Quark 6.5's PSD Import Tips

January 26, 2005 - 2:00am ||| 0 Comments | Add new

True to their word, Quark released the free PSD Import XTension last month, short on the heels of their 6.5 update, which was available last fall. I've installed it and have been playing with it a bit, it's pretty cool.

The ability to import a Photoshop image into a Quark picture box (without having to save it as a TIFF or EPS first) is great all on its own; on top of that you can turn the image's layers, channels and paths on and off on the fly within Quark, something you can't do in any other program. The same PSD image can be placed multiple times within a Quark file and each instance can show/hide different layers, effectively wringing multiple images out of the same single image file. I've had no problems printing these or exporting them to PDF.

But the XT (seemingly a straight port from alap's ImagePort XT) has some limitations and glitches. If you want to use it, I'm hoping this article will help you out.

Get It
PSD Import XT for Mac OS

PSD Import XT for Windows

The XTension only works with XPress or Passport 6.5 for Mac or Windows. You can get the same functionality in earlier versions of Quark (4.11 to 6.x), you just have to pay $99 for it from the source, alap (the company name stands for "a lowly apprentice production").

Interestingly, alap's web site says ImagePort XT is "QuarkXPress 6.5 Compatible." What's that about? Who would buy it for Quark 6.5 if Quark is giving it away? I looked on alap's site for a feature comparison to see what ImagePort has that PSD Import doesn't, but couldn't find any info.

alap's ImagePort XT 1.4

Quick Orientation
After you drop the XT into Quark's XTensions folder, restart Quark to enable it. You'll know it's working if the Window menu lists "Show PSD Import" along with the other Show commands to open palettes. If you don't see it, make sure the new XT is loaded and active in Utilities -> XTension Manager.

With the XTension loaded, the Get Picture dialog will list PSD files as well as the usual image formats that Quark can import. Woo-hoo! Double-click on a PSD file to import it and check out the PSD Import palette: all the layers, channels and paths that were available in Photoshop are now available in the palette in Quark.

That doesn't mean *everything* you could do to layers, channels and paths in Photoshop can now be done in Quark, though.

For example, while you can toggle the visibility of individual layers (or channels or paths for that matter) in Quark just like in Photoshop, you can't drag layers around in Quark to change their stacking order. That's just one example — be sure to read the 26-page PSD Import User Guide.pdf that comes with the download to learn just exactly what you can and can't do to PSD files in QuarkXPress.

One biggie the user guide doesn't mention, by the way, is that QuarkVista XT — the Picture Effects palette that *did* ship with the 6.5 update, the one that can apply all sorts of color adjustments to images and run some image filters — cannot do a thing to PSD files. So when you import an image, only one of the two palettes will recognize it, never both. Ah well.

Not Seeing Layers?
If you import a layered PSD file and the PSD Import palette only shows one composite layer (but shows all the channels and paths as usual), the problem is that one of your layers has a Photoshop Layer Effect applied, which the XT doesn't support.

If you want to access the layers within Quark, you'll need to open the image in Photoshop, select every layer with a layer effect, and choose Layer -> Create Layer (clear as mud but there ya go). That changes it from a layer effect to an actual, standalone layer containing just the effect (the shadow, or the glow, etc.). Not every layer effect takes kindly to this treatment, but shadows, for example, do well.

Then save the changes to your Photoshop file and update the image in QuarkXPress to see all the layers. Did I say update the PSD image?

Updating PSD Images
Normally, PSD images update just like other images, once you follow the two-step process explained (that's putting it kindly — it's one of the most obtuse bit of technical writing I've ever seen) in the User Guide. The issue is that QuarkXPress and PSD Import XT use different methods to preview modified PSD files, so you have to use two different ways to update them.

1) Click the Stop icon in the PSD Import palette's status bar at the bottom — apparently that forces the PSD Import cache to update; and

2) Go to Utilities -> Usage -> Pictures and update the image as usual, so Quark knows about it, too.

I'm able to get this to work about three out of five times on my Mac running 10.3.7. Maybe it's just me, but I'm often left with an updated image but a completely blank PSD Import palette, even though the the status area shows a green light and Picture Usage lists Status: OK for it.

The user guide says if you're having trouble with PSD image previews, try clearing the PSD Import Cache in the PSD Import Preferences dialog. (Don't bother looking in Quark Preferences for this. That would be too easy. Choose PSD Import from the bottom of the Utilities menu to access its preferences.) I've found that if nothing else works (and it's just an occasional glitch) clicking the Clear Cache button here and restarting Quark forces the PSD images to refresh and the palette to fill up with all the image's layers, channels and paths again.

You can clear the cache manually by deleting the contents of the PSD Cache folder here:
Macs: /User/Library/Preferences/PSD Import Cache/
PCs: \Program Files\QuarkXPress 6.5\XTensions\PSD Import Cache\

Transparency Good News and Bad News
The Good News: You can import PSD images that have a transparent background.

The Bad News: QuarkXPress doesn't support transparency, no way, no how, so it fills transparent areas with solid white pixels.

So while you can get some cool layer interaction effects by using the Opacity slider and Blend modes for individual layers, nothing in the image will interact with any text, colors or images behind the image itself. Areas with no pixel data (transparent areas) fill with white and knock out stuff behind it. You will always have a square-cut image.

Solution? Put transparent PSD images in Quark on a white background, I guess. (Any color car you want as long as it's white…)

Create Production Plates
Because you can turn channels on and off in the PSD Import palette, you can add one or more alpha channels or spot channels to your PSD image in Photoshop, import it into Quark, and then selectively turn them on right before you print. In this way you can create varnish plates, embossing or custom die cut plates that will output when you turn on separations in the Print dialog. The User Guide does a pretty good job of explaining this, so check it out.

Printing Issues
You don't need the PSD Import XT loaded in order to open a QuarkXPress file that contains imported PSD images. For this reason, Collect For Output doesn't list it as a required XTension.

But when you print the file from a copy of Quark without the XTension, the PSDs print out as low-res previews. If you're turning the file over to someone else for proofing or final printing, make sure they know they'll need to download and install the free XT from Quark's site before outputting your file.

Also, if your PSD file contains live text layers, Collect for Output doesn't collect those fonts. You'll have to check type layers in your PSDs carefully and manually add those fonts to the Collect for Output folder. Or, you could rasterize the font layers in the PSD files and update the images in the Quark file as one of your final preflighting steps.

On the other hand, if you're creating press-ready PDFs from your copy of Quark (which does have the XT loaded), there's no need to worry. The PDF will contain all the high res data used in the PSD images, and the fonts will get rasterized in the process, just as if you flattened the PSD file yourself. You can turn those PDFs over to your vendor and they shouldn't have a problem, assuming everything else about the PDF is okay.

Waiting for v7
The rumor mills say that QuarkXPress v7 will be released in 2005 and that it will support transparency. It will be interesting to see how Quark (or alap?) updates the PSD Import XT in concert with v7's new capabilities. In the meantime, I'm hoping Quark will put some engineering time into smoothing the XT's rough edges for us 6.5 users.

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