Tag Archives: Plus

Pantone Releases CAPSURE Color Measurement Device

capsure_box

Yesterday Pantone announced the immediate availability of CAPSURE, a handheld device that lets designers and creative professionals measure and match color on almost any material. A similar product has been available in Europe since spring 2010, released by X-Rite for the commercial paint market, but this is the first time it has been marketed to the United States–with PANTONE Color Libraries included–and to the creative market in general.

“CAPSURE’s advanced image capture technology sets a new standard for accuracy and versatility in a portable device,” said Giovanni Marra, director of corporate marketing at Pantone. “The real power of CAPSURE is its ability to measure the color of any surface, including small, patterned and multi-colored textures and textiles, which can confound other instruments because of their textural complexity, and quickly match them to more than 8,000 PANTONE Colors.”

CAPSURE ships with the most important PANTONE Color libraries pre-loaded. Fashion designers and home decorators will appreciate the FASHION + HOME and PAINT + INTERIORS Library, but graphic designers will be most familiar with the PLUS SERIES, which is the next generation of the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM, and the PANTONE Goe library. These constitute almost all important colors for reproduction on paper or on screen, and more can be added through the included CAPSURE Sync software.

The device

I’ve been testing the CAPSURE for a couple weeks now and have been paying close attention to the design of the device itself. It ships with a wrist cord and a carrying case that makes it easy to handle and it sports a nice design with a built-in calibration swatch that can be slid away from the sensor when in use and back to cover it when in storage.

One minor complaint is it seems I have to press and hold the power button when turning it on—a regular button press is not registered. I also think the CAPSURE is too large and bulky, which might concern designers who want the slimmest and most stylish devices in their pockets and bags. The device’s size is comparable to an old cell phone from the early 2000s. It’s perfectly at home on a paint salesman’s or press operator’s belt but it can look clunky next to an iPhone.

Using CAPSURE

The device is easy to use. The sensor captures 27 images in under two seconds and triangulates the best color match it can. Note that the camera doesn’t work with light-creating samples such as those on monitors. CAPSURE can store up to 100 colors and it will also show multiple colors in a multi-color sample. It can also build color schemes or select related colors to help you create a larger palette. The screen is a bit small but the user interface works really well and everything is readable and navigable on screen.

capsure_screen

You can also record text or voice tags with your color samples, which is really helpful if you’re using CAPSURE to catalog inspiring colors in the field. These tags can be retrieved with the CAPSURE Palette Application software, which also will bring color palettes into Adobe Creative Suite and QuarkXPress. Note that the Palette Application software is available only as a download after completing the product registration; CAPSURE Sync only updates the device’s color libraries.

Will it match?

I tested CAPSURE by scanning known and unknown color samples in a variety of materials including wallpaper, fabric, color laser printing and offset lithography. One set of samples came from a new Pantone swatchbook I unwrapped specifically to test this device. I didn’t know what to expect but I know how hard it is to exactly reproduce color, so I thought CAPSURE might come close to matching colors. I ended up being right.

The device measured a known sample of PAN 287 (blue) printed with a color laser printer and judged it to be PAN 7686. It also measured PAN 143 (yellow) as PAN 142 and PAN 179 (red) as PLUS 58-8. These are all close measurements and I was impressed the yellow measurement was one digit off. These results were duplicated by my scanning of a PANTONE Fashion Color Report produced earlier this year. CAPSURE matched one color exactly and on most of the rest it was only a digit or two off.

The most matches came from the Pantone swatchbook. CAPSURE did particularly well matching magentas, greens and blues exactly but had few exact matches with yellows, oranges, grays and browns. Even when the device could not match the color exactly it was usually only one number away. This might not be good enough when testing a print run for a difficult client who demands their logo reproduce exactly, but it will be satisfactory for all other situations.

capsure_use

CAPSURE effectively scanned odd materials and returned good matches of the colors. I recommend holding the capture button halfway when working with textures: the display will show a magnified view of the sample and you can move the device to capture the best section. One thing I noticed is the display shifts color depending on the angle you view it. Be sure to use the display only as a guide and use swatchbooks for confirmation.

Pricing and availability

CAPSURE ships now and the price is US$649. The device and software are compatible for both Mac and PC. (The Palette Application Software will be Mac-compatible in January 2011.) I don’t think I will keep the device in my bag of books and digital devices but it will stay on my desk and I think I could make it a regular part of my camera bag to capture color as well as photography when I’m traveling.

CAPSURE
Pantone
US$649
Rating: 8/10

Goodbye PMS, hello PANTONE PLUS

Today Pantone announced the widely-used PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM® has been discontinued immediately and replaced by the new PANTONE PLUS SERIES®. This is an historic moment for graphic designers everywhere who have used the old “PMS” colors and have many numbers committed to memory.

pantoneplus

“PANTONE PLUS takes what designers and printers know and love about the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM and supercharges it with a host of new features, colors and digital tools,” said Ron Potesky, senior vice president and general manager of Pantone. “The PLUS SERIES provides designers with greater freedom for selecting, specifying and matching color. And, since the PANTONE PLUS SERIES is based on the widely used PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM, there’s no training or new equipment required to start pushing the boundaries of creativity.” Pantone is framing this change as the “next generation” or “modern version” of the PMS but it’s clear to me that the PLUS SERIES is not the same thing—it’s probably better.

A little history: Goe in 2007

In 2007, Pantone released the Goe™ System with 2,058 new colors, chromatically arranged swatchbooks, new base inks and digital and interactive tools to help select Goe colors. I remember a lot of online discussion about this new system when I covered the news that year, but I never did see it used in the field. I work in Iowa so you can take that observation for what it’s worth.

I wondered at the time whether Goe could compete with the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM, which has almost 50 years to entrench itself in the design community. I thought Goe would not have a real chance to emerge with PMS still active. I asked Ron about this and it seems Pantone deliberately made Goe’s release vague, refusing to give it a clear position in the Pantone family of products. The intention was to let customer behavior dictate how Goe and PMS would co-function in the marketplace, but I don’t think this strategy was very effective. From my perspective, without a specific target market Goe was left to find a small niche in the packaging and specialized printing industries, leaving the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM’s position in the design market almost unchanged.

You gotta pull the trigger

I think Pantone has realized the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM had to go in order to make way for the next generation of color tools in PANTONE PLUS. It’s a sensible move because PANTONE PLUS has some features superior to PMS but keeps some elements of PMS to make the transition easy:

  • 224 new solid colors—1,341 total
  • Chromatically arranged swatchbooks
  • Swatchbooks are printed on text-weight stock, not cover-weight (100# text for coated, 80# text for uncoated)
  • Formulated with the same 14 base inks that constitute the PMS
  • Metallics can now be coated and varnished without changing luster
  • Reference numbers for PMS colors are unchanged (new colors begin at 7548)
  • Swatchbooks have a color-checking swatch on the inside back cover that helps judge studio lighting for a proper swatch check
  • The COLOR BRIDGE swatchbook (used for finding CMYK equivalents of PLUS colors) has swatches on the inside back cover, suitable for swatch capture like a Macbeth color checker
  • A PASTELS + NEONS family of 154 pastels and 56 neons is now available for active sportswear markets
  • A free COLOR MANAGER application will be available for updating Quark and Adobe products’ swatches and converting spot colors to CMYK

Pricing

According to Giovanni Marra, Pantone’s Director of Corporate Marketing, there is a small price increase of less than $5.00 per swatchbook. The most common product, the PANTONE FORMULA GUIDE, is $109 for coated and uncoated books; the three PMS books (coated, uncoated, matte) are $125. Other swatchbook sets are anywhere from $79 for the metallics and pastels/neons to $125 for the CMYK set and $209 for the COLOR BRIDGE set for matching PLUS and CMYK colors. Chip packages are $169–175 with the SOLID CHIPS set running $259. All products are available today except COLOR BRIDGE and the public beta version of COLOR MANAGER, which will be available in June 2010.

Beginning last March, Pantone also made Goe slightly cheaper:

  • GoeGuides are $20 less
  • GoeBridge is $10 less
  • GoeSticks are $40 less
  • The Goe Systems are also $40 less

I predict many designers will just go on living with their old swatchbooks and familiar colors (Reflex Blue, anyone?) but Pantone has just made the essential decision that will see PLUS replace PMS within a few years. Sounds good to me, because the chromatic arrangement and new colors makes PLUS a better color family without making things hard for printers.

Sidebar: myPANTONE X-Ref Color Tools for iPhone and online

xrefapp

This has actually been in the news since early April, but Pantone has released the myPANTONE X-Ref Color Tools for iPhone and online. This application is designed to cross-reference PANTONE color libraries and find color matches. The application includes all color libraries so users have full access to the PANTONE MATCHING System, Goe and the new PANTONE PLUS system in June 2010. The online application itself is available for free at www.pantone.com/xref and the iPhone app is available at the iPhone App Store for $1.99 (compatible with iPhone OS 3.0 and higher on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad).

Welcome, Photoshop Elements 8 and Premiere Elements 8

ele8-boxshots

Today Adobe announces the upcoming release of Photoshop Elements 8 and Premiere Elements 8, available now at www.adobe.com (Windows only—Photoshop Elements 8 for Mac will be available in October 2009). I enjoyed working with the previous version of both applications (you can see my review of Elements 7 here) but version 8 looks like it might be an awesome upgrade. I’m also very happy to report that Mac users no longer need to wait to upgrade Photoshop Elements: Adobe has fast-tracked development of the Mac version and it will now be released almost at the same time as its Windows equivalent!

Adobe’s strategy

I haven’t seen the actual software yet—this article is not a review—but I did see a demo by Adobe’s Bob Gager and Mike Iampietro. I was able to cull some of Adobe’s strategy from their presentation and comments:

  • Adobe’s consumer division, which controls the Elements product line, makes it clear their mission is to empower customers to “tell their stories.” The Elements products are therefore designed for personal media, such as photo collections and home videos.
  • Bob mentioned they are looking with version 8 to strike a balance between ease of use and “headroom,” allowing users to get creative and produce more “wow” moments.
  • Bob also said, “Intelligence enables ease of use.” This is reflected by the integration of some smart technologies we’ve seen in other products in the past year, such as Content-Aware Scaling (Photoshop CS4) and face recognition (iPhoto ’09).
  • Mike, who presented on Premiere Elements 8, said their objective was to “make video editing less work” for consumers. The development team’s focus on “smart” editing tools makes this obvious, and in fact such tools comprise the bulk of the improvements in version 8.

Photoshop Elements 8: Leveraging new technology

It looks like Photoshop Elements 8 is using new technologies to add new features that will make consumers ooh and ha. One is the Auto-Analyzer, which will add Smart Tags to photos upon import so you don’t have to manually tag photos. Another is People Recognition: the Organizer can recognize photos of faces and will ferret out other photos of the same people. It works best when the user can devote a little time telling the Organizer what it gets right and wrong, but after looking at a couple batches the Organizer gets uncannily good at finding people, even in older photos. The other thing I notice in my reviewer’s guide is a new keyword tag cloud feature, which will be appealing to users of services like Flickr, who have had tag clouds for some time. Click here to download a demo of the Elements Organizer (Flash video).

It’s important to note that Mac users will get Bridge CS4 instead of the Organizer. Bridge is a good file management application with some features above and beyond the Organizer, but I’m actually a fan of the latter with its leanness and ease of use, and Mac users don’t get any of the cool new features in the Elements Organizer.

ele8-exposure

There are a few new editing features, most of which look very exciting for consumers:

  • Quick Fix previews have been added to the Quick Edit controls. Clicking on the icon beside each control will bring up a 3×3 matrix showing what the control can do. This addition is based on user testing that showed users were far less likely to use a control if they didn’t know right away what it would do. Photoshop users will recognize it as a variant of the Variations command.
  • Photomerge Exposure (see the image above) lets users combine photos with different exposure levels. This is ideal if you have two photos of the same subject but with different exposures, and you want to use the foreground of one and background of another. It’s similar to HDR but is designed to be more functional and less artistic. Click here to download the demo (Flash video).
  • The Recompose tool (see the image below) is basically Photoshop CS4’s jaw-dropping Content-Aware Scaling, but does have a couple improvements including size presets and brushes to protect or remove objects during scaling. Click here to download the demo (Flash video).

ele8-recompose

I’m really looking forward to reviewing Photoshop Elements 8, and I expect consumers will really get a thrill out of the new features. Professional users have had these tools for awhile now but the consumer market is quite different (though they are converging). It stands to reason that their software would as well.

Premiere Elements 8: Everything’s “Smart”

ele8-smarttags

There are two big news items for Premiere Elements 8: it now uses the same Organizer (now dubbed the “Elements Organizer”, see the image above) as Photoshop Elements 8, and there’s a suite of “Smart” features designed to make video editing easier. Premiere Elements 8 sports all the new Organizer features such as the Auto-Analyzer and People Recognition, and I noticed during the demo that you can apply tags to video at specific points in the clip.

The “Smart” features analyze your clips and apply global adjustments or trims them as needed. It’s unclear whether these are non-destructive edits or not—I will learn more after I look at the software. For now we don’t have a whole lot more than the descriptions of the Smart features:

    ele8-smartfix

  • SmartFix, which will correct light or dark video.
  • ele8-smarttrim

  • SmartTrim, which can automatically detect bad video or segments with no action and suggest what to trim out. This feature can be used to simply improve a video or to trim to a specific duration. Click here to download the demo (Flash video).
  • SmartMix analyzes the sound in a video project and makes sure speech isn’t drowned out by noise or music.

ele8-motiontrack

The last feature that was demoed was motion tracking: Premiere Elements can define and track a moving object in video, and align and move graphics, text or effects with that object. Premiere Elements 8 also comes with a library of artwork, and in the demo a bird from the library was linked to a girl skating across the stage (see the image above. Motion tracking allowed the bird to follow the girl’s motion path. Out of all the new features shown in the demo, motion tracking was the most exciting! Click here to download the demo (Flash video).

And Plus…

In version 7, Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements came with a basic Photoshop.com membership and 2GB of online photo/video storage, upgradeable to Photoshop.com Plus membership. It’s still available but it’s now called Photoshop (or Premiere) Elements 8 Plus. There’s a yearly fee to upgrade to Plus and with it you’ll get:

  • 20GB of storage instead of 2GB
  • Access to seasonal artwork, templates, movie themes, special effects and more, delivered to the applications
  • Tutorials for photo and movie projects

Pricing and Availability

The pricing looks like it will not change from the previous version:

  • Standalone products (Photoshop Elements 8 [Mac or Windows] or Premiere Elements 8 [Windows only])
    • $99.99 full
    • $79.99 with mail-in rebate
    • $139.99 full, includes Plus
    • $119.99 with mail-in rebate, includes Plus
  • Bundled product (Windows only), available only at Adobe.com
    • $149.99 full
    • $119.99 with mail-in rebate
    • $179.99 full, includes Plus
    • $149.99 with mail-in rebate, includes Plus
  • Plus membership alone is $49.99/year.

Photoshop Elements 8 and Premiere Elements 8 for Windows are available today, but the Mac version of Photoshop Elements 8 will be available next month. Both products will be available soon at retail outlets such as Amazon.com, Apple (Mac only), Costco.com (Windows only), Best Buy, Office Depot and OfficeMax.

Stay tuned for the review!

REVIEW: DrawPlus X3 Does Some Catching Up

drawplusThe UK-based developer Serif has released DrawPlus X3, the latest version of their drawing application that most closely resembles Adobe’s Illustrator and the defunct Freehand. Unlike those programs, DrawPlus X3 has also taken after Photoshop Elements and other applications that help users along with wizards, visual aids and step-by-step instructions built into the application, making this product a good selection for amateur and prosumer users who do not need the Adobe standard.

Working with EPS and other formats

The new version of DrawPlus X3 works with more image formats including Microsoft’s HD Photo format, EPS and Illustrator (AI). I have never used the HD Photo format and it surprises me given that DrawPlus X3 is a drawing application. The additions of EPS and AI are much more pleasing, since they are two of three of Adobe’s major vector image formats (the other being PDF). I imported an Illustrator CS3, Illustrator CS3 EPS, and PDF saved with the Illustrator Default preset and DrawPlus X3 did not have a problem importing the data. I was able to work with points (called “nodes” in DrawPlus X3) but one shape using a compound path could not be edited in any of the three formats. It’s handy to import Illustrator and EPS artwork but illustrators who want to import complex artwork should expect difficulties.

AutoTrace = Live Trace

DrawPlus X3 introduces AutoTrace, a module that will trace bitmap graphics and convert them to vectors. This technology has been in Illustrator for a few years, dubbed Live Trace; before that, Adobe produced an application called Streamline for this purpose. Converting bitmaps to vectors is a very helpful feature, so AutoTrace is a great addition to DrawPlus. The interface is straightforward and presets can be saved in one of three modes: logo, black/white and color.

autotrace
AutoTrace is similar to Illustrator's Live Trace and produces good results, but offers less control.

AutoTrace offers fewer controls than Live Trace and it seems harder to get great results. I missed the presets that ship with Illustrator and Live Trace: I often use them as a starting point and fine-tune the controls to perfect the trace, but with AutoTrace I was searching for the right sliders to achieve good results. Part of the problem might be the sliders’ labels and icons, which I didn’t always understand. I also wished AutoTrace would preview the trace on the full-sized image rather than a small preview thumbnail. Quick tip: you can preview on the large image by clicking the Trace button, though you have to click to re-render every time settings are changed.

Head to the Image Cutout Studio

Another major addition to DrawPlus X3 is the Image Cutout Studio, which most closely resembles Photoshop‘s Extract filter, which was actually retired when Photoshop CS4 was released. Image Cutout Studio is a simplified version of Extract that doesn’t require tedious highlighting of edges, but that is what made Extract such a precise extracting filter. Instead, Image Cutout Studio employs Keep and Discard Brush tools that are more like Photoshop’s Magic Eraser tool—click a background with the Discard Brush tool and it goes away. A Tolerance setting controls its sensitivity. Once everything is extracted, you can preview the results, fine-tune the edges with more brush tools and output as an alpha mask or vector mask.

cutout
Photoshop CS4 no longer has the Extract filter, but DrawPlus X3 offers a very similar feature that performs well.

I found that, even though previews within Image Cutout Studio suggest less than perfect results, extracted images look great in DrawPlus X3. Image Cutout Studio did have difficulty with images with fine details, such as hair, and subjects whose color was close to the background. However, Photoshop CS4’s eraser tools have the same problems. The old Extract filter is the only tool I’ve used that could handle such images well, other than third-party plug-ins such as Corel’s KnockOut 2.

DrawPlus.com

An interesting new addition is not in the application itself but online: DrawPlus.com has become a “community website” where DrawPlus users can upload their artwork, rate their and others’ art, make comments and search in various ways. I’m disappointed the website is built with Silverlight—it’s definitely not as ubiquitous as Flash, especially in the Macintosh market—but it doesn’t surprise me since DrawPlus uses several Microsoft technologies such as the Windows Metafile and HD Photo formats.

drawpluscom
This elephant was created with DrawPlus X3 and uploaded to DrawPlus.com, an online community for DrawPlus users.

If anyone doubts that professional results can be created with DrawPlus, visit DrawPlus.com and see the artwork that’s been posted: some of the artwork could be better, but there are also some excellent photorealistic illustrations and creative artwork!

New design additions

Serif has added some nice new spray brush strokes to DrawPlus X3, including airbrush, grungy and special effect strokes that look really good. I think the best application of these is to create textures with the Grunge family of brushes: a swirl of paint with these strokes will make a very nice texture for use in other applications or within DrawPlus. The Special Effects family is also fun to play with but the presets aren’t particularly useful for my daily work.

You can see the Grunge brushes creating a painterly effect on the edges of these shapes.
You can see the Grunge brushes creating a painterly effect on the edges of these shapes.

Some new overlays have also been added in order to aid the designer: a Rule of Thirds grid, which creates a simple 3×3 grid, and a Divine Proportions grid that creates a Fibonacci spiral, considered a harmonious basis for many designs and layouts. Experienced designers may not find these particularly useful but novices could find them very useful.

There are a variety of other new features for the designer, including:

  • A Crop Tool that allows position, rotation and shape changes in the middle of the cropping procedure. It even can apply a Rule of Thirds grid to the crop window so it’s easy to know the most harmonious places to crop.
  • Brush outlines can be stroked or textured.
  • New 2D and 3D filters that can apply blur, reflection maps and lighting effects. These have been around in Photoshop for many years.
  • Specific areas in a document can be exported with the Export Optimizer. Photoshop and Fireworks have better bitmap image optimizing interfaces but DrawPlus X3 has all the basic functions and the option of exporting a section of an image is appealing to me.
  • The new Arrange tab allows for basic arranging, rotation and reflection of elements. Again, this has been available in Adobe products for several years.

Conclusion

I keep coming back again and again to the fact that DrawPlus X3 has added features that are already familiar to Photoshop and Illustrator users. One could chide Serif for basically playing catch-up, but improvement is not a bad thing. DrawPlus is borrowing ideas from good products and has matured into a solid application for prosumers.

DrawPlus X3
Serif
US$99.99
Rating: 8/10