PLEASE NOTE:
The majority of the contents in this guide apply to both StudioPlus Spectra AND myStratus Desktop.
In most cases, instructions referring to "Spectra" also apply to myStratus Desktop.
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Home > Digital Workflow > Workflow How To's > Designing Composite Templates
Designing Composite Templates

    
NOTE: This feature is available in the Standard, Professional, and Enterprise versions of both Spectra and myStratus Desktop.

One of the most common uses for the Digital Template Builder is for designing custom Composite Templates, such as multi-image panels, custom album pages, holiday cards, sports cars, or even vignettes. Easily create custom digital products for clients by simply dropping images from their session into your composite template(s). 

Note: The Digital Template Builder is also used to create Print Layout Templates (i.e., single-image sheets) and Backgrounds for chroma key (green screen) photography. Refer to Designing Layout Templates and Chroma Key for specifics on creating these types of templates.

ATTENTION!

Your composite templates are not stored in your main Spectra/myStratus database, but in a separate database called "SPImages.mdb." This data file contains only your composite templates. Make sure to back up your composite template database when you back up your main data file. See Database Utility for more information about backups.

Designing a Composite Template

  1. Go to the Tools > Design Tools > Digital Template Builder to open the Digital Template Builder.

  2. Open the Composite Templates set from the drop-down list.

  3. Use groups to organize your templates. To create a new template group, click New Group on the ribbon.

    • Enter the Group Name.
    • Active/Inactive - Check the box to make the template group inactive. An inactive group will not be available for use.
    • Choose Starting On and/or Hide After dates. For example, use these dates to keep a group of new templates hidden until a certain date. Note: The group must remain Active in order for these dates to remain in effect.

    • To change these properties for an existing group, just select the group and click Edit on the ribbon.
  4. To create a new template, highlight the template group you want to put it in and click New Template (or click Import to import a Spectra/myStratus template from a file).

  5. Use the Properties panel to set the basic layout and properties of your template:

      • Active - Active templates are available for use throughout the software. Change setting to False to inactivate a template.

      • Active First/Last Date - Set specific dates the template should be available for use. Note: The Active field must be set to True. If it is set to False, the dates won't matter.

      • DPI - Choose the DPI that should be used when a final composite based on this template is rendered.

      • Name - This is the name of the template. It's how you will see the template referenced throughout the software.

      • Size - The overall size of this template.

      • Split Layers - Decide whether composites based on this template should be rendered as a single image or as individual layers. Choose False to render as a single image and True if each layer should be rendered individually.

  6. Add Image, Drop Zone, and Text Layers as needed. The specifics of each is described in the following steps.

  7. Image Layers - Image layers can be a solid color or contain a JPEG or PNG image. Note: By default, each template will have a background image layer. This layer is required and should remain the same size as the overall template.

    HERE'S A FLASH FOR YOU!

    Use image layers to create key lines, drop shadows, and borders by adjusting the size, color, opacity, and order. Use JPEG files to create the graphic part of a holiday card. Use PNG files to create a built-in effects layer on top of your images. TIP: Use a PNG file if the image layer is going on top of the client’s image(s).

    • Click New Image Layer on the ribbon.
    • Drag and resize the layer with your mouse.
    • Adjust the layer properties in the Properties panel. Highlight the image layer in the Elements panel and modify the following:


      • Color - Change the color of the layer.

      • Default Layer - If you decide to include multiple layers options (see Layer Selections below), you can choose which option appears by default.

      • File Name - To add an image file to this layer, click the browse button (...) to locate the JPEG or PNG file. The software will import the file into the template and store it in the SPImages database.

      • Final - Decide if this image layer should be included in the final image rendering. Choose False to exclude it and True to include it.

      • Is Position Editable - Decide if the position of the image layer can be changed by the user when creating a composite based on this template. Choose True to allow modification.

      • Layer Selections - If you want to include more than one image option in the template so you can quickly make changes when creating a composite, add image option layers. Click the Layer Selection row and then click the browse button (...) to open the Layer Image window. Use this window to add more layer options to choose from, including different colors or images. If you choose a PNG image with transparency areas, you can use it as a mask. 

      • Location - Indicates the position of the layer, relative to the upper-left corner of the template. Fine tune the position by entering the exact values in this field (i.e., "0,0" positions the layer flush with the upper-left corner of the template).

      • Name - Give the layer a name for easy reference.

      • Opacity - Choose the opacity of the layer with a value from 0 (fully transparent) to 100 (completely opaque).

      • Size - Indicates the size of the layer. Fine tune the size by entering exact values in this field (i.e., "4,5" is equivalent to precisely 4" x 5").

      HERE'S A FLASH FOR YOU!

          
      NOTE: This feature is available in the Standard, Professional, and Enterprise versions of myStratus Desktop. Spectra does not include this feature.

      Image Layer files can be quite large and for myStratus users, they're stored in your database in the cloud to provide easy access worldwide. However, to download these layers each time you wish to utilize them, it can put quite a strain on your internet bandwidth. Optionally, you can choose to locally store those files in a local folder for faster access. If you find editing composites is taking longer than necessary, you may wish to check out the Local Digital Image Caching feature. See also: Local Image Caching

  8. Drop Zone Layers - Drop zones are the areas in the template where you will drop images from a client's session.
    • Click New Drop Zone on the ribbon.
    • Drag and resize the layer with your mouse.
    • Adjust the drop zone's properties in the Properties panel. Highlight the drop zone in the Elements panel and modify the following:

      • Fill Color - (optional) Pick a color or enter the RGB values.

      • Fill Zone  - Set to True to force an image to fill the zone, preventing white space around the edge of the image.

      • Location - This is where the drop zone is positioned, relative to the upper-left corner of the template. If needed, fine tune the position by entering the exact values in this field.

      • Mask - Choose a gray-scale file to use as a mask on the drop zone. Select the Mask line and then click on the browse button (...) to locate the file. Choose the method of resizing: Zoom, Stretch, or None.

        HERE'S A FLASH FOR YOU!

        Use masks to create drop zones in the shape of an oval, circle, or rectangle with rounded corners. Another idea is to use them to create vignettes within your drop zones. Masks should be gray-scale JPG image files that are white where the image should show and black where it shouldn't. There are several samples included in your software. Here's what a layer mask looks like in Photoshop:

         

      • Name - A number is automatically assigned to each layer. Give the layer a descriptive name if desired.

      • Opacity - Adjust the opacity of the layer with a value from 0 (fully transparent) to 100 (completely opaque).

      • Rotation - Set the Image Angle to the number of degrees an image should be rotated when it is dropped into the zone. Set the Zone Angle to rotate the entire zone by x degrees. Note: This will usually be the same, but that's not required.

      • Size - Indicates the size of the drop zone. Fine tune the size by entering the exact values in this field.

  9. Text Layers - Use text layers to insert text into a template. Your text can be locked or left editable. For example, editable text could be customized with the client's name when you create the composite.

    • Click New Text Layer on the ribbon.
    • Drag and resize the layer with your mouse.
    • Most of the commonly used text properties can be adjusted using the Text Layer tab of the ribbon.
    • The Properties panel provides additional options, as well as the opportunity to choose more precise setting. Highlight the text layer in the Elements panel and adjust the following properties:


      • Alignment Horizontal/Vertical - These settings determine the horizontal (left, center, or right) and vertical (top, middle, or bottom) position of the text within the text layer.

      • Background Color - Choose the color of the layer background using RGB values or the palette.

      • Background Opacity - Choose the opacity of the layer background with a value from 0 (fully transparent) to 100 (completely opaque).

      • Character Spacing - Set additional number of pixels to add between the characters in the layer.

      • Character Width - Set the width of the characters (overrides the font default).

      • Color - Choose the text color using RBG values or the palette.

      • Default Text Layer - If you decide to include multiple text options within the layer (see Layer Selections below), you can choose which option appears by default.

      • Drop Shadow - Turn on a drop shadow for the text in this layer. You can adjust the color, offset, opacity, and smoothing settings.

      • Final - Decide if this text layer should be included in the final image rendering. Choose False to exclude it and True to include it.

      • Font - Choose the font for the text.

      • Font Opacity - Choose the opacity of the text with a value from 0 (fully transparent) to 100 (completely opaque).

      • Are Color/Font/Position Editable - Decide if the font, color, and position can be changed by the user when creating a composite based on this template. Choose True to allow modification.

      • Is Text Editable - Choose whether the actual text can be updated by the user when creating a composite based on this template. Choose True to allow the text to be modified.

      • Layer Selections - If you want to have more than one text option embedded in the template so changes can be made quickly when creating a composite, add text option layers. Click the Layer Selections row and then click the browse button (...) to open the Layer Text window. Use this window to add more layer options to choose from, including different font colors or text.

      • Line Spacing - Set the line spacing to be used for the text in this layer.

      • Location - Indicates where the text layer is located, relative to the upper-left corner of the template. Fine tune the position by entering the exact values.

      • Name - Give the layer a descriptive name. This will make using the text layer easier to use when creating a composite based on this template.

      • Quality - Font quality determines how the font is produced. Anti-Aliased is the default method used to blend the font into the background. Clear Type can sometimes produce a better result during rendering, but may not be supported by all fonts.

      • Rotation - Rotate the text within the text layer.

      • Size - Indicates the size of the text layer. Fine tune the size by entering exact values.

      • Smoothing - Indicates the amount of anti-aliasing applied to the text being drawn onto the canvas. This value must be greater than 0. The larger the number, the more blending will occur. If the value is too high, the text may appear washed out.

      • Text - This is the actual text shown in the composite template. If the Is Text Editable property (above) is set to True, this text may be updated when the user is creating a composite for a client with this template.

  10. Use the other tools on the ribbon to adjust your layering (from front to back), delete layers, adjust your units (inches, feet, centimeters, or pixels), and set a grid

  11. Save your template when finished.

  12. Link your composite template to a price list item (instructions below).

  13. Start building composites! See Using Composite Templates to learn how.

Importing Composite Templates

StudioPlus has a variety of templates for you to download and install in your software, including panels, sample rooms, and more. Here's how:

  1. Go to the Downloads page of the StudioPlus website. Scroll to the bottom and click the View Sample Templates link. (Or just click here.)

  2. There are several types of templates provided.

  3. Click the download link and save the zip file to your hard drive.

  4. Unzip the file(s).

  5. Open Spectra/myStratus Desktop and go to Tools > Design Tools > Digital Template Builder.

  6. Open the group you want to put the templates in and then click Import on the ribbon.

  7. Browse to the unzipped template files. Choose one or more templates and click Open.

  8. The templates will be imported into your software and automatically saved.

  9. Modify and use these templates just like the others you've created. See also: Using Composite Templates

Linking Composite Templates to Price List Items

Before you can build and sell composites, you need to link your composite templates with a price list item. You can either link a template to a specific price list item or set up price list items that can be ordered for any composite you create.

  1. Go to Maintenance > Price List > Price Lists.
  2. Select the price list that will contain the composite and then select the item group you will be adding the composite item to.

  3. Create a new item (see the Setting up a Price List for more information) and choose Composite as the Item Type.

  4. Open the Digital and Fulfillment tab. In the Composite Template drop-down list, select the composite template that is associated with this item.

  5. You can also choose the Allow Any Composite Template option, which will allow you to order any composite for this item. Using this setting, you can set up just one 8x10, 5x7, etc. and order any composite for that size.



See also


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