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Tim Johnson reviews Adobe Photoshop Tips & Tricks from Total Training

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Tim Johnson reviews Adobe Photoshop Tips & Tricks from Total Training
A Creative COW Training Product Review

Tim Johnson reviews Adobe Photoshop Tips & Tricks from Total Training

Tim Johnson Tim Johnson
Salt Lake City, Utah

© 2004 Tim Johnson and CreativeCOW.net. All rights are reserved.


Article Focus:
Tim Johnson takes a look at Adobe Photoshop Tips & Tricks from Total Training and concludes "...this training will more than likely pay for itself within the first 20 minutes of viewing." Read on to find out why Tim gives this training set a 5-COW rating!



This is a training CD designed to explain features and create several high-end effects in Adobe Photoshop CS.  This is for newcomers and veterans alike.

If you are new to Photoshop, this series will help you become acquainted with many of the tools and effects.  If you are a Photoshop veteran, this will add a few tricks to your aresenal.



Total Training's Adobe Photoshop Tips & Tricks is a single disc that comes with eight lessons and several images to load up that and follow along with in Photoshop, as you go through the training offered in this very useful disc.

Before I start, however, I'll be the first to admit that I don't do a whole lot of work in Photoshop.  I do have Photoshop CS, but I was very interested in finding out if a $49 product had any useful info that I could use.  I was very surprised with what I found out.

Adobe Photoshop Tricks
This training is not "video-only," but rather an html-based window that allows you the option of seeing all lessons and subtopics (to the right,) Total Training info (bottom right,) and other things, or simply clicking on the video clip (left center) to fill the window with the clip.

Format

Adobe Photoshop Tips & Tricks is not a full-screen, MPEG-2 video training DVD like some of the other offerings from Total Training.  It is a Quicktime-based html kind of setup on a regular CD.  When you insert the disc, a menu comes up to guide you through a quick install process. From here you can download the training images to your computer, install the actual program (about 12mb), or even get pointed to Apple's website for the required Quicktime 5.0.2 or above if you don't have it yet. With everything in place, you then click on the 'Start Training' button. (You don't need to run the install each time you pop the disc in.  If you return to the training a few days later, just proceed directly to the 'Start Training' button.)

I think this html approach (as opposed to a video-only approach) was a good move on Total Training's part. You can still enlarge the video clip within the application to fill the entire window, or you can leave the clip in its default position that allows you to see other chapter headings and Total Training information. I found that if you have a dual monitor setup, you can open the Total Training window on one, Photoshop on the other, and follow along the training without having to stop or ALT + Tab between applications.  

Steve Holmes is a frequent speaker and lecturer at major digital media events, demonstrating software and design techniques for web content authoring.

What's in here?

Steve Holmes, the seasoned host of many of Total Training's products, does an excellent job here in explaining in-depth Photoshop procedures that are easy for the lay user to understand.  In the first section (one of eight), he shows you how to build an image of objects falling from the sky from a ground perspective.  In the process, we are introduced to horizontal and vertical guides, feathering masks, blur effects, simulating depth of field and motion blur, creating perspective, creating video scan lines, various tools, layer blending, layer styles, and layer masks. 

This is a typical project in this series—using many different tools to achieve a realistic effect in a real-world project.  It's easy to see how these same tools and effects can be extremely useful in your own work.

Some other areas covered throughout the Photoshop Tips & Tricks series include:  destructive/non-destructive painting, working inside an alpha channel, blending layers, vector paths, gradients, painting with layer styles, textures, creating brushes, liquify, displacement maps, shadow and lighting effects, creating marble/chrome/ice effects, channel selection, advanced grayscale and color conversions, and much more.

Photoshop tips
Adobe Photoshop Tips & Tricks contains a lesson on how to "distress" text via effects, alpha channels, and layer tools.
One section I found very useful shows us how to take generated text and make it look like it was aged into the side of a building.  We are shown how to make custom 'distress' marks on an alpha channel, apply those to the text, then use the layer tools to further 'sell' the look.  Very cool.

Another section in the training that I liked shows how to achieve a sort of liquid metallic look to text or graphics.  Steve steps through the layer options one-by-one, showing how to create certain aspects of this one effect.  At the end of the section, not only did you know how to create a very cool effect, but Steve also shows how to save the several steps you just took five minutes to create into a single Photoshop 'style.'  You can now simply click on this style in its palette anytime in the future to quickly apply the same effect to other text or graphic elements you may have.

The term 'displacement map' can scare many people off with visions of wire meshes and myriads of options.  This, however, was simply explained and demonstrated in another one of the sections.  Steve takes two separate images—one of a logo and another of folded cloth—and then, through a displacement map, makes the logo appear to be printed on the cloth (with wrinkles and all.)  He points out several tools I didn't even know existed that made for a very convincing image.

Even to see Steve quickly move around the images by just using simple keyboard shortcuts (spacebar to pan image, CTRL +/- to zoom in and out, bracket keys to quickly size brushes, etc.) has made an immediate time-saving impact on my Photoshop work.  You can't help but come out of this training a better Photoshop artist.


"For $49, there MUST be some catch here..."

I'll have to admit.  I was a little skeptical about the price point, and also the fact that it was on a CD instead of a DVD.  I thought it would be something like a glorified 'teaser' with a few excerpts from a more detailed training series—some helpful info designed to whet your appetite for a bigger purchase. 

I was wrong.  Man, I scoured this CD looking for the 'catch.'  Well, I didn't 'catch' anything other than a boatload of helpful info and fresh ideas for my own production use.  The three hours worth of training on this one CD is a rock-solid investment in future work.  In this age of 'you-get-what-you-pay-for,' this product is a big exception.  Viewers of Photoshop Tips & Tricks will get far more than what they shell out.



Conclusion

This, in my opinion, is a no-brainer. For novices and professionals in both print and motion graphics alike, I'd suggest going directly to Total Training's website and purchasing this immediately. At $49, this training will more than likely pay for itself within the first 20 minutes of viewing. Even if it's no more than a refresher course on things you already know, this is money well spent. This is a five-cow product.





For more information about Total Training, you can visit their website or call (888) 368-6825.




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