03 February 2010

[design] Just What IS "Basic Photoshop"?

2317.In exploring and using Photoshop, I find that people I know who have little experience and have acquired a copy of their own, say, an older version – Photoshop 7, CS, or CS2 – and want to start using them right away.

I've never pretended to guru status, but I do have a bit of training and experience in Photoshop and have always said that Photoshop is the pixel editing king for some very good reasons – most of which are hard to say but which unfold under use, one by one, like the petals of a blooming flower.

A couple of readers have recently asked me where an online place could be found to get beginners skills – they'd found a copy of Photoshop 7 and installed it but their eyes glazed over when they saw all the goodies. So I wondered, what would be the best things to let a tyro Photoshopper in on, the basic skills that would enable them to bootstrap themselves into basic Photoshoppery and thus the ability to explore the interface and use what they will?

The way I see it, the tyro Photoshopper needs to go in with the following toolkit:

  1. The Basic Paradigm of Photoshop: "Select it, then affect it". 99 per cent of what you're going to do in Photoshop reduces to this (well, if it's not 99 per cent, then it's a pretty good deal of it). Photoshop includes an armful of ways to select out what you want to change, and a seemingly unlimited bag of things you can do to those selections. A lot of the time you'll find yourself deciding what to do with a graphic, and excluding out the areas you don't want to mess up.
  2. Layers … Layers is what separates the pros (or wannabe pros) from the amateurs. Layers allow you to save copies of things you don't want to destroy, blend things with other layers, and non-destructively alter other parts of the photo or graphic. At the very least, layers allow you to orgranize parts informatively, and with the sprawling nature of some projects, the value there can't be ignored.
  3. The Basic Tools. To me, these are any thing that selects, in this case, anything that creates a marquee, brushes, and the path tool. Coming out of the "select is and effect it" paradigm then it follows that, out of the toolbox, your best friend is anything that will create a marquee – the basic selection medium. Knowing about marquees equips you to understand what you're doing with quick-masking and the Magic Wand, to use two examples, and the brush, being the basic tool for making marks, transfers into other tools (quick-mask uses a brush-approach). The Path tool, illustrated like a pen, works just like the pen in Illustrator, and paths can be converted into selections, saved – I love paths.
  4. How To Select Colors. You came to Photoshop to work in color, or most of you did. Understanding how colors are selected and saved should be considered a basic skill
Those are my basics. I wonder what other Photoshoppers consider basic?

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Design That Rocks said...

I am big pro layers person for beginners. Learn as much as you can about layers, inside and out. And also always remember 'less is more'.

Great post!

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Thanks for the response, and thanks also to the other PS gurus who responded on my Facebook page.

If there's one thing that seems to be a verity, it's that layers are a very important thing. That's the common thread that I've found throughout all my questioning.

That, and the generosity of designers online, which comes through once again.