Best Photoshop Books
June 27, 2007 8:23 AM   Subscribe

What are you favorite Photoshop CS2/CS3 books? I have a handful of books that cover the basics and efficient photo processing/improvements, so I'm most interested in books with innovative tips and special effects to really energize photos.

Currently, I'm using Kelby's Photoshop CS2 for Digital Photographers, Kosklowski's CS2 Speed Clinic, and Varis' Skin; all of these are great, but I'm looking for additional books with great specialty effects. I know there are lots of great tutorials and filters online, and links to anything amazing would be great (I do love the Nik Efex software!) -- however, I'm really looking for your favorite books here.
posted by jacksides to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
The most exciting PS book I've ever read is Photoshop Lab Color. But it's not for the faint of heart.
posted by grumblebee at 8:38 AM on June 27, 2007

Seconding Grumblebee's suggestion. Also, that author (Dan Margulis)'s other book, Professional Photoshop, is a mind-warper.

I don't yet have CS3, but a couple other non-version specific books I've read and enjoyed are the "real World" series with Bruce Fraser, including Camera Raw and Sharpening and Vincent Versace's "Welcome to Oz".
posted by notsnot at 8:51 AM on June 27, 2007

Real World Camera Raw taught me a lot about photo processing. You might wait for a CS3-specific version though, as the PS Raw Processor has changed a bit.
posted by pb at 10:23 AM on June 27, 2007

There's an old book called "Photoshop Channel Chops." It's out of print and cost a ton of money if you buy it used. But if you can find a copy, grab it. Maybe you can get it via inter-library loan.

You don't know how to use Photoshop unless you understand channels and the curve tool on a gut level. But once you DO understand these two tools, you can throw 80% of the program away. The Curves tool does everything that all the other color-correction/manipulation tools do and more. The rest of the color tools are all dumbed-down versions of Curves.

A bitmap picture is just pixel data, and channels let you look under the hood at that data. Understand channels and you understand your image and its possibilities.

I've never found a book that goes into this stuff as well as "Channel Chops," but when I was trying to learn in, I spend days in the Barnes & Noble "reading library" (the cafe) pouring through the chapter on Channels and Curves in tons of different books. I learned something from each book.

Once you've mastered those tools, focus on...

[ -- Curves ]
[ -- Channels ]
-- Paths
-- Layers
-- Selections
-- Brushes

Then you're basically done. You're a guru. The one other thing you may need to master is some info about your end-product. If you're making images for print, there's a world of info about the printing process you need to look into. There's a bit less info (but still quite a bit) that you should look into if you're producing images for web or film/video.
posted by grumblebee at 11:03 AM on June 27, 2007

If you want to get serious with blend modes,
is the best guide I’ve found.

Fastest path to a lot of cool effects using styles.

overview of using PS for photographic effects.

Best general guide to PS effects and options.
posted by dpcoffin at 11:14 AM on June 27, 2007

Best answer: I agree about the LAB Color book, its amazing. Heres a quick overview on LAB color if youve never used it before. Dan Margulis also wrote Professional Photoshop which is amazing. I have both and learned a lot from them. You've already got Skin which is what I immediately thought of when I read the question since I use a lot of his techniques when I touch up portraits.

A book I find INVALUABLE is Photoshop Masking & Compositing by Katrin Eismann, I use a lot of the masking techniques she has for hair and things like that and they work amazing. The techniques wont energize your photos per se but they get you to the place where you can start doing amazing things to them.

I also liked Vincent Versaces, Welcome to Oz book, lots of fun techniques on how to draw attention to specific parts of the photo with great notes on each one.

A plugin I use on a lot of my photos, even very subtly, is the Lucis Art exposure and wyeth plugins, you can over do it for an amazing pop in a photo, or you can apply it very subtly for a little pop in a normal photo. Check out the gallery of images on the page for examples.

You already mention Nik, I use Nik Efex 2.0 on a lot of my photos, but I also use the Alien Skin exposure plugin quite a bit for different film looks.

Most of what Ive learned Ive gathered from different forums and photographers I like online. Dpreview has some good retouching threads. Fred Miranda has some great post processing threads. RetouchPro, Digital Grin, and Luminous landscape all have some good stuff too. Some good video tutorials at Russel Browns site. I also use some of his Adobe Camera Raw presets from time to time. Check out the Radiant Vista video tutorials too.

Theres plenty of free great tutorials online if you know where to look, heres a good skin fix one, and also a good quick masking tutorial.

You can download lots of good actions for free here. The Paint with Light actions are really popular and can get you some amazing effects. Also popular on the site is the Draganizer effect. Other online effects that people love are lomo effects, HDR Images (even from a single jpg), and the fake tilt shift effect.

I like exploring flickr to see what other photogs are doing, lots of great photoshop groups on there. Check out my site in my profile if youre curious.

Good Luck!
posted by skrike at 11:26 AM on June 27, 2007

Here’s a better link to that blend-modes book.

Channels ARE basic; you should really START with them. Too bad Channel Chops is $200+. In 2007, I’d advise you to read this in the Borders cafe only. Buy this one.

Or watch this now for $25.

Coming out for CS3 in this interesting format in Sept.
posted by dpcoffin at 11:38 AM on June 27, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions! I guess I'll start with a book on channels, per several posters' advice ... I've always enjoyed Kelby's books, so I may just go ahead with that one (I'm not finding Channel Chops anywhere for a reasonable price). I'm adding LAB Color and the Masking & Compositing book to my wishlist, so thanks for those recs. As for more "fun" (well, more immediate gratification) books, has anyone read/enjoyed any of O'Reilly's Photoshop "cookbooks" or the like?

Keep the suggestions coming -- I love the online tutorials/downloads that you sent as well, skrike; thanks!!
posted by jacksides at 2:20 PM on June 27, 2007

That blend-modes book I mentioned is an O’Reilly cookbook. I got them all when I was teaching a class on PS, and that’s the only one that impressed me. The “Fine Art Effects” one in particular is a bit of a dog, imo.

My problem with the Kelby Channels book is that it’s nothing but the barest introduction to working with channels; doesn’t well present the subject as fundamental to all other aspects of the program, or take it beyond a few very basic examples in the manner of his classic and dirty tricks effects. McClelland and Romaniello both do a much better job with it; they change the way you think about the program.
posted by dpcoffin at 3:58 PM on June 27, 2007

jacksides, nothing against Scott Kelby (I sort of work for him -- I write a column for one of his magazines), but his channels book is baby stuff.

Do yourself a favor and try to get Channel Chops via interlibrary loan. It's not a big book. You could photocopy it and keep the photocopy.

By the way, I should have included blend modes in my list of key subject to learn.
posted by grumblebee at 4:13 PM on June 27, 2007

By the way, there's a prejudice in this thread which I have to admit I share. You asked for tips and effects. We're giving you sources that help you out with the fundamentals. None of these will be much help teaching you how to make a photo look like etched metal or fire or whatever. Nor are we giving you books that contain quick recipes to make your photo punchier or "more dynamic."

Most people who are knee-deep in PS -- me included -- get upset with the quick tip books and the casual user's desire to take a power tool and boil it down to a push-button toy. So many people learn dozens of formulas without understanding the underlying principles. And I'm sure you know the trouble with that. Learned that way, it'd very hard for you to veer from the formulas when you need to or want to.

That said, I think Kelby is the master of tips, tricks and formulas. The one other book of that ilk I'd recommend is called "How to Cheat in Photoshop." It's an awesome book -- the best I've ever read about combining multiple images into one image. But it's only worth reading if you're interested in doing that sort of montage work.
posted by grumblebee at 4:26 PM on June 27, 2007

Actually, til the channels topic came up, instant gratification was exactly what I was pointing you towards. How to Wow and One-Click Wow are my favorite recipe books... along with that Blend Modes Cookbook.
posted by dpcoffin at 6:26 PM on June 27, 2007

I have this one and it's helped me a great deal.

Here is the latest one for CS3. Enjoy!
posted by arishaun at 7:13 PM on June 27, 2007

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