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SuperPNG – the Free Photoshop Plug-in That Saves Large PNGs in Under a Year

I complained recently on Twitter that Photoshop’s compressed PNG option is brutally slow. If you save a 16-bit 8K texture map to PNG in Photoshop, it’s guaranteed to take at least 3 minutes to save, even on current hardware. It’s insane.

Thankfully, someone heard my nerdy tweet cries and pointed me to SuperPNG, a free plug-in that offers different compression levels and saves compressed PNGs a hell of a lot faster than Photoshop does. I had to share this because it will save you tons of time if you work with PNGs in Photoshop.

For Maya users, it also prompts you to specify whether you want to open the transparency of PNG files as transparency or an alpha channel (unpremultiplied!), which solves a big workflow problem for Maya, Photoshop and PNG.

Otherwise, if you just want to convert PNGs quickly in the OS X Finder, my Automator action with Python 3 is still faster. Grab that in my post here.

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Making a Shaped Water Ripple in ZBrush and Photoshop

So I’m working on this piece with a guy floating in the water and thought I’d share the workflow I used to make the simple water ripple around his body. Within ZBrush, have your water plane and object meeting and then take a screenshot from above with perspective off. Open the screenshot in Photoshop, crop it to square – since you’ll be making an alpha map for your brush – and then use outline as a selection. Offset the selection, stroke it and blur, and you now have an alpha map for ZBrush:

My water cube is too small but it’s just for a still, so I can clone out that wonky bit at the top. Also, water has an index of refraction of 1.333 but I used 1.6 to increase the refractive effect since I’m not going for realism. As you can see in the video, I like to use Smart Objects for my Photoshop layers since the blur filter can always be changed later if I want less or more of the filter and I can scale the stroked layers non-destructively.

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My Review of Adobe’s Lightroom 5

Check it out.

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My Review of Photoshop CC and the New Creative Cloud Rental License Model

Photoshop Creative Cloud was released just before I left for vacation but my review is now up on Ars Technica. While the app itself is fine, I’m no fan of the Creative Cloud license, which turns us all into renters of the software, not owners. Join the active debate in the comments if you want to let Adobe know how you feel about this issue.

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A Script for Photoshop to Rename the Layer With The Document Name

Update: now with JavaScript version for Windows/OS X.

I do a lot of composites of similar images or render passes, so I like to have the document name as the layer name so it’s clear which document was used for the layer. I don’t know much about scripting Photoshop but I managed to piece together a very basic AppleScript to do exactly that, so grab it here if you want to:


Here is a Windows/OS X-compatible JavaScript version, courtesy of David Jensen. Tested in OS X PS CS6 and CS5 for Windows. Put it in your Photoshop folder/Presets/Scripts folder and it will appear in the File/Scripts menu.

The original AppleScript is here: Rename Front Doc with Document Name AppleScript.


Here it is in action:

I use this script so often that I ended up putting the script into an iKey hotkey so I don’t need to the AppleScript Editor to run it manually. I highly recommend iKey if you want a keyboard automation app for OS X. I also used it to map command-shift-z to command-y for Nuke’s redo function and it does a bunch of other auto-typing stuff for me.

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GoP 2.0 Adds Camera Support to Scenes Sent to Photoshop

So I’ve updated GoP with some handy changes which bring it up to version 2.0 (download link). If you don’t know GoP, it’s a script that lets you send selected objects in Maya to Photoshop for texturing. The original version used the OBJ format as a go-between but 2.0 now uses .dae COLLADA format, which has some nice advantages – most notably, camera support:

As you tell, that has great potential to be used as an aid for matte painting or texturing with specific angles in mind. By default, Photoshop opens 3D files as square, but you can get the correct cropping for your scene by matching the aspect ratio or dimensions of your Maya scene:

As you can see above, this also supports basic coloured Maya lights. I can’t claim any credit for this stuff. It’s just Adobe’s excellent COLLADA support that’s doing all the work. You may need Photoshop CS6 for camera import support but meshes will import fine. Anyway, this should come in handy as Adobe adds more and more 3D features to Photoshop Extended.

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Unsharp Masking and Ambient Occlusion Before Computers

Just looking through my Goya book and noticed the ultra-sharp details of this gorgeous still life, Three Slices of Salmon. If you look closely, you can see that he covers it with a darkened glaze that picks up the valleys of the brush strokes, much like an unsharp mask or ambient occlusion effect (click for full size):

I apologize for cropping it but I couldn’t fit it all in my scanner. Unsharp Masking works by increasing the contrast of surrounding pixels, so this is a lot like what you’d get if you over-sharpened an image in Photoshop. You see this in a lot of Rembrandt paintings as well. Anyway, it’s an interesting technique to see how painters devised ways of making things seem hyper-realistic despite their loose brushwork.

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Quick Texturing Tip: Faking Stacks of Money With a Texture

Stacks of paper and money are one of those things that would be complete slowverkill to create as individual planes with SSS. Unless you need them to flap at the edges, a stack of bills can be easily faked with a series of lines along the edges that are then used as a mask for a stretched edge fake in Photoshop, and later as a separate bump map:

The render (notice the light catching the bump on the stack at the bottom):

The one complication to this workflow is that Photoshop will usually detect that you’re trying to edit a bank note image and not let you edit it:

That’s why I had to do the initial layering in the excellent and cheap photo editor Pixelmator and the banknote image wasn’t detected in the layered image used above. If you want to do a dollar stack, you might need to use The GIMP if you’re looking for a free Photoshop alternative.

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Good Thread on Wide vs. Standard Gamut LCDs

People tend to assume that wide-gamut means “better” when shopping for an LCD screen but unless you’re always in Photoshop, their minuses outweigh their pluses. Since most apps like ZBrush, Maya, etc. have no ICC colour support, it becomes more of a hassle trying to hammer your displayed work back into a non-crazy-pink-red or cosmic green colour space. If you do stuff for television or print, high-quality sRGB screens more fitting but are rare now – I’ll be holding onto my dual NEC 2490 WUXi screens for a long time to come, despite the screen real estate advantages of larger or higher-res screens. Anyway, read on in the CGSociety thread where me and an illustrator talk about the benefits and problems of using wide-gamut screens and AdobeRGB colour space in production.

So the next time you see a laptop or screen with 100% AdobeRGB advertised, you might think twice about buying it.

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My Review of Photoshop CS6 Extended is Live (as in “up,” not as “in concert”)

I did an extensive review of Photoshop CS6 and have explained the Adobe Creative Cloud licensing. Read on!

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