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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Adobe Photoshop Toolbar with Gradient Tool HighlightedOne of the most popular special effects for photos is creating an image that fades away along one or more edges. There are a number of ways to create faded edges in Photoshop, but one of the easiest is to use the Gradient tool. This tutorial shows how to use the tool in Photoshop 5.1, but you’ll find similar commands in earlier and later versions.

Select the Gradient tool from the toolbar (see image at the left) or just press G. (Yep, pressing the “G” key really brings up the menu – it’s that easy!) Activating the Gradient tool causes the tool settings bar to appear just under your main menu bar at the top of the screen. (If you don’t see the tool settings below, check further down in the blog. The image may appear in different locations depending on how your device reflows data.)

Adobe Photoshop Gradient Toolbar

There are a lot of things to play with in the Gradient settings bar, but hang with me and we’ll get this faded edge thing done. Then you can go back and explore all you like.

Before we get into the settings of the Gradient tool, you’ll want to make sure that your Foreground color is set to white. That’s because the Gradient preset that we’re going to use is a called Foreground to Transparent. Assuming that the page that you’ll be putting your image on is white, you’ll need a white Foreground to get the effect to work. If your page is a different color, set your Foreground color accordingly. And you’ll also want to have an image open. For the purposes of this tutorial, open any photo, either color or black & white.

Now, let’s go back up to the Gradient tool settings toolbar. Starting at the left edge of the toolbar, there are two drop down boxes. You’ll want the second one, which is wider than the first. This second drop down has the list of default preset gradients. Click on that second drop down to open it.

This brings up a nice array of preset gradients. We’re going to stick with one of the presets in this collection, but you should know that by clicking on the flyout arrow, you open a new menu that lets add additional sets of gradients to this Preset menu, alter existing gradients, or create and save your own — none of which we will be doing for this very easy special effect tutorial.

Hovering your mouse over any of the gradient presets will cause a label to appear giving you the name of the gradient. The one that we want is the second one in the top row (at least in my setup). It’s called Foreground to Transparent. That’s how you know for sure you’ve got the right one selected.

Note: It’s possible you have the hover clues turned off on your setup. If that’s the case, you can be sure you’ve selected the correct preset by right clicking on the preset and then selecting the option “Rename Gradient”. The name of the gradient will appear. It should say Foreground to Transparent. If it doesn’t, go through the process with a different preset until you find the one you’re looking for.

When you’ve found Foreground to Transparent, click on it. It will bring up a dialog box with the default settings for that preset. We’re not going to alter any of the default settings. They should read the following:

Name: Foreground to Transparent, Gradient Type: Solid, and Smoothness: 100%.

Click on OK to load that tool with those settings.

To apply the gradient that you’ve selected, click and drag your mouse across your image. To constrain your line to a perfect vertical, horizontal, or 45° angle, hold down the Shift key as you click and drag.

You can always use the Undo command (Ctrl-Z) to undo your last action. You’ll be using Undo a lot while you’re learning to use this effect – you’ll want to practice with creating different kinds of fades.

Here’s what this Gradient preset does. The place where you start to draw your line with the Gradient tool will be 100% opaque white (or whatever color you’ve made your foreground color). This whiteness (or other color) will fade to transparent along the entire length of the line that you draw with the tool, ending at 100% transparent at the point where you stop drawing the line. Where you start and stop the line will create different variations of the fading effect.

Original image

If you begin drawing outside of the edge of your photo, you won’t achieve a full “fade to white” effect in your photo. You’ll still have a discernible edge on the photo because the place where the gradient is 100% white is outside the edge of the image.

If you begin drawing well inside the edges of your image, you’ll white out everything from the place where you started your line to the edge of the image. This is fine if you want to use this tool to crop your edge while it creates the transparency blend, but for most purposes this will be too much.

Starting your line inside the border of your photos somewhat close to the edge and extending your line toward the center of your photo will give you the kind of effect that we most normally see for a faded edge. The length of the line that you draw will determine how gradually or abruptly the effect is applied.

Faded image

Experiment with drawing your line from different starting point, for different distances, and at different angles. You can do some really nice stuff with this simple preset tool. For the sample shown above, I started my gradient inside the photo, very close to the left , and extended it about two-thirds of the way across the photo.

Once you get your edge the way you want it, you may still not be done. That’s because you can drag more gradient lines to create the effect on other edges of the same image. Do it from all four sides to create a full vignette effect.

If this tip for creating faded edges in Photoshop has been helpful, use the links below to share it with friends.

One of the biggest tipoffs that your document was created by a less-than-professional desktop publisher is the use of straight quotes. In this video, you’ll learn the secret to creating typographical (sometimes called “smart”) quotes as well as copyright, trademark and registered trademark symbols. The video also references our TIPcards that provide the codes for the most commonly used special characters. You can download the TIPcard and then have access to these codes at your fingertips.

Many of our clients have begun to include QR bar codes in their marketing literature, but there are still many people who ask “QR what?” when the subject comes up. I was surprised to learn that QR (Quick Response) codes were created almost twenty years ago. A subsdiary of Toyota, Denso Wave Inc., created the codes to track vehicles as they were manufactured. Now they’ve been hijacked by the internet to provide information to consumers.

QR codes are simply a two-dimensional bar code that is encoded with information. They are a lot like the traditional bar codes you see on the sides of cans and other products but they contain 100 times more information. A user can scan the code with a smart phone and access a tremendous amount of information, either directly from the code or by being linked to an information source like a website.

In today’s smart phone environment, they’re used to educate customers and potential customers, and to provide instant promotions. To educate, QR codes are being used to direct customers and potential customers to product benefits, information about purchasing, or to pages on your website that provide installation instructions or warranty information. A QR code can be created for any web page – which means don’t let any discussion of QR codes limit your thinking about how to use them. But that’s not all they can do.

The two-dimensional nature of QR codes means that they have a greater surface area allowing them to hold thousands of alphanumeric characters that can accommodate web URLs, text or other information like photos, videos, graphics and more. QR codes can even dial a number or generate text messages! It’s like having the ability to control your prospective customer’s smart phone almost anywhere in the world!!

QR codes are surprisingly simple to implement and use. You can generate a QR code using any of a number of code generators. Most are free. Google “QR code generator.” We’ve already done that to make your life even easier. Here are three easy to use code generators:

We’ve used the code generator at To generate a code that will take the reader to a web page, you simply enter the URL in the QR code creator and hit enter. In seconds you have both an image of the QR bar code and the HTML code to add the QR bar code to a web page. We generated the code used in the upper right of this blog.

QR codes are read by code readers – again, there are many free apps available for whatever smartphone device you own. Download the app and scan the code. Scan the above code and it’ll take you to our InDesign Basics & Beyond training page.

For you techies, here’s the HTML code provided by Kaywa’s site for the above QR bar code.

<img src=”” alt=”QRCode”/>

(We modified the HTML to place the QR code into the blog so that it would be right aligned and properly sized.)

QR codes are a good choice for the business marketers:

  • They work! Consumers are responding to the scan codes they see and taking action to get more information about products/services promoted by these codes. According to the CIA World FactBook, as of 2011 there were 290.3 million mobile phones in use in the US. Two-thirds of that group are scanning QR codes to learn more about a product.
  • The future is bright for QR codes. 290.3 million potential users is a respectable number, and experts agree that the number of QR code users will continue to grow, in keeping with the aggressive growth trend in QR code usage over the last few years. Scanlife (a provider of QR code services) reports that from the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of 2012 the number of unique users scanning codes through its system tripled. NOTE: While usage is up, how QR codes are being used is changing…significantly. You’ll need to be on top of that information to succeed.
  • Low cost! Unlike a printed brochure or poster, the QR code is one marketing tactic that you can create for free! And even though it’s free, it doesn’t fall into the category of “you get what you pay for.” Rather, it falls into the category called “if it’s for free, it’s for me!”

Microsoft® Word® does an excellent job of converting text to tables – it’s easy and quick when you know how to do it and how to avoid common pitfalls.

In this video you’ll learn how quickly you can convert text to a nicely formatted table in Microsoft Word. If that’s all you need, feel free to bail out after that. The second half of the video walks you through correcting the most common problem users encounter when creating tables from existing text. If your table doesn’t format properly after watching the first half of the video, stick around for the second half.


Yellow and Blue Make GreenYou may remember learning in elementary school that yellow and blue make green. That’s the one that sticks in my mind anyway. Maybe I had a green fixation as a child.

Then I grew up and life got more complicated. Whether you’re talking about life in general or graphics, it doesn’t matter – as you grow, life gets more complicated. We’re here to uncomplicate the world of graphics for you.

In the world of graphics (and therefore desktop publishing), colors are formulated using two different models. Both are necessary because they serve different technologies.




In the print world, colors are made by mixing four basic colors: cyan, magenta, yellow and black – hence, it’s called the CMYK color model. When your print shop talks about “four-color printing,” this is what they are referring to.



RGB Dots


In the world of monitors and screens, colors are made by mixing three different colors: red, blue and green – hence the RGB color model. Generally it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about your computer monitor, your telephone, or a projection screen – they all use the RGB color model.


Why do you care? You care because you want your products and your logo to be the colors you expect them to be – regardless of whether they’re being seen in print material or in digital form. You care because the colors don’t always translate accurately when converting between color models. If you create your image in RGB and place it in your document as an RGB graphic, then allow Word or Acrobat or InDesign or whatever program you’re using to convert the document to CMYK for printing, the color of the most important element on the page (your logo, for example), might appear dull or just slightly off when you receive the printed piece. Likewise, CMYK images may appear different from what you were trying to achieve if you don’t convert them to RGB before creating that screen-based app.

How are images converted? The best tool is an image manipulation program. Our tool of choice is Adobe Photoshop, but there are less expensive options available. It’s not a difficult process when you have the right tools. You can even write scripts to accomplish the job, although we recommend adding human interaction because leaving it all to the software sometimes gives wonky results. Your graphics professional will not only run the script, but then look at the images and manipulate them as needed to keep the colors accurate and the difference between image and shadows in proper balance.

Since the computer screen is an RGB device, how can you know if you have good CMYK images? Good question! You’re really catching on to this stuff! There are two answers to that question. First, monitors need to be calibrated to adjust the visual image to the accurate color models. (Don’t ask me more about the technical aspect of this. I just follow the instructions.) Secondly, operators learn their monitors. I love my monitor. It’s a 24″ monitor that allows me plenty of workspace. Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold color at the edges. So I know the “sweet spot” for color matching.

The point is…be true to your colors – be sure your graphics are formulated using the color model appropriate to your final output. CMYK for print, RGB for viewscreens.

Questions? Give us a call and we’ll be happy to answer them.