What are some killer Photoshop projects for my class of design students?
February 28, 2007 3:19 PM   Subscribe

What are some killer Photoshop projects for my class of design students?

I have a class of 12 graphic design students who are about 75% of the way through a intensive 2 week class. They're doing great and have learned a lot about color correction, layer masks, clipping masks, etc.

But I'm looking for a cool final project that will pull it all together. Usually we do something like a cd cover for a band of their choice using scans, internet grabs, etc. But they did a large cd cover project in Illustrator a few weeks ago, so I want to avoid that. (This is design for print BTW, not web)

For designers reading this, what projects do remember as memorable, fun and Photoshop-centric, i.e. doesn't involve integration with Illustrator or page layout?
posted by jeremias to Education (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
How about some ├╝ber-serious photo retouching? Like, color-correct and retouch a nasty-ass portrait. Then take the figure in the portrait and strip them into a different background. Go from there.

Honestly, though, I don't know any professional print designers who use Photoshop as a design tool. It's an image manipulation tool. It's almost always used by designers in conjunction with one of the other layout tools (InDesign, Illustrator, etc.) to treat and manipulate images and effects.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:43 PM on February 28, 2007

Best answer: You could have them enter one of the PhotoShopping contests over at worth1000.. There's usually some pretty amazing stuff.

Alternately, if you have a bit of a sense of humour about yourself, you could have them photograph you and photoshop you into random scenes/situations.
posted by davey_darling at 3:43 PM on February 28, 2007

you can check out worth1000 for some fun photoshop challenges.
posted by sxtxixtxcxh at 3:44 PM on February 28, 2007

Depending on their skill set, I think it would be interesting and fun to have them do photo manipulations and enhancements. Have them make a magazine cover with a picture you supply to them of a moderate looking woman/man with bags under their eyes, wrinkles, and whatnot and have them bring it up to magazine status while also creating a cover to go along with it.
posted by 913 at 3:44 PM on February 28, 2007

alternatively, you can have them un-photoshop cover models. although, that's a bit negative, but something i haven't seen.
posted by sxtxixtxcxh at 4:06 PM on February 28, 2007

Best answer: A project that was used for the design kids at my school was "Adbuster-ing" an ad. It was hugely popular and some of the results weren't so bad technically and conceptually.

Have them find an ad and reverse the message. Or reverse an issue of Adbusters. ;)
posted by fake at 4:06 PM on February 28, 2007

Best answer: give them a real world object that they have to incorporate a design onto as if it actually existed on the object.

that might be confusing, here are some examples:

graffiti on a wall.
disclaimers on a shipping crate.
branding on athletic gear.
their own designer clothing identifier on some plain sneakers.
cautionary diagrams on street signs or instruction manuals.

the idea is to give them the creative freedom to come up with the design material themselves, but also to focus their real world applicable photoshop skills in compositing this material onto a photograph of a real object and making it convincing.
posted by shmegegge at 4:23 PM on February 28, 2007

Best answer: Making the most out of very little, artificially constraining the variety of creative options in order to maximize actual creativity.

For example, give them some very detailed color images and pose the following problem: how to make the images look as good as possible for a B&W print job on newsprint, the kind of high dot gain output problem they're likely to run into in the real world.

Or take an image and see what they can do with it without resorting to more than, say, 2 filters. I've taught After Effects/motion graphics classes where I had students create intricate animations using nothing more than animated size, opacity and position for elements, and only the Gaussian blur filter. Focus on the issues of communication, reducing the tendency to rely on technological bells and whistles.

Here's another one: let's go back to your CD design exercise. How about a DVD case for a movie, where the only source material they have are very low-res master images (perhaps stuff pulled from websites), nothing that would normally look good when printed at larger sizes. How can they derive useful material from bad sources? Now there's a common problem in the real world of graphics production.
posted by dbiedny at 4:34 PM on February 28, 2007

I don't know what age these people are, by something really fun is a "pop art" project where they do portraits and then use posterize to choose the number of levels in the photo. Then, you remove the color (or you can remove the color before posterizing). Then, they can color it in. They end up making some cool Andy Warhol-looking things.

Might be too simplistic for your folks.
posted by sneakin at 4:51 PM on February 28, 2007

Response by poster: These folks are "post-college" for the most part, it's essentially an intensive continuing education program.

I like a lot of these ideas especially the "Adbusters" idea and shmegegge's project ideas.

I do realize it's tricky to have a design oriented project in Photoshop which doesn't rely on Illustrator or Indesign, etc, hence my tapping of the Mefi idea pool.

Keep em coming!
posted by jeremias at 5:03 PM on February 28, 2007

Make them do the project in Paint Shop Pro or Gimp or something non-Photoshop to test their knowledge of the concepts you taught, rather than the Photoshop skills.
posted by elle.jeezy at 5:47 PM on February 28, 2007

I used to go to my old high school once a year to teach kids about Photoshop. Since I'd done a bunch of movie posters in LA, I would show them samples of good ones & bad ones and how a story is being told in a good movie poster. They were then instructed to come up with a movie poster for their own fake movie. They had to have a title treatment on it, and they had to do a nice layout. The students then discussed each poster and would see if people could figure out what the movie was about (who the good/bad guys were, where it took place, who the star is, what kind of movie it was). So on top of the basic Photoshop art skills they also had to think on a lot of other dimensions too. They seemed to really enjoy it. (It also gave us an opportunity to talk to kids about how much actors are photoshopped. Like the real fishstick Gwyneth vs. unreal curvaceous Gwyneth.)
posted by miss lynnster at 6:31 PM on February 28, 2007

Some of my favorite work is restoring old pictures. See if people can bring in their old family shots -- doesn't matter if it's of them as kids, or of their great-grandparents as kids. Each student can learn a little about photographs of their specific period, and how those photos degrade (for bonus education, have people give presentations on typical problems of photos from different time periods). They'll be more interested in the work because it's people they know ("I want to make sure the color of Aunt Ethel's hair is right"). And when they're done, they'll have something they might actually use -- and all the family members who see the restored photo will appreciate the usefulness of the course.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:04 PM on February 28, 2007

How can they derive useful material from bad sources? Now there's a common problem in the real world of graphics production.

Love it.
posted by radioamy at 9:36 PM on February 28, 2007

This is going to come off sarcastically, but it's not.

How about taking a Reuters photo and making a news story? Turn it into a social experiment to see if you can concoct or "heavily enhance" a news story well enough to be completely believable by the above-average citizen.

I bet your class does better than what's happened before.
posted by secret about box at 9:54 PM on February 28, 2007

when i was in school, we had a project where we had to take a favorite artist and recreate their style from an original picture. i chose francis bacon. it was a great assignment.
posted by lannanh at 1:01 AM on March 1, 2007

Seconding davey_darling and sxtxixtxcxh: worth1000 has run tons of contests and people there have explored a wide range of ideas and combination of ideas for photoshop contests (and still do). Perusing through the galleries, you'll find a gold mine of contest ideas.

You could also have your students participate in a current worth1000 contest: a lot of teachers use worth1000 as such regularly (it's customary to ask first to a user admin to clear potential problems with gang voting or single IP adress).

Full disclosure: I am a worth1000 admin.
posted by bru at 6:11 AM on March 1, 2007

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