Become a Keyboard Shortcut Wizard

Learn Photoshop & Illustrator Shortcuts

"ARG! WHERE is that menu option?!"
"I JUST saw it!"
"Is it under Edit? File? Object?!"
*collapses on floor with wacom pen in hand*

If you're totally nodding you head, you know the struggle is real in finding that thing you use JUST frequently enough is hiding in the maze that is Illustrator and Photoshop menus and toolbars. 

This is pretty much the conversation I have with myself when I realize I should REALLY attach that command to a key on my keyboard. any case:

Using keyboard shortcuts that you remember is the secret to fast and efficient design.

Once you accept that your mouse is just a slow menu-crawler and move forward with your own shortcuts, you'll be having people to say to you,

"What?! How'd you do that so fast?!"

-quoted from a million* people who've watched me work.
*not that many.

So here's to forgetting where than menu stuff *really* is (seriously, where's Crop again?), and bring on you A-game magic with shortcuts.


Using Photoshop to Create Multiple Options with Layer Comps & History Snapshots

Photoshop Layer Comps, Photoshop History Snapshots, Photoshop tutorials, Megan Dunagan Tutorials, Megan Dunagan Photoshop

I think by now you know I'm ALL ABOUT the obscure tutorials.  You can find information for the common stuff anywhere, but I find it super rewarding to teach actual (more or less) "secrets" about Photoshop that are über time-saving and/or a fun thing to know.

In this one you'll learn to save multiple options for a design...without duplicating your design in another group or an additional document.  I'll show you two ways to do this using Layer Comps and History Snapshots.

This will be great for doing client work if you need to show many options or if you aren't sure if this motif looks good "here or here". 

Watch below in 1080p (and m-m-maximize that screen!):

Should also mention that one 'negative' about History Snapshots is that they are only active as long as you don't close the document. Once the document is closed, the history is cleared.  If you use Layer Comps, the options stay with the document even after closing.



Trade Show Prep: Creating an InDesign Template

Create an InDesign Art Template for Collection Pages | Trade Show Colletion Pages | Surtex Collection Pages or Tear Sheets | Blueprint Collection Pages or Tear Sheets | InDesign Live Captions without File Endings

The beginning of spring is here and it's trade show prep season! One of the many things you'll do when preparing for a trade show is printing your artwork on loose pieces of paper. To get this done faster, you should use templates. A lot of you will use Photoshop or Illustrator for this but I'm about to sing InDesign's praises.


In this tutorial, you'll learn:

1) How to create a basic template for artwork in InDesign
2) To Generate auto-updating "live" captions without file endings.


or in English:

you'll create an Indesign art template for your collection pages and the design names will automatically show up, *without* file endings attached.


The Nitty Gritty:

Ease: Intermediate to Advanced (comfortable with copy/pasting scripts)
Operating System: OSX (Mac)
Programs Used: Bridge, InDesign, and ExtendScript Toolkit (I'll give a link)

Template view

Filled out Template


Create your InDesign Template

Watch the video below to get your template started.  You'll need to open InDesign first! Keep in mind this is a rough-cut video, you'll see most of my "oops'" 😜

After you've saved and/or closed your document, move on to Step Two.

Step TWO

be a script-kiddie

WHAT THIS SCRIPT DOES: The following script works in Adobe Bridge by letting you batch-edit selected files to append their filename to the description (in File Info) WITHOUT the file ending included. 

Follow along and you'll be grand:

  • If you don't have it already, download ExtendScript Toolkit. Check to see if you have the program first: Applications / Utilities / Adobe Utilities CS5 / ExtendScript Toolkit CS5 / ExtendScript Toolkit
  • Once downloaded, install the program and open it up.  The window will look like the image to the right (click to enlarge)
  • Copy and paste the script below into the large area of ExtendScript Toolkit app. Credit for this script goes to Paul Riggot via the Adobe Forums.
    #target bridge     
       if( BridgeTalk.appName == "bridge" ) {    
    FT = MenuElement.create("command", "Add FileName to Description", "at the end of Tools");  
    FT.onSelect = function () {   
    var thumbs = app.document.selections;   
    if(!thumbs.length) return;  
    if (ExternalObject.AdobeXMPScript == undefined)  ExternalObject.AdobeXMPScript = new ExternalObject("lib:AdobeXMPScript");  
    for(var a in thumbs){  
    var selectedFile = thumbs[a].spec;      
    var FileName = decodeURI(\.[^\.]+$/, '')  
          var myXmpFile = new XMPFile( selectedFile.fsName, XMPConst.UNKNOWN, XMPConst.OPEN_FOR_UPDATE);   
      var myXmp = myXmpFile.getXMP();  
    var Desc=[];  
    var count =  myXmp.countArrayItems(XMPConst.NS_DC, "description");  
    for(var i = 1;i <= count;i++){  
    Desc.push(myXmp.getArrayItem(XMPConst.NS_DC, "description", i));  
    Desc=Desc.toString() + " " + FileName;  
            myXmp.deleteProperty(XMPConst.NS_DC, "description");  
            myXmp.appendArrayItem(XMPConst.NS_DC, "description", Desc, 0, XMPConst.ALIAS_TO_ALT_TEXT);  
            myXmp.setQualifier(XMPConst.NS_DC, "description[1]", "", "lang", "x-default");  
            if (myXmpFile.canPutXMP(myXmp)) {   
  • Next, Go to File > Save and save the script to your Desktop. Name it something like, "Add Filename to Description."
  • Then, in the Finder, mouse to the top menu, click Go and hold down your Option (alt) key.  You'll notice that a directory called "Library" shows up like magic.  Click it.


  • After clicking on Library, navigate to: Application Support / Adobe / Bridge CC 2017 / Startup Scripts
  • Click and Drag the saved script from the desktop to that Startup Scripts folder.

Side note: If you would rather add the file name to the Title area (rather than the Description as above), Benjamin Henne on Github has a written for that code.  I don't guarantee that works though as I haven't tried it. Keep in mind if you do go that route, you'll have to adjust some InDesign caption settings later.  You'll figure it out!

Step Three

Running the Filename Script in ADOBE BRIDGE

Alright guys, for this to *actually* work as intended, you'll need to make sure you're naming your files in a way that makes sense to you...usually with a numbering system. In Step one, I briefly mentioned this. For me, I place my files in a collection folder called something like "6063-Herb Garden".  Within, each pattern is named 6063A, 6063B, and so on.  This is so it's easy for art directors and buyers to reference my designs AND it just looks nicer to have only numbers and a letter on a tear sheet.  Stop here and make sure your system is coordinated and clean; if it is good to go, continue with Step Three (below image):

  Example of how the inside of my collection "6063-Herb Garden" looks.

Example of how the inside of my collection "6063-Herb Garden" looks.

  • If Adobe Bridge is open, close it completely, then reopen it.
  • A dialog box will pop up that asks if you want to load the script.  Press Yes/Okay.  It will take a moment.
  • Pick the batch or grouping of files you want to add to your InDesign template and select them all using CMD+A or by clicking + dragging your mouse over them.
  • Mouse up to Tools in the top menu.  At the bottom of that menu you should see the script you saved into the Adobe Bridge scripts folder.  Click it!


  • It will take another moment to run.  Check to make sure it worked by right-clicking on a file and select "File Info"
file info adobe bridge
  • You should see the name of your file in the Description area.  If not, something went wrong.  Make sure you followed each step in Step Two appropriately.
Description file info Adobe Bridge.png


Adding Live-Captions without a file ending to InDesign

One last video! We're headed back to InDesign, so bust out the document we made together so we can finish.


Export your file

  • Remember to save your .idml template file somewhere like a Template folder *hint hint*
  • Then you can Export (File > Export) it as a PDF (for print) or another file type.  All have their perks, but pick which one is best for you.  If you're only printing, I'd recommend PDF for print.

And that's that!  I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial - I think this one has a little magic in it!

Create an InDesign Art Template for Collection Pages | Trade Show Colletion Pages | Surtex Collection Pages or Tear Sheets | Blueprint Collection Pages or Tear Sheets | InDesign Live Captions without File Endings
Ask me a question about this tutorial or tell me how it has helped you!

Define and separate colors in Photoshop using the Indexed Color Mode

Change colors in photoshop using indexed mode

Dun dun dun! Let us proclaim from the hilltops and squeeze your nearest furry friend with joy!

Today you'll learn how to define and separate colors in Photoshop using the Indexed Color Mode in Photoshop.  I come from a background (about 10 years) in the in-house textile design industry and in this video you'll learn how to index your work in addition to extra tips.  Enjoy!


Build a custom Apple machine

Build a custom Apple Machine using a Hackintosh

Why did I switch from Mac products to a hackintosh?  You're about to find out!

Apple products sure look pretty.  I could have googly eyes all day just looking at their products and marveling at the sleek OS. Let me count the ways Apple does things right:

  • They're minimal -- that flush screen, gah!
  • Oh so compact!
  • User-friendly out-of-the-box

I know a lot of us designers tend to go the Apple route and it's seems clear why...doesn't it?

Doesn't Apple make the best products for designers we could possibly desire?

Short answer: Not unless you want to pay a premium for mediocre parts, inadequate cooling and, most importantly, an awful built-in screen for color matching.

Long answer: Now I don't want this post to get too technical, but I'll cover the basics and link outward to good resources if you'd like to research more.  I just feel like we, as designers, should be using technology to our advantage and not just succumbing to Apple's brilliant marketing.

What Apple does:

When Apple designs an iMac, it's essentially a compromise between good, fast, or cheap, pick two of those. They chosen to focus on user experience, which severely curtails the type of hardware they use.  You see this when you build a hackintosh as a limitation on what motherboards (the computer highway) and graphics cards (the pretty visuals and rendering).  You also see it in the "Apple approved" extras that "add to" the user experience. Read: white.

What Hackintoshes bring:

When building a hackintosh, you are limited to the type of hardware you can use for compatibility with OS X. The upside of this is that if you buy the right hardware, you can customize functionality in the way that Apple computers won't let you do.

Upgradable: you won't have to throw out your iMac or pay through the nose when one part explodes.

So, you go from a $3,000 repair to a $300 repair.  And not only is it easy to replace that component, you don't need specialized tools and the chance of breaking the screen is non-existent. Unless you throw your other monitor out the window =)

What we built:

  • CPU: I7 4790 K.  This is also known as a central processing unit.
  • CPU cooling: Closed-loop liquid cooling -- not recommended for first-timers
  • Motherboard: Asus 97 series with built-in AC WiFi.
  • GPU: NVidia GTX 660 -- there are limitations of GPUs you can use in a hackintosh, so make sure it corresponds to a GPU that Apple already uses in their own computers - this is liquid cooled as well...this is also not for beginners.
  • RAM: 16 GB (4.x4) DDR3 2600 MHz -- if you get matched sets of RAM from the manufacturer, this is the biggest improvement for the CPU for Photoshop and Illustrator.
  • Hard Drive: Samsung Evo 840 solid state drive -- Picking a fast drive is crucial to fast application load and save times.  You can pick traditional hard drive to save to.  SSDs costs less than a dollar per gigabyte whereas a traditional costs 10 cents per gigabyte for storage capacity.
  • Monitor: Asus 24.1 inch  IPS PA248Q
  • Case: Thermaltake Core V31. -- This case is optimized for liquid cooling. And it has a pretty side panel =)

A note on liquid-cooling: a big pro if you're noise-sensitive or if you live in a hot environment.  The downsides are: cost, getting a case that will accommodate the radiators, leaks will not be fun.  If you invest in nice liquid-cooling, leaks won't be top of mind.  I've had luck with Corsair.

Monitor Comparison with iMacs

In design, color is important.  The more colors you see the the screen, the more accurate the end product will be.  There's a thing called a Look-Up Table (LUT) -- this determines the number to discreet colors a monitor can show.

With an iMac you can have 255 colors based on an 8 bit look-up table (LUT).  That equals to only 256 shades & 16.7 million visible colors on the screen.

With the Asus screen I purchased there are 1023 colors based on a 10 bit look-up table (LUT). Through math magic, that equals to 1024 shades and 68 BILLION visible colors.  Yep.  That's crazy-town...and a giant leap with the 2 extra bits per pixel.

There are also monitors with 12 and 14 bits (but those are very expensive).

And the good news, is, that in December 2015, Adobe enabled 10-bit compatibility! YAY!

If you're totally confused about what I just said, you can read up on LUT resource material on PCMag's article "How to Choose the Right Monitor for Graphic Design"

Setup procedure for building your hackintosh:

Now is where we mention there is an amazing website called Tony Mac X86 where they have a list of approved hardware that you can pick and choose depending on your budget and if you need help, there are forums where people document their successful build and are available to answer questions.

Downsides to a hackintosh

  • You'll need a copy of the operating system software.  The easiest way to get that is with an existing Apple machine to access the OS download from the App Store.
  • Upgrading the software on your hackintosh will not be as simple as downloading from the App store.  This is NOT recommended.  You should read up on documentation for how hackintoshes react to new updates prior to installing it yourself.
  • You should be comfortable with a command-line interface (using the Terminal application) for installion and initial boot-up. Note: Some builds will require quite a bit of trial and error with boot switches to boot continually. They are also used to load kernel extensions for hardware that isn't completely approved by Apple.

Upsides to a hackintosh

  • Half price computer that can hang and definitely exceed a top-of-the-line MacPro's workflow. Mo moneys in yo pocket and less time waiting around for programs to load and do their thang.**
  • Choice of screens.  iMac is limited to 2 screens.  Mine is not.
  • Sound.  Choice of speakers.

**This is the number one reason to go with making a hackintosh computer.

Wrap Up:

-The solid state drive loads programs and saves files significantly faster than a traditional hard drive. An upgraded CPU and increased cooling (fans/liquid) speeds up anything a computer does to process files. -RAM is crucial to Adobe programs because it will load all your files into the RAM and treat it like a hard drive.  It is much fast than an SSD.  Side note: You should buy one 4x4 kit, not two 2x2 kits. The are spec'd at the factory to work together and it will save you a lot of headache if you buy a 4x4 (16GB of ram). -The GPU is like a CPU but it does a lot of short operations faster.  So imagine having ten arms with two fingers on each hand.  Whereas the CPU is having 2 arms with 10 fingers.  You can make more complicated objects but can't make as many as fast.


If you have any burning questions, I may be able to help if you shoot me an email about this topic.

Disclaimer:  I don't receive any compensation for any opinions for this post.  It is purely all from my own experience and knowledge.  I also had tons of help from my Engineer who is also a hardware nerd.  This guide is meant to assist you in making your own hackintosh, but this is by no means the end-all-be-all.  It is simply what worked for me. Happy upgrading!