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Creative Pipeline: The ACP Blog

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ICC profiles explained


Here you'll find information on what ICC profiles are, descriptions of the basic types, an explanation of why they are important to you and info about how they are made and used.

Simply put - a good ICC profile provides an accurate description of the characteristics of a digital device or working colour space.

sections below

why are accurate ICC profiles needed

RGB working spaces

input profiles, for cameras and scanners

the monitor display system profile

output profiles, printing


profiling the printing press

how profiles work - some in depth explanation

making a printer profile, more detail

free profiles

does everyone need good ICC profiles



image copyright neil barstow

why are accurate ICC profiles needed?


In the chain of capture or scan > view > edit > proof > reproduce, there may be restrictions due to equipment capability, i.e. limitations to the range of colour and tone which any specific digital device can handle capture, display or reproduce, this range is known as a device's "effective gamut". Accurate description of device gamut is one very important function of an ICC profile.

No matter how carefully devices such as display screens and printers are manufactured, there are inevitable small variations, even from the same production line.  Added to this is the problem of mixing devices from different manufacturers or production lines.  So each device might interpret the numbers in an image file differently and if we don't take control each device is likely to produce differing colour and tone from that intended.
Ideal working practice requires an automatic way of describing the capabilities of each digital device and a mechanism to compensate for the performance of each. With the right settings, the colour management system fulfills this need by using each device's ICC profile and its ability to unequivocally* and accurately describe device capabilities. The colour management system can now properly translate digital data between devices using those ICC profiles in order to maintain appearance, within limits of device capability, of course.
Fortunately there are many excellent measuring tools and software which allow us to make accurate ICC profiles for our various devices.
*Unequivocal / Unequivocally are vital terms in colour management, basically they mean:  leaving no doubt, clear, unambiguous.


above, the UGRA FOGRA "Media Wedge", used to check profile accuracy in proofing.

The Media Wedge, above, allows comparison of printed colour on a proof directly with a press reference, so can guarantee a match from proof to press.

RGB working spaces are device independent

An RGB working space is a specific type of colour space, defined by its ICC profile, it is effectively the hub of many profile based conversions.

Back in the late 1990's, with Photoshop 5, Adobe introduced an invaluable concept to its users, the RGB working space. These "device independent working spaces" are designed to be used for editing and storage or archiving of images. Unlike printer, scanner, camera or display screen profiles, working spaces are not used to describe specific devices.


breakout box: converting image data between colour spaces, more detail


Converting image data from an input colour space (e.g. "camera.icc" or "scanner.icc") to a working space ("workingspace.icc") will re-align the often non-linear (wonky*) RGB numbers, so that the editing process is more predictable. Appearance is normally unchanged by this conversion, as long as the working space has sufficient volume to enclose the incoming data. Working space choice is a very important part of a workflow, which should ideally be designed to preserve all of an image's data.

*Wonky? Whereas a device colour space is often non-linear, an RGB working space is both grey-balanced and perceptually uniform. These qualities mean that when editing different regions of colour and of tone, i.e. saturated or pastel, dark or light, results will be consistent and predictable. What's more, a set of matching RGB numbers will always equal neutral grey, right from RGB 0,0,0 to RGB 255, 255, 255. This important feature allows for easy one-click neutralisation of global colour casts in many images. Linearity of behaviour in editing is vital if the process is to be predictable, this is hardly ever the case if working within a device based colour space.





Each workingspace is designed to encompass a specific range of colour values (a few are illustrated right in a simplified two dimensional projection), the designed range or "gamut" is often relative to a particular group of image sources or image destinations. However, do remember that working spaces have no direct relation to any specific device, hence the term "device independent working space". It is worth noting, too, that bigger isn't always better when it comes to working space choice, in fact choosing too big a working space for your workflow can create issues. It's important, therefore, that workflow is tested and a working space is carefully selected.

In summary, the RGB working space functions as a container for tonal and colour data independently of any specific device. A well chosen working space will be large enough to contain all the image data from a particular source, be it camera or scanner.

Working Spaces, use in image storage & archiving

When a file is being edited in Photoshop it will ideally be kept in a properly suitable RGB working space.
As well as predictable editing, this practice also offers future-proof repurposeability. Archiving all the original image tonal and colour information within a suitably sized working space, rather than, say, data converted to a printer colour space, allows scope for repurposing to take advantage of future improvements in imaging; perhaps a novel printing process of the future will allow far more of the original colour to be reproduced than with today's technology.

breakout box: importance of workingspace selection


Workingspace choice is more important than generally considered because its not not just about keeping colour saturation - if image colour data is compressed into a workingspace smaller than the source data, detail in highly saturated areas can be lost (clipping) - because colorimetric rendering is always used whatever option is selected. To imagine what happens, think about using Photoshop's levels pallet, if the "input" endpoints are moved inwards previously separate values can be clumped together (clipped), e.g. shadow or highlight detail - so detail in the original is now lost. Permanently. The same thing can happen if an original has values outside the range of the destination workingspace for it's conversion. This is easy to demonstrate, take a high gamut image in, say Adobe RGB. Have a look at the ends of range in Photoshop's levels pallet, generally if unclipped the data will taper off at the edges, not "wash up" against the ends of the levels data display. Now convert that image to sRGB and look at the Photoshop's levels pallet again. Now you might well see some detail "washing up" against the ends of the scale, that’s showing clipping. Google Photoshop's "clipping display" for more on how to see this.

Back to the prospect of future repurposing - for example, imagine finishing the editing of a beautiful image, at this time perhaps only intended for use in newsprint, apart from the inevitable colour and tonal edits to suit the restricted colour range available, at some stage the image data will need to be converted into the newspaper's colour space (e.g. news.icc) so that it will suit the printing process. Maybe the operator inadvisedly saved this converted version over the original image - thus, only retaining the news.icc version, a pretty unsaturated CMYK file.
Sometime in the future, this same image may unexpectedly be wanted for a job where original gamut could be well utilised. What if that newspaper image actually turned out to be of a popular subject, maybe now, you'd like a big inkjet print for an exhibition. The inkjet printer would likely be able to do a great job of reproducing your lovely original scene, since the process has a pretty good colour gamut. However, because you now only have the news.icc file, all that can be printed is a large version of the de-saturated picture. You can, of course, add saturation, but you can't bring back the subtlety, detail and beauty of the original. If a version of the image stored in a decent sized working space had been archived, you'd be in a much better position. It would have been repurposeable. That's why working spaces are important as storage colour spaces.
Also note that ANY CMYK file will likely have had its gamut reduced from the original RGB, so, where possible, always  archive an image as RGB, within an RGB working space. Not just the CMYK conversion. Preferably save as an uncompressed format like .tiff or .psd, certainly NOT as a JPEG, since the JPEG can't even be resized without further damaging compression.

Example Working Spaces
AdobeRGB(1998).icc, intended to encompass most of the colours found in a photographic image on film, but a little restricted for that purpose.

sRGB Color Space Profile.icc, designed to contain all the colours we can expect to see on an average PC monitor.

Chrome Space 100, J. Holmes.icc, meticulously designed to enclose virtually all the colours an Ektachrome film can record.
Please scroll down the downloads page to find "workflow tools for sophisticated photographers and retouchers where you can learn more about Joseph Holmes' working spaces.

The working colour space sits at the centre of colour management. Each relationship with an external device, be it a scanner, monitor screen or printer, is provided for via an ICC profile which describes each device and thus allows translation between a working space and the various devices.

input profiles, for cameras and scanners


Input profiles are a type of device colour space. Digital cameras and scanners are profiled in a different way to printers, one similarity, though, is that much of the process depends on suitable software settings and repeatability. In order to make an input profile, the camera or scanner is set to a repeatable state and a physical profiling target is captured as an image which is then analysed.

For cameras, a suitable target would be the basICColor DCAM or ColorChecker SG (pictured above).
For scanners a high quality target would be a HutchColor Target, "HCT", or, for less critical processes, an IT8 style target, either transparency or reflective.


First the target is carefully captured using good repeatable software settings.

Next, the captured target image values, expressed as RGB, are evaluated within the profiling software and a transformation table is created, which provides for translation between RGB device values and the known L*a*b* values sourced from the target reference file. This means that now any RGB value in a file from the relevant input device can be cross referenced against unambiguous vales related to human vision.

This ICC input profile can now be used when opening any capture or scan made using the "profiled" device as long as the device remains consistent. The ICC profile will effectively filter out consistent undesirable device characteristics like a caste or tonal anomaly.
In practice, the ICC profile is assigned to each capture or scan and this action provides an imaging application like Photoshop with the information needed to interpret the file's numbers, including the ability to produce accurate appearance on screen. Accurate screen display is achieved in a transformation or "conversion" using the input profile, the display profile and perhaps also a working colour space profile.

An accurate ICC input profile can certainly save some work by minimising the repetitive editing tasks often necessary to correct consistent digital camera or scanner variations.

A good input ICC profile is also used by colour management savvy RAW processing or scanning software to provide an accurately colourmanaged screen display during the process of capture. This provides the advantage of continuity of image appearance from the capture application to, for example, Photoshop.
If we are to utilise the sometimes excellent colour and tonal editing tools available in RAW processing or scanner software, it is imperative to use good ICC profiles - so that, ideally, any image optimisation we’ve done using input software will still be valid once viewing the image in Photoshop.
Without good colour management, appearance is unlikely to be continuous between applications, i.e. although optimised within scan or capture software, the image might then seem to change significantly once saved and then opened in Photoshop. In this case it can be a matter of starting again with adjustment, quite a waste of effort and time.
more about input profiling and my profiling service here


the monitor display system profile

Display profiles are a type of device colour space. Monitor display profiles are part of what is perhaps the most important colour management of all, since the display screen is our only window on digital content.

Display system profiles are made in a process which uses an accurate screen sensor like basICColor's discus device - and good software like basICColor display (display's verification report is shown at right) to assess the display system capabilities and build the ICC profile which describes them.
In a standard display system the first step in the process calibrates the system, loading a Look Up Table ("LUT") to the systems video card - step two then measures calibrated appearance to produce an ICC profile.
Hardware calibrated displays are similar in practice, but, in the background, the calibration LUT is actually loaded straight to the screen's internal circuits which operate at a higher bit depth to optimise the transformation of image data during display.
(only the calibration software can load that LUT, beware switching profiles in any other way).
On completion of the process, the resulting ICC display profile is built, containing both the calibration instructions for the computer's video card (where relevant) and the device characterisation table used by a colour-management savvy application like Photoshop to correctly display image files.
Good calibration and profiling software will provide a wide range of calibration target settings which are used in order to tune and optimise screen appearance, these options are vital since e.g. optimal targeted luminance and white point are set relative to work room lighting conditions.

Above right: verification screen.


output profiles, printing

TC918 Colour Chart

Output profiles are a type of device colour space. Let's start with an inkjet printer; this is profiled by first choosing suitable options from amongst all the available settings in the printer's RGB driver or CMYK RIP software. Options such as resolution and media type can all affect output, so must be optimal.
Next, test prints of a relevant set of colour patches are made, using the chosen software settings and using the correct paper and ink.
After drying, accurate measurements of the test prints are made using a high quality spectrophotometer device.
Next, these measurements are analysed within the profiling software and, in a process of assessing both the measured patch values and the target reference data, the software can produce an accurate device characterisation - an ICC output profile.


Now, Adobe Photoshop, and other colour management capable programs, can use this ICC profile to adjust image data, as it is sent to the printer. This means that we can expect an accurate reproduction of the original image file, within the limits of gamut of the printer and paper chosen.

An ICC printer profile is specific to one certain printer, one type of paper, one inkset and, even, to one print resolution and media setting. If you buy a different make of ink or type of paper, or alter software settings, then the printer will likely behave differently, this inevitably means that the profile we made will no longer describe the printed behaviour. So, now, the process of printing using the ICC profile fails to give an accurate printout. A new profile would be needed in order to assess the printer's new behaviour.
The need for consistency is often called "process control".

Because of the importance of consistency, it is not a good idea to use low cost "compatible" ink cartridges when profiling, because the vital continuity of performance using those inks is very unlikely - due to poor quality control, they often differ, one to the next.


softproofing, proofing on a monitor display system

Good printer profiles can also be used within colour management savvy applications like Adobe Photoshop for on-screen softproofing in order to predict printed output. Softproofing means that a screen preview, simulating the output of a printer, can be viewed during image optimisation.
Of course, accuracy in softproofing relies entirely on having a decent quality, well calibrated and profiled, display system as well as a good accurate output (printer) profile.

press profiling

In a very similar process to that outlined above for inkjet printers, (i.e. optimise, print, measure, run in a constant state) a printing press can be profiled too.


However, it is important to understand that profiling a press properly is quite a big task. It's very important to analyse a press for profiling in a well optimised state, that can take a lot of time.
Printing press ICC profiles are vital as they are used for conversion (separation) of RGB files to CMYK, also for both printed proofing and softproofing. There is no "just use CMYK" any longer, each press type and paper type has it's own ink recipes and those are respected in the freely available standards based profiles.
So, there is a more practical way to work than by than profiling each press individually. Almost all presses can be run in accordance with specific ISO standards, which means that RGB to CMYK separations no longer need to be made for each specific press machine. What is on the plates is easier to work with which makes for faster more efficient use of the machine.


Standards based ICC profiles result from standard press runs measured by technical experts - these "standard" press ICC profiles are available freely e.g. from the European Colour Initiative.
More information about pre-press and standards based working here.


breakout box: how profiles work - some in depth explanation


There’s some science in here in the tech box, and it’s not necessary to fully understand this section, but many users find it helpful to have at least a basic knowledge of the workings of ICC profiles, so they cease to become quite so mysterious.
ICC profiles are vital because the RGB and CMYK values in any digital file have no unequivocal* values unless associated with an ICC profile. Once a profile is associated (or "assigned" in Photoshop terminology), then the relationship between the file's numbers and human vision is established. (i.e. RGB or CMYK can now be converted using either of the scientifically defined unequivocal human vision based colour spaces XYZ or L*a*b.)
*Unequivocal means: leaving no doubt, clear, unambiguous, a useful term in colour management.

An example: the RGB values R=10, G=100, B=10 have no meaning by themselves other than the colour is greenish. That's because the actual colours of the constituents, Red Green and Blue are not defined. By associating a colour space definition, (i.e. by assigning and embedding an ICC profile) the same RGB values are translated into XYZ or L*a*b giving the values an exact meaning related to human vision. The data can now be a passed off to a display screen or to a printer in a process that uses those exact colour definitions - terminating in a conversion to optimise the data for the receiving device.
Having a set of RGB or CMYK values associated with a defined colour space (as in "with an embedded ICC profile") allows for the exact reproduction of the colour.

about L*a*b* and XYZ colour spaces

You’ll hear mention of these colour spaces and their use as way of defining colour, when you're getting into understanding ICC profiles. So, what are they? Both L*a*b* and CIE XYZ colour spaces are designed to encompass human vision. These colour spaces define colour using a full scale, based upon how humans see colour, so that a particular set of values always means the same colour. As you learned above, RGB and CMYK don't work like that.
CIE L*a*b* (normally named just L*a*b*) colour space is based on the CIE 1931 XYZ colour space, formulated to contain the whole range of colours and tones visible to the human eye and referenced by numbers that provide unequivocal colour meaning. The CIE XYZ color space was derived from a series of experiments done in the late 1920s, experimental results were combined into a specification from which the CIE XYZ color space was derived.
In summary, XYZ and L*a*b* numbers are unequivocal. Unlike numbers in the RGB or CMYK colour models, L*a*b* and XYZ numbers have an actual meaning.
L*a*b*: L*= lightness axis, a = Green to magenta axis, b = Blue to Yellow axis.
XYZ: Y is luminance. Z and X are related to human cone response curves.
There are lots of papers online for those who'd like to delve further but that's certainly not needed in a quest to better understand how ICC profiles work in practice. Just appreciate that XYZ and L*a*b* define colour properly, unequivocally.


ICC profiles

Adobe RGB 3D plot

Any ICC profile contains one or more tables to allow calculation between “device colour space” ICC and XYZ or L*a*b colour space, or the inverse.
Even a working colour space like AdobeRGB(1998).icc (3D pic. right) is treated as a "device colour space" in this scenario. Some ICC profiles do contain quite a few tables to allow for conversion using different rendering intents, but, basically, all those tables do is to provide for variants on the above calculations.
L*a*b* or XYZ are used in ICC profiles as the Profile Conversion Space or P.C.S. - because they are unequivocal, each numerical value in either XYZ or L*a*b defines a single colour relative to human vision. (3D L*a*b* profile map at right)

Basically, the following describes the way the profiles are used in an RGB or CMYK print conversion
A: “document” (perhaps an image) RGB or CMYK converts to XYZ or L*a*b
- then -
B: XYZ or L*a*b converts to printer RGB or CMYK.

Liken this to translating a word from French to German without access to a French to German dictionary.
If you had a French to English dictionary and an English to German one you could do it in two steps:
A: Translate from French to English 
- and -
B: Translate from English to German.
In this example English is acting as the “conversion space”, the P.C.S.

When a conversion between two colour spaces takes place we are normally offered a choice of rendering Intent. For output conversions all the intents, Perceptual, Relative Colorimetric, Absolute Colorimetric and Saturation are all available within the process and will affect the result. However, when converting from an input colour space to working space, although Photoshop offers the options above, all that's actually available is a form of Colorimetric rendering. There are some important implications to this because image data can be clipped during the conversion process which may happen unnoticed in the background. Issues arise especially if the working space is not large enough to contain all the image data which happens all to often. Disappointment with image quality, especially in detail in dark, light or saturated areas may result and, although this may be thought an inevitable part of the process, there are sophisticated ways of controlling it. Taking control of this, by careful working space selection and properly managing the process, is something I provide training in.

making a printer profile, in detail

In an attempt to make a description of the ICC print profiling process easy to comprehend, many writers, myself included, have alluded to a process of comparison between printed results and the actual desired appearance of the patch file. That's not entirely wrong in spirit, but, technically, calculating an ICC profile is NOT a process of comparison of printed (output) to patch values. This is because the patches actually have no "ideal" appearance (i.e. no L*a*b* values - please read on to understand that better). The ICC profile does have an ability to adapt colour data (perhaps in an image) before printing and, thus, the result is printed material that compares well to desired or “correct” appearance. SO, good comparison isthe end result, but comparison’s not included in the actual process of making the ICC profile.

In practice, L*a*b* measurements of the printed patches are analysed within the profiling software and, in a process of assessing how the measured patches (measured in L*a*b*) relate to the target reference data (expressed as RGB or CMYK), the profiling software can produce an accurate device characterisation - a table for calculation between L*a*b* and RGB or CMYK, which is used in the ICC output profile.
You read earlier that RGB and CMYK values are ambiguous, because the primaries are not defined, well, here in the printer profile, the ambiguous file values of the target are made unequivocal by the table calculating between printed output and target values.

The ICC profiling process involves a few steps, which are worth explaining

Epson 7900

1: set-up printer and print a file with RGB or CMYK patches

It's vitally important at this stage that either the printer control software (i.e. driver or RIP) settings or press adjustments (CTP tone curves, ink weights etc.)  are chosen properly; often this ideal machine state is reached as a result of a process of step-by-step testing of various options. This method optimises the process. Thereafter, those same settings must be used whenever the profile is to be used. Consistency is king, machine behaviour must be invariable.

So, what are we printing in this patch file? The RGB or CMYK patch data in the image file is allowed no embedded ICC profile, so it has no associated L*a*b* or XYZ "visual" values and nothing to inform a conversion to L*a*b* or XYZ, thus, there is no way that its values can actually be related to a visual colour meaning. The file data has no unequivocal appearance, the numbers are ambiguous.
How can we see patches on screen then? On screen display of patch files is, as default, made using a "guess"** as to document colour space.

We must not assign an ICC profile to patches in practice, because it could invalidate the printing process. We need raw CMYK or RGB patch data printed.
But, if an ICC profile were assigned** to the file with the patches, then the colour management process would provide L*a*b* or XYZ values for each patch and, this information, passed through the monitor profile, can provide what is shown on screen with a visual appearance. So we have now given those patches "unequivocal" values - but this is only one possible appearance, one interpretation for the values of those RGB or CMYK patches, because if a different ICC profile was assigned to the patch file, then the visual appearance would change, (this happens because the calculated L*a*b* or XYZ values would change).

**In Photoshop and similar applications, when an image without an ICC profile is displayed, the L*a*b* or XYZ data normally provided by a profile is missing. So, it's not possible to send the data through the screen profile to the screen - therefore, to allow display, Photoshop assumes (i.e. temporarily assigns, for viewing only) the default working colour space profile – just so the file can be shown on screen. This doesn't affect the printing process, but it does explain why the file appears to have a set appearance on screen.

2: measure the printed target

The printed patch set is measured using an accurate spectrophotometer.As you read above, after printing and reading the target no comparison to anticipated results is actually made, because there is no anticipated result for the printed patches.
So, what does actually happen?

3: calculate the profile

Colorimetric values in XYZ or L*a*b* result from the measurement of the printed target. Reference data for the patch set containing the original RGB or CMYK values for each patch is used, in conjunction with those measured values, to calculate and build the “device values to XYZ or L*a*b*” table which is part of the ICC profile, this is called the A2B transformation table. This table simply describes the printer to software, so that the system "knows": “What happens if I send particular RGB or CMYK numbers to printer - what actual colour (what visual appearance) will result”.

This table A2B is not actually the part of the output profile used when converting a file to print it, it’s an “inversion” of that table - into an XYZ or L*a*b* to device transformation table, called the B2A, that provides the information needed for this important transformation. What the system can learn from this table is “I have read the profile of a pixel in the image, so now I have an XYZ or L*a*b* value to print; what RGB or CMYK numbers do I need to send to the printer to get that appearance?”

Pixl_CMnet_Test_imageUsing the printer profile, printing

When selected in an imaging application like Photoshop, the printer's ICC profile provides a prediction, which is used, along with the document profile, to work out how to alter each of the document file's pixel values to get a print that looks like it should. That is, it should closely match the source image shown on a calibrated and profiled display screen, or another print from a profiled workflow.

It works like this, document RGB or CMYK is converted to XYZ and then XYZ is converted to device RGB or CMYK.

As well as on-site profiling, I also offer remote inkjet profiling, here.

Using the printer profile, softproofing

Good printer profiles can be used in on-screen softproofing in order to predict printed output on a well set up monitor screen. This useful output preview process is available in Photoshop and some other imaging applications; softproofing provides a screen preview, simulating the output of a printer, which can be viewed during image optimization. Of course, accuracy in softproofing relies on having a decent quality, well calibrated and profiled, Display System and a good accurate output (printer) profile. Without going too deep, the process involves the original file's values passing "through" the printer profile en-route to the display profile.

document RGB to XYZ or L*a*b*-and- XYZ or L*a*b* is converted to printer RGB (or CMYK)
printer RGB (or CMYK) to XYZ or L*a*b*-and- XYZ or L*a*b*  is converted to display RGB


using a camera or scanner ("input") profile

The ICC input profile is used to compensate for consistent issues in the capture or scanning process. The relevant ICC profile is assigned to the image when opening any original capture or scan. In many software applications, the profile can be assigned and embedded automatically. Assigning the ICC profile to an incoming image provides for accurate appearance on screen through a transformation using the input profile and display profile - and, often, also the chosen working colour space profile.

In initial display on screen, once the device ICC profile is assigned, each pixel in the RGB image file is
A: transformed to XYZ or L*a*b* - and then -
B: XYZ or L*a*b* is transformed to monitor space RGB ICC.

In most cases device RGB is converted to a working space first, so
A: device RGB to XYZ or L*a*b* - and -
B: XYZ or L*a*b* is converted to working space RGB ICC.
- then -
C: working space RGB ICC is converted to XYZ or L*a*b*- and -
D: XYZ or L*a*b* is converted to monitor space RGB ICC (or even printer colour space ICC if printing at this stage).

Much of this is dealt with automatically in a well set-up system.

profiles for free?

Unfortunately, however well intentioned they may be, ICC profiles supplied with products or found around the internet which might claim to accurately represent a particular device can often be quite poor. Since each individual device may differ, these “canned” or generic profiles are sometimes only useful as a starting point. In some instances the provider even fails to provide instructions on device settings for use with their profile.
Making a profile from one printer and attempting to use that same profile on a different printer, even if it’s the identical printer model using identical paper and inks, is unlikely to provide identical or accurate results.

Success with colour management relies on good device characterisation, provided by ICC profiles and on consistency in devices and working methods.

does everyone need good ICC profiles?

In even the most basic workflow, if the aim is to view images with true colour, we need a monitor profile and a document (image) profile in order to accurately view that image. So, yes, anyone viewing images on a computer monitor screen needs decent ICC profiles.

Do you need help with the above? You can get in touch for free chat, just follow the link to my free consulting page.

In Adobe Illustrator CC 2018 we have a new tool = Puppet Warp, which  lets you twist and distort parts of your artwork, such that the transformations appear natural. You can add, move, and rotate pins to seamlessly transform your artwork into different variations using the Puppet Warp tool in Illustrator. You can use this tool also for some creative work. Let’s see what kind of interesting transformation we can do with this tool and how use it for creating animation with Adobe Animate CC.


Distorting 3D Object

  1. Create any shape
  2. Create any 3D object with Live Effects
  3. Select object with Selection Tool
  4. Add pins with Puppet Warp Tool into 3D object
  5. Distort or rotate (pins) with Puppet Warp Tool


This allow us easy distort 3D object in any direction.





Distorting Character or Whole Text

  1. Add any text
  2. Select Puppet Warp Tool and add pins to one character
  3. Distort character


For Distorting Whole Text you need to activate “Show Mesh” in the Properties Panel and Expand it with “Expand Mode” value to overlap all text with mesh.





Creating Animation Tweens with Puppet Warp Tool, Blend Tool in Adobe Illustrator CC and finalizing in Adobe Animate CC

  1. Create shape in Adobe Illustrator CC
  2. Select shape with Selection Tool
  3. Use Puppet Warp Tool and add pins to shape
  4. Copy and paste shape (you need to add pins than copy shape. This allow to copy pins with shape)
  5. Make change with Puppet Warp Tool for creating motion or animation that you want to create
  6. Use Blend Tool for creating objects for animation
  7. Expand Object and Ungroup
  8. Select all shapes
  9. Copy shapes


  1. Open Adobe Animate CC and past into stage
  2. Select all shapes on stage in Adobe Animate
  3. Right click and open context menu.
  4. Select “Distribute to Keyframes”
  5. Play animation


Update listing on Adobe Exchange.png

   ‘Adobe Exchange’ logo used with permission


Earlier in December 2017 Adobe announced that Adobe Add-ons is evolving to Adobe Exchange. which will be launched on March 05, 2018. Existing listing/products and preview images will be automatically transferred. It is time to get started or to update existing listing for better compatibility with new design and approach. In this post, I will guide you through steps to update preview images, add videos which supports product and to update description when necessary.


Steps to update listing on Adobe Exchange

For those who are not informed about requirements for preview images here is reminder and link to download PSD template.

  • App icon which should be 570x570px.
  • Up to 10 large image previews and videos per product. Image previews must be: min 1280 x 720px, max 2560 x 1440px saved in PNG or JPG file format.


Here is the process to update the listing with new preview images and optionally video which should be uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo or Adobe TV:


Click on Exchange App Listings.jpg

  • Your existing products will be listed in the Published tab. Click on the product name.

Click on product name to edit it.jpg

  • When App Editing page opens click on Edit in the top right corner.

Click on Edit on App Editing page.jpg

  • In the App Details, you can change Purchase Method, change the price, change description... Required fields are marked with an asterisk, you must choose Primary and Secondary tags from the drop-down lists. When you are done, scroll down and click Save & Next button.

App Details page.jpg

  • The next step is to upload images. Click on Choose File buttons and upload App Icon, Featured Image (must be 300Kb or smaller) and Preview Images. You can type the caption for preview images. At the bottom, you will see text field to paste video URL to provide video instructions. If you have a video on YouTube then just copy URL from the address bar and paste it. Here is sample URL copied If you need to add more images or videos (up to 10) click on Add Image or Add Video buttons. Click Save & Next button to proceed.

Upload images and videos.jpg

  • The next step is Upload & Docs. You can upload readme, sample files etc. Uploaded documents should be in PDF file format. The limitation is 10 documents to upload. Click on Save & Next button to proceed.
  • The last step is Notes & EULA. You can paste EULA and to type instructions for the user in Where to Find It - this is a required field which is automatically transferred from Adobe Add-ons. The important thing to remember before submitting listing is to click Save button to be able to preview listing before submitting it for approval.

Preview and submit.jpg

This is a blog post I wrote back in 2012, and decided to share it with you.


Mac in art: Creating Photoshop Brushes using Adobe Illustrator Objects

Creating Photoshop Brushes using Adobe Illustrator Objects


Creating Photoshop Brushes with Illustrator Shapes. Easy. Seamless workflow. Great results!
In this sample I am using stars, circles and lines.
You can use any shape desired to achieve the look you want to get.


1. With the Ellipse tool selected, create a perfect circle (best to draw from center: hold down the option/alt and shift key). From the view menu bar: guides: make guides. Lock the guide.

Guide from an object (you can make a guide from any object in Illustrator)

2. With the Star tool selected, create a star, and snap it to the guide (View: Snap to Guide)

    With the Rotate tool selected (from the tool box) hold down the Option/alt key and click


    on the center of the guide. 36° and click copy. Make sure your preview is on!



Stars around the guide
3. Once one star is copied, go to the Object menu bar: Transform: Transform again (command/Control D). Repeat to create a complete circle of stars.


Circle of stars
4. Repeating the same commands, create a line and rotate in to the center of the guide.
Lines rotated in 36°
5. Repeating the same commands, create a circle on top of the line and rotate it again 36°.

   With the Circle selected, choose the Scale tool from the tool box to scale the group of the small

   circles to the center of the guide, and use the Transform again command to scale the group of   the small circle to the center of the guide 80% each time.  


   6. Go to the View menu: Guides: hide or clear guides.

Final shape
7. Select the final shape: Object: Group  (Command/Control G). Edit Copy (Command/Control C).

8. In Photoshop: Create a new document 72 DPI. White Background. Edit menu bar: Paste (command/Control V) Select the Path in the dialog box.

9. the path is loaded to the selected Background. In the path Panel save the path.

(give it a name in case you want to bring another path to the same file -only one work path per file)

Path from Illustrator
10. Now the fun starts! Add a new empty layer and name it: Brush practice.

     Make sure that the path is loaded to the new layer. With the brush tool selected choose a brush

     stroke the path. (Best to choose first the brush and than go to the stroke path command) .    

    stroke the path. (Best to choose first the brush and than go to the stroke path command)

     Make sure the foreground color is black: Select the Path with the path selection tool.

     Go to Path: Stroke Selection. Experiment with the brush size.



Brush size, stroke path command
11. Select the outer Stars and play with the Brush size to stoke it. Select the rest of the shapes and

      stroke it with a smaller brush size.


Path is stroked with 2 or 3 different sizes of brush
12. Load the selection of the stroked layer (Select load Selection or Command/Control Click on
      the layer thumbnail to load the selection. Edit: Define Brush Preset and give it name.


Saving the brush


13. Now the fun begins! Create a new layer and start testing the brush you created!


Drawing with the new brush

14. Working on the brush variations. Changing the size on the  spacing in the main brush dialog

      box, finding the space and size needed for the design.


Spacing preview


15. Changing the Shape Dynamic controls, playing with the direction of the brush - make sure

      you see the preview of the brush. Choose a color for the Foreground and Background.

      In the Brush control - adjust the color dynamic controls. Work with the saturation and

      the brightness Jitter. You can introduce more colors to the brush if you change the amount

      of the Hue slider. Play with the Purity slider to achieve pure colors or gray scale.


16. With the brush tool, explore the brush strokes and the colors. Add effects to the brush.

      Drop Shadow, Bevel and Emboss to create any metal look! (gold, copper, silver).

      Adding different effects will effect the brush look as well. Save the brush preset.



Final Brushes! Keep playing and exploring!



Left to right top row: Tom Briere, Cathy McDonough, Barry Robinson, Seth Dewey, Chris Bower, Laura Carlsen. Bottom: Christian da Silva, Dave Therrien, Adelia Masella, Rick Branscomb



If you're looking ideas to engage your group you might consider sponsoring a Creative Challenge or scheduling a Member Spotlight.  Far from being an orginal idea, this is our version of what Sally Cox often did with the San Jose group.


There's always a good participation rate when we run a creative challenge, or ask members to showcase their work for a member spotlight. And we’ve been delighted to see some amazing results.


For example, this past December, fourteen of our members stepped up to participate in the Creative Challenge that we hold a couple of times a year. This is always a fun meeting! We invite our members to use their favorite Adobe application (including mobile apps) to create something new to share with the group. For this challenge we came up with several topics for members to choose from: Above and Below, Children and Cell Phones, Fall Foliage, Secret Spaces, and Public Art.


During the meeting each participant walks through their process and answers questions. At the end of the meeting we vote for the top three entries. The member whose project wins the most votes takes first prize… a subscription to the Creative Cloud.


Please be sure to click the links to look at their Spark Pages and click the appreciate button! It was exciting to see how many of them used Spark for their show and tell!

The winning entries:

Category: Photography

First place: Chris Bower
Entry: Stairway to Heaven

App: Photoshop

*Spark Page Here*

Category: Illustration

First place: Christian da Silva

Entry: Children with Cell Phones

App: Illustrator

*Spark Page Here*

Category: Photography

Second place: Seth Dewey

Entry: Calendar

App: Lightroom

*Spark Page Here*

Category: Photography

Second place: Rick Branscomb

Entry: Dory

App: Lightroom


Category: Image Editing

Third place: Tom Briere

Entry: Photoshop Filters

App: Photoshop

*Spark Page Here"

Category: Spark Storytelling

Third place: Laura Carlsen

Entry: Time In Between

App: Spark

*Spark Page Here*

Nashua Adobe User Group

place at actual size cover blog.jpg

Place commands are among most useful and most used commands in Photoshop. Those commands are commonly used to import image or images into existing document to combine multiple photos and to create composition like photo collage. By default, Photoshop will create Smart Object layer when placing the image and resize layer to fit into existing document. There is nothing wrong with this behavior and it is desired behavior in most cases. However, sometimes you will want to get actual pixel dimensions on Smart Object layer in Photoshop without resizing it.


I will use the latest version at the moment which is Photoshop CC 2018. Same options which will be mentioned are available in previous versions of Photoshop CC. In earlier versions like Photoshop CS6, some options are not available but you can still follow instructions in this tutorial.

Video tutorial

Here is my video recording which explains requirements and steps to get Smart Object layer in Photoshop with actual pixel dimensions when placing images. For more info continue reading the post below and click on links on this page.



Quick solution to get layer at actual pixel dimensions

If you want a quick solution which will work all the time to get actual pixel dimensions in the document without to change preferences and additional steps (when required) do the following:


  • Open image or multilayered document in Photoshop.
  • Select layer, Smart Object layer or multiple layers in the Layers panel.
  • Open Window > Libraries panel. Choose library where you want to save the image (layers) which you want to place at actual pixel dimensions in any document regardless of its resolution.
  • Drag layer or multiple selected layers onto Libraries panel and release mouse button.
  • Open or create a document in which you want to place the image (layers) previously saved in Libraries panel.
  • Right click on the thumbnail in Libraries panel and choose Place Layers.


Quick and easy solution to get actual pixels placed in any Photoshop document is to save the image in Libraries panel. From Libraries panel use command Place Layers. This will ensure that you will get placed actual pixel dimensions regardless of preferences and document resolution.


Placing images in Photoshop

You can place or import the image into existing document using Place commands from File menu, using Adobe Bridge, to simply drag and drop an image into open document or to use Place commands from Libraries panel.


What and how image/document is imported depends on:

  • Instructions in Preferences > General dialog (Always Create Smart Objects when Placing & Resize Image During Place).
  • Resolutions of placed image and document in which is placed (When using Place Embedded, Place Linked, drag and drop into document operation which is creating embedded Smart Object, and Place > In Photoshop from Adobe Bridge).
  • Which place command you are using (Place Layers from Libraries panel will always place actual pixels).


Preferences which affects how image is placed and requirements to get actual pixel dimensions on layer with placed image

Let's start with preferences which hold key requirement to get a layer with actual pixel dimensions using drag and drop (creates embedded Smart Object), Place Embedded, Place Linked, and Place In Photoshop (Adobe Bridge) commands. Command Place Layers from Libraries panel does not depend on settings in the Preferences dialog.


In Preferences > General you can instruct Photoshop how to treat or what to do with placed objects.


One of the options which are determining how the image is placed is Always Create Smart Objects when Placing. I will suggest you keep this option always turned on.


Note: you won't be able to change the resolution of the image which is placed to match document resolution as explained below when this option is turned off.


Requirements to get actual pixel dimensions on layer with placed image

This is the first requirement. Photoshop can resize or fit the image into existing document during import or placing process. That job will do Resize Image During Place option. In case that you want to get actual pixel dimensions on the layer in the Layers panel, this option must be turned off.

Resize Image During Place turned off
To get actual pixels on Smart Object layer when using Place Embedded, Place Linked, drag and drop file you must visit Preferences > General and turn off option Resize Image During Place.



The second requirement to get layer at actual pixel dimensions is matching resolutions of placed image and document in which image is placed. If resolutions do not match, Smart Object layer in the document will be upsampled or downsampled. Original image with original pixel dimensions will be preserved in Smart Object and you can access the original image at any time to change resolution and to get actual pixel dimensions on the layer. This is true when using drag and drop (creates embedded Smart Object), Place Embedded, Place Linked, and Place In Photoshop (Adobe Bridge) commands.


Placing image when resolutions are matching

When placing image which has the exact same resolution as the document in Photoshop, you will get actual pixels on Smart Object layer (assuming that Resize Image During Place is turned off).


Below I will describe what is happening when placing an image with exactly same resolution as a document in which image is placed.


The document which is used for demonstration is 2000 by 2000 pixels with the resolution set to 72 pixels per inch.


File > Place Embedded command is used to place image which is 1300 x 800 pixels and resolution is 72 pixels per inch.


From the point of getting actual pixels on the layer, everything looks good. Smart Object layer with the image has pixel dimensions exactly same as the image which is placed what can be confirmed in the Properties panel. Properties panel is displaying pixel dimensions of selected Smart Object layer (with Smart Object layer selected in the Layers panel).

Smart Object layer with placed image which has matching resolution with document in which is placed
When you place the image with the resolution which is matching document resolution you will get actual pixels on Smart Object layer. This is true when Resize Image During Place is turned off and you are using Place Embedded, Place Linked, Place In Photoshop commands or drag and drop method.


Placing image when resolutions do not match

Below I will describe what is going on and how to get actual pixel dimensions of Smart Object layer in case that resolutions of document and image which is placed does not match.


I will use the same document from the previous example (2000x2000px) with the resolution set to 300 pixels per inch.


Same command File > Place Embedded is used to place exactly same image from my hard drive, so an image with the same pixel dimensions 1300x800px and resolution 72ppi.


This time Smart Object layer appears much larger of what is expected with much larger pixel dimensions. Properties panel shows that layer is 4 times bigger in pixel dimensions of what is the original image. Photoshop has detected a difference in resolution. In that case, Photoshop will enlarge Smart Object layer. It behaves as when increasing resolution of the placed image from 72 to 300 with Resample option in Image Size turned on. That's how developers set things to work.

Smart Object layer with placed image which does not have matching resolution with document in which is placed
When you place the image with the resolution which does not match document resolution you will get Smart Object layer with pixel dimensions which are different from the original image which is placed. This is true when Resize Image During Place is turned off and you are using Place Embedded, Place Linked, Place In Photoshop commands or drag and drop method.


Fix mismatching resolutions to get actual pixels on layer

To fix the problem and to get Smart Object layer at actual pixel dimension in situations with mismatching resolutions, you need to check learn document resolution, to edit Smart Object layer and to change the resolution to match document resolution (watch the video at the top of this post for visualization).


Here are the steps:


  • Double click on Smart Object layer or use Properties panel > Edit Contents.
  • In new tab with originally placed image go to Image > Image Size. In Image Size dialog turn off Resample and change the resolution to match the resolution of the document in which you have placed the image.
  • Click OK and close document with Yes to save changes.


So, that's how to get actual pixel dimensions on Smart Object layer when resolutions of the document and placed image differ. There is and faster way of doing the same thing using actions what will be explained later.

Difference when editing embedded and linked Smart Object layer

Let me remind you about The Difference Between Linked and Embedded Smart Object Layers in Adobe Photoshop. When you edit the content of Linked Smart Object layer changes will be written back to the original image on your hard drive or in the library. In case that you are using Place Embedded command, and you have embedded Smart Object layer, changes will be written only to image which is embedded in the document.


Placing images from the Libraries panel

Now let's see what is going on when placing images from Libraries panel. By the way, you can open Libraries panel from Window > Libraries.


When using Place Linked command everything will work as when using File > Place Linked, the resolution will determine if you will get actual pixel dimensions on Smart Object layer or not. You can edit the content of linked smart object layer to match resolution with hosting document resolution. Changes will be written to the original file which lives in Libraries panel.


When using Place Layers command that will save you time and you will always get actual pixel dimensions. It works as copy/paste between documents in Photoshop. Only actual pixels will be copied and pasted, the resolution does not play any role.


Automate process to match resolutions between document and placed image

There is a way to automate the process of changing the resolution of a placed image using simple action. If you are new to Photoshop actions please read posts from Photoshop Actions Mini Course.


Here is what steps you need to record in action:


  • Step to edit the content of smart object layer.
  • Step to change resolution with Resample turned off because you do not want to alter original image.
  • Step to save changes and exit editing mode.


Here is how to record action:


  • Place image in Photoshop document. The image should have different resolution then document in which is placed. Ensure that you know the resolution of your document.
  • Create a new action by clicking on page icon at the bottom of Actions panel. You can give a meaningful name to your action like Change resolution of SM to 300. You will be in recording mode.
  • Double click on Smart Object layer to edit it.
  • In Smart Object, editing tab go to Image > Image Size.
  • Uncheck Resample option.
  • Change resolution to match the resolution of the document in which image is placed.
  • Click OK to confirm.
  • Click x in document tab and then confirm on Yes.
  • Stop recording action.


That's it. You can check that everything is ok by expanding Image Size step.

Photoshop action to change resolution of Smart Object layer
Steps which should be included in Photoshop action to match resolution of the placed image to resolution of the document (300ppi in the screenshot above). Smart Object layer must be selected before playing action.



To test action do the following:

  • Learn about the image that you want to use to test action. Figure out pixel dimensions and resolution. The resolution should be different than the resolution of the document in which you want to place the image to test action.
  • Place image. With Smart Object layer selected take a look at Properties panel. Pixel dimensions of Smart Object layer should be different than pixel dimensions of the original/placed image.
  • Play previously recorded action. Check that Image Size step is matching the resolution of the document in which image is placed.
  • Take a look at Properties panel where you should see pixel dimensions of Smart Object layer. Pixel dimensions should be exactly the same as pixel dimensions of the image which is placed.


Congratulations! You have recorded an action to match the resolution of the placed image with document resolution.


Add additional step to automate import using Place command

If you want to automate entire process then add step Place at the beginning of your action. Here is how:

  • Select the action to which you want to add Place Embedded/Linked step.
  • Click on Actions panel menu and choose Insert Menu Item...
  • With Insert Menu Item dialog on your screen go to File > Place Embedded or Place Linked.
  • Click OK in the Insert Menu Item dialog.
  • Drag Place/Select Place menu item step at the beginning of the action.
Select Place menu item at the beginning of action
After recording additional step to automate image placement drag it at the beginning of the action.


Download Photoshop action to change the resolution of the placed image to 300ppi

Here is the link to download my action which is recorded while writing this post to change the resolution of the placed image to 300ppi. Use downloaded action free of charge or to compare with your action. Note: Select Place menu item step is turned off so you need to select Smart Object layer then to play action.Download Photoshop action to change the resolution of the placed image to 300ppi

Record actions for multiple resolutions

The next step is to record multiple actions for multiple resolutions. Repeat steps from the above explanation and change what is recorded in Image Size step.


Download actions to pace image and match different document resolutions (300ppi, 150ppi, and 72ppi)


Here is the link to download 3 actions to place image and match document resolution what is the second requirement to get actual pixel dimensions on Smart Object layer. Use those actions free of charge or load them and compare with your own actions.


Bonus tips

Here is bonus tip how to use recorded action(s)


So far we have recorded an action to place the image and to change the resolution of the placed image. What if you have placed several images as Smart Object layers and you have action with Place command at the beginning?

Exclude not required step from action

With already placed image and Smart Object layer in the Layers panel, you will need all steps from recorded action beside the first one. The simple solution is to exclude step from playing in action by clicking on Toggle item on/offcheckmark on the left side of Select Place menu item step. When checkmark disappears that means that step won't be included in action and you can run it with already placed Smart Object layers.

Turn action step off
To exclude step from playing in action uncheck checkmark on the left side of step. The red checkmark will appear on the left side of action and action set to remind you that some step(s) won't be executed.


Assign keyboard shortcut to play action

Another bonus tip is to assign a keyboard shortcut to action. Double click on action name then in Action Options dialog choose a shortcut to play action. You must choose Function key and to include optionally Shift and Control/Command.

Assign keyboard shortucts to quickly play Photoshop action
Keyboard shortcuts can be assigned to quickly play Photoshop action. Double click empty space on the right side of action name then choose a combination of keyboard keys to play action.



Product used in this tutorial:

Adobe Photoshop CC 2018

How to Share an Image Directly From Within Photoshop CC 2018.jpg

One of the new features in Adobe Photoshop CC 2018 is the ability to quickly share an image directly from the application. In this quick video tip, I will explain to you how to use sharing feature from Photoshop and which options are available to you.


Video tutorial

Here is step by step tutorial with all necessary pieces of information that you need to use Share command in Photoshop. If you have any question or doubt, please do not hesitate to leave comments.



Product used in this tutorial:

Adobe Photoshop CC 2018

Select Subject (One Click Selection) in Photoshop CC 2018.jpg

Probably most popular Photoshop topic is how to select and isolate the object from its background. Starting with January 2018 update (19.1.0 Release) Adobe Photoshop CC 2018 offers a one-click selection which is available as Select Subject command.

This is an excellent addition to selection tools which will be useful for beginners but also and for most advanced users. In many situations, it just works and saves tons of time. I believe this is a starting point of making dreams come true to isolate just anything with a single click.

In this tutorial, I will explain to you when and how to use Select Subject to select an object with a single click.


Where to find Select Subject command

The first thing to mention is where to find Select Subject command. You can evoke this command in the following ways:

  • While editing an image. Go to Select > Subject.
  • With Quick Selection or Magic Wand Tool active click on Select Subject button in the Options bar.
  • With Quick Selection tool active in Select and Mask workspace click on Select Subject button in the Options bar.

Select Subject available from the Options bar.jpg


Requirements to use Select Subject command

In order to use the Select Subject command, you must have a single layer in the Layers panel selected.


When to use Select Subject command

From my testing Select Subject works excellent, almost perfect with images which do not have a busy background. It just works. Recommended time-saver even for power Photoshop users.

With busy backgrounds, you can still use this command as a single click starting point.

Here is an example of almost perfect selection created using single click. It is a not difficult task but compare single click with whatever technique you are currently using.

Single click selection of the eggs.jpg

Here is another example of selection against a solid color background with variations. Hair is very well selected.

Select subject in action.jpg

Here is the same image after dragging Refine Edge in Select and Mask workspace around the hair. Literally, you need 10-15 seconds for this result which is shown against a transparent background after adding a layer mask.

Final after using refine edge 3.jpg


Bonus tip: assign keyboard shortcut

For those who are beginners and users which are often isolating objects, I want to recommend to assign a keyboard shortcut which is not present by default, to Select Subject command from Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts...


Product used in this tutorial:

Adobe Photoshop CC 2018 (19.1.0 Release)



Make quick selections


More tutorials on DesignEasy.

Whenever I show my friends and peers something I create with Adobe Spark I get the same questions.
  • Why do I like Adobe Spark?
  • When do I use it?
  • Is it easy to use?
  • How do I share My story


I like Adobe Spark because it is user-friendly and I can create a Page, a Post or a Video from anywhere. Since it is a web-based application I can create on any device from anywhere.   I use it to promote my work, to write tutorials as well as social media.  And yes it is user-friendly!
I would like to share my recent Adobe Spark Story.

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 17.23.45.png


My friend Yael decided to open a Pop-up home restaurant at her place. She is an amazing cook and wanted to share her creativity with others while creating dinner parties at her house twice a week. Some kind of culinary and cultural experience. Bringing people together to enjoy good food around the table "family style."


She is not into social media.  She does not use Instagram or Twitter.  She has a Facebook page but barely visits it. Overall she is not media-savvy.  Friends suggested a Website but she does not have the budget.
I suggested an Adobe Spark Page that will describe her passion for food, will tell the story of her new adventure, and feature food images.... We uploaded the page last week on her Facebook and sent to other friends as well. We asked them to share.
I tweeted the link. I shared it on Instagram!  Within one week she received reservations for 3 dinner parties!


I call it a success! 



Check out the spark Page:

Yael's Table


Spark your ideas and share it!

Have a Sparky Day!









When one converts a piece of paper to an electronic document,   all too often they are simply scanned at the "whatever" setting and saved as a JPEG. This is not surprising because JPEG is a format that most people have heard of so it's a "safe" format to select. Some scanners have an option to save as a PDF and that is preferable to a JPEG, but there are two areas this leaves off: a clean scan and a search-able PDF.

First off, let me explain what I mean by a clean scan: our eyes are very forgiving. We look at a newspaper and see black text on  paper and we pretty much ignore that the paper is  non-white. The scanner doesn't know the paper is supposed to be white so it records it for what it is: not white. Since newspaper are a worse-case scenario, I will discus and demonstrate with newspaper but just be aware that  all scans will display   paper as being off-white unless you do something to make the paper white.

Let me start with the dynamics of a clean scan and how to create a clean scan.

The problems with newspapers start with the fact that the paper is not white and the thinness of the paper causes the text and anything else on the back side to show up through the page. Thus, if you just run the scanner on a section of newspaper you'd get something like this:


One of the problems here is that there are some color images on the back side of this page and trying to deal with all of the colors is a waste of time. So, the first thing you can do here is to change your settings from Color scan to Black & White scan and that will give you this:


While it's still bad shading, at least it's consistent-bad shading.

At this point there are two options for the person doing the scanning:

  1. You can pre-clean the text prior to the final scan of the page.
  2. You can simply go with the gray background as above and get rid of that in a step further down in this article


Needless to say, both of these have advantages and disadvantages but let's start with pre-cleaning the scan.

Any time you are scanning, you need to first do a Prescan. This is done to verify that what you want to scan is on the scanning table and also allows you to crop the scan. This is also where you can make decisions on color or gray-scale scanning, resolution, final output size, create a name, where you are saving the image, etc. As a rule, I never save a scan as a JPEG, rather I always save it as a TIF image (for reasons that are beyond the focus of this blog). Yes, the TIF images will be large in storage size but do not worry, once you've converted them into PDFs (which will be considerably smaller), you can toss the TIF images you had just created.

To fix the whiteness of the paper, bring up your scanner software's histogram. Most scanning software of merit has histograms and most of the software that comes with your scanner will have histograms. However, if you tend to use the "Full Auto mode" that some scanning software have, select the Professional mode that should also be available.

[Important: Apple's Image Capture is absolutely dreadful for scanning and should be avoided at all cost. I do not know what's available as default on Windows machines but your first choice should be the software that came with your scanner. When first opened, it will probably come up with an Auto mode, do look for any options for Professional control.]

When you first bring up the Histogram, it will probably look something like this (the red rectangle is my crop line):


A histogram, if you are not familiar with them, is a bar graph of all  256 shades from black to white along the "X" (horizontal) axis where the far right is absolute white while  the far left side is absolute black. The "Y" (vertical) axis is the count of pixels that have that specific shade of gray so that if any given shade has a whole bunch of pixels, it will be tall column, if fewer pixels are of any given shade, it will be shorter. In the case of this scan, we can see that there's a lot of light-medium gray pixels through to some medium dark pixels and no white or light gray and no black or dark gray pixels.

What we can do is to tell the scanner that light gray pixels should be considered white and that the medium dark pixels should be considered black. To to this you mouse-down and slide the little arrows on the bottom of the histogram until we see what we want as shown below:


If you look at the image above you can see that most of the light gray pixels were too dark for what I wanted, I wanted the pixels that made the page look white. The trick is to maintain  the text remains black. Keep in mind this in entirely subjective. What you do not want to do is to make the gray so white as to cause the text to start losing its shape as shown below on the right side.


The good news is that if you are scanning a number of pages, the controls of the histogram are sticky. That means that once you set everything for the first page, all subsequent pages from the same souce should be good to go.

After setting the histogram, the final scan look pretty good as shown below:


At this point you can either drag these TIFs into Acrobat icon or Open the TIF from the Acrobat's Open window. Acrobat will automatically convert these not only into PDFs but also "Searchable" PDFs. What that means is that Acrobat can "OCR" (Optical Character Recognition) all of the text and convert that into words so you can both search and copy and paste the text. Below is the TIF from above that has now been converted into a PDF and is also search-able You can see that it's search-able because I can select the text in the document.


Had I not done that cleaning, Acrobat could still do the conversion to PDF and making it search-able as shown below.


But is the text here any better or worse than the other? For those who do OCRing on a regular basis there are known issues that can come to bite you. For example if the letters "r" and "n" appear next to each other in a poor quality scan, they can be interpreted as an "m." One way to test this is to convert the PDF into a Word document and look for underlined text with red lines. The red lines indicate bad spelling that can either be

  1. A real word that Word doesn't know about (e.g., someone's surname)
  2. A word that was chopped in half (e.g., a hyphenated word, if Word didn't do the hyphenation so it doesn't know it's been hyphenated)
  3. A word that was originally misspelled in the document
  4. A word that was badly OCRd.

So, here's the cleaned text after converting into Word:

cheech-clean-no edit-word.png

And here's the text that was not pre-cleaned and converted into Word:

cheech-before-no edit-word.png

As you can see, there are a significantly greater amount of errors with the text that was not pre-cleaned in the scanner prior to converting to text via OCR. But admittedly, a lot of people do not want to bother pre-cleaning a document, they don't think about it  or are unaware that it can be done.

Now, I should point out one important thing here is that what you see in this PDF is not necessarily what the OCR text thinks it is. So for example, while in the PDF you may clearly see "It's raining.." as the first words in the story, the not pre-cleaned text is "It'sraining..." So if you copy and paste this, you may not get exactly what you are expecting.

But I continue...

However, there is ONE MORE way to clean a scan and make it into a nice looking PDF and that's to delete the background by editing out that background in Acrobat. OK, here's the deal: When text is OCRd in Acrobat, a new layer of text is created ON TOP of the original document. The original document is below and the text is removed from the original document, and any image remains in the lower layer. Any component of that PDF can be deleted at any time. Here's how:

First open that original, non pre-cleaned scan in Acrobat, but this time after opening the document, click on "Edit PDF" in the Tools in the Right Hand Panel. If you do not see "Edit PDF..." in the Right Hand Panel, open Tools and click on the drop down below "Edit PDF" to add it to the Shortcuts on the Right Hand Panel. "Edit PDF" is such a valuable tool that if you do not already have it there, it should be for easy and quick access in the future.


After adding it to the Right Hand Panel, the tool will default-land on the bottom. If you want to rearrange this you can move it to a higher location by simply dragging it to the location of your choice.


Now that you have easy access to "Edit PDF...," click on it with your original scan. When you do so you will see Acrobat doing a variety of processing on the image.

You will now see thin rectangle lines around all of the text. The text is now completely editable and if there were any words that the original article had misspelled, you can fix then. But the important thing here is that you can now click on the background and delete the background. As shown below: just click your cursor where there's no text:


Now tap the Delete key and all the gray is gone. Then tap the Close Tool by clicking on the "X" in the upper right corner to get out of Edit mode:


and you will see a very clean document as shown below [I want to thank Kelly Vaughn for introducing me to this great trick]:


Keep in mind that the quality of this OCR is just as bad as it was before, the page just looks better. However, the actual quality of any scan will vary considerably all over the place so do not dismiss this approach out of hand. In addition, the value of an excellent OCR has more to do with the need for quality search-ability. The scan itself will be clean and easy to read and often, that's typically the most critical issue.

One other issue  is: what do you do if the background contains important images. As stated earlier, the background contains the background content: both poor scanning debris AND any images that the document may have. The text, after OCRing, resides on a layer above the background. But if you rely upon deleting the back areas of a scan, watch out if there are images on the page.


Finally, here is the page above but as a pre-cleaned color image scan that has both the images on the page as well as the text.


Scanning a page with the intent of creating a PDF and/or to access the text of that page, one has make choices based on many factors: how clean the original page is, how thin the paper is, how much time do you want to take with the scan, is the quality of the OCR critical, and all of the other issues touched upon in this article. There is software out that that can do an amazing amount in "Auto" mode and I do not think you should avoid those when available. However, if the specific document you have does not provide an acceptable result, this article should provide the information for you to know what went wrong and why, and more importantly, how to get the best possible document to keep for yourself or to send to someone else.

When it comes to media distribution, H.264 still reigns supreme (yes, H.265 gets a little closer every day, but not yet!). Premiere has always given you the most in-depth options and settings of any major NLE when it comes to exporting, but sometimes, too much can be a bad thing!


For years, one thing that has driven me nuts about Premiere’s H.264 export settings (prior to the 2018 release, that is) was that despite H.264 being so omnipresent and common and accessible, its preset list for the codec were a MESS. The list was confusing (it was nearly 200 items long, and some might think you needed to create different H.264 files for different devices by the way the list was structured) and it was outdated (the last iPhone referenced in the list was an iPhone 4!).


Luckily, much of this has been rectified with the 2018 release. Now when you visit the H.264 preset list you’re presented with a much shorter list of options:





In the past, I usually recommended to most users that if you had no idea which option to choose, that the default “Match Source - High Bitrate” option was a safe one that worked in most cases. This proved true most of the time, but had one epic pitfall. It was a terrible choice for 4K video.


You see, “Match Source - High Bitrate” targeted 10 Mbps (that’s 10 megabits not megabytes). This was usually decent quality for HD video for most distribution scenarios like streaming on the web or showing the video on a projector or TV. But the problem is that 4K video has four times as many pixels. So suddenly, those 10 megabits per second had to be spread over four times as much area, resulting in something that was about one-quarter the quality!


Enter Adaptive Bitrate. Now you have three new options “Match Source - Adaptive High(/Medium/Low) Bitrate.” The adaptive high bitrate setting is my new go-to recommendation for most scenarios as it will adapt the bitrate based upon the resolution of your sequence (real shocking description, I know!).


Let’s say you took a single clip and had two versions of it, a 1920x1080 version and a 4K version. Next let’s say you made two sequences that matched each clip’s resolution settings and dropped each clip in its respective timeline (the New Sequence from Clip command would work wonders here!). Finally, if you went to the Export Settings window for each and selected Match Source - High Bitrate (which has been available for years), they would report an identical Estimated File Size (show at the bottom of the Export Settings window).





However, if you chose “Match Source - Adaptive High Bitrate” (emphasis mine), you would see that the 4K sequence would report an Estimated File Size four times as large as the 1080 sequence. This is because this preset calculates the bitrate based on the number of pixels in the sequence! Keep in mind that the bitrate changes not because the actual media was a different resolution, but because the sequence settings were different. Technically in my example, I could’ve just used the identical clip (regardless of resolution) and made two different sequence sizes and the same result would have occurred.


Of course all these presets aren’t magically doing anything that you ddin't already have granular control of. Remember, that all presets do is tweak settings found down below in the Export Settings window under the Video tab (and some other tabs in some cases). However, I find most editors are terrified to explore those tabs, but with these new settings, you'll almost never have to!


Any questions about codecs, containers, bit rates and more? E-mail me at! Also, sign up for my newsletter at!


At the Adobe Learning Summit (Las Vegas - 24 October 2017) I was invited to present a session about the Timeline for advanced workflows. It is one of my favorite subjects (bit below my most preferred topic 'Advanced/Shared actions') because I see so many questions on the forum that are due to not or misunderstanding the Timeline functionality. Do not click on the image below, it is just a static poster image (I cannot find a way to embed an iFrame here). You'll find the link to the published interactive presentation later on under 'Tutorial'.



For Captivate users who were not able to attend ALS2017, I converted my Captivate presentation into a self-paced learning tutorial.  That is the big advantage of using Captivate for a presentation over Powerpoint. I just needed to change some interacitivity to offer control to the user and add narration (Voice over). Please, don't mind my non-American accent, English is my third language.

It has been published as a Scalable HTML5 project. Autoplay is turned off (not allowed in some OS), just click the triangle button to start the interactive movie. In the Creative Pipeline it is not possible to insert an iFrame to embed the movie. Use this link:

Advanced Workflows with Captivate(s TImeline

The subjects treated in this presentation are:

  1. Differences between Captivate's timelines and the normal timeline in a video application
  2. Pausing the timeline; effect of an absolute pause vs a pausing point (interactive object)
  3. Interaction between advanced/shared actions and the timeline
  4. Examples


The examples in tutorial has offer more links to different published movies, using the described features. Several features are used in the movie itself:

  1. skipping audio on the dashboard (second slide) on later visits,
  2. Delay commands for automatically building lists on different slides.

Be sure to use the circular button at the bottom to show the value of the system variable cpInfoCurrentFrame, to discover (some of) my secrets.


I would appreciate feedback and welcome questions. Are you interested in learning more about the examples? Are the mysteries not totally clear to you? Please let me know... If you want a copy of the handouts created for this presentation, send a mail to

If you've seen the ACP badge in Adobe's forums ACP Badge Tiny.JPGyou'll know that you are in great hands when one of our ACP's answers your product question.  Here's a great article from the recent "Inside Adobe", the company's employee newsletter, sharing more of the ACP story,


Your Photoshop workspace suddenly disappears. You can’t figure out how to make a smooth transition between clips in Premiere. Your assets won’t sync. And your frustration makes you seriously consider throwing your computer across the room. Don’t worry — the Adobe Community Professionals are here to help.


The Adobe Community Professionals (ACPs) are a group of 300 creative professionals, educators and experts from around the world who volunteer their time to answer customers’ questions on Adobe forums. Members have a variety of unique expertise - some are Photoshop gurus while others are Acrobat wizards – and while they only make up 3.8 percent of the 7,802 people participating on Adobe forums, they contribute to 26 percent of all forum content. ACP Emil Gawin is a motion designer and loves helping customers create animations, “Since Adobe has given so much to me and helped me grow as a motion designer, I want to help others who are starting out with Adobe software to learn it, use it and become passionate about creative work.” To become an ACP, candidates apply online and go through a 4-week trial period to become qualified.




ACPs don’t stop at the forums. This year, they also led Experience Day sessions, teaching Adobe employees how to use our products. Some have also been TA’s at MAX, where they helped attendees with questions during lab sessions.


To acknowledge our gratitude for this awesome group, we host the Community Summit each year – an exclusive event for ACPs that offers networking opportunities and roundtable discussions with product teams. This year, sixty-four members attended. The entire day was “a lift, joy and intellectual stimulation,” ACP Neil Haugen said.


Tricia Lawrence, who manages the ACP Program and Community Summit reiterated the importance of the program, "We give these ACPs the highest level of trust to help our customers. They are well equipped to answer customer questions and allow them to move on with their creative project,” she said.


For ACPs, seeing a smile on someone’s face — or a smile emoji on someone’s posted reply — makes it all worth it. “Seeing how the correct answer thrills the person who posted the question makes me happy,” ACP Sandee Cohen shared.


More Information


We have been asking for a new brushes management for a while!
Guess what it is happening in Adobe Photoshop CC 2018 and it is great and exciting!

Make the workflow with brushes easy and organized. No more brushes all over the place with names that do not relate to the project!


With the new Brushes and Brushes Preset you can do the following:



  • Organize brush presets into folders—including nested folders.
  • Any brush-enabled tool preset can be converted into a brush preset; all of its attributes—such as opacity, flow, and blending mode—are preserved.
  • In the Brushes panel flyout menu, easily toggle between the different views to see any combination of the brush name, brush stroke preview, and brush tip
  • View more brushes in the same screen space using the zoom slider.
  • Drag and drop brush presets to reorder them conveniently.
  • Collapse or expand folders to see only the brushes you need.
  • Use the Show Additional Preset Info option in the flyout menu to see the associated preset tool (for example, Eraser) and any included colors.



  • You can import a wide variety of free and purchased brushes—for example, Kyle's Photoshop brush packs—into Photoshop.
  • In the Brushes panel, from the flyout menu, choose Get More Brushes. Alternatively, right-click a brush listed in the Brushes panel and select Get More Brushes from the contextual menu.
  • Download a brush pack. For example, download Kyle's "WaterColor".
  • With Photoshop running, double-click the downloaded ABR file.
  • The brushes you added are now displayed in the Brushes panel.


  • Photoshop can now perform intelligent smoothing on your brush strokes. Enter a value (0-100) for Smoothing in the Options bar when you're working with one of the following tools: Brush, Pencil, Mixer Brush, or Eraser. A value of 0 is the same as legacy smoothing in earlier versions of Photoshop. Higher values apply increasing amounts of intelligent smoothing to your strokes.
  • Stroke smoothing works in several modes. Clicking the gear icon to enable one or more of the following modes:
  • Pulled String Mode: Paints only when the string is taut. Cursor movements within the smoothing radius leave no mark.
  • Stroke Catch Up: Allows the paint to continue catching up with your cursor while you've paused the stroke. Disabling this mode stops paint application as soon as the cursor movement stops.
  • Catch-Up On Stroke End: Completes the stroke from the last paint position to the point where you released the mouse/stylus control.
  • Adjust For Zoom: Prevents jittery strokes by adjusting smoothing. Decreases smoothing when you zoom in the document; increases smoothing when you zoom out.

While using stroke smoothing, you may choose to view the brush leash, which connects the current paint location with the present cursor position. Select Preferences > Cursors > Show Brush Leash While Smoothing. You can also specify a color for the brush leash.

For complete information checkout my Spark Page (includes at the end a glossary on brushes as well).

A list of better placeholders for your web & print projects

Originally appeared at


Behold! The ubiquitous gray placeholder image.  It's not very exciting to be sure but it serves the intended purpose of reserving layout space for future image insertion.



What if you're craving more from your work in progress but you don't want to waste precious project time creating custom placeholders in a variety of sizes? Well look no further my friends.  Below are some very nice and a few zany alternatives you can use.  Simply copy & paste the sample code with your width & height values.  Best of all, these placeholder images are hosted on secure HTTPS servers so when previewing your work to clients  you need not worry about mixing secure and non-secure content.

Not Secure Browser warning about mixed content


For purposes of this demo I used the same width & height (300/200) throughout. You will get different image results based on your width & height values. Some sites offer other interesting options too such as colors, filters and much, much more...   So let's get started with better placeholders.


Dummy Image Generator


<img src="" alt="placeholder">


Use hex codes for background & foreground colors:

Add custom text:



<img src="" alt="placeholder">


Filter: /sepia or /gray



<img src="" alt="placeholder">


Filter: /sepia or /gray



<img src="" alt="placeholder">


Filter: /sepia or /gray



<img src="" alt="placeholder">


Filter: /sepia or /gray



<img src="" alt="placeholder">


Filter: /sepia or /gray
Various (1000 + images)


<img src="" alt="placeholder">


Specific Image Number:
Bill Murray



<img src="" alt="placholder">


Nicholas Cage



<img src="" alt="placholder">




Steven Segal



<img src="" alt="placholder">





<img src="" alt="placeholder">





<img src="" alt="placholder">




Maximum size: 1000x1000



<img src="" alt="placeholder">


Before anyone gets upset with me for NOT mentioning or among others, I intentionally left them off this list because their images are not securely hosted on HTTPS servers. When and if that changes I'll happily revise this article to include them.

So there you have it folks.  A rich assortment of secure placeholders for all your web & print projects.  Enjoy!


By Nancy O'Shea, ACP / Web Developer
Web Site: