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David Javelosa

Copyright © 2011, David Javelosa unless otherwise stated


week 09 - Photoshop: Web Graphics, GIF Animations

Image Slicing for Web Graphics


Many web designers develop their page layouts in Photoshop (or Illustrator) before they use an application such as Dreamweaver to assemble the page in HTML. This approach allows the designer to use all of the powerful layout and design capabilities of Photoshop to work on the creative aspects of laying out the page. Once a design is solidified, the designer must translate their Photoshop layout into the realities of HTML and limited download time. This involves compressing different parts of the layout in different ways (e.g. some parts will be GIF while others will be JPEG), and leaving some parts of the layout for live HTML. To do this, it's usually necessary to cut the original Photoshop image into smaller pieces. This is called image slicing.

Fortunately, as of Photoshop CS, the image slicing application is included as part of Photoshop, and tightly integrated. The slicing tool is specifically designed for the web design image slicing process. Macromedia Fireworks is another program designed for image slicing.

(c) Adobe


Example sliced page


Composite Photoshop

individual image slices


Here's an example web page that demonstrates the image slicing approach. Below is a diagram showing how the Photoshop image is sliced up to make the files that make up this web page.




Advantages of slicing  

By slicing the page into smaller graphics, the designer can:

  • Compose the page in Photoshop - rather than Dreamweaver
  • Simulate layering - by compositing imagery in Photoshop, and avoiding the use of DHTML layers in the web page.
  • Optimize the page - compress parts of the web page individually, and leave parts of the page "transparent" so the background color or background image shows through. For example, use JPEG for a photograph in one part of the page, use 3 bit GIF for a black and white logo, and use "no_image" for a flat area of color where the page background color shows through.
  • Use live text - leave parts of the page available for "live" HTML text which requires very little download time compared to graphic text. HTML text can also be updated more easily than graphic text.
  • Make graphic elements individual links - while his effect can be achieved with image maps, usually separate graphics for each link is better: better compatibility when the page is viewed without graphics (using the ALT text), better accessibility for the disabled, the ability to have rollovers for the links, and simpler updating of the page.
  • Rollovers - rollover images can be created for each navigational element on the page which would not be possible if the page was one large image.


Disadvantages of slicing  

Page slicing can create numerous problems if the designer is not careful:

  • Page size - by letting a program create all of your images, it is easy to let the page size grow too large. Be vigilant about the total page size when image slicing!
  • Page complexity - image slicing programs can create a large number of cells in the page. If this happens, the browser will take longer to display the page, and the user feels it is taking longer to download. Keep the number of slices to a minimum so the page is not too complex.
  • More complex design process - image slicing creates a more complex process, and may add to the time it takes to develop a web site. In particular, it make take longer to make changes to pages developed with slicing.
  • Page payout - If you have a lot of live text in a page, it may cause the slices to change shape and break the layout. The best approach in this case may be to create the page's individual slices in the slicing program, but do the page layout in Dreamweaver.


Recommended Process  

Be methodical. Creating the numerous image slices for a web page makes the designer's job potentially very complicated. One has to keep track of the page layout, the precise dimensions of each graphic element, rollover highlights, etc. If any changes are made to the page after it's initially constructed, these factors become even more acute. As a consequence, the designer must take a very organized and careful approach to developing web page graphics. Here is one method:

  1. Do the initial design and layout in Photoshop
  2. Test the design in a web site by exporting a JPEG version of the entire page and use an image map for any links on the page
  3. Based on the tests, revise the design in Photoshop and create a final comp
  4. Create rollover highlights as separate layers
    1. Determine how the page will be sliced up to:
      1. compress each section of the image most efficiently (with JPEG or GIF)
      2. make slices for each rollover
    2. Create the image slices using the minimum number of rectangles for dividing the page. Try to keep the total number of slices under 15. It is better to have fewer, larger slices than many small slices.
    3. Set the image format for each slice (JPEG, GIF, level of compression, etc.)
    4. Set the transparency for the slice, and set the matte color
    5. Associate URLs with any slices that are links (in the Slice palette)
    6. Create the rollovers for the appropriate slices (in the Rollover palette). Set the layers on and off for the "over" state for each rollover, being sure that only the necessary layers are affected.
    7. Export all the slices along with an HTML page (Photoshop automatically creates a table that arranges the slices properly on the page). Save the image slices in a separate folder for each web page.
  5. Modify the generated HTML in Dreamweaver to finalize the page

Slicing the image


(c) Adobe



An image is created and edited, then the user can create image slices, animations, and even make changes to the image itself with the Photoshop editing tools.

Open the Photoshop file:

  • Choose VIEW> RULERS, and create any guides you may need to make your slices consistent
  • Choose FILE>FILE INFO... and set the page title
  • Choose BACKGROUND COLOR Pallette... to set the image background color or image
  • Select the slice tool h
  • Draw a slice by clicking and dragging to create a rectangle for your slice
  • In the optimize palette, set the appropriate image coding for this slice. Don't forget transparency and matte if they are appropriate. Use the slice select tool (the alternate for the slice tool) to select different slices.
  • By right-cliking the slice, set the following attributes for the following sections:
    • Type: select whether there should be a graphic or not in this slice
    • Name: set the name of the file to be created for this slice (Photoshop creates a default file name, which you can use)
    • URL: if this slice is to be a link, put the web page or site to be linked to
    • Target: Used in tandem with URL (and normally empty), this section can be used to open the link in a different window or frame
    • BG: Sets the background color for this table cell
    • Message: Creates a small JavaScript to show a message in the status area at the bottom of the browser
    • Alt: Used for the ALT text


To make rollovers, you create the highlighted version of a rollover in a separate layer, in the same place as the un-highlighted section of the main image. Once you've done this, follow these instructions to create the rollover:

  • Select the slice you want to work on
  • Click on the Rollover tab in the slice palette
  • Initially, there will only be a "Normal" frame shown
  • To create the "Over" frame, click on the "new" icon at the bottom of the palette (the one that looks like a piece of paper with the edge folded up)
  • With the Over frame selected, turn on and off any layers you want for the rollover. Normally, you should only turn layers on and off that have pixels inside the area of the slice. If you want the rollover for this slice to affect other slices, then you can turn on/off layers that have pixels outside of the slice, and Photoshop will turn on/off other slices when the current slice is rolled over. But be aware that it will take extra time to download the extra Over slice images for the other affected slices. It is easy to create many extra slice images if you are not careful about the layers you turn on and off for rollovers.
  • Be very careful to only to make changes to your layers when the rollover frame is selected in the rollover palette--not when the normal frame is selected. Otherwise, you will see very strange effects where slices seem to turn on and off at random when you rollover.
  • To preview what your rollovers will look like, turn on SLICES>PREVIEW ROLLOVERS
Save the
optimized slices

When you are ready to save your sliced images, you can create image files only, or create an HTML file with all of the images inserted in a table in the correct layout. This second option will also put in any JavaScript for rollovers. When saving, be sure to set the following items:

  • Create HTML or not
  • The directory for the images

Note that image slicing often generates many images. In general, it's recommended that you create separate image directories for each sliced page so you can keep track of the images better. For example, for the products.html page, put the images in a directory called products_images; for about_us.html page, put the images in a directory called about_us_images; etc. Set the image directory by selecting the OUTPUT SETTINGS...SAVING FILES in the Save Optimized dialog.

There are many other options, especially for the naming of the images. You can access these options FILE>OUTPUT SETTINGS or from the OUTPUT SETTINGS... in the Save Optimized dialog.

It's best to always use Save Optimized As... (rather than the simpler Save Optimized) when saving the sliced page. This is because you may use the same Photoshop file to generate several different web pages, and you will need to change the name of the HTML file and the image directory for each web page. By using the "As..." version, you will always have the option of making these settings.



From scratch, slice a Photoshop file:

Keep the following in mind as you slice this image:

  • Set the page title and background color
  • Slice neatly!
    • make a minimum number of slices
    • match up the edges of slices to produce the simplest table
    • don't leave any spaces between slices
  • Set blank slices to no_image
  • Set the optimization for each slice
  • Set the matte for each slice
  • Hide the background layer so the slices can have transparency
  • Make the rollovers, being careful to turn layers on and off appropriately
  • Set the URLs and ALTs for each slice that's a link
  • Make the animation
  • Export the HTML and sliced images


Slicing notes  

Slice efficiently. It's very easy to generate a large number of files in Photoshop when slicing. To prevent this, follow these guidelines:

  • Wherever possible, set your slices to "No Image" so that Photoshop does not generate an image for that slice. Do this by selecting the SLICE palette, and setting the "type" to No Image. "No image" slices will be empty, and the background color of the page will show through.
  • Layout your slices so that the page will have the minimum number of slices. Some techniques for doing this are:
    • Match up the edges of as many slices as possible, even if it makes your slices a little larger. This will eliminate extra slices used to create small tables to position each individual slice.
    • Only slice areas that need to be rollovers or links. Otherwise, combine slices (SLICES>COMBINE SLICES) and make your slices as large as possible.
  • Use rollovers sparingly. They generate extra files
  • Make sure the layers you change for a rollover only affect that slice. Otherwise, you will generate rollovers for other slices that change with those layers.

Use transparency to avoid seams. It is best to knockout the background of a slice where possible (i.e. when it's the color of the background of the web page). By creating a mask and using the MATTE setting of the OPTIMIZE palette, the slice's background will be made transparent and the rectangular edges of the slice will be invisible. Otherwise, the seams of the slices may be visible due to different levels of compression for adjacent slices.

Use separate image directories for each web page. Sliced pages often have many images, and the pages are frequently regenerated with different slices. This process can leave many unused "orphaned" images that should be deleted. If several sliced pages have their images saved in the same directory, it is difficult to find the orphaned image slices. On the other hand, if the image slices are saved in a separate directory for each sliced web page, then after significant changes to the slicing, the entire directory can be deleted and a new set of images can be optimized and saved into a clean directory.

Live text in a slice. If you want to make a slice that will have live HTML text, set the slice type to NO_IMAGE, and then put some text in the TEXT field in the slice palette. Once you do these steps, you can put different or more text in the slice cell once you edit the file in Dreamweaver.

Updating individual slices. It is common to make changes to the graphics or compression in an individual slice in a page. For example, changing how an individual rollover looks. Rather than resaving all the page slices and HTML, it is more efficient to just save the individual slice, leaving the HTML and the rest of the page untouched. To do this:

  • select the modified slice(s) with the slice select tool
  • make sure you are saving into the actual directory where the slice graphic is located (typically an images directory)
  • SAVE

Animated GIFs. (See below) Contrary to what it might seem, Photoshop is designed to only make one animation per file. So if you want several animations on a page, you'll have to make them separately and compose them together in Dreamweaver.

Another problem is that if you have one slice that's an animated GIF, with rollovers elsewhere on the page, the animated GIF will STOP when you cursor over any rollover. To solve this:

  • Set up the slices completely on the page
  • Set up the animation for one slice
  • Set the animation slice to NO IMAGE
  • FILE>SAVE OPTIMIZED AS to save the whole page
  • Select the animated slice, and set the animation slice to IMAGE in the animation palette
  • FILE>SAVE OPTIMIZED AS save the animated slice only:
    • make sure you are saving into the actual directory where the slice graphic is located (typically an images directory)
  • This will save the animation slice only, and not change the HTML file you previously produced
  • Open the HTML in Dreamweaver and replace the blank image where the animation goes with the actual animation GIF.


GIF Animations


Animated GIFs are graphic files composed of a series of frames in the GIF89a format. They have the following characteristics:

  • They can have a transparent background. This is accomplished by designating one color to be the transparent color.
  • They can play once, play a specified number of times, or play forever
  • They have a frame rate specified when they are made. Some applications allow a different frame rate to be set for each individual frame.
  • They can be optimized so that only the moving objects are changed from frame to frame, rather than repeating the entire scene.


GIF animation software  

A number of applications are available to create and edit animated GIFs.

using Photoshop to
make GIF animations

To make animations in Photoshop, you create the different frames of the animation in separate layers, overlaid in the same location of the file. Once you've done this, follow these instructions to create the animation:

  • Select the slice where there will be an animation (or the whole image if that's what you are animating)
  • Select the Animation palette

  • Initially, there will only be one frame
  • To create additional frames, click on the "new" icon at the bottom of the palette (use the trash can to delete frames)
  • Select each frame and turn on and off the appropriate layers for that frame
  • Select the timing for each frame by pulling down the timing menu directly under the thumbnail
  • Select the loop setting by pulling down the menu in the lower left of the palette (Forever, Once, Other)
  • To copy and paste frames, DO NOT use control-c or control-v (they don't work right). Select the desired frame, and select copy or paste frame from the options pullout
  • To optimize the size of the GIF animation, select Optimize Animation from the options pullout.
  • Preview your animation by using the play controls at the bottom of the palette.
  • To automatically create in between frames in an animation, use the Tween feature. The tweening only works with changes in the position of a layer between two frames. For example, you might have the "GIF" text on the left in one frame, and use the move tool to change the position of the "GIF" in the other frame. To create tweens between frames, select the two adjacent frames you want tweened. Then click on the options pullout menu in the upper right hand corner of the palette. Select "Tween...", and then set the number of frames to be added.
  • Don't forget to set the image compression in the optimize palette. You must use the GIF format, since JPEGs cannot be animated. Be sure to check every frame for quality.
  • To save out the GIF animation, select FILE>SAVE OPTIMIZED and set the location to save your animation.

Note: The animated_gif_example.gif file is organized in layers so that the GIF1, 2, 3... layers match the bars1, 2, 3... layers. So for frame 1, turn on the following layers:

  • Animated (a text layer)
  • GIF1
  • bars1


create a gif animation using Photoshop. For example, make a ball bounce or a butterfly move around.

  • create a least 4 different frames
  • experiment with tweening
  • note the size of the resulting animation
  • export the animation, and import it into a web page

Reading Assignment:

  • Photoshop: slicing, animation - Online help files & video tutorials

Copyright © 2008-2011 - David Javelosa