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Photoshop 6.0 In Depth
Author: David Xenakis and Benjamin Levisay
Publisher: Coriolis
ISBN: 1-57610-788-4
Purchasing: [Amazon.Com
] [Fatbrain.Com] - RRP US$59.99
Reviewed: 24th November 2001

Front Cover Shot:

Overview

Photoshop has been the standard 2D graphics manipulation tool for many, many years. Whilst it's not my favourite tool for ALL 2D graphics work, I do know many (professional/semi-professional) artists who use photoshop, and only photoshop. I have been using the software since version 4, and have steadily gotten better and better at using it - even though I use it for fairly simple tasks mostly; yet I am also in a position to see how it has progressed across the versions. Each new version has seen a fair handful of new features, new tools, new effects - and with version 6.0 we have a new interface to play around with.

To get to professional standards you're going to need a tutor of some kind - my local art college runs courses primarily on the usage of photoshop, and there are 100's of books on the subject. If you need to be manipulating photos, textures and game media then you'll need to get good at this piece of software! And this book is a very good place to start from...

So why is photoshop important to you? well, if you're doing ANY multimedia graphics programming then you will need some top-quality artwork to show off your programming skills. For realistic scenes, a digital camera/scanner and photoshop is all you need. Check out "3D Game Art f/x and Design" by Luke Ahearn (Reviewed here) for a great guide on using photoshop to build game-quality artwork.

How to be an artist.

As you will probably be aware, it takes years of practise, and a huge amount of skill to become a good artist. No book will teach you how to be an artist; however, you do need a book to teach you how to use your tools - what you create with those tools is for you to work on... This book comes at a healthy 860 pages - and it litterally does cover pretty much every tool in the book. If you've used photoshop before (or if you use it for the first time) then it will become clear very quickly that it easily justifies a book of this size.

The other important aspect is the language - layers, stroking, filtering, brushes, warping, rasterizing, channels - are all important to the learning process, and one of the other books I own on photoshop 6 only lightly skims over this topic, which I really didn't like. But this book has good coverage of the language and ideas behind them as and when they are needed. Albeit a little difficult to use as a dictionary like reference.

In Depth

If you have read my previous reviews of the 3D-Studio-Max-in-depth series then you will be aware that I like the formatting of the In Depth series, and this is still very evident in this book. For those of you who didn't read the other review, or just plain forgot: The "In Depth" series contrasts explanation and theory with step-by-step excercises very nicely, and makes for a natural progression through the chapters and the whole book in general.

There are 11 chapters in the actual book, with an extra 3 "eChapters" on the CD, which is quite a nice touch that you dont often see with this sort of book. The chapters are fairly lengthy - the detailed contents list takes up a whole 10 pages (of relatively small print). The chapters work in a good order as well - starting with the fairly simple need-to-know stuff, upto the complicated professional level later on. The first 3 chapters deal with the simple stuff - using the program, the basic tools, and getting some images to play with (scanning), and it then works on to text, pens, channels and filters in order.

Techie

There are some good technical sections in the book - being a bit of a techie myself I quite like this touch. One box-out explains how the history system and scratch disk works, which I wasn't ever sure about before hand - but now that I do know how it works its quite an interesting piece of knowledge to have. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that the authors were taking under-the-table bribes from the major RAM suppliers around the world - there are several mentions at the beginning of the book that tell you to "Get More RAM ... Get More RAM ... Get More RAM". Whilst there is a perfectly good reason for this, I'm still sure they were taking bribes =)

Too Large

The book is a little too cumbersome for reference use in my opinion. It is a great learning book - one that you can spend the first couple of months (or more) with it by your side. But after you have learnt most of the lessons, and most of the techniques you will find this book a little hard to jump around quickly to find what you want... "aah! how do I do that again..." can see you spending 5 minutes searching for the right section, then reading a rather lenghy piece of text in order to find out something simple like what filter does what you want / what that parameter is used for.

That, however, isn't a huge weakness, as it is a testament to the depth that this book goes to when teaching you the tips and tricks you need.

The Program

As I've already said - photoshop is the industry standard piece of software for 2D artwork, and for very good reasons. However, this allows Adobe (its creators) to ask almost as much as they want for the software - upto $500 last time I checked. Therefore, it may well be better to invest in the cheaper rival paint-shop-pro, which is my other favourite tool, and retails for about a fifth of the price (luckily enough, there is another book from Coriolis that covers PSP7).

In Summary

If you want to use this program seriously, then you need a good book to teach you - online tutorials are great, but wont get you as far as a good book. I own 3 (including this one) books on photoshop 5/6 and as far as the 2 photoshop 6.0 books go, this is by far my favourite.

Good Things Bad Things
• Well structured chapters and sections. • Too bulky to be a long-term easy-access reference resource.
• Well designed chapters - a good mix of theory and practise • Never very brief - learning each section requires some serious reading.
• lots and lots of pictures to show effects and processes (albeit mostly in greyscale). • A bit more expensive than some of its rival publications.
• Useful CDs with plugins, images and eChapters
• Goes into considerable depth in all areas.

 

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