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November 25, 2008

It's all about the Appearance!

Okay, now that I caught your attention, it's all about the Appearance Panel in Adobe Illustrator. Believe it or not, whenever I ask my audience "who from the depth of your heart and looking me straight into the eyes, can tell me that they use the Appearance Panel in Adobe Illustrator?", I get the same answer all over the world: a mere 3 to 5% of AI users in the room. Well, that would be fine if the Appearance Panel was a new feature (I mean there needs to be time to learn, no?); the trouble is that this feature was introduced in Adobe Illustrator 9, yes version nine, and that happened in the year 2000 (remember when we were all freaking out about the Millennium Bug?). So, basically, it is an old feature that very few of you have had a chance to discover. That is one of the reasons why we exposed it even more in Adobe Illustrator CS4; we exposed it so much, and made it so much more intuitive that it will be hard not to come across it.
As far as I am concerned, the Appearance Panel is one of the most powerful tools in Illustrator. It allows you to rapidly add fills and/or strokes to any vector graphic, text, or entire layers, apply effects and transparencies selectively, and duplicate the same attributes to other elements by simply creating Graphic Styles.
If you want to know about this old feature, read on.

Thanks Kristian Lengyel from Sweden, who asked me to write this long due post.

This is just one example of what you can do with the Appearance Panel in Adobe Illustrator; I am really just scratching the surface here. But it should give you a good start at using it. You may download my file to dissect it, and follow along.


To create the above style, here's what I did:
appearance_panel_2.jpg1. Write some text (although this also works with any vector drawing, text is a great example because it remains editable).
2. Add a Stroke by clicking on the button on the lower left hand side of the Appearance Panel. In this case I used a 20pt yellow stroke.
3. Add a yellow Fill by clicking on the button just right of the Add Stroke button.
4. Add another thinner stroke (1pt) and chose a red color.

The cool thing is that all of those fills and strokes stack up as if they were layers. Now onto the Effects:

5. Select the yellow fill (3) by simply clicking on it in the Appearance Panel and choose "Add New Effect" from the bottom of the Panel. I chose a drop shadow.
6. Select the red 1pt stroke and apply the effect Path > Offset path... I wanted the path to match up with the 20pt stroke created in step 2. So I offset the path by 10pt. We now have a problem because the paths overlap each other and it doesn't look good. Well, had this been normal vector graphics, you'd probably have opened the Pathfinder Panel to "Add" them together; here comes the magic: Pathfinder is also an Effect which can be found in the Appearance Panel. And this is just what I used (Pathfinder > Add).
7. To finish, select the whole object and apply a Warp > Flag effect.

What you will get is something that looks very much like what we have at the beginning of this page.

New in Illustrator CS4 is the ability to toggle the visibility of appearances on and off by clicking on the eye icon. Also new are the "hyperlinks" within the panel that let you open Opacity and Effects directly.

David Macy, our Sr. Product Manager for Adobe Illustrator sent me this beautiful file he created using the Appearance Panel.


Incredibly, this intricate pattern is just one vector object with a couple of circles and many effects (such as Transformation effects) applied through the Appearance Panel.

Enjoy, experiment, and go create!

GREPaches with InDesign? Here's a palliative.

In InDesign CS3 we introduced a feature that allows you to perform searches for Regular Expressions. A while back, Anne-Marie "Her Geekness" Concepcion, over at InDesignSecrets.com, posted a link to a very useful document for those of us who want to tame the power of GREP. In InDesign CS4, using GREP has become even more useful because we can now use Regular Expressions to format text automatically, as Bob Levine describes in his post about GREP Styles.
I just came across a very nifty little AIR application called RegExr. It is a tool for editing and testing Regular Expressions which provides a simple interface to enter regular expressions, and visualizes matches in real-time editable source text. It also provides a handy snippet sidebar with descriptions and usage examples to make it easier to learn Regular Expressions through trial and error. View image.
Here's a link to the online version.
Thanks to Grant Skinner for this.
GREP on!

November 13, 2008

Adobe MAX 2008 Europe - Last chance to register!

Last year’s MAX event in Barcelona wouldn’t have been the same without all the designers and developers who joined us! MAX is an extraordinary networking opportunity and provides intensive training in conceptualizing, designing and developing rich, engaging experiences for the web, print, desktop and mobile devices which will give you a competitive edge in your day to day work. And you’ll not only expand your current skills – chances are you’ll discover something unexpected and new. That is why we have organized over 120 exciting sessions and labs to give you the information you need.
Adobe MAX, however, is not all about new media and technologies, we'll also talk about Design in general. There will be tracks for cross-media designers, as well as designers who currently specialize in web, print, or video and want to expand their skills. Titles include:

• A PDF File Can Do That?
• Creating Rich Interactive Documents with InDesign CS4
• Cross-media Design: Print, Web, Interactive, and Video
• Designing Client Proposals and Presentations with InDesign CS4
• Photoshop CS4 Essentials: New Features You Need to Know
• Tips, Techniques, and Secrets: Hidden Gems in Illustrator and Photoshop
And many more. As you can tell, MAX is not just "for coders" any more.

Personally, I will cover these sessions:
• Common Mistakes Print Designers Make on the Web
• Illustrator CS4: Deep Dive
• InDesign CS4 Beyond the Basics
• Integration Bliss with InDesign CS4 and Flash CS4 Professional

So if you are still thinking that MAX may be of use to you, check out our MAX Europe Web pages.

A "warm" thank you to the Nordics and the Benelux

It has been some time, but after a few days without a graphics card on my MacBook Pro, I am now using my old machine to get back online.
Just a quick note to the 7000+ users who have joined Greg, Jason, and myself on the fantastic Creative Suite 4 Launch Tour throughout the Nordics (Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark) and the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands). Thank you!
The tour has taken us to Oslo, Helsinki, Stockholm, Aarhus, Copenhagen, Malmö, Goteborg, and back to Copenhagen (that's right, there were so many registrations that we had to organize a second day, which was also packed). Then on to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Brussels, and Antwerp.
An appropriate title for this post may also have been "planes, trains, automobiles, and a ferry"...
In any case, our CS4 demonstrations in the realms of Design, Web, and Video were always very well received. As a matter of fact, many have told me that they could not wait to have that new box on their desks.
Yes, CS4 is truly an incredible and not to be missed upgrade. Enjoy, and be creative!