Wacom Cintiq 24HD Launch!

So, I saw the Wacom Cintiq 24HD for the first time yesterday. This thing is massive! It weighs 30kg’s out of the box. Why so heavy? Well, the base acts as a counter weight of the screen. This allows you to position the screen off the edge of your desk for superior comfort.

If I mention anything that is incorrect I apologise, I’m going from memory and I did have a few beers.

Resolution: 1920×1200

Monitor response rate: 13ms

Contrast ratio: 550:1

Aspect ratio: 16:10

Pressure level: Same as Intuos4 at 2048 levels.

Whats different to the Cintiq21? Firstly, It’s a larger screen, better resolution and widescreen format.  This panel will display 92% Adobe RGB compared to the Cintiq21’s range of 74%. They’ve given the Cintiq 24HD two toggle rings instead of two touchstrips as found on the Cintiq21. The Cintiq 24HD also has a USB port which is handy for plugging in a keyboard or a USB stick. You won’t find a USB port on the Cintiq21. The only thing the Cintiq21 has on the Cintiq 24HD is 6 more ExpressKeys. You’ll find 10 ExpressKeys on the Cintiq24 HD which is plenty anyway.

What did I think?

Well, the first thing I thought was “Holy sh*t that thing is huge”. The guys at Wacom tell me there is a warning on the box saying that you need two people to unpack it. They’re probably right. After you sit in front of it, it does feel natural. Works just as it should. Which you would want it to as it comes in at a cool $2999AU. So i suppose, if you can afford it go for it. Be prepared to remove everything from your desk though, it will take much more room than you think.

Increase Photoshop performance.

While retouching an image for Melbourne based Photographer Jayden Harrod, I noticed a significant slow down of my machine when my file size started to creep upwards of 500mb. It was extremely frustrating as I use a relatively new iMac and one would assume that this machine could handle the work I was doing.

Photoshop is just like any other program out there, it will do things and function in what ever way you tell it to. So, if you’re telling it to do things like not allowing it to use enough RAM or not giving it any space to store temporary files then you’ll notice a significant slow down in performance when you’re working on high resolution files.

So, lets have a look at what you can tell Photoshop to do in order for it handle your massive files a little better.

If you’re on a mac. You need to go to Photoshop -> Preferences -> Performance.

For Windows head over to Edit -> Preferences -> Performance.

Memory Usage.

This is where you tell Photoshop how much of your RAM it can use. When I retouch, I only really have iTunes and Photoshop open so I generally leave this at around 80-90% If you don’t give Photoshop enough RAM it will begin to store files on a Hard Drive which is slower to access then RAM. Consider closing unused applications when you’re using Photoshop.

Scratch Disks

Scratch Disks are Hard Drives that you tell Photoshop to use when it needs more space then you have available in RAM. If you have the cash and the hardware consider installing a Solid State Drive in your machine. I would, but I can’t add another drive inside my iMac. So, I just leave it assigned to my primary internal drive. I just have to make sure I don’t fill up this drive.

For those that want to consider adding another drive to your iMac using eSATA for maximum speed you can. It involves some drilling which is something I’m too scared to try. Find the information here.

History & Cache

I work very non-destructively, meaning, if I make a mistake I can always step backward with out undoing a million times. I’ve developed a workflow that enables me to work through a whole image and undo everything if I need to. Which means, I only need to set my History States to 20. Think about it, the more History States you tell Photoshop to remember, the more space it will need to store them. Keeping this number as small as you can will improve performance. If you notice a big slow down while working consider purging. To do this go to Edit -> Purge -> All.

Cache Levels is a little bit of a mystery to me. Photoshop tells me it is used to improve screen redraw speed. I normally set it to about 6 because the majority of files I work with are quite large.

Cache Tile Size. This little guy was the reason for my pain. I had never touched this setting previously purely because I had no idea what it was. It turns out that the default setting of 128k severely impaires performance. After changing from the default value of 128k to 1024k I really noticed a substantial increase in speed with brush strokes and filters.

GPU Settings

Keep this ticked if you have a Graphics Card that supports it. It enables you to pan flick around your documents and other fancy little thingys. Turn it off and a few things will be disabled which you probably won’t notice unless you use the 3D tools a lot.

Efficiency Indicator.

Keep an eye on this little guy at the bottom of your document window. To access it, click on the little arrow and make sure Efficiency is ticked. When it starts to drop below 100% Photoshop is telling you it is struggling to keep up!

Finally I need to thank the clever people/person responsible for macperformanceguide.com After running in to trouble I came across this site and they enlightened me about the little Cache Tile Size ‘trick’. This alone purely solved my problem.

Click to view the helpful guide

I hope this helps you maximise Photoshop’s performance while retouching.

Joshua Jones.

Some Inspiration – Spoon Graphics.

I came across this Blog will travelling in my Google machine. I’m interested in improving my Illustrator skills. The way I see it, the more you know, the more employable you’ll be in the future. Knowledge is power!

This Blog is fantastic, the tutorials are easy to follow, inspirational and very interesting. Chris talks about techniques in Photoshop and Illustrator but I think his strength lies in his Illustrator knowledge. Chris Spooner is one talented individual. One particular post I’m extremely impressed with and that helped me out quite a lot was “50 Illustrator tutorials every designer should see”.

Check out this blog. You will not be disappointed.

Joshua Jones.

The not yet professional retoucher. Now semi-pro?

Last week marked my first paid job. I met my first client at a retouching workshop late last year and left my contact details with her. It pays to talk to people when you have the chance!

It wasn’t a ‘retouching’ job as such, she contacted me for some one on one Photoshop training. So, I went over and we discussed some techniques for her to use on her images. I made sure to prepare some actions for her in Photoshop to make things a little easier to remember. Also, so she feels like she got to keep something.

Sending my first invoice felt amazing. I was punching the air as I pressed the send button.

On to the next paid job!

Joshua Jones.

Give your Photos the 3D Effect.

Remember when you were a kid (I’m talking early 90’s) and your parents would take you to the movies to see the latest ‘3D’ flick? Obviously you couldn’t resist seeing what the screen looked like without those funny blue and red glasses on. The first thing I did when I went to see a movie that was made the ‘new 3D’ way was take the glasses off (which to my surprise we not blue and red) to see what the screen looked like without them on. No where near as cool as I remembered…

So, lets take a look at how to replicate this 3D look inside Photoshop. The way 3D used to look without the glasses on…

Lets open up photoshop and open up your image. I am using an image from Katanaz Stock on deviantArt. If you wish to use the same image you can find it here.

1. Duplicate the background layer by pressing ⌘-j (ctrl-j on PC) or by dragging the layer into the ‘create a new layer’ icon.

2. Double click on the new layer you just created to open up the ‘layer styles’ window. Under the Advanced Blending heading, uncheck the R in Channels and press OK.

At this stage it appears that nothing has changed.

3. Select the Move Tool by pressing “v” and then move the layer you created either slightly to the left or right. You’ll notice the effect right away.

That’s it. You’re done. Now just save it out in your preferred format.

Joshua Jones.

Wacom Tablets. The basics.

For Wacom, I recently attended a Photography show hosted by the AIPP in Brisbane. I had a stand displaying our Cintiq and Intuos4 products. I was quickly reminded, for people who have never used a tablet before it can be quite a challenge to learn how to use one. Simple things I’ve taken for granted, like knowing how to hold the pen or even the fact that your tablet enables you to use pressure sensitivity in your favourite graphics application are often assumed knowledge. Unfortunately, not everyone who comes to see me knows this! I’m going to outline how to do a few things for the people who are completely new to the idea of using a tablet. So, what can you look forward to learning?

  • How to hold the pen. Watch that rocker switch.
  • Flip your pen. Surprise! It’s an eraser.
  • Learning how to find the cursor (tablet mapping), this isn’t a mouse! You don’t push the cursor around the screen with a tablet.
  • Enabling pressure sensitivity in Photoshop.

The above points are the bare essentials that everyone should know who has either just purchased or are thinking about purchasing a tablet.

How to hold your pen.

I’ve seen many ways that people hold the pen. Almost always the first time someone picks up one of these pens it is incorrect. Lets have a look at how NOT to hold the pen.

WRONG.

Why is this wrong? Well, some people are afraid to touch the surface of the tablet. With the Intuos4  the only thing that will move the cursor around your screen is the pen. You can touch the surface all you want, it won’t break and it certainly will not interfere with the movement of the cursor on the screen. Apart from that, you get no accuracy when it comes to drawing and pressure control.

WRONG.

A little better, but still incorrect. A lot of traditional artists tend to default to holding the pen this way. As the nibs (the tip of the pen) controls all the pressure sensitivity if you hold the pen this way it is impossible to take advantage of this feature.

This is how you should hold your pen.

Holding the pen this way gives you the most accuracy and control. Make sure you rest your palm on the surface of the tablet and keep the thumb with in easy reach of the rocker switch. Try to keep the rocker switch in a position that you won’t accidentally activate the button. If you’re just starting out with the tablet and you continuously activate the rocker switch jump in to your tablet settings and disable it. That way you can concentrate on getting used to the tablet.

To do this go to System Preferences -> Wacom Tablet. Then disable the rocker switch functions.

Make a point of trying to get used to holding the pen the right way. It will make getting used to your tablet much easier. I should also point out that you simply need to hover the pen over the surface of the tablet. When you wish to ‘left-click’ you touch the pen to the surface of the tablet.

What’s this knob thing on the back of my pen?

One thing that always gets a reaction is the fact that the back of the pen is an eraser. Inside Photoshop you can simply turn the pen around and draw with the back of the pen. You’ll notice this will erase parts of the current layer. You don’t even have to select the eraser tool! It’s a very convenient feature when it comes to tidying up brush strokes.

To change the size of the eraser just hit the [ ] keys or use your toggle wheel set to brush size while you have the eraser hovering over the surface of the tablet. You’ll notice that this size is independent of the brush size of the pen.

This tablet is stupid! Where is the cursor going?

Let’s face it. You’ve probably been using your mouse since you first started using a computer. If you’re my age that’s probably around 15 years ago, assuming I used a computer for the first time when I was 10. This is where the problem lies, using a tablet it very different to using a mouse. People are very used to ‘pushing’ a cursor around the screen.

A tablet is mapped to your screen. To put it simply, the ‘active’ area of your tablet represents your screen. What the hell does that mean? Think about it this way, if I place my pen in the very top left of the active area of my tablet the cursor will jump to the same location on your screen. For those of you using a mac, it will be somewhere near the Apple button. Likewise, if I move the pen to the very bottom left side of the active area your cursor will jump to that same location on your screen, for those of you at home using Windows, it will be somewhere around your Start(Windows) button.

That is probably the hardest thing to get your head around when it comes to using a tablet. Almost every first time user will place the pen somewhere in the middle of the active area and try to ‘scroll’ or ‘push’ the cursor to the corners of the screen. It isn’t until I show them that the tablet is mapped to the screen and that if you want something on the desktop you need to move the pen to the corresponding location on your tablet that the frustration subsides. Even still is takes practise to get used to this and naturally they’ll default to trying to ‘push’ the cursor with the tablet every now and then.

Here you’ll notice the Pen is over the top left area of the tablet which shows the cursor in the top left of the desktop.

Here you’ll notice the Pen is over the bottom right area of the tablet which shows the cursor in the bottom right of the desktop.

Enabling Pressure Sensitivity in Photoshop CS5.

One of the major advantages of using a Wacom Tablet is that you can use pressure sensitivity in your preferred graphics application. We’re going to have a look at making sure your brush settings inside Adobe Photoshop CS5 are setup correctly to allow you to use pressure sensitivity to control settings such as brush size and opacity.

What does that mean?

Well, to put it simply. If you press harder on the surface of your tablet with your pen your brush stroke will look different depending on which settings you have enabled. If you have told Photoshop to recognise pen pressure for brush size you will notice an increase in the radius of your brush stroke if you use more pressure on the tablet.

Lets do it. Open up Photoshop. We need to choose the brush tool. Press the keyboard shortcut ‘b’. To open your brush panel, either press ‘F5’ or go to Window -> Brush.

Make sure your brush is setup with Shape Dynamics ticked and the Size Jitter control is set to off. Also, tick Transfer and make sure that the Opacity Jitter control is set to off.

Why are we disabling the Size Jitter and Opacity Jitter when I can see that there is an option for me to use Pen Pressure?

In Photoshop CS5 when using the Brush tool, the clever guys at Adobe added two handy little buttons. They actually override any options you set inside the brush panel. For this reason it’s easier for you just to set the Size Jitter and Opacity Jitter controls to off. You’ll see them at the top of the application and they look a little something like this.

Tick this icon to activate Size Jitter to be controlled by Pen Pressure.

Tick this icon to activate Opacity Jitter to be controlled by Pen Pressure.

The two can be used together to create unique brush strokes. If you have an Intuos4, you can tell Photoshop to control things with Pen Tilt. If you have a suitable brush, try telling Photoshop to control Angle Jitter with Pen Tilt. You’ll notice your brush strokes will replicate the angle of the Pen to the Tablet. Unfortunately Bamboo users cannot take advantage of this tilt sensitivity.

1. Size Jitter and Opacity Jitter buttons disabled.

2. Size Jitter button enabled, Opacity Jitter button disabled.

3. Size Jitter button disabled, Opacity Jitter button enabled.

4. Size Jitter and Opacity Jitter buttons enabled.

That’s it! Feel free to play with these settings to create a brush stroke suitable to your needs.

Hope this helps.

Joshua Jones.

 

 

The not yet professional retoucher. Knowing what you have and what you need.

Click Image for before/after rollover and credits.

The first step to take in order to go ‘pro’ is to know where you are currently and where you need to be. Meaning, what have I got in my bag of tricks in terms of skill, website, research and what do I need that I don’t already have in order to be successful.

Lets look at what I have;

  • A website. jelphotoretouch.com I am fortunate enough to have a friend who really helped me out in with this. I put together a template in Photoshop and he coded it and uploaded it for me. If you are not fortunate to have a mate who can help you out I would probably recommend paying someone to do it. At the end of the day, you want to spend your time retouching and not learning how to code a website.
  • Competent Photoshop knowledge. This is a given. I’ve been playing with Photoshop since I was in year 8 (1999). I will admit though, it wasn’t until about 2007 that I really started to unleash the potential of Photoshop while I was studying 3D Animation at Qantm College. The web is full of good (and very bad) tutorials on retouching. Please stay well clear of any tutorial that suggests you blur the skin. This is a very amateur way to retouch. No one (good) uses blur. I have found that the best source of information is from modelmayhem.com and retouchpro.com register or sign up and participate in these forums. I have found the people on retouchpro to be a little more helpful at times. I feel a very competitive vibe on modelmayhem.
  • Competent retouching knowledge. When you feel you ‘know’ Photoshop and you think you ‘know’ how to retouch, you probably don’t. I didn’t, It wasn’t until I came across the terms “Split Frequency Healing”, “Inverted High Pass”, “High Pass Sucks” and “Dodge and Burn” that my retouching really took off. I have heard that this DVD from Natalia Taffarel goes through these techniques thoroughly. I’m yet to see it but I’ll be attending a Workshop of her’s next week. If the Workshop is half as good as her work then it will be well worth it. I’m at the stage where I think my work is good enough, I feel I’m confident enough in my own abilities that if I’m asked to retouch an image for someone I’ll be happy to put my name to my work. Once you feel like this, you’re ready.
  • Hardware. Most importantly, you’ll need a machine that can handle high resolution files. If your machine struggles to keep up with the work you’re doing it will make retouching very painful. You’ll also need a backup solution. There are two types of people in the world. The one that has had a hard drive fail on them and the other is a person who will have a hard drive fail on them. I have a 1TB drive hooked up to my iMac using Time Machine. Time Machine is fantastic, I highly recommend it. Colour calibration is important to your potential clients. If they find out you’re not using a calibrated screen you’ll immediately lose credibility. Do your own research on this, I’m using an iMac 27″ and calibrating it with an xrite Eye One. Works great. Finally, a Wacom tablet. Personally, I use the Intuos4. You will hear people some people saying that they don’t retouch with a tablet and that you don’t need one. Yes, you probably don’t need one but it really does make things so much easier. To quote Gry GarnessYou simply cannot retouch well without a tablet. In my experience, people who do not have stylus experience tend to shy away from hands-on work during the session, and it becomes a 3-hour demo. Until you do something hands-on, it’s not really going to connect with the brain, so this part is essential. Also, I find that if you use a tablet it’s evidence of retouching commitment!” So there, you heard it from a professional.

What do I need?

  • Network. I need to build relationships with Photographers, I need to gain their trust personally and professionally. I need to be able to offer them something that they need. I need them to think of me when they need it. I’m fortunate with my work at Wacom that I come in to contact with quite a few photographers. First impressions count.
  • Marketing/Business Smarts. I need to skill myself when it comes to marketing and business strategies. I know the basics but I really feel I need to invest some time into learning more about this. I will get into more detail on this topic at a later date.

So, now that I know what I have and what I need to get going. It’s time to knuckle down and network and skill myself in marketing and business strategies.

Joshua Jones.

Some Inspiration – Olga Gogoleva.

Some Inspiration for your Friday afternoon. Olga retouches photographs so well that it makes people like me just want to give up, crawl under my bed and just cry.

You really need to check out her site, remember to pick up your jaw before you let the bugs fly in to your mouth.

I’m particularly impressed with the site. Its classy, simple and very easy to use. I like how the images do all the talking. You’re instantly immersed in her retouching awesomeness.

www.olgagogoleva.com

I remember coming across a web page from her a while back where she did some workshops in Australia. Shame I missed it. I’ll keep a look out for future workshops.

Joshua Jones.

Adding Adjustment Layers to your Radial Menu. (Intuos4 and Cintiq)

Last year at PMA in Melbourne some one asked me if they could create Adjustment Layers in Photoshop by either adding them to the Radial Menu or by adding them to the ExpressKeys. At the time I wasn’t sure, because I knew that by default Photoshop did not have shortcuts assigned to Adjustment Layers. So, I did a little playing around and you can definitely add your own custom shortcuts to add Adjustment Layers with in Photoshop. Here is how.

This guide is split in to two parts; Please note that this guide is designed for the Intuos4 Medium tablet, this means that the tablet preference file available for download will only work with the Intuos4 Medium tablet. If you’re using a different size Intuos4 then you’ll have to add all of the shortcuts to your Radial Menu manually. We have asked the relevant people at Wacom to have a look into this because I believe you should be able to setup your Radial Menu and then be able to use the shortcuts with all of your tablets. Also, this guide was prepared on the Mac OS, most of the screenshots look very similar in Windows. Getting to the Wacom Preferences is also a little different. Just go to the Start menu and look for “Wacom Tablet”.

1. Creating custom shortcuts in Photoshop.

2. Using the Wacom Tablet Driver to add functions to your Radial Menu.

Part 1.

We’re going to run through how to do this manually. At the end of the post I’ll provide a link where you can access a pre made Photoshop Keyboard Shortcut file.

To access your Keyboard Shortcuts dialog in Photoshop go to Edit -> Keyboard Shortcuts. Or ⌥⇧⌘K

Click to enlarge.

The Set: should say “Photoshop Defaults”, as soon as you modify one of the shortcuts it will change to “Photoshop Defaults (modified)”. Make sure the Shortcuts For: Drop down menu is on “Application Menus”. Scroll down to Layer and click the arrow, this will expand the menu. Scroll down a little further and you will see “New Adjustment Layer>” here you’ll notice all the names of your favourite Adjustment Layers. Now, to add your custom shortcuts it is as simple as clicking the name of the Adjustment Layer and then typing your keystrokes.

I assigned the shortcuts like so;

Click to enlarge.

Feel free to go ahead and assign them to what ever you like, I choose the above keystrokes because they didn’t really conflict with anything I already use. After you have punched in all your keystrokes either save them (so you can move them to another computer) or just hit ok.

To download a pre-made Photoshop Keyboard Shortcut file with the above shortcuts click here. (Mac platform only.) That file also contains the Wacom tablet Preferences file. More on that later.

To install this file, double click on it. Photoshop will open. Go into your Keyboard Shortcuts Dialog and you’ll notice that the Set: is “Photoshop Defaults (modified)”. Hit the save button (Floppy disk icon with a down arrow) and name your shortcut file what ever you want. Your shortcuts are now active.

Part 2.

Now we need to add these Keystrokes to our Radial Menu in our Wacom Driver. Go to System Preferences -> Wacom Tablet.

Choose your Tablet: Intuos4 M (or what ever tablet you’re using) your Tool: as Functions and Application: is Adobe Photoshop CS5 (will work with what ever version you have installed on your machine) and then finally make sure you choose Radial Menu.

Click to enlarge.

We’re going to add 11 keyboard shortcuts to our Radial Menu so we’re going to need to learn how to create a Submenu. Click on one of the empty ‘slices of pie’ and change the function to Submenu. Name that Submenu under Label: to Adjustment Layers.

Click to enlarge.

Now, in the box on the left hand side click the “Adjustment Layers” Submenu you just added. You’ll notice the Radial Menu will appear to be empty. You have just entered the Submenu with 8 more ‘slices’ you can customise. To do this, click on one of the ‘slices’ and change the function to Keystroke. Now punch in the first shortcut and name it. For our example it is Brightness/Contrast and the Keyboard shortcut in Photoshop is ⌥⇧⌘F1

Click to enlarge.

Continue to fill out the slices of the Radial Menu, we’ll need to leave one slice for another Submenu as there are 8 slices on this menu and we need to fit in 11 shortcuts. So, like we did before create another Submenu inside this Submenu and name it something like “More Adj Layers”

Click to enlarge.

Your “More Adj Layers” Submenu should look a little like this.

Click to enlarge

You have now customised your Radial Menu. Close this window. Now we want to save a backup to avoid losing all of these shortcuts. This also enables us to move these shortcuts to another machine.

Go to Applications -> Wacom Tablet -> Wacom Tablet Utility

Now, click Backup… and name your new Tablet Preferences.

In the future, to move these preferences to another machine you just need to move this file to another machine and either double click on it where a dialog box will open, hit Replace.

Or, click Restore… and navigate to the file through the finder window.

 

Click to enlarge.

If you downloaded the zip file from part1 you would have the corresponding Wacom Tablet Preference file already. Click here (Mac platform only.) if you would like to download it. Follow the above steps to install it.

Finally, when moving the shortcuts to another machine you’ll need to install the Photoshop Keyboard Shortcut file aswell as the Tablet Preferences. They work together to enable you to add your Adjustment Layers via the Radial Menu in Photoshop.

Click to enlarge.

I should add that this will only work with the Intuos4 and Cintiq range of Wacom Tablets. The Bamboo range does not have a Radial Menu built into the driver.

Hope this helps.

Joshua Jones.

Some Inspiration – Eva Ubani.

Some inspiration.

You need to check out Eva’s work. I can’t remember when or where I came across her work but I’ve had it bookmarked for ages.

Her portfolio features amazingly crisp, clear and beautiful images. A true photoshop genius.

www.evaubani.com

“Eva Ubani is a high-end digital retouch artist specializing in beauty, fashion and commercial post-production.”

Joshua Jones.