Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Photoshop – Recover an Unexposed Subject

Add an Artistic Effect to the Overall Image in Photoshop

Learn to recover an unexposed subject in your photos and how to add an artistic effect to the overall image in Photoshop.

Helen Bradley

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Scroll though Blend Modes in Photoshop – Mac and PC

Screen Shot 2014 03 15 at 6.36.43 PM Scroll though Blend Modes in Photoshop   Mac and PC

scroll through blend modes on the mac

by Helen Bradley

Learn the keystrokes that help you quickly scroll through blend modes in Photoshop on the PC and Mac

On the PC, being able to scroll through the blend modes in the Layers palette is a simple as selecting one blend mode in the list then use the Up Arrow and Down Arrow key to go from one to the next.

On the Mac, it isn’t as easy but it (thankfully), can be done.

On the Mac, click in the Blend Modes list and select a blend mode. Then use the Shift + + or Shift + – keys to scroll up and down the list. Unlike on the PC, the Mac keys roll you around the list so, when you reach the bottom and press Shift + + once more you go right back to the top. Neat huh?


Helen Bradley

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

Create a Graffiti Wall Effect in Photoshop

Learn to paint graffiti without a risk of being arrested

See how easy it is to create a graffiti effect on a wall in Photoshop. The video shows you how to use a graffiti font to create graffiti writing and how to use styles and colors to format the test to make it look like real graffiti. Then see how to use the Vanishing point filter to place the graffiti text onto a wall in a photo. Finish the effect by blending the text with brushes, blend modes and textures all created using layers and masks so that the effect can be edited in future.

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Photoshop – Color Threshold Art Effect

Adjust Color and Contrast to make your Image Pop

by Helen Bradley

The threshold filter in Photoshop lets you turn an image into a black and white image where pixels are either black or white. It is a great tool when combined with some color for creating artistic effects with your photos.

The only issue with this filter is that you have no fine control over how the conversion takes place. This video solves the problem by showing you how to work with the image to give better results with the conversion.

Here you will learn how to use the threshold filter to adjust the image to make a black and white and how to pick out areas of the image to adjust them separately so you retain the details in it.

You will use masks and adjustment layers to lighten and darken those areas of the image that you wan to keep and highlight.

You will also learn how to create a reusable noise layer to give the final image a more grainy look.

You will also learn why using a fill layer makes better sense than filling a layer with color.

In all, this video is jammed full of handy Photoshop tips as well as showing you how to create a great color effect.

Helen Bradley

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Vintage inspired shape in Illustrator

Learn to add multiple fills and strokes to a single shape in Illustrator

Illustrator can be a challenge to learn and once you get hold of the basics you may be so relieved that you have progressed this far that you forget to dig deeper for better and smarter ways to create designs.

One feature of Illustrator is the ability to add multiple strokes and fills to a single shape, to order them so they appear on top of each other correctly and even to blend them using Blend Modes.

This video shows how to turn a star into this vintage inspired free pattern filled shape in Illustrator. It’s simple to do when you know how – just a few minutes of video can open up a wealth of opportunities for being creative in Illustrator – Enjoy!

Helen Bradley

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Illustrator – reverse the twirl tool

reverse twirl tool in illustrator 1 Illustrator   reverse the twirl tool

Click the Twirl tool and it twirls your path – but how to you twirl the other way?

To reverse the twirl tool in Illustrator so you can twirl clockwise double click the Twirl tool in the tool panel and just set the Twirl Rate to a negative value – so if you love the twirl rate amount but want it to go the other way just add a minus in front of the current value – so go from 40 degrees to -40!

reverse twirl tool in illustrator 2 Illustrator   reverse the twirl tool

Click Ok and then twirl away to your heart’s content.

Easy when you  know how!

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Illustrator for Photoshop Users

Learning Illustrator is different and easier if you already know Photoshop

So, you’re pretty handy with Photoshop but Illustrator is different – isn’t it? It is not easy to understand when you first start and you might be scared off by an interface that looks both familiar and foreign at the same time. I certainly was when I started out. Illustrator was like a foreign language and it took a lot of time to learn it.

But learning Illustrator when you already use Photoshop can be simplified. You see you already know a lot about Illustrator so we can start out with that knowledge and build on it. You need to know what is the same and what is different between the two programs and you need to know what is important and what you can ignore for now.

So, to help you, I created this video. It’s for anyone who knows Photoshop and who wants to learn Illustrator. I will build on your knowledge so we don’t waste time on things you already know but so you learn quickly how Illustrator is different and how to get started with it.

No laborious “how to use the Pen tool” stuff here. Just quick and fun and interesting stuff guaranteed to get you on your way to loving the creative potential of Illustrator.



Helen Bradley

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Create a Perfect (Archimedes) spiral in Illustrator

archimedes spiral in illustrator Create a Perfect (Archimedes) spiral in Illustrator

Create Archimedes spirals with evenly spaced lines in Illustrator

Illustrator’s Spiral tool creates quick and easy spirals but they aren’t Archimedes spirals – the latter have evenly spaced lines. Now it is possible to create an Archimedes spiral in one of a few ways. Here is what I have discovered.

Multiple lines make a spiral (well they did once, they don’t any longer)

Ignore the multiple line solution. There are a few posts on the web that suggest you create a spiral by making a series of parallel lines, move them so they are on a slight angle and then save as an Art Brush. You then use them to stroke a circle and voila! a spiral. Well no. Sorry, it just doesn’t work. It used to work but it doesn’t seem to work in later versions of Illustrator. There is a video here on YouTube that shows some of the problem – for now just ignore what looks to be the simple (if inexplicable) solution.

create sprials in illustrator Create a Perfect (Archimedes) spiral in Illustrator

Deke’s offering

I like Deke McClelland’s stuff if you ignore that he calls some Illustrator tools by made up names like black arrow and white arrow tool (seriously?) but if you can put this technicality aside, see his approach by visiting this tutorial video. It’s a somewhat complex approach but you can use it to create two interlocking spirals or just a single one. Once you’ve done it a few times  it’s pretty easy to do. It also introduces the Polar Grid tool which is interesting and which you may have use for in other circumstances. I just don’t like the middle of this spiral so I prefer some other solution.

deke mcclellands version of an archimedes spiral Create a Perfect (Archimedes) spiral in Illustrator

The best solution – a Spiral Script

Now let’s step into voodoo territory and talk scripting. While it might sound difficult it is so totally ridiculously easy that I can’t recommend it more highly. Better still, once you see how easy it is to run scripts you may be tempted to find and use more of them from time to time.

So, start by visiting this page where you will find the script to use. Copy the script from the box and paste it into a text editor – not Word, but WordPad or Notepad. Save it as a text file and give it a .jsx extension. You can save it anywhere, but if you want to be able to find it easily in 6 month’s time I suggest you save it in the Presets/Scripts folder for your Illustrator installation (ie in the Programs folder in Windows). Then restart Illustrator so it will find it easily.

Regardless of where your script is stored, start a new document and choose File > Script and select your script from the list (if you installed it in Presets/Scripts) or browse to find it. Click it and it runs and creates your spiral. Now I like this one a lot as the middle is awesomely cute and curly. It’s my favorite and once you’ve created the script file and saved it all you need to do to make one in future is to run the script. It is awesomely easy and look at how cute the middle is…

archimedes spiral in illustrator Create a Perfect (Archimedes) spiral in Illustrator

Now that you are a scripting guru – here’s more scripting fun

The script above makes great spirals but I’ve found another script set here that you can explore now that you’re a scripting guru! Well nearly one, anyway.

These scripts are zipped so all you need do is to download and unzip and place the scripts into your Presets/Scripts folder. Then run them. Some will need objects to act on but you will find information on how they work on the script page itself. I suggest you copy it to a document or print it out so you have it for reference.

One of my favorites is the Meatball script which joins two circles into a sort of meatball shape. There is a spiral which makes a nice Archimedes spiral and one called Round Any Corner which lets you select one or more points or an entire shape and round the corners – this gives a different result to the Round Corners Effect so might be of interest to you.

scripts in illustrator round any corner Create a Perfect (Archimedes) spiral in Illustrator

Another script in the zip is one that creates trees automatically for you.

scripts in illustrator make fractal style trees Create a Perfect (Archimedes) spiral in Illustrator

Finally – create a rectangle the size of the artboard

Over at the Adobe forums there is a short script from a user called moluapple which creates a rectangle the size of the artboard. It’s a winner! I use this all the time! I suggest you copy and paste the code from the forum into a text editor and make a script file from it so you have it handy to use anytime you need it. The code below is just a screenshot of the code, I captured it just in case the forum thread ever disappears because this is one awesomely useful script:

scripts in illustrator make a rectangle the size of the artboard Create a Perfect (Archimedes) spiral in Illustrator

So, now it is over to you to enjoy your new ability to download, unzip, locate and run scripts in Illustrator.



Helen Bradley

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Dotted edges in Illustrator

how to make dotted and solid borders in illustrator 2 Dotted edges in Illustrator


Learn to add multiple strokes to a shape in Illustrator

One way I force myself to extend my knowledge of Illustrator is to take an existing illustration and to try to reproduce it. I don’t use these for anything but for learning and improving my skills. It’s a great tool because, when you try to copy someone else’s illustration you have to work out how to do things you may not typically do. You can’t just fluff yourself off and do the same old thing – if you don’t know how to achieve an effect you have to think about the problem and work it out using your existing skills or go research solutions.

Today I’ve been working on shapes that have neat edges and, in particular shapes with solid edges and dots – all in the one shape!

Start by drawing your shape – mine was a speech bubble but you can do it with anything. Then add a fill color and a stroke – this stroke is the thick band around the shape so make it the right size for the edge effect.

Now open the Appearance panel and add a second stroke by choosing the Add New Stroke icon. Make sure this is the top stroke – if not you can drag it up as if it were a layer. In the Appearance panel select a different color for this stroke and size it smaller than the previous one. You can now make it dots by setting up the panel so it looks like this – just note that your gap value should be the same or just larger than the stroke to make dots and that the cap shape is rounded – to get dots!

how to make dotted and solid borders in illustrator 1 Dotted edges in Illustrator


Helen Bradley

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Multicolor Sunburst in Illustrator

multi color sunburst in illustrator opener Multicolor Sunburst in Illustrator

So, you know how to make a sunburst in Illustrator – here’s how to color it

Some time ago I wrote a post and created a YouTube video to show how to make a sunburst in Illustrator. This is one of my most popular posts and the video has been popular too – seems like it really hit a spot with a lot of readers.

Now, today I received an email from a reader asking how to make the sunburst multicolored. Turns out it isn’t as simple as selecting a ray and recoloring it – because when you select one ray you select them all. However, once you know how to break them up, it works just fine.

To do this, follow the instructions to create the circle, add the dashed line, expand it, select the inside anchors and choose Path > Average. This gets the sunburst made.

Now, to break the shape up, select it and choose Object > Live Paint > Make.  Now you can use the Live Paint Bucket tool to color each piece of the sunburst – or not. You see the Live Paint > Make command breaks up the shape (in a way that Object > Expand does not) so you can now select each ray in turn and color it.

multi color sunburst in illustrator 1 Multicolor Sunburst in Illustrator

If you want to see the change happen, watch the Layers palette when you do the Live Paint > Make command – it turns the compound path into a set of individual vector objects – just what you need to have to be able to recolor them. The plus is that once the shape is broken up like this you can recolor it in the usual way by selecting each shape and color it or you can use Live Paint. You get to choose which works best for you.

multi color sunburst in illustrator 2 Multicolor Sunburst in Illustrator

Now, one side effect of this is that the spaces between the rays is filled with color – typically white. So you can’t put a solid color behind the rays and have it show through. There is a solution – open the Layers palette and locate the filled white circle shape at the bottom of the expanded sunburst shapes and delete it. Once it is deleted you can add your own background filed shape behind the sunburst.

multi color sunburst in illustrator 3 Multicolor Sunburst in Illustrator

It’s one of those things that is simple when you know how but not immediately obvious how you do it.

Thanks to the reader who asked the question!


Helen Bradley

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Where to Install Photoshop Brushes on the PC and Mac

where to install Photoshop brushes on the pc and mac 2 Where to Install Photoshop Brushes on the PC and Mac

Curious or confused about where brushes go? Here’s the info you need and how to do it

It’s pretty easy to find the wrong place to install brushes on the PC and the Mac. The Adobe program file folders are more accessible than the user areas where you really should be installing your brushes. So, to help you out, here is where the brushes should go and a couple of tips for showing the hidden and hard to find folders on the PC and the Mac:

In Mac OS X:

Photoshop CS4
~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop CS4/Presets/Brushes

Photoshop CS5
~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop CS5/Presets/Brushes

Photoshop CS6
~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop CS6/Presets/Brushes

Photoshop CC
~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop CC/Presets/Brushes

The tilde (~ ) indicates your hidden user library.

You can open it this way:

1 Launch Finder
2 Choose Go > Go to Folder
3 Type ~/Library and click Go
4 This opens the ~/Library folder and you can now navigate to the appropriate folder listed above.

On a Windows PC:

Follow these instructions to install the brushes where they can be found by both 32 and 64 bit versions of Photoshop (this is the prefered method of installing downloaded brushes):

Photoshop CS4
C:\Users\<your name>\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS4\Presets\Brushes

Photoshop CS5
C:\Users\<your name>\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS5\Presets\Brushes

Photoshop CS6
C:\Users\<your name>\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS6\Presets\Brushes

Photoshop CC
C:\Users\<your name>\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CC\Presets\Brushes

To locate your c:\users\<your name>\AppData folder, launch Windows Explorer and type this in the address bar :


This automatically opens the AppData folder for you so you can now navigate to the desired folder as detailed above.

where to install Photoshop brushes on the pc and mac Where to Install Photoshop Brushes on the PC and Mac

Helen Bradley

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Another Fractal Tree Creator

fractal trees by anna flagg 4 Another Fractal Tree Creator

Create fractal trees in your browser using this free download

I love Fractal Trees and I love finding new ways to make them. Today I found a handy download for creating some cool trees.

I’ll explain how to find and download it and then how to run and use it.

This program is browser based but you need to download the code for it. You will find that here at

On the bottom right look out for a download Download Zip link – click it and download the zip file. Double click the download and extract the files into a folder.

fractal trees by anna flagg 1 Another Fractal Tree Creator

When you do this, look for the Index.html file in the download. Double click it to open it in your browser. This launches the program which runs now in your browser.

fractal trees by anna flagg 2 Another Fractal Tree Creator

All you need to do is to adjust the sliders and click Preview to preview your tree. You can use the color pickers to set the colors for the trunk, leaves and background.

Experiment with different settings – the Randomness setting will give you some randomness in the tree so each time you click Preview the tree will change even if no other settings are changed.

fractal trees by anna flagg 3 Another Fractal Tree Creator

When you get a tree you like, click Make Image and the tree will open in a new window. You can click the tree, right click and then save it as a .png image – they aren’t transparent though.

fractal trees by anna flagg 5 Another Fractal Tree Creator

Then you can use it anywhere you like – I use mine in collages in Photoshop. They are very small images but they scale up pretty well.

fractal trees 1 Another Fractal Tree Creator

If you are interested in seeing Anna’s images head over to her website to see her page of fractal trees - here is a sampling of what you will find there – awesome!

anna flagg trees Another Fractal Tree Creator

Helen Bradley

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Delete a brush in Photoshop

Photoshop delete brushes 3 Delete a brush in Photoshop

Tidy up, rearrange and delete brushes in Photoshop

A reader just contacted me to ask how to delete a brush in Photoshop. It is an interesting question and one worthy of a post I think!

To do this, choose Edit > Presets > Preset Manager to open the Preset Manager dialog. From the Preset Type drop down list choose Brushes to view your brushes. Now you can click a brush to select it – it’s hard to see but it does get a narrow blue line around it. Click Delete to delete it.

Photoshop delete brushes 1 Delete a brush in Photoshop

Now, something else that is really handy about this dialog is that  you can also move brushes! So drag a brush and you can move it to your chosen place in the panel. So, you can put those brushes you use most often at the top of the Brushes panel where they are nice and handy.

Photoshop delete brushes 2 Delete a brush in Photoshop


Helen Bradley

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Help! My Photoshop Color Picker looks weird

Photoshop Color Picker HSL h channel Help! My Photoshop Color Picker looks weird

How to get the color picker to look the way you want it to look

or How to fix the Color Picker when it looks all funky

Sometimes when you open the color picker in Photoshop it looks one way and other times it looks a different way. It might even seem like there is  no rhyme or reason to how it looks and that it changes without (what it may seem like) no input from you.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth but knowing that won’t solve the problem of why it changes and how to change it back!

To change it, don’t go looking under Preferences for all the Color Picker choices. While some preferences can be found in the Preference area the secret changes are made inside the Color Picker itself.

To see them at work, click to open the Color Picker. What you see here depends on what is clicked in the right of the dialog (when you realize this everything becomes blindingly obvious).

Click H for Hue to see this:

Photoshop Color Picker HSL h channel Help! My Photoshop Color Picker looks weird

And S for Saturation to see this:

Photoshop Color Picker HSL s channel Help! My Photoshop Color Picker looks weird

And B for Brightness to see this:

Photoshop Color Picker HSL b channel Help! My Photoshop Color Picker looks weird

Each of R, G and B make the picker look different:

Photoshop Color Picker RGB r channel Help! My Photoshop Color Picker looks weird

Photoshop Color Picker RGB g channel Help! My Photoshop Color Picker looks weird

Photoshop Color Picker RGB b channel Help! My Photoshop Color Picker looks weird
As does choosing L or a or b:

Photoshop Color Picker Lab L channel Help! My Photoshop Color Picker looks weird

Photoshop Color Picker Lab a channel Help! My Photoshop Color Picker looks weird

Photoshop Color Picker Lab b channel Help! My Photoshop Color Picker looks weird

And each looks different if you have the Only Web Colors dialog checked:

Photoshop Color Picker Web colors Help! My Photoshop Color Picker looks weird

Now you know what affects how the Color Picker looks you can choose the one that makes the most sense to you.

Helen Bradley

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

6 Sites for free Illustrator Gradient Swatches


Free Downloadable Illustrator Gradient Swatches for you to try

While Illustrator comes shipped with a range of gradient swatches you will probably find that there are never enough gradients for your needs. Luckily there are a few good quality freely downloadable gradient swatch sets that you can use to expand your Illustrator toolkit.

While there are a lot of gradient swatches you can download for Photoshop there are not a lot of free options for Illustrator. I’ve scoured the web to find you this collection – they all download and install correctly and they aren’t from spammy sites (some others not included here are from spurious sites – so beware!).


This selection of 48 vector gradients makes a good starter pack. There are some handy black and light colored gradients as well as a lot of green and blue ones too. If you’re looking for a simple collection of gradients to start off with this a good choice.

colorful vector gradients 6 Sites for free Illustrator Gradient Swatches


2. Metallic gradients from Deviant Art

Deviant Art is always a great place to find handy downloadable things. Here we’ve located 140 metal gradients for Illustrator. There are a range of gold, metal gradients as well as copper, bronze, brass, silver, chrome, steel, aluminum and other metallic looks. This is a good starter collection of metallic gradients.

Free download 140 metal gradients Preview e1374107068256 6 Sites for free Illustrator Gradient Swatches


3. Gradients one to seven

This group of gradients in files called (somewhat unimaginatively) to is a selection of handy gradients. While it would be nicer if these gradients were all in one pack that’s not the case so you may want to grab the lot and perhaps assemble them into a single swatch file of your own.

1 7 6 Sites for free Illustrator Gradient Swatches

4. VectorPortal gradients 

4. At you’ll find a series of six gradient packs totalling over 700 gradients. The images for these packs look a little on the small side but don’t let this fool you – each pack ranges in size from 75 – 160 gradients per pack. All six can be downloaded from this site.

vectorportalgradients 6 Sites for free Illustrator Gradient Swatches


5. Web and button style gradients from Faisaljasnak

From Faisaljasnak comes this set of gradients for Illustrator. These gradients range from subtle color shifts to gradients suitable for buttons and other web elements.

faisaljasnak 6 Sites for free Illustrator Gradient Swatches


6. Adobe Exchange hosted gradients

This next group of downloadable gradients is accessible from Adobe’s own Exchange website.

The first in this round up is  Metal Gradients V1.5 .

metal from adobe 6 Sites for free Illustrator Gradient Swatches


This second lot is a small set of 3 metallic gradients:

3 adobe metal gradients 6 Sites for free Illustrator Gradient Swatches


This final set is of another 8 handy metallic gradients:

8 gradients from adobe site 6 Sites for free Illustrator Gradient Swatches

Once you’ve downloaded your swatches visit this post for instructions as to how to install and use the swatches in Illustrator.

Helen Bradley

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