I am not endorsing Adobe's decisions, nor am I defending them.Many people are of the opinion that Adobe moved to the Creative Cloud model to make more money. It would be hard to argue with that, as Adobe is a public technology company and looks to make a profit. But this stems from a major shift in thinking at the company, and when you say "make more money", there are various ways to look at it. To understand this better, you have to understand Adobe's  software business, and what has changed.In the past, a major software product -- such as Illustrator, Photoshop, or InDesign -- was built using something we call a PLC, or a Product Life Cycle. At Adobe, the PLC for the average product was usually 18-24 months. The PLC traditionally begins with product managers who draw up a document that contains a list of all the new features that will appear in a new version. This document is a result of much research which includes numerous customer visits, focus groups, surveys, user studies, and discussions with product experts. This document -- basically a detailed roadmap for the new version -- is vetted by upper management, and the team hopes that when the product finally ships, people will purchase or upgrade to the new version -- in hopes that all their planning and research would satisfy what features the public needed.Once this roadmap is approved, milestones are defined and the engineering teams start to build the features. Major milestones, such as alpha, beta, etc. are created and act as checkins along the way. At some point (usually at beta), Adobe shares the product with external customers to get feedback or to get additional help in testing the software in various environments. After the product is heavily tested, Adobe then ships the product.In the world of software development, this process is referred to as "waterfall" -- meaning that the development is linear, and each part of the process happens sequentially. There are several issues with this development approach:- The product team must anticipate what the public will need a full two years in advance.- The massive investment in this two-year project means once you get started and you decide on a direction, making any kind of change is extremely cost-prohibitive- By the time a product gets to beta and is tested by the public, it's far too late to implement feature changes, and often only crashing or other major technical issues are dealt with- Large products with large feature sets require large teams of engineers -- all of whom are tied up on long-term projects. If a problem crops up and you need to move engineers from one project to another, you can jeopardize entire project schedulesThe business downside to a waterfall approach is also a major issue. Guess wrong on what features you think the public wants to see in your product and you've not only wasted two years of development time without making money, you now must wait another two years to develop the next version, in hopes that you correct it then. The stakes are very high. And a company like Adobe mu[...]

Illustrator CC and Kuler renew their vows

Fri, 02 Aug 2013 08:04:12 PDT

Years ago, Adobe introduced us to kuler (rhymes with "cooler") -- a website that allowed creatives to dream up and share combinations of color. The technology was part of what would ultimately become a new powerful color engine inside of Illustrator. At the time, Illustrator provided hooks to connect to kuler through a panel, allowing you to search for shared color themes from directly within Illustrator.Since then, Illustrator has gone through some pretty big changes, especially so with the release of Adobe Creative Cloud and the version now affectionately known as Illustrator CC. Meanwhile, kuler has gone through an extreme makeover. Last month, the kuler website was completely changed offering a totally new user experience. While some functionality has been removed (i.e. creating themes from images, color analytics), the site is easier to use and navigate.Adobe also introduced an all-new iPhone app for kuler. The app quickly makes you forget that you can't upload images to the kuler website anymore, because you can use your phone's camera to quickly generate themes of colors from virtually anything you encounter in the real world. Keeping all this in mind, you'll notice that some things have changed in regard to kuler with Illustrator CC. You still have a kuler panel in Illustrator, but it has been redesigned and offers different functionality.To access the new kuler panel in Illustrator CC, choose Window > Kuler. That's right -- the panel is now integrated directly into Illustrator proper, and you no longer need to look in the Extensions submenu. There's even an icon in the Swatches panel to open the kuler panel directly.You can also simply click on a color theme in the kuler panel and it will immediately be added to your document's swatches. Better yet, if you have an object selected on your artboard, you can click on any color in the kuler panel to apply it to your art. The behavior mimics how Pantone libraries have always worked in Illustrator.You no longer have the ability to search all of kuler for color themes that interest you. That's because the job of the kuler panel in Illustrator is meant to store your own color themes. With Illustrator CC, you're always logged into your Creative Cloud account, which is tied to your kuler account. So your color themes are always synced and ready for you. The kuler panel will display themes that either you've created and saved (indicated by a folder icon), or themes that you've favorited (indicated by a heart icon).So basically, if you want to search for some awesome colors to use in your next design, the easiest way to do that is to peruse the kuler website, favorite the themes you like, and then go back Illustrator --where you'll find all of your favorite color themes ready and waiting :)So what do you think of the new kuler website? The kuler iPhone app? The new integration with Illustrator CC? Let me and your closest friends know by commenting below! [...]

How it's made: Deke vs. Tom Cruise

Fri, 02 Aug 2013 08:04:35 PDT

Special effects, cutting-edge video recording techniques, and high-end video production aren't just for blockbuster Hollywood films anymore. In the right hands, these tools can also help you learn better -- which is especially helpful if you happen to work at a company that provides video-based training.Having been an author myself, teaching Illustrator through the years, I've always embraced video training, believing that actually showing how something works is better than simply writing about it. At the same time, simply capturing a computer screen or setting up a video camera in the back of a classroom doesn't really take advantage of all that video has to offer. There are conceptual topics and ideas that can be expressed and explained visually by combining video and graphics.To better illustrate this concept, I thought I'd offer a peek behind the scenes of how Deke McClelland and took that idea and actually made it work -- beginning with an innovative introduction to his chapter on how to use the Levels command in Photoshop to make tonal adjustments to an image (from the course Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Intermediate). allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' FRAMEBORDER='0' />How did Deke and do it? Well, let's take a closer look at one of Deke's movies from his follow-up course, Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Advanced, where Deke talks about how the Curves adjustment in Photoshop works. To create this movie, the awesome production team at worked with Deke to make the magic happen. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how the actual video shoot went -- I was lucky enough to be at the studios that day to watch the process, where Deke explained it as "full on Minority Report live action". Deke gives Tom Cruise a run for his money on this one...Once the video was captured, it was sent over to the graphics department, where the footage was merged with the Histogram and the Curve.The final result looks like this: allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' FRAMEBORDER='0' />This is perhaps just one example of the innovative work is doing with its authors. For a peek into an author's perspective on how a course comes to life, check out this post from illustrator extraordinaire Von Glitschka, who documented his experience. [...]

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2013 Illustrator Tool of the Year: Shape Builder

Fri, 07 Dec 2012 08:06:13 PST

Pantone recently announced the official color for 2013 (Emerald Green #17-5641), so I figured it would be ok if I announced the official Illustrator tool for 2013 as well: the Shape Builder tool.Since the Shape Builder tool first appeared in Illustrator CS5, I've always thought of it as the "sleeper" feature. You know, the one that doesn't get much attention, but that ends up being one of the most useful tools.Now that I've had the tool for close to 3 years, I've found that indeed, it has far increased the speed at which I create and edit art. The keyboard shortcut (Shift-M) is now completely automatic, and using the tool requires absolutely no thought. It's not that Pathfinder was bad -- it's just extremely inefficient. I no longer need to move my eyes (or my cursor) away from the art I'm working on, and then figure out which icon in the Pathfinder panel I should click on. Even if I know what specific function I need, it still requires moving my focus away from my art. The Shape Builder is incredibly liberating.If you're looking for some more information on how to use the Shape Builder, I've assembled a few resources for you:Fridays with Mordy: Building Art in Illustrator. This is a 45min recording that discusses a variety of techniques for building artwork in Illustrator, and cover the use of the Shape Builder tool (Free).Illustrator Insider Training: Drawing Without the Pen Tool. This is one of my courses that focuses specifically on drawing vector artwork without having to rely on the Pen tool in Illustrator. It covers a variety of approaches and has a chapter dedicated to the use of the Shape Builder (Requires a membership).Here's an overview of the Shape Builder tool from Adobe TV (Free): allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="296" scrolling="no" src="" title="AdobeTV Video Player" width="515"> So if you aren't already making the most of the Shape Builder tool, 2013 is the year to make it so. Learn how it works, memorize the shortcuts (modifier keys enhance the functionality of the tool as you use it), and you'll be well on your way to a far more efficient drawing experience.Feel free to share your own experiences with the Shape Builder tool in the comments below. Wishing all Illustrator users around the globe a wonderful and safe Holiday season and a Happy New Year! [...]

The right tool for the job

Fri, 19 Oct 2012 11:13:13 PDT

Throughout my professional career, I've been bombarded with one kind of question. The question is sometimes phrased differently, but it's always the same intent:"What tool should I use?"The context is usually framed within the hope of a firm decision to use one application over another. Illustrator or Freehand? Illustrator or Inkscape? Illustrator or Photoshop? Illustrator or InDesign? Illustrator or Fireworks? Oh the choices are endless, aren't they?In general, I try to nudge people in the general direction of using the application they are more familiar with. Whatever tool you can use faster without having to think too much about it is the one you should use. If Photoshop seems natural to you, then go with it. In my case it's Illustrator.Why do I offer this advice?I offer it because I believe it's a matter of using a tool for what it's best suited for. In my opinion, the most powerful aspect of using a computer is the ability to iterate on a concept. To generate as many variations of a concept as you can.But we must not forget that before you start iterating on an idea, you have to come up with it in the first place. And a pencil is FAR more powerful of a tool for that. I usually differentiate the two in the following way:You limit yourself (and your creativity) if you try to explore within the confines of any computer application.I offer the following example: Here's a logo I was recently working on:The sketch on the left is one of about 30 or 40 that I doodled, over the course of about 3 days. It took a lot of time. The three vector versions on the right (in blue) took me about 3 minutes. So it was only after I had spent time exploring with basic concepts that I was ready to start iterating on those concepts.And here's why I use Illustrator. Because I don't have to think about HOW to iterate. I'm fast enough to try multiple iterations without slowing down. And that's why I say if you're familiar with any application -- be it Photoshop, Fireworks, etc -- USE it. Just use it for the right thing. Use your pencil to explore and then use your computer to iterate. [...]

Illustrator CS6: A Closer Look at the New User Interface

Fri, 02 Aug 2013 08:06:06 PDT

In a previous post, I made mention of the 64bit work that was done in Illustrator CS6, and how that work required Adobe to jettison the existing user interface framework and move to an updated one. It sounds technical (and it is), but it's worth taking a closer look at what this new user interface is all about.Read just about any review, watch any tutorial, or head to Adobe's website and you'll hear the same thing: Adobe Illustrator CS6 sports a new "dark" user interface. It helps "get the user interface out of the way" and it "lets you focus on your design". That's all true, but that's like marveling at the shiny gift wrap on a new present. It's not the outer wrapping that deserves the focus here -- it's what's inside the box that really counts.More than just a fresh coat of paint.In previous versions of Illustrator, the programmers at Adobe used a framework to build panels and dialog boxes. This framework was 32bit and also had certain limitations. Since Illustrator CS6 was going to be 64bit, Adobe had to move to a 64bit framework, meaning that every single dialog box, and every single panel -- in the entire application -- had to be rewritten.When you rebuild something from scratch (instead of just trying to patch it up), you benefit from the following:Any old issues automatically disappear (although that doesn't mean you won't necessarily introduce new ones). Still, any issue that happened in the past (i.e. bugs) are gone.You automatically benefit from newer technology. Meaning if the new interface framework has better support for things like keyboard navigation, then all panels and dialog boxes get that support -- automatically.You have an opportunity to address or rethink design.It's that last bullet point that really stands out. Once Adobe was going to have rebuilt all these dialog boxes and panels anyway, they figured that at the same time, it might be a good idea to also revisit the design and function of them.Redesigned and enhanced.For example, you'll notice that in Illustrator CS6, every single dialog box now consistently features Cancel and OK buttons in the lower right corner. Previous versions were inconsistent with some panels having these buttons at the top right or elsewhere.The Color panel has been updated to support a resizable and much larger color sample area, easier to find buttons for Black, White, and None attributes, and specifically with Hexadecimal colors, a single text field so that you can easily copy and paste values.The Color Panel from Illustrator CS5 (left) and the new one from Illustrator CS6 (right). I set my UI brightness in CS6 to match that of CS5 for easier comparison.The Transparency panel has been updated to raise awareness of an incredibly powerful feature that has been "hidden" since it was introduced back in Illustrator 9: Opacity Masks. Now, a Create Mask button is clearly found directly within the panel instead of having to dig in the panel's fly out menu.The Transparency panel from Illustrator CS5 (left) and the new one from Illustrator CS6 (right).The Save for Web dialog box has been totally revamped, allowing you to see and modify the image size and color settings at the same time, and the dialog is more streamlined, allowing you to export web graphics more efficiently.The Save for Web dialog box in Illustrator CS5The Save for Web dialog box in Illustrator CS6These are but a few examples of what the new user interface in Illustrator CS6 means. It's not about how light or dark the interface is. It's brand new, with new capabilities (rename layers, artboards, brushe[...]

Illustrator CS6 is 64bit: What does it mean?

Fri, 02 Aug 2013 08:06:22 PDT

With version CS6 (aka v.16) Adobe Illustrator is a 64bit application. But what exactly does that mean? Sometimes I think it's like that SNL spoof of Verizon's marketing around 4G LTE. Truth be told, a 64bit version of Illustrator means a lot. Not necessarily because of what 64bit actually *IS*, but really because of what Adobe had to do in order to move Illustrator to 64bit.Let's start with the basics. Your computer has two kinds of memory—hard drive space and something called RAM. The hard drive space is storage—like a drawer in your desk. The RAM is like your desktop. A computer can only process information using RAM (what's on your desktop). So for example, when you launch Illustrator, your computer goes to your hard drive and copies that information into RAM so that you can work with Illustrator (like pulling a file out of the drawer and placing it on your desktop so that you can work with it). As you create and open more documents, your desktop (RAM) becomes filled.  If you run out of RAM, your computer must "clear space" by temporarily copying stuff to your hard drive so that it can work on what you're asking for. This is why if you have a lot of applications and documents open at once, you could see your system slow to a crawl.In theory, the more RAM you add to your computer, the larger of a desktop area you have, or the more capacity your computer has to work with documents and applications without having to shuffle information between your RAM and your hard drive. Here's the thing though: while your computer may have the capacity to install 8GB or 16GB (or more) of RAM, a 32bit application can only see (or "address") a maximum of 2GB or RAM (in some circumstances, 3GB of RAM). In contrast, a 64bit application has the ability to address as much RAM as you can squeeze into your computer (theoretically).So as an example, say you have a computer with 16GB of RAM. And say you were using Illustrator CS5, which is a 32bit application. If you are working with complex files, Illustrator is only able to use a maximum of 3GB of your RAM. With Illustrator CS6, which is a 64bit application, on that same computer, Illustrator would be able to address all the available RAM that you have on your system. Depending on the situation, this could speed up processing time significantly. Of course, this is assuming you have a lot of RAM installed on your machine (at least 8GB), and also assuming that you're working with a lot of files or complex ones.But as I mentioned earlier, the sheer fact that Illustrator is 64bit, doesn't actually make the application faster or better in any way. It simply means that Illustrator has a bigger playground to play in. The big difference is that in order to make Illustrator a 64bit application, Adobe had to do some work. Wait, let me rephrase that—Adobe had to do a significant amount of work. It's the result of this work that—in my opinion—makes Illustrator CS6 a must have upgrade. In other words, even if CS6 had no other additional features other than this work, I'd recommend the upgrade.So what are the benefits of the work that went into making Illustrator a 64bit application?StabilityMost crashes occur when a computer runs out of memory (RAM). In theory, a computer should never run out or RAM because when it sees that it doesn't have enough, it temporarily offloads some information to your hard drive to make space. A computer program usually keeps track of how much memory it uses so it knows how much is left when it's about to per[...]

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Illustrator CS6 Sneak Peek!

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 06:49:13 PDT

If you thought that only Photoshop gets all the love from Adobe, think again. Today Adobe released a sneak peek of what's coming to Illustrator CS6.

The video features Brenda Sutherland, Illustrator Product Manager Extraordinaire, showing a new Pattern Creation feature. Anyone who has ever tried to design seamless pattern swatches with Illustrator knows that it can often be an exercise in frustration. But this new feature makes it really simple to not only create seamless patterns, but also to edit them.

Basically, pattern creation now happens within a kind of isolation mode (much like how you edit symbols for example). Within this "pattern creation mode" as it's called, you can work with your art and Illustrator automatically creates and previews the repeat. To modify existing patterns, you simply double-click on the swatch (what a concept!) and it brings you into the isolation mode where you can either modify the pattern, or make a change and save off a duplicate. It's easy and it's fun!

You can watch Brenda demo the feature here.

One other thing which you'll notice in the video -- Adobe Illustrator CS6 features a dark user interface, similar to what you may have seen in the Photoshop CS6 beta. Just as with Photoshop, this user interface can be lightened and darkened to your preference.

Illustrator Memories

Mon, 19 Mar 2012 00:03:31 PDT

So today is March 19, 2012 -- the day that Adobe officially celebrates Illustrator's 25th Anniversary. I wanted to commemorate this special day and was thinking about those wonderful years when I worked with the wonderfully talented people at Adobe on the Illustrator team.

As you might expect, working on the Illustrator team was an incredibly rewarding experience. By far, the best part was working with the overall team. We had a lot of fun back then, and I dug up a video that Ted Alspach and I put together -- sort of a parody of those late-night commercials that sell a collection of songs on a set of CDs. I hope you enjoy the parody, and more importantly, I hope you appreciate 25 years of Adobe passion, ingenuity, and innovation that we lovingly refer to as Adobe Illustrator.

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Happy 25th Birthday Adobe Illustrator!

Thu, 01 Mar 2012 11:55:52 PST

Adobe shipped its first box of Adobe Illustrator on March 1, 1987. Today, March 1, 2012, she turns twenty-five years old. Happy Birthday!

New Horizons:

Tue, 08 Nov 2011 08:34:15 PST

Over the years, I've been passionate about teaching others as much as I can about Adobe products, mainly around the use of Illustrator and other design products and workflows. I've been extremely fortunate to work at great design studios and at Adobe as well. I'm also thankful for the tremendous support I've received from the overall community as an educator and trainer -- covering books, white papers, Fridays with Mordy, and most recently, video training over at Thanks to all of you -- my dedicated fan base -- for all of your amazing support.

By far, the video training I've been doing at has been the most exciting, as it allowed me to present material in a fashion similar to what I have offered in my live seminars and to my clients. This was especially evident to me in my development of the Illustrator Insider Training series at Truth be told, there's a lot of innovation at around education in general.

With that in mind, I'm thrilled to announce that I've accepted the position of Director of Content at, covering the Design, Web + Interactive, and Developer segments. In this new role, I believe that I can extend innovation in training across more than just one or two Adobe products.

You'll still be hearing plenty from me... of that you can be sure :)