The Makeready Archive, 1993-2006

Why That Job Won’t Run

August, 1993
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

October, 1993
In response to complaints from editor Tom McMillan 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

December, 1993
The many uses of the black channel were highlighted in this groundbreaking column. It, together with the previous piece, represent the only writing from this period that has survived nearly intact all the way to Professional Photoshop Fifth Edition.

DTP vs. “Professional” Typography

February, 1994
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

April, 1994
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 calls 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

June, 1994
“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

August, 1994
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

October, 1994
Questions and answers from readers punctuate a discussion of current Photoshop technique.

The Curse of Trying Too Hard

December, 1994
Beginners make beginner mistakes. The mistakes that experienced artists make can be so sophisticated that a beginner would never think of making them. This column showcases horrors that only an expert graphic artist could execute.

Would You Approve This Color?

February, 1995
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?

April, 1995
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

June, 1995
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

October, 1995
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

December, 1995
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.

The Case of the Counterfeit Color

February, 1996
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. A lengthy dialog with readers discusses some of the technical parameters of making a separation, including the role of GCR, black limit, and total ink limit.

What Goes Around

April, 1996
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*

June, 1996
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

August, 1996
Advanced uses of LAB, particularly complex curves.

Photoshop 4 in Perspective

October, 1996
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 I believe it should be called kampyliaphobia…

The Fifth Color Follies

February, 1997
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. The column was expanded into a full chapter in Professional Photoshop, along with considerable new discussions of methods of duotoning. Posted here is Chapter 15 of PP2E.

A New Angle on Descreening Art

April, 1997
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

June, 1997
Continuing the previous column, Dan discusses factors that cause moiré, and retouching techniques that may defeat them.

The Resolution Issue, Resolved

September, 1997
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

December, 1997
The story of a minister whose religion drove him to extract the data from Adobe fonts and market the faces under different names.

Sharpening With a Stiletto

February, 1998
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.

Hittin’ ’em Where They Ain’t

April, 1998
This column laid the foundation for a sharpening-by-channel approach.

A Rock and a Hard Place

June 1998
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

August, 1998
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

October, 1998
Simple recipes for channel blending continue with an exploration of how the RGB and CMY channels are cognates.

Plate Blending as Poker

December, 1998
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

February, 1999
The secrets of producing legible text type by manipulating the hyphenation and justification settings of the leading page-layout applications.

A Briefing on Background

April, 1999
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

June, 1999
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

August, 1999
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

October, 1999
Dan challenges readers to calibrate their system to match the printing conditions found in the magazine.

The Age of the Enlightened

December, 1999
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

February, 2000
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

April, 2000
Why the Auto Levels command (called Auto Tone today) works so well for users who aren’t sophisticated, and what it means for those who are.

Allowing the Color Problem to Fade Away

June, 2000
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!

October, 2000
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

December, 2000
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”

February, 2001
The easy way to make radical changes in the color of products.

An Infinite Number of Monkeys

April, 2001
One of Dan’s most quoted columns. 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

June, 2001
Readers feast on a bowl of SNAP, GRACOL, and SWOP in this survey of the role of standards-setting organizations in commercial printing

Fate and the False Profile

August, 2001
The introduction of a powerful method of starting a correction: the creative use of the Assign Profile command.

That Old Black Magic

October, 2001
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

December, 2001
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

June, 2002
Dan blasts the the anticompetitive features of Photoshop 7.0.

Corel Chases the Five Hundred

August, 2002
A discussion of why Corel’s Photo-Paint program has never been a competitor to Photoshop.

The Year of the Rat

October, 2002
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.

The First Refuge of the Fearful

December, 2002
Why overselection is a bad thing, and how the best selections are usually based on existing channels.
Read the above column in Russian.

The Channel-Choice Mutiny

February, 2003
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

April, 2003
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

June, 2003
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

August, 2003
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

October, 2003
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 LAB curves.

Sharpening, Blurring, and LAB

December, 2003
Why LAB’s separation of color and contrast make it the best choice for these two critical operations.

A Study in Scarlet

February, 2004
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

March, 2004
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. Dan’s words about Quark have a special poignancy in 2013:

A major effort is needed for a company to lose a monopoly position.…Irritating one’s client base enough to make them actually change applications is a colossal achievement.

The Cutting Edge of LAB

May, 2004
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

July, 2004
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

September, 2004
Introduction of a new technique: using inverted, blurred overlays to enhance highlight and/or shadow detail.

From Russia, With Love

November, 2004
An in-depth study of the Shadow/Highlight command (called Shadows/Highlights today).

Life on the Edge

January, 2005
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).

The Man from Mars Method

March, 2005
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. This move is the parent of the MMM action, one of the signature moves of the Picture Postcard Workflow.

Command, Click, Control

May, 2005
A powerful method of separating similar colors using LAB curves.

Imaginary Colors, Real Results

July, 2005
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

September, 2005
The AB channels of LAB can provide the best start for selections and masks.

Can You See Behind the Mask?

November, 2005
When images need to be corrected through a mask, it’s often best to base the mask on color, not detail.

The Science of the Skosh

January, 2006
Commercial printing is inherently unpredictable, but experts know how to take insurance against the ugliest possibilities.

The Screwdriver and the Hammer

March, 2006
Why RGB-oriented users need to have a little bit of CMYK in their toolkit.

The Screen Behind the Channel

May 2006
The series closes by revealing the secret of how a black channel is made, and how to use it to enhance shadow detail.