Disorientation between Blend & Photoshop

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I’ve come to the conclusion that this will likely never go away.  The more I work in Expression Blend, the stronger the case of disorientation is when I come back to photoshop to do a quick mockup of something and I figured that there would likely be a time where I would go between the two and seeing as how I know what to do once the application is open based on its UI, that I’d recall the differences w/o issue as though it were all muscle memory.

However, the similarities of controls and manipulation are just so similar that every time I switch between the two, it takes a moment for the change to click.

For instance – shapes – aka vector objects.  Photoshop has vector objects – they’re not as easy to manipulate after they’ve been placed in a layer as they would be if I were in illustrator or blend, but they do have them in photoshop and I use them more than I think any other tool in photoshop.  It helps that I’ve lately been using photoshop to do mockups of things that will translate to Expression Blend… but there-in lies the problem.

So an example: In photoshop, I have a circle, I need place it and its not quite right.  So I scale it… but oh yeah, I need to approve the append in photoshop.  In blend, I make the change and its much more like illustrator.  It just is – its done.  Changed.

Gradients – I’ve come to very VERY much enjoy the flexibility of hand manipulating direction and well.. every characteristic of a gradient.  I’d like to toot my own horn and say that I’ve actually gotten pretty damn good at it.  In photoshop, its all raster based.  So its… seriously different.  Sure – a whole lot more can be done, but I also find limitations to the power of the rastering in photoshop.

So yeah – anyway.  I think I’ve officially determined that I will likely never get over that first 5 minutes of “oh yeah, that’s right, I’m not working in ___”

Oh – and just for the heck of it because I’ve gone a different direction, below is a screenshot of a flower recreated using gradients in blend – next to the example flower which is a photograph of a real flower.

XAML vs of an orange lillie
XAML vs of an orange lillie

Purpose and direction

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The plan was to release everything along with this blog in conjunction with a spiffy purely xaml based site and the site was designed by me and made “alive” by my good friend David – but the last few years I’ve done a whole lot of consultation work, and not a lot of original pieces – and that is leaving the portfolio section bare in a very extreme way.

So until I have more content to put there – it isn’t going up. It stinks and will likely drive David up the wall while he waits for it to go up, but sometimes life happens and things just don’t go according to plan.

So in the mean time, I’m going to use this blog as sort of a catalogue for myself to quick reference as well as possibly help others who are diving head-first into using the expression tools. For someone like me, who has known the world of design and UI through notepad and photoshop – there are a lot of things that some people take for granted who are already “in the world” that I’m poking my head into, so if you’re already there and I’m blogging about things that you do in your sleep, its quite possible that this blog is not targeted at you.

Facing Blend… The site. The Experience. My brain.

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Facing Blend was a fun idea that came to my mind one day when learning how to use blend. It has many meanings in the name, so I’d like to paint a picture for you.

I’ve always loved design. In highschool, I took the first class to ever be part of our highschool which was dedicated to programming – HTML.

I know, I know – HTML is markup, not programming. To me, it was the closest that I was going to get with a highschool education back in the late 90s and I was one of the first to sign up for it. The class started out in such a way that gave all who signed up for the class the ability to get on the same track. We started, not in HTML coding, but in good research techniques using the most popular search engines on the net. We’re talking goto.com, altavista.com, webcrawler.com, yahoo.com, search.aol.com, oh, and yes, the baby – google.com. There were a few others, but those were the most popularly used. My favorite? Goto.com. *sigh*

Anyhow, from that class, I got my feet wet into design. I was interested in the art of it all, the complete picture. How you could take separate elements, put them together, and either make something incredible, or absolutely horrid. Most of the people in the class created sites that were overfilled with animations, difficult to navigate… the typical story for people who aren’t necessarily used to layouts and artistic use in usability. Myself, being an artist and having a logical perspective on most things, coupled those together and that is where I started with design.

Now, my stuff back then was absolutely aweful, but at least you could navigate easily, locate the information you were looking for, and it wasn’t over-inundated with animated gifs just for the sake of having animated gifs.

Somewhere along the lines I picked up a few other skills, CSS, basic XML, a little javascript, lots and lots and lots of photoshop work, and I need to mention photoshop again – as that program can do almost anything, short of cook my dinner (though its caused me to miss several meals. Blame the program, not the person. It’s easier that way for all of us.)

So that along with illustrations and a few other things is my “start” in design. I took a few side roads and worked at a photography studio, worked as a sales person and then a computer technician at the local CompUSA, then moved to being an IT Servicedesk Technician, but on the side, I’ve done projects for various organizations, individuals and companies throughout the years designing flyers, logos, paintings, and webpages.

A friend of mine mentioned while assisting him with illustrating the cover of his book, that I should take a look at Microsoft’s Expression Blend. I’m quite familiar with Photoshop, have dabbled with Corel Draw, and 3dsmax, but had never heard of Expression Blend, and quite frankly, was a little… ok, a lot, intimidated by it.

So after watching several videos, I accidentally downloaded a few of the tutorial videos for Expression Design – which acted a whole lot like Photoshop, but with a few things made easier and more specifically, the program seemed more like a tool that web designers would love. So instead of immediately diving into Expression Blend, I tinkered around with Expression Design for a while. In my opinion, I’d like to give a capitol A, Two thumbs up, and 5 gold stars to the people who created the program. It has quite a lot of functionality, and for myself, who specializes in UI that makes sense and web design, this program was easy to pick up and go with a very small learning curve. It’s one of those things that is quick and easy to learn how to use, but would take the right person to master.

I finally got up the courage to dabble with Expression Blend after a weekend with Design – to find that it wasn’t intimidating at all. Yay me for making a mountain out of a mole hill.

During my initial orientation to the program, I became thoroughly frustrated. Blend has a lot to offer and a lot of functionality. Since my specialty has always been driven towards the web, I felt that I should dedicate my time designing within Blend creating Silverlight apps. There are quite a few people who have been familiar and creating in full application based XAML, but not as many who specialize in the silverlight side with all of its limitations. I think I’ll just sit in the pretty Silverlight box and be happy with my walls and restrictions and see just how much I can fit into that box and how well I can use it.

Blend is in beta. Silverlight is… in beta. *sigh* Let’s just say, a lot of things aren’t as they might seem when trying to do what you wish to do. User controls for one thing, integrated, and custom controls – pain in the rear…


So this is me. I enjoy design, completely geek over well-done interface – the things most people overlook when done right, and am starting this blog and site as a way for others to join me on my journey as I learn more about what I can do within Expression Blend, programing, design in general, and more.

What is Facing blend to me? It is me tackling a mountain, to discover a molehill. It is me sitting with tools and the endless possibilities. It is interfacing gone web… inter – facing… get it? It is Facing Blend.

– Ariel Leroux