What does that [insert quasi-enigmatic Photoshop feature] do, anyway?

It's concievable you could work with Photoshop for a considerable amount of time---twenty-five years possibly, as of this week---and still have features that are still a bit of a secret handshake to you. For Photoshop's twenty-fifth birthday, Deke has teamed with to create a series of videos:

What do [mystery Photoshop features] do, anyway?

What does the fox say?

These videos are free this week in honor of Photoshop's 25th birthday. Check out the list and click to shine the light of Deke's insight on any of these curious (but useful) Photoshop features: 

What do
blend modes do, anyway?
Blend modes allow you to mix Photoshop layers together in a variety of ways, allowing you to create compositions, colorizations, and other creations by simply changing how a layer behaves with regard to the layers below it.

What do blend modes do?


What do color modes do, anyway?
Color modes---RGB, CMYK, and Lab---refer to different ways Photoshop handles the color interaction inside of Photoshop.

What do color modes in Photoshop do?


What do channel operations do?
Before there were layers and other means of composition, there were channels. And channel operations, or chops, were the only way to make blended images.


What do healing tools do?
The healing tools are one of the primary weapons used in retouching, so for some, they are virtually synonymous with Photoshop.

What do healing tools do?


What do layer masks do?
Layer masks (and their partner, adjustment layers) allow you to reveal only part of a layer, thus selectively revealing the contents of layers below.

What do layer masks do?


What do sharpening filters do?
Sharpening allows you to increase the crispness of the image to really bring out image detail.

What do sharpening tools do?


What do selection tools do?
Selection tools allow you to choose one element in your photographic image and isolate it from its surroundings.


What do smart objects do?
Smart objects allow you to wrap a protective container around an entire layer of your image, allowing you to abuse it at will whilst keeping the contents safe.

What do smart objects do?

Any other magical, puzzling, or just unfamiliar features you'd like to know more about in Photoshop? Twenty-five years is a long time to collect secret handshakes. Read more » 

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Happy 25th Birthday, Photoshop!

Happy Photoshop Birthday, my dekeItarians. It's a big two-five for the Supreme Pixel Wrangler this year. And our friends at, notably the esteemed documentarian Scott Erickson, have put together some delightful, short retrospectives on the evolution of Photoshop. If you're a fan of Photoshop history, check out these gorgeous videos featuring dekeHimself and some of's oldest and dearest friends:

The Evolution of a Tool Palette
Watch some notable Photoshoppers discuss the impact of some notable PS tools. 

The Rise of Digital Photography
A luminary-rich discussion of Photoshop's photographic evolution.

Rise of Photoshop for photographers

The Desktop Publishing Revolution
Today's digital designerati reflect on the game-changing arrival of Photoshop.

The evolution of Photoshop tools

All three of these movies are free to all. But if you're inspired, there's much more at If you're not already a member, you can get 10 days free by signing up at Read more » 

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Page navigation shortcuts in any version of InDesign

Hey gang,

I'm working on a new video course, Introducing InDesign, for Its purpose is to introduce everyone who doesn't already know about it to the best page-layout program the world has ever known. The challenge for me: InDesign is wildly powerful and, perhaps as a result, wildly complicated. How to make it understandable to a first-time user?

One solution is the everyday average table. For example, let's consider the page-navigation keyboard shortcuts. They save you time, as witnessed below:

Navigating pages in InDesign

But these shortcuts are a bit weird when transcribed to smaller keyboards, such as the one built into the otherwise supremely powerful MacBook Pro. At which point, they look like this:

Navigating pages in InDesign on a MacBook Pro

By way of an aside, I recently purchased a Surface 3 Pro. Microsoft gave out a ton of these at Adobe MAX, but few attendees have commented on them. I didn't attend MAX but, unrelated, I purchased a Surface 3 Pro a few months back. Like any rational designer, I'm not a huge Microsoft fan. But I believe the Surface has promise. So far, it's a paper-thin full-blown computer. Running an awkward OS.

My course will offer lots more: Keyboard diagrams, why guides matter, ways to automate, how to fall in love with page layout, and so forth. As usual, my plan is to help the new user emerge--with nothing more than a few hours of my online assistance--better equipped to make things happen than a potential competitor who's been working in InDesign for many several years.

I love the old school. Hello new school.
  Read more » 

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The Ring Tutorial to End All Ring Tutorials (Part 2: Engraving Your Elvish Message)

I know. Things don't always go as planned in Middle Earth. Or here on Regular Earth, where I promised a weekish ago that I'd write out the step-by-step story of how to inscribe the 3D Ring to Rule Them All. So presuming you've either used the Deke's Techniques video version or Part 1 of this tutorial to make your virtual 3D ring, here's how to add the mysterious inscription to fully flesh out the effect. 

Engrave your 3D Illustrator ring

(Note, it doesn't have to be about "The Ring." There are some tips here that will help you inscribe any 3D object in Illustrator.) 

1. Darken the ring.
In order for our inscription to look suitably daunting, it will help if the ring provides a darker, more ominous backdrop.  Change the color of the ring by Shift-clicking on the Fill swatch in the Control Panel and dialing in the following color: R 50, G 20, B 10.

(If you've taken a break between making the ring and inscribing it, i.e. you've closed the file in between---maybe because it took me a week to get Part 2 finished---make sure your banana-shaped ring shape is selected by clicking it with the black arrow tool.)

Change the color in the control panel. Read more » 

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The Ring Tutorial to End All Ring Tutorials (Part 1)

So you know how the cinematic interpretations of JRR Tolkien's Hobbit-based works are about eight bazillion times longer than their literary sources? Yeah, this is the opposite.

This is a longish, literary-ish (well, you know, to the best of my ability), interpretation of Deke's ten-minute video tutorial on how to create the famous artifact at the center of Tolkien's work. For those of you who like a bit more detail in your literary-fantasy-virtual-artifact-creation tutorials, here are the step-by-step instructions I promised from this week's Deke's Techniques episode.

Final 3D Ring

(Tomorrow, I'll detail how to totally geek out on the elvish inscription, but you'll have to wait for Part 2. After I got about halfway translating this technique into words, I pulled a Peter Jackson and decided it was better to serve up as two parts.) 

1. Create a new document in Illustrator.
Begin at the beginning. In Illustrator, choose File > New and set your dimensions to 1080 x 825 points. For good measure, set the Bleed to 18 pts all the way around. Then click OK.

Create a new Illustrator document


2. Add a suitable background by placing a fiery photo.
First you'll need some flames. Deke used this one from Fotolia artist халлва. (By the way, you can download 25 free images by signing up for a free month's subscription at 

Choose File > Place, then navigate to the image you want to use as a background in the Place dialog box. When you find it, click it to select it, then click Place.

(In truth, you don't really need any background for this, but having a darker canvas to work on will definitely help with the next few steps.)

3. Name your backdrop layer.
Practice good layer maintenance by double-clicking the name of the layer and calling it something useful like "backdrop." I've also done the same for the specific image layer (i.e. I renamed it "fiery"). Also, click the lock icon next to the layer in order to lock it down, so that it doesn't slide around when you least want it to.

Tip: If you want your Layers panel thumbnails to be nice and big, like Deke's, click the icon in the upper right of the panel (1) and choose Panel Options (2) from the panel flyout menu. In the Layers Panel Options dialog box that appears (3), set the Row Size to 70 pixels and click OK.

Increasing the thumbnail size in the Illustrator Layers panel Read more » 

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