Tips for the not-so-creative pro

Here are a few Creative Suite tips, some old, some new, but all worth knowing, especially if you don’t live inside these applications all day.

Adobe Illustrator

Document cropping: In versions previous to Creative Suite 2, Adobe Illustrator didn’t respect document sizes when it saved file for placement in a page layout program. You could have your artwork extend well beyond the confines of the document page and it would still show up when you placed the resulting .eps file into QuarkXPress or InDesign. With CS2 and CS3, Illustrator uses the document size as the “cropping boundary”—meaning any objects which extend beyond the document size in the Illustrator file will be cropped out when you place the file into your page layout program.

This is how it should have always worked, and it has one benefit beyond just “doing it right.” You’ll have to do less fussing around in your page layout application with regards to cropping.

Persistent color: Ever wish you could have Illustrator automatically launch specific color swatch libraries such as a particular Pantone color swatch library? Well, you can.

persistent swatches

Using the Pantone example, start Illustrator but don’t open a document. Click the Swatches panel’s flyout menu, scroll down to Open Swatch Library>Color Books and select a Pantone color library from the list. Once the new Pantone color panel opens, click again on the panel flyout menu and select Persistent. That’s it. The Pantone color panel (or whichever swatch library you select) will now open automatically every time you launch Illustrator.

Adobe InDesign

Merging text in two frames via link:

You can merge these orphan text stories into a single long story simply by linking them as you normally would link two frames of text with the Link tool. When you do this, make sure you have a hard return at the end of the first story before linking, otherwise InDesign will automatically join the last paragraph of the first frame and the first paragraph of the second frame.

Split view your document for easy editing: When you’re editing long InDesign documents, changes that you make on one page will often affect the layout or text flow on following pages. Scrolling or jumping (Command-J, type the page number and hit return) from page to page to see the results can be quite time-consuming.

Make it easy on yourself. Open a second copy of your document by going to Window -> Arrange -> New Window. Size both windows to fit on the screen at once. Obviously, a large monitor makes this tip more useful.

Any changes you make in the first window will instantly be updated in the second window. To see “the big picture” while editing, zoom out on the second window so you can see multiple pages at a time. This can be a huge time-saver when you’re working with large text-filled documents.

Adobe Photoshop

Quickly adjust your image lightness and darkness: If you’re looking to darken or lighten specific areas of your Photoshop image quickly, one of the easiest ways I know of is to make a selection around the area you want to edit, feather the edges (Select -> Modify -> Feather) and hit Command-J to create a new layer of the selection.

Next, change the blend mode of the newly created layer to either Multiply (to darken the area) or Screen (to lighten it) and adjust the opacity of the layer with the slider in the Layers panel to your liking.

It might not be the most “professional” way to do this, but you can get some decent results without too much trouble, as opposed to using levels or curves which requires a little more knowledge of the tools.

Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to do things, just different ways.

[James Dempsey runs the Creative Guy Web site, which offers tips, tricks and opinion on a variety of design topics.]

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