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Lesson 1: Ladies and Gentlemen, I Give You Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop 6 Basics

Introduction: What Is Photoshop?

Adobe Photoshop is, without a doubt, one of the most exciting and versatile image creation and manipulation applications available. For anyone who deals with images -- from print media designers who come up with those dazzling ads in magazines, to Web creators sculpting awesome sites with cutting-edge graphics, to grandmothers in Florida who want to preserve and maintain their fading photos and memories -- Photoshop is the tool of choice.

Photoshop is an extremely versatile tool: you can use it to correct errors in photos, to add effects to images, or to build complex images from scratch. In this course, you will acquire a thorough knowledge of the basic operations of Photoshop. I'll teach you about the Photoshop environment -- how it works and what you'll need to know to get the most from the software. I'll also introduce you to Photoshop's tools, from brushes and paint to filters and multiple layers. You'll learn how to manipulate images by correcting flaws and even radically altering their appearance. After taking this course, you will learn to use Photoshop with confidence and creativity.

In the first lesson, you'll become acquainted with the different ways to find or create images to use in Photoshop. We'll introduce you to some of the formats that make up the image family and to the concept of importing images into Photoshop. In subsequent lessons, you'll learn your way around the Photoshop application, then roll up your sleeves and begin to manipulate images using the software's many powerful tools.

Once you're done with each lesson, I actively encourage you to take advantage of the message board, where you'll be able to post questions for your instructor and chat with other students taking the course. During the course, I'll make references to a couple of excellent reference books that will both make your life as a Photoshop user easier and provide in-depth examples of the topics covered in the lessons.

A Word About Photoshop 6

Photoshop has been around a very long time. Each new version has added a wide array of tools and capabilities that have brought joy to the hearts of graphic designers. Version 6 is no exception. But it's quite possible that you're not using Photoshop 6 yet. Maybe your computer at work has an earlier version installed, or you just aren't ready to pay for an upgrade. Don't worry. The knowledge you gain in this course also applies to Photoshop 5.0 and 5.5. Some information applies to earlier versions, but I would advise you to consider an upgrade if your copy of Photoshop is older than version 5.0.

Photoshop 6.0 comes with a whole host of new features for the graphics professional, including expanded layer options and new tools like image warping, expanded text features, and the Slice tool group. Although you'll get a lot out of this class if you have Photoshop 5.0 or 5.5, 6.0 really takes Photoshop to the next level.

Books for This Course

There are two textbooks associated with this course. Each is a great reference for Photoshop users, but the two take somewhat different approaches to teaching you what you need to know to get the most from the software. Throughout the course, I will refer you to readings and exercises in both books.

Adobe Photoshop 6.0 Classroom in a Book was devised by the folks at Adobe as a comprehensive learning tool full of projects for the student to complete. It's a more complex textbook than most, but it moves the student forward faster than the others. It does contain many screenshots, but most of the "lessons," as the chapters are called, focus on teaching you fundamental Photoshop concepts using concrete examples included on a CD that comes with the book. During this course I will recommend several of the book's lessons as assignments.

Photoshop 6 for Windows and Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide, on the other hand, takes you through Photoshop's features one by one, with a lot of screenshots and step-by-step descriptions of how to use tools. You'll also get some great tips for improving your productivity with Photoshop. This book is a great reference -- if there's a feature you're not comfortable with, or an option you would like explained in detail, this is the book for you.

Feel free to work with one or both books, depending on the way you like to learn. Both will enhance your understanding of Photoshop immensely.

Images? You Want Images?

You can import and manipulate just about any image with Photoshop if you know how to acquire and import it. You supply the image. Now get the know-how.

There are a lot of ways to find images to use with Photoshop

Images? You Want Images?

You can import and manipulate just about any image with Photoshop if you know how to acquire and import it. You supply the image. Now get the know-how.

There are a lot of ways to find images to use with Photoshop

Figure 1-1: The Web is chock full of images. Just take your pick, but make sure you ask permission first!

  • The Web: this place is image heaven, and if you're looking for a particular image, you can bet you'll find it on the Web (Figure 1-1). But not all Web images are free for the taking. Many are protected by copyright, and while you can use them to practice your Photoshop skills, you should never publish a copyrighted image without first getting permission from the copyright holder.

Figure 1-2: Digital cameras are a quick and easy way to take pictures. No developing costs and no waiting. Just plug the camera into your computer and you're on your way!

  • Digital Cameras: Not only do digital cameras cost much less than they used to, allowing just about anyone to afford them, they are also easy to use and easy to link to your home or office computer (Figure 1-2). And, of course, you can create the exact image you need photographically.

Figure 1-3: Scanners bring your snapshots into the digital world.

  • Scanners: The missing link between your old photos and the digital world. For under a hundred bucks, you can see your images come to life on the small screen and play with them to your heart's content (Figure 1-3). Again, beware of copyright issues. Scanning and using images you find in books or magazines is almost always illegal under U.S. copyright law if you publish the image in any way.

There are, of course, other ways to find images. You can acquire libraries of public domain images on CD-ROM, for example, that you can use any way you like. You can even create images from scratch once you become proficient in Photoshop.

The Image Family

Images on your computer come in a variety of types, also called file formats. While you don't need a detailed technical understanding of what file formats are, you do need to understand how Photoshop uses them and how you will need to use them, depending on the final destination of your image.

Like most software applications, Photoshop has its own native file format: .psd (Photoshop document). You will probably use the .psd format when you create or work with images in Photoshop, but you will need to use other formats if you want to publish images in print or to the Web. Photoshop supports many other image formats, meaning that you can use Photoshop to open files in those formats, as well as saving them in other formats. I will talk more about saving in the next lesson.

The List

Photoshop supports most graphic file formats. Here are some of the most commonly used of these:

  • Bitmap (.bmp): The standard Windows image file format.
  • GIF (.gif): Graphical Interchange Format. GIF is one of the two primary image formats used on the Web (the other is JPEG). GIF files are compressed, meaning that they load faster than uncompressed versions of the same images.
  • JPEG (.jpg): Joint Photographic Experts Group. JPEG, like GIF files, are highly compressed and very common on the Web. JPEG compression is best suited for photographic images.
  • PDF (.pdf): Portable Document Format. Any computer user with the free Adobe Acrobat reader program installed can read -- but not change -- a PDF file. Saving Photoshop projects as PDFs lets you give a read-only copy of the document to anyone. PDFs are most often used to share long documents where preserving formatting is critical, but Photoshop also supports this format for distributing images.
  • PNG (.png): Portable Network Graphics. In the world of Web publishing, this is the new kid on the block. PNG combines the best features of GIF and JPEG, but many Web developers have not embraced it, partially because some older Web browsers do not recognize the format.
  • TIFF (.tif): Tagged Image File Format. The TIFF format is the most widely used file format in print publishing. Unlike GIFs and JPEGs, TIFFs are not compressed, which means they include all of the data and color information available. That level of quality is a must in reproducing digital images in print.

When you open images in Photoshop that have been downloaded from the Web, created with a digital camera, or scanned with a scanner, the images are most often JPEGs, GIFs, or TIFFs. Photoshop also supports a wide range of other file formats that probably won't concern you until you have worked with the program for some time, or unless you acquire images from sources other than those I've described in this lesson.

Moving On

I've introduced you to Photoshop and given you some suggestions about where to find images you can use with the program. You've also gotten a quick look at the image file formats supported by Photoshop. In the next lesson, I'll introduce you to the Photoshop canvas. You'll also get your first glimpse at Preferences and color.

Check out the quiz for this lesson (which shouldn't rack your brains too much), and don't forget to visit the message board. This is a good time to introduce yourself to your instructor and your fellow students.

Next Lesson: Adobe Photoshop 6 Basics Lesson 2: Spreading the Canvas

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