Although it took a few days, or weeks, longer than I’d hoped, I am really happy to be able to announce today that my latest iOS app, PhotoClock Pro has just gone live on the Apple App Store! And, at just $7 I’m starting with a 12.5% discount, saving you a dollar for the first week to celebrate the launch. The price will go to a still very reasonable $8 from April 8, 2022, but I think it’s worth every penny at either price and today I’m going to share with you information on all of the major features of PhotoClock Pro with lots os screenshots and a couple of video captures. I am incredibly proud of what I’ve built over the last three months, so I have been really looking forward to being able to share full details with you.
My Dream App – Hopefully Yours Too!
For many years I’ve wanted an app that does what PhotoClock Pro does, which is in essence, to provide an analog clock on my iPhone or iPad screen and display images behind the clock. The basic design was relatively easy to complete, but as I worked on PhotoClock Pro I started to want more and more features, and have actually added one more feature in version 1.1 which I put in for review today, and I’ll show you that shortly as well. The base price, which as I say, I’ve set at $6.99 for the first week of sales, gets you the fully functional app. I added the Pro designation to the name because many of the features are pro-level, more than a regular consumer app, but that’s how I like to work.
You can add as many images as you like, although I will warn you that if you try to add more than 50 or so the app may crash, depending on the spec of your device. The method defined to limit the number of images imported doesn’t work, although I’ll keep working on this area. For now, though, try to limit imports to 50 or fewer images at a time. In addition to your own images, as we’ll see, the app actually comes with In-App Purchases that enable you to buy additional Background Image Packs of my photos, if you want to use them. Most photographers though and probably many people are going to just use their own photos, so the optional image packs are completely optional and can be hidden when you don’t need to see them. So as not to unnecessarily take up space on your device with my images, apart from multiple app icons that you can choose from, there are no images actually stored inside PhotoClock Pro when you buy it. They are only downloaded and stored on your device if you buy them. Even the thumbnails for the Background Image Packs are only downloaded as you need them, so out of the box PhotoClock Pro is a relatively lean 50MB download.
Here is a series of three screenshots that I’ve captured to show you the ten image packs that I’m launching with, and you will also notice a My Image folder at the top of the list. If you don’t want to see my image packs, just tap the eye icon in the top right corner and they’ll collapse away, leaving just the user albums visible. We start off with one album for you to load your own image into, but as you can see in the right-most of the three screenshots, you can slide the albums to the left to reveal an option to create a new album. When you no longer need an album, you can slide it to the right to delete the album and all of the images inside it.
When you tap on an album you go inside to see a list of thumbnails showing what each image looks like and provides a few more options via the management panel at the top of the list and by sliding the images themselves. In the user albums, if you tap the pen in the top right corner you can edit the album name and description, to help you organize your albums as I’ve organized the image packs. If you enter an image pack that you don’t yet own, you will see a button at the top of the list to buy the pack, as you can see in this screenshot of my FlowerScape pack. Note too that there is a cloud icon below each image title showing that the pack is not yet downloaded. Once you buy an image pack it will be automatically downloaded and all images marked as Included, meaning that they will be included in the slideshow behind the clock, which we will get to very soon.
As you can see in the center of these three screenshots, if you swipe the band above the list of thumbnails there is an option to exclude all images in that set from the slideshow. If you swipe there again, they will all be reincluded in the slideshow. You can also swipe the top band to the right to delete all images in the folder. Swiping on each individual image includes or excludes that image. There is a second image swipe option that enables you to change the master photo for any of the albums. Unfortunately at this point, you have to close and reopen the Image Manager for that change to take effect.
To get into the Image Manager you just have to tap the center icon in the bottom toolbar. Note that the bottom icons dim and become almost completely transparent after seven seconds, so that they don’t obscure the background images in the slideshow. They are still easily visible while the Image Manager or Settings screens are displayed, but can be difficult to see while images are displaying, depending on the contents of the image, so you may need to tap down there to un-dim them when you need to change an option.
OK, so I created a short video capture of PhotoClock Pro on the iPad, running through the twelve images in the FlowerScapes image pack with the default clock showing, and I’ve embedded that here for you to check out. Of course, you can change the duration of the slides from 3 seconds to 5 hours, via a pulldown list in the settings, and you can also simply pause the background image by tapping on the Play button right of the center button at the bottom of the screen.
The default clock is one of 12 preset themes. There were originally going to be ten themes, but then the Ukraine situation arose, so I added a theme called Ukraine Pride using the yellow and blue national colors, and eleven themes felt clunky, so I added one more to make it twelve. Then I realized that it would be nice to be able to create additional groups of themes, so I added that feature, but an empty second theme also felt clunky so I added seven more. Then I realized I could simply enable the creation and deletion of themes to your heart’s content, and because you might at some point decide that you just want all of the default themes back, I added an option to reset all of the themes back to their default twelve and seven in two groups. Because there are so many options, there are a lot of pull-down menus that save space, and I added two sections that collapse down until you hit the gear icons, to the right of the Clock Theme Groups section and the Background & Frame options.
Here are four more screenshots, with the two on either side showing all of the options on the settings screen, the second showing the theme management options, and the third showing what I internally called the theme maniac options, and they are where you can change the color of the clock hands and digits, etc. At the top of the Settings screen, you’ll find the most commonly used settings for the clock itself. As you can see, you can change pretty much everything about the clock, including the color and opacity of the background, the color and thickness of the frame, and whether you use Arabic numbers or Roman numerals. If the writing is a bit small in the screenshot click on it to open it up in the Lightbox for a better view.
At the bottom of the third screenshot, you’ll also see that there is an option to force the screen of your device to always stay on if you want it to. With that option active you can of course still lock your screen manually, and it will stay off, but unless you do manually lock your screen, it will stay illuminated so that you can always see the clock. This is useful if you want to keep it displayed on your desk, or even as a night clock beside your bed. You may not want to keep the screen on full time using your main iPhone, but if, like me, you have some old devices hanging around, this is a great way to give them a second life, rather than pushing them to the bottom of a drawer.
Just below that is a button to open the icon browser, where you can choose from 19 icons using the twelve default themes and another 7 copies of some of the themes with photos in the background. I like to roll the iPhone over to landscape orientation when looking at the icon browser because the 3D effect that I applied to the icons is more obvious in landscape mode. Just tap an icon you like and press OK to apply it and then when you close PhotoClock Pro you’ll find that it’s using your newly selected icon.
The themes are of course just ideas, so show you some of the possible combinations of settings. There are literally thousands of combinations that you could create, and although you’d get lost with that many, you can save anything that you create as well. Note that changes are saved as you make them, so you have to save a copy of something that you like before you start to modify it. I mentioned a new feature earlier that I added a new feature that will be released in the first update after the initial version goes live, and that is that you can now double-tap the clock to switch to the next theme. You can also long-press the clock to move through the theme groups. I did this mainly to make it easier to show you all the themes without going into the Settings screen every time to select a new theme. It enabled me to create this second video capture showing the themes and group names in a small notification at the top of the iPhone screen.
Moving the Clock
The right-most icon in the bottom toolbar changes the size of the clock. To move the clock you simply press and drag it. We remember where you place the clock for all of the orientations of the device, so you can have the clock in a different location for landscape and portrait modes, and we separately save the location for landscape and portrait orientation flat modes, for when you lay the device down. The clock generally starts in the middle although occasionally, if you install and first launch PhotoClock Pro with the device at a certain angle we can’t get the coordinates and it appears in the top left corner. Once you move it though, we’ll remember where it’s placed.
The lightbulb button on the left of the toolbar is to change the screen brightness. If you leave the Brightness slider at the bottom it will simply use the brightness set on your device. If you move the slider though you can change the brightness and we remember where you place it, so you can set it, for example, to a very dark screen for use in bed. When you close PhotoClock Pro though we set the brightness back to your original device brightness, so it doesn’t interfere with your usual settings.
OK, so I think that just about covers all the features of note in my latest software release, PhotoClock Pro. I am really excited to be able to put this out into the world, and really hope that you find it useful. I can imagine a professional photographer sitting at their desk with a client and an iPad sitting there running through some of the photographer’s best work, or a family with photos of old family holidays rolling through while they have dinner. I think PhotoClock Pro has the potential to become a major part of peoples’ lives, regardless of what you do for a living. It’s probably as useful on a personal basis as on a professional basis, so I’m really hoping that people like it. There are a few areas that I’d like to build out more and will work on them in due course. Before that, I’m going to start working on an Android version, and hope to have something for you within a few months. If you’d like to pick up a copy for iOS though, you can do that today, using the button below or the short link https://mbp.ac/aspcp
I do hope that you find PhotoClock Pro useful, and if you come up with an elegant, beautiful, or completely whacky clock with all of the customization options available to you, please do a screenshot or a value capture and share it online, and send me a link so that I can check it out.
Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone, and iPad are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries and regions. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc.
Thank you for using the MBP Fine Art Border Tools plugin for Adobe Photoshop! This page will help you to get the most of out FAB Tools, as they are affectionately known.
With this set of tools, you will be able to easily frame, resize and watermark your artwork in style. A key goal of FAB Tools in addition to resizing and framing your art is to shift your image up within its frame to provide visual balance as well as create space to add text-based and graphical Watermarks with ultimate positioning freedom.
Autopilot enables fully automated image processing and round-robin from most content management applications for one-click framing for Web or Print, now with 30 media sizes and ten customizable format slots. Automatic Text can be used to get shooting information or Descriptions embedded in your images to dynamically create boilerplates specific to each image, even during Autopilot processing. All settings can also be saved in Presets and recalled per module at any time, saving you from having to keep detailed notes on settings used for various projects.
If you prefer to watch, we have a series of videos to walk you through some of the basic operations and introduce new features as they have been added. Use the menu in the top left of the video below to navigate between tutorials.
This plugin requires a full version of Adobe Photoshop 2021 or newer. If you have any problems with FAB Tools please update Photoshop if there is an update available. We generally try to optimize FAB Tools for the latest version of Photoshop. FAB Tools does not work with Photoshop Essentials or Lightroom.
Installation is automatically performed after purchase from the Adobe Creative Cloud Marketplace. If your new FAB Tools are not automatically installed, in Photoshop open Plugins > Manage Plugins and you should see the MBP Fine Art Border Tools plugin with an Install button. If you bought FAB Tools on a different computer, you may have to wait a while before the plugin appears in the Stock & Marketplace > Manage plugins section as below.
When an update is available, there will be an Update button displayed instead of an Install button when you select Manage Plugins from the Plugins menu in Adobe Photoshop.
Should you need to Uninstall or Disable the plugin for any reason, select Manage Plugins under the Plugin menu in Adobe Photoshop, then click the ellipses to the left of the Installed text and select Uninstall or Disable. You can re-enable or re-install the plugin at any time.
Launching in Photoshop
If you don’t see the plugin panel, select MBP Fine Art Border Tools under the Plugin menu in Adobe Photoshop. The panel can be free-floating, or docked in a side panel, or added as an icon in a narrow toolbar.
Docking FAB Tools
For ease of use and to enable scrolls bars to scroll on tall tool panels, drag the FAB Tools plugins to the edge of either the right or left side of the Photoshop image area, until you see a blue line as seen in the below screenshot. Once you see the blue line, let go of FAB Tools and they will be docked in that location ready for use.
FAB Tools Modules
The MBP Fine Art Border Tools are split into multiple modules that perform different tasks based on your requirements. The Web Frame and Print Frame modules can both call the Watermark and Add Text Modules so that you can resize for either Web or Print and add a Watermark or Text with one click once configured. There is also an Autopilot module to run tasks automatically or in Batch Mode and a Presets module to store your settings to recall later. The Tools menu contains some useful tools and reset buttons, as well as some generic options that affect all of FAB Tools.
As the name implies, the Web Frame module is designed to help you resize and frame images for use on the Web. The top three fields are to enter your Long Edge and Short Edge sizes in pixels, and the width of your border. By default, the Border is also set in pixels, but we recommend changing this to use a percentage by selecting the % option below the Border Offset slider.
A pleasing border width to start with is 8%, which represents 8% of the width of the image, or around 100 pixels for an image between 1280 and 1440 pixels wide. If this is too wide for your tastes, try something narrower, such as 60 pixels or 5%, depending on your setting.
One of the core goals of the MBP Fine Art Border Tools is to provide you with a way to offset the resized image within the frame. Moving the image up slightly in the frame gives it a more pleasing balance and visual distribution while giving you room to sign your work, or add a watermark and/or text below the image, and we’ll cover that shortly.
The amount you offset or move your image up is personal preference, but moving it up by around 3% gives a very balanced image, especially when adding text or watermarks below the image.
Note too that we use the terms Long Edge and Short Edge instead of height and width because FAB Tools automatically recalculates dimensions depending on whether your image is landscape orientation, portrait orientation, or square. So for landscape orientation images, the long edge is the width, but for portrait orientation images, the long edge becomes the height, and you don’t have to worry about which it is.
Save & Close Checkbox
If you are working on multiple images, for faster processing, there is an option at the bottom of the Web Frame and Print Frame modules to Save and Close the image once processing is complete.
Color Your Frame
You can also change the color of the frame that you apply to both Web and Print Frames. Say, for example, you want to frame an image and move away from the standard white frame that we’ve had so far, all you have to do is open your image and click on the colored square on the left of the two which is the Border color, and you can select a color using the regular Photoshop color patches and sliders, but your mouse pointer will change to a picker so you can also sample any color your want from your image, as you see in this screenshot.
Print Frame Module
The Print Frame module is for framing for Fine Art Prints. There are 30 presets which, to protect the integrity of the media formats, cannot be modified, other than the border size and vertical offset. If you change the border size it will automatically be saved for future use, and a Revert button will appear, to remind you that you’ve modified the preset and to revert to the preset default border size if necessary.
In addition to the 30 media presets, there are ten customizable formats, based on popular media size and a few square frames. You can take these and make whatever you want. You can enter the Long Edge, Short Edge, Border width, all in millimeters, as well as a custom name for your format and a short description. Each of these fields is saved as you move away from the field. If you ever need to reset a format and start again, just select a saved custom format and hit the Revert button.
You can also select your resized image resolution. We are not actually able to set the resolution of your images during the resize, but with the value selected for the resolution, we can ensure that your images are the correct size. Resolutions start at 150 ppi which is about the lowest resolution you want to be working with for print. 300 and 600 ppi are common values for printing with Canon printers, and 360 and 720 are common with Epson printers.
The resize algorithm used by Photoshop when resizing is selected automatically and is optimized based on whether you are downsizing or upsizing your image.
In the Watermark module, you can add graphical watermarks with precision to pretty much any location on your image. Start by selecting one of the nine anchor points, including the four corners, center sides, and the center of the image. From there, you can nudge the watermark up to 100% of the image away from the anchor point.
You can load multiple images and change or delete images easily from a pulldown. You can scale the image to a percentage of the width of your resized image, and change the opacity, which is useful if you are placing a watermark over the image area. Scale and Opacity values are stored separately for each image that you load to your list.
Once you’ve specified your settings, you are ready to apply your watermark. When you are happy with the placement, you can also turn on the checkbox in either of the resize modules to automatically apply the watermark after resizing. There’s no need to worry about the image orientation. We calculate the position based on your image size and orientation, so unless something goes wrong, the watermark will be placed perfectly each time.
You can select to anchor your watermark Inside your resized image or Outside the resized image on the border. Until the image is resized, these options will be displayed in red, because they cannot be used until the image is resized, but your settings will be used as configured. You can apply a watermark anchored to the canvas edge at any time, even without performing a prior resize with the frame.
Add Text Module
The Add Text module gives you the ability to store multiple text strings that can be applied to any location on the image, anchored to your resized image or the canvas. The Inside and Outside image options are displayed in red until you perform a resize, but they can be configured and will be used accordingly when you perform your resize.
To save space when not in use, most of the text options are hidden by default and are opened with a button next to the Scale and Opacity fields, which remain visible for ease of access. When you unhide the text options you have the option to modify the currently selected text or add a new string. Regardless of which you select, your changes are automatically saved, and the font and color options are all saved on a per string basis, so they are recalled with each string as you select it.
Unless you want to confirm or change the settings, you can apply and switch between saved text strings without unhiding the text options, simply by selecting a different string in the Text pulldown. To delete any string, just select the string and hit the Delete Selected button.
FAB Tools can automatically fetch information from your embedded image data for inclusion in your text watermark! Select information such as the Title, Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO, Focal Length, Date & Time, Camera, Lens, Artist, and Copyright! You can either replace your watermark text or append your automatic text to it, and there’s an option to split the text over multiple lines if you prefer. There is a new preview feature, so you can see how your text will look before you apply it, including your font and styling.
Second Text Line (from V1.5)
From version 1.5 released in December 2021, there are now more text customization options than ever! We’ve covered this in the version 1.5 update video in the tutorials that you can view above, but to explain, you can now add a second line of text that you manually enter for your Text Watermark.
All you have to do to use the second line of text is to select the Second Line Text field (inside the green box in this screenshot) and type in your text. When you tab away from the text field your text is automatically saved with your first line and other options, such as font, font style, and font color.
If you don’t need to embed your second line in your watermark, you can either delete the text or uncheck the Activate check box to the right of the Second Line Text field. If you want to change your text regularly, leave the Auto-hide button unchecked, and the field will remain on the screen when the other options are hidden.
Please note that due to limitations in the plugin framework, we cannot list and display all fonts that are installed on your system with FAB Tools. We have included 19 fonts by default that represent a wide selection of font styles, and you can add any other fonts on your system manually for use in the Add Text module.
Another new feature in version 1.5 is the ability to add any font that you have installed on your system to the Font pulldown for use in the Text Watermarks. To get started just click on the Add Font button that can be seen after clicking on Show Options in the Add Text module. If you haven’t added a Text Watermark yet, you need to add something before these options are visible.
After clicking the Add Font button, you will see six text fields. The first is for the font name, and the following five fields are for the various styles that you commonly find in a font. The name can be anything you want, but so that you can recognize the font, using the Font Name is recommended. For the remaining Postscript name fields, you can use the font file name without the extension, or get the font style name from the Font Book under Applications on a Mac or from the System Font Viewer on Windows. These names have to match the actual font names or your custom font will not work. After entering the style names, click the Store Font button, and check the preview to see that the font is working. If you have added more than one font style, also check that the style changes in the preview when selected.
You can add different styles to the five provided, for example, you might add an Extra Light font style instead of Light, or Extra Bold instead of bold, but note that the style will only be displayed by the available style radio button with the default names. Once you have added a custom font, you can press the Edit Font button that will be displayed when a Custom Font is selected and reopen the font text fields to check or change what you added. There is no limit to the number of fonts that you add.
Note too that the fonts are added to the MBPCustomFonts.txt file that you can find along with the other preference files that are stored. To see your Custom Fonts file and potentially make a backup, go to the Tools module and click on the Show Settings Folder Path button, then copy the path to the clipboard, and paste that path into the dialog that appears when you select the Finder > Go > Go to Folder option on a Mac, or paste the path into the Explorer path field in Windows.
Description Text Wrapping Options
Version 1.5 also introduced two new Description Text wrapping options. The Description text is automatically extracted from your image if you added a description, either in the File Information > Description field in Photoshop, or in another application, like Capture One Pro or Lightroom. If you add a Description in Photoshop, note that you must save and close then reopen the file before MBP FAB Tools will be able to read the Description from the image file.
The first of the two new wrapping options is to return after the number of words entered into the first of the two optional fields. Your description will automatically be wrapped after the number of words entered. The second new wrapping option is to wrap when FAB Tools finds a specific character or character string in your Description. By default, this is an opening parenthesis bracket. As you can see in the example screenshot above, I wrapped the description after the two words “The Abyss” by including the remaining Description inside parenthesis. I’ve not limited the character wrap to the first instance of a character, so you could theoretically wrap line after line by including the wrap character multiple times.
Note that the Description formating checkboxes are grayed out when your image has no Description embedded. To add a description in Photoshop, open File Info from the File menu, or add it to the EXIF information in third-party products like Capture One Pro and Lightroom.
Safe Text Scaling
The last major update in this release is the Safe Text Scaling option. As it is now possible to build text watermarks that can potentially overflow the space provided in the border surrounding your resized image, I’ve added the Safe Text Scaling option and turned it on by default, and this will essentially prevent your text from overflowing the border and being cut off.
The cool thing about this is if you do work with multi-line text watermarks, and are happy for them to fill the border space vertically, you can now just set a larger Scale percentage than necessary, and allow the Safe Text Scaling option to resize your text to fit the border automatically. So, for example, instead of trying to find the percentage required to fill the border, which might be say 32%, you can now just specify a 50% border, and leave the rest to FAB Tools. Needless to say, it works with landscape or portrait orientation images, as well as square and panorama images.
If you want to know whether Safe Text Scaling is kicking in, look below the three options under the Text Anchor Target section in the Add Text module while adding a text-based watermark. You’ll see a green message quickly flash onto the screen saying “Text Auto-Scaled!” To actually be on the Add Text screen if you are adding a Watermark during the resizing process, select Apply Web Border from the hamburger menu in the top right of the FAB Tools plugin panel.
FAB Tools includes a robust Autopilot module. With Autopilot you can now turn on the Add Watermark and Add Text checkboxes on either of the resizing and framing modules and apply your frames in batch. This helps as you try various settings, as you can simply leave Autopilot on, allow it to process your open images, and walk through your images to check how the frames look.
We remember which images have been processed, so your frames won’t be reapplied during that session. However, if you want to apply some changes made, you can simply hit the Revert button to undo your changes, and Autopilot will instantly apply your updated frame and watermarks.
If Autopilot runs too fast for your computer to keep up with, you may see errors that will cause Autopilot to deactivate. If this happens, increase the number of seconds pause between actions with the radio buttons provided. For example, on my iMac Pro with an 8-core CPU, I can select 0.5 seconds pause and batch process twenty or so 50 megapixel TIFF files without any issues. On a 13″ Mac Book Pro though, with a 2-core CPU, one second is generally a long enough pause.
If you should need to deactivate the Autopilot, note that you can select FAB Tools from the Plugin menu as seen in this screenshot. There is also an option to Deactivate Autopilot in the Shortcut menu, so you don’t have to open the plugin to turn it off. If you do select FAB Tools while the Photoshop welcome screen is displayed, Photoshop will open and the plugin will be displayed, enabling you to change the settings or deactivate Autopilot.
We strongly recommend working on copies of your images when working in Autopilot mode. We’ve tried very hard to make it as robust as possible, but occasionally errors may occur, especially if you are using a short pause, and if you have Automatic Save & Close turned on, you may end up saving errors and need to rerun a file or two. Ideally, run through a few batches without Save & Close turned on first to get a feel for how Autopilot works, and find a good place for the pause radio buttons. Then, once you strike a good balance, you can turn on Save & Close and blast through large batches of images relatively quickly.
Because Photoshop will revert to its welcome screen when all files are processed, there is an inactivity timer built into Autopilot to help you avoid forgetting that the Pilot is on, and inadvertently framing and saving a file that you open in Photoshop. The default timer is five minutes, but you can change this to up to one hour with the available radio buttons. Note too that the inactivity timer resets every time you process an image, so five minutes is generally fine.
A longer inactivity timer may be useful if you are working on images in another program, and want to round-robin to Photoshop. For example, you can leave Autopilot turned on in Photoshop, and even minimize the FAB Tools plugin window to an icon, and then send your images to Photoshop, and they will be automatically processed and saved back into your base application.
You can save any and all settings in presets and recall them at any time. When you save a Preset you can select which of the four main modules to include, and even if you save them all, you can deselect any module when restoring, giving you full control of what you include and restore. You can even restore deleted watermarks!
The final panel provides a number of tools to help you maximize your use of the MBP Fine Art Border Tools plugin.
At the very top, you’ll find a button that links to this page, the FAB Tools User Manual. Below that is a group of Global Settings. There are a few operations that may require clarification so contextual tips appear when you perform certain tasks. If you don’t want these Quick Tips to appear, uncheck the Show Quick Tips checkbox.
The Custom Fonts First checkbox is used to reorder the many available Media Formats under the Format dropdown list in the Print Frame module so that the Custom Formats appear at the top of the list. Unchecking this checkbox makes the Custom Formats appear after the non-customizable Media Formats.
The Enable Safety Nudge checkbox is on by default and essentially ensures the positioning of watermarks and text that you can add to your image are calculated so that they are positioned in the same place regardless of the image orientation. Without this checkbox on, you may find that in some situations your watermarks and text are higher or lower compared to the frame or inner image edges when applied to portrait orientation images compared to landscape orientation images.
Use the Show Settings Folder Path button if you need to make a backup of your settings, or if you have a problem with FAB Tools and are requested to send your settings files to support.
Click on Show Reset Buttons to display multiple buttons that erase any settings you’ve made and restore factory presets if you have any problems with FAB Tools. There are buttons for each module and to reset the Custom Media Formats. There is also a red button to Completely Reset FAB Tools, which resets everything with one click. If you have to use this, we also recommend clicking on the hamburger icon in the top right corner of the FAB Tools panel and selecting Reload the Plugin.
There is a button to Subscribe to Update Notifications so that you receive an email from us when an important or useful update is released, and at the bottom of the Tools module, you’ll find the version of the plugin and the media version, which we may ask you to check or provide to us if you should require technical support at any time.
If you can’t find the answers you need on this page, or if you have any suggestions for future updates, please feel free to contact us with the provided contact form.
A month after I talked about adding text-based watermarks and the Autopilot feature to the MBP Fine Art Border Tools plugin for Adobe Photoshop, today, I’m proud to announce three more new features that pretty much round out the majority of all the ideas I originally had for FAB Tools. There will doubtlessly be a few more incremental updates, but those of you that are completely uninterested in this product will be pleased to hear that we’re pretty much done with these updates for now and will be returning to regular episodes from next week.
Having said that, the Martin Bailey Photography Podcast has always been about sharing what I’m up to, and this is the result of another month of hard work at the computer, so I’m really just continuing to share what I’m up to. Besides, I’m really proud of what I’ve created here, and from the sales reports, I know that there is a percentage of you that agree with me.
Another thing that I’ve been really happy about is that users and potential owners have been key in driving these latest three features, all of which were on my list, but I honestly didn’t think two of these were even possible with the current Photoshop plugin framework. Not wanting to disappoint people though, when these features came up, it prompted me to take a deeper dive, and come up with some innovative ways to build what people want, so let’s jump in and talk about them.
So, the first feature which is a new Presets module is available right now, as it was actually released a week ago version 1.2.0 and has already passed Adobe’s review. The second two features which are the ability to change the color of the frames and automatic text from your image data are still in review but should be available within the next few days. The Presets module enables you to store and recall all of the settings in the four main modules, including the new features that I’m adding. There are checkboxes to initially select which modules you want to include in your Preset, and when you restore a preset, you can deselect modules if you only want to restore a particular module.
So, for example, say you’ve set up a Web Frame with a specifically sized border, and vertical offset, and perhaps also added a graphic watermark as well as a text-based watermark, you can now go to the Preset panel and save all of these settings in a single preset, so the next time you want to apply the same settings, you don’t have to try to remember or keep notes of what you did. It’s all restored from the preset file with two clicks. The first click to select your preset, and the second to restore it.
Here is a series of screenshots to illustrate this. As you can see on the left, you can give your preset a short name that appears in the Select a Preset pulldown list once added, and there is a longer Preset Description field that you can use to make notes about the preset, as you can see I did in the middle screenshot. When you first go to the Presets screen and there are no other presets saved, you will automatically be asked to create your first preset. Once you have a preset saved, you can select it from the Pulldown, as you can see in the third screenshot.
Note too that the preset that you create will be marked with an asterisk in the list to show that it’s based on the current settings. In this state, if you make any changes to your settings you can simply hit the Update button to automatically update the preset with your current settings. The same goes for a restored preset. If you need to change any preset previously saved, just hit the Restore button, and make your changes, then hit Update to save them. And of course, if you just want to restore a preset for use, the Restore button will do that. You can also see the Included Modules checkboxes there too, which enables you to decide which modules to include, and which to restore. If you only want the settings for a specific module, you can deselect the others, when saving and restoring a preset.
Also note that if you include a Text Watermark that you delete after saving your preset, it will also be restored along with your preset. The same goes for graphic-based watermarks as long as you are on the same computer. If you copy your settings to a different computer, you can still restore your settings and presets, but you will have to delete the graphical watermark from the Watermarks page and relink it because the token that Photoshop creates will be different. Apart from that though, the settings are transferable if you work on multiple computers. There is a link to the settings folder in the Tools module if you need to do that.
Print Frame Presets
As I use FAB Tools in my own photography, especially with the addition of color settings that we’ll look at shortly, I’ve found the presets very useful for recreating the same style of frame. I’ve also been positioning the FAB Tools logo as I created some of the new marketing graphics, and being able to save the precise positioning of the watermarks has been incredibly valuable and time-saving too. Another area that is greatly improved through the presets is the creation of print frames.
As an example, here is a print frame I added to an image, and made a few changes to a Custom A3 media format, and adjusted the Border Offset both for better visual balance and to make room for the image title, which, by the way, was automatically populated from the information embedded in the image file using the new Auto-Text feature which we’ll also look at in more detail shortly. If you need to recreate these frame proportions and offset again later, you can now simply save a preset with a name that you’ll recognize and include a description so that you know what you’re going to restore, and you can then recall these settings at any time in the future. Even if you change the Custom A3 media these exact settings will be restored along with your other settings, making the plugin much more useful.
Color Your Frame!
So, as you’ve seen, we can now change the color of the frame that you apply to both Web and Print Frames. Say, for example, you want to frame an image and move away from the standard white frame that we’ve had so far, all you have to do is open your image and click on the colored square on the left of the two which is the Border color, and you can select a color using the regular Photoshop color patches and sliders, but your mouse pointer will change to a picker so you can also sample any color your want from your image, as you see in this screenshot.
Here is a Web Frame with different colors sampled to illustrate a different point. If you look to the right of the Border color picker in the previous screenshot, you’ll also see a second color picker for the Stroke color. Until now, the outer stroke which is added to images has used the secondary or background color in Photoshop, but some people found this confusing, and even I forgot to change the color a few times, so I took this opportunity to take control of that, in two further steps. To begin with, you can now select the Stroke color using this color picker, but because we can now change the color of the main border, I figured we might need a way to separate the border from the image, and so there is now a checkbox below the new color pickers that enables a 1-pixel stroke between the resized image and its border, which uses the color you selected.
The second checkbox is to decide whether or not you want to add an outer stroke, and there is a third checkbox to simply use a mid-grey for the outer stroke, as you may not need it to be the same color as your inner stroke. In this example image, I selected the bright orange as a highlight color, and you can see it more distinctly along the bottom and left edges, where the darker areas of the image are. It’s very subtle, and I toyed with the idea of enabling the user to selected a larger border, but it looked very tacky, so I used my own design sense to keep this simple. You can also see that I selected the grey stroke color for the outer stroke, although a second bright orange stroke didn’t look too bad either.
Before we move on to the Auto-Text Feature, I wanted to share a couple of use cases for these colored borders, so that you can understand my thinking behind this. First of all, I simply think that it can extend the control you have over your work as an artist. I have always thought of Fine Art Borders as being mainly white, and in most fine art circles that is probably still the case, but as we know, there are no hard and fast rules in art, and I know that a wide variety of creatives are starting to use FAB Tools in their work, and for the sake of a few additional controls, it was possible to extend the usability of the product. I have found it to be a lot of fun and an additional creative release to be able to easily change the color of my frames like this, and I’ll provide more examples as we move through the rest of this post. So the first use case is to extend the possibilities for an adventurous creative.
The second use case is a real-world use case from the person that asked about changing the color of the border, and that was someone that works as a bulk-shooter, that had been requested to provide over a hundred photos of school students with a navy blue border, I imagine to match the schools official color. Unfortunately this time around they had to manually change the color because they had a deadline, but in the future, they’ll be able to process the images in bulk with just a few clicks. Note too that if you have a specific color with an RGB Hex code, you can simply enter or copy and paste that code into the field to the right of each color picker, and know that you have the exact color you need in place. You can also paste your code into the Photoshop color picker that opens when you click the colored square, but be sure to stay in RGB color mode, as the colors will get messed up if you switch to a different color mode. Unfortunately, there is currently no way to programmatically stop you from doing that, so please just be careful not to change it.
Auto-Text is Here!
OK, so let’s move on to the final new feature in these two recent releases, and that is Automatic Text! I’d already finished this feature when the request for colored borders came in, but to extend the school photo use case a little here, if you do similar event shooting and need to add, for example, the name of the person in each shot, you can now add that name or whatever information you need to, into the Caption or Description field of your photo, and with Automatic Text turned on in the Add Text module, you can now add that in your chosen font completely automatically. This will enable the school photo shooter that contacted me to fulfill a request that they had received to add student’s names to each photo, but they had to refuse because it would have been too much work. With Automated Text and Batch Processing via Autopilot, you could process a hundred photos with a colored frame and the names of each student completely automatically with a few clicks, and we’d be talking just two to three minutes to process the images. Of course, you would need to add the names to the photos manually, but that is much quicker than registering a new text watermark for every photo.
As an example, let’s throw everything we’ve got at my photo of the beautiful Kegon Falls in the Nikko area of Japan. I love the early summer fresh greens in this photo, so let’s play with them a little. To start with, I’ve selected a darker green, sampled from the photo, as the main border color. This, I feel, helps to give the final piece some added depth, as we look through the deeper green at the lighter greens in the actual image. To compliment that though, I selected a fresher light green for the inner stroke, and I’ve left that green active for the outer stroke too, rather than making that a mid-grey.
In the Watermark module, I selected an adapted version of the logo I’m using to market FAB Tools and opted to add it to the bottom left corner, and nudged it up by 8.8% and to the left by 0.5%. Without any nudging, the logo would sit perfectly aligned to the bottom of the inner frame, but I wanted to adjust it so that the top half of the logo overlaps with the image, and moving it to the left just a half a percent makes the foot of my kneeling man overlap with the bottom of the left side stroke.
In the Add Text module, I first added a watermark and selected a font from the pulldown. Note that currently, it is not possible to use just any font installed in Photoshop or on your computer. The fonts in the pulldown list need to present on your computer, but unfortunately, at this point, you are limited to the 17 fonts I’ve registered for use. If there are any other fonts that you believe are available by default that you would like me to add, please let me know. Here’s a screenshot to illustrate this process.
Note that I’ve made it possible to drag the plugin panel out very wide now so that you can make the most of the new Preview that I’ve included for the new Automatic Text. I’ve left the font options visible here too so that you can see that, but generally, once you’ve added your text string and selected your font and styling, you can click Done and then the Hide Options button to reduce those options down to just the text pulldown list.
Below the font settings are the new Automatic Text settings. There is a lot in here, especially when the window isn’t so wide, because the various data checkboxes are wrapped to two or three lines. Still, I’ve tried to be inventive and keep the options to a minimum while still providing adequate usability. For example, in addition to simply turning the Automatic Text on and off, there is a third option to leave the Text active but hide all of the options. The same goes for the preview box. If you don’t need that, there is a Hide this preview checkbox, so you can collapse all of this down to just two lines when you are not using it.
We are using most of it right now though, so take a look at the options we have. Firstly, let me explain the Replace and Append options. The Replace option simply replaces the text that you entered when you created this particular text watermark. These options are not tied to the saved watermark text as such, but they use the font that is saved with the text, so if you intend to override the text with the Replace or Replace Split options, you can simply use the text as a label remember your font settings by. The difference between Replace and Replace Split is that the Split option breaks down the text into two or three lines. If you look to the right of the checkbox that says Caption, there is a carriage return symbol. This adds a carriage return after the Caption if you need to do that. The next two lines that you see in this preview are wrapped intelligently based on the length of the Caption or your Text Watermark if you choose the Append or Append Split options.
The Append and Append Split options work in exactly the same way, but the text is appended to your watermark text, so in this example, the first line would be Martin Bailey Photography K.K. because that’s what I added as my watermark text. That though, along with the options you select, is all that is saved in the plugin. The rest of the text is all information that is embedded in the image and placed here automatically when you open an image. Then there are the Spacer options. This is the character or characters used between each item in the list of shooting information. If you do not choose one of the Split options and simply Replace or Append, all information will be in one or two long lines with the Separator between every element.
The final option to Flip text left & right alignment on the applied border is a workaround to overcome a problem with Photoshop. If you use the World-Ready Layout under the Photoshop > Type preferences, when you apply your text watermark, the left and right alignment for the left and right sides will be reversed. So, say you have your text on the right side, it would be left-aligned, not right-aligned. That may be a valid requirement so I’m happy to leave this here, but generally, this is to overcome what I consider to be a problem for anyone that uses World-Ready Layout. Another problem related to this is if you do use World-Ready Layout and you have a period at the end of your watermark text, that period will be mysteriously moved to the beginning of the sentence. I could fix this with code, but first I’m going to see if this is a bug in Photoshop and I’ll update my code later if it is not. Should you fall foul of that problem though, unfortunately, the only way to overcome that at the moment is to select the Latin and East Asian Layout rather than World-Ready.
The final option at the bottom of the Automatic Text area is the option to select either the Web Frame border color or the Print Frame border color for use in your preview. This preview and its related options are actually also now used for the regular Text Watermark so you can make use of this even if you are not using Automatic Text, to check what your text will look like before applying it to your image. So that you can see what this all looks like in a resized and framed image though, here is the output photo using the settings that we just covered.
Note that the width of the automatic text is governed by the Scale setting for your text. In the above screenshot, I had it set to 35 but changed it to 42 for the final frame to increase the size of the text a little bit more. I use Scale as a percentage of the width of the image to create maximum flexibility when changing sizes. For example, for my eBook that accompanies these posts for paying MBP Pro Members, I needed a much higher resolution image, so I simply doubled the size and the watermarks remained perfectly positioned as you see here. It also helps when we process square or portrait orientation images, allowing the watermarks to resize as necessary.
Note too that while you are getting your scaling and positioning locked down, I find it useful to apply the frame and watermarks all from the Watermark or Add Text modules, by right-clicking the shortcut menu at the top right corner of the plugin panel. In there you’ll find an Apply Web Border and Apply Fine Art Border option, among others, so if you want to make a quick change, just hit the Revert button under the Actions section at the bottom of the plugin, and use the shortcut menu to apply the frame again. Of course, you need to have the Add Watermark or Add Text checkboxes checked under the Framing module to automatically apply everything you want, but it’s quicker than going back to the Framing module every time you want to make a change.
One last thing that I wanted to mention about the Automatic Text feature is that in general, you will probably be entering your text in your content management or image editing software. I enter all of my descriptions and keywords etc. in Capture One Pro, but you could do the same in Lightroom or pretty much any other similar program. If however, you come to add some text to your image in Photoshop and realize that you don’t have any caption text entered, you can select File Info from the Photoshop File menu and enter whatever you want to embed into the border into the Description field.
Note that the Title fields are not used. I can’t get them from the document information, so this must go into the Description field to be picked up. In Capture One Pro, I add this information to the Description field under IPTC – Content in the Metadata panel, so you may have to experiment a little to find out where to add this in your base editing program. Here is a screenshot of where you can add it in Photoshop though, where I added the words “The Kegon Falls”. Note too that I will probably change the word Caption to Description in a future update because it seems more programs are using the word Description. Also note that if you do update this information in Photoshop, you have to save and close then reopen your image for the change to be picked up.
Under the Hood
In addition to the visible changes that I’ve mentioned today, I’ve actually completely rebuild some of the core functions in the MBP Fine Art Border Tools for this release, to keep it ticking along nicely as I increase my demands on its performance. These have actually made things so much quicker that I added a quarter of a second pause option to the Autopilot mode, and I found that also my four-year-old Mac Book Pro used to need 1 or 2 seconds between actions, it will now run in batch with just a quarter of a second pause, so if you are processing in batch mode, you will see big improvements in performance so give it a try.
Note too that considering all the work that I’ve put into developing FAB Tools over the last five months, and considering that there is now more than four times the number of features in my initial release, I’ve decided to increase the price from $26 to $36. I believe that even $36 is not a lot of money for everything that you now get in FAB Tools. Also note that the price increase is tied to the Adobe Review of the latest version, so if you listen to this on or shortly after Sept 16 2021 you may still be able to buy FAB Tools for $26, but failing that, I hope you agree that $36 is still a fair price. Either way, you can check out the plugin on the Adobe Exchange Marketplace here and if you want to check the current feature set much into the future, you can check that out on the product page here.
Sales of my new Fine Art Border Tools plugin for Adobe Photoshop are picking up, so a quick thank you to any of you that already bought the plugin. I’ve invested more time to implement a few new features one of which I had planned to do from the start, and some others which were a bit of an afterthought but have in many ways stolen the limelight, as I’ll explain in this episode. I wanted to gauge interest before investing another month or so of development time into implementing Text-Based Watermarks. The graphical Watermarks were added in my first release, and in a follow-up release shortly after that, I added the ability to store multiple Watermark files making that feature much more useful.
Autopilot for FAB Tools
The second thing that I added as an after-thought is incredibly cool, and I will share more details in a tutorial a video very soon too, but I was about to submit the plugin for review ten days ago when a thought bubble popped into my mind with pretty much the entire mechanism to implement what I’ve called Autopilot. Then, over this last weekend, I figured out how to make the batch processing even more robust, so I’ve literally just submitted another new build, which includes more robust batch processing. As you can probably imagine, Autopilot takes control of FAB Tools, so you will be able to perform either a Web Frame or Print Frame resize with your fine art frame, and if you turn on the checkboxes, you can automatically add your graphical and new text-based watermarks, completely automatically. Please allow me to explain in more detail.
With Autopilot active, all images that you have open in Photoshop will be processed according to your settings. In the past, batch processing has been in the form of opening many documents at the same time and hoping that you had enough system resources for Photoshop to work with possibly many gigabytes of images open, then you had to click the Apply button and wait for each image to be processed. The Automatic Save & Close button and checkboxes for adding the watermark automatically helped, but with no support for Actions with these plugins in Photoshop, it was a manual process to select each image.
I realized though that I can detect when your image closes, especially when Automatic Save & Close is turned on because FAB Tools is issuing the command, so I figured that I would just wait for the next image to be selected, and kick off the processing again automatically. It sounds easy and was actually a relatively difficult task to program this into the already very complex code, but it was possible. I then had another thought bubble and figured out how to open multiple files in batch mode, so if you want to process more files than you can realistically open in Photoshop simultaneously, simply use the Open button with Autopilot turned on, and it will batch process your images, opening them one at a time, processing your resize, frame and watermarks, and then save and close it before opening the next image that you selected in your initial Open. I’m going to wait for Adobe to release my current build before uploading another update that I’ve just finished, but once you get to version 1.1.7 you will also notice that the Open button turns blue to attract your attention when Autopilot is active and the Open button label changes from Open to Batch Open, to make this all more obvious.
Also, note that because there is a lot of text on the Autopilot screen, I’ve added a Hide Instructions button which removes the five paragraphs of text when pressed, and your selection is saved, so you won’t need to press this every time you start using Autopilot. The instructions are turned on to begin with though, to help you avoid inadvertently processing something.
I’ve done some benchmark tests and found that on my powerful 8-core CPU iMac Pro, with Autopilot active I can open around 20 TIFF files at once before Photoshop starts to complain that there are too many tasks running in FAB Tools. Because they all open together though, for small batches, this is slightly faster than my new batch processing, due to the overhead of opening and closing all the files individually. I was able to process 20 TIFFs, a total of 2.79 GB of data, and saved them as large B2 media size print files in two minutes and 10 seconds. The same 20 files in batch mode took 20 seconds longer, so there is a 15% overhead. You have no choice if you want to process more than 20 files at once though because the system won’t handle too many files.
I then tried a batch of 100 TIFF files, for a total of 18 GB, and saved them as Web-sized framed and watermarked both with graphic and text-based watermarks and with the new batch mode, which took 10 minutes and 47 seconds. For all of my tests, I was using the 0.5-second pause to prevent errors, but I have found that even on my 13″ Mac Book Pro, with the new batch mode I am not getting any errors even when using the 1-second pause, so this has improved the number of files that can be processed and the stability, so it was a weekend well spent on the updated batch mechanism.
You can mix and match as well. For example, say you start working on a batch of images that you have FAB Tools open via the Batch Open button the intelligent batch mode, and then you want to process another 10 files. You can set your larger batch running, and gather your next ten images while the batch runs, and then once it’s finished, drag and drop your new 10 images to Photoshop. As long as Autopilot is active, it will automatically switch between batch modes without you having to change anything.
If you leave Automatic Save & Close turned off, the images will process and sit waiting for your review, and if all’s well, you can hit the Save/Close button to do just that. If you want to make a change, you can change your settings with Autopilot active and then hit the Revert button to remove your first frame and watermarks, and Autopilot will instantly reapply the frame with your new settings. Once you are happy with your settings, you can turn on that Automatic Save & Close button, and any other images you open while Autopilot is active will be automatically processed. Please do work on copies of your images, especially as you experiment, because they will be overwritten if Save and Close is active.
Because Autopilot will just sit and wait for images though, you can use it to Round-Robin from programs like Capture One Pro or Lightroom to add your frames and watermarks very efficiently. I figured this would be more impressive to watch so I created a three-minute video to share how easy it is to Round-Robin from Lightroom and Capture One Pro, which you can find below, but I’ll also explain a little more about the Autopilot feature. Say you’re working on an image that you want to prepare for print with a border, or you’re working on some images to upload to Instagram and you want to resize, add a square frame, and watermark them ready, you can simply locate your images, select edit in Photoshop if it’s available, ensure that you make a copy of your image during the edit or export command, and then when it hits Photoshop your frame will be automatically applied and saved, then appear back in your based program a few moments later.
I’ll work on a longer video to fully explain these new features over the next few days, and embed that below as well, so please check back later if it’s not already here when you visit.
As I worked with the new Autopilot mode myself, I did find that I would occasionally forget that it was still active, even though there is an inactivity timer that automatically turns it off, and I opened a file that I didn’t intend to frame and resize, so I have also just added an Auto-off mode in addition to the Inactivity timers. The options are there so you’ll figure out the best way to work, but if you know you’re processing a one-off image or batch then select the Auto-off option and Autopilot will still wait three minutes for your images, before deactivating, but after you’ve sent something to be processed, be it a single image or a batch, after completing the processing, Autopilot will automatically deactivate.
Also, I found it useful to open the Photoshop Preferences General tab and uncheck Auto show the Home Screen checkbox. With that checked, Photoshop will always go back to the home screen, hiding your plugins when there are no images open. If you prefer to leave the Home Screen turned on, you can go to the Plugins menu and turn on FAB Tools under MBP Fine Art Border Tools to display the plugin, even from the Home Screen.
You can also select Deactivate Autopilot from there too if you have a longer timer set but need to open an image that you don’t want to process before the Inactivity timer expires. If you turn off the Home Screen, when you open Photoshop you’ll just see any open Plugins or panels you have open and this makes it more intuitive to use the new FAB Tools Autopilot, especially when round-robin-ing. Is that a word?
One thing that you do need to keep in mind is that I was not able to prevent you from opening new images while Autopilot is processing other images, and most of the time during my tests, if you do open an image while Autopilot is working, it will result in a bit of a mess. If things go wrong, I try to deactivate Autopilot and provide a message to let you know that things went wrong, but depending on the timing, an image might get saved with errors before we realize that something is wrong, so please try to avoid opening new images while Autopilot is working on other images.
OK, so let’s take a look at the new Text-Based Watermarks in a little more detail too. Based on the same layout the new Add Text module looks very similar to the first Watermarks module, but in addition to simply storing multiple text strings for placement on your image or in its new border, there is a selection of 17 fonts, most of which will be available on your system already, and I also store the font style, like Regular and Bold, etc. and the color that you select for your text, as you can see in this screenshot.
I’ve left the Text options open in this screenshot for you to take a look at, but as you can see, there is a lot on that panel, so when you’ve finished adding or modifying your watermark text, hit the Done button, and all of the text options will collapse away leaving just the Show Options button, which says Hide Options in this screenshot, and the pulldown with the text inside. If you don’t need to change any settings, you can simply select any of the stored text watermarks from that pulldown without displaying all the settings.
Note too that we don’t use points for the font size because that would mean you’d need to change the size in points every time you change the size of your resized image. Instead, as with the graphical watermarks, we use a Scale value, which I’ve set to 30 by default, although you can obviously change that, and this intelligently scales your text to 30% of the width of your image, regardless of the size your image will be resized to. I also fixed a problem with the opacity, which of course, sets the opacity of your image between 0 and 100%. All of these settings are stored on a per string basis, so when you change to a different text string, all of its settings come with it.
Due to limitations in the plugin framework, I’m currently not able to simply access all of the fonts on the users’ system, and there is no way for me to know if the fonts I’ve listed are actually installed, so if you select a font and it looks bland when applied, check that you have the font installed, and if you don’t, install it, and it should kick-in just fine. Also, if there are any fonts that you believe are installed by default that you would like to add, please let me know, and I’ll try to add them in a future update. Similarly, if you use a font in a language that is not covered by these default fonts, let me know, and I’ll figure out a way to make additional font sets available for other languages, etc.
I have also tested that a certain amount of intelligence ensures that if, for example, I store some Japanese text as a watermark, even though I have a Western font assigned, Photoshop realizes that it’s Japanese text and uses a default Japanese font, rather than applying garbled characters. I would like more control over this, so I’ve got a note to work on a solution, but for now, if you do need to use non-Western text, FAB Tools should at least not fall flat on its face.
For this example, I applied both my Text and Graphical watermarks inside the resized image, as opposed to in the border, so I made the outer border a bit smaller, and also reduced the opacity of my name stamp to 50%, to make it look more like it has actually been stamped over a dark background. Even with the generic Japanese font to display my company name, it doesn’t look too bad, although some options at some point soon will be nice.
Here is the overview video that I mentioned earlier. I hope you find it useful!
OK, so that’s a quick rundown of these new features for MBP Fine Art Border Tools which have now passed Adobe’s review, so these features will be in FAB Tools when you buy it. For more information on all of the features available, check out the product page, and if you just want to run off and pick up a copy, you can find the plugin in the Adobe Exchange Marketplace. Make sure that you use the same email address as your Adobe ID when checking out, to ensure that your plugin is delivered to your account. Note too that you need to be running Photoshop version 22 or higher to use the MBP Fine Art Border Tools.
Tag FAB Tools!
If you are finding FAB Tools useful and use it on any of the images that you post on Instagram, tag your image with the hashtag #mbpfabtools and I’ll keep my eye out for anything you post. I’d love to see how you are using FAB Tools.
My apologies for going completely down-periscope for the last month. As I was wrapping up the previous podcast episode, I found out that Adobe had transitioned to a new API to build plugins for Photoshop, and I decided to look into creating a full-blown plugin to replace my Fine Art Border Scripts, which I literally knocked together on a Sunday after in 2013 as I needed something to automatically add the above center offset Fine Art Border that I use when printing, and it was relatively easy to do. The Fine Art Border scripts have sold pretty well over the years, but they were somewhat inflexible and required the user to edit the text file script if they needed to change the ratio of the vertical offset, or change the width of the border, etc.
A relatively tertiary look at the new API told me two things. The first was that I figured I would probably be able to write the code for the plugin that required the original script files to be manually edited, which would make the plugin much more intuitive, and the second thing I noticed was how incomplete the new API currently is. Mostly due to this second point, to complete the plugin to its current feature level, I literally had to spend every waking minute for the last month, and once again, drove my wife crazy as I got up early each day, and kept my laptop open until moments before we went to bed each night. Of course, you haven’t seen a podcast or blog post for the last month either, for which. once again, I apologize.
But, I am very happy with the results. There are a few things that I want to add in a near-future update, but I’ve ended up with a much more feature-rich replacement for my 2013 scripts, which I’ve called the MBP Fine Art Border Tools plugin for Adobe Photoshop, affectionately known in short form as FAB Tools. As I completed my preparation for this post, I received word from Adobe that the plugin has passed their review, so I am really excited about this. Over time, this post will become dated, so if you check this out much after June 2021, please check the Product Page here for the most up-to-date information. You can also subscribe to the Plugin Notifications list of my newsletter, and I’ll keep you updated when any new features of note are released.
Get FAB Tools!
You can check out the plugin on the Adobe Marketplace already, so click the logo below to check that out, but we’ll also continue on to take a look at the details of what FAB Tools does and show some usage scenarios. I’ll also create a video to walk you through this over the next few weeks, so please keep an eye out for that too.
The new plugin has three main modules. One for framing and resizing for the Web, and the second for print, both with the same visually pleasing vertical offset, but with the ability to change it to any value, moving the image both up or down in the frame. The third module is completely new, to enable the addition of a watermark or logo. Currently, this only accepts images, but I intend to add the ability to add a text-based watermark soon. There is a fourth Tools panel, but that’s to provide links to a few global features, like showing or hiding Tool Tips, or showing the custom formats before the mostly uneditable presets in the Print Frame module. There may be a few more panels in the coming months, but at the time of release, I’m very happy with the specific feature set that I’ve built, and I do hope you find it useful.
Web Frame and Resize
As you can see in this screenshot, the Web Frame module is relatively simple on the front end, with a few nice tweaks to help your workflow. The idea is to add a border, the width of which you specify with the Border (px) field. If you have a specific height and width that you would like to resize your image to, you can enter both values. If you enter either the Long Edge or Short Edge value and turn on Auto-Calculate Ratio, the plugin will calculate the edge that you didn’t enter automatically.
When you enter the Short Edge you’ll notice the Short Edge heading then becomes underlined, indicating that it has priority. To go back to Long Edge priority, simply enter the long edge value. If you’d like to frame your images inside a square, simply enter the Long Edge value to resize to, and turn on the Create Square Border checkbox. We’ll then create square borders and position your images inside.
The Top/Bottom Border Offset slider is where you move the image up or down in the frame. For centuries, fine artists have positioned their work slightly higher in a matte or frame to provide more pleasing visual balance. Moving your image up slightly also gives you room to sign or add a watermark to your work.
The Magic Formula
After a lot of research around 10 years ago, I came to the conclusion that a good balance for fine art prints was to calculate 10% of the height of the image and use that for all four borders while moving the image up by 3%. This gives 10% side borders, a 7% top border, and a 13% bottom border. In the Web Frame module, we convert these percentages to pixels, as you specify the border width in pixels, so moving the image up 3% in a 100-pixel border equates to 30 pixels. Just wiggle it around and hit the Apply button to see what you get though. The Revert button reverts all changes, so it’s easy to try different settings.
Depending on the ratio of your image, you may find that you get slightly larger borders on the top or sides when working to a specific media size. With the Web Frame module though, if you only use Long or Short Edge priority, FAB Tools will add the exact sized border on all four sides, offset to the amount specified. If you want completely equal borders, leave the offset slider at zero.
There are three more checkboxes to talk about before we move on. First, you can add a one-pixel outer border using the color selected as your secondary color in Photoshop. A mid-gray is a good choice. This just helps your images to stand out against a similar color background and will disappear against a darker background.
There is also a checkbox to automatically save and close the image after applying the border, and a final checkbox to add the watermark on completion, and we’ll look at Watermarking in more detail shortly.
Print Frame and Resize
The next module is for framing for Fine Art Prints. This is closest to my 2013 Border Scripts release, but now highly customizable right here in the user interface.
There are 28 presets which, to protect the integrity of the media formats, cannot be modified, other than the border size and vertical offset. If you change the border size it will automatically be saved for future use, but a Revert button will appear, to remind you that you’ve modified the preset and to revert to the preset 10% border if necessary.
In addition to the 28 media presets, there are ten customizable formats, based on popular media size and a few square frames. You can take these and make whatever you want. You can enter the Long Edge, Short Edge, Border width, all in millimeters, as well as a custom name for your format and a short description. Each of these fields is saved as you move away from the field, but if you want to reset this and start again, just select a saved custom format and hit the Revert button. The vertical offset you select is currently not saved as part of your custom format, but if you think it should be, let me know and I’ll consider changing that in a future update.
A completely new addition is the ability to add graphical watermarks with precision to pretty much any location on your image. Start by selecting one of the nine anchor points, including the four corners, center sides, and the center of the image. From there, you can nudge the watermark up to 100% of the image away from the anchor point.
If no image resize has been performed, you can only anchor the watermark in relation to the canvas, but once you have performed a resize, you can also select to anchor the watermark to the inside or the outside of the resized image within the frame.
You can currently only load one image, but once loaded, it will generally be stored until you change it. You can scale the image to a percentage of the width of your resized image, and change the opacity, which is useful if you are placing a watermark over the image area.
Once you’ve specified your settings, you are ready to apply your watermark. When you are happy with the placement, you can also turn on the checkbox in either of the resize modules to automatically apply the watermark after resizing. There’s no need to worry about the image orientation. We calculate the position based on your image size and orientation, so the watermark should be placed perfectly each time.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a fourth panel called Tools, where you can turn off Tooltips, and have the Custom Media show at the top of the Format pulldown on the Print Frame tab, and there are some other options, such as the ability to reset the settings and all of the Media modifications if necessary. There’s also a link to sign up for our Plugin Notifications, and a button to show the folder where the plugin settings are stored, so that you can, for example, back up all of your custom media or if you want to move your settings and media to a second computer that you own, you can do that with the files in the path that is displayed. Note too that although I’ve used the Dark theme plugin screenshots for this post, it fully supports the Light theme as well, and will automatically adjust the colors used based on your theme preferences.
Practical Use Scenarios
OK, so let’s look at a few practical use scenarios for the features and modules we’ve discussed. To be completely honest, one of the reasons I started to look into the new plugin technology, was because I had to modify one of my original 2013 scripts to enable me to easily reframe some of my recent microphotography work to upload to Instagram. Ironically that was also put on hold for the last month as I worked on the plugin, but I really wanted an easy way to add what I call the Fine Art Border to my images in preparation for web upload. I had originally planned to just add a completely square border, most suitable for Instagram, but that became a checkbox option in the final plugin. Here, for example, though, is a small gallery of images with square borders, which looks really neat on sites like Instagram that list images in a square format. It also helps with uploading very tall images, as they get cropped by Instagram, and that has always been a bugbear for me.
Notice how the border automatically calculates the necessary position of the image within the border, and moves the image up, in Fine Art Border style, according to my settings, although I actually used the default vertical offset and border width for these images, and just turned on the Create Square Border checkbox, so that they were all put neatly into the same sized squares. Also, note that once you are happy with the positioning of your watermark, you can simply open the images that you want to resize and turn on the Automatically save and close option, and if necessary the Add Watermark on completion checkbox, and the image will be resized, watermarked, saved, and closed when you hit the Apply button.
Unfortunately, at this point in time, Adobe does not include actions performed on these plugins to be recorded in Actions, so you do have to open all of your images and hit the Apply button for each of them, but with everything else being automatic, it’s not a painful process to go through even a few hundred images if necessary. Adobe is saying that recording in Actions is coming soon though, and I’ll ensure that this works as expected when that happens.
Of course, the plugin also handles the addition of a uniformly sized border, adjusted based on the size of the original image. Here is another gallery of web resized images, this time without the Create Square Border checkbox turned on. Note the square image and portrait orientation image in this gallery. Nothing had to be changed in the plugin to cater to these different sizes and aspect ratios. I just pressed Apply on each image until the end of the set. You’ll need to click on the first image to open it in the Lightbox before you can view the various aspect ratios properly.
You don’t have to add a watermark, of course, and generally, for Instagram, I don’t, but this should be a good illustration of the precision of positioning etc. It’s also great for mocking up prints for sale if you sell prints that are signed. Just scan your signature and save it as an image file, and you can associate that with the plugin in the Watermark module and it will be used until you change it.
The reason that I created my original Fine Art Border scripts back in 2013 was to prepare images for print with the Fine Art Border vertical offset already in place. If you print directly to the media size that you want as your final result, the border can generally be created by adjusting the border widths in your printing software, but getting the ratios the same each time you print can be challenging. I always used a spreadsheet with my calculated border sizes in it, and managed a large number of printing templates, and that can be avoided by running your image through this new plugin. If you are printing to the media size of your final print though, it’s best to uncheck the checkbox to add a 0.3mm stroke border around the outside edge of the image.
If however, you want to use the plugin to help you to save money carrying various media sizes, leave that border on, so that you can see where to trim after you’ve printed. The idea is that say for example you create prints for sale in say A4, 8 x 10 inches, A3, and 11 x 17 inches, but you don’t want to stock all of these sizes as sheet media in various finishes. Let’s imagine that you need an A4 and an 8 x 10 print and you have a 24-inch wide roll media printer. It takes just a few seconds to resize your images using my new plugin, then click on the Padlock of the background layer of one of the images in Photoshop to unlock it, then specify a canvas size small enough to print on your roll width. 24-inch rolls are 609.7 mm wide, so you can either specify say 600 mm, and print without any scaling, or if you know like I do that your printer requires a 3mm border on each edge, you could simply resize your first image canvas to 603.7 mm so that it will fit perfectly after deducting your printers minimum edge gap. Make the height something taller than the tallest print you need, say 220 mm in this example.
Because we unlocked the first image before resizing the canvas, the we can easily move the image in slightly, and then drop our 8 x 10-inch resized image onto the newly resized image, and position it to the side of the first image, as you see in this screenshot. If you print this at 220 mm high on 24-inch roll media, you’d have minimum waste and once trimmed, two perfectly sized prints.
Even if you don’t have a roll media printer, you can save on sheet media varieties in a similar way. Say you received an order for a print on A4 media, but you don’t have any A4 sheets available. You could resize and add the trimming stroke border, then print on something larger, like A3 media. Here is a screenshot of the Photoshop Print screen with a print resized to A4, about to be printed on A3 media. There’s a waste of media that we’d be trimming away, but it does save stocking lots of different sizes of sheet media. And of course, similarly, you could simply lay out two prints on the A3 page to minimize waste.
Note too that some programs have the ability to add additional trimming guides, such as the Corner Crop Marks that I turned on in Photoshop in the above screenshot. Also note that to ensure you print at the correct size, you’d need to turn off any scaling to fit the media. The images are currently saved in the original resolution or set to 300 PPI if the resolution isn’t set for any reason, but either way, it will be set so your resized images will be displayed at exactly the size you need if you print without any scaling turned on.
Click the MBP Fine Art Border Tools logo to jump to the Adobe Marketplace to pick up your FAB Tools!
OK, so that’s about it for this update. As I say, if you are interested in this plugin, and are checking out this post much after June 2021, please check the Product page for the latest information, and if you sign up for our Plugin Notifications newsletter and I’ll keep you in the loop. If you pick up a copy of the plugin and have any problems or suggestions, please do let me know via the support contact form.
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OK, so three weeks ago I finished our previous episode with a word to let you know that I’d released version 3.5 of our Photographer’s Friend app for iOS. Well, it became obvious as I started to finalize the release that my understanding of how the new Mac OS version would work was a little off. I’d tested Photographer’s Friend on the Mac and from all of the information available to me it looked like it would just be added to the Mac App Store, and maybe when I initially read-up on this, it that was the plan, but it was not the case. As Apple prepared to release Big Sur and the new Silicon Macs, it turned out that although I could release Photographer’s Friend as a separate app for the Mac, based on the work I’d done, it would require additional payment, and I don’t think the demand for a desktop-based version would be great enough to warrant the extra work for me or the additional cost for the end-user, so I decided to just let that slide and only be available for people that have already jumped on to the Silicon Mac platform, and even then, I’ve not been able to confirm that it will be available, so don’t shoot me if it’s not. This is really just a free bonus addition.
Also, as I started to create my tutorials for the new features, I couldn’t help thinking that at least some of the effort I’d put in would be duplicated as I added a few more features that I’d got in mind, and as is often the case, the few days that I thought it would take to add those new features turned into a few weeks. With version 3.5.7 now available on the App Store, I’m now in a position to update the app page and start to create some tutorials. Without an episode of the podcast for three weeks though, I’m going to write this as I work, and drop in a few elements of the tutorials to build out this post. Just as my photography improved from the structure I find that I create as I write my Podcast manuscripts, I’m expecting that writing both this and some of my tutorials at the same time will probably help me to provide more logical structure, essentially killing two birds with one stone, so here we go.
First, let me summarize what’s changed in version 3.5 of Photographer’s Friend. In addition to trying to make it available on the Mac, as I just mentioned, here are the main new features, and I’ll go into more detail on some of these features as we work through this.
The first major change is the addition of Apple Watch Extensions for the DoF Calculator and ND Filter Calculator which are enabled via an In-App Purchase.
You can also now Superpower Photographer’s Friend with Smart Rotation and up to eight fully customizable Color Schemes, including Traffic Light colors.
The Pro Add-on also includes Left/Right Flip in Landscape mode with Smart Rotation, and Topsy-Turvy mode for the ND Filter Calculator, to get the controls closer to your fingers for one-handed operation when necessary.
I completely reworked the User Interface, making it generally prettier with better resizing of fonts for larger screens like the iPad and Mac OS when it becomes available.
I reorganized the Tab Bar adding a Settings section with all of the various settings screens for all of the calculators and the appearance settings and In-Add Purchases section.
Once you are familiar with the app, you can now tap on the Title on most pages to make it disappear, making the most of your screen real estate, especially in Landscape orientation if you don’t have the Pro Add-on with Smart Rotation. I haven’t left you out to dry.
Swiping down on the screen will bring the title back again. Titles can also be toggled on or off in the Appearance settings.
Apple Watch Extension Activation Video
As the Apple Watch Extensions are a paid upgrade, and because communication between the watch the iPhone is not as free-flowing as it might be, there are a few steps required to activate the extension after buying the In-App Purchase, so the first thing I’ve done is to create a video to walk you through that process. There is help covering this in Photographer’s Friend, but I’ve heard from a number of people needing help, so this was my highest priority. All of the videos I’m putting together are now embedded in the Photographer’s Friend Tutorials page, and some of them will be included in the Photographer’s Friend product page too, but so that you can see what’s happening, I’ll drop these into this post as well.
The key points for activating the Apple Watch Extensions though, are that you first pay for the extension via the In-App Purchase, which you can find under the Configure Pro Add-Ons section of the Settings page. Then open the Extension on your watch, and go to either the Depth of Field Calculator or the Neutral Density Filter Calculator and also open the same calculator open on your iPhone, and tap the Watch icon that becomes visible on each calculator after you add the Extension. Unless you have to reinstall Photographer’s Friend or set up a new device, this should only be necessary once, and only from one of the two calculators. Once it’s activated it should stay activated until you uninstall it.
To ensure that everyone gets this information, regardless of where they look, I’ve also created some graphics to put on the product page, to hopefully get people started. I don’t necessarily want to overload anyone that tries to consume all of this information, but I’ve found that some users prefer to simply read through a page, and others jump to the videos. I’m probably more of a video person myself, but for a simple task, a quick infographic generally does the job.
Adding Complications to Your Apple Watch Face
I also created a short video to explain how to add icons to launch Photographer’s Friend from your watch face, by adding what Apple calls a Complication. I’ve created every type available as of November 2020, so there are plenty to choose from, although it’s important to note that the type of Complication is generally restricted to the specific placeholder of each watch face, so you’ll only have one option for each Complication location. You’ll see what I mean if you have a minute to watch the video.
To round out the Apple Watch Extensions Tutorials, for now, I made one more 15-minute video to walk users through how to use the Depth of Field and Neutral Density Filter Calculators on the Apple Watch. This goes into more detail on how to adjust the settings of each calculator and synchronizing with Photographer’s Friend on iOS. With the interface of Apple Watch being so compact, and because I’ve pretty much achieved full feature parity with the iOS version of these calculators, there are a few things that the would probably not figure out without a little help, so I thought it was important to put this one together.
For example, double-tapping the central band adjusts the focus distance dial to achieve hyperlocal distance, and long-pressing the central band turns on Hyperlocal Distance Lock so that the focus distance dial always adjusts to the hyperlocal distance when either of the other two dials is turned. Also, the information band below the central band displays the setting being adjusted as any of the dials is turned, but then returns to displaying the camera sensor format from the settings and the Airy Disk and Pixel Pitch sizes. The secret with this band is that if you double-tap it, it changes to display the values selected on the dials with their units because I had to omit the units on the dials to save space. There are also times when all of the dials contain big numbers causing them to change to ellipses, so it’s important to still be able to see the selected settings.
Another thing to note is that the watch goes to sleep relatively quickly, and rather than using a battery intense mode that keeps it awake, I opted to display a notification when the exposure timer finishes on the Neutral Density Filter Calculator. This is less obvious than the bell ringing and haptic pulses that you’ll feel when the watch is awake, but if you are keeping somewhat alert, it’s easy to notice, with a beep and a single haptic tap on your wrist.
Color Scheme Customization
The key additional feature that I added over the last few weeks is fully customizable Color Schemes as part of the Pro Add-on, available as an In-App Purchase. When I added the new alternative background colors, two for the Light Appearance and two for the Dark Appearance, I figured out how to dynamically generate the backgrounds including the gradation, so that these didn’t have to be added as image files, which slow things down a little and make the install file larger, and therefore take longer to download, and I wanted to avoid that.
As I developed that feature though, I realized that I was creating a foundation for more complex customization, so the first thing I did was add the ability for the user to set their own colors, and because I also found a few bugs as I worked on this first post- 3.5 update, I pushed that out after about a week’s work.
I then went on to implement the next step, which was to give the end-user the ability to change the highlight color, which essentially makes it possible to change the color of all of the main graphic elements in Photographer’s Friend. Finally, I made it possible to change the traffic light colors, red, amber, and green, which are used in things like the Diffraction Warnings in the Depth of Field Calculator, and the Start and Stop buttons of the Neutral Density filter calculator, and the amber warning to show that the exposure is about to finish. This will make Photographer’s Friend more friendly for users that are color-blind, as you essentially simply pick a new color for these elements from a color picker, which is obviously also going to be seen with the same color shift that causes the problem with color recognition.
Once again, I figured I needed an infographic to show the eight color variations and relationship between the Light and Dark, Standard and Alternate, and Set A and Set B modes. I’m not sure that I’ve achieved that, but here it is anyway.
Smart Rotation via the Pro Add-on
Finally, I created one last video, for now, to walk show you how Smart Rotation works. Smart Rotation is the other main feature that gets enabled with the Pro Add-on. Without Smart Rotation Photographer’s Friend does a relatively good job of laying out the screen so that it’s still usable even if you flip your iPhone over into landscape or horizontal orientation. But, doing a relatively good job is not the level of quality that I like to provide. I set about the task of developing Smart Rotation around March this year, and it took quite a long time to get it working how I wanted. This is when I realized that these new features were going to have to be added as In-App Purchases, rather than a free upgrade.
I’d also started to work on the new Watch Extensions, and they weren’t going to be necessary for every user, so it didn’t seem fair to simply bump the price up, so I needed to work on developing the In-App Purchases functionality anyway. The Apple Watch development took way longer than I’d anticipated, mainly because of the difficulty in communicating between the iPhone and Apple Watch, and sharing common information was another challenge. Anyway, here is the Smart Rotation video, rounding out the current series.
I’ve not seen any other iOS apps that do this kind of Smart Rotation, so I’m pretty proud of the originality of this idea. The other thing that this allowed me to do is to flip the left and right sides of the screen, so that it’s more useful for left-handed users, or even if you generally just use Photographer’s Friend in your left hand while adjusting your camera settings with your right.
This also led me to another feature that I am happy with, which is the Topsy-Turvy Mode for the Neutral Density Filter Calculator. As I worked with the calculator on a large iPhone, I found that I couldn’t reach the button in the top section, so I added the ability to nudge the top section with two fingers and have it drop down into the bottom half of the screen, where I can access the buttons more easily. Of course, it can be nudged back up to the top in the same way. It’s simply a two-finger swipe.
You’ll see that I’ve also used one of my more whacky color schemes in this screenshot, as I’m having a lot of fun with these modes. I received a newsletter from Shutter-Stock yesterday about the fashionable colors for 2021, and promptly copy and pasted the HEX codes into Photographer’s Friend and created a custom color scheme of a number of complementary colors from around the world. It’s not worth sharing, but a lot of fun all the same. And, of course, even if you’ve flipped the top and bottom sections of the Neutral Density Filter Calculator, your left/right flip preference is maintained.
OK, so I started this post on Monday, and it’s now Friday morning, and I’m just coming to the end of creating most of the content that I need to update the Photographer’s Friend product page. I’ve got more work to do, but if I don’t get this recorded this afternoon for a Podcast, we’ll be into next week again, and I want to avoid that. I’ll continue to work the product page over the weekend, as I spend my time downstairs with my wife instead of up in my studio where I work during the week.
Photographer’s Friend 2 End of Life
There is one final piece of housekeeping that we need to do before we finish, and that is that I need to let users of Photographer’s Friend version 2 know that I’ve decided to end of life that product on December 1st, 2020. There has been a note on the product page about this for a while now, but occasionally I notice people still buying version 2, and I heard from one person that hadn’t noticed the verbiage about it being in maintenance mode. I left it available after the 2018 update in which I announced maintenance mode, as I didn’t want to shortchange new users, and I also made an upgrade path via the App Bundle, but without real support for upgrades from Apple, I think this is doing more harm than good, so I’m going to remove version 2 from the App Store on December 1st.
If you own version 2, that gives you another ten days or so to upgrade using the bundle, but otherwise, you’ll be able to continue using version 2 until you have to reinstall your device or set up a new device, but it will not be available to reinstall after December 1st. Any new users will be directed to version 3.5, the latest and greatest version of Photographer’s Friend. I should also mention that I know I’m remiss in not providing an Android version. The idea of the Apple Watch Extensions sidetracked me but I will start working on that in the coming months and hope to provide something in 2021.