How to Color Correct Photos in Photoshop

Learn various ways to adjust colors in your photographs so that they reflect your original products, scenes, etc.

Have you ever bought something really cool online and then discovered that its color didn’t look like what you saw on screen?

I have experienced that several times.

If you are a shop owner, that’s the last thing you want to happen. You want your customers to be absolutely delighted by your product.

You had taken the time to learn photography so that your products look appealing to every shop browser.

You forgot one thing, however. It is color correction, the mysterious ingredient that makes your final photo a faithful representation of your product.

Whether you’re an online seller, a lifestyle blogger or jus a photography hobbyist, we all want our pictures to reflect faithfully what we had captured.

And that’s the reason for this blog post. Today we’re going to talk about how to correct color using Photoshop.

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How To Crop Images for Social Media

Learn the ins and outs of the Crop tool in Photoshop to make images with optimal dimensions for each social media platform.

It is my pet peeve that vertical images rule the roost on Pinterest, while other social media platforms prefer horizontal images.

There is nothing wrong with vertical images, but there’s a problem that most of the beautiful photos on Unsplash, Pixabay etc are horizontal long. And we need quality stock photos from generous, talented photographers for our blogging and social media presence.

So what’s a blogger to do?

Continue reading “How To Crop Images for Social Media”

Free Graphic Gift: Portrait Picture Frame Mockup

Click to receive a free for commercial use PSD picture frame mockup with portrait view.

Hello world.

I’m giving away this free picture frame PSD mockup in portrait view. It is free for both personal and commercial use, provided that you don’t resell it.

Please click on the download link here (Google Drive) and here (Dropbox). Since it is a PSD file, no preview will be available. The file size is around 63mb. The original size was 120mb, and I managed to reduce the psd file thanks to some tips from CreativeMarket.

Continue reading “Free Graphic Gift: Portrait Picture Frame Mockup”

A Graphic Designer Recommends: Create Your Own Mock-ups in Photoshop by Zara Martina

Learn why the course Create Your Own Mockups in Photoshop is the perfect course for Photoshop or mockup beginners.

After watching the course Mastering Mockups by Teela Cunningham on Skillshare, I thought I wouldn’t have to watch another mockup class. However, as I practice making mockups in different environments, I’ve realized that I have some questions that weren’t addressed in her course.

I decided to watch another course on Skillshare, and was delighted to come across this little gem by Zara Martina titled Create Your Own Mock-ups in Photoshop-Beginners.

Continue reading “A Graphic Designer Recommends: Create Your Own Mock-ups in Photoshop by Zara Martina”

A Graphic Designer Recommends: Mastering Mockups by Teela Cunningham

Making mockups is a useful skill to have. Let’s examine why the course Mastering Mockups by Teela Cunningham is the best.

Whether you’re a graphic designer, artist or entrepreneur, there will be time when you need to make mockups of your products to show to potential customers. That’s why making mockups is such a useful skill to add to your resume.

Or you have been wanting to learn Photoshop for ages, but you struggle to find practical tutorials that don’t involve a lot of photo retouching or manipulation, because that’s not what you’re interested in.

Enter Teela Cunningham’s Mastering Mockups.

Continue reading “A Graphic Designer Recommends: Mastering Mockups by Teela Cunningham”

The Essential Guide to the Blend Tool in Illustrator – part 1

Learn the basics of the Blend tool, when to use it and how to edit the blends to make custom gradation and morphing.

In the fast-change world of graphic design, not many digital tools manage to stay relevant once they turn 25. One of the few tools that have that distinction is the Blend tool.

To tell the truth, I rarely use the Blend tool because I find it not as intuitive to use as the Gradient tool. Things have been changing recently when I set out to make more botanical brushes for my illustration, and the only way to include color gradation in brushes is to use the Blend tool.

I then set out to learn the Blend tool properly and even though I still find it to be an awkward tool, I will share everything I’ve learned on this blog. So let’s dive in and start making awesome art.

What is the Blend tool and when do you need to use it?

The Blend tool lets you create a series of intermediate objects between two or more selected objects.

The Blend tool comes in handy when you want to:

  • distribute shapes evenly between two objects.
  • make a smooth color transition that would otherwise be impossible with the linear or radial gradient.

 

How to Use the Blend tool

First of all, let’s open the Illustrator preferences by hitting Cmd + K for Mac and Ctrl + K for Windows.

Under the Selection & Anchor Display tab, please check Object Selection by Path only. This means if you simply click on the fill of an object, it won’t be selected.

There are 2 benefits to making this settings:

  1. You can click and drag to select many objects at once, even if they are on top of a larger background. This will lessen the chance of selecting objects that you don’t want to.
  2. You can easily select objects that are behind other objects.

At first, I find this setting inconvenient but once I’ve gotten the hang of it, I think it’s a useful tips for a happier workflow.

There are 2 methods to create blends:

Method 1

Select the black arrow tool (V shortcut) and marquee select all the objects that you want to make blends.

Activate the Blend tool by clicking the corresponding icon on the Toolbox or hit W key.

If you want to blend in sequential order with no angle, hover the cursor over the first object until the cursor changes to an X icon. Click anywhere on the path outline of the first object, not the anchor points. Then hover the cursor over the next objects until the cursor changes to a + icon and do the same thing.

Blend Tool Method 1 Path Selection
Click anywhere on the path outline, but avoid the anchor point

 

If you want to blend in a specific angle, click the anchor points.

Blend Tool Method 1 Click on Anchor Points
Click on anchor points of each object to control the direction of the blending

I would say that this method feels quite clumsy, but there’s a scenario when you need to use it: When Illustrator makes the wrong direction of the blending and you want to fix it.

Method 2

  • Click the black arrow tool.
  • Marquee select all the path.
  • Go to Object > Blend > Make blends.

Understand the mechanics of the Blend tool

Select the blended objects and double click the Blend icon in the toolbox or go to Object > Blend > Blend Options.

A dialogue will pop up, telling us that we’re in the Smooth Color option. That’s the default for the Blend tool. What Illustrator is doing is packing many bands of solid colors tightly together so that the whole thing looks like smooth color transition.

Under the Smooth Color are two other options: Specified Steps and Specified Distances. Specified Steps controls the number of stair steps between the start and end of the blend. Specified Distances control the distance between the steps in the blend.

In my case, the number of Specified Steps is 255 and the Specified Distances is 1px. These numbers will differ based on the distance, color, size of the objects etc.

In all three options, there are two further settings: Align to page or Align to path. Align to page positions the blend perpendicular to the X axis of the page. Align to path positions the blend perpendicular to the path.

You don’t have to be worried about understanding all the settings for now. By drawing a lot of objects in a variety of situations, you will gain a fine intuition for when to use which settings.

How to edit the blends

  • As you can see, the blends that I made has a white gap between the blue and the yellow band. Let’s fix that.
  • Use the black arrow to select the blend group. You know that it has been selected when the control bar at the top displays Blend.
  • Click on the Isolate Selected Object icon on the control bar to get inside the blend group.
  • Hover the cursor over the blue band. The cursor will display a black square to indicate that there’s a path underneath.
  • Keep moving the cursor until it changes to a blank square with a black dot in the centre. That tells you that an anchor point is underneath.
  • Adjust the anchor point as you wish.
Edit the Path of the Blends
Edit the Path of the Blends

That’s all for now. In the following posts, I will go into more details about combining blends with clipping mask, fixing common frustrating problems with the Blend tool etc.

Have fun making awesome art, everyone.

How to Make Seamless Patterns in Illustrator – Lesson 2: Tile Boundary and Swatch Boundary

Learn the difference between tile boundary and swatch boundary, the fundamental principle in pattern making

This is lesson 2 of my instructional series on making seamless patterns in Illustrator. In case you miss lesson 1, click on this link to learn the basics of the pattern making tool in Illustrator and time-saving tips for an efficient patter-making workflow.

In lesson 2, I will go over the difference between tile boundary and swatch boundary. I would say that this is the heart of the matter, the major obstacles to master pattern making. I did take a lot of time to really understand that, so don’t worry if you don’t figure everything out for now.

Continue reading “How to Make Seamless Patterns in Illustrator – Lesson 2: Tile Boundary and Swatch Boundary”

The Complete Guide to the Paintbrush Tool in Illustrator – Lesson 1: Introduction to Brushes

Learn how to make expressive artwork with the Paintbrush tool in Illustrator.

I remember that the brush tool is one of the most intimidating tool in Illustrator when I got started. A lot of people were already familiar with the brush tool in Photoshop, so it was a relatively easy transition to Illustrator brushes.

As someone whose Photoshop skill is limited to removing photo background, I didn’t have that advantage. It wasn’t until I spent many weekends watching and following brush tutorials that I realized it must be the coolest thing to happen to Illustrator and vector design in general.

I’m going to make a series of blog post explaining how to use the Brushes feature in Illustrator and how to make the most out of them to enliven your design. It won’t include everything, such as the Bristle brush since I don’t have much experience using it but the series will hopefully be enough to get your started with confidence.

What are you waiting for? Let’s dive in.

What Are Brushes

It’s interesting that most of the guides and tutorials I’ve come across didn’t explain what brushes are and why you need it in your design mission. It’s probably because people have been familiar with the Brush tool in Photoshop and needed no further introduction.

If you don’t know, like I was, brushes let you stylize the appearance of path.

By function, there are 5 types of brushes enabled in Illustrator:

  •  art brushes stretch a brush or object evenly along a path.
  • calligraphic brushes create stroke that look as though they were drawn with a calligraphic pen.
  • pattern brushes create seamless patterns along a path.
  • scatter brushes disperse copies of an object along a path. They don’t stretch like art brushes or follow the path exactly like pattern brushes.
  • bristle brushes have only been introduced since CS5. They create strokes that look as though they were made using a natural brush with bristles.

These 5 brush types share 2 things in common:
* They all live in the Brushes panel.
* They all behave like interchangeable pen nibs that can be used with the Paintbrush tool.

By purpose, art brushes can be divided into 2 broad categories based on purposes:

  • mark-making brushes let you paint like natural media
  • object-based brushes which let you paint with objects, allowing you to incorporate gestures, nuances, colors and variations on your original artwork.

Why do you need brushes? Or why should you care?

Imagine the Paintbrush tool as a pen with a multi-purpose nib. The list of things that you can paint with the Brush tool is endless:

  • real-life objects with distinctive shapes like maple leaves, seashells, butterflies etc.
  • organic texture like dirt, grunge, grit etc.
  • natural media texture like watercolor, oil paint, gouche
  • expressive line works as seen in book illustration
  • a path with repeat patterns like buntings, piano keys

And that is just scratching the surface. If you can imagine it, then you can certainly turn it into an Illustrator brush. Where in the world can you find such a versatile pen?

How to apply brushes

Luckily, applying brushes is the easiest step. You can apply brush strokes to existing paths, or use the Paintbrush tool to draw a path and then apply a brush stroke.

What brush type should you use?

For starters, it can be confusing to know when to use which brushes.
It’s important to remember that:
* Each brush type is suited to different purposes
* Two brush types can achieve roughly the same effect and it’s a matter of your personal preference. For example, both art brushes and bristle brushes can be used to produce a painterly effect.
* One single art can be made into more than one brush type.

Art Brushes

Art brush is the most popular and commonly used brush type in Illustrator.  It is ideal for when you want to add a painterly effect to your illustration, or you want make variations of the same art.

Vector Illustration of a Tropical Landscape Including Palm Trees, Grass and Seagulls.
Vector Illustration of a Tropical Landscape Including Palm Trees, Grass and Seagulls.

For example, this palm tree is made by using nothing but art brushes. The leaves of the palm tree don’t have to look the same, so that’s why I drew one single leaf, made it into an art brush and painted all the leaves using the Paintbrush tool. The same goes for the trunk, the texture, the grass. Drawing with the pen tool and duplicate will make the artwork looks flatter in my opinion.

Calligraphic brushes

Calligraphic brushes are the go-to brush type for free hand drawing and expressive linework in Illustrator. It is best used with a pressure sensitive graphic tablet to produce organic lines.

Bristle brushes

Bristle brushes is ideal when you want natural and fluid brush strokes that simulate the effects of painting with real media such as oil paint, watercolor, gouache.

Pattern brushes

Pattern brush is ideal when you want to make a pattern repeating along the path. Examples of pattern brushes can be buntings, piano keys, vines, frame border.

Pattern Brushes - Houses, Fence, Grasses, Bunting, Clouds
Everything in this illustration was made using pattern brushes.

Scatter brushes

Scatter brush may look like the pattern brush at first sight, but it is useful for when you don’t have to care about repeating multiple copies seamlessly along a path. Examples of scatter brushes can be milky way, maple leaves falling on the ground.

Milky Way - Demo for Scatter Brushes
Everything in this illustration, except for the night sky background, was made using scatter brush.

 

Do I need a graphic tablet to use brushes?

Every brush type has options for adjusting scale variation with a graphic tablet
Technically speaking, you don’t need a graphic tablet to use brushes, but calligraphic and bristle lend themselves better to graphic tablets.

I’d go out on a limb to say that calligraphic and bristle brushes are pretty useless without a graphic tablet. If you want to:
* add depth, texture and character to your vector art
* boost your workflow
* protect your hands (lately I’ve been feeling the effects of using mouse excessively)
then a graphic tablet is a good investment.

 

 

 

Tuesday Tips – Drawing from the Centre and Upper Left Corner in Illustrator

Learn how to draw shapes from the centre and apply that technique in various projects.

Drawing from the Centre versus Upper Left-01

This week’s Tuesday Tips post will cover how to draw a shape (rectangle, rounded rectangle, ellipse, polygon, star) from the upper left corner and from the centre. It is such a basic feature of the every finicky Illustrator, but it’s something that I, embarrassingly, haven’t discovered a few days ago.

As you may all know, when you draw a shape, it will be drawn from the upper left corner by default. But if you hold the Alt/Option key, the cursor will change and when you draw, the shape will emerge from the centre going outward.

Draw from the Upper Left Corner
Drawing from the upper left corner
Drawing from the Centre
Drawing from the centre

What’s the benefit of this, you may ask? There are several scenarios when this trick may prove helpful.

When you want to make a label.

As you may notice, the label in my cover image is a reverse round corner, which means that the roundedness goes inward instead of outward. Here’s how it was done:

  1. Enable the Smart Guide.
  2. Draw a rectangle of any size.
  3. Place the cursor on the top left corner of the rectangle. Hold alt and draw a small perfect circle from that top left corner. The almighty Smart Guide will help you with perfect alignment.
  4. Hold Alt and drag that ellipse to the right until its centre sits meets the top right corner of the rectangle. Now you have 2 circles.
  5. Selecting both circles, hold Alt and drag them downward until their centre meet the bottom left and right corners of the rectangle, respectively. Now we have 4 circles.
  6. Selecting all of them and click Minus in the Pathfinder panel.

When you want to make a polka dot pattern

I’ve seen a few tutorials for making the polka dot pattern in which you have to be mindful of the artboard size and the circle size. With this trick, however, you won’t have to care about those measurements.

Making Polka Dots
Making polka dots

 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Follow the process above from step 1 to step 5, except that the rectangle will be a perfect square.
  2. Make sure that the square is no fill, no stroke and it is below the 4 circles.
  3. Group all of them and draw the group to the Swatches panel.
  4. Have fun with the polka dots.

 

 

Tuesday Tips – Using the Up and Down Arrow to Modify Polygon, Star and Rounded Triangle

Read more to learn how to use the Up and Down arrow keys to modify the polygon, star and rounded triangle on the go.

Illy Tips Tuesday

Today’s post will be very short and quick, but it is about an Illustrator trick that I, embarrassingly, only discovered two days ago. I figured that I’d better share it with everyone else in case someone doesn’t know.

Say, you are using a Polygon, Star or Rounded Triangle tool to draw. Suddenly you have a change of mind while drawing and you want to modify the number of sides, or the roundedness of the rectangle? Hit Escape and draw again?

Here’s a better way. While still holding the left mouse with one hand, use your other hand to hit the Up or Down arrow button to modify the number or sides or the roundedness.

Using the Up and Down Arrow for Polygon
Modify the number of sides in a polygon

 

Using the Up and Down Arrow to Modify the Number of Sides in a Star
Modify the Number of Sides in a Star
Using the Up and Down Arrow to Modify the Rounded Rectangle
Using the Up and Down Arrow to Modify the Rounded Rectangle

While you can use the Up or Down arrow key to modify the roundedness of the corner of the rounded triangle, I think it’d be more efficient to go to Effects > Stylize > Rounded Corner to get the look you want.

That’s all for today. This tip is certainly not sexy to talk about, but I hope it helps you a bit in your workflow.