15 January 2009

What Not To Do In Photoshop

1916.(H/T Cultivated by Design, where Sera Strawbridge has a delightfully trenchant remark about it) Top 10 lists in January get rather dull and silly and dreary, but this is an exception to that.

Despite my relatively brief experience in graphic design, I did get training and a degree. You only know graphic design after serious study, and you know you know graphic design when you realize how little you do know about it.

This article at Design Cubicle goes through 12 things that qualify as Photoshop "malpractice", that is, things that are far enough away from PS best practices that they have to make a toll call to talk to them. Here's the article itself, but I just couldn't stop from adding my own views:

  1. Improper extraction methods Do you use Magic Wand? A Lot? Wise up, newbie; not even Donnie Hoyle respects you. Learn the Pen tool. The pen tool makes for such precise and tunable selections, once you learn it you'll wonder what the 7734 you were doing with Magic Wand (which might be okay in a pinch). Actually there are so many ways to select in PS that once you use a few, you might find yourself completely leaving the Magic Wand too behind.
  2. Setting Body Copy Photoshop now has such advanced text and paragraph styling features that you can almost do layout in it. DON'T! Remember, PS is a raster program. Raster files lose stuff when you scale down and look like 7734 when you scale up. Just. Say. No.
  3. Using Rainbow Gradients Lisa Frank designs with rainbow gradients. Her primary market is tweenie girls. Unless your primary market is also tweenie girls. Don't do this. Eyes all over the visual world will thank you.
  4. Assuming K=100 Is Black This is actually an easy beginner mistake to make. For those habitu├ęs of this chronicle who have never prepared a file for print, color printing is made of four inks: cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y) and black (K) ... the abreviation K is a convention for black. So, naturally, you'll assume that of you go (the numbers here are percentages) C=0, Y=0, M=0, K=100, you'll get black. As it turns out, it's a very, very dark gray. The solution to this? Use "rich" black, which is full-on black ink with a mix of the other colors in. Very dark. Very black.
  5. Overusing and abusing filters Hey, who hasn't? Even I do it when I want to play around. The trouble with filters is they are default behaviors, and that leads to laziness and not learning the ins and outs of a very amazing program.
  6. Create logos in Photoshop If it's all you've got, then you'll have to use it, but if you have access to a vector drawing program, unless the needs are very unusual, you will use your vector drawing program to create logos. Why? One word: Scale. Logos are used in a variety of ways and sizes, and if you scale up a raster logo, you see the pixels. If you scale down the raster logo, things fill in. This is a much smaller and more controllable program with a vector shape, where the bounds are mathematically maintained, redrawn after scaling, and no loss of resolution.
  7. Don't Use 72dpi for Print. Ever. DPI is, of course, dots-per-inch. Its electronic cousin is PPI, or Pixels Per Inch. Everything you see on the web is either 72 or 96 dpi, which is right up the street of most all monitors, but in print? Does not scale up. Looks horrible when you do. Unless you're going for an effect, expect to use 300 dpi for the basic, and ask your print service bureau what will be best for the individual application (on the Columbia Overlook, for example, my provider has said that 150 dpi will be fine. I send them 170-190.
  8. Not Learning Keyboard Shortcuts To the tyro, those are those interesting little lists of cryptic "F6"s, etc that are on the right side of every pulldown. It's all about workflow when you're under the gun, and while the beginner might not immediately see the savings in efficency by using QuarkXPress's "SHIFT-OPT-CMD < or >" over going to the contextual pulldown and choosing a point size, once you get used to using it you know it saves you a stop. And a step saved here and a step saved there adds up, and before you know it, you're concentrating on your design, rather than where that damn bar of soap is.
  9. Not Using Layers and Folders If the newbie doesn't understand the simple sense of using layers and folders to organzie your content, that newbie should give back thier copy of Photoshop and go back to using MS Paint, because if you're not using layers and folders, then you're just using a turbocharged version of MS Paint, and you do not deserve the grandeur that is PS.
  10. Desaturation to get Black and White Graphics Desaturation (simply removing the color component of the image to get the black and white values) leaves graphics looking kind of wan. Refer to 4 above: The difference between just-black and rich black is striking. This is the same sort of thing.
  11. Overuse of Bevelling, Embossing and Drop Shadows These are fun toys. They are so much fun, as a matter of fact, that newbies use it everywhere, and that's what makes you a newbie, newbie. Get a grip on this. Look at your overall design and think whether or not these effects are appropriate within the totality of your work. If the effect causes the element to rip attention away from other things and you didn't mean that, then ashcan it. Don't use it as a crutch to make your design more interesting. A little of this goes a suprisingly long way.
  12. Not Using Grids and Guides Sometimes I'm guilty of this. When you're "in the zone" you don't want to bother with breaking out to the side and grabbing something. Well, bunky, get over that. Not only are PS grids and guides fantastic for things that require alignment, you can turn them off if they're too distracting. Use 'em.

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Stef said...

Thank you for the link, glad you liked the article!

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

You're very welcome. I loved your comment about it. It's something that needs to be said again and again: Just having design software doesn't mean you're a designer!

pril said...

"Just having design software doesn't mean you're a designer!". I just had to explain that to someone else. "He has some really expensive digital art program he uses, so..." "So, that doesn't mean squat if you have no concept of design in the first place. Look at (so and so a local) and his $1000 guitar. Yeah, it's a nice guitar, but he still can't play it any better than his $200 one". It's like, at some point, I had an art teacher that said we had to have a certain brand of colored pencils or our work would be subpar. I had to repeat to her what one of the first people to work with me on the guitar said, "It's a second-rate artist that blames their tools".