Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Developing Flash websites using progressive enhancement

Although Adobe Flash Player is one of the most widely distributed web clients available, there is still a group of people who are hesitant to use Adobe Flash content. They often describe Flash like this plhiwebsupport as a wonderful tool that can make a real contribution to a website's audiovisual appeal and interactivity. But they also warn others not to overdo things because entire websites designed in Flash would both be opaque to search engines and lock out a certain group of potential visitors.

In this article I explain that this doesn't necessarily have to be the case. It is merely a matter of execution of how a website is created. With some small extra effort, you can easily avoid these types of problems and create great Flash experiences that are optimized for search engine indexing and contain content that is accessible to the biggest target audience possible.

Progressive Enhancement is a web development strategy that ensures that even a visitor with the lowest common denominator web browser technology can navigate through a website and read its content. It uses basic markup—or (X)HTML—as its foundation to keep both content and navigation accessible for everyone, even people using text browsers and simple mobile devices. It utilizes semantic markup to add meaning to this content, which is the basis for search engine–friendly content.

The main philosophy behind progressive enhancement is that you enhance the "basic version" of your content with additional presentation or behavior by using technologies like CSS, JavaScript, and Flash. These should be served only when the required browser technology support is available.

Progressive enhancement applied to a Flash project could look something like the following:

  • An HTML page that includes content that is optimized for web crawlers and low-tech browsers
  • Style sheets to professionally lay out and style this basic version, aimed at visitors that use CSS-enabled browsers but don't have the required Flash plug-in
  • JavaScript to add behavior and improve the usability of the basic version—again aimed at visitors who don't have the appropriate Flash support
  • Flash content aimed at the biggest part of the target audience, for the full-blown user experience

Here's why you should use this approach: because its benefits often outweigh its cost. Search engine–friendly content enables good rankings on search engines, while accessible content locks no one out and avoids blank home pages or page sections. These topics are likely to be of high importance to some of your clients.

At Refunk we have included progressive enhancement in our standard offering because we see it as a small, extra effort—but a worthwhile one—to do things the right way. We think it is an approach worthy of investing in for any design studio specializing in Flash content.


Monday, May 21, 2007

The Healing brush

Photoshop 7

The Healing Brush and the Patch tool are new with PS 7. Earlier we had the Clone Stamp tool - which is great too - but these two new features are just awesome!

The Healing Brush works the same way as the Clone Stamp tool, but the healing brush tool also matches the texture, lighting, and shading of the sampled pixels to the source pixels. This means that the repaired pixels blend seamlessly into the rest of the image. And this is what makes this tool so incredible powerful when it comes to restoring and retouching pictures.

It is really easy to learn this tool too - so get those pictures ready! We're gonna deduct ages from your family members - and having lots of fun while doing it!

A tip along the way:
Be sure you always keep a copy of the original file. Either do a "save as" before you start editing the picture - or just drag the original layer down to the Create a new layer tab to create a copy you can work on.

Select the Healing Brush tool and adjust the brush size etc. so it will suit the areas you're going to work on. I started out working on the lines on the forehead using a brush with these settings.
PS! Be sure you have marked the Sampled option to use pixels from the current image.

After you've entered the brush values (or just picked one of the default ones) you have to pick a sampling point by positioning the pointer in an area of the image that has about the same qualities as the area you want to fix.
Click Alt + left click the area you want as source and then click and drag the brush over the part you want healed.
(You can check the Aligned option in the Healing Brush status bar to keep the current samling point. If deselected the sampled pixels are applied from the initial sampling point each time you stop and resume painting).

If you're not happy with the outcome go back - select a new sampling area and drag the brush over the area you want healed all over again. Do this until the lines are gone and the skintones look realistic.

Now - this is REALLY important. Be sure to create a snapshot of your work at this state. You'll soon understand why...
The Create a new Snapshot is found on the History palette - to the left of the "trash can"/Delete current state button.

Time to use the Patch tool .

I wanted to get rid of the dark puffy areas below the eyes - and the Patch tool does this in a few seconds!
Select the Patch tool and be sure the Source option is checked in the tool options bar. Then select the area you want to fix (left click and drag out the selection).

(You can also use the Lasso tool to drag out the selection if you want - just remember to switch to the Patch tool when you're done...)

(Don't find the Patch tool? Click here to see where it's located).

Now drag the selection to an area that has about the same color and texture as the area you want to replace - and just release the mouse button.

The original area below the eye is now automatically replaced!
Deselect the selection and do the same process on the other eye.
(Click here to see my selection below the right eye, here to see where I dragged the selection and here to see what the close up looked like after using the Patch tool).

Deselect again.

In step 6 you can see what my image looked like at this point.
The wrinkles below the eyes are totally gone and the new "skin" blends perfectly.

BUT - it really looks kind of fake.
To make the retouch look more real we can use the History Brush tool to paint some of the old details below the eyes back on.
And this is why I told you to Create a snapshot in step 2.

Before you go any further be sure to create another snapshot.

(I always take a lot of snapshots while doing photo retouch. Makes it so easy to go back and do things all over again if you're not happy with the outcome...).

Select the History Brush tool .
Then go to the History palette and check the box to the left of your first snapshot like shown below:

(If you accidentally activate the Snapshot 1 state just click the Snapshot 2 state - or just go down in the History window and click on the latest action before you continue).

Select a brush that suits the area you're going to work on. Click here to see what kind of brush settings I used for this area. As you can see I lowered the opacity to 21%. That's because I just wanted to paint some of the details back.

Now use the brush below the eyes and carefully "paint" some of the details back!
You see my result after using the History Brush tool to the left.

And now you're on your own!
By now you should be able to handle the healing brush and the patch tool to retouch the rest of your image. Good luck! And remember - practice makes perfect!

Original picture

This is how the picture looked right from the scanner. Before I started using healing brush tool I did and Image - Adjustments - Auto Color to get rid of the magenta color cast on the picture. Then did an Auto Brightness/Contrast and an Auto Levels. That did the trick for this particular picture. To sharpen the picture a little bit I used the Unsharp mask (Filter - Sharpen - Unsharp mask) with these settings. (Note that different pictures need different unsharp mask settings...). Then I added a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and added just a little more color. The rest of the process editing this picture is described in the steps above.

Final image

This is how my picture turned out in the end. I continued working on it just using the Healing Brush tool after the last step. Just working on small skin areas at the time to get rid of the irregularities of the skin. Making the skin look really smooth and flawless.
When I finished working on the face I used the Blur tool to smoothen out the details in the background to make it blend with the rest of the image. I'm really happy about the final result though there's still some flaws that could be worked on some more :)
Hope you got familiar with the Healing Brush tool and the Patch tool going through this tutorial. If you have any questions please post them in the forum.


Monday, May 14, 2007

injection icon

XP Style Injection Icon
Start by creating a rectangle using rectangular shape tool.
Enable add to shape area form the top bar. Create an ellipse using elliptical shape tool.
Create another ellipse using elliptical shape tool.
Double click the layer to open layer style window. Apply layer style with the settings shown.
Create a rectangle using rectangular shape tool. Press Ctrl+T. Right click the layer and select warp. Adjust nodes to get the shape as shown. Apply gradient overlay as shown.
Create an ellipse using elliptical shape tool. Apply same layer style. Change gradient overlay direction angle. Select the previous shape. Ctrl+Click the layer thumbnail to get the selection. From select menu apply modify>>contract. Contract the selection by 3 pixels.
Create a new layer and apply a black to white gradient in linear mode.
Change the layer mode to screen.
Create an ellipse using elliptical shape tool.
Create a few basic shapes using shape tools and enabling add to shape area from the top bar. Apply gradient overlay to the resulting shape.
Create a few lines using line shape tool to show the measuring unit divisions over the injection.
Move this layer behind the glossy white layer.
Using pen tool create a needle. Create a small ellipse at the bottom.
Move the glossy white layer above all the layers in layer order in layer palette.
Select and merge all the layers. Double click the layer to open layer style window. Apply layer style with the settings shown.
Rotate the layer by a few degrees.
Similarly create another instance of the injection and place as shown.

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