What's the best resource to improve my Photoshop skills?
August 1, 2008 8:33 AM   Subscribe

I would like to go from a beginner level to an advanced level in Photoshop. What is the best book or online course/site to achieve this?

This would be for everything from photo manipulation to original composition. It seems like this would have been asked before but I couldn't find anything so sorry if it's a repeat.
posted by Ringo to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
I like the You Suck at Photoshop series on YouTube -succinct, helpful, and funny. I believe there are 16 tutorials up at this point.
posted by kristin at 8:47 AM on August 1, 2008

Dan Margulis has two books (Professional photoshop 5th edition and "photoshop LAB color) that are phenomenal for making you think about what's going on underneath.
posted by notsnot at 8:55 AM on August 1, 2008

Photoshop for Photographers is really handy for the photograph side of things.
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:17 AM on August 1, 2008

I spent years teaching Photoshop courses. Based on my experience, here's the real answer to your question: no book or course will allow you to achieve your goal. You absolutely can achieve it, but it will take time, committment and some financial outlay.

Here's why: you can buy one book -- one of those big Photoshop "Bibles" -- and it will go over every menu option and every tool. You can spend time memorizing all those aspects of the program. And yet you still won't be a power-user.

Why not? Because your question is similar to this one: "What photography book will make me an expert photographer?" Think about it. A camera is a collection of tools. There's an f-stop, a focusable lens, a light meter, etc. You can learn how to use all those tools, and you still won't be a great photographer. To be great, you need to learn how to THINK in your camera's "language" (and in the "language" of photographic composition).

Here's another analogy: "What book on English grammar and composition will make me a great novelist?"

Photoshop is big collection of random tools. It's got everything AND the kitchen sink in it. Once you learn all of them, you're like a guy who knows how to use a hammer, saw, screwdriver and lathe. You'll wonder why you're still not a great carpenter.

I remember back when I finally had mastered most of Photoshop's tools. I would go online and read these amazing tutorials on how to create this or that effect. I'd finish them and I'd think, "Okay, I understand each step in the tutorial. I know all those tools. How come I couldn't have come up with that effect on my own?"

The problem was that I wasn't yet THINKING Photoshop. I was only able to get to that advanced level when I could lie in bed with my eyes closed and manipulate Photoshop's tools in my mind. I had to spend several years bathing in Photoshop before I got to that level. And when it happened, it happened on its own. Put I prepped for it by immersing myself in many learning tools -- and by constantly using the program.

If I were you, I'd buy several learning tools -- at least three. Buy a book (I like "Real World Photoshop") a training video (you can't beat those by "Total Training") and take a course (if you live in a city they're in, check out Future Media Concepts -- note: I used to work for them).

The goal is to get Photoshop training into your brain in as many ways as possible. Redundancy of information is a GOOD thing.
posted by grumblebee at 9:40 AM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I've found Lynda.com to be an excellent source for video tutorials for all manner of software. I haven't tried their Photoshop stuff, but if it's anywhere near as excellent as their AfterEffects training you're in good hands. I think it's 30$ a month to watch the videos, and a little more if you want to download their program files to follow along with.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:18 AM on August 1, 2008

Seconding the lynda.com ref, and adding Kelby Training's online video courses, with a similar subscription deal. For my money, video software training trumps book training big-time for overall speed and instant getting-it.

I've watched a TON of these videos, plus many of these, which focus on rendering, drawing and painting with PS. (You can rent them here), along with most of the Total Training courses.

Obviously, this is an overwhelming list, and there's a TON of redundancy. The main thing I caught on to watching these was that there's basically overview-type courses (learn all functions, menu by menu; TTraining stuff is classic example, plus may of the lynda courses) and watch-an-expert-at-work-type courses. You'll no doubt benefit from one or two of the former, but the gold is in the latter if you really want to become expert, because it's here that you see the stuff that you never imagined the menu items could be used to do, and don't see in the overview classes. The Gnomon disks are all in this category, but they won't do much for you unless you want to do digital painting. (Totally fascinating, though, to watch PS being used this way; you'd NEVER suspect it could be done if all you watched were the photo-manipulation courses...)

My favorite Expert-type video courses/teachers for photo manipulation:

Versace and Caponigro at Kelby and Orwig at lynda (I'd say START with this guy's Photoshop CS3 for Photographers; excellent!) for the pure photographer's POV. The first two at Kelby are quite advanced, so watch some basics first, such as Orwig, or Kelby himself: also called Photoshop CS3 For Photographers; watching BOTH would be an excellent plan.

Margolis at Kelby for color correction and for the print production POV. McClelland at lynda is good, too. His Photoshop CS3 Channels & Masks: The Essentials IS essential. Great stuff; sort of half overview, half expert in approach. I'd recommend to watch this right after the Orwig one (which I found an amazing eye-opener after watching way too many overview courses).

Photoshop CS Power Shortcuts at lynda is really useful, too, despite not using CS3. In fact, there's a lot of great stuff in the lynda back catalog on PS, if you want more on creating digital imagery, as opposed to photo manipulation; esp. check out Bruce Heavin's and Bert Monroy's courses. Bert also has an excellent free series here.

Yeah, redundancy of info IS required when you're learning, but an amazing thing about PS, once you get the basics that ALL users need to know, is how differently the experts use it to do their stuff.

Have fun...
posted by dpcoffin at 12:58 PM on August 1, 2008

(grumblebee's right, of course: watching—or reading—experts won't make you an expert. But spend a month watching the courses I mentioned, and trying out what you see them do, and you sure won't be a beginner any more.)
posted by dpcoffin at 1:05 PM on August 1, 2008

Try searching YouTube for "You Suck At Photoshop". I'm serious. :)

It's a series of tongue-in-cheek tutorial videos that are quite informative.
posted by Citrus at 8:18 AM on August 4, 2008

Response by poster: Just to update this, I've so far found Lynda.com to be extremely helpful and am going to use it to learn some other software programs as well.
posted by Ringo at 6:18 AM on August 5, 2008

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