This is my official blog. It is meant to be informative yet light-hearted and fun. This is where I get to talk about more than just art and graphic design. If you want to find out more about me and what makes me tick, read on. Yes, you will find lots of good info about design but also my other interests which are many! These include: Guitar and drum music, yacht sailing and racing, surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding & kiteboarding. Please subscribe! Thanks, Danny

How to Change a Photo to Black and White in Photoshop

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Black and White Post Image

Q: How do I change a photo to black and white in Photoshop?

A: Read the tutorial below for a complete answer.

This mini-tutorial assumes you will be using Adobe Photoshop®. Don’t worry too much about the version of Photoshop you have as the procedures are similar. A little plucking here and there should get you going. You might notice that apart from the Hue/Saturation method, which wasn’t fully desaturated, most of the photos look very similar.

The changes are very subtle, but when you are working with professional photos you want that kind of control. Subtle changes can make a big difference. Note: Some older versions might not have some of these features.

Original Color Image

This is the original color image we will be working with. Click to view larger.

There are various ways to change a color photo to black and white. Let’s start with the most obvious and simple one:

1. Change photo to grayscale method

For this method, simply open your color photo in Photoshop and go up to the menu and select, Menu>Image>Mode>Grayscale. Photoshop will ask you if you want to discard color information. Click Discard and you’re done. Below is a photo of the menu path and the final effect result.

Photoshop Grayscale Mode

Photoshop Grayscale Black and White Method Result

This is the resulting effect of using the simple grayscale method. Click to view larger.

2. Hue and Saturation method

This next method is a little bit more involved but will allow you to keep some of the color if you’d like. First, open your photo, then follow this menu path: Menu>Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation. When the adjustment window opens simply slide the center “Saturation” slider left. The more you go left the less color. All the way left will render a full black and white image. The beauty of this method is you get to keep the photo as RGB or CMYK, not grayscale.

Hue-Saturation Black and White Method MenuHue-Saturation Control Box

Photoshop Grayscale Hue-Saturation Method Result

This is the resulting effect of using the hue and saturation method. Click to view larger.

3. Black and White method

This method also allows you to keep the photo in the current color mode even while changing to black and white. It allows even more control over your final black and white photo’s look. In the menu, follow this path: Menu>Image>Adjustments>Black and White… A Black and White control adjustments box will appear. The photo will instantly turn black and white when this window opens, but here you can adjust how the final result looks. The easiest and quickest way is to select one of the presets off the presets menu at the top of the box. I used the “Infrared” preset. Find something you like, customize it further if you want and then commit the changes. That’s it. (Note: Some older versions of Photoshop do not have this Black and White adjustments feature.

Photoshop Back and White Method Dialog

Photoshop Black and White Method Result

This is the resulting effect of using the black and white method. Click to view larger.

4. Channel Mixer method

This method is my personal favorite but it involves the most amount of work. However, the control is much more than with the other methods. With your photo open, go to the channels pallete. If it isn’t open, open it by going to Menu>Window>Channels.

This method works in both RGB and CYMK but I prefer to do it in RGB. So change your color mode to RGB if it already isn’t. Menu>Image>Mode>RGB. In the channels palette click on each of the channel colors individually (red, green, and blue) and look at the results in the photo. Decide which of the 3 channels yields the most detailed image. Then reselect “RGB” at the top of the pallete so the image shows in color again.

Now to do the actual conversion. Go to Menu>Adjustments>Channel Mixer… and an adjustments box opens. In the adjustment box select the output channel that corresponds to the channel color you chose as the best looking one. For example, Blue. You’ll see the blue slider move all the way to +100%. Then tick the “monochrome” box at the bottom. You’re image will now look officially Black and White, however, you may want to move the color channel sliders every so slightly until you get a mixture that you really like. I avoid the “constant” slider, but if you do use it, move it very little. It tends to screw up the saturation and make the image too light or too dark. Once you are happy with the results, click OK and you’re done. You may notice the image is still RGB, not grayscale. If you screw up a setting while you are making adjustments, I find the easiest way to deal with the problem is to cancel the changes and close the control window. I then reopen it again to start over. You may find a different way of dealing with this but this works for me.

Photoshop Channel Mixer Dialog Box

Photoshop Channel Mixer Black and White Method Result

This is the resulting effect of using the channel mixer method. Click to view larger.

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XRD Racing Carbon Fiber Component Packaging

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

XRD Carbon Fiber Component Packaging

I designed the branding concept of this box for high-end carbon fiber bicycle racing components along with the mechanical design of the packaging itself. The thickness of the material is greater than most smaller packaging pieces. This required special consideration in the die-cut design to yield perfect folds and matching joints. As a graphic designer, I create designs like this in Adobe Illustrator and not in 3D packaging software like industrial designers do. This requires being able to think in 3D while working on a single plane file. But as you can see, it’s perfectly possible and very effective in fact. I’ve designed countless pieces of packaging in this same fashion and it allows my expansion into realms many other designers dare not venture.

This box also features a 5 color print using Pantone 877 metallic. My original design involved large masking areas to apply spot UV to only certain sections of the box. The remaining sections were supposed to be coated with a satin soft-touch coating. Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, that part of the design had to be scrapped and a single full cover of UV coating was applied. Not necessarily my cup of tea, but it’s an impressive piece of work nonetheless.

Jessica Coats Swimsuit Modeling Photos

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Jessica Coats Swimsuit Modeling

This project was a collaboration between model Jessica Coats-Saenz, photographer Kreston Clark and myself. The photos were taken out in the desert in Southern California in tricky mid-day lighting. My goal for the first photo was to smooth out the look as much as possible to help make the harsh lighting less obvious. Apart from that, I smoothed out the skin tones a bit and touched up the areas around the knees. Other details included fixing one of the swimsuit top straps that was twisted, straightening the shot, removing a piece of re-bar that was showing over the top right corner and adding a subtle vignette.

Looking at the original photo, it looks like the window frame Jessica had to climb up on was quite dirty! I had to clean some dirt of her hands as well. Haha.

Jessica Coats Modeling Before and After

The photo on the right has all the improvements. I went for a smoother dreamglow effect as well. Click to view larger.

In the second photo below, I experimented by smoothing out the photo with a dreamglow effect, however I then used an unsharp mask to sharpen it again. I wanted to completely clip her out of the shot in order to be able to use the image over marketing material I was working on for FloatWays.com – I experimented with a couple of logo locations. In the end, I ended up using various versions on the site itself as well as on the site’s Facebook and Twitter profiles.

Jessica Swimsuit with Background

Jessica Swimsuit with FloatWays Logo

10 on a Scale of 1 to 5

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

If I could give this piece of music and video a 10 on a scale of 1 to 5, I absolutely would! In fact, on my site, I can! So here it is! Came to My Rescue by Hillsong United, a song also known as Be Lifted High.

Every time I listen to this song I get wrapped in goosebumps and all my hairs stand on end. I decided to look it up on YouTube and share it with you guys. Praise God!

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Giving Google+ a Shot – Third Attempt Should be a Winner (Hopefully)

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Google Plus Logo

Well, given it’s Google’s 3rd attempt at building a successful social networking service, I figured I’d give this one a shot. You know what they say about 3rd attempts. I tried Wave, jumped right over Buzz, but my friends finally dragged me into Google+. I still don’t know my way around, I just opened the profile yesterday. If I offend you by not liking you, I mean “encircling” you, sorry.

In the meantime, here is the link to my Google Plus profile, or wall, or circle wall, or whatever it is.

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Myspace After the Sale: Wonder What They are Going to do Now

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Now that News Corp. has finally sold Myspace to Specific Media, we’re all left to wonder what they are going to do with it. Mind you, even though the social network collapsed, at the supposed $30-$40 million that it was sold, it’s still quite a deal. Specially given the fact that News Corp. paid a whole lot more for it 6 years ago.

At this point, it’s very hard for anyone to imaging Myspace going up in popularity again. Unfortunately, the constant losses to Facebook has rendered the network “uncool”. You can be unknown, you can be hated, but being “uncool” is probably the worst of the bunch. If you’re unknown, you can always have a breakthrough and become known. If you’re hated, well that’s bad enough, but you can still benefit from it. But being uncool, is like being lukewarm. Hot coffee is good, so it cold coffee; but lukewarm… not so much! It just seems the new owners are either going to ride out what little life the network has left to make a profit over what they paid (before the network completely fizzles away) or they will have to come up with a completely different concept to try and grow (in order words, many risks). Unfortunately, all those redesign tries didn’t quite seem to work for News Corp. Specific Media is going to have to get pretty creative. However, for the old owners to recover their loses they needed a smash hit. The new guys wouldn’t need much to get a return on their investment.

Given that Myspace pretty much introduced most of us to social networking (unless your age is 50 right now) I’m sure we all have good memories of it. Being on Myspace was like having your own website, without all the trouble. It was cool to mess with CSS and come up with new backgrounds, headers and menu pictures for your profile. Somehow, we all thought that was extremely important. I guess not, since Facebook completely trumped it with an interface that was barely customizable. Having said that, I think the major blow to Myspace was and is Facebook’s appeal to all ages. Just think about it. 5 years ago the things there were important to us on Myspace are not important to us anymore. Meaning, we grew up. Facebook knew this and basically created a catch-all for all those growing up high school and college kids.

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Flyer Design Variations Over the Course of 2 Years

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

This is what happens when you stick to a flyer template and adjust it every time there is a price or product change over the course of 2 years. The template works and it has been producing sales, so the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Just change the colors and the pricing a little bit! A new design should be in the works soon nonetheless. This is a legal sized sheet of paper and it actually adapts well to email marketing at 700px wide. In other words, even though the design is quite busy and complicated, at 700 pixels wide it is still readable. Not that you can read the tiny examples here, but then again, that was never the intention of this post. I just wanted you to see the array of colors and variations that went into this flyer design over the course of 2 years. -DC

Flyer Design Variations

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Get Twitter Followers Without Being Completely Obnoxious

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Mad Twitter Bird Follower

How to Get Twitter Followers Without Being Completely Obnoxious

Seriously, if I had a new Twitter follower for every time I run into somebody who asks “How can I get more followers on Twitter?” I’d have followers coming out of my ears. So, instead of taking the high road, I’m going to address this situation head-on. Yes, I’m tackling the question straight on. However the heck I want to, but still head-on! I mean, look at the title of this thing. It says it all.

Ok, first things first! Why the heck would you want more Twitter followers? Do you suffer from some kind of complex or low self esteem problem? Are you 15 years old? Do you think you’re still on Myspace? Does the number of Twitter followers you posses dictate the size of your… umm… apartment? I know I feel like I’m tiny if I don’t have a million followers. Really tiny. So what? No, but seriously, too many people do the follow-to-follow-back thing. You know what? I pretty much stopped doing that. I’m not Ashton Kutcher. I’m not married to Jessica Alba. My wife’s hotter. Yeah, Jessica Alba is hot. But my wife is blonder. Same skin color, but blonder. Is that really a word? So, since I’m not a celebrity I’m not going to expect a crapload of followers, nor am I going to stress about how I’m going to get more. I just do my thing, day in and day out.

Having said that… If I’m not trying to be a celebrity wannabe (like you) why would I want more followers? Well, A good reason would be… to expand my design business. Ok, ok. Fair enough. That’s a genuine excuse. But otherwise, I love some of my Twitter friends, I really do. But I simply don’t have the time to talk to more than 1,000 people in a week. Heck, 500 is even too much! But there are some Twitter buddies that I simply love to speak to on a daily basis. You know who you are. Yes you.

I realize I still need to answer the question that sprung this post. How to get more Twitter followers without being completely obnoxious? Well, the best thing I can recommend is: write good tweets! Yeah, that’s it! Write good tweets and good quantities of them. “Write good tweets and good twitterers will follow”(made that up too). That simple. Because if you go around trying to buy followers just too look badass, or you spend your time playing the follow-you-follow-me game, your newfound followers are going to suck. So… instead of wasting your time doing that, how about generating good content? You don’t have to suck. It’s not you that sucks. It’s your practices. I’m a nice guy. But I won’t give you a follow back simply because you follow me. Not anymore at least ;) Think I’m talking crap? Haha. Go ahead, follow me on Twitter here and see how I DON’T follow you back.

Now, go take a minute and write a good tweet. In fact, retweet this post. That’s a good start. Little retweet button’s on the bottom right. Later, -D

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A Post About Whatever the Heck I Want!

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

View of Point Loma

View of Point Loma from the San Diego Bay channel

Yes! Right now I’m writing a nice post about whatever the heck I want! I don’t care if it does well.  I don’t care if it ranks well on the search engines.  I just want to write for the sake of writing.

It’s Sunday.  The very day before Memorial Day.  I participated in a regatta yesterday from San Diego all the way up to Oceanside.  With all the years of experience I have in the ocean and on boats, I got seasick nonetheless.  I got cold, tired and miserable.  I felt sleepy.  The dang race took like 6 hours and that’s not counting the time it took to get to the starting line and the time it took to run the starting sequence.  Needless to say, I spent 9.5 hours on the boat.  Sick for 5-6 of them!  Depressing.  But hey, we all have our bad days.  I’ve spent thousands of hours aboard all kinds of floating objects, both fast and slow.  So, I guess I shouldn’t be complaining too much about this one.  I love sailing and I’ll be back!

Well, I’m busy working on a few sites.  A particular one is driving me nuts right now as I can’t quite get it the way it needs to be yet.  But it’ll get there.  On the other hand, I’m quite happy that I’m home.  I’m nice and warm, wearing some PJ’s and a hoodie jacket.  I’m listening to Led Zeppelin and the occasional Eminem rap.  I’m not cold or seasick.  Just drowning in work, that’s all.  :)  But honestly, I couldn’t be enjoying my day more.  I think I’ll have another cup of espresso!

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QR Code Marketing and Design

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Secret Page QR Code

Scan it! You know you want to!

What are QR codes? Let me clarify before we begin: Take a look at the image to the left. That’s what a QR codes looks like. There are other types of similar codes in use today that look similar, but QR codes are the most used. A user with a smart phone (iPhone, Android, Blackberry and others) and a code scanning application, will scan the code with their phone’s camera.  A quick search for QR code Android or iPhone will reveal a good number of popular scanning apps.  The application will then reveal the information in the code scanned and will trigger an action. These actions might be to take the user to a website or a YouTube video among many other available functions. QR codes can be used in advertising to help the advertiser communicate information to consumers. Musicians can also connect with their fans sending them to YouTube videos or a website were they host their music. Artists can hand out business cards with QR codes that can direct readers to their online portfolios. People who distribute media with QR codes on it can track how many people are actually scanning the codes. Think about it for a second… The possibilities are endless!

Lately I’ve been experimenting using QR codes on various advertising design projects. Needless to say, I’m very excited about the technology. While paging through magazines at Borders and Barnes & Noble (my 2 favorite places in the world) I’m coming across QR codes in advertising more and more. At the beginning of every month, when my batch of magazine from different industries start trickling in, I continue to see that more companies are jumping into the QR code bandwagon. I’m not sure how long this is going to last, but for the looks of it, quite a while! Looks like this technology is only just starting to take off. The future looks bright.

I recently designed 2 different ads in 2 major cycling publications, VeloNews and Mountain Bike Action Magazine. Both include a QR code that takes you to the product’s web page. Additionally, I just submitted another ad, this time for a book. The book has only a 5% ad percentage vs informational content and is published by an Australian company. The nice thing about the book over the usual magazine advertising is that the longevity of the book will be quite much longer. While a magazine is usually scrapped or put away after a month or two, many books are kept for much longer. All the QR codes I’ve placed in ads so far are tracked, both by Google Analytics and Bit.ly. Another cool feature is that I created custom short URLs for the QR codes that also include the name of the product. That way, when the user scans the code they can see right away the name of the product in the URL generated and feel more comfortable continuing. The VeloNews issue that has one of the ads is only starting to arrive to subscribers now and the QR code in the ad shows 77 scans already. Not bad. The insight one can get from using these trackable codes in advertising and marketing is just awesome. I’m totally in. It’s a perfect feature than can easily been incorporated into full marketing campaigns where feedback is key.

Next up, QR codes are going on my own business cards as well as customer’s cards. I can see usefulness for them in shop window stickers and POP stands. Since QR codes can be set to do various things, the usefulness of them is amazing. Since people are starting to get used to them, they are now fashionable and cool. There are plenty of artist using them for the sake of art alone.

Below is a short list of some of the things QR codes can be set to accomplish once the user has scanned it with their smart phones:

  • Go to a website or webpage
  • Bookmark a site
  • Post on Twitter
  • Navigate to a YouTube video
  • Take you to an address on Google Maps
  • Create a vCard for your contacts list
  • Send SMS or Email
  • Make a phone call

QR codes can actually do a lot more than what is listed above, but those are some of the most common usage trends. If you have a project where you think using QR codes would be ideal, or if you are considering organizing an QR code marketing campaign, feel free to contact me here. I can help you get on your way to using this great new technology for your company or product’s benefit. You can start tracking scans today!

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