Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Product Review: Photobook Creator from Unibind

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Written by T. Michael Testi

When I first saw the Photobook Creator, I thought that this might be nice for people who were into scrapbooking, but it wasn't until I started playing with it that I saw its real potential. What is the Photobook Creator? It is a thermal binding machine that you can use to make hard-bound photo books. It is made by the Unibind company who have been making heavy duty thermal binding equipment for years.

What you get with the Photobook Creator is a resin binding machine, a resin-based binders, and software. Actually you get a registration card that you can use to download the software. After that, you provide the photographs and the paper. The Photobook Creator uses the same technology that is used in Unibind's other thermal binding products. In the fold of the photobook is a steel spine that contains a strip of resin. When the book is placed in the binding machine, the resin is heated and this is what glues the paper to the binder.

Photobook CreatorThe Photobook Creator comes with the Photobook Creator mechanism which what binds the books, one black 3mm Photobook, and instructions on how to download the software that can aid in laying out your images. You can purchase additional Photobooks through various places like Amazon. They come in sizes from 5x7 to 12 x12 in size, and if you buy in bulk, you can get 10 for around $80 USD.

While you can use literally any kind of paper, if you want to make this look good, you really want to use a quality paper. That said, now all you have to do is create the pages. Ideally this will be a double-sided photo paper that is compatible with your printer.

Of course, the simplest type of book would be a general photobook. The software is pretty straightforward to use and there is nothing here that requires you to use the provided software. If you have another product like Adobe Photoshop that you are more comfortable with, then by all means use it. In this case, you just print out your pages how you would like them presented on what ever paper you want to use.
Once that is done, then you plug in the Unibind system. Keep in mind this system has no on and off switch so plugging it in makes it ready to use. Next you place the pages into the binder cover. You want to make sure that everything is lined up correctly.

Once all of your pages are in and everything is evenly aligned, then you place the cover in to the binding compartment. The light will turn red. You leave the binder in until the light turns green. This takes around 90 seconds. You then need to let the document to cool for at least 60 seconds. This can be left in the machine or, if you want to, gently remove the book. Once this is done, your book is ready to use.

Photobook CreatorI found the Photobook Creator very easy to use, and liked its simplicity. If I had one complaint about this is that I feel better with machinery that involves heat if it has an on/off switch.  However, there is nothing that gave me a feeling of being unsafe, so I only mention it in passing, and it does not affect my experience with using the Photobook Creator.

Also, after playing with this and seeing the quality results, while I think it will be a hit with the scrapbook crowd, I also think that it will find many uses with businesses who need to put reports together. Just because it is called Photobook Creator does not limit you to using photos, and it will go well with photographers who want a cost effective way to put portfolios together, as well as customer presentations from a shoot. This would be a high class way to give a client a series of contact sheets for review in a professionally done binder. I am sure that there will be a lot of uses for the Photobook Creator. I can highly recommend this product.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Software Review: Adobe Photoshop Plug-In DxO FilmPack 2 from DxO Labs

Written by T. Michael Testi

With the latest release of DxO FilmPack version 2 from DxO Labs you now can not only add the style and beauty of classic films to your images, but you can now add additional traditional film effects giving you more capabilities to replicate the look and feel to real film. DxO FilmPack is a plug-in that gives digital images both the look and the grain of conventional films.

OK, I know what you're asking! I gave up film (or never used it) because of all the graininess and the color differences, why would I want to start making my images look as though they were taken on film? Well, one reason is for artistic license. You may want to give an image that fresh-from-the-fixer look. Another reason is that you may want to integrate film images and digital images and you need some method to get a more consistent look for all.

DxODxO FilmPack recreates the color and grain of over 50 classic film types. These include Kodachrome, Tri-X, Velvia, and Illford. These films were analyzed and reproduced so that they could be applied with just one stroke of the keyboard. The package also offers access to several toning filters to transform any digital image into a toned print. These include Sepia, Terra Sepia, Ferric Sulfate, Gold Sepia, Gold, and Selenium.
DxO labs has a complete list of the available film looks, and they break down into nine categories. color positive films, generic positive films (without grain profile), instant color positive, black and white films, color negative films, instant black and white films, color filters, black and white filters, and tonings.

DxO FilmPack can be used as a standalone product or from the filter menu within Adobe Photoshop. The user interface is self-explanatory. You have drop-down lists and sliders. You choose an emulsion and the filter applies the color and the grain of the film to your image. You are presented with a preview on the screen so you can see what it looks like.


You can mix the color of one film with the grain of another. You can also adjust the grain of the film manually or you can match it with a 35mm, medium format, or large format look. There is also a special profile called "Cross-Processed" renderings. This is a specific development mode which consists of processing slide film with the treatment chain adapted to negative film and vice versa. This gives you a lot of room for experimentation.

DxOWhat is new in version DxO FilmPack 2? First off there are 27 new film types. These include 10 slide films, 5 color negative films and 12 black and white films. These 27 also contain 7 new instant films (Polaroid and Fuji) and 3 Infrared films (Kodak, and Rollei). There are also 8 new color filters (Green, Yellow, Orange, Dark Orange, Blue, Red, Cool tone and Warm tone) providing you with even more post-processing possibilities and additional creativity.

While DxO FilmPack 2 is not going to be used for every situation, it does provide for a lot of creative artistic expression. It is very easy to use and very functional. My only complaint is that you still cannot create your own formulas and save them. If you get a specific look and feel, you have to reset it for each image you want to process. On the other hand if you need to match film-based images for a presentation, or if you want some unique creative license to experiment for a different look and feel for that film look, then DxO FilmPack 2 is the product for you.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Video Training Review: Illustrator CS4 New Features with Mordy Golding from Lynda.com

Written by T. Michael Testi

Alright, you know Illustrator pretty well, but they just came out with a new version called Illustrator CS4. The question is, how exactly do you get up to speed with all of the new features without having to hash through the old just to find the differences? Well, just ask Mordy! Get online at Lynda.com and in Illustrator CS4 New Features, he will show it to you.

Mordy Golding has put together a short course that focuses just on the new features of Illustrator CS4. As a leading expert in Illustrator, he covers the latest developments in Adobe's vector image editor, and he leaves no stone unturned. This course lasts 1.25 hours.

The first thing that the instructor covers is the changes in the interface. Adobe has been working hard at trying to get all of their products as unified as possible, and here he covers the changes. He then moves on to the use of new multiple artboards. This is a feature that a lot of people have been wanting for quite a while. Here you are shown why you would want to use them, and how to create a set and interact with them.

The appearance panel has had a major overhaul in Illustrator CS4, as well as some of the other Adobe products, and here you are shown why it now becomes a focal point in your workflow. It will help you eliminate the need to trudge through menus. Next he looks at the new capabilities of graphic styles like the ability to add-on graphic styles to existing Lynda.comstyles in a compounding manner.

Clipping masks have made it so much easier to select and mask objects in Illustrator and here you are shown techniques in which you no longer have to lock and unlock layers to get the right object. The instructor then explains the new Blob brush. He first reminds you about the problems with the painting methods in past versions. Then you are exposed to what you are now able to do with the new Blob brush, and how it can make many things you do much easier.

Other topics covered include:

  • Transparent Gradients and how they are much more flexible in CS4.
  • The Smart Guides, which give you information as you work and are turned on by default in CS4.
  • The Separations Preview examines the printing and proofing abilities in this version.
  • The Isolation mode, which will let you isolate a specific path from the rest of the document.
  • The Connect Now ability in CS4 that allows you share your screen with someone else on the Internet.
  • And finally the Kuler which finds sets of colors based on themes that can be added to your swatches panel.

Illustrator CS4 New Features is another high quality training video from Lynda.com that gives you the ability to get up to speed on the new features of Adobe Illustrator. Now if you are new to Illustrator and really need to know all about it, there is also a full eight-hour package called Illustrator CS4 Essential Training from Lynda.com as well by the same instructor.

The online training Illustrator CS4 New Features comes in three flavors. At $25/month you get all of the videos that are available online (approximately 21,811 videos on 318 topics at this time). Annually, $250 for Standard gets you all the videos.  For $375, the Premium subscription gets you all the videos as well as all of the exercise files. Take note that the exercise files are only included in the Premium annual subscriptions.

You can use Illustrator CS4 New Features as a training program for the individual student, as well as the college or vocational teacher looking to supplement their educational materials. It is of benefit to anyone who needs help understanding Illustrator CS4. You can also try out a couple of the videos for free at Lynda.com.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Web Site Review: Adobe Photoshop.com

Written by T. Michael Testi

Photoshop.com is the new companion Web site to Photoshop Elements 7 and Premiere Elements 7. The goal of Photoshop.com is to extend the capabilities of your Elements experience by giving you a place to store and share your creations. They offer templates and tutorials that can be delivered to your software on a regular basis. It will let you backup and store your images and videos online, as well as allowing you to access these items anywhere you are.

There are two types of memberships to Photoshop.com. The first is a basic membership and it is absolutely free. It gives you 2GB of storage space where you can upload, view, edit and access your images anytime you have an Internet connection. You do not have to purchase Photoshop Elements or Premiere Elements to join, and if you want more storage space, you can purchase up to 100GB for an annual fee.

Photoshop.comThe second type of membership is the Photoshop.com Plus membership. This requires the purchase of either Photoshop Elements 7 or Premiere Elements 7, and requires a $49.99 annual fee. For this you get 20GB of storage space, seasonal art, themes, additional tutorials that will be downloaded to your desktop, and the ability to automatically backup your photos and videos from your desktop. For this membership as well you can purchase extra space. I will be referring to the Photoshop.com Plus membership in this review.

What Are the Features Available at Adobe Photoshop.com?

Showcase your photos by using a wide range of the latest artwork and templates that can be delivered to your desktop automatically. Want to make a photo card? Add clip-art to a photo? Put a frame around a favorite picture? It is all right here for you to access.

Cinematic inspiration for your videos is here as well if you are using Premiere Elements 7. With a Plus membership you will get the latest movie themes, sound effects, music, overlays, menu templates, and special effects.

Tutorials will let you learn as you go along. You can find out how to give your creations a more polished look, or if you want inspiration to learn how to do something new.

New ideas will give you new ways to create images. You will get tips and an assortment of seasonal artwork, themes, and special effects that are useful to whatever you are doing.

Automatic backups will keep your memories safe. No scheduling required. You just tell Elements what you want backed up and it will handle the rest.

Show off your work from any Web-enabled computer. You don't have to take along the pictures, you have them with you from any place you can access the Internet.

Galleries will let you set up both private and public galleries. If you already have a Flickr, Facebook, Photobucket, or Picasa site, no problem. Photoshop.com will hook you up and tie them back in so you can work with those images as well.

Photoshop.comI found Photoshop.com very easy to work with and use. It ties nicely into Photoshop Elements 7 and Premiere Elements 7 and makes everything seamless to use. I found that it was very easy to tie into my existing Flickr account, and after giving my approval for Photoshop.com to access my photos, all of my images were available. I could go in and do all sorts of image adjustments like fixing white balance, cropping, resizing, converting to black and white, and much more.

The fact that you can tie your phone and its photos to Photoshop.com is also an added plus. For many, the themes and other goodies that are available for use will be of big benefit. I also like the different plan levels that let your storage size grow as you need it to. If you use Photoshop Elements 7 or Premiere Elements 7, then you owe it to yourself to check out Photoshop.com. Even if you don't own one of these, I think that you will be quite surprised by what you can do with Photoshop.com. I heartily recommend this site.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Video Training Review: A Celebration Of Art - Paint Like A Master with Fay Sirkis from NAPP

Written By T. Michael Testi

A Celebration Of Art - Paint Like A Master with Fay Sirkis is the new video training DVD for those who want to learn to paint digitally using Painter X and Adobe Photoshop. It is hosted by Fay Sirkis, an internationally recognized portrait artist, photographer, and instructor. The video is published by National Association of Photoshop Professionals, or NAPP. If you are not familiar with NAPP, please read my review on Photoshop User magazine to gain more insight on what NAPP is all about and why you might want to join.

Paint Like A Master is contained on a single DVD that runs 222 minutes and can only be used on a computer. It is aimed at users new to digital painting and want to move into this medium. The author goes over the material in 23 lessons.

 Paint Like A MasterLesson 1, "Analyze the Image" examines what you need to do to simulate the look of a fine art painting. Here you will look at primarily simulating watercolor and oil, what to look for, and how to set each up. Lesson 2, "The Sandwich" is a technique that will allow you to color-correct your image, especially in situations where you have multiple areas of highlights and shadows.  Lesson 3, "Final Preparation" shows you additional sandwich steps that will help you prepare skin conditions to handle blemishes and wrinkles before heading into Painter.

Lesson 4, "Wacom Tablets" instructs you on some really key ways to set up your Wacom Tablet to work with Painter much more efficiently. This includes launching Photoshop and Painter from the tablet as well as undo and changing brush size.

Lesson 5 & 6, "Painter X" takes on the tasks of first introducing some of the new features to Painter X and how some of these will be further addressed in later lessons. Then we are walked through the interface and how to use Painter X in general.

Lesson 7, "The Cloners" describes the use of the Clone stamp functionality within Painter. In this lesson, you will see how the use of the Cloners can really be powerful if used correctly. The instructor also gives a number of 'little' tips that can really be helpful while using this tool. Lesson 8, "The Blenders" takes a look at what blenders are and how they can be used in Painter. This lesson also does a good job at looking at the Re-saturation (Resat) control on the brush info bar as well.

Lesson 9, "Watercolors" begins to show you how to work on a watercolor by continuing with Blenders techniques. Here you will see how to emulate a watercolor border in a painting. Lesson 10, "Custom Pallets" examines one of the features in Painter X. Now, you can share custom pallets with others just by saving them and transferring a file.

Lesson 11, "Custom Workspace" now describes how the workspaces are used in Painter X. Since these, too, can be saved, Fay saved her personal workspace, which includes all of her brush categories, pallets, as well as everything as she has laid out on her system, and has provided it for you on the DVD.

Lesson 12, "Shadow and Highlights" shows you how to give your painting what it needs to pop the image out to the viewer. Here you will work with enhancing the shadows and highlights to give better definition to your image.

Lesson 13, "Details" looks at how when you add outlines to your image you can give it more depth. This way, you accentuate the finer points of your image. By adding a line to an upper piece of cloth, you give the lower piece the impression of distance.

Lesson 14, "Portrait Hair Brushes" now takes a look at some of the hair brushes that the instructor includes with the DVD. These include hair color brushes, hair texture brushes, and a wonderful fly away hair removal tool.

Lesson 15, "Portrait Faces" shows you how to bring out the best in the face. Here you will work with brushes to smooth down the skin tones and focus on retaining the reality of what the person looks like.

Lesson 16, "Mary Cassatt" takes from example of the warm painting of children and mothers that Cassatt did, and translates the types of brush strokes she used to gain that same feeling to your image.

 Paint Like A MasterLesson 17, "Rembrandt" begins by showing you how to create a master layer. By using a combination of the Rembrandt oily brush and the Rembrandt blender, you will be able to create the look and feel of a Rembrandt masterpiece.

Lesson 18, "Real Bristle Brushes" were a major feature to Painter X. They replicate the real bristle brushstrokes by not only simulating the look of a brushstroke, but also forcing you to dip the brush, so to speak, to refresh the amount of color on the brush.

Lesson 19 & 20, "Autopainting" covers the Underpainting, Auto-Painting, and restoration features in Painter X. The first part examines how each of the three parts works starting with the Underpainting, and then the Auto-Painting. This is done in stages where you are able to get finer and finer detail. Then you use the Restoration to add the detail back from the edges.

Lessons 21 begins the first of three bonus lessons (22 and 23 being the others). In this one you will see how to create an image similar to a Renoir using the auto-painting system. Then you will recreate another Cassatt image, again using the auto-painting, and then finally one more with techniques of Monet.

A Celebration Of Art - Paint Like A Master is a wonderful DVD that works in a very systematic fashion and logical manner. It is filled with a lot of tips and techniques that will totally enhance your ability to use Painter. Since it comes with many images that you can work with as well as a trial copy of Painter X, you can get started right away. It is clear that the instructor, Fay Sirkis, is very knowledgeable about both painting and Painter X.

The retail price of A Celebration of Art: Paint Like a Master is $149.99 USD. You can get it from KelbyTraining for $107.99 USD, but for NAPP members it is only $94.99.

If you want to learn to paint digitally, want to learn Painter X, or take your Painter skills to the next level, then I highly recommend A Celebration Of Art - Paint Like A Master.

Monday, December 08, 2008

onOne Software Announces Availability of Genuine Fractals 6


Posted by PT Staff

Press Release

The industry standard for resizing images to any size adds several new features and includes support for Adobe Photoshop CS4, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 and Apple Aperture 2.1

Portland, OR – December 8, 2008 – onOne Software, Inc., a leading developer of innovative software tools for photographers, today announced the immediate availability of Genuine Fractals 6 Professional Edition and Genuine Fractals 6 Standard Edition. Powered by patented resizing technology, Genuine Fractals can resize digital images over 1000% with no loss in sharpness or detail. Genuine Fractals 6 adds new features designed to help photographers get the best enlargements possible, including a new gallery wrap function, batch processing, tiling for smaller printers, and support for Adobe® Photoshop® CS4, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom® 2 and Apple Aperture 2.1.

Genuine Fractals 6 Professional Edition is also available as part of Plug-In Suite 4.2, the latest version of onOne Software’s integrated suite of six Photoshop plug-ins. Plug-In Suite 4.2 is immediately available, and registered users of Plug-In Suite 4 will receive this update as a free download.

“We are excited to announce the immediate availability of Genuine Fractals 6,” said Craig Keudell, president of onOne Software. “Genuine Fractals has been the go-to application of professional photographers for high-quality image resizing for over a decade, and version 6 offers them exciting new features within the applications they use on a daily basis.”

Availability and Pricing

Genuine Fractals 6 comes in two editions, a Professional Edition and a Standard Edition, which are available for $299.95 and $159.95, respectively. Upgrades from previous versions of Genuine Fractals are available starting at $99.95. Registered users of Plug-In Suite 4 will receive Genuine Fractals 6 Professional Edition for free as part of the Plug-in Suite 4.2 upgrade. For more information about upgrading any onOne Software product to Plug-In Suite 4, please visit www.onOnesoftware.com/upgrade/.

Genuine Fractals 6 may be ordered immediately from onOne Software at www.ononesoftware.com, and full versions of the product are available through a worldwide network of authorized resellers. For a complete list of authorized resellers, please visit http://www.ononesoftware.com/resellers/.

About onOne Software

onOne Software, Inc., develops innovative, time-saving software solutions for professional and advanced amateur photographers. onOne Software solutions have been created to help photographers spend more of their time behind the camera instead of the computer workstation. Such solutions include a wide range of easy-to-use plug-in enhancements for Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Photoshop Lightroom, Apple Aperture and Apple iPhoto. Founded in 2005, onOne Software is a privately held company located in Portland, Oregon. For additional information, visit www.ononesoftware.com or call 1-888-968-1468.