Graphic Designer Photoshop Tips – The Best Way To Learn Photoshop

For anyone interested in earning money as a graphic designer, learning to use Photoshop is probably the essential expertise you will need to improve upon. If you build web sites, understanding how to use Adobe Photoshop will help you save a lot of money simply by doing images yourself as opposed to outsourcing.

Photoshop is the identified leader between graphics programs, and is the actual recognized footprint for producing and modifying images and photos on the computer. Adobe Photoshop is not only for specialist graphics and web designers — even hobbyists who take pleasure in editing artwork and enhancing digital photographs can obtain a great deal coming from learning to make use of Photoshop.

Something to be aware of though, is that learning how to use Photoshop does have a fairly steep learning curve. Although Adobe Photoshop includes a well designed and well thought out user interface, this program provides countless features, and just getting knowledgeable about them can take up some of your time. Brand new Photoshop users with previous knowledge of graphic design may not automatically understand the particular terminology and the tools employed for editing pictures within the software.

But there is some great news! Learning to utilize Photoshop doesn’t need to be challenging – many individuals are amazed at how quickly they are able to learn the fundamentals, with all the right instruction. Thankfully, there are many good education programs as well as tutorials which can really help get you started while you are understanding how to use Adobe Photoshop. Among these resources are a number of Photoshop tutorial sites, software that teaches the basic capabilities of Photoshop, and a wide variety of books that train different aspects of utilizing the program.

The top resource with regard to learning to utilize Photoshop that I’ve come across is PhotoshopRevealed. This top:rated program helps you understand quickly by utilizing very razor-sharp and easy to understand videos that show every essential function and also aspect of learning how to use Photoshop like a professional.

Learn from the ground-up – simply no familiarity with the application is necessary to begin learning to use Photoshop. Just about all toolbars, control keys, menus, and also settings are usually explained inside a simple, easy-to be able to-understand way, which means you won’t be unclear about what something is used for. These video tutorials were built to be enjoyable and active! The Adobe Photoshop instructors in the video tutorials are excited and make learning to use Adobe Photoshop exciting.

Best Image and Photo Editing Software Alternatives to Adobe Photoshop – My Reviews

“Photoshop” has gone beyond being merely a brand name to become a regular household word, a verb and a noun. However, Photoshop is really just a brand of fancy image editing software. Fancy, and expensive, image editing software. Adobe Illustrator is a standard vector graphics editor, and Adobe Photoshop is a standard photo editor for pretty much everything else. According to Adobe.com, Standard Adobe Photoshop (not the Extended Version) is $599 and Adobe Illustrator is $699. The Design Standard Suite is over $1,000. What are your options for photo editing software if you can’t afford Adobe Photoshop?

Below is a list of my favorite image editing software, including a couple of online photo editors:

1. IrfanView

Experience Level Required: Novice

Pros: Fast, compact, uses minimal resources, many features (even more with plugins installed), many easy keyboard shortcuts available, functions as a viewer as well as a basic image editor, batch conversions, slideshow creation, precise cropping, variety of screen capture options, handles tons of file types, straight forward and easy to use.

Cons: Does not seem to do background saves (file saving requires overwriting the previously saved version every time), photo edits apply to entire image even if only one area is selected.

My Review:

IrfanView is far and wide my absolute favorite image viewer/editor. It is not for advanced edits but IrfanView has many useful features for basic and somewhat advanced editing. It’s the most fast and efficient viewer I’ve seen or used, with the editing functionality that is lacking in many general image viewers. IrfanView is quick, compact, and not a resource hog. Rotating and flipping can be done with a single key.

IrfanView also offers a variety of screen capture options that prove very handy. The screen capture function gives you a choice of capture area (whole screen, current window, foreground area) as well as method of capture (timer, programmable hot-key). IrfanView gives you the option between capturing with or without the cursor. Screen capture and zoom are done with another tap of the key.

Editing in IrfanView is basic, but convenient. Rotate, flip, crop, brighten, sharpen, resize, simple bevels, saturation, hue, add text, etc. Basic editing is simple enough even for a novice to perform without reading a lengthy manual.

One of my favorite features is the crop tool. Unlike cropping in some Windows programs, IrfanView allows you to see the pixel size of the area you’ve selected. If you try to crop a selection and find out it’s still too large, the Resize/Resample function allows you to size it down to the exact proportions you want. Resize/Resample also offers some popular preset size options to help you make your decision. The Resample option allows you to resize images without losing the image quality.

A unique feature in IrfanView I use very frequently is IrfanView’s Batch Conversion/Batch Rename function. The Batch Conversion feature is invaluable for resizing multiple photos at once. Likewise, Batch Rename is great for organizing those large groups of camera-named images. IrfanView even an option to rename your converted files. This is exceptionally useful if you are trying to make a photo CD for someone and have folders full of high-resolution, 1MB+ sized images that need to be shrunk a bit.

All this packaged into one compact – FREE – little program

2. Inkscape

Experience Level Required: Intermediate to Advanced

Pros: Relatively easy to use, variety of in-depth editing features, supports a variety of input and output types including support for Adobe Illustrator.eps files, filters make professional looking edits with ease, many features are easily tweaked to accommodate your particular needs, many options for exporting bitmaps.

Cons: Some features are more technical than novices may be comfortable with (prior experience with Adobe Illustrator would likely be helpful), resource intensive program, viewing files at full size has to be done carefully to avoid locking up the program, cropping took some time to figure out.

My Review:

I’d like to start by saying that I’m still only a beginner with Inkscape. Yet despite of my lack of knowledge about vector graphic editors, and vector graphics in general, Inkscape is still a convenient and simple way to create professional, impressive looking logos and buttons with little technical expertise or knowledge of graphics editing software. The simplest way to do this is to use the text tool to type out what you want, choose a nice font, and then play around with the various filters until you get the effect you want.

One filter is nice, but multiple filters can make something even more impressive looking. The logo on my blog is a result of doing just that. The rainbow-swirled paint splash is actually the product of a square with a gradient and several different filters stacked on top of each other. You’d never know by looking at it that it started as a square (a gray square even, if I remember right). Working with text is pretty simple with Inkscape and you don’t need to rasterize it to use the filters.

Filters are in abundance. Options include the very basic (lighten, darken, sharpen, blur, etc), textures, colorize, “non-realistic 3D shaders,” overlays, materials, bevels, and more. Resizing and rotating individual components is a breeze, but cropping them can be a bit confusing. Cropping in Inkscape is actually called “clipping” and it doesn’t function exactly the same as most cropping tools. I had to conduct a Google search to figure it out, and even then I only found one or two sites that explained it in a way that made sense. I have re-posted it on my blog for your convenience.

You also have to watch your actual file sizes in Inkscape. If you work without setting the canvas size and go mostly freeform, you can end up with a very large image file without realizing it. If you’ve done this and try to zoom in, Inkscape’s performance reduces significantly, depending on your computer’s technical specs. It corrects itself well, but you may have to give it awhile.

The most advanced part of Inkscape is working with paths and nodes. Admittedly I am not experienced with paths and nodes yet. I have used them a little in experimentation, but for the most part I can’t give a good review on the usage of paths and nodes with Inkscape. Flattening layers is also something that I imagine is possible, but I have yet to figure it out exactly. That’s where the “Advanced” recommendation comes in. If you are comfortable using Adobe Illustrator, figuring out paths and nodes in Inkscape should be simple. I never got comfortable enough with Adobe Illustrator to have a definite opinion on the paths and nodes functions in Inkscape (and have not had a reason to use them much in Inkscape, either).

3. GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program)

Experience Level Required: Intermediate to Advanced

Pros: Great feature list, hover tips explain feature icons, supports a variety of input and output types including support for Adobe Photoshop.psd files, variety of filters for professional looking image edits, clean and efficient interface, generally faster load time than Adobe Photshop, many tweakable features for enhanced control, ability to easily reset defaults, supports a variety of keyboard shortcuts, results using GIMP are generally comparable to using Adobe Photoshop.

Cons: Lacks some features of Adobe Photoshop, certain functions take some getting used to, recreating some Adobe Photoshop type results may require additional steps.

My Review:

After familiarizing myself a bit with Adobe Photoshop, it took me a while to switch gears from Adobe Photoshop to GIMP, and a couple tools took me a little Google-searching to figure out. I can’t say it’s because GIMP is that hard to learn, but rather that I was frustrated and impatient.

Selection, crop, layers, filters, set the image size, etc. are all pretty easy. Gradient, fill (color and pattern options), clone, blur, smudge, airbrush, and various selection tools were also easy, but the clone and gradient tools took me some trial and error to figure out. The brush sizes also originally seemed to be lacking.

Once I experimented a little more, I was very pleasantly surprised with the ability to tweak the brush in a wide variety of ways. This helps greatly with pixel-by-pixel editing around curves and edges. You can tweak the hardness, opacity, angle, shape, aspect ratio and radius of the brush. GIMP even lets you add spikes and make uniquely shaped brushes. Editing the brush sizes and shapes proved to be an invaluable feature when using the clone tool to capture a very specific portion of an image. The brush editor allows you to create a brush up to a huge 1,000 pixels in size.

Another convenient feature of GIMP is the ability to open new images as layers, and open multiple images simultaneously. The locator icon (not sure its actual name) in the bottom right hand corner is also useful. If you zoom in too far on a given image and want to locate a specific portion, you can drag the cursor around the icon and go right to the desired spot in the image.

I didn’t find as many filter options in GIMP as I did in Inkscape, or maybe they just weren’t as cut-and-dry, but there are still a good range with many options. The real power to GIMP comes very similar to Adobe Photoshop. Layers and masks are allow you to create a wide variety of effects that are not necessarily built in.

Many of the realistic, elegant, or impressive effects can be created with layers. Just like using paths and nodes in Inkscape, layer and mask functions require a more advanced level of knowledge (layers and masks are present in Inkscape as well). You can use layers and masks to create more subtle effects than what I have had to use personally. Rays of sunlight, shiny and/or colored hair, realistic looking shadows and more can be created with these functions.

4. Pixlr – Online Photo Editing Software

Experience Level Required: Novice to Advanced

Pros: Offers 3 different types of editors – Pixlr O-Matic, Pixlr Express, and Pixlr Editor – ranging from novice level to advanced, creates beautiful photo effects without the hassle, allows you to save your files online, downloadable plug-in allows you to edit images “grabbed” off the web, variety of preset settings, lighting effects, frame effects, more advanced editing options available, allows you to edit images from anywhere, easy to use interface, many languages available, no registration required.

Cons: Pixlr Editor (advanced) and Pixlr Express (novice to intermediate) may run slowly when applying certain effects, functionality of Pixlr Editor is not as in-depth as GIMP or Adobe Photoshop, requires internet connection, may resize your original photo.

My Review:

Reviewing Pixlr is almost like reviewing 3 separate graphics editing software programs. I found and tested out Pixlr O-Matic first, which contains many preset settings for the photo style, then light effects on the photo, and finally a framed appearance around the photo. The photo styles all have interesting names, and some seem too unusual to be useful, such as having your entire photo in a double-vision appearance.

Using Pixlr O-Matic on a particular photo, I eventually decided on the “Melissa” setting, with a Vignette, and set the frame as “Cornered”. Combined, the three effects made the person in the photo stand out with a hazy, dark background and a torn appearance around the edges of the photo. All in all, it gave it an elegant, aged appearance and all in only three quick steps.

Pixlr Express offers the same image effects, but allows you to edit them some. It offers basic image editing functions (rotate, crop, etc) and breaks down some of its other effects that are combined in Pixlr O-Matic. While Pixlr O-Matic is extremely fast, Pixlr Express may take a little longer to apply some of the effects to your image. Pixlr Express is still good for the novice user as it is quick, easy and very self-explanatory.

Pixlr Editor on the other hand resembles an online version of GIMP or Adobe Photoshop. There is a toolbox, layers, brush options. advanced editing, and more. It is not nearly as robust as GIMP, but just as with Pixlr O-Matic and Pixlr Express, its presets make more advanced editing possible in fewer steps. You can edit the brush, layers, masks, etc and also use the filters and other basic image editor functions.

As with Pixlr Express, Pixlr Editor ran slowly when applying effects, since it is an online editor. When I was testing each version out, Pixlr O-Matic had no delay, Pixlr Express had a delay while applying some effects (not others), and Pixlr Editor got held up a few times trying to make edits or test out various effects. When all is said and done, Pixlr can make time-consuming work into child’s play.

The only issue I had with Pixlr was when it ended up shrinking my photo unexpectedly. It had been reduced in size by roughly 50%, maybe even more. I may have just overlooked an option to prevent that though, so I can’t say that it would happen every time.

5. Picnik – Online Photo Editing Software

Experience Level Required: Novice to Intermediate

Pros: Easy to use even for a novice, basic editing options, lots of filter effects; ability to create collages, calendars, and other professional looking photo-imprinted items; no registration required, doesn’t resize your photos by default, photos can be edited from any computer.

Cons: Many features and effects are not available unless you upgrade to a premium account, tweaking options may not be enough for advanced users, registered accounts only allow 5 photos to be saved.

My Review:

Aside from the landing page, Picnik looks and acts, in many ways, almost identical to Pixlr Express. The filter options are generally pretty similar, although Picnik has more framing effects. Some of the image effects are drastically different than those found in Pixlr Express. On the other hand, many fancy features require you to be a registered, paying user. Granted, registration doesn’t exactly require a month’s pay. Picnik’s premium features are advertised at a price of “as little as $2.08 a month”.

The feature list advertised (for Picnik Premium) sounds pretty robust, and the benefit is the additional features with the same ease of use. Picnik Premium includes more effects, collage styles, advanced editing tools, “stickers”, frames, and more. Picnik Premium also lets you work without ads, and offers touch-up tools (burn, dodge, etc aren’t included in Picnik by default), batch uploading, and special fonts. Prices start at $4.95 for one month, to $24.95 for 12 months (where the “$2.08 per month” pricing comes in). $19.95 for 6 months, if you want to get half a year less for the cost of one extra month. The 6 month plan almost sounds like an insult.

$25 a year isn’t a lot if you’re a novice user wanting to do a lot of photo edits. If you have more advanced skills, it may be worth it to you to minimize the amount of time you spend editing any one photo. Then again, if you are well versed in photo editing software, you may find Picnik’s features to be too constrained and prefer more control over your images.

Overall, the basic free version of Picnik is an incredibly useful tool that anyone could use. If you don’t want to register at all, you don’t have to. You couldn’t save your edited photos and edit history in Picnik, but you can always save your originals in one folder and then download your edited photos in another to maintain backups.

So which graphics editing software is really the best? You’ll have to decide for yourself. Each of the ones I’ve listed (with the exception of Pixlr [Express] and Picnik [Free Version]) have their own defined purpose, and they all have their own unique qualities.

The best image editing software for you depends on your expertise, the amount of time you are comfortable spending, how often you’ll need it, and what you’ll typically use it for. Try each one and decide for yourself. Or better yet – use them all.

Selling Your Freelance Photos Online – Finding a Good Photo Editing Alternative to Photoshop

One of the most important resources a freelance digital photographer can have is a digital editing program like Photoshop. If you are selling your photos online, it definitely helps to edit your photos to a professional quality. If it’s just altering your color scheme, fixing lighting or adding filters, it can all be done by using a program such as Photoshop. A big problem that I get in my inbox from freelance digital photographers is how expensive Adobe Photoshop is for the newest version. If you don’t know, Adobe Photoshop is around $500.00, and although it is a great professional tool, it can be a little absurd and superfluous to have so many tools that aren’t going to be used. You may just want a digital editing program to fix slight changes and aren’t really going to be using the tools for graphic design. You need to find an alternative program that won’t send your wallet to the cleaners.

Your options may be slightly limited, as far as quality and robust digital editing software goes. But there are tons of different options that cut the cost way down. An option that has been getting more popular but can be considered a little bit too gimmicky and not professional enough is online based editing (web based editing). This offers you some basic editing options and a few clever online ideas but falls way short of an Adobe product. What an online based editing program lets you do is; edit everything from the internet without downloading a program. Check out the link at the bottom to see a complete list of sites where you can try out these programs. They are usually free and are very easy to use, but as I said before, they are limited.

If you don’t mind spending some money, then you can get a more basic version of Photoshop called Elements. It’s also by Adobe, and offers you the most comprehensive tools that you can get for the money. This would be your best second option if you are a freelance digital photographer because, it is great for beginners and veterans trying to sell their photos online. Obviously the main downside is that you are still going to be spending a little bit of money. The program cost around $90.00. Still, if you think you want to sell your digital photos to buyers online and you’re in for the long haul, you probably can invest under $100.00 for picture perfectness. You can find the program on Adobe’s site.

Lastly, the only option you have left is to get a find a program online that you can download for free and use whenever you want. These programs are great for beginners, they don’t offer as little as the web based programs and don’t offer as much as Elements or Photoshop would, but still get the job done. The main attraction these programs have is their cost, they are usually free. The downside once again is, they lack a lot of the more professional tools and they don’t have the greatest user friendly interfaces. Some of these programs are a little bit buggy, meaning, they might not work with your hardware, or have they’ll have problems saving files and such. Also, you need to check if they can run on a Mac, if you do indeed own a Mac. You can find a list of the program descriptions and links at the bottom of this page.

There are your Photoshop alternatives, you might need to do some research to find which one best suites you, but I don’t recommend going without any digital editing software. Buyers want to purchase the utmost quality that sometimes your digital camera can’t always master. Read some of my other tutorials to find out more on picture editing.