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Brian M. Stoppee
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We're not new to Classroom in a Book (CIB). To the best of our knowledge, this is our 97th in the 16 years of the series. We go back to one of the very first, the Photoshop 4 edition of the one we are reviewing here. That's when everything you needed to know about becoming an Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) could be contained between the covers of one volume.
Illustrator was Adobe's first app, going back to 1987, followed by Photoshop, as Adobe's second app. Like Photoshop, the majority of the core apps in the Creative Cloud (CC) collection are in or about to be in the double digits of version numbering. We go back to one of the first copies of Photoshop 2.0 that Adobe ever shipped. Today, our studio uses just about every desktop app that CC offers.
To temper this review with even more candor, we're not strangers to the people at Adobe. We're Adobe Community Professionals (ACP). That's how this book's Art Director, Andrew Faulkner, and Designer, Elaine Gruenke, contacted Janet about including another one of her Photoshop paintings on page 308. The only way we know the name of the book's author, Brie Gyncild, is because it appears on page 390. Brie also writes another of the CIB's, After Effects.
That said, we have not always been complementary of previous CIB editions, especially the ones Brie writes. We've been educating creative professionals since 1981 and have authored 3 books, ourselves. When it comes to reviewing the work of other educators, for this business, we're tough customers. And, like many ACPs, we explore just about all significant educational materials for our industry.
We write these reviews as we go, so these things are more like a journal of ours. At this point, we have no idea what we'll think of it until we get to the finish line.
Before we go further, there's not supposed to be a DVD in the back of the book, anymore, an original CIB signature feature. CC apps get "dot releases." Photoshop CC, as delivered on June 18, is Photoshop (Ps) 14.0.0 (the "points" are the "dots"). Maybe by the time you read this Adobe will be delivering something like Ps 14.1. The CIB team remolded their own delivery vehicles. As Adobe releases significant features Adobe Press (Peachpit) will prove CIB to be a living series of books. New chapters and lesson materials will be delivered online
CH 1 - GETTING TO KNOW THE WORK AREA - One of our big complaints about Ps CS6 CIB was that it bored us. We'd been looking at many of the same visuals for many versions. The overly recycled photos were applicable the first time or two but they began to lack the inspiration which all CIBs were originally conceived to have. Attempting to teach technology, with step-by-step bone dry how-to projects, where the user merely drops down menus and locates submenus has proven to cause the audience to zone-out in 90 seconds (seriously). In the first chapter, the motivational images have made a welcome return. It's very current. If Ps long-timers like us can say, "I want to do that." any anxious Ps learner should be compelled to create cool projects.
CH 2 - BASIC PHOTO CORRECTIONS - There's probably next to no one who has even the smallest interest in digital image-making who is a 100% Photoshop newbie. So, "basic" in the title of this chapter may sound off-putting, but don't let it fool you. A few pages into this you get the sense that this isn't going to happen in baby steps. It's not a "Getting Started in Photoshop" book. The CIB behind the 11th full-version edition since the first Photoshop CIB clearly intends to challenge the reader. Lessons in every two page spread cannot be breezed through and some interesting side bars and extra credit pages are included. With fresh new samples, we get the sense that this book's team has stepped up their game and took on the extremely difficult task of reaching out to a broad range of Ps reader experience.
CH 3 - WORKING WITH SELECTIONS - If you have even an hour of background in Photoshop you've probably had to select some portion of an image. Admittedly, after you get the hang of the thing, it's not going to be easy to have many "OH WOW!" moments. This chapter has pretty much the same "just okay" lessons we've seen since CS5.
CH 4 - LAYER BASICS - We're not going to say that recycling a chapter is a bad thing. Layers came to Photoshop in version 3.0. The Ps team has been rising above the end user demand for making layers more powerful, while maintaining something of an app-to-app parody in layer usage. So, again, this is a CS5 reappearance, yet it's a challenging aspect of the lessons themselves which make this a must-do.
CH 5 - CORRECTING AND ENHANCING DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHS - This is a large and very intense chapter. If you have attempted to do the past 4 chapters in one fell swoop, take a break. You'll need at least 2 hours for this one. If you're not up to speed on ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) you might need more like 3 hours to carefully digest all that's here. Let us say that some may be critical that not all new ACR features are included, here. But, go back to our first chapter of this review. The days of a CIB covering all things Photoshop ended a very long time ago. This chapter is as chuck full of content as some heads can withstand without exploding!
CH 6 - MASKS AND CHANNELS - When we look at these lessons on masking, we remember how painful this used to be. This doesn't mean it's easy. The first 5 spreads might take you 30 minutes to run through at a marathon pace. If each spread takes at least 15 minutes a piece don't feel bad. This chapter just touches on the massive power of channels. If you want this book to provide you with a firm foundation to build upon, in channels, take this one slow.
CH 7 - TYPOGRAPHIC DESIGN - Unless you have done a page-by-page study of this chapter on type and that of the CS5 and CS6 editions, you'll think it's a pure recycle job. It's similar, but it's been improved and updated. There's probably a very limited market for a book devoted to nothing but type in Photoshop. Unless you work with it as much as we do, you'd miss that Adobe has made some terrific improvements in type with Ps CC. It's not mentioned anywhere in Adobe literature of the users manual. If adding text in Ps is in your workflow, we urge you to complete this chapter and then create some of your own extra credit activities.
CH 8 - VECTOR DRAWING TECHNIQUES - In the second paragraph of this review, we mentioned that Adobe got into the app business with Illustrator (Ai) and Photoshop followed. For years people said "Ai is for vector art; pixel-pushers use Ps." The Photoshop team messed up that rigid thinking with Ps CS6, when some great, much-needed vector tools were introduced. If all your Ps projects are void of using vector tools, you may not be working to your greatest potential. Don't blow off these lessons. Study them for at least 2 hours. We're pleased to see how well the CIB team recognized this in rebuilding this chapter and adding a great extra credit section which is only two pages but it hopefully motivates the reader to give it minimally another 30 minutes.
CH 9 - ADVANCED COMPOSITING - Our hands are raised in applause for the complete rewrite of the compositing chapter. It's a great example of how the need to learn these techniques has gone from a niche set of methodologies for the Ps masters to something very mainstream. These lessons do more than show you the bone-dry, how-to step-by-steps we mentioned earlier. The projects work to demonstrate how to bring together a variety of elements and get them all to transition smoothly, appearing that they very much belong together. It's a fun chapter. Set aside 2 hours and add at least another hour for creating your own extra credit.
CH 10 - EDITING VIDEO - A subscription to CC begs you to integrate work with one app into another one or two or three. There are so many fabulous things you can do with movies in Ps. It brings to the party elements no other CC app can provide. It's been nicely expanded in this volume. If you've never worked with video before, this is guaranteed to not be easy no matter how it's taught. Even some professional craft editors look at this Ps Timeline panel and think, "Huh?" Give this chapter 2 hours and you will have mastered the thing. Let us give you an extra credit of our own. While the Timeline panel is fresh in your mind, open a multi-layered project. In the lower left of the Timeline panel is a button to convert the panel to Convert to Frame Animation. Now you're ready to create GIF animations for websites. It's super useful.
CH 11 - PAINTING WITH THE MIXER BRUSH - Our studio began building a visual trademark for itself with Painter 1.0 better than 20 years ago. With the introduction of a great paint engine in the then freshly re-written 64-bit Photoshop CS5 we crossed the tracks. The Ps painting user interface (UI) isn't a friendly one. The UI confounds many. This chapter does an excellent job in getting the reader in a ready-to-work mode in short order. The meat of the lessons is only 15 pages. If you try to rush, you might complete the lessons but you'll never retain any of it. Create you own extra credit and give this a half day of playing around with painting.
CH 12 - WORKING WITH 3D IMAGES - Adobe added some terrific rendering power to Ps CC which they didn't get to in time for CS6. We have been trying to work with it for months and it always fighting with us. If this lesson gives you trouble, it's not your fault; it's not CIB's fault. It's a great lesson and the extra credit to animate is brilliant. If things don't work, don't let it drive you crazy.
CH 13 - PREPARING FILES FOR THE WEB - This a fabulous chapter for this team to include. It's changed quite a bit in this edition. The Bridge Web Gallery stuff is gone probably because of issues Adobe was internally battling on the AOM (Adobe Output Module). As of this writing, it's available as a manual download. Nevertheless, some much needed and often forgotten aspects of slicing and web image prep, which has disappeared from too many Ps learning materials, are found here.
CH 14 - PRODUCING AND PRINTING CONSISTENT COLOR - Another must-have aspect of Photoshop, which is rarely written about, is printing. To get it to work perfectly takes a little tweaking. One of the beauties of a lesson, which comes with print samples, is that you have a tried and tested method of making actual application of this learning to your own workflow.
CONCLUSION - The previous edition got a 4.5 stars from us. We're cranking this one up to 4.9. Some heavy-lifting still needs to happen before we can honestly say it wowed us beyond 5.0 stars. Still, this has to be the best overall Photoshop CC learning volume there is. Photoshop is a huge and easily intimidating app. By the time you have faithfully completed each lesson, you should have a great comfort level with Ps. That's an empowering experience to build upon.