View Full Version : Where to begin

11 November 2005, 07:48 AM
So my shiny little wacom finally arived in the mail today, and I can finally put this student-licensed copy of Photoshop CS to use. My problem is two-fold. First, there is a considerable technical hurdle that comes with learning PS (albeit smaller than maya, I hope...). Secondly, I've never really done anything with color. I've mostly just doodled for the better part of my life, and now that I'm in art school, I find myself wishing I had perhaps not let myself settle into the comfortable rut of just pencil and paper. My question to you knowledgable and well-rounded folks is where do I begin? I'm starting to get the hang of using the tablet, but I'm not quite as comfortable/fluent as paper and pencil. Are there some basic tutorials out there that cover the fundamentals (as in more general than the specific ones in the big stickied thread), should I look at buying a DVD from gnomon, for instance, or what? I realize that to learn this I will need to spend a considerable amount of time tinkering and playing, but I need to know some stuff first. For example, I started up a new document this evening and couldn't even figure out how to flood the background a specific color. Another problem was each different brush-stroke seemed to be its own "layer" so to speak, such that layering strokes created darker shades. While this is useful is certain situations, it's not fun if you're trying to block in a color or something. Sorry if any of this rambling is ambiguous or anything, I'm just a bit confused right now ^_^ Thanks for any and all advice!

11 November 2005, 05:19 PM
I would start by learning hotkeys. Knowing hotkeys and shortcuts will save you more time than anything.

Beyond that start using the software and anytime you need to know something consult the help document - it's actually quite good. Also, search around the net for tutorials and how-to's. There are tons out there. Here's a few that are more photography-centric:

Radiant Vista (
Luminous Landscape (

When I started I would set simple goals for myself like "I'm going to cut this person out and add them to this other picture" just so I could become familar with the program and I've just continued to grow from there.

In a nutshell: use the program, start simple, read about different techniques, and always keep learning.

The Drew
11 November 2005, 02:18 PM
I agree...

The biggest thing for me is having something in mind to create before I start. If I open up PS and think "I'm going to learn something today", it doesn't happen. I've learned more when I have a 'goal' in mind than not. One time I learned a lot by just taking a family photo and erasing one of my brother's teeth and an eyebrow!!!

I have learned more about PS on the job than anywhere else. It gives you a goal (create this flyer!) and you have to get there. How do I draw a straight line? (Hold shift - it took a considerable amount of time for me to even learn that!) How do I line up these two elements? How to I make this text super-large, or angled? How do I make this shadow on this roof look realistic? Having simple challenges can get you over the hump. This will take digging in the manual and reading tutorials. I just usually hit google and check out what I can find out about a certain situation.

I think the #1 biggest help is knowing that no matter what you do to a picture or composition, as long as you aren't too crazy, you can fix it or get rid of it. CTRL+Z one time, then CTRL+ALT+Z have saved me mondo numbers of times.

Just have fun - soon enough you'll amaze yourself with what you can do with the program!


11 November 2005, 04:00 PM
If you just wanna get up to speed with photoshop i highly recommend looking at the training vids on They're not free, but are very good. I learned a huge amount of knowledge in just two weeks, watching just a hour or so a days worth.

The enhancing digital photos, while not geared to painting taught me loads about colour correction, grades, blend modes, cloning and the like. I rate em higher than gnomon, as i find gnomon seem to concentrate on a very small part of the process and you have to buy 2 or 3 to get the whole picture. Thats just me tho!

Martin Kay
11 November 2005, 04:41 PM
Learning Photoshop can be tricky as there is so much there to get your head round. One direction is to learn basic optimisation of photographic images first. This involves learning how to use the colour balance (Cntrl/Cmnd B), Levels (Cntrl/Cmnd L), and Saturation (Cntl/Cmnd U), Unsharp Mask, Crop tool and Selections. A useful new tool in Photoshop is the 'highlights and shadow' tool.These are the tools a photographer will use most. Next will be layers and masks.
Learn how to change 'brush' sizes and softness/hardness, plus output settings, ie pressure settings.
Don't, I repeat don't, try and learn Photoshop from the Adobe manuals.... They are awful in the extreme. As advised above, is probably the best source of tutorial material in CGI matters and I certainly can recommend them as being the product of folks who have faced the reality of teaching newcomers. The Photoshop Bible is also a good resource and is very readable- unlike the Adobe manuals, which will have you tearing your hair out...

11 November 2005, 12:14 AM
firstly i would spend time with the manual and the machine (i dont know about now, but i'm sure adobe original purchases used to come with tutes...if it does do them)

Having learned several apps i haven't found a shortcut for getting stuck in and spending a good few solid days going thru the tutorials are fine, but avoiding a firm foundation and using them tends to leave you a narrow scope of knowlegde only covered in that tutorial, and often they also rely on you knowing certain things to start with. Also a good grounding will lead you onto knowing "why" your doing something as opposed to just "how".

It's time well spent, even if it seems mundane you can at least wittle down the areas of the application you would like to persue further.

11 November 2005, 02:34 AM
I agree...

The biggest thing for me is having something in mind to create before I start. If I open up PS and think "I'm going to learn something today", it doesn't happen. I've learned more when I have a 'goal' in mind than not.

Thanks a lot for the advice, especially that little nugget right there :D

The Drew
11 November 2005, 05:01 PM
Rock'n'Roll - I feel so special ;-)

Photoshop is really an uber-powerful program, and you never quit learning. My friend told me one time that this is how most things seem to be learned - You start a little slow, then something clicks, your learn a ton, then it slows back down, and you steadily continue learning forever. Thats how its been for me. When your learning sky rockets in the middle, you'll be hooked. From then on the sky's the limit.


Martin Kay
11 November 2005, 06:22 PM
Another really cracking resouce is Russell Brown's, the photoshop guru's website. Plenty of Quicktime tutorials there. Russell often delves into the esoteric side of photoshop. I'd say a must for all PS users.

11 November 2005, 05:43 PM
It sounds like you are just starting with PS so getting the basics down is the first thing you'd want to do. Most of what has been mentioned prior to this is good advice. First, I'd probably get the basics down with a book like the Bible or Inside Photoshop. Both are pretty good for the basics. Knowing the shortcuts is a great idea that you should learn as you go. Use them and they will become second nature. Having something in particular to do helps the learning process as was mentioned before. Once you have learned the basics I would try to advance your knowledge of selections, adjustment layers and masks. These are the true basics of PS and you will use them in everything you do. The book I recommend for this is Masking and Compositing by Katrin Eismann. This book is more in the intermediate to advanced level though and expects you to know the basics already. Getting a color management book is a good idea as well. I don't have a recommendation for that but I'm sure that wont be to hard to get from this forum.

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