A Story: Comp CC, Adobe Stock and the Camera Raw Filter (accelerated design tutorial)

This week I had a day with a large design company and spent several hours—over four sessions—with a room of really lovely designers, who are keen to accelerate their workflows with CC. They’re fairly intensive stock users across at least one part of their business and one of their pain points is that they frequently have to:

  1. Rework some of their efforts if they started with an FPO image and then acquire a licensed copy
  2. Use many layers to minimise the impact of (1)

They had never seen the Camera Raw filter and hadn’t really had a chance to explore Comp CC on their iPads, either so I put together the following demo for them that addressed the points above, and also got a bit of device-based acceleration in there too. It went down a storm so in this post I’d like to share a version of it with you—I’ll be using assets from some of my other libraries and the document itself is entirely fictitious but you’ll be able to map the process to your own work.

The Client, The Project

Let’s cook up a scenario:

The client is an agency who produce a digital publication called “M” bimonthly for their client—an outdoor brand called Montagne—using InDesign Publish Online. The theme of the edition that is currently in progress is “Ascend”. They’d like something that looks a little challenging—but achievable, of course, “maybe near a peak with some moody-looking weather”—so they will need you to source/create a suitable image.emailFayyyykkkke4Blog

  • You’ve just received your instruction that you’re to put the cover draft together, by email.
  • It is 9:10 a.m.
  • The Clients are in at 10:30.
  • You’re on a train, and won’t arrive in town for at least half an hour, and will not get into the studio until 9:50 at the earliest.

That should be plenty of time.

Fortunately, you have your iPad* with you…

…and you have access to a CC Library with Montagne brand assets in it, that your team is using for the current issue.

Opening Photoshop Mix

07Launching PS Mix and starting a new project, the very first thing to do is choose your first image so you start a search on Adobe Stock for “Cloudy Skies” and a few moments later you’ve found your first suitable background, and synced a preview to your working library.06

Tapping the new empty layer in PS Mix, another quick search for “mountain trail” yields a suitable result…09…and you resize the preview to match the canvas size10

Tapping “Cut Out” in the Toolbar, you brush your finger over the mountain, to create a mask for it11and use the masking functions to refine the mask (remember it’s a preview, and the mask can be refined further in Photoshop when you get into the studio). There’s still time to do a bit of improvement though, so zooming in and using the basic masking brush helps to get a good mask.1416

With the masking complete, you tap the tick icon to exit back to the mix. It’s pretty much ready to use17so you exit the project and rename it in the project view (which helps later—”New Composition” isn’t very descriptive). Now you tap the Share icon on the right-hand side of the project bar and select “Save to Library” to send the mix to the default library (“My Library“)—PS Mix renders out a PSD using Creative Cloud.

Working in Adobe Comp

Opening Adobe Comp you create a new composition using the iPad Landscape preset, and tap on the gear icon to add Grids and Guides23

The UI makes it easy to add margins and columns24and entering widths for gutters and margins is a snap from the columns icon at the top-left25

Once that’s done all you need is a horizontal guide from the guides icon and then drag that into position27then add a little bottom-margin28and tap Done at the top-right to return to the layout.

Adding Library Assets

First of all you get the background image you just made onto the layout by tapping the Image icon and then selecting the PSD from My Library (it can be moved into your production library later) 30and resizing to to cover the background31

As you’ll be adding other assets and you don’t want to risk moving the background around, a quick tap on the Ellipsis () icon allows you to lock the image in place.32

Now it’s time to add more assets from your production library, and you switch to it by tapping the Change Library option at the bottom of the Graphics selector. The same assets that you’d use in your desktop software are available in the library34so you add the required items to the layout and get them into position36then add a headline from the type selector37and once that’s added, choose the type style—again, from your library, where the same styles you’d use in InDesign are ready and waiting38and then type the word “Ascend” as per the brief, modify the size40and then the position using the guide, before setting the colour of the text from the Montagne library41

It only takes a few more minutes to get the other page elements onto the layout, and then, just as the train pulls into the station send the layout to InDesign.50

In The Studio, and Into InDesign

It’s 9:52 and you’ve made it to your desk unscathed. Shame you missed your usual coffee but the clock is ticking.

Almost as soon as you log in to your computer, InDesign launches and your layout, with all of it’s assets on sublayers and everything ready to edit, is in front of you—you’re a magician!step53

Moving Assets Between CC Libraries

Being the kind of super-organised individual that I know you to be, you’re going to want to get that PSD into the production library, so you go to My Library in your Libraries Panel, right-click the PSD then choose Move To and select your production library from the menu. InDesign is always keeping track of library items so there’s no need to relink anything—sweet!step54Everything else on the layout is pretty much exactly where it needs to be and it all looks great, but that background image could do with being a bit more dramatic, so it’s off to Photoshop.

Popping into Photoshop

Once in Photoshop, right-click the PSD in the Library and choose Edit; there’s no need to have a canvas open in CC 2015.1 and above, as you can select library items directly from the Start Workspace as shown here:step55

Tidy Up The Mask

Your selection efforts in PS Mix can now be refined. As time is tight, and this is a draft you decide to just clean up the mask quickly using the Mask Edge command, so you click on the mask, and then select that option in the Properties Panel. It only takes a few minutes to clean up the mask.step56

Make a Smart Object

Selecting both layers, you turn them into a smart object and choose Camera Raw Filter… from the Filter menu. You need to keep your edits nondestructive and you don’t want to be messing around with too many layers—this filter can do everything you need.step57

Using The Camera Raw Filter

As soon as you’re in, you make some basic image adjustments to tune the colours and tonal ranges using the Basic tab in the CR dialog.
Just a quick point to note: when you make a comp in PS Mix, it doesn’t discard any of the data when you scale content, it’s a nondestructive crop, and you’ll see everything in the preview—even the stuff that extends beyond the canvas boundary—so don’t worry about that.step58Now you can add a nice graduated filter to make the sky look a little angrierstep59and another at the bottom of the image to create a nice soft “letterbox” of light in the middle of the image,step60then perhaps a little radial filter to create a brighter focus area.step61

Just to finish that off, use the Mask option and Brush Mode to restrict the filter’s effect before returning to Photoshop and saving the PSD.step62Then it’s back into InDesign to update the linkstep63step64and make your way to the client meeting (at last—some nice coffee).

It Went Well

Happy Clients.

Obviously there would have to be a few minor tweaks—there always are—but they love the image and the cover, so you go to your library, select the two previews used in the mix, licence them (directly from inside the library) and:

  1. When the contents are updated, the full-size, unwatermarked assets replace the previews
  2. Because your edits were nondestructive they are preserved, so no reworkingstep65

Happy You.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully you’ve got enough from this to see how fast this is in comparison with the majority of current workflows (something that is changing). There’s so much more to explore as well—for instance you could have done a bit of tuning on one of the layers in PS Mix and those edits would be preserved into the PSD as Camera Raw Filter applied to that layer as a smart object. It’s very powerful, and coupled with Adobe Stock and the ability to have your edits preserved through the workflow with no reworking is incredible. It’s all just like magic!

The End. Hope you enjoyed the story!

*You could also use your iPhone, and—at the time of writing—perform at least the Photoshop Mix composite on Android, too.

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