THE MAKEREADY ARCHIVE, 1993-2006
Why That Job Won’t Run
The series opens with a discussion of the most common user mistakes that cause jobs to image improperly.
GCR: Color as a Four-Letter Word
In response to complaints from the editor that the first column wasn’t technical enough, Dan retaliates with the first user-oriented examination of what Gray Component Replacement is and does, and what types of image it is suitable for.
In Color Correction, the Key Is the K
The many uses of the black channel were highlighted in this groundbreaking column. It, together with the previous column, represent the only writing from this period that has survived nearly intact all the way to Professional Photoshop Fifth Edition (2006).
DTP vs. “Professional” Typography
With PageMaker and QuarkXPress nearing maturity, Dan organizes a shootout between the two and a high-end typesetting package of the late 1980s.
The Case for Cross-Breeding Fonts
As the need for new and more legible typefaces grows, two companies introduce font-morphers, while Adobe proposes Multiple Master, where countless variants can be spun off a single type family. Dan uses one program to generate a face midway between Bodoni and Times Roman. He called it “Mugwump Roman”, because
It straddles the fence between two contradictory positions, with its mug on one side and its wump on the other, looking forlornly in every direction at once, without a future because it has no past, an ugly child tormented by competing, incompatible memories of its elegant, eminent parents.
Color Correction by the Numbers
“Color by the numbers,” the assumed foundation for all professional retouching work today, originated with this column. In an age when color correction was thought to be impossibly complex, few people used curves, and there was almost no awareness of the pivotal importance of highlight and shadow settings, Dan rocked the industry with,
Monkeying around with\ the color balance of photographic images is not a sport for the timid, or so goes the conventional wisdom...And yet, ninety percent of color correction could be handled by monkeys...The rules for this ninety percent of color are so simple that they can be stated in one sentence: Use the full range of available tones every time, and don’t give the viewers any colors that they will know better than to believe.
Color, Curves, and Horsetrading
The steeper the curve, the more the contrast. Every professional knows this mantra today, but in 1994 the concept had never been heard of. It originates from this column, the continuation of the previous one.
A Photoshop Potpourri
Questions and answers from readers punctuate a discussion of current Photoshop technique.
The Curse of Trying Too Hard
Beginners make beginner mistakes. The mistakes that experienced artists make can be so sophisticated that a beginner would never think of making them. This columns showcases horrors that only an expert graphic artist could execute.
Would You Approve This Color?
Color is notoriously subjective; your client may like images that you don’t, and vice versa. But some items are notsubjective, but rather outright errors. Nobody wants these errors in their file. If you are a prepress house, how do you know whether your version is good enough to send out to a client for approval?
How Much Image for a Dime?
The advent of royalty-free stock photography, unlimited use, on CD sent a shock wave through the photographic industry. Most of these CDs retailed at $300 or more for 100 images, or several dollars per shot in quantity. But some vendors were willing to take a chance on a far lower price. This column explores what a 1995 customer could expect when spending 10 cents per image for unlimited use.
The Five-Minute Photo CD Gourmet
Kodak Photo CD was a novel process that allowed high-quality scans at a fraction of the cost of drum scanning. However, it did not permit adjustments on the part of the scanner operator, so that any defect had to be corrected in Photoshop, an uncommon request for most professionals at that time. The recipe offered here is the first to suggest the use of LAB in color correction.
Trapping and the Split Infinitive August, 1995
Desktop publishing required that users learn how to trap their graphics, building in intentional overlaps as a safety measure against misregistration on press. Dan explains how the complicated concept works, opening with this warning,
Trap is like a split infinitive: an overrated fine point, much fussed over by purists,capable of striking fear of seeming ignorant into the hearts of the misunderstanding majority.
In reading an essay by the great authority on grammar and usage, H.W. Fowler, I was struck by the exactness of the parallel. Substitute trap for split infinitive, and save me the trouble of paraphrasing.
“The English-speaking world,” he wrote, “may be divided into (1) those who neither know nor care what a split infinitive is; (2) those who do not know, but who care very much; (3) those who know & condemn; (4) those who know &approve; & (5) those who know &distinguish.”
This attractive and oft-quoted column was chosen to be the opening chapter of the book Makeready (1996), which is the source of the version chosen here.
The Natural Superiority of CMYK
This is a time in which RGB users are suddenly being asked to deliver files in CMYK. The column discusses why in such cases it’s also usually best to correct in CMYK.
Typographic Fashion for Our Time
Typeface design is an art form, and like other art forms it follows certain trends. This column explores the fashion in letterform design for the early 1990s.
One of the most popular of Dan’s columns enlists Sherlock Holmes, Ellery Queen, Hercule Poirot, and Lord Peter Wimsey to investigate an artist’s claim that the prepress house is sabotaging his work. We present the expanded version that ran in Dan’s Makeready book. There is also a second half, of dialog with readers, to this section.
What Goes Around
Professional Photoshop (1994) was the first publication to devote significant analysis to the quality and future of digital photography, then a niche field. Less than two years later, at the time this column was written, digicams were still too slow to capture anything that moves, yet the writing was on the wall. As most professional photographers refused to read it, Dan read them the Riot Act:
When a compatible and user-friendly better way emerges, those in the way of the locomotive had best watch out. That is the position of photographers today. They stand on the tracks, and the train of the digital revolution is headed right at them. Two of their choices are quite unpalatable. They can remain where they are and find out who will survive the inevitable collision. They can also cede their territory and their business, by stepping aside.
There exists, however, a third alternative: getting a running start, so that when the train roars by they can jump on board.There are those who pooh-pooh this, just as the type houses did a few years back, pointing out the many areas in which conventional photography is, at least for the moment, undeniably superior. Regrettably, this is irrelevant...
Incorrigible conservatives will undoubtedly go down without ever even knowing their enemy. The great majority, however, now face the crucial decision. If they can bring themselves to reflect upon what has happened to others, and why, they will survive. If not, we will all see a demonstration of a notorious corollary to Santayana’s wisdom: that when history repeats itself, it does so first as tragedy, then as farce.
Color, Contrast, and L*a*b*
The first of a pair introducing a unified strategy for the use of LAB in color correction and retouching. The two columns, exploring an area unknown at the time of their publication, were the direct antecedent of the 2005 Photoshop LAB Color.
L*a*b* Meets the Matador
Advanced uses of LAB, particularly complex curves.
Photoshop 4 in Perspective
Dan’s review of the first Photoshop upgrade since layering was introduced.
Defanging the Curves Vampire December, 1996
Dan makes the by-the-numbers concept even simpler, with a column aimed at the fearful, writing
Serious graphic artists, as a rule, are not buffaloed by complexity, and try to get full value from the most powerful features of the programs they use...The glaring exception to this rule, the obvious case where many of us fail, from sheer terror, to adopt a method that the entire world knows to be superior, is the use of curves in color correction. As the first to document this particular disease, I get to name it, and Ibelieve it should be called kampyliaphobia...
The Fifth Color Follies
When fifth and subsequent inks are added to the customary CMYK, the purpose is usually to guarantee accuracy in printing a logo or other vector graphic element. But the extra ink can also be useful in improving photographs. The column discusses how to make the bump plates that exploit the advantage.
A New Angle on Descreening Art
When we have to reproduce prescreened artwork, the angle of the output becomes critical. This column shows how to manipulate it, along with a half-page warning toQuark that its domination in the professional page-layout market is in danger.
Mathematics, Moiré, and the Artist
Continuing the previous column, Dan discusses factors that cause moiré, and retouching techniques that may defeat them.
After the demise of Computer Artist, “Makeready” moves to Electronic Publishing,with a column highlighting the difficulties of a system that refers to several different kinds of resolution with the confusing phrase dots per inch. This column developed into a chapter in the second three editions of Professional Photoshop; here, we have linked it to the chapter from PP4E.
God, Man, and the Knockoff
The story of a minister whose religion drove him to extract the data from Adobe fonts and market the faces under different names.
Modern unsharp masking practice began with this seminal exploration of what the filter does, the things that can go wrong, and how to work around them.
Today, all serious users know when to sharpen individual channels rather than the document as a whole. This column laid the foundation.
A Rock and a Hard Place
There’s no best way to move an RGB file into CMYK, given that it’s impossible to preserve the most brilliant colors. But should we always try to match the RGB colors if possible?Or should we tone some of them down, to distinguish them from the more brilliant colors that can’t be matched?
Plate Blending as Poetry
With help from Emily Dickinson, Dan launches a three-part series that introduces channel blending as an aid to color correction with a discussion of the weak, or unwanted, color and how to improve its detail.
Plate Blending by the Numbers
Simple recipes for channel blending continue with an exploration of how the RGB and CMYchannels are cognates.
Plate Blending as Poker
For images that lack snap, channel blending can be the right play. Those who don’t investigate blends across colorspaces are making bets without looking at all the cards in their hand.
Text Type, No Hype
The secrets of producing legible text type by manipulating the hyphenation and justification settings of the leading page-layout applications.
A Briefing on Background
In product shots, or any other image with a prominent foreground object, the path of least resistance is often the indirect one of working on the background. Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, and other military strategists offer advice on how to plan the campaign.
A Matter of Interpretation
One photograph, many ideas. How many directions can one image take? A sunset, a stormy sky, a rock climber, a rolling river, and a dozen graphic artists offer a roadmap.
The Great Dot Gain Gamble
All print jobs are to some extent a crapshoot. Unexpected happenings are only to be expected. but with careful adjustments of Photoshop’s dot gain settings, the odds can be improved.
Dot Gain and the Calibrated Monitor
Dan challenges readers to calibrate their system to match the printing conditions found in the magazine.
Likely Dan’s most quoted piece, this double-length commemoration of the turn of the millennium points out the importance of the graphic arts in the development of human culture. It includes Dan's choices for the visual artists of the decade, the century, and the millennium, as well as similar selections for the face (both human and typographical), the businessperson, and the stupidest mistake of each time period.
Read this column in Spanish.
The Black and White Connection
When taking a color image into grayscale, realize that some channels are more equal than other. Find out which one is your enemy, and proceed to eliminate it.
The Great Imaging Equalizer
Why the Auto Levels command works so well for users who aren’t sophisticated, and what it means for those who are.
The many uses of Luminosity, the mode that ignores color changes while allowing enhancement of detail.
When Things Can’t Get Much Worse August, 2000
In a heartrending double-length column wrapped around the correction of a single difficult photograph, Dan discusses his relationship with, and the progression of the fatal disease of, his long-time editor Tom McMillan.
Steal This Column!
Recent courtroom developments in the field of copyright show a tendency by judges to trust their noses rather than the law, and indicate that the system favors the well-off.
99 Layers and Counting
One good (Photoshop 6), one bad (Illustrator 9) and one nonexistent (PressReady 2) upgrade provoke a column about where such upgrades fit into the vendors’ strategies, and ours.
“I Think It Might Look Better in Red”
The easy way to make radical changes in the color of products.
The advent of consumer-priced digicams that are capable of professional-quality captures, and the sad truth about what it means to the beleaguered professional photographer. Plus, a full-page look at three ways to upsize an image.
Read this column in Italian.
Read this column in Portuguese.
Breakfast of Champions
Readers feast on a bowl of SNAP, GRACOL, and SWOP in this survey of the role of standards-setting organizations in commercial printing
The introduction of a powerful method of starting a correction: the creative use of the Assign Profile command.
This fanciful Halloween-themed column discusses the black channel of CMYK and its seemingly magical power in enhancing shadow detail—even for RGB users.
Read this column in Spanish.
The Mask Behind the Disguise
The first of two columns on how to retouch deceptively concentrates on layer masking and Overlay blending.
Lighten, Darken, Luminosity, Color February, 2002
From smoothing a complexion to coercing the viewer into perceiving more vivid color, four blending modes stand out as retouching powerhouses. Includes Dan’s recipe for redeye reduction.
A Pair of Fifties April, 2002
The fiftieth “Makeready”, plus the author’s birthday, offer an occasion for a look back at the column’s development.
Read the above column in Russian.
The Upgrade From Marketing
Dan blasts the the anticompetitive features of Photoshop 7.0.
Corel Chases the Five Hundred
A discussion of why Corel’s Photo-Paint program has never been a competitor to Photoshop.
The Year of the Rat
A year after 9/11, the graphic arts industry is recovering somewhat better than the world is. Plus, caustic comments on the corrective update Photoshop 7.0.1.
Why overselection is a bad thing, and how the best selections are usually based on existing channels.
Read the above column in Russian.
The previous column continues with a look at stealing channels from different colorspaces, or by making false corrections to a copy of an image.
How the Unlucky Get That Way
This column introduces (courtesy of bridge authority S.J. Simon, but transplanted to the graphic arts) the unforgettable Unlucky Expert, whose technique and technical knowledge are flawless, but who is consistently let down by his partners. Here, he is falls victim to a client who unexpectedly changed printers, another who gave him a job in a foreign language, and a third whose Photoshop Color Settings were incorrect.
The Unlucky Expert Rides Again
The Unlucky Expert’s adventures continue, as his partners in catalog reproduction, color management, and gray component replacement all derail his work. Simon, in his bridge book, explains how it always happens:“The Unlucky Expert is so good that he cannot bring himself to realize how bad other players can be. Either that, or he is determined to punish them for it—even when they are his partners. He will not bring his game down to their level—they must lift theirs to his.”
Giving Nature a Hand
On the occasion of the column's tenth anniversary, a trip to Yosemite provokes a discussion of why we bother to color-correct images at all.
Artist’s Palette of LAB
Columns that eventually form the backbone of the 2005 bestseller Photoshop LAB Color: The Canyon Conundrum and Other Adventures in the Most Powerful Colorspace begin with, what else, a canyon and an explanation of the simplest LABcurves.
Sharpening, Blurring, and LAB
Why LAB’s separation of color and contrast make it the best choice for these two critical operations.
A Study in Scarlet
Pure pastel colors are rarely reproducible in print, yet are common in nature. This column discusses how to handle shocking pinks when they occur.
The Old Order Changeth
A series of industry-shaking events were about to take place. This column discusses why most professionals would be moving from QuarkXPress to InDesign, how Macintosh OSX finally was taking off in the professional community after languishing for nearly five years, and the new features of Adobe’s first release of the Creative Suite package.
The Cutting Edge of LAB
The formless, blurry A and B channels seem like the last thing one would ever use to blend with. But in a mode where 50% grays are ignored, anything can happen.
In the Land of the Color-Blind
A fascinating look at how image quality is evaluated by a jury of the color-blind.
Read this column in Italian.
Making Two Ends Meet
Introduction of a new technique: using inverted, blurred overlays to enhance highlight and/or shadow detail.
From Russia, With Love
An in-depth study of the Shadow/Highlight command.
The theoretical basis of unsharp masking, and its relation to blurring, opening with a tour de force: an image sharpened using only the Gaussian Blur filter (plus a series of blends).
When trying to add snap and color depth, but you don’t know how much, consider adding the maximum possible and then dialing back the opacity. It may make fleshtones look Martian, but that's only temporary.
Command, Click, Control
A powerful method of separating similar colors using LAB curves.
Imaginary Colors, Real Results
How colors that are theoretical only, impossible even to imagine, can be used to solve difficult retouching and sharpening problems.
The Shadow of the Rose
The AB channels of LAB can provide the best start for selections and masks.
Can You See Behind the Mask?
When images need to be corrected through a mask, it’s often best to base the mask on color, not detail.
Commercial printing is inherently unpredictable, but experts know how to take insurance against the ugliest possibilities.
The Screwdriver and the Hammer
Why RGB-oriented users need to have a little bit of CMYK in their toolkit.
The Screen Behind the Channel
The series closes by revealing the secret of how a black channel is made, and how to use it to enhance shadow detail.