Artwork

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.

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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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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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.

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Mountain Bike Action Magazine 29er Hardtail Carbon Fiber MTB Ad

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Mountain Bike Action Magazine May 2011 CoverHere is a beautiful magazine ad design piece for the biggest craze to hit the mountain biking market in recent years.  I’m talking about…

29er Mountain Bikes

This ad was released in the May 2011 issue of Mountain Bike Action Magazine. It garnered quite of bit of attention and generated a large number of inquiries. The ad features a clean design concept with copy that flows with the shape of the bicycle. The name of the product plays an important role. It follows the color scheme perfectly and the shape accentuates the fast nature of the bike.

29er Mountain Bike Ad in Mountain Bike Action Magazine

Road Bike Action Magazine RavX CNC Parts Ad

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Road Bike Action Magazine RAVX Ad

Road Bike Action Magazine May 2011 Ad Layout

Half page ad layout. The location of the advertisement is in great company. It sits inside a Campagnolo editorial article.

What can I say? Very happy with the turn out of this ad. I wrote more in detail about the design process in my blog post Rush Jobs Make the Day Shorter here.  However, one thing I did not mention in the design process post is the location of the ad. When the final printed magazine was sent to me I realized the piece was featured within editorial content for a Campagnolo article.  I’m very happy with the positioning as well!

Product Graphic Design – Professional Bicycle Racing Saddle

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Saddle Graphics Main Top ImageDesigning graphics for product is one of the facets of design that I enjoy the most. The design process is more 3-dimensional. I greatly enjoy that. The concepts are put together on a flat art board in 2 dimensions but the thought process requires you to consider the shape and area where the final design will be. The wrapping around of objects creates additional requirements to consider. The design needs to be done slightly larger than the flat plane might suggest as it needs to wrap around a larger area. Such is the case with this design.

Let me tell you a little more about the object. This is a high end bicycle racing saddle by RAVX Inc. It is an expensive product for serious competitive cyclists. It is very lightweight and has very impressive features such as carbon fiber rails, ultra lightweight padding and top-of-the-line Lorica® leather covering. The rails are an upgrade over the already lightweight titanium allow rails, and a huge upgrade over lower-end chromoly or steel rails. The nature of the product requires a design that projects the same fast, high-end, racing image.

Logo

In 2008 I designed the XRD® logo that graces the saddle. XRD Racing® is a registered trademark.

The budget for this kind of project is pretty high therefore there are a number of design options at my disposal. First of all, I was not limited by ink alone. The design uses a combinations of inks, clear gloss spot UV coatings and de-bossing patterns. In other words, the final design in a combination of layers that yields a very intricate piece. The challenge comes in translating these details to the manufacturer. In order to guarantee the manufacturer stays true to my design, after the final artwork has been created and approved, I proceed to break it all down into color-coded layers. The layers are kept together on one end of the artboard, however, to the right of the board I divide the layers individually and space them out evenly. This ensures the manufacturer can see and understand each process individually. Take a look below to see an example of the final layout and how it’s divided. Each of the layers has a unique cyan, magenta or yellow color that is then replaced with the proper ink color, embossing or spot UV pattern. In fact, I even have separate color keys for outline-only debossing and full debossing. This further ensures the manufacturer interprets my design correctly.

Saddle Graphics Original First Mockup

First mockup of the design. This one was scrapped.

Saddle Graphics Final Colorways

Saddle graphics - Final colorways of the design.

Saddle Graphics Final Black Colorway

Final artwork, black colorway example.

I started off with a more traditional, yet complex design. I laid out all the patterns and lines in such a way they would flow with the shape of the seat. After a few hours, I was happy with the overall concept and laid it out as an example colorway in both black and white. You can see the initial mockup in the example to the right. Darren, the product manager, thought the design was good but he wanted to see something completely different. Instead of redesigning the current file, I decided to scrap it and start from scratch to force myself to come up with something completely different. The result is the design pieces you can see to the right and bottom.

For the new design, I went with more aggressive lines and racing styling. The artwork emphasizes length and sleekness and gives the impression of speed and movement. The sharp triangular shapes towards the back of the saddle were originally solid black. They are bold and sharp so some people weren’t sold on them. We decided to keep them but tone them down slightly using clear gloss coatings instead of solid inks. Upon close inspection, you will notice some of the printed sections sit inside de-bossed patterns, in other cases it does not. Some of the de-bossed patterns are also accentuated with glossy UV clear coatings. To make the design even more interesting, the solid printed sections are actually embossed only as outlines, keeping the center fill intact. The large solid spikes towards the back are all de-bossed completely, not simply outlined.

Saddle Graphics Final Layered Layout

Final layout. Example shows a layered separation of each print, embossing and gloss coating layers.

Saddle Graphics Final Product Photo - Black
Saddle Graphics Final Product Photo - White

After the design was ready, the final product was completed in a few stages. The factory sent us a blue line sample of the design and how it fits the base of the seat. Then a final sample was created. We changed a few things here and there, so the final photo does not look exactly like the final design on paper. That’s just part of the refining process.

High End Mountain Bike Graphic Design – Product Artwork

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Mountain Bike Graphics PhotoNot everything I design ends up on paper or on the web.  Some projects are way more exciting that that.  This is one of those projects.  Not only was the final design laser etched as the main graphic look of the Solis Tephra 5.5 mountain bike, but It is now the mountain bike I personally ride.  The best part is that every time I go riding I’m proud to see my work gracing the anodized frame.

Mountain Bike Graphics Frame Forward Triangle

Mountain Bike Graphics Section 2

Another great aspect about this project is the fact that it was a team effort job.  Too often I’m stuck developing a design by myself.  The design for this bike was a collaborative effort between the product manager of Solis Bikes and myself.  We both pieced ideas together and created multiple mock-ups and concepts.  In the end, we combined different parts of my concept drawings with his and ended up with this final design.

The Solis Tephra 5.5 is a high-end all-mountain bike distributed around the world.  It’s one of the best value for money mountain bikes on the market.  The retail price for one of these is around the $3,600 mark.

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