Saturday, April 14, 2012

How to Locate Greek Letters and Mathematical Symbols without Going Crazy

On a recent project, I've had to use a variety of greek letters and mathematical symbols. While I know that many of these symbols exist in Pro fonts, locating them in InDesign's glyph panel has proved to be rather difficult. Here is a screen shot of the glyphs panel, displaying the entire font of Myriad Pro. It's a bit dizzying, is it not?

Notice how on the top left of the glyphs panel is a little drop down menu.

I's never given much thought to the drop down menu. I'd always left it at either "Entire Font" or "Alternates for Selection." But today I needed a special mathematical symbol and I really didn't want to spend a bunch time digging through the entire font trying to locate it. So I finally took a look at the rest of the dropdown menu. Lo and behold, in the second section of the dropdown menu, there was an option called "Math Symbols." How had I not seen this before?! And look a little farther down, there's another one called "Greek." Here are screenshots of all of the different character categories, from top to bottom, in the order listed in the "Show" drop down menu.

Basic Latin and Latin 1

Extended Latin A

Extended Latin B


Superscripts and Subscripts




Math Symbols


What's so neat about displaying the different character-type categories is that you can also display them in different fonts, and the character-type category remains selected. For example, if you are typesetting a physics book for fifth graders, and wanted to use Greek letters in Marker Felt font, you can easily see that a variety of Greek letters are, in fact, available in Marker Felt. Who knew?

Greek letters in Marker Felt font

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Create a Geometric Flower Pattern with Multi-Colored Centers

Recently, while strolling through Target, I got distracted while walking through the stationary aisle. I paused there long enough to snap some photos of patterns I wanted to recreate. This pattern was on the front of a journal. I liked this pattern because it has several components:
  • The cream colored flower, which is composed of four circles
  • The centers of the flowers  (magenta, yellow, green, orange, and cyan), which are composed of a total of 25 objects (5 of each of the 5 bright colors)
We'll be creating this pattern in InDesign, using the TeaCup PatternMaker plugin.

Multi-colored flower pattern design, as recreated in InDesign

Let's first make the white portion of the flowers.
Start with a square frame about 5 inches square. Fill it with a dark reddish brown. Then fill it with a Dots pattern, using the settings below.

Copy the frame and then paste in place. Remove the fill color. Then nudge it over and up a bit. This creates the top petal.

Paste in place and nudge it again (for the bottom petal).

Paste in place and nudge yet again (for the right petal). This completes the flower petals. To keep these background circles out of the way while you build the rest of the flowers, group these four frames and put them on their own layer. Then lock that layer.

Next, we'll make the small center of the flowers. Since there are five different colors of dots for the center of the flowers, we'll need to use different settings for the Dots pattern. You should still have one of the cream colored circles pattern on your clipboard, so paste it in place. Then, make the frame really big; about four to six times larger. Then apply these PatternMaker settings.

Copy the green circles frame and paste in place. Nudge it over until it the second set of dots is centered in the petals. Change the colors of the pattern to cyan. Then, repeat this for orange, yellow, and magenta. Your pattern should look like this:

Then, select these five smaller Dots patterns and group them. Paste in place. Then nudge them over and down to fill the next set of flowers. Repeat for the remaining rows of cream colored flowers.

If you like, you can create clean edges (and hide all the extraneous dots) by grouping all the Dots patterns (including the ones you earlier put on their own layer), and paste them into a new smaller frame. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Book Review: Adobe Illustrator CS5 One-on-One

Authors: Deke McClelland
Published by: O'Reilly Media / Deke Press
Published: November 2010
Print ISBN: 978-0-596-80801-3
ISBN-10: 0-596-80801-1
# of Pages: 512
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This book is beautifully designed, and uses timeless typography techniques. The chapters include:
  1. Starting a Document
  2. Lines, Shapes, and Color
  3. Using the Pen Tool
  4. Creating and Formatting Text
  5. Transform and Reshape
  6. Pathfinder Operations
  7. Blends, Masks, and Gradients
  8. Working with Transparency
  9. Bruches and Symbols
  10. The Amazing World of Dynamic Effects
  11. Live Trace, Paint, and Color
  12. Printing and Exporting
I enjoyed the subtle design details, such as how the figures are positioned on the page organically, and not always relegated strictly to the sidebar. Some of the large artistic figures even bleed off the page, which is unusual for a technical book. This type of graphic treatment makes the book feel more fun and magazine-like, and less like a technical software book.

Each chapter has a different color scheme. The color in the headings, figure numbers, and page numbers are consistent within each chapter, so even when flipping through the book, it's easy to tell when you've reached the next chapter. Each chapter deals with a different topic, and provides a corresponding project to work through the lessons. Lesson files give the reader a starting place, so he can work through the book step-by-step and follow along with Deke. The chapter on the Pen Tool alone is worth the price of the book. If you're a designer who has struggled with understanding or mastering the pen tool, this book would be worthwhile investment.

The book also covers some general typography concepts, such serif versus san-serif type, and the different parts that make up letterforms, such as: bracket, shoulder, cross-stroke, bow, terminal, and counter.

I think this book would be a great resource for anyone wanting to learn the various techniques with Illustrator. If someone took the time to work through the entire book, they would have a great foundation for becoming a master in Illustrator. The lessons and video provide an exposure to Illustrator's capabilities. The book is a software book, not a design handbook. The graphics examples are playful and sometimes over-the-top. But because the graphics are so exaggerated, it's easy to see the different techniques in action.