Design

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.

{ 0 comments }

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

{ 0 comments }

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!

{ 1 comment }

WordPress Customization – Secret to Pro Blog Website Design!

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Thesis Wordpress Theme Logo Post Image

There are a trillion WordPress websites out there! Yes, I said a trillion. Meaning lots! Mucho grande. With those trillion WP sites out there comes the desire by the owners to customize those sites. As most of you know, there are tons of ways to do WordPress customization. Methods available are both free and paid and range anywhere from themes to professional WordPress customization services. However, let me start by saying I don’t like or recommend free WordPress themes unless they are in the wordpress.org system. Apart from the spam and hidden code that’s often found in these free themes (stuff that can potentially mess up your site) you simply don’t have the kind of control that you really need over your site. I believe that when it comes to good things, it’s absolutely worth your while paying for them.

WordPress Customization – My secret to pro website design!

Now, I speak to you by experience. I’m not coming up with junk here that I can’t prove. I’m basing what I write here on my own experience customizing this website. What do I use to get this site looking and working as great as it does? The answer is: Thesis WordPress Theme from DIYthemes. When I want quality (always), free goes out the window. With the exception of WordPress itself, I just don’t find that free and quality go together well in the same sentence. That’s why I use Thesis. With Thesis I get the ultimate control over my website. I can design it however I want. I can add features and functionality that others can only dream of when they butcher their websites with a free theme. And it’s not just dannycruz.com! I run a number of other sites as well and all but one of them is running WordPress with Thesis.

When you run a quality theme like Thesis on your WordPress blog or website you also get access to world-class support and a community of web developers that is also kind and eager to help. In fact, that’s one of my favorite features when it comes to being a Thesis developer. When I post a question on the WordPress.org forum I NEVER get a proper answer. In fact, I don’t remember a single time I’ve been able to get help from somebody on the WordPress.org forum. However, when I have a question and I post it up on the Thesis forum, I usually get a useful answer within a few minutes to an hour. Additionally, since the forum is not crowded with junk and a million unanswered questions, like the WP forum is, I can quickly and easily search through it to find the information I need.

As far as functionality goes, this is a list of some of my favorite functionality features that I get by running Thesis:

  1. Easy addition of a custom header image.
  2. Easy addition of a favicon image for my site
  3. Excellent SEO (Search Engine Optimization) control over every page, category, tag and post on my entire website.
  4. Complete control over every color and font used throughout my site.
  5. Piece of mind knowing there are smart minds updating the software for future WordPress releases.
  6. Complete control over all parameters of WordPress blog customization.

Take it from me. It works. Don’t waste time with free themes. A very good friend of mine set me straight and put me on the right track by introducing Thesis to me. You’re reading my blog and I truly appreciate. I want to share this with you just like my friend shared it with me. If you want to have complete control over your WordPress site, Thesis is the best way to do it. Click here to learn more about Thesis Theme for WordPress and save yourself a headache.

{ 0 comments }

What is the Job of a Junior Graphic Designer?

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Landscape Crater SunriseIn my years in the creative design industry I’ve worked with many designers. A question I get asked often is:

What is the job of a Junior Graphic Designer?

While this might be up for personal interpretation, there are certain traits that describe a junior designer. Maybe you are looking to hire one. Or maybe you are planning your graphic design career and want to know where you stand. Well let’s get some details, shall we?

As you might have guessed, a junior graphic designer is close to the starting point in the corporate ladder. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean the designer is a “greenie.” Some have a certain level of experience already. In most cases, before a junior designer you’ll get a student or an intern. In many cases the junior designer might be a very talented artist, but the lack of long-term experience in real-world designing will hold the designer in a junior position for quite a bit of time. A junior graphic designer would be responsible to produce all kinds of creative designs under close supervision of the department head or team leader. In most cases, projects are handed over to the junior designer in an organized manner with clear deadlines. The junior designer rarely takes decisive actions that will change the direction of the final product without the close supervision of the department head. Additionally, they rarely have the responsibility of managing their own time.

As far as experience goes. A junior designer usually has about 1-3 years of graphic design experience. They would generally be somewhat fresh out of college or some even studying still. In other cases, such as with a recent person I was working with, they might be in the middle of a career change. Coming from a different career, they can land a job as a junior designer until they learn the ropes of the new industry. Like with any other industry, having a degree is good, but experience trumps that. No matter what, you have to go through the learning stages in real-word applications.

According the AIGA Graphic Design Salary Survey (2010)* – A junior graphic designer salary, for a designer in a full time position in the USA will make between $29,000 – $35,000 a year. However, due to the high competition for new jobs and the current job market, I can tell you it’s most likely less than that. My estimate is between $22,000 – $29,000 a year. But don’t despair. If you really want to be a successful designer, you can! While this initial step as a junior designer doesn’t pay much, it’s a great learning experience. Also, I remember my junior designer days back in 2001-ish to be some of the most fun I’ve had as a designer. So, take it one step at a time, crawl, then walk, then run. Be diligent, and you’ll get there!

If you are working on developing your career as a designer subscribe to my blog here.  I post a lot of valuable information that will greatly help you.

*Source: AIGA – Aquent Survey of Design Salaries 2010 – designsalaries.org (USA job for an entry-level designer in a 10-99 employee national company)


{ 8 comments }

Brochure Design Ideas – How to Best Accomplish the Design of a Brochure.

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Brochure Design Ideas

Just about every serious business person who’s marketing a product or service must develop a brochure to help sell that product or service. Even if you are not doing the design yourself and hiring somebody to do it, it’s your job to understand all the ins and outs of development. This will ensure that you end up with a professional product that’s properly targeted to your market or niche. The design must be simple enough, yet carry all the information necessary to help connect to prospects. Notice I mention “simple” first. Most people have no problem filling every white space available on a piece of paper when planning brochure printing. It’s being able to restrain from that what is difficult.

Brochure Design Ideas…

Before you tackle the design process you need to study every angle related to the brochure. Don’t just start putting stuff on paper. First of all, you need to consider 2 things: form and function. Form would be the actual design, colors, fonts and how you want the design to look. Function will include the content, text, diagrams and photos and how these elements are supposed to interact with the consumer. The bottom line is that you want your brochure to tell a story in the most concise manner possible. Function also involves the shape, position and folds of the final product. Plus, there’s a grey area where both form and function will meet harmoniously. If you can successfully achieve this, your design and content will merge seamlessly. Your final brochure will look professional and well thought through. Most importantly, it will convert readers into buyers. If you miss the point of the brochure in the first place you’re simply going to end up with a pretty piece of paper than will yield little to no sales. People don’t want to know every single feature of your product or service. They simply want to be engaged, satisfied and confident in what they are getting. If you get too technical and speak in language they cannot relate to or even understand, you are going to lose trust and ultimately a good customer. So remember, always speak in terms your customer can easily understand.Brochure Cover

Here are some technical details that will help with your design:

  1. Don’t necessarily base your brochure design around an 8.5 x 11″ piece of paper. Also, don’t immediately opt for a tri fold brochure design. If you are printing large quantities in a proper printing press, you have more flexibility for sizing and folds. Plus, for a professional looking brochure you will likely want bleeds (where the ink goes all the way to the edge of the paper) so the printer will have to print on a bigger sheet of paper anyway and then cut to size. There are certain final sizes that yield the least wasted paper so you can always ask your preferred printer to offer some size recommendations.
  2. Think about the paper type. Do you want a thinner, more lightweight paper? Do you want a thicker material that will hold it’s shape better? The latter will probably look best and last the longest, but it will be more expensive, take more space and be heavier and more expensive to distribute. Keep all that in mind and try to find a good balance. Also consider the paper coating. You can choose between dull or gloss coating, or even no coating at all. Keep in mind this will all affect how your ink and photos look. For even more flexibility, all types of paper can be re-coated after printing with an entire array of options such as aqueous coating, super high gloss UV coating, spot varnishes and one of my favorite “soft-touch” coating.
  3. Decide beforehand how you will distribute the piece. Will you mail it? If so, you must leave space for an address and postage. You probably also need to consider how to tab it to keep it closed while in transit. If you are only going to hand it out at a store for example, you might not need an address area. Having one anyway, even if it’s small, can allow for more flexibility in the future.
  4. Pick up a few of your competitor’s brochures before you start conceiving yours. The worst thing you can do is shoot completely in the dark. You want to have a good idea of what others are doing in order to be able to compete accordingly. It doesn’t mean your are going to copy. You can create an original piece nonetheless. But at least you are aware of what your competition is doing so that you can develop a better marketing strategy.
  5. Be careful with time sensitive material. If you are going to put dates or other information that will deem the brochure obsolete after a certain amount of time, make sure you have a realistic timeframe for distribution and conversion into sales. Otherwise you’re bound to throw away money. In many cases, creating timeless material can be best unless the brochure is designed specifically for a certain time-sensitive event. Be aware of other things that can yield your brochure obsolete. Things like phone numbers, addresses and employee names. If there are high chances that any of these might change during the time you expect to use your brochure be very wary about the way you use them in your final print.
  6. Don’t skimp on the photography. There’s a very good reason behind the saying “a photo says a thousand words.” Because it does! Avoid saying your product is crap by using crap photography. Taking good photos is best left to a professional product photographer. Trust me, even if you spend a lot of money on good camera gear, unless you have someone that can operate it properly, you’re going down a very expensive rocky-road, downhill, with no brakes.
  7. Measure twice, print once. I can’t stress this enough. Make sure that all your measurements throughout the design are spot on. Make sure all the text is perfect and there are NO TYPOS. There is no room and no excuse for typos in professional design. Even if you think it’s not your fault there’s a mistake, trust me, it is your fault. If you are the designer, even if your client signed-off on a project as approved, if you find they made a mistake, even a small one, contact your client and get it sorted out. They’ll appreciate you for this.
  8. Always have your projects quoted by at least 3 different printing companies. That’s the only way to really arrive at an average price. Plus, even if you have somebody that you work with most of the time, nobody can focus on every single area of printing. So, depending on the project, the person who usually gives you the best price might not necessarily always be able to. Unless you enjoy paying extra, quote with various companies.

There’s no real magic to designing a good brochure. It just takes planning beforehand. Then, a good amount of thinking during the design process. If you are planning the design of a brochure for your product or service, please feel free to contact me by clicking here. You can discuss the project further with me for valuable guidance and information. All this with no obligation. I’d be thrilled to develop your professional brochure, but if in the end you decide not to hire me… No hard feelings!  However, you’d be glad if you do.  I guarantee it!  :)

Have a good one! -Danny C


{ 0 comments }

Rush Jobs Make the Day Shorter

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Rush Magazine Ad SampleHa! So last night I get a call from one of the magazines I work with to sell me remnant ad space at half price.  Not a bad deal, so I bite.  I had to put a pro ad together in about 4 hours.  There were 3 people involved in the decision making so it was immediately apparent it was going to take longer.  Well longer it took, but in the end all the creative minds involved helped a 4-hour-design (6 hours really) come out better than expected.  Good thing I had all the photos needed.  Just a bit of color correction, cropping and resizing was needed.
Throw out rush magazine ad

This was my first idea: Spring theme. Needless to say, I didn't like it. Throw out!

Funny thing though… I send the ad out to the magazine and they write back saying there’s a sizing problem.  So I go look at it again, make sure it’s all good, and send it back.  Again they call me with problems.  I dissect the thing, open it in Illustrator, Photoshop and Acrobat and everything checks.  What the heck is going on?  I send out a final copy removing all the trim marks and file information; just bare bones.  I’m guessing they are screwing up the layout because of the trim marks.  As the email is going out, the phone rings.  It’s the lady from the magazine apologizing for a mistake in their layout settings that was causing the problem.  Hahaha!  Way to stress me out at the end there!  Well, all is good now.  I’m glad to know that all the attention I put in measuring is not lost. Ad comes out in print in May.

{ 1 comment }

King’s Cathedral & Chapels Bulletin Cover

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

King's Cathedral & ChapelsBack in 2003, while in Hawaii, I designed the bulletin shells for First Assembly King’s Cathedral & Chapels in Maui.  This church has a large number of churches that spread across the Pacific Rim.  These bulletins were handed out as a formal way of announcing future events and other news related to the chain of congregations.

There are a number of things I really like about this project.  Given that I’ve been designing for a long time, I can see how trends come and go.  For example, the heavy use of glows and shadows, clearly depict the design trends of the time.  These are techniques that I mostly avoid these days.  When used tastefully however, they can still work to your advantage.

King's Cathedral & Chapels Bulletin

Graphic Designer Salary – How Much Should You be Earning?

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

AIGA Logo

There are various books published yearly, some very well known, that attempt to offer the professional graphic designer a comprehensive guide as to how much money they should be making. While I encourage you to read up on your industry and these books are a great option, I’d like to focus my attention on website that does just that: I’m talking about the website for AIGA, otherwise known as “Aquent Survey of Design Salaries.”

Graphic Designer Salary

We know the power of surveys. If they weren’t useful, you wouldn’t have every single successful company out there running them in order to try and gather as much information about their market as they can. Well, when intelligent designers are brought together, and surveyed, you get comprehensive data about a graphic designer’s salary that is not only relevant to current times, but also extremely useful.

In an industry where there are so many irresponsible designers giving it all away for pennies, the only way to get reliable and true information about creative salaries is if enough professional designers are surveyed. A quick test of AIGA’s salary calculator, using minimal selections to keep the numbers low, returned national averages of thousands of participants. Comparing the results with other compensation reports I have studied proved to me the numbers ring true. At the time of this writing they have reports for 2009 an 2010. The 2010 reports do a pretty good job of showing how the industry is doing better than the previous year due to the economic recession that’s starting to turn around now. In other words, 2010 was better than 2009. Looking forward to a better 2011!

See for yourself at designsalaries.org – The more participants in the survey, the more accurate the statistics. I recommend you join and participate today.

{ 0 comments }