Exploring Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop is used for an incredible range of projects, from editing and correcting digital photos to preparing images for magazines and newspapers to creating graphics for the Web. You can also find Photoshop in the forensics departments of law-enforcement agencies, scientific labs and research facilities, and dental and medical offices, as well as in classrooms, offices, studios, and homes around the world. As the Help Desk Director for the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP), I solve problems and provide solutions for Photoshop users from every corner of the computer graphics field and from every corner of the world. People are doing some pretty amazing things with Photoshop, many of which are so far from the program’s original roots that it boggles the mind!

What Photoshop is designed to do

Adobe Photoshop is an image-editing program. It’s designed to help you edit images — digital or digitized images, photographs, and otherwise. This is the core purpose of Photoshop. Over the years, Photoshop has grown and developed, adding features that supplement its basic operations. But at its heart, Photoshop is an image editor. At its most basic, Photoshop’s workflow goes something like this: You take a picture, you edit the picture, and you print the picture.

Basic Photoshop: Take photo, edit photo, print photo. Drink coffee (optional).

Whether captured with a digital camera, scanned into the computer, or created from scratch in Photoshop, your artwork consists of tiny squares of color, which are picture elements called pixels. Photoshop is all about changing and adjusting the colors of those pixels — collectively, in groups, or one at a time — to make your artwork look precisely how you want it to look. (Photoshop, by the way, has no Good Taste or Quality Art filter. It’s up to you to decide what suits your artistic or personal vision and what meets your professional requirements.) Some very common Photoshop image-editing tasks are: namely, correcting red-eye and minimizing wrinkles and compositing images.

Some common Photoshop tasks.

New in Photoshop CS3 is the powerful Black and White adjustment (found in the Image => Adjustments menu). Used to convert the appearance of a color image to that of a black and white (or grayscale) photo, it lets you blend the content of the various component colors to achieve a perfect grayscale image. See Figure, you also have the option of creating a sepia or tinted version of the image.

The Black and White adjustment gives incredible control over grayscale and tinted conversions.

Photoshop CS3 and Photoshop CS3 Extended

Although there have been different versions of “Photoshop” for years (Photoshop versus Photoshop LE versus Photoshop Elements), this is the first time that Adobe has marketed two different versions of Photoshopitself. Photoshop CS3 and Photoshop CS3 Extended both have all of Photoshop’s powerful image-editing, vectordrawing, painting, and type capabilities. Photoshop CS3 Extended also includes some very specialized, highly technical features for use in science, research, and video editing, and for use with 3D modeling programs. So, if you have Photoshop CS3 rather than Photoshop CS3 Extended, should you feel cheated or like a second-class citizen? Nope! Unless you specifically need those extended features, there’s no real reason to purchase them. But what if you got Photoshop CS3 Extended as part of a Creative Suite or Adobe Bundle package of software — did you pay for something you don’t need? Well, sort-of-yeahbut- not-really. The folks who’re really paying extra for the extended features are those who purchase Photoshop CS3 Extended as a standalone program. The additional cost they pay funds the research and development of the extended features.

Over the past few updates, Photoshop has developed some rather powerful illustration capabilities to go with its digital-imaging power. Although Photoshop is still no substitute for Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop certainly can serve you well for smaller illustration projects. (Keep in mind that Photoshop is a raster art program — it works with pixels — and vector artwork is only simulated in Photoshop.) Photoshop also has a very capable brush engine, which makes it feasible to paint efficiently on your digital canvas. Figure shows a comparison of raster artwork (the digital photo, left), vector artwork (the illustration, center), and digital painting (right). The three types of artwork can appear in a single image, too.

Photoshop CS3 includes some basic features for creating Web graphics, including slicing and animations (but Web work is best done in a true Webdevelopment program, such as Dreamweaver). Photoshop even includes special Web Photo Gallery features to help you create an entire Web site to display your artwork, and a PDF Presentation feature to prepare on-screen presentations, complete with transition effects between slides.

You can use Photoshop with raster images, vector artwork, and even to paint.

Other things you can do with Photoshop

Although Photoshop isn’t a page layout or illustration program, you certainly can produce simple brochures, posters, greeting cards, and the like using only Photoshop. One of the features that sets Photoshop apart from basic image editors is its powerful type engine, which can add, edit, format, and stylize text as capably as many word-processing programs. Photoshop even has a spell-check feature - not bad for a program that’s designed to work with photos.

You can use Photoshop to create cards, posters, and brochures.

Photoshop CS3 takes yet another giant step with the introduction of Smart Filters. Smart Filters, which are applied to Photoshop’s Smart Objects, are the long-awaited answer to the prayers of many in the creative world: re-editable filters! In the past, you applied a filter to a copy of an image and, if you changed your mind about what settings to use, you had to undo all subsequent work or (gasp! ) start from scratch. Smart Filters enable you to change your mind and simply re-open the filter’s dialog box and apply different settings to change your image enhancements or special effects. What a time (and project) saver.

Even if you don’t have the high-end video features found in Photoshop CS3 Extended, you can certainly supplement your video-editing program with Photoshop CS3 (even if Photoshop can’t open and play movies you capture with your video camera). From Adobe Premiere (or other professional video programs), you can export a series of frames in the FilmStrip format, which you can open and edit in Photoshop.

If you don't have specialized software

Admittedly, Photoshop CS3 just plain can’t do some things. It won’t make you a good cup of coffee. It can’t press your trousers. It doesn’t vacuum under the couch. It isn’t even a substitute for iTunes, Microsoft Excel, or Netscape Navigator — it just doesn’t do those things.

However, there are a number of things for which Photoshop isn’t designed that you can do in a pinch. If you don’t have InDesign, you can still lay out the pages of a newsletter, magazine, or even a book, one page at a time. (With PDF Presentation, you can even generate a multipage PDF document from your individual pages.) If you don’t have Dreamweaver or GoLive, you can use Photoshop to create a Web site, one page at a time, sliced and optimized and even with animated GIFs. You also have tools that you can use to simulate 3D in Photoshop CS3, such as Vanishing Point.

Page layout in Photoshop isn’t particularly difficult for a one-page piece or even a trifold brochure. Photoshop has a quite-capable type engine, considering the program is designed to push pixels rather than play with paragraphs. Photoshop even shows you a sample of each typeface in the Font menu. Choose from five sizes of preview (see in Figure) in Photoshop’s Preferences => Type menu. However, you can’t link Photoshop’s type containers, so a substantial addition or subtraction at the top of the first column requires manually recomposing all following columns. After all, among the biggest advantages of a dedicated page layout program are the continuity (using a master page or layout) and flow from page to page. If you work with layout regularly, use InDesign.

Now in Photoshop CS3: Five sample font sizes!

with Photoshop. However, if you don’t have Dreamweaver and you desperately need to create a Web page, Photoshop comes to your rescue. After laying out your page and creating your slices, use the Save for Web and Devices command to generate an HTML document (your Web page) and a folder filled with the images that form the page (see Figure). One of the advantages to creating a Web page in Dreamweaver rather than Photoshop is HTML text. (Using Photoshop, all the text on your Web pages is saved as graphic files. HTML text not only produces smaller Web pages for faster download, but it’s resizable in the Web browser.)

You can create an entire Web page in Photoshop.

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