Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Preview photographic colour variations in Photoshop: Numero Dos

I refined my 'template' for testing images in Photoshop and actually discovered I'd misinterpreted smart objects slightly. I couldn't find a way of making photos come into Photoshop at a certain size when you're using them as a smart object (usually they come in way too big). So, if you do want to set up a template, I think you'll need to do something like this:

1. Create a canvas in Photoshop of about 300mm squared.
2. Make sure you have two layers - a locked white background, and an empty layer.
3. Drop a landscape-oriented photo into the empty layer at about 50mm tall.
4. Convert your photo layer into a smart object.
5. Duplicate the smart object and set up a tightly spaced grid.
6. Once you've used the 'align' functions to get it all neat, trim any excess white space off the canvas by re-sizing it.
7. Now click on each smart object layer and apply an adjustment layer of your choice to it. Make sure the adjustment layers are clipped to the layer below (not affecting all layers).
8. You'll then have a sheet full of variations BUT, if you want to replace the content of the smart object (to see another photo with all the variations), you need to resize the photo first (to 50mm tall) and then use it as a replacement - otherwise, it'll come in too big.

The method above will allow you to use portrait-oriented photos without allowing the spacing to become an issue - as long as you make sure all photos you use to test are made 50mm tall to begin with (or whatever measurement you're going with).

I tried two more photos recently and I found the results a little repetitive so I tried something else. If you look at the first spread here, the images are mostly the same but I noticed the top right version was very different. The adjustment used on that layer is 'Black and White: High Contrast Blue Filter'. I wondered whether I could blend it with the one below - the very densely white version, which used 'Channel Mixer: Black and White with Red Filter'.  So I opened the original image and made two layers, each containing the image. I then applied the two adjustment layers to each copy of the image. I then applied a blend mode to the upper layer which happened to be 'overlay' and got the great results below.

Tip: to run quickly through blend modes, use 'shift+plus' or 'shift+minus' when the layer is selected.

Another tip: you will sometimes notice that changing the exposure much more than a few clicks left or right will create harsh effects. Instead, try duplicating the image onto another layer, then apply a blend mode to it, like 'darken', and your image will only get deeper and more dynamically lit.

The below are two sets of images, each with a test sheet, original photo and end photo.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Preview photographic colour variations in Photoshop

The link below is a video on 'smart objects' in Photoshop – skip it to 43:00 mins and you'll find a really useful way of seeing what one of your photographs might look under different colour conditions.


Basically, you can set up a file in Photoshop that acts as a template into which you can 'drop' any photograph you have and see lots of variations of it. The number of variations is up to you – after all, you set them up. The way the photograph varies is also up to what adjustments you choose – but colour adjustments are the main options.

I followed the video to create a template for lots of different black and white filters on a photo of of mine. The differences can sometimes be very subtle, but you'll find some great results – like the second one in from the left (top row). It has a really good wide range of tones and not too harsh a contrast. Photoshop does offer predefined variations but they're very basic and you don't get much control over them so this is the way to go.

Saturday, 22 January 2011


I read The Secret History by Donna Tartt when I was at university and, although I don't usually enjoy fiction, I found it interesting to learn about Dionysus – the Greek God of wine and music . . the Pete Doherty of the time. The main character in The Secret History studies the Classics among a select group of students – an exclusive class of individuals who dangerously mix curiosity with their freshly digested knowledge of ancient Greece.

This curiosity leads them to explore the idea of a bacchanal – what I understand to be a whirling, violent frenzy of body and mind, usually fueled by alcoholic intoxication and usually ending in the brutal mutilation of anyone or anything that hinders the rush of the group or individual. Bacchus (Dionysus) is often portrayed alongside his maenads – his female followers who would partake in festivals and dancing in his honour.

The images I've included below, however, are merely inclusive of the women themselves and say very little about any violent or aggressive nature of the bacchanal – perhaps due to their having been painted in the 19th century. The first, by Auguste Leveque, appears primarily to represent the bacchanal with a general air of lust but, at closer inspection, you see some revelers in a drunken stupor,  some in desperation, others grappling, and still others who seem to be sharing a gentle embrace. Confusion might be a better description.

Lawrence Alma-Tadema treats not the bacchanal itself but the aftermath in his own work – his maenads are only just waking. They stretch and come to terms with their dehydrated, aching limbs – the rewards to those who spend the moonlight on alcohol and vicious sprints through the country that precede the ruin of some unfortunate creature.

The antithesis of Dionysus, Apollo, was the bringer of order. During the Vienna Secession, Klimt explored the concept of music in relation to Dionysus early on in his life. He coordinated the complementary measures of the two deities in his paintings for the theaters and art galleries in Vienna at the time.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Jean-Léon Gérôme 'Pygmalion and Galatea' 1890

Footnotes in InDesign: automatic & creative

Part of the reason why I want to make a new book is that it's a reason to get to grips with what InDesign can do for large projects. I made a nice and easy start today by brushing up  on footnotes but, more specifically, how you can change the way a footnote looks.

The following notes show what I did to get the footnotes pictured at the end, so you'll get a good idea of what can be done – under completely automatic controls.

1. Set up a text box and, as it's an example, click inside the box and go to type> fill with placeholder text.

2. Drag the bottom of the text box down to make space for the footnote to appear.

3. Click somewhere in the text and go to type> insert footnote. Then two things appear – a number in the text, and the footnote itself, at the bottom of the text box.

4. Now that we have the footnote, we want to control the way it looks. Go to type> Document Footnote Options. The dialogue box that appears is one of many in InDesign and really isn't complex if you take the time to go through each feature.

5. Of the two tabs at the top, you'll be on 'Numbering and Formatting'. Under 'numbering', most of it is self-explanatory but you can type things into the prefix/suffix boxes of your own choice (I left them empty). In the two formatting panels, you'll find we can apply styles to the footnote and number – hit 'new style' for each and name them 'footnote number' and 'footnote' respectively. Don't bother setting up the rest of the settings for the  styles just yet though.

6. Underneath the paragraph style button, it says 'separator'. Delete the content of the box and use the arrow to the right to select 'tab'. This will mean that our footnote will start with the number, then jump a tab space and then begin the text.

7. In the other tab at the top, called 'layout', there are further options for formatting. You'll notice there's a Rule Above feature – ignore it! The style settings will offer the same visual options.

8. Hit OK on the footnote settings. Now before we look at the styles we've set up, we need to specify our tabs. Highlight the footnote itself, in the text box, and go to type> tabs. Type a measurement into the 'X:' bar and, if you want to, put something into the leader. You can experiment with this – I put two spaces and an em dash into it for mine.

9. Close the tabs panel. Now, making sure nothing is selected, double-click on your character style 'footnote number'. This will change the appearance of the reference inside the text. Make sure 'preview' is selected in the bottom left so you can see the effect of your settings. The more creative features come in the next step.

10. Double-click on the paragraph style that you named 'footnote'. In 'basic character formats' set up a type size of about 10, with around double the leading – 17/18pt. Then go to 'paragraph rules' and use a 'rule above' of about 10pt. This will be a bar the footnote text sits inside. You can play around with the stroke type, size, colour etc. 'Width' allows you to control how far the bar extends. You can put a '–1mm' left and right indent in, so the bar doesn't stop too close to the text.

11. Go to 'character colour' and choose a good contrasting tone. Then, for another little addition, you can go to 'underline options' and use an offset stroke as an underline. Remember 'underlines' can become more like panels if you make them fat enough.

12. Now click OK and you'll be all set to write hundreds of footnotes without ever having to manually format them. Playing with the style settings will affect them all simultaneously and you can really use the style features inventively to work more 'economically'.

I found this little video series by Michael Murphy on making books with InDesign. It covers 'book files', automation, tables of contents, indexing and more. See his personal website here: http://www.theindesigner.com/blog/

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Giovanni di Lorenzo de Medici

People should try to break down their preconceptions more often. I've found it rewarding to ignore what people say and find out for myself before making judgements.

It didn't work with Big Brother or Facebook though!

Maybe the following man will help change your ways, if you (like me) can judge too soon.

Giovanni di Lorenzo de Medici was one of the sons of Lorenzo 'Il Magnifico' de Medici.
He went on a tour of europe – while he was in exile.
He was imprisoned for a time in France.
He suffered from stomach ulcers.
He, like Leonardo, Botticelli, and others, was an exclusive sodomite.
He once said 'death...cannot adequately explain the rebirth of learning, art and culture which flowers in Italy. While one can never rule out divine will, I postulate a more prosaic explanation – money.'
He was accused of paganism.
He owned a pet elephant called Hanno.

He also said 'I am Pope Leo X, the Vicar of Christ, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostles, the Patriarch of the West, the Primate of Italy, the Vice-regent of the Prince of Peace, the Ambassador of Heaven.'

Of his father, Lorenzo, he said, 'I believe that, five hundred years from now, men will still celebrate his contributions to learning, art, architecture and politics.' He wrote this around 1515-20, 500 years ago.


Thought it was time I changed my banner. A new year, a new beginning.

I seem to be tumbling through a web of information that's getting further and further from modern design (the original subject of my blog). The new banner allows me to branch out!

What I've been reading (about 15/16th Century Italy) is starting to run away from me. I learn about one thing, and find I need to learn about another, and so goes the endless trail.

The good traveller knows his destination, though, (as some ancient Greek, or another, said) so I decided to attempt a fairly huge task . . partly so I can remember the aforementioned ancient Greek guy.

My little plan is to create another book. Something to hold everything I'm learning in one place. I read a quote along the lines of 'people tend to think history happened over a long period, when, in fact, it occurs very quickly'. I think the writer meant that, where we see 10 years as a very long time (and we probably don't remember much that happened more than 3/4 years previous to any given time) we seem to think of it as a much shorter period if discussed in a history book.

The content of my new book will be based, roughly, on the era between 1400 and 1600, and mainly in Tuscany. It'll take the reader through, chronologically, the events that unfolded. Even if this means referring to past/future events where necessary, I want to stick to the timeline because I think time and context are very important in understanding history.

Not everything in the book can be recorded to a date though. The description of the word 'sfumato', for instance, must occur somewhere but it can't be left in the main text alone. A 'secondary' level of information is therefore necessary. It should be presented in a different way to the main text and each subject being described needs to stand alone. A description of the roots of a family, as another example, will need to stand alone as a few paragraphs away from the main text.

As the book will essentially be a timeline – page to page – there can be a visual entity running throughout, that may, for instance, tell us who the pope was at any time in the book. Why? Because it builds the context around what is said in the main text.

What also needs to go in is pictorial information. This requires an infographics approach – a clear and concise way of telling readers, for instance, who was in power in Florence throughout the 200 years in question. Representation of artworks should be straightforward inasmuch as images can be presented independently of the text. Referencing etc will be necessary though.

While I put this stupidly complex book together, I'll hope to share the information I pick up along the way and get my blog moving again.
➔ Please do not copy any image from this blog without permission; I keep proof of ownership on all of my work ☺