Introduction to ProAlbum-Designer v7

By Kjell Post,

Table of Contents

  1. About ProAlbum-Designer
    1. News in version 7
    2. News in version 7.0.2
    3. News in version 8
  2. System requirements
  3. Installation
  4. Activation
  5. Book spreads - quick and easy
    1. Album settings
    2. Image files
    3. Selecting and moving things around
  6. Templates
  7. Actions
    1. About ProAlbum-Designer
    2. Initial settings
    3. New cover
    4. Save cover
    5. New spread
    6. Save spread
    7. Multisave
    8. Style options
    9. Fit
    10. Fill left page, Fill right page
    11. Fill spread
    12. Color <-> BW
    13. Enlarge, Shrink
    14. Match up, Match down
    15. Check DPI
    16. Optimal enlarge
    17. Tilt left, Tilt right
    18. Opaque
    19. Delete
    20. Bring to front, Send backwards
    21. Drop
    22. Release
    23. Overlay
    24. Swap
    25. Editor
    26. Retarget
    27. Downrez
  8. Updating spreads
  9. Populate current template
  10. Place images
  11. Simple spreads
  12. Storyboard
  13. Album covers

1. About ProAlbum-Designer

ProAlbum-Designer is a set of actions with Javascript code for Adobe Photoshop that enables you to design photo books in a quick and efficient manner. With hundreds of templates (and more if you want to design your own) you can create spreads faster than ever.

ProAlbum-Designer currently support albums from Saal, MSB Photobooks, QT Albums, Vision Art, Folio albums and WAS (Wedding Album Spain).

With the Downrez tool, you can design spreads for a universal square album and then later resize them for a specific album.

A terrific way to showcase your album to clients is Online Album Proofing where you can upload, preview, share and order albums created with ProAlbum-Designer.

This manual describes version 7.0 of ProAlbum-Designer and all subsequent versions 5.x that might appear later to fix potential bugs.

News in version 7

  1. Downrez via Bridge: It is now possible invoke the Downrez function via Bridge. Simply select your spreads, right-click and choose ProAlbum-Designer > Downrez spread(s).
  2. Smarter Storyboard: The Retarget button now respects the order in which thumbnails are placed on the Storyboard when it fills a template. We hope this will lessen the need to swap photos.
  3. Cover templates for QT and MSB included: Materials for QT and MSB covers are now included in the distribution, i.e., you don't have to download any extra zip files for these vendors.
  4. QT Cameo covers: The new line of QT Cameo albums are now supported.
  5. sRGB enforced: In previous versions it was possible to create a non-sRGB spread. In version 7 this shouldn't happen.

News in version 7.0.2

  1. Guidelines for covers: Some album companies with cover photos (QT, Saal, Folio) now have guidelines in the middle of the front and back board to make it easier to center text.
  2. Downrez via Bridge simplified: The dialogue for Downrez via Bridge no longer features the psd/jpeg filter. Instead, the files selected in Bridge are simply processed.
  3. Bug when Rulers set to %: A bug concerning the orientation of layers have been fixed, it only showed up when the Rulers were set to show percentages in Preferences.

News in version 8

  1. Multisave: with Multisave, you can export each template photo to an individual JPEG file - see Multisave.
  2. Select template: is a new Bridge menu which works exactly like "Make album spread" except that the album kind is set to Template to prevent you from accidentally resizing your template to one of the photo albums.

2. System requirements

This manual and distribution is intended for Adobe Photoshop CS4 and later versions. It doesn't matter whether you are using Mac OS X, Windows XP, Vista or Win 7. You need to have a certain amount of Photoshop experience. After ordering ProAlbum-Designer, you can go ahead and download ProAlbum-Designer from the download page. Make sure the zip file is unpacked before you proceed. We will refer to this folder as your ProAlbum-Designer folder and it should look something like this:

3. Installation

Note: ProAlbum-Designer will be in demo mode until you activate it. You can use all the features except Downrez and the Editor, but your spreads will be slightly distorted.
Sorry, no free lunch!

Now do the following to install ProAlbum-Designer:

  1. Double-click on the install.jsx file. This should start Photoshop and present you with the screen below.
    If that doesn't work, do the following instead: Start up Photoshop and then do File > Scripts > Browse... and choose install.jsx in your ProAlbum-Designer folder.
  2. Send me an email with the Signature (the 8 characters, use copy&paste to avoid mistakes).

    I will reply with an activation code as soon as I can, usually the same day. If you move to a new machine or update Photoshop, you will need to register again to obtain a new activation code. It doesn't cost anything and I will be happy to help you.

  3. Click on Install to go ahead with the installation.

    This will install a demo version of ProAlbum-Designer which you can activate later when you have the activation code.

  4. Note: If you have ProAlbum-Designer version 4 installed, you need to uninstall it. The install program for the current version will do this for you.
  5. After a few seconds, and if everything goes well, something like this should appear:
  6. Click Continue to load the action file and delete older version of ProAlbum-Designer's action files.

  7. Choose Button mode in the same fly-out menu and you should have a set of colorful buttons like at the beginning of this document.
  8. If you have the activation code, you can go ahead with the activation (see below).

  9. Finally, restart both Photoshop and Bridge.

    When you start Bridge again it will ask you if you want to activate the scripts: answer Yes.

Congratulations, you have now successfully installed ProAlbum-Designer!

Note: If something went wrong with the installation, please mail the file install-log.txt to me at

4. Activation

Note: To activate ProAlbum-Designer you need the 8-character activation code. I will send you the activation code after you have sent me your signature and verified your purchase.

Now do the following to activate ProAlbum-Designer:

  1. Click on "About ProAlbum-Designer" and the following window appears:
  2. Enter the activation code and click "Activate".
  3. If everything goes well, your copy of ProAlbum-Designer should now be unlocked.

5. Book spreads - quick and easy

A book is produced one spread at a time. A spread is a double page. The book printer (MSB, Saal, etc) prints books in many different formats (15x15 cm, 20x20 cm, etc) and there are functions to create blank spreads for each type of book. For now, we are going to assume that, e.g., a 30 page album consists of 15 spreads. If you are planning to print a book where, e.g., the first left page must be left blank, you must handle this yourself.

With ProAlbum-Designer, you can design a spread in less than a minute. These are the usual steps required to make a spread:

  1. In Bridge, select the images you wish to appear on the spread.
  2. Right click on any image and choose ProAlbum-Designer > Make album spread.
  3. A dialog will appear with template suggestions, as shown on the left, above.
  4. You can set album type, background color, border options, etc. (These can be changed later when the spread is finished.)
  5. Click on the template you wish to use.
  6. After a while (depending on how large your images are), you will see the finished spread in Photoshop.
  7. Swap and enlarge images, change border styles, etc, if necessary.
  8. Click on "Save spread" and two files will be saved: one PSD-file (for editing) and one JPEG-file (for ordering).

Later, we will discuss how you can move images around, enlarge them, add borders, change background color etc. But let us start with the preliminiares.

5.1 Initial settings

Turning on a few things in Photoshop will make life easier:

  1. With the Move tool selected, check the box "Auto-Select". This will enable you to select a layer just by clicking on the image.
  2. Turn on View > Show > Smart Guides. Photoshop will then draw a purple guideline when two layers are aligned, very useful for positioning images.
  3. Organize your layer, action and history palettes so that you can see them all at the same time.

Next, configure ProAlbum-Designer for a new album by clicking on the red button "Album settings".

First, there is a list of album manufacturers to choose from. Each of their albums is defined by its spread size (in pixels), resolution and guidelines that indicate trim areas. Additionally, some albums can have images on their cover.

If you are designing a square album, it is wise to make spreads for the larger Universal album. When your spreads are ready, it is easy to make smaller spreads for a specific album using the Downrez tool. If, on the other hand, you are designing with a specific album in mind, feel free to choose it in the list: templates are scaled to the chosen album's format before images are dropped in. With that in mind, we have sets of templates for square, vertical and horizontal albums. If you change to, e.g., Saal 28x19 cm, ProAlbum-Designer attempts to change the Template folder to Templates-Horizontal.

Note: There is one exception to this scaling-down rule: if the selected album is set to Template, the templates will not be resized but rather left in its original size. This is useful if you use ProAlbum-Designer for non-book purposes with your own templates, for instance creating a huge collage for printing or a 900 px wide collage for your blog.

When starting a new album design, set Spread folder to be the folder where your spreads will be stored. When you save a spread (by clicking on Save spread) it will go to this folder. Unfortunately, this doesn't work in Windows so as a work-around we recommend changing the Save dialog to the "OS dialog" and then select your target folder as a Favorite, so that you can quickly go to the right folder.

The Document name is the suggested name given to the spread before you save it so that you quickly can change it to, e.g., Spread040. I would suggest giving your spreads a unique name, for instance the name of the couple who just got married, in order to avoid accidentally overwriting spreads from other projects.

The remaining preference settings are of less importance and therefore discussed later in this manual.

5.2 Image files

You can use all images that Photoshop understands: JPEG, GIF, Photoshop's own PSD files, sometimes even RAW files. However, we strongly recommend that you only work with finished JPEG files. If you mix retouching and album layout you may find that valuable retouching work is lost if you later decide to use another layout for your spread. Also, RAW images taken vertically may confuse Bridge/Photoshop and it may not be properly rotated.

When you select images in Bridge, right-click and choose ProAlbum-Designer > Make album spread. A list of templates will be suggested. Templates are spreads with holes in them, where images can be dropped in. (If you do not have the menu ProAlbum-Designer, first look in Bridge's preferences under Startup Scripts and make sure PAD-Add is checked. If it is, and it is still not working, please contact me.)

When images appear on the spread they are converted to smart objects. Smart objects enables you to shrink and enlarge images back and forth without quality loss. Even if the spread is saved and later loaded, your images have not lost any quality.

In ProAlbum-Designer all templates are in the sRGB color space. Your images may be stored in another color space, for instance the larger Adobe RGB. Depending on your Photoshop settings you may or may not get conversion questions when importing files from Bridge. Refer to the Photoshop menu Edit>Color Settings... but make sure this conversion keeps you in sRGB as this is the color space all album companies want.

5.3 Selecting and moving things around

It is very important that you familiarize yourself with Photoshop's selection and transformation tools. Most of the time you want to have the Move Tool (press V) active and check the Auto-Select box in the upper left corner. Photoshop will then automatically select the layer corresponding to the image you click on. This makes it possible to drag images around on the spread: simply click on an image before you perform an operation on it.

For instance, if you wish to enlarge an image, first click on it. You will see that the corresponding layer in the layers palette is highlighted. Now press Cmd-T (ctrl-T in Windows) and control points will be laid out for you to scale the image. Remember to hold the shift key down to maintain the aspect ratio. If the image you are scaling is much larger than the page, some of the control points will appear outside the spread. Press Cmd-0 (ctrl-0 in Windows, that's a zero) to zoom out far enough.

Another important feature of Photoshop is the ability to select several images. There are several ways to do this, they all assume you have the Move Tool active.

  1. Click on the first image. Then hold down the Shift key and click on the remaining images, or:
  2. Use the mouse to drag a selection around the images you want to select. This works well if the images you want to select are already grouped together.
  3. You can also click on the corresponding layer in the layer's palette but this can be difficult as you may accidentally select a template hole.

To de-select images, simply click somewhere in the background or do Select > Deselect in the Photoshop menu.

6. Templates

Templates are compressed TIFF-files with a layer for each template hole. The one distinguishing feature is that each hole must be named $PBDTPL-n where n is a number. (Templates can also be PSD-files, but as of version 3 we now ship built-in templates in compressed TIFF-format to save space.)

When Bridge suggest a template, based on the images selected, it will obviously compare the orientation of the selected images with the orientation of the holes in the templates. A match is considered exact if each horizontal/vertical/square hole has a matching horizontal/vertical/square image. A match is considered OK if we can put a horizontal or vertical image in a square hole. The definition of square is loose: if, e.g., the width is within 10% of the height, an image or hole is considered square. As a result of these matching rules, a template with a square hole will never be shown as an exact match.

ProAlbum-Designer comes with hundreds of templates, for square, vertical, horizontal and panovista albums. They are all stored in subfolders in your ProAlbum-Designer folder. The template editor described below has more information on how to make your own templates.

7. Actions

Now let us go through the actions in the Actions palette and see what they do.

7.1 About ProAlbum-Designer

The "About..." button tells you which version you are running and if your copy is up to date. If you are reporting a problem with ProAlbum-Designer, press this button to see which version you are running. In the demo mode, the "About..." dialog lets you enter an activation code to unlock your copy of ProAlbum-Designer. Refer to the Activation section earlier. When your copy is unlocked, the "About..." button will notify you of any updates to ProAlbum-Designer. If it is a minor update, e.g., going from 5.1 to 5.2, you can click on "Update" and ProAlbum-Designer will update itself. For major updates, e.g., from 5.5 to 6.0, you must go to the download area and install over again. See the video for details on how to update ProAlbum-Designer.

7.2 Album settings

This opens up a dialog which allows you to customize ProAlbum-Designer and work faster. Let us go through the various preference settings. Each setting has a tool-tip description which you can see by hovering with the mouse over the corresponding item.
Album: When starting on a new project, choose the album company and album type you are working on here. This setting will be used when creating a new spread. The default album Universal 35x35 cm is recommended if you design square albums and later want to downrez your spreads for a particular album company. The special album called Template tells ProAlbum-Designer not to resize the template to any format but rather leave it "as is".
Document name: This is the prefix given to a document when you create a new spread.
Bridge labels: You can let ProAlbum-Designer change the color label of the photos used in a spread, once it's been saved, by changing the label from Nothing to something else. This is particularly useful if you sort your images in Bridge by the color label: used photos will then be brought to the beginning (or end, depending on your View settings in Bridge) of the Bridge collection.
Instruction layer: When turned on, the instruction layer is generated when you create a new spread or cover. The instruction layer shows bleed margins and other information, specific for each album company. When a spread/cover is saved, the instruction layer is turned off so it doesn't appear in the exported JPEG image by mistake.
Spread folder: This is the folder where your album spreads are stored. When you save a spread, ProAlbum-Designer will go to this folder. If this preference is not set, ProAlbum-Designer will by default go to your home folder. This feature does not work in Windows. Instead, in the "Save as"-dialog, switch to the OS dialog and save your designated folder as a favorite by right-clicking on it.
Template folder: This is the folder where ProAlbum-Designer will look for templates that match the current selection in Bridge. You can have your own folders, or use one of the template folders that were included.
Overlay folder: This is the folder where your overlays are stored. When you run Add overlay, ProAlbum-Designer will automatically go to this folder. Overlays are discussed in more detail later.

7.3 New cover

Creates a blank cover based on how many spreads you have or what material is used for the cover. Normally, this button is seldom used. Instead choose the image(s) you want on your cover in Bridge, right-click and choose "ProAlbum-Designer > Make cover".

Not all albums have the option of putting images on the cover. Also, the size of the cover document depends on how many spreads you have. We therefore recommend that you design the cover last, when you have finished all spreads.

7.4 Save cover

Run this action when an album cover is finished and ready to be saved. You will be asked to save the cover in Photoshop's own PSD-format, so rename the file before you put it in the right folder, e.g. Cover.PSD. ProAlbum-Designer will also create a high-quality JPEG of the cover - this is used when ordering the album. The PSD file is used only if you need to go back and edit the cover.

7.5 New spread

If, for some reason, you don't want to work with templates you can start with a blank spread and add images to it via Bridge. This action creates a new, blank, page spread for the album chosen in the album settings.

7.6 Save spread

Run this action when an album spread is finished and ready to be saved. You will be asked to save the spread in Photoshop's own PSD-format, so rename the file before you put it in the right folder, e.g. Spread-030.PSD. ProAlbum-Designer will also create a high-quality JPEG of the spread - this is used when ordering the album. The PSD file is used only if you need to go back and edit.

It is recommended that spreads are saved with consecutive numbers. A useful suggestion is to name your spreads Page-010.PSD, Page-020.PSD, Page-030.PSD, etc, so that it is easy to insert a spread Page-015.PSD if necessary.

7.7 Multisave

Multisave will save each photo in the current template to an individual JPEG file. This is useful if you have created your own templates for printing collages, or if you are using one of the additional template packs such as the Touch templates. This action prompts for three things:

7.8 Style options

Style options is used to set border options and background color. Images in template holes may have a white or black border, rounded corners, and/or a drop shadow. When applying a style option you will, by default, change every image on the spread. If you wish to apply a style option to the currently selected images, uncheck the "Apply to all images" check box. The "Save" button is similar to the "Apply" button, but ProAlbum-Designer will also remember the style options for the next spread.

It is not a good idea to have a border style such as a black border on an image which bleeds, i.e., goes all the way out to the edge. When you try this, you will be given a warning.

Setting the background to white or black is interesting in combination with full page bleeds that have been made transparent (see the Opaque action). For instance, if the background is white and the bottom layer is set to 50% transparency, you will have a nice background that doesn't take away too much detail from the images lying on top. We use this occasionally with detail shots of glasses, food, dresses, flowers and other decorations.

Clicking on the # checkbox will bring up a color dialog where you can choose a custom background color.

7.9 Fit

This action will enlarge the selected image as much as possible while keeping it within the document. If the original image is somewhere on the left page, Fit will fill the left page. Conversely, if you first push the image to the right page and run Fit, the image will now fill the right page. This action works on any layer, also template holes.

7.10 Fill left page, Fill right page

These actions will fill either the entire left page or the entire right page with the current image, which is assumed to be a vertical image. Unlike Fit, parts of the image may be outside the page. By default, a filled image is aligned along the bottom part of the page. You can move the image around afterwards, of course.

7.11 Fill spread

It is quite common to create full page bleeds. Normally the proportions of the image does not coincide with that of the page spread. With the Fill spread action the whole page spread will be covered by the image, which is assumed to be horizontal. Parts of the image may be outside the spread afterwards. Please note that the image is not cropped but can be moved around afterwards using the Move Tool (V) and pressing the arrow keys to nudge the image one pixel at a time. Hold the shift key down and you will be moving 10 pixels for each arrow key click. Use the Send backward action to reveal images that have been obscured by this operation.

7.12 Color <-> BW

This action changes the selected image(s) to black & white by adding a black & white adjustment layer. If you click on this button again, the adjustment layer is removed, turning it into color again.

7.13 Enlarge, Shrink

Enlarges (133%) or shrinks (75%) the selected image(s). The percentages have been chosen as to cancel each other when used consecutively. Even if the Transform tool (Cmd-T or Ctrl-T in Windows) is also useful for scaling images, it is faster and more precise to enlarge/shrink several images by the same amount.

Note that several images can be enlarged/shrunk together by first selecting the images and then running either Enlarge or Shrink.

7.14 Match up, Match down

When doing free layout, or designing templates, it is often important to make two images the same size. Trying to do resizing by hand is tedious and error prone. These operations assume that you have two (2) selected images. In Match up, the smaller image will be as large as the larger of the two. In Match down, the larger image will be as small as the smaller of the two.

ProAlbum-Designer looks at the relative positioning of the two images so that, e.g., if the two images are above each other, their widths will be equal afterwards. Conversely, when the two images are next to eachother, their heights will be equal afterwards. Therefore, you need to rougly place the images before you run Match up/down. Matching does not currently work so well when borders have been added so you may want to add borders and dropshadows afterwards, when the images have the right size.

For position/aligning images, it is helpful to turn on View > Show > Smart Guides.

7.15 Check DPI

This action uses the resolution of each image and its current size to determine whether the image has been enlarged too much. The corresponding layer is colored according to the number of pixels per inch: green (sufficient), yellow (caution) or red (bad). Currently the threshold for green is 200 dpi.

The number of pixels for an image is baked into its layer name when ProAlbum-Designer imports the image from Bridge. Most JPEG images yield such information but if the number of pixels can not be obtained you have no way of checking the quality of that particular image.

The layer color is not continuously updated - you need to run Check DPI to update the color indicators. Also, Check DPI does not go into overlays to check on the insets. If you wish to check an overlay, you first need to double click on its smart object thumbnail in the layers palette to open the overlay in a separate document. You can then run Check DPI in that document.

7.16 Optimal enlarge

If an image has been marked red or yellow by the Check DPI action the question immediatly arises, "how large can I make the image?" With the Optimal enlarge action, the image is scaled down (or up) to a 200 dpi setting, i.e., as large as possible without showing signs of pixels. The 200 dpi threshold is course a little arbitrary and the image can probably be slightly larger without looking bad.

7.17 Tilt left, Tilt right

These actions will turn the selected image(s) 5 degrees left or right. You can do other angles with the Free Transform tool (Cmd-T on a Mac, Ctrl-T in Windows). Notice that this action can by performed on several images at once.

7.18 Opaque

Makes the image transparent. Use the number keys to quickly set the transparency, for instance 0 for 100%, 2 for 20%, 33 for 33% etc. This action is mostly used when the image on top of the Background layer is a full page bleed.

7.19 Delete

Removes the image(s) currently selected. Since CS4 you can now use the Delete key as a shortcut, even if you are not working with the Move tool.

7.20 Bring to front, Send backwards

These commands move the current image up or down through the layer stack. You can also grab a layer in the layer palette and drag it wherever you want it to be.

These commands also work on "dropped" images, i.e., you can have templates with overlapping holes, drop images into them and then use Bring to front and Send backwards to decide which one you want to be on top.

7.21 Drop

Drop only makes sense when you work with templates. If you have created a spread by a template suggestion from Bridge, you can come back and replace images.

In it simplest form, the Drop command drops an image into a template hole. The image will be shrunk or enlarged to fit the hole. The hole that overlaps the image most will be used. If the image doesn't overlap a hole, it will be dropped into the first-numbered hole. If another image is already occupying the hole, it will be deleted. When several images have been selected, the Drop command drops them all into their holes. You can enlarge, shrink, rotate and move around images that have been dropped. Borders can be added with "Style options". Images can be swapped with the Swap command (see below).

If you "Drop" an image that has already been dropped, it will be re-aligned within the hole with the following policy: if the image is smaller than the hole, it will be enlarged to fill the hole again. If the image is not completely overlapping the hole, but is sufficiently large, it will be moved back to cover the hole. This is useful if you want to make sure that the hole beneath is not showing through.

If you find it difficult to "aim", i.e., to avoid having the image being dropped into another hole you can either (a) make the image smaller before you drop it or (b) use the swap command (described below).

To release an image from its hole, use the Release button (see below).

7.22 Release

Release does the opposite of Drop, i.e., it releases an image from the hole. If several images have been selected, they are all released. After an image has been released, you can position it over another hole and Drop it.

7.23 Overlay

An overlay is like a bevel mat, i.e., a placeholder for one or more images. Overlays have largely been replaced by templates but we have decided to keep overlays for reasons of backward compatibility.

To use the Add overlay action, first select the images that will appear in the overlay by clicking on the first image and then Shift-clicking on the remaining images. When you click on Add overlay you will be prompted for an overlay file - these are TIFF files that are kept in a special Overlay folder which you can set in Preferences.

ProAlbum-Designer will then drop the overlay on the spread, move the selected images into the corresponding holes and finally bundle the overlay and the images into one smart object. The overlay object can be moved, scaled, rotated and treated like any other image.

You can edit an overlay by double-clicking on its smart object thumbnail in the layers palette (see right). A new document with the overlay and its contents will open up. You can remove the link between each image and its mask and move and scale the image around inside the hole. When you save and close this document, the changes will be reflected on the original spread.

ProAlbum-Designer employs some shortcuts as well. Let us say that you have three images selected and you choose an overlay with only one hole. ProAlbum-Designer will then apply this overlay to each of the three images. This allows you to quickly add a nice frame to all your images on a page.

If the orientation of one or more images does not match the corresponding hole in the overlay, you will receive an error message.

7.24 Swap

This action will swap the two currently selected images around so that image 1 moves to image 2's location, and image 2 moves to image 1's original location.

This is particulary useful for moving images around in a template or overlay. (For overlays, double-click on the overlay's smart object thumbnail in the layers palette, select two images, run Swap and the two images will swap places.)

As a special case, if one of the layers selected is a hole and the other is an image, the image will be dropped into the hole. This is useful if you find it difficult to overlap the image with the intended hole.

Additionally, with two spreads open in Photoshop you can select one image on one spread, and another on the second spread and click Swap. ProAlbum-Designer will be confused, however, if you have other documents open.

7.25 Editor

If you can't find a template that you like, you can always create your own. Templates are stored as TIFF-files, with one layer per hole. There are templates for square albums, vertical albums and horizontal albums. Additionally, Vision Art has an album called Pano Vista which is also supported.

When you click on the Editor button, a template document is created for a square album. This template contains only one hole. Using the action Split horizontally and Split vertically you can split the currently selected hole(s) further, until you have as many holes as you need. Obviously, you need to have a basic understanding of what the structure of your template should be, before you start splitting the first hole.

In the next phase you decide the aspect ratio for the holes. Selecting one or several holes, click on "2:3" to make them vertical, "3:2" to make them horizontal, "1:1" to make them square again, and "x:y" to choose your own aspect ratio. If you need to make a hole bleed, i.e., extend to the edge of the paper, click on the Bleed button and check the directions you wish to bleed to. In Full spread mode (see Template style below) you can not choose the gutter as a bleed direction.

Finally, click on Template style to adjust spacing and margins. Here you can also change the template to a vertical, horizontal or panovista type. The checkbox for Full spread lets you create a template that is laid out over the entire spread and not partitioned into left and right pages. Be careful not to let the margin run too thin, or you will create a template that is unsafe, i.e., where a particular album company might trim off too much off the margin.

When your template is ready, you can make final adjustments by moving the holes around. Any manual adjustments are lost if you then continue and split a hole or change the aspect ratios, or template style.

Finally, click Save template to save your work. ProAlbum-Designer will analyze the symmetry and geometry of your template so that it can be presented flipped horizontally and/or vertically if that is possible. Normally you can just go ahead and click on Save, but there are some things you may want to change:

  1. You can "lie" and pretend that all holes are squares so that your templates works with any image orientation, vertical or horizontal.
  2. You may want to disable horizontal or vertical flipping if your template contains text or drawings.
  3. You may want to change the number of your template to start with, e.g., 500, so that you can transfer your templates to a newer version of ProAlbum-Designer.
  4. Finally, you may want to save your template in another folder. Later, during album design you can switch to that folder by choosing it in the template dialog.

7.26 Retarget

The Retarget button is used for (re-)building a spread from within Photoshop (instead of Bridge). Select a number of photos, click on Retarget and the template dialog will appear, just as if you had done it from Bridge.

Retarget is used, for instance, when you want to rebuild an existing spread. Simply open it up, select the photos you want to keep (see Selecting and moving things around), and click on Retarget.

Retarget is also used with the new Storyboard feature: select a number of thumbnails and click on Retarget. A spread will then be built with the files corresponding to the thumbnails on the storyboard.

7.27 Downrez

This action launches a dialogue for batch-converting larger spreads to smaller spreads. It is only intended for square albums, preferably the Universal album which is intended for album designers who needs to provide different sized square albums for, e.g., wedding couples and their families.

Start by specifying the input folder and the type of album you wish to downrez to. Because square albums are rarely exactly square, you will inevitably face the question of how to deal with minor differences in proportions. Therefore, the Downrez tool lets you choose between three different policies: fill in, fit in and stretch. We recommend fill in, which means that page spreads will be shrunk and then cropped. You can test how many pixels are cropped off with the Test button. If you instead choose fit in, Downrez will shrink the page spreads and then add background colored pixels. This is normally something you do not want so we urge you to not use this option or, if you do, take care of the artifacts afterwards. If you choose stretch, the spreads will be shrunk and then stretched to fit. A small amount of vertical stretching is usually OK but beware of horizontal stretching as it will make people look wider.

Downrez will automatically suggest a name for the output folder and will never overwrite existing files. Downrez works with both JPEG and PSD files: you can choose if you want Downrez to only process JPEG files, only PSD files, or both.

The correct workflow for working with Universal albums is then (1) design your spreads for Universal 35x35, (2) Use Downrez to create spreads for a particular album, and finally (if applicable) (3) create your cover for the particular album and the number of spreads created.

As of version 7, ProAlbum-Designer also allows you to downrez spreads via Bridge. Simply select your spreads in Bridge, right-click and choose ProAlbum-Designer > Downrez spread(s). Like the Downrez button, a subfolder is created for you when you select a target album.

8. Updating spreads

Suppose you have designed your album, i.e., you have a folder with all the spreads. You now decide you need to fix a few images in the album. Rather than fixing the images and re-build the spreads there is now an easier way: select (in Bridge) the spreads that needs changing, then in Bridge right-click and choose ProAlbum-Designer > Update spread(s). This will open up each spread and for each image, load the JPEG file again and replace the old image. ProAlbum-Designer "remembers" where each JPEG file on a spread comes from. If the updating script cannot find a JPEG file (because it has moved since you did the spread) it will ask you find it.

All updated spreads (both JPEG and PSD files) will be stored in a sub folder called, e.g., Update-20110815-1758 so that existing spreads are not overwritten. The update feature makes it possible to have the following album layout workflow:

  1. Convert all raw images you need for the album to small JPEGs, e.g., 900×900 px. (The Image Processor in Bridge, found under Tools > Photoshop, is a great tool for these jobs.)
  2. Do an album layout with the small JPEGs.
  3. Show the layout for the client, if they are not happy, go back to step 2.
  4. Now retouch all your raw images to proper high res JPEG files and overwrite the small JPEGs.
  5. Finally, select your spreads in Bridge and run Update spread(s). All your small JPEGs will be replaced with the retouched high res files.

9. Populate current template.

If you want to bypass the template dialog you can open any template in Photoshop, choose some images in Bridge, right-click and choose ProAlbum-Designer > Populate current template. This will fill the holes, starting with those who match, orientation-wise. If there are more images than holes, the remaining images are left on top of the document for you to take care of. To drop these into holes, simply drag them to a hole and click on "Drop".

10. Place images.

If you wish to add an image to an existing spread, you can do so by right-clicking and choosing ProAlbum-Designer > Place images. The images will be placed on top of the existing document as smart objects. To drop these into holes, simply drag them to a hole and click on "Drop".

11. Simple spreads.

You can build a number of simple spreads by selecting several (JPEG) images in Bridge, right-click and choose ProAlbum-Designer > Simple spreads. Simple spreads are limited to two images per spread.

First of all, it is recommend that you sort the images for your simple spreads manually, i.e., View > Sort > Manually in Bridge. You can then order your images in the order they should appear in your simple spreads. If you wish to have a image run across a spread, you can give it a five star rating but Simple spreads can't do this if that image would otherwise have been a candidate for a right page.

To create the simple spreads, right-click and choose ProAlbum-Designer > Simple spreads. The following window appears:

There are a number of options here. The type of album, the name of each document and their numbering, as well as the destination folder is fairly obvious. You can assign a background image to each spread, this is typically a JPEG file with some interesting pattern. The margin determines the distance from each image to the edge of the paper. The first left page is by default left empty.

12. Storyboard.

A new way of doing the layout is via the Storyboard. A Storyboard is created by selecting (typically all) images for the book in Bridge, right-clicking and choosing ProAlbum-Designer > Storyboard. The Storyboard is created in a matter of seconds and contains thumbnails for your selected photos.

The purpose of the Storyboard is to let you move the thumbnails around and see what photos belong together in the album spreads. Make sure you have selected the Move tool and checked Auto-select: this enables you to drag the thumbnails around.

Once you have organized your photos, it's time to start creating the spreads. Select the photos you want on the same spread by dragging a selection with the Move tool (see picture on the right). Then click the red button "Retarget". The template dialog appears and you select a template, as described in previous sections.

Once the spread has been created and saved, you return to the Storyboard. Typically, you would just press the Delete button to get rid of the thumbnails that you just used.

We anticipate that the Storyboard will simplify the layout process and also replace the need to switch back and forth between Photoshop and Bridge. Remember that you can always make the Storyboard larger, simply by changing the canvas size (Image > Canvas Size). Currently the Storyboard only works with JPEG images. It it assumed that you don't change the name, or move the files for the photos which corresponds to the thumbnails on the Storyboard.

13. Album covers

You can select a photo in Bridge, right click and choose ProAlbum-Designer > Make album cover.

Select a book size, a cover type and an optional template and click on "Continue". If you choose one of the optional templates, it will be opened, the photo will be dropped in its hole and you should end up with something like this:

Here you can turn on/off the layers in the group Material. As usual, you can reposition the photo inside hole. When you click on the action button Save cover, ProAlbum-Designer will save three files:

  1. The PSD-file for the whole cover document.

    This file is quite large and you may want to delete it once your album is printed.

  2. A flattened version of the cover document as a JPEG file.

    This is the file you can upload to Online Album Proofing to let your client see the cover material. Note: any folded area has not been cropped away, so you will have to crop manually if you don't want your client to see it - the guide lines show you the fold lines.

  3. The photo in the hole, cropped to the correct dimensions, e.g., 12x24 cm.

    This is, obviously, the file that needs to be sent to book company for printing.