Thursday, October 31, 2013

Creative Cloud a la Carte

I'd like to offer Adobe a perspective on a pricing model that may help convert more people to using Adobe Creative Cloud. In my discussion with various people about Creative Cloud, many times they say "I can't justify the price," or "It's too expensive to upgrade my entire team." Sometimes this comes from professional designers, sometimes from educators, sometimes from printing companies.

But Adobe says: the price is so affordable! You get ALL the apps for around $50. What a deal! Which is true is you're going to use them all, or at least a few of them. But as great as it is to have access to all the apps, I don't use them all. Nor will I ever you use them all. Nor will ANYONE ever use them all. Not even the best trainers in the world whose mission it is to know and teach all they can about Adobe software will ever use all the apps.

Why? Here's why. There are apps designed for various workflows. No one person will ever use all of these tools in a workflow.

Adobe has broken down these tools into several large categories. I've highlighted in red the tools that I used every day. I've highlighted in Blue the tools that I use once in a while, maybe a couple of times per year. Everything else in Creative Cloud I'm really not that interested in. Are they great and useful and loved by thousands of people around the globe? Yes. And I'm sure there are plenty of people just as passionate about their tools as I am about InDesign and Acrobat. But in my workflow, I only need a handful of tools.

But again they say, "What a deal! You get it ALL!" I liken that approach to going to a buffet. A buffet might serve 100 different items, and by paying a set price, I can eat all of the items, as much as I want. The price is all inclusive. How amazing! So I start eating my favorite foods, and then I go back for seconds, and then I start slowing down... Then I've eaten so much that I physically can't eat any more. Does that lessen the beauty of the all inclusive price? Well, it doesn't matter how great of a deal it is if at the end of the day, I  can't humanly take advantage of all the offerings to me. I'd rather just go to my favorite local restaurant, choose my favorite dish from a dozen or so offerings, and not feel guilty by not taking advantage of all the is available to me.

So I propose that Adobe adopt a similar approach to a restaurant, specifically a taco shop. Taco shops are interesting because they present their menu is such a way that it offers endless configurability at a reasonable price.

Each combination is composed of two or three main items, plus you choice of sides.

Prior to Creative Cloud, Adobe had grouped its software into a few major categories. They had:

  • a package for Print Designers
  • a package for Web Designers
  • a package for video editors
  • and a package that included everything.
 I propose that they do the same thing with Creative Cloud.

As I mentioned earlier, there are a handful of programs that I use every day. And another handful of programs that I use once every few months. And still another one or two programs that I will never use, but someone else in my office will. As it stands right now, if my husband needs to use After Effects (which I never use, but he needs to use every once in a while), we have two choices:

  • We can buy him a $50/month subscrition for a whole bunch of software that he'll never use, or
  • We can deactivate the license on my laptop for the duration of his project (so we have Creative Cloud installed on two computers owned by the same person, as the license allows for). When he's done with After Effects, he just needs to remember to deactivate the license so I can use the programs on my laptop again.
But should we really have to jump through those hoops? What I'd prefer is to order a Combo Meal: I choose the package that contains the main dish (the applications that I use every day). And then I choose a few items I'd like as side orders so that someone else on my team can use them (After Effects and team file sharing). 

I think by offering people choices that cost less than $50 per month, many more people would be likely to buy the package that best suits their needs. I won't spend $50 a month so that every once in a while my team member can use AfterEffects. But I will spend $5-10 month for a couple of add-on programs for him.

This problem gets compounded when a large team is involved. Years ago, I worked in the production art department of marketing/printing company. We were on old software, and anxiously awaited the day when we could get modern tools. I think we were perpetually three or four versions behind because the cost to upgrade a team of 30 designers was really high. We had the software installed on more computers than we had licenses for. Sometimes, I'd be working in Photoshop and get a call from the Art Department saying, "Can you please close Photoshop?"

Why? Because I had to share a copy with one of the designers upstairs. The price to upgrade the entire team to the latest software was so high that the management found it cheaper to have us jump through hoops to share a single license. (Never mind the legal aspects of that).

I'll take a guess and say that that printing company could upgrade one seat to Creative Suite Design Standard for $600.  Multiply that by 30 designers, and it costs around $18K to upgrade. But they only upgraded about once every five years or so, so they could amortize that expense over that timeframe. So the expense of upgrading software worked out to about $3600 per year.

Now, let's consider moving the entire team to Creative Cloud. $79/month x 30 designers x 12 months x 5 years: $142,200. Will many companies make the move? Probably not.

But let's go back to the restaurant menu analogy for a moment. Let's say I'm ordering Mexican food with my husband. He orders a burrito. It comes with 2 sides:  rice and beans. But he doesn't like spanish rice, so he asks for something else as a substitute. No problem! 

But as an alternative, to substituting another side item, he also has the option of giving the rice to me, because I will eat it. Of course, he could say "no rice in the burrito" and then I could order an extra side of rice. But if the cashier is thoughtful, they'll likely ring it up like this:

#1 BURRITO: $7.00
-No rice inside
   - Rice

Why do they do this? Because it is the same food packaged differently, and saves the customer money. The customers recognize that thoughtfulness and are more loyal.

Now what if the restaurant only offered side dishes when served alongside an entire entree? The order would look like this.

#1 BURRITO: $7.00
-No rice inside

#2 BURRITO: $7.00
- No burrito

Customers would throw a fit! We would be paying for 2 burritos while only getting the contents of one burrito. Likewise, I think it would be good move for Adobe customers to have the ability to mix and match products so they only pay for what they want.  I need:
  • InDesign
  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • Acrobat
  • Bridge
As an add on, every once in a while, I'd like to pay for a single month of After Effects. What if there was a package that included just the five programs I need, and then for a small fee (let's say $10 for a month long subscription), I can choose from one of the other programs in Creative Cloud. And for an extra $15 per month I can choose 2 additional programs. But here's the important part: I need those two programs to be used by someone else, with their own Adobe ID. The price point has dropped from $79 for the entire Creative Cloud to $15 for just what they need. Do you think more people would be willing to take advantage of that? I sure do. It offers a affordable entry point for those who cannot afford or are unsure about making the leap. This low entry point allows them to test-drive cloud services for a team, and see how easy it is to update software and share files.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Hover Scrolling in InDesign CC: It’s a Feature Not a Bug

Apparently in InDesign CC there is a new feature that lets you interact with the dropdown menus without ever having to click on them. Sounds cool, right? It can wreak havoc on your document without you ever knowing what happened until it's too late.

I started out with a text frame filled with Minion Pro. Then I started Hover Scrolling and in short order, I had created this beauty. Let the fun begin!

Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets:

Please leave a note in the comments there sharing your thoughts (pro or con) on Hover Scrolling.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Beware of the Fire of Crisis

For many people, moving from one crisis to the next is a life pattern. Living in crisis mode allows them to feel like super heros, rushing in to save the day, putting out fires just in the nick of time. The thing that crisis-minded folks don't understand is that the difference between them and mythical super heros is that the fires that they are putting out are largely ones that could have prevented in advance.

Some people thrive in the crisis environment. I've spent a great deal of time around people who, in a crisis vacuum, will go to great lengths to create a crisis. It allows them to boldly step, in take control, and tell people what to do. Narcissists are often like this. But this blog is not for narcissists. This blog is for creatives. So as one who makes my living in the creative field, I want to caution you, my fellow creatives, against living your life in crisis mode.

I've found that where crises exists, creativity is stifled. When we are in crisis mode, we're often in search of the most expedient solution to get us out of whatever trouble we find ourselves in. But the quickest and easiest solution is rarely, if ever the best solution.

My husband and I are both creative professionals. I am a designer and writer; he is a musician. But often, we find ourselves spending the bulk of our time doing non-creative tasks. So how does that happen? The better question is, how does that not happen?

Life is busy and messy, and it's so easy to get wrapped up in seemingly important tasks. Answering emails, running errands, attending meetings, dealing with clients, fixing broken equipment, searching for files, sitting idly by while an old slow computer churns away... And meanwhile, at the end of a 40 (or 50 or 60) hour work week, we look back and realize that we've only spent 5 hours on creative endeavors. For me, my creative endeavor is document automation. For others, it's software development. Still others make music, or videos, or fine art. Whatever creative itch you have to scratch, once you make that creative outlet become your career, the business-end of things will undoubtedly creep in and try to take over.

So how to deal with this?

How can you deal with a boss who thinks meetings are more important than creating stuff? If you're self employed, how to deal with the reality of being your own IT person, marketing department, accounting department and purchasing department, in addition to being in responsible for product development and production? How to produce creative work when you're being pulled in a dozen different directions with kids, pets, and needy clients?

I don't have a great answer for this. When I became self employed, I kept my day job for five months. I worked at my day job 40 hours per week and then an additional 30 hours per week on my business. At the end of five months, I was a wreck. I hadn't exercised for months, I was sleep deprived and was living on sugar and coffee. I was burned out and I had just started my own business. So I obviously don't have all the answers, but I can share with you a few tips that will help you have more time for your creative endeavors.

If you're self employed in a creative field and want to stay that way long term, it's especially important to plan ahead to avoid the pitfalls of falling into crisis mode.

Be organized

Let's say as a designer you edit 100 different files per day. That's about 35,000 files per year. If you stay in business for 10 years, that's roughly 350,000 files. You'll need to come up with a good file management system so that you can quickly locate the files you need and get back to your creative work.

Set up automatic backup

If your computer crashes, will you have your files backed up somewhere else? A few years ago, I was excited to have CrashPlan backing up my files. I thought I was safe. But apparently, I had the bandwidth set at the default rate of transfer and after 4 months, my initial backup was not done. And then my hard drive died. I lost hundreds of files. So check in on your backup from time to time and make sure it is backing up at the right speed. You may even want to contact your backup company and have them walk you through some of the more advanced settings so that your backups will be done in a timely manner.


Don't wait until that stiff back and sedentary lifestyle have caused you enough pain that you can't do your job. Get out from behind the desk. Get out and get moving before your body forgets how to and is locked in the typing-on-the-keyboard position.

Spend time with other Creatives

When I started the Raleigh InDesign User Group a couple of years ago, I thought I would be doing people a service by sharing with them my InDesign knowledge. But to be honest, I'm fairly confident that I've learned more from my fellow IDUG members than they have from me. They have introduced me to new features, plugins, and tools. They've shown me new ways of working that speed up my workflow and allow me to spend more time on the fun stuff. Your fellow creatives can offer insight and encouragement and keep you from making rash, career-impacting decisions after an exceptionally hard day.

Dream big

If you're still reading this blog, chances are good that you aspire to more than typesetting business cards for the local accounting firm. So write down your big ideas about what you'd like your future to look like. Share your big ideas with a friend. Set a measurable goal, and then work toward it methodically. This is important because when you're working toward a big goal, it puts into perspective all the petty annoyances that you may have to deal with on a daily basis. I remember back in college when I had to take dumb courses like macroeconomics and astronomy. I managed to get through those classes because I knew that I was working toward a larger goal: earning a college degree. If I hadn't been working toward a defined goal, I likely would have dropped out of those waste-of-my-time classes in the first week.

I speculate that one of the reasons that people experience mid-life crises is because their lives have been in a state of crisis for years, and over time, they have lost themselves in the sea of crises, waking up one morning thinking that suddenly, everything needs changing. Of course, I'm a mid-thirty-something, so I have a lot to learn.

But I do know that crises will get in the way of, and eventually burn out a creative career, reducing your flexibility and limiting your choices. And so with that in mind, I aim to prevent crises before they happen. Don't let the fire of crisis burn out your creativity, your health, or your career.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Introducing “Magneto Paths”

The great folks over at Rorohiko have developed an amazing plugin called Magneto Paths. This plugin makes objects stick together while they are being drawn, resized, and reshaped. This means you can effectively apply more than one stroke or fill to (what appears to be) a single object.

Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Beauty of Stacked Strokes

Have you ever yearned to apply multiple strokes to on object in InDesign? Have you wanted more flexibility with your strokes than just a stroke and a gap color? For years now, I have wanted InDesign to be able to have the equivalent of the Illustrator’s Appearance panel, where I can apply multiple strokes and fills to a single object.

Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why Do All My PDFs from Microsoft Office Print Fuzzy?

PDFs can "print fuzzy" when the black text is actually composed of all four colors of ink: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. This is a common problem from PDFs created from Microsoft Office documents. Before I send PDFs such as this to a commercial printer, I like to fix the blacks so that the document will print properly.

Let's take a look at a PDF with these incorrect blacks. In Acrobat, go to the Print Production pane > Output Preview.

I moused over the large black portion and the ink values are shown below. Notice how the black is actually composed of all four colors of ink.

When I turn off the black plate, the other three colors remain.

So how do we fix this? A quick search on google and even yields no quick results. I'm not a professional prepress technician, and I only need to convert the blacks in an PDF every once in awhile, so I tend to forget how, because I do it so infrequently. When I need to convert RGB blacks, I need to be able to do it without spending an hour or more searching on forums trying to figure it out. So for my own benefit, as well as any others who need to convert RGB PDFs from Office, here's the quick, super simplified explanation of how to do this.

1. Go to Print Production pane > Convert Colors.

That will bring up this dialog box. For our purposes, there are only two things to be concerned with in this dialog box. The first is the Conversion Profile. You can choose from a variety of CMYK conversion profiles, but SWOP is a good bet. And fortunately, it is the default here in the United States. Be sure to use a profile appropriate for your country.

The second thing to be concerned with (and this is the most important part), is the "Preserve Black" checkbox. According to the Adobe website, "Preserve Black preserves any black objects drawn in CMYK, RGB, or grayscale during conversion. This option prevents text in RGB black from being converted to rich black when converted to CMYK."

Click ok, and you are done. Now when you open the Output Preview dialog box and mouse over the back area, notice how the blacks are corrected.

And when you turn off the black plate, all the blacks disappear, as they should. Now the document will print properly.

I hope this tutorial will help you more quickly convert the RGB blacks in your Microsoft Office PDFs.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Seeing Patterns: The Chevron Pattern

As a graphic designer, I’ve been on a quest to understand the fascination with the chevron pattern and why it recently seems so novel in printed design.

Read the entire article at Creative Pro:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Have You Hugged your Developer Today?

Four years ago, as a newly self employed designer, I started attending PepCon. As the decision maker at my own little company, I felt it was worthwhile to spend my personal money to go to my very first professional conference. And let me tell you, it was a real stretch financially. But it so worthwhile that I keep going back.

These days, I spend a bit less time in the sessions, and more time with the developers: those nice guys at the vendor tables, quietly sitting and waiting to demo their amazing tools to anyone willing to stop by and take a look at what they've created.

But what's really great about the developers is that they're not just there to sell existing tools. They are also there to listen to the end users and find out what their needs are. Kris from Rorohiko told me once, "I'm not an InDesign user. I just write scripts for InDesign." Think at about that one for a moment.

Kris and me: InDesign plugin developer and InDesign user

So every year I spend a little less time at the sessions and a little more time chatting with the developers. And not just with independent developers. I've also met members of the InDesign engineering team. I've personally given them my list of feature requests (complete with links to blog articles with additional information), and I've personally show them reproducible bugs.

At my last PepCon, I got to meet a former InDesign team member, Ashley Mitchell, who graciously gave his permission for me to get a T-shirt printed with some of his LBOP artwork on it. (This T-shirt is a joke about using GREP styles.)

Me and Ashley Mitchell, former senior tester for the InDesign team
Also at my most recent PepCon, I managed to corner one of the InDesign engineers right after the Meet the InDesign Team session. I think he handles the code for a part of InDesign that I wanted to see improved. I was chatting with this developer recently and he said "Oh, you did that thing on patterns at the InDesign smackdown." He was talking about my Ignite session! He remembered me from the conference!

Slowly but surely, some of my ideas for InDesign tools are becoming reality. Today I discovered that an obscure bug I had personally shown to an InDesign engineer at PepCon two years ago has been fixed in InDesign CC. It took my breath away to see that they had fixed it. Here's what they fixed:
"In the Find/Change dialog box, under Conditions, the scroll bar doesn't scroll with the mouse scroll wheel. It just jumps all the way from the top to the bottom. It should scroll properly."
I think only about 5% of InDesign users ever use conditional text. And probably a very small fraction of those will ever have enough conditions in a single document to warrant a scroll bar in the Find/Change dialog box. So the amount of people who would ever experience this bug is very small. But perhaps the fix was a quick and simple one. I don't know, as I am not a developer. But I know people who are!

So if you want feature improvements to InDesign, start coming to PepCon and hang out with the developers. Develop friendships with them, encourage them, write articles about the awesome tools they make. While I think that petitions and survey sites can be useful tools for making your needs known, I've personally gotten a lot more accomplished by simply having relationships with the people who can build the tools I need. In doing so, I am more than just a signature on a petition or three votes on a survey site. I am a friend. And friends help each other out with projects that may not be huge money makers.

I don't know what developers make on the plugins that I conceive and beta-test. And I will never ask. But I have tools now that a few years ago, I could only dream of.

So if you have plugins that you want, go befriend some developers. And I think it doesn't hurt to bring some chocolate or other goodies just to make what you have to say more memorable.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Adventures in Flexible File Prep: New Twist on PDF Form Fields


I am the graphic designer for my church. As a designer, I want my designs to look as good as possible, keeping in mind the final output device as well as the skills and tools of the people who need to use my files. I've written a couple of other articles about my adventures in designing these situations.

The Why

I've started using using a new trick recently. We needed to create some lanyards for use in our children's ministry.

In coming up with this workflow, there were a few must-haves on my list of requirements.
  • The final PDF must be multi-up on a page and able to be printed on a standard letter-sized paper
  • The person printing the PDF needs to be able to easily add text to the PDF (without having to watch a tutorial video or read an article in order to figure out how to do so).
  • The editable part of the document needs to use a fun font. Nothing boring like Helvetica.
The folks in the office need to be able to edit the name, using ONLY Adobe Reader

The How

So I started with a simple 1-up design in InDesign, located on an 8.5 x 11 page. Somewhere in the design, you'll need some type that uses the font you'll want to use in your form fields. In my case, the live type is in the word "Staff." The reason for this is because we want that fun font embedded into the PDF.

Because this piece is only 1-sided, you don't have to be very precise in where you put the 1-up design. I made my 1-up with crop marks. There is a built-in crop marks script in InDesign. I wrote an article about it awhile back. (Scroll down to step 6, and skip everything else.)

Next, we're going to add a form field. Go to Window > Interactive > Buttons and Forms to bring up the Buttons and Forms panel. Then draw a rectangle roughly the size that you want for the space where the office staff will type the name in Adobe Reader.

With the rectangle selected, click Convert to Button.

Next, in the drop down list in the panel, change the type from Button to Text Field.

Make sure to check the box that indicates that your form field will be printable (it is checked by default). And make sure the size is set to Auto.

Now, group all your objects and out them multiple on a page. In my case, six of them fit on the page. Be sure and hold shift when option+dragging them, so that they stay aligned.

Now, export an Interactive PDF. This is important because as of the date of this article, print PDFs cannot contain form field objects. In the Forms and Media section of the dialog box, click Include All.

Now, I need to give a disclaimer here because normally, I would never use an InDesign Interactive PDF for a professional print job. "Why," you ask? Because interactive PDFs export as RGB. That means that plain blacks are converted to RGB rich blacks. Normally, that would be a very, very big deal for me. But this is going to be printed 1 sheet at a time, on an multi-function office printer, and there is no small type. So RGB blacks don't matter to me here.

Next, open the PDF in Acrobat. See how all the form fields are highlighted in purple? (Notice also how my nice blue background changed to greenish. I'm not sure why. I suspect it has to do with the weird blending mode I used for my background.) Normally, that would bother me, but for this project, it doesn't matter.

Now, since there is no way to specify a font for your form field in InDesign. We have to do that in Acrobat. So in Acrobat, open the form editing pane.

Select all the form fields (cy clicking and then shift+clicking). Then press Cmd/Ctrl + I.

(I like to think that I stands for Info. So when you click on any object in your PDF, if you press Cmd/Crl+ I, you'll get all sorts of interesting options that you change. Try it sometime for fun. You'd be surprised what you can change in a PDF!)

In the Appearance tab, change the font from Helvetica to something more interesting. The trick here is that you need to use a font that you have already used in your design. That'll mean that the beautiful, fun font that you want for your forms field is already embedded in the PDF. So it will work properly whenever this PDF is opened by someone who doesn't have the same font set as you. The fun font that I used is called GROBOLD.

Next, go to the Options tab in that same dialog box. Change the Alignment to Center.

Now, close that dialog box. Go to File > Document Properties (Ctrl/Cmd + D) and change page scaling to None. That way, the paper will print the size you designed it at, without you having to give any extra instructions to the office staff.

Now you are done! See how the type size automatically adjusts to fit the length of the name? Nifty!

Be sure to tell the office staff to open the PDF in Adobe Reader (not a web browser).

David Blatner wrote a great article awhile back about some limitations of Interactive PDFs. Adobe has fixed the spreads-vs-pages issue he mentions in the article, but everything else is still valid. It's a good read, if you want to know more about which PDF type is best suited for your jobs.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Beware Stacked Transparency in PDF Files Across Long Documents

I recently encountered a PDF export problem that plagued me for months. I was trying to export a book containing roughly 50 InDesign documents. The last 25 or so documents contained scanned engineering drawings placed as graphics into the InDesign documents. When I tried to export a PDF from the InDesign book file, the PDF would seemingly be exporting just fine… until InDesign reached pages with some of those scanned images. Then it seemed to randomly hang. Fortunately, I finally found the source of the problem, as well as a fix.

Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Too much text? Try TypeFitter Pro

I'd like to share a little bit about one of my favorite plugins. TypeFitter Pro is made by Teacup software. According to the Typefitter manual:
TypeFitter also allows you to manually tighten and loosen text by “nudging” your justification and tracking settings up or down. TypeFitter will “nudge” a whole group of settings all at once, which is a big time saver. Because TypeFitter emphasizes changing justification settings like word spacing, letter spacing and glyph scaling, you can tighten or loosen your type without compromising high quality typography.
At it's simplest use, with just the click of a button, Typefitter will make slight adjustments to text, effectively fitting more text into a smaller amount of space. It's great for use on those text-heavy documents, where just one or two lines of text overflow onto the next page. What's so magical about this is that TypeFitter does this without adjusting horizontally scaling the type! Out of curiosity, I went digging around in the paragraph panel to see how it did this. It makes micro adjustments to the Hyphenation and Justification settings.

Here is my document before I started adjusting it with TypeFitter Pro. There are just a couple of lines on the right-facing page, but I need those lines to be on the left-facing page (and I don't want to horizontally scale the text or adjust all the kerning). I needed to make a few adjustments to the second paragraph and the the fourth paragraph.

Too much text! I need the text on the right page to fit onto the left page.
My default justification settings

First I started by clicking the "Tighten Text" button.

Tighten Text button

That gave me little visible results, but it did adjust the Justification settings like so:

So then I clicked on the Tighten Text More button...

Tighten Text More button

... and I got these settings. 

I still needed a little more tightening, so I clicked "Tighten Text More" a couple more times.

That was enough to get the extra text on the right page to fit onto the left page.

What's so cool about Typefitter Pro is that you can save these tightened paragraph settings right into your paragraph style. You could have a few different styles, each with slightly different justification settings. You could name them something like:
  • Body
  • Body, Tighter
  • Body Tighter x2
  • Body, Tighter x3
The plugin has the ability to enforce all kinds of typefit rules. I use it at its most simple function. But if you need more control than just pressing the "Tighten Text" button a couple of times, check out the TypeFitter documentation (which is very good by the way). It's beautiful to look at and has great information.

TypeFitter Pro is one of my mainstay plugins, and if ever I'm in a versions of InDesign where I doesn't have it installed, I miss it so much. It makes my life easier and helps in my type-fitting tasks while at the same time, lets me keep the nice-looking type that I work so hard on creating.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Using Illustrator’s Object Mosaic and Recolor Artwork to Create a Grid-Based Design for Craft Projects

With Illustrator’s Create Object Mosaic and Recolor Artwork commands you can transform your designs into grid-based patterns for any analog media you choose. This is a technique I developed for creating intarsia knitting pattern designs. This article can be found at Creative Pro.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Finally! Improved Conditional Text

Recently, I have been working with the great folks over at Rorohiko, and they have developed a robust solution to improve Conditional Text. Their plugin is called “Conditional Text Groups,” and offers several improvements over InDesign’s standard conditional text capabilities. I can't begin to describe how much I have wanted this plugin... and now it is here!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Argyle Scribble

I've been working on completely technical projects lately, and on my morning walk today, my mind wandered to the land of creative thinking, as it does so often on my walks. Today I was contemplating  the use of diagonal lines to create an argyle pattern. But argyle patterns are so straight, so linear. What if we could add a little looseness to them, and relax things up a bit? Because I think I'm craving a little looseness in my designs right now...

So may I present: Argyle Scribble! This is created in Illustrator. Be sure to keep the Appearance panel open, as that's how you'll target the different fills.  Illustrator always adds new fills to the top of the stacking order, so we'll be working from the bottom up.

This is what we'll be making: (click on the photos to enlarge).

Note: The top photo looks slightly different than the one below it. To get that effect, use the default red-orange gradient instead of pink in step 3.

Step 1: Make a rectangle with a summery gradient fill.

Step 2: Add a Teal fill, some scribble, and adjust the blending mode.

Step 3: Add a pink fill, add some scribble (using the negative value of what you used for the teal scribble), and adjust blending mode to your liking.

Step 4: Add a white fill with some thinner scribble.

Step 5: Add another white scribble fill, but flip the angle of the scribble.

Interestingly, you can also apply pattern swatches to the scribble fills and it gived it kind of a grunge effect. Here are a few interesting ones I came up with.

If you don't like the rough edges, you can simply add a thick white stroke, and move the stroke to the top of the stacking order in the Appearance Panel be sure to make the stroke visible.

So you don't have to recreate these every time you want to use your special argyle scribble design, drag your completed object into the Graphic Styles panel to save it as a graphic style.