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19 September 2009

10 Simple Steps to Better Photoshop Performance

Before getting started with Photoshop, we all should have first visited the “Edit > Preferences” menu and change the “Performance” settings to fit our personal taste and computer specifications, but this isn’t always the case – in many situations designers simply forget these aspects.

If you never changed the default performance settings in your Photoshop or you just want to double check them to improve the Photoshop performance, here are 10 important and useful points that you may want to consider.

1. Adjust The Number Of History States

Maybe you already went through that bad feeling of clicking “undo” dozens of times and realizing that Photoshop wouldn’t provide you with more previous steps, but this problem can be easily resolved by changing the History States setting in the “Edit > Preferences > Performance” menu.

There are more efficient ways of going back and forward in your projects like using the “Snapshots” feature, which are essentially comfortable checkpoints of your work that you can go back to. But if you use Undo a lot, you may want to consider adding more states, e.g. set them to ‘30′. However, be aware that too many states on a single image will usually result in History Palette literally “eating” RAM and if you work with less than 2GB of RAM, you probably shouldn’t using the Undo Feature that often!

Overall, you may add up to 1,000 history state levels in Photoshop.

2. How Many Cache Levels Do You Need?

The Cache Levels setting can be found inside the “Edit > Preferences > Performance” menu, right under the History States. It controls the histogram and the time it takes an image to reappear on the screen after an action is applied to it.

By default, there are 6 cache levels; the number of levels can be increased to the maximum of 8 which will – obviously – increase the rendering speed. It is particular effective when you are working with high-resolution images. When workin with smaller view-sizes, e.g. viewing an image at 50% Zoom, the cache levels will determine the number of “down samplings” allowing Photoshop to perform operations faster.

Photoshop uses Image Caching and if you have a good amount of RAM, like at least 2GB and work with high-resolution images, you might want to raise the level to 8 as the speed performance will compensate the memory loss, but if you have a low RAM amount and usually work with small images only (1-4MB), you may want to lower the value to 1 or 2 as the RAM will be better allocated – storing the images rather then caching them.

3. Keep An Eye On Your Memory Usage

Photoshop really likes RAM and will use every little bit it can grab, but it also allows you to limit the RAM resources of your computer that Photoshop will use, and it even gives you good suggestions for the appropriate range of RAM values it wants. This setting, of course, can be found inside the “Edit > Preferences > Performance” menu, on the Left Side.

The displayed available RAM is the value left for applications after the Operating System loads into memory. If you are going to use mostly only Photoshop, or if you have a low amount of memory, you will probably want to give it 75-80% of the available RAM. But if, on the other hand, you are more of a multi-task kind of person with browser, word processor, mail, Twitter client etc. being always opened, then you might want to limit Photoshop to around 50%.

Efficient Use of Memory

After setting up your memory values, you can keep an eye on how Photoshop is performing. At the base of your image window, click to the right of the document size information and you will be able to choose “Efficiency” which will show you a percentage value. If this value is not 100%, it indicates that if you allocate more RAM to Photoshop, the operations would perform faster. Closing applications or images that you are not using can also increase the efficiency – not exactly a secret, but worth mentioning nevertheless.

4. Use Proper Scratch Disks

Similar to what happened with RAM, Photoshop also uses a good amount of your hard drive space as the so-called “scrath disk” which works as the secondary memory resource. Photoshop assumes that your primary hard drive is its scratch disk, but you can set it up differently with a secondary internal or external hard drive.

If you are going to work with large images, it is recommended that you have a dedicated scratch disk that is different from the one containing the image file. Using different scratch disks is good, especially to avoid killing your primary boot drive when you have just a few gigabytes left.

5. Turn Font Preview Off

Photoshop users (and especially designers) like to have a good selection of fonts always installed and ready to be used; but when the font preview is active, having too many fonts can slow you down. Turning the font preview feature off can be a simple and instant step towards improving your Photoshop performance. To do so, simply go to the “Edit > Preferences > Type” menu and remove the check mark from the “Font Preview Size” option, just as it is shown in the picture above.

6. Use Thumbnails In Your Palettes

Displaying preview thumbnails in the Layers, Channels, and Paths palettes will cause Photoshop to consume some more of your RAM as it will be constantly updating the thumbnails to reflect the changes you will be doing in your project. The memory consumption will keep growing with the amount of thumbnails you have opened at the same time as well as their size.

You could use the smaller thumbnail size or no thumbnail at all to increase your Photoshop performance. To do so, in each palette, select “panel options” from the palette menu as it is shown on the picture above and select the smallest thumbnail size or “None”.

7. Learn How To Use Purge

When you are working on your images, Photoshop stores image data for the Undo, Clipboard, and History features. This data consumes memory, especially if you have been working for a while and have a high number of History States defined (see Point 1 for more on History States).

To eliminate that extra image data consuming your RAM, go to: “Edit > Purge > ( option )”. Keep in mind that clearing History will remove all the history states saved previously and you will not be able to undo your latest actions.

8. Set Maximize PSD And PSB File Compatibility to Always or Ask

Maximize PSD and PSB File Compatibility increases the size of your file by attaching a flattened copy of your image when you save your image. A small amount of extra data is included in the file when you choose this option that ensures that PSD and PBS files saved in Photoshop will open in previous versions.

Additionally, if you want to use the Edit in Photoshop feature in Photoshop Lightroom, this option needs to be on. To change the Maximize File Compatibility option choose “Photoshop > Preferences > File Handling”.

9. Don’t clutter your Photoshop

Of course, you can easily find an enormous amount of free stuff to add up to the default Photoshop brushes, fonts, patterns, etc. but that doesn’t mean you need to download every freebie that comes in your way. Keep it simple! Having too many plugins and other resources installed in Photoshop will greatly decrease performance. Most top designers use a small selection of fonts and brushes that define their style and that can be used in a great amount of ways for literally millions of different results.

10. Reset Default Settings

If you are using a shared machine for your Photoshop needs there is a little Photoshop start-up trick that may come in handy. When the application is launching, if you press and hold: Alt + Control + Shift (Windows) or Command + Option + Shift (Mac), a window will pop up asking you if you want to delete the Photoshop settings file, resetting all of the preferences to their default.

About the author

Marco Sousa is a blogger, computer engineer student and webdesign enthusiast. He is also one of the co-founders of, a blog dedicated to high quality freebies, news, tips and tutorials for the web design community.

14 September 2009

Change the Title Tags in Blogger for More Search Engine Traffic

By default Blogger displays the blog title first, followed by the name of the post. As you might notice this is not good when it comes to SEO. It's important for the name of the post to come before the name of your blog, especially when it comes to google search results. Learn how to make your post title show up first so that you can reel in more traffic from the search engines.

Why Change the Titles?
It's quite important to have the Post Title + Blog Title arranged accordingly because this is how you would want your blog to be displayed on google's search results. This way more people will click on your link when searching google because the post title is more relevant than your post name.
Example Google Search Results:
You are most likely to click on the bottom image when searching google for the keywords "image reflection generator". The reason being is that your mind reads text from left to right. So it makes sense to have the more important title on the left.

How to Change the Titles:
  • Go to Layout>edit HTML in your Blogger dashboard.
  • Search for this tag: <title><data:blog.pageTitle/></title>
  • Replace this tag with the following code:
  • <b:if cond='data:blog.pageType == &quot;index&quot;'>
    <title><data:blog.pageName/> | <data:blog.title/></title>
  • Save your template and you should see the results in your web browser as depicted in the images below.
  • It may take a few days for the changes to show up on the google search results. I guarantee you that you will start receiving more traffic from google once you are re-indexed!

  • 12 September 2009

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    9 September 2009

    Master the gradient mesh tool Illustrator

    The Gradient Mesh tool is tricky to master, which leads many digital artists to play with it a few times and then leave it alone, or only use it for specific tasks. One challenge with the tool is that when the mesh is complicated, the gradation of colour between two points forms a hard line instead of a soft gradient.

    There isn’t always an easy way to combat this: instead, the artist has to learn to fool the eye, and even compromise a little sometimes. In this tutorial, Stephen Freeman shows how to deal with this, guiding you step-by-step through how to create this illustration.

    He’ll also illustrate the potential and limitations of the Gradient Mesh tool, and show you how to handle some of the tool’s other little niggles. Gradient meshes use a lot of power, particularly when they get complex, so be patient if your machine doesn’t boast a speedy processor.

    01. Create a quick sketch. In this case, we’ve drawn a Tyrannosaurus Rex’s head. The purpose of this sketch is to lay down the shape of the head as it will appear in the final illustration. At this point it is wise to apply some colour and map out light and shadow areas. Save it as a CMYK image.

    02. When you’re satisfied with the sketch, import it into Illustrator using File > Place and set the transparency to about 40 (highlight the sketch and then go Window > Transparency, or hit Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + F10). Now lock the layer (Object > Lock, or Cmd/Ctrl + 2).

    03. Starting with the bottom jaw, make a basic outline of the head. It’s crucial that the shape isn’t too complicated, as this will make the mesh difficult to control. With the shape selected, fill the path with the mid-tone colour (C = 52, Y = 28, M = 67, K = 22). We will create the shadow and highlights using the mesh.

    04. Select the Gradient Mesh tool and place a point near the bottom edge of the jaw line. We are trying to get the path to follow the curvature of the jaw. We will be developing the shadowed area along this line.

    05. Once you’re satisfied that this line follows your contour closely enough, place another mesh line just above it. The purpose of this line is to isolate the first line you created. The reason for isolating the line is to prevent any colour you apply to it from bleeding into the area we need to reserve for midtones. With this done, apply the shadow colour (C = 61, Y = 39, M = 83, K = 76). Pull some of the mesh points beyond the viewable area of the path so that the gradient will blend smoothly.

    06. Now our shadow is in place, we can define the upper shadow area. Select the same colour we used for the mid-tones and isolate the upper ridge line. This isolation preserves the colour under the protrusion. Be sure to mould this line to the shape of the protrusion with as few mesh lines as possible. We need to keep the mesh simple at this stage because we will build on it as we go along, and we don’t want it to be difficult to edit later.

    07. With all your shadows in place, start adding in highlights. I find it useful to refer to my original sketch for the position of the highlights. With the Gradient Mesh tool, create a new mesh line contoured to the shape of the upper ridge, by adjusting the handles as you would with any regular path. Select a highlight colour (C = 5.5, M = 1.5, Y = 6.5, K = 0) and apply it to the line.

    08. You should now have a basic bottom jaw without the skin texture. To add texture, play around with the mesh lines we already have, and add a few new ones for control. Add vertical mesh lines and bend them to match the bone structure, adding a highlight colour to the light side. This gives the impression of skin stretched over bone.

    09. Add in mesh lines until it resembles a grid, then fill the grid with alternating light and dark colour to add fine texturing, like skin patterns.

    10. The upper jaw, eyes and nostrils are all created from one mesh; this is the most complicated part of the illustration. Draw its silhouette and fill it with a mid-tone colour (C = 52, Y = 28, M = 67, K = 22). First isolate the eyes and the area where the nostrils will be. For the eyes, mould the mesh into the shape of the eye, and add a mesh to separate the whites from the pink parts of the eye. Fill the pupil with white and the corners with pink. Create the pupil and add brown. Add a mesh to indicate light and dark areas in the pupil.

    11. For the nostril, add a mesh inside the area we isolated. Select each handle on the points and mould the path to the curvature of the nostril. Add more mesh points to indicate the shadow under the nostril and a highlight on the top.

    12. When you’re creating the shadow areas on the face, be sure to use as many mesh points as necessary to accomplish the curvature of the face. Pay special attention to areas where the skin folds and creases. Don’t be afraid to pull the mesh completely outside the path. This is great for situations when you wish to create a smooth graduation of colour on the edge of a path.

    13. For the horn shape over the eyes we need to create separate meshes and then blend them into the skin. First draw the shape of the horn, keeping it as simple as possible, then add a mesh. The mesh will follow the contour of the path and give form to the shape, so all you will need to do is add mesh for light and shadow.

    14. We’ll need to create an individual mesh for each tooth. Once you’ve drawn each shape, add a base colour – use white for most teeth, adding a hint of yellow for some. Next, add light and shadow areas. For the darkest shadow, use 32% black and 26% yellow. For some teeth add a strong yellow up to 50%. For speed, create basic teeth, duplicate them, scale them, and reuse them to fill the mouth with teeth.

    15. Handle the tongue, gums, and mouth lining in a similar manner to the skin, except use a base colour of C = 10, M = 36.5, Y = 22.3, K = 0, with a highlight of C = 10, M = 99, Y = 76.2, K = 88.7. For the crease that runs down the center of the tongue, first create a mesh, then add shadow and highlights, as before.

    16. The final area is the part that connects the upper jaw to the lower jaw. We’re creating this separately to keep it simple, as complex shapes are difficult to mesh, and sometimes the Gradient Mesh tool just won’t work on a path that is too complex.

    Author : Stephen Freeman

    3 September 2009

    CANDLE Tutorial in MAXWELL

    This time we would like to invite you to learn something about SSS in Maxwell. I think the best idea would be to create candle material that will be simulating SSS. Lets prepare whole scene:

    1. Since it is a tutorial about rendering we will not be fighting to much with a model. As you can see below I created a plane and simple box, which will be our candle.

    2. To modify our box we need to convert it to editable poly.

    3. Now press alt+q on your keyboard to turn isolation mode on. Thanks to this all others objects wont be bothering you.

    4. Now select edges on the bottom of the box and chamfer them a little - thanks to this we will be able to add turbosmooth without huge deformation of the model.

    5. Now select upper polygon and ue extrude tool.

    6. Lets rotate this new extruded polygon a little.

    7. And use bevel tool with negative value.

    8. Now add another modifier - turbosmooth and set its iterations to 2.

    9. Our candle has got typical candle shape, but lets make it a little more real - add noise and play a little with its values.

    10. Lets play a little more - add edit poly modifier and use soft selection - now you can select concret vertex and positon them correctly.

    11. As you can see I tried to deforme a candle to make it looks a little melted.

    12. Now we add another turbosmooth modifier to make our candle much more smoother.

    13. Now it is time to paint deformation tool that is available in edit poly modifier. Just select push/pull option and try to deform the model a little.

    14. And another turbosmooth to smooth the object.

    15. Below you can see our resoults.

    16. Now it is time for a wick. We will make it from a simple spline.

    17. To make it visible we have to clik renderable option and play a little with thickness and sides values.

    18. Now I would like to modify a little my wick, so as always I convert it to editable poly.

    19. Select some upper segments and use detach tool - we have to make it, coz I want to assign diffrent materials on upper and bottom parts.

    20. Ok, here you can see final resoult of my modeling job.

    21. Now it is time for shaders, so open material editor. As you probably know maxwell's meterials can't be seen in material editor of 3ds max and all others applications. It is because maxwell is an external renderer. So, lets select one of empty material box and assign this shader to all planes selected on the image. I created them to get some simple environment. As you can see I assign them maxwell emitter so they will be my lights - very small, since intensity i set to 4,0.

    22. Now it is a time for wick. Upper part will has typical maxwell emitter material with intensity set to 100. So it will be simple light.

    23. Bottom part is a typical maxwell diffuse with dark brwon.

    24. Not it's time for main shader of this tutorial - SSS for the candle. Choose maxwell plastic material and set its color to yellow. Specular color has got influence on reflect - lighter specular color, higher reflect. By changing roughness parameter we can control glossy. If you want to blur your reflect effect you have to increase it. To simulate SSS effect you have to change values absorption and scattering values.

    25. Now when we render our scene (you can download it HERE) we notice that it would be nice to have some light:)

    26. Below you can see an image of flame that I found on the web.

    27. And this is the final effect composited in photoshop - and HERE) you can download an pdf file.

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