28 December 2012

Photoshop, Resolution, and You

Resolution is a topic that is misunderstood by many, including some professional artists and designers. The problem lies in the fact that it can refer to different concepts: the number of pixels in a monitor’s display, the quality of a printer’s final output, and the amount of detail in a raster image that is prepared for printing. The last definition is what we want to cover here.

In this case, the issue of resolution only pertains to raster images that are to be printed, nothing else. It is common to think of resolution in terms of DPI, or dots per inch, but as we will see, this is incorrect. Photoshop has a command just to take care of this issue, Image Size. All images that are prepared for print should pass through this dialog box. It is divided into two sections: Pixel Dimensions and Document Size. A quick look at its options shows that resolution is connected to the printed (or document) size and is actually measured in PPI, or pixels per inch. Inches (or centimeters in most of the world) are a real world measurement and only apply to printing on paper. Monitors, mobile devices, and other screens measure increments in pixels, not inches. We often think of high resolution as 300 PPI and low resolution as 72 PPI. This is true, but remember that you only need to worry about it when printing. Since your monitor measures images in pixels and your printer measures in inches, you need to translate pixels to inches when printing. That’s where Resample Image comes in. Resample means to add or remove pixels. No matter what resolution an image has when you open it in Photoshop, you can change it here in Image Size. Uncheck Resample Image to lock the Pixel Dimensions. Only the print size changes; the number of pixels stays the same. Therefore, resolution is relative. Using Photoshop, you can adjust it to what you need. Just make sure you have a large number of pixels to start with.

It is a common misconception that you need to work in 72 PPI on images for web. The truth is that browsers, monitors, and other screen devices don’t use resolution because they don’t see inches. You can work in whatever resolution you want; just keep the pixel size in mind. It is actually a good idea to work larger than your final image because you have more detail to work with. You can even work in high resolution or print size. To make the final web image, the best way is to use Save for Web. With this dialog box, you can choose the format you need, adjust compression (if applicable), and resize the image. Notice that here there is no resolution, only pixel dimensions. No matter what resolution your image has, if you make a JPG, PNG, or GIF with Save for Web, then open that image up, its resolution will default to 72 PPI.

With these few points in mind, the mystery surrounding resolution can finally be solved. Just remember, you only need it when going to print. For the web, think in pixels and you’ll be fine.

26 December 2012

What's new at the end of the year

Classes are over and I'm in the middle of grading projects, working on my own, and looking for more work. I'm also preparing to recertify in the latest version of Photoshop, CS6. This has never been my favorite thing to do and I have three tests to take if I want to keep current with Adobe. When I do (hopefully) pass, maybe I'll have to change the name of this blog. I'm still on CS5, which is fine for the kind of work I do. Not all of the additions are that useful, but I am looking forward to some of them. Here are some changes in CS6 that are small, but very nice. Oddly enough, they aren't getting much attention by Adobe or the experts:
  • Masks can now be feathered by tenths of a pixel, for example 1.3 px. Very helpful and needed.
  • Vector masks can now be feathered. Very cool!
  • With a selection active, the Background layer is automatically converted to a regular layer when you add a mask; it saves you a step.
  • Layer effects can now be applied to groups. Extremely cool!
  • Layer groups can now act as clipping masks. Even cooler!
I was contacted by a website a while ago to write some Photoshop articles for them. They were even offering money. That sounded good, so I thought up a few topics and submitted them. After getting approval, I wrote two articles and sent them off. After a long wait, they finally told me it wasn't what they were looking for. Nice. So rather than have them go to waste, I will be offering them in my next posts free for everyone to enjoy. I hope they are useful. Merry belated Christmas.

12 December 2012

Fun Photoshop projects

I've been doing a few little projects for the past few days. Some of them were inspired by things some of my students were doing for class projects. This first one is based on the usual Photoshop miniature effect. I was showing some examples to a friend of mine who had never seen them before. As I was looking at them again, I thought that what they need is a hand coming down to really complete the miniature look. It would be funny to see a hand placing what is supposed to be a miniature car or person into the scene. To me, it seems like that's what these images are missing. We also thought that having a little plane suspended on wires from the top would be funny as well. Anyway, here is my version and the original photos I used. What do you think?

07 December 2012

The illustration is completed (I hope)

Well, I think I finally have it. All the changes are taken care of and I went through and fixed little areas that had been bothering me. As you can see, the main foreground pipe is now green, whereas it had previously been white. Before that, it was green, and it started out white, so I hope this is it. This image is an example of what happens when clients have too much input into the final result. There is only so much that can reasonably be squeezed into one image.

Personally, I was a bit happier with some earlier versions of the illustration.  The problem is that images are created to fit into the scene in specific locations to match the overall perspective. It's hard to do much moving around and keep things looking correct. Also, since I am really the worker there, I have my beard. However, the client wasn't very comfortable with it, so it had to go. Too sinister, I guess. Anyway, I like the final more than I thought I would, but I think I prefer this version.

03 December 2012

I'm still on this image and I thought I would be done by now. Sometimes it goes this way. Obviously, the clients aren't too worried about the deadline, because they keep asking for changes to the final, even on parts that were approved. Things that I thought were done are getting revisited. This can be frustrating, but things that look okay on a rough comp may not look as good in the final version. It is pretty close, so it shouldn't be too much longer. 

By the way, the guy in the front is me. The client didn't provide any source material, so I got to dress up and be my own model.