Tag Archives: Photoshop


Illustrations for Ugly PowerPoint

My original PowerPoint on Reclosers contains some fairly useful graphics, but the quality is pretty poor. So, I have a couple of options. I could re-shoot the graphics if I had access to the equipment, had the proper photography equipment to properly take the photos, and had a subject matter expert to help me out. Sometimes, that’s the best choice when you really can’t use stock photos and need something very specific. You’ll have to consider the lighting, plan your shots carefully, and do a bit of scheduling.

My constraint for this project is that I don’t have access to the equipment directly. So, I considered creating Photoshop graphics from the existing photos. If you’re handy with a tablet pen, it’s pretty easy to use the paintbrush and trace over a photo on different layers and recolor it any way you want. The end product can be quite pleasing with a “cartoon” feel to it. For example, I have a great shot of a recloser, but the background is really busy and the quality of the photo is very poor. It’s been copied and pasted and stretched beyond the point of being usable for me. But, it contains the basic elements of what I need. If I could just trace over the parts that I need, I’d have something I could really use. The problem is that the quality still may be lacking. The problem? It’s still a raster graphic.

Raster Vs. Vector: Huh?

Now I have a choice to make: raster or vector? Most photos are in raster format, a compressed file made up of thousands of pixels in various colors that look like a professional photograph when you look at it on a screen. Their file formats are probably familiar to you: jpg, jpeg, gif, png, tif, tiff, bmp. When you look up close on a raster image, you can really see its pixels. A lower quality raster photo has fewer pixels that make up the image, which is the case with my existing photos. If I re-size them in my authoring program, they have a jagged appearance and my audience may focus on its poor quality rather than the training content. I have the same problem if I create a raster graphic from scratch: it does not re-size well.

Vectors are different when you re-size them. They remain smooth and clear, no matter what size they are. They are made up of points that use mathematical calculations to form geometric shapes. Yea, it sounds VERY geeky and a little scary! It’s pretty easy to understand a pixel. It’s another thing to wrap your mind around a vector shape. Instead of getting into the technical details, just think about them as different tools you use for different jobs. If the graphic needs to be photo realistic, you’ll need to use a raster graphic. If the graphic needs to be scalable and realism is not an issue, use a vector.

Let’s say you’ve been asked to design a logo for a company. Logos need to be reproduced in a variety of formats and sizes. Creating the original logo as a vector makes the most sense and your print shop will thank you for it. They can scale it up or down without losing quality and color is not an issue. The company can easily convert it to a raster image if they need to use it on a website.

The tricky part is learning how to draw a vector graphic in Photoshop or Illustrator. It’s very different than just picking up a pen and drawing. And I’ll be honest; I’m not the best at it. The Pen Tool in Photoshop is a very neglected part of my toolbox. But, I decided to take the opportunity to dive in and get better at this. It’s a necessary skill and I think it will benefit me a lot in the future.

Back to School!

So, how do I learn it? I found a VERY useful tutorial for beginners, “Making Selections with the Pen Tool in Photoshop”. It’s not version-specific, and it took a while to step through this one. But, it got me comfortable with the basics. Then I went through “Creating a Vector Image in Photoshop”, another pretty lengthy tutorial, but very worthwhile. After I “marinated” in these tutorials, I felt a whole lot more confident about creating the graphics using this technique for my Reclosers presentation.

I started out with a photo of a recloser:


Then I created some paths in Photoshop and filled them in with color:


And then I added some effects and details:


Voila! I was learning along the way, so it’s certainly not perfect. But, if I want to change the colors a bit or I want to take something out, it’s very easy to go back into my Photoshop file and adjust it.

Next post, I’ll talk about diving into Storyline and adding my content into it. Pretty soon, it’s going to start to look like a real course.

Additional Reading (go ahead and geek out)


Happy Birthday Ola!

Graphic Design for Ugly PowerPoint

At this point in my Ugly PowerPoint project, I want to create a good visual “look” for the course. I have found it’s pretty handy to think about this at a pretty early stage in the project. First, I take a look at the existing photos supplied in the PowerPoint and think about whether or not I want to use them. Sometimes, there’s no choice in the matter; you must use the supplied graphics. Sometimes, they need to be re-photographed. And, sometimes it’s a good idea to just re-create the graphics in Photoshop. Looking at the existing photos, I can start to think about color.

Adobe Kuler is a great place to start if you have photos already. It’s a free online service and you can set up an Adobe User ID pretty easily if you don’t already have one. Once you log in, you can upload a photo from your project and select colors for your palette. Using this photo, I’ve set up a palette that seems like a good place to start. Once you have that set up, Kuler gives you the hex values for each color that you can use in a graphic editing program.

Another cool tool is Pixie. It’s a great freeware program that you can download and run from your computer whenever you need it (no installation required). It turns your mouse into a color picker and it will tell you the hex, RGB, HTML, CMYK and HSV values of wherever you are pointing.

Other online cool color tools I’ve used areĀ COLOURlovers and Color Scheme Designer. COLOURlovers is very plugged into the designer community via Twitter and offers a lot of tools and ideas. It’s a great place to get inspiration. Color Scheme Designer is more of a web designer geek tool, although it’s quite sophisticated. Once you pick a theme and type of scheme you want, you can export it into a few different formats, such as HTML/CSS, XML, Text, ACO for Photoshop, or GPL for Gimp (an open-source Photoshop alternative). Just plug in a color value and start poking around, I dare you!

For my purposes, I’m pretty satisfied with the Kuler Theme I created, so I’ve made a note of those values. Now I can go into Storyline and plug those values into my project.


In Storyline, I can customize a theme based on my color palette. I’m not sure I’m satisfied with this one yet, but it’s a good start. Once I start adding content to my Storyline project, I will have a better sense if it’s working or not.


Next post, I’m going to talk about re-creating some of the graphics in Photoshop. In the past, I’ve been very apprehensive about using the dreaded Pen Tool and I think it’s time to dive in and see if I can master this highly powerful yet scary tool.


Adobe Kuler: http://kuler.adobe.com
COLORlovers: http://www.colourlovers.com
Color Scheme Designer: http://colorschemedesigner.com/