With so much information in the world, sometimes it can be hard for newcomers to sift through the noise when they want to learn how to use Photoshop. For me, I started by purchasing the software. I tried to work out what each tool did, then realised I was getting nowhere…although I did manage to somehow to put together this monstrosity of an image. This is one of the first manipulated images I created, beautiful isn’t it? A work of art that should be hung in the louvre (sniggers).
But if you contrast this with an image I did a year later, you can see how much improvement I had made. These images don’t even look like they are done by the same person.
One hour a night is all it takes! I speak to people all the time about Photoshop, they say how they have it, but they dare not use it, or they don’t know how to use it.
We all start off with the same amount of knowledge in the beginning. None! Zero! Zilch! It is only down to practice and failure, and more practice that we learn. I guarantee you, if you put in only one hour a night for a full year, you should be able to crank out images like the one above…easy! Don’t be afraid of Photoshop, embrace it. If you create something you think is rubbish, don’t show it to anyone, but keep it for yourself to learn from. Hopefully one day, you can look back on it, and see how far you have progressed.
So then where to start. Going from my own experience, books were the best way to ease my way in. In the beginning I was constantly buying photography and Photoshop books. I would read them before bed, on the bus…anywhere I had some spare time. Now to save you a little money I will show you the three books, that in my opinion were the best to learn from as a beginner. All of them are easy to follow along with, concisely written, with lots of diagrams.
The first of these books is
If you are going to learn Photoshop then you need to learn the most fundamental tool which is Layers. Layers are the foundation of everything you do in Photoshop. If you grasp Layers, then you are on the right track for sure, and this book focusses on everything layers. It starts by teaching you the basics step by step, allowing you to follow along with the images downloaded online.
As you progress, the techniques get more advanced (still nothing you will not be able to handle). By the time you get through this book you should understand blending layers, adjustment layers and the magic of layer masks. As I said, once you have layers down, you are definitely on your way to photomanipulation zen. I feel this book really kick started my Photoshop skills, because once I had the knowledge my imagination could take over.
My next recommendation is
Photoshop Compositing Secrets, again by Matt Kloskowski.
So once I was in the land of layers, I played around with creating art and horror photography. My stylistic leanings were towards crazy composited images that I saw on Deviantart. I knew how to roughly cut out, and paste onto a layer. But I also knew there had to be a better way of using Photoshop. I found this book, and suddenly it all made sense. The holy grail for new Photoshop users, the quick selection tool and refine edge (angels sing from the heavens).
The book works in pretty much the same way as Layers. It starts off with teaching you the fundamental basics and gradually builds up your techniques. It is then time to create a basic composite. From this point on it shows you in stages how to create various styles of composite images, from movie posters to family portraits. Another good point to the book is the small section on composite lighting. A very important part of the process if you shoot your own models.
So once you have your layer skills and composite muscles built up, its time to flex and really step up your photomanipulation game with the next book:
How to cheat in Photoshop by Steve Caplin.
This book is like a treasure trove of Photoshop manipulation techniques, secrets and tips. It is the longest of the books at 456 pages, and depending on your level a little harder to follow than the first two. But it is still easy enough that you wont get frustrated and attack your computer screen with it in a fit of rage. Also if you are the type of person who doesn’t read at all, it includes a DVD with over 4 hours of tutorials. WIN!!!
Covering pretty much every kind of manipulation trick you can think of, this book is probably more for picking up whenever you need to find or learn a technique. I wouldn’t see it as a book you sit down and read beginning to end like the first two. Some advanced chapters that I would recommend are the ones focussed on perspective in your manipulations, and the light and shade section. Two really valuable chapters that will take your compositing to another level.
I really hope you get a chance to pick up these books, but if you really don’t want to read there are some amazing Photoshop websites that will guide you along your way. Of course Phlearn is the big dog, Aaron Nace and his crew do a great job there. It is probably the first port of call online. The paid tutorials are some of the best you can buy, and fairly priced so they won’t break the bank. Other good Photoshop websites to visit would be CreativeLive where you can watch the live sessions for free or buy them to download later. RGG EDU is another premium video tutorial site. The tutorials on these sites are higher in price, but the content you are getting is really worth it.
What learning resources are you using? any good books I am missing? Any online sources worth checking out?
That’s it for this week guys, I hope this was helpful to you newbies out there in the land of Photoshop. I am always active on social media so don’t be scared to get in touch.