Adobe Photoshop has long been considered essential software for graphic design. It is sold on its own, or as part of Adobe’s Creative Suite, which also includes Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, Dreamweaver, Acrobat Pro and several other tools. Photoshop’s primary functions include photo editing, website design, and the creation of elements for any type of project. It is also commonly used to create layouts for design, such as posters and business cards, although Illustrator or InDesign are often better for those tasks.
Photoshop is called Photoshop for a reason… it is an excellent tool for editing photos. If a designer is preparing a digital or scanned photograph for use in a project, whether it be a website, brochure, book design or packaging, the first step is often to bring it into Photoshop. Using a variety of tools within the software, a designer can:
- Crop photos
- Resize photos
- Adjust and correct colors
- Touch-up photos, such as “erasing” a blemish or removing a tear or fold
- Apply a large selection of filters such as “watercolor” for special effects and styles
- Optimize photos for the web by choosing file formats and reducing file size
- Save photos in a variety of formats for use in print projects
- Use their creativity to perform countless tasks
Photoshop is the preferred tool for many web designers. While it is capable of exporting HTML, it is often not used to code websites, but rather to design them before moving on to the coding stage. It is common to first design a flat, non-functioning website in Photoshop, and then take that design and create a functioning website using Dreamweaver, a CSS editor, by hand coding, or using a variety of software options. This is because it is easy to drag elements around the page, adjust colors and add elements without spending time on writing code that may just have to change later. Along with creating entire layouts in Photoshop, a designer can:
- Optimize graphics for use online
- Slice up graphics into a collection of images (such as for a button bar)
- Export multiples versions of graphics for mouse rollovers
- Design individual elements such as buttons or backgrounds
As mentioned above, software such as InDesign and Illustrator (among others) is ideal for layout, or desktop publishing. However, Photoshop is more than sufficient for doing this type of work. The Adobe Creative Suite is an expensive package, so many designers may start with Photoshop and expand later. Projects such as business cards, posters, postcards and flyers can be completed using Photoshop’s type tools and graphics editing capabilities. Many print shops will accept Photoshop files or at least a PDF, which can be exported out of the software. Larger projects such as books or multi-page brochures should be done in other programs.
The Adobe developers have spent years creating the Photoshop tools and interface, which improve with each release. The ability to create custom paint brushes, add effects such as drop shadows, work with photos, and a wide variety of tools make Photoshop a great tool for creating original graphics. These graphics may stand-alone on their own, or they may be imported into other programs for use in any type of project. Once a designer masters the Photoshop tools, creativity and imagination determine what can be created.
At first glance, learning Photoshop can seem like an enormous task. The best way to learn is by practice, which can even mean making up projects to learn the various tools and tricks. Photoshop tutorials and books can also be extremely helpful. It is important to remember that tools can be learned one-by-one, and as needed, which will eventually lead to the mastering of the software.