How To Learn Photoshop

I find that a lot of people who want to learn how to use Photoshop effectively often have no idea where to even begin. Adobe Photoshop is a staggeringly large application that has been in the slow-cook refinement process for decades now. At first glance, Photoshop seems like a daunting behemoth and it’s easy to feel intimidated or not attempt to tackle the program at all.

The other day it crossed my mind that I’ve been using Photoshop for about five years now. I started using Photoshop in early 2009 and knew nothing about what I was doing but I had already seen what some artists and professionals could accomplish using the right tools. Since then I have learned so much about Photoshop that I feel very fluid with it now, it’s one of the few applications that I feel has reached or has become very close to transparent in my workflow. What I mean by that is, and I believe this to be the intention of Adobe and pretty much all other software companies, is that the program is there to serve you, not to make things harder. Once you can get passed learning the software you can just create. Photoshop becomes fun when you are working with the tools instead of against them and the point of this blog post is to layout some resources to help get you there.

One thing I’d like to state very clearly. Get a Wacom tablet as soon as you can or as soon as you start using Photoshop. Photoshop was built for use with tablets and using one has made my Photoshop work a lot cleaner, a lot faster and a lot more fun.

1. Like most beginners in Photoshop, I started learning by watching YouTube videos. This is a great way to start learning tips and tricks quickly but be warned, YouTube has a large variety of self-proclaimed Photoshop gurus who have a range of skill levels. Not everyone on YouTube is a great teacher or a great Photoshopper.

2. Phlearn is probably the best Photoshop and Photography resource I have found on the web. Ever. Aaron Nace is the front man of this company, he creates and teaches all the new content which allows for a nice high-quality, consistent teaching format. This is something that is extremely hard to find. This website has been my go-to for Photoshop for about the past year. New tutorials are created all the time for beginners and even the very advanced Photoshop users.

3. I also want to take some time to mention a few good reads to learn Photoshop. I’m a big advocate of not learning everything you know from one place and there are tons of great books on Photoshop to round out your skill set. I’ll list these next few books in a specific order that I would recommend if you are just starting out.

Adobe Photoshop CS6: Classroom in a Book. This is a great book to read if you want to go through some exercises and start to become familiar with some of the most frequently used tools and default shortcuts. A couple of times I’ve been asked why I even bothered to read books when I could “just use the internet” to learn new things. The internet is a great resource but only if I know what I’m looking for. If I buy a book on a subject and read it cover to cover I will most likely learn a lot about the subject matter but I might also learn about something I would never have thought to search for on the web.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5: I’m recommending this book for the same reasons as above. Get these both at the same time if you can.

Photoshop Masking & Compositing (2nd edition): This book is a great break down of all the tools you would normally for Masking & Compositing. Layers, selections, adjustments, channels, that type of thing. I enjoyed this book a lot because it’s a closer look at a very specific set of tools in Photoshop, not everything all at once. This is a great book to get started in photo manipulation and combining multiple photos into one final composite.

Photoshop Restoration & Retouching (3rd edition): This book is by Katrin Eismann, the same author as the previous book so there is the same in-depth descriptions and teaching style of the compositing book. This book focuses on all the retouching tools and brushes.

That about wraps it up for this post. Now that I’m looking at it, I don’t know why learning Photoshop was such a hard thing to start so many years ago. I guess it’s just that a lot of these resources didn’t exist when I started using Photoshop.


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