Keynote Trick – Make complex images easy

I have so many things to write and I thought I should start off with one of my favourite tricks on Mac. This works with any version of Keynote and I’ve even tested it with the new released version 6. You need to have Messages too (previously known as iChat) but you don’t need to be logged in. Well also assume you all know the “command shift + 4″ to screenshot and that if you do that and before you drag press “spacebar” and you get a camera that screen shots just the window you’re hovering over.

This trick isn’t specifically for websites, it’s for creating images quickly.

Create PNG goodness

I end up having to do a lot of quick mockups and design and Keynote is my 2nd stage, yes I still scribble things with pen and paper to get my initial thoughts down. This leads to an issue where my thoughts look great in my mind and like a horrible mess on paper. Thus Keynote is where I end up skipping a whole bunch of time and professional level skills by using it to be me wire frames and to help create images quickly. Yes I know it’s not meant for that but it is faster and easier than any other editing program I can think of and the interface is something that almost everyone has seen in some form.

The premise – create layers in Keynote – copy all layers – paste into Messages – drag out of Messages – PNG goodness

Basic how to

  1. create a new Keynote 
  2. create a shape and style it how you want
  3. create a text box, edit and style it how you want
  4. position text box in place over shape
  5. select both text box and shape
  6. copy – “command + c
  7. open Messages
  8. create a new Message – “command + n
  9. paste – “command + v
  10. drag image from Messages to Desktop

You now have a png with transparent background if you need to adjust any wording, font or reuse it you can save the Keynote and copy paste when ever you need.


Create shapes and layers

Firstly you have to know what type of image you want to create, remember me mentioning the scribble… yeah do that bit first. We’ll use 3 scenarios to demonstrate how this trick will help you and tonight we’ve run out of time so I’ll add the video and screenshot later this week =)

Scenario 1

You want a banner image saying “only 3 spots left!” (initially it had multiple !!! but that looked a bit crazy/desperate) and it needs to be sent to someone and put onto the flyer they’ve made. They want it so it doesn’t have that silly white rectangle around it cause it makes their flyer look cheap (like excessive !!! do).

What you normally have happen next to what you want:

what happens

So it’s something really simple and they could use Alpha to get rid of it but lets pretend they’re on a Windows machine using Word and then we’re in trouble. Normally at this stage you’ll be ready to give up cause it’s too hard. Learning Photoshop is beyond the time you’re willing to invest and there’s a person you know who can make graphics and they’ll be able to open it in photoshop and fix it.

I’ll add screenshots and a video coming soon and you will see the simplicity of the workflow and then realise how quickly and easily you could make incredible stuff.


Scenario 2

So lets pretend that a friend has asked me to create a new look for his Jump Page, and he wants his hover buttons to have rounded corners and writing on them with some type of simple icon as well.

video coming soon


Scenario 3

You have an idea and just want to test out how it will look before you open up Adobe Illustrator and start creating your vector image using the pen tool. Most likely not you reading this but it might be. So you don”t have to invest the hour or so tweaking and punching meshing and joining pathways you can knock out a quick mockup in Keynote.

You want to take a few free vector images and layer them to crete a new stylistic logo for lets say…  a student run help desk called Gravity.

Same as before only this time go to town with the layers: video coming soon


Additional tips

You can tweak and adjust as needed, remember if you start out creating the Keynote in a large format (1920×1080) and use the whole space up – your image might end up a high enough resolution for most purposes.

If you need specific size then just go for an upscaled ratio in the Keynote, create an empty box and enclose the shape or area you need. Once you have the oversized but in ratio PNG on your desktop, open Preview go to Tools and select Adjust Size and set it to what you need.

Sometimes you might want to create a PNG to use as a layer – creating a PNG makes it an image which means it can be resized, you’ll discover how useful this can be when you start making more complex images.

Use screenshots and Alpha a lot as they can grab the bits you want and when using them together there is an incredible range you can achieve without professional image editing tools. here are very few thing

You can just send them in Messages too, I had to mock up some ID cards and had the client on the end of a Messages conversation. I only needed to tweak on the Keynote and then paste into the message and he got each version as an image in full resolution. I ended up with a Keynote full of different options to build on if I have to do a similar project and he got instant mockups of the ideas.

If you’re using Keynote 6 and consider yourself proficient then check out the new Draw with Pen tool under the shape option. I’t so good I’ll make a post and video just for the potential it has. Combined with this and … just wow!

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