11. April 2017


Using Threshold in QuarkXPress 2017 for image masking

QuarkXPress 2017 introduces transparency blend modes as well as reintroducing image effects and adjustments. The combination is, in publishing terms, golden, provided that you remember that things should only be done in QuarkXPress when they make the most sense to do so. QX2017 is not attempting to replace Capture One, Affinty Photo, Adobe Photoshop or your other favourite RAW developer or editor.

That said, there are an awful lot of image management processes which ought to be done in layout, and doing them earlier in the process is a messy compromise which requires numerous round trips. The most obvious example is Output Sharpening: easy in QX2017, a tedious nightmare previously. However, it will be hard to show the power of output sharpening on screen, so let’s look at another, equally tedious, problem: image cutouts.

Now, we all know that you can cut an image out in QuarkXPress or competing, bundled, software, but we also know that this is a relatively rough-and-ready process. Alternatively, we can go to Photoshop, perhaps using OnOne or Vertus to assist us. We know we are going to spend a long time cutting out, and, if the requirement changes, or the client decides that they preferred one of the alternative images after all, we are going to have to do the whole thing again. And, with cutting out in Photoshop, there’s always the nightmare situation of a cutout which looks totally clean on screen, but prints yellow splodges with hard edges at production.

What if you could do the whole thing in one minute, without leaving QuarkXPress.

Cutout and Shadow in a minute

Ok, here is a problem image taken at the British Museum: 

This one is straight out of the camera, supplied as JPEG, and it’s Hercules (or Herakles) on the right that interests us. You couldn’t possibly use that image, marred as it is by bad exposure, bad colour temperature, and reflection on the glass.

First, let’s crop it and blow it out using Levels. You’ll notice that we’re setting the transparency mode to Multiply. We’ll come back to that in a moment.

A bit of colour balancing in the Highlights enables us to get rid of some yellow splodges which we will not want.

Next, let’s use Threshold to give us a good black mask, which we’ll invert with Invert. You’ll notice we’re setting this to Lighten as a transparency mode.

Our final piece of image adjustment is to use Threshold again with Gaussian Blur to give us the shadow. For this, we’ll go back to our original image with its adjustments as a basis. We’re going to set the transparency of the shadow to 50%, and give it a white background.

As you can see, adjustments and effects in QX2017 stack, non-destructively, executing the top one first, then the second, then the third. Additionally, we’ll distort the image to suit. We can keep playing with this as we develop the document. I’ll make sure that I expand the box the shadow is in, with its white background, to the size of all the other elements.

Finally we are ready to composite.

Here goes:

Now, this is not perfect, but we have spent a total of one minute on it, and, since everything is done non-destructively, we can now refine to suit our task. In most publications this image would be relatively small, perhaps a marginal illustration. We would want to take more time if it was a main featured image—but, in that case, we would probably also insist on starting with a much better original.

A couple of remarks.

First, the image logic is important here. At the back we have the shadow. On top of this, we have the mask we created with Threshold and Invert, set to Lighten. Its black areas have no impact on the area below, as black + Lighten = nothing. Its white areas entirely knock out the shadow, as white + Lighten = white. The top image is set to multiply. Anything x black = black, and image x white = the original image. The result is that the white areas of the original image become entirely transparent, allowing the bottom shadow to appear, but the imaged areas are opaque.

This might sound complicated, but once you’ve got it, you can do one of these a minute.

Second, the drop shadow is important. Although a cutout onto white was easy here, using levels, the cutout then either appears to float in the air, or else sit two-dimensionally on the paper. You need a shadow, and it cannot be the Dropped Shadow effect, which will reenforce the sense of a flat picture laid onto the page.

Final thoughts

To extract this much quality in terms of a cutout in Photoshop or other software would take you twenty minutes at least. If the client changed their mind, that would be another twenty minutes. You would also need to render the shadow as a separate image—not just a separate layer—in order to be able reposition the shadow so that it works with the layout. Of course, you could use this same technique in Photoshop, rather than doing a laborious manual cutout, but you are still faced with maintaining separate shadow images, and further annoying round-trips if the layout changes.

I’ve already ordered, and paid for, my upgrade to QX2017. It is an intense privilege to be one of the beta-testers. I’m awed by the possibilities that the new version brings. I thought it would be very hard to cap the 2016 seminal release. I guess I hadn’t reckoned with the ingenuity and tenacity of the folks at Quark…

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6. April 2017


Stunning effects using gradients in QuarkXPress 2017

Martin Turner, pre-release testers of QuarkXPress 2017, created this headline using solely QuarkXPress objects and attributes. So these are all QuarkXPress boxes, lines, gradients etc. The flares are also gradients in QuarkXPress, applied with color burn:

Martin also provided an example with live text, please see here:

Martin is the author of “Desk Top Publishing” with QuarkXPress and will show how to create such effects in his tutorial series about QuarkXPress:


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31. March 2017


Happy 30th birthday, QuarkXPress

Happy birthday, QuarkXPress.

30 years today.
30 days younger than Illustrator.
1.5 years before Photoshop.

See a blog post by me here please: http://blog.quark.com/2017/03/happy-30th-birthday-quarkxpress/

Or see a summary of milestones here: https://www.prepressure.com/prepress/history/page/1987

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22. March 2017


QuarkXPress 2017 is a single bundle… sorry what?

As you may have read, QuarkXPress 2017 on MacOS will be supplied as a single bundle.

What does that mean?

A single bundle is a special “file” on MacOS that appears as one file, though it is really a folder containing many things.

Have a look at QuarkXPress 8 thru 2016 please and how it differs from QuarkXPress 2017. You can see that MacOS lists QuarkXPress 2017 as an “application” (and not a folder) and also doesn’t show the “uncollapse” icon:

What are the advantages of QuarkXPress 2017 being a single bundle?

A few notable advantages are:

  • Users can install, relocate, and remove bundles simply by dragging them around in the Finder.
  • Bundles are less susceptible to accidental user modifications, such as removal, modification, or renaming of critical resources.
  • Bundles are less likely to suffer from permission issues.

What does that mean for you, as a user?

Besides that it is easier to install and will have less issues? Hardly any difference.

Only when you install XTensions (plug-ins) or scripts there is a difference.

Creating Global Preferences

By default, the Preferences folder of QuarkXPress  are stored in the user folder. That’s where they should be and have been for several versions of QuarkXPress.

They reside in a sub folder that is named after the main version, so that they do not clash if you have several versions of QuarkXPress installed.

However sometimes you need to create a global Preferences folder, meaning all users on your Mac will use the same preferences. That can cause issues, still some users prefer that (mostly when they are the only user using the Mac).

With previous versions of QuarkXPress you could create a global preferences folder by creating it inside the application folder of QuarkXPress. This is not possible anymore, so now you need to create a folder called “Preferences” on the same level as the QX2017 bundle (so e.g. in Application folder).

If you do not like having a Preferences folder in Application folder, just create a subfolder “QuarkXPress 2017” and put the application (bundle) and Preferences folder in there.

Installing XTensions

If the XTension (plug-in) you are installing has an installer, then you do not need to worry about this.

If you need to manually install the XTension, then you need to be aware that QuarkXPress 2017 will load third party XTensions from the following two locations:

a) ~/Library/Application Support/Quark/QuarkXPress 2017/XTensions (so “Library” in your User folder)
b) /Library/Application Support/Quark/QuarkXPress 2017/XTensions (the main “Library” folder on your Macintosh folder)


  • If the XTension is placed in the main Library path, it will be available to all the users on that Mac.
  • If deployed in the user’s library path, the XTension will only be available to that particular user.
  • If the same XTension exists in both these locations, then the one in User’s Library location will get the preference.

This means that for the first time you can install different XTensions for different users on your Mac.

Installing Scripts

Same is true for Scripts, QuarkXPress 2017 will load scripts from the following two locations:
a) ~/Library/Application Support/Quark/QuarkXPress 2017/XTensions/Scripts
b) /Library/Application Support/Quark/QuarkXPress 2017/XTensions/Scripts


  • If a script is placed in the main Library path, it will be available to all the users on that Mac.
  • If a script is deployed in the user’s library path, the script will only be available to that particular user.
  • If the same script exists in both these locations, then the one in User’s Library location will get the preference.


“Single Bundle” is a feature provided by MacOS and therefore not possible on Windows.

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