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Adobe Photoshop CS6 Essentials

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  • Chapter 1

    Design BasicsThe best photographers, graphic designers, and creative thinkers use specific technical knowledge to manipulate images without ever losing sight of basic composition principles. So before you dive into the fascinating world of Photoshop, it behooves you to study the fundamentals of design and fully understand the process of capturing digital images with digital cameras and scanners.

    Understanding the design process

    Learning composition principles

    Understanding your rights to use images

    Photography and scanning primer

    Understanding the Design processDesign isnt some esoteric process that only those who have graduated from the most exclusive schools can understand. Most of the design process is simply good common sense. Everyone working on a project should under-stand its fundamentals. With every project, from the smallest to the most complex, communication and collaboration skills are mission critical. By its very nature, the design of real-world objects necessitates images (and pos-sibly drawings or models) to communicate visual information. So the ability to effectively create and present visual ideas is a must for those involved in design. Finally, design is a process that can take on a life of its own.

    Understanding project FundamentalsEvery project is fundamentally a story. When researching any story, it is helpful to employ the maxim of Five Ws (and one H). Let the answers to


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  • 2 C h a p t e r 1 D e s i g n B a s i c s

    these six questions inform your concepts of what the project will fundamentally be about, something I call a project plan.

    Why? Why is the project being undertaken? Discuss the clients mission state-ment to make certain everyone on the team understands what you are all trying to accomplish. Evaluate how the proposed project meets the clients goals and determine the objective of the project as it pertains to audience demographics, such as age, occupation, gender, education, residence, and ethnicity.

    how? How will you and/or your team create the project deliverables? How will responsibilities be divided among different individuals to take best advantage of each team members professional strengths?

    What? What are the project deliverables? List which types of documents, images, drawings, models, videos, and/or printed matter that need to eventu-ally be delivered to the client. What tasks will need to be undertaken to pro-duce these deliverables?

    Who? Who will be involved and what are their responsibilities within the project? Gather each persons contact information and store it in a centralized address database that is shared with all project members. Delineate each team members anticipated responsibilities within the project.

    When? When do project milestones occur in time? Develop a timeline that graphically illustrates anticipated milestones (significant events) in the life of the project. Assign one team member, usually the project manager, with the task of monitoring all team members progress in achieving milestones on the timeline.

    Where? Where is the project located? If team members work on the project from distributed locations, then work out secure file transfer details to enable electronic collaboration. For example, distribute usernames and passwords to an FTP site or to a third-party file hosting service. If the project deliverables include printed matter, communicate with print professionals to obtain specific technical requirements for high-quality results. If the project is a building, study the larger context of the built and natural environments.

    Once you have developed a project plan by answering all of the preceding ques-tions, the next step is to develop a project plan. The plan usually takes the form of a task list, which will identify the actors, their tasks, and the time in which they are slated to perform their roles. The project plan will alleviate common problems relating to methodology, miscommunications, feature creep, and bud-get overruns.

    Figure 1.1 shows an example project plan, which was created using a spread-sheet program.

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  • U n d e r s t a n d i n g t h e D e s i g n P r o c e s s 3

    F i g U r e 1 . 1 Sample project plan

    Collaborating with OthersMost design is the product of collaboration with other people. Even if you design something entirely by yourself, you must eventually present it to your client, your audience, or to the world at large. This reality implies a relationship between yourself and others.

    Effective communication is the key to building healthy relationships. However, conflict often brews because of misunderstandings arising from the lack of effec-tive communication between related parties working on a project.

    The keys to effective communication include listening, keeping an open mind, being honest, and getting to the point as efficiently and tactfully as possible. These keys help in business and in life!

    The keys to effective communication are all common sense, but its remarkable how many projects end in litigation because one or more of these keys werent respected. Consciously studying communication should be a part of every team members education. Here are a few more tips for professional collaboration:

    Reply to correspondence or requests for information promptly.

    If you dont understand something, dont be afraid to say so.

    Assume responsibility for your own action or lack of action.

    Always maintain a courteous professional tone.

    presenting imagesWhen preparing for a face-to-face client meeting, consider creating high-quality prints for a formal presentation or showing images onscreen for a more infor-mal presentation.

    Photoshop has a feature called layer comps (see Chapter 9, Using Layer Styles and Comps) that simplify the presentation of design variations. There is a script youll learn about in Chapter 9 that is used to convert layer comps into individual files.


    The project plan can easily be converted into a time sheet used to track the actual hours spent on tasks for each client. Time sheets can be used for client billing.


    For onscreen pre-sentation within Photoshop, open the files produced from the layer comps, enter full screen mode, and press Ctrl+Tab to advance through the images.


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  • 4 C h a p t e r 1 D e s i g n B a s i c s

    Adobe Bridge is a separate program that comes with Photoshop (see Chapter12, Developing Photos). As an alternative method of presenting images, you can use Bridge to create an onscreen slide show complete with a soundtrack or output a web gallery for online presentation on a website.

    participating in the Design processThe design process can perhaps best be visualized as a helix because this 3D shape combines the notion of forward progress through time with cycles of design revision (see Figure 1.2). The radius of the helix diminishes with height as you or your design team converges on final design solutions through time.


    Integrating client feedback

    Listening to client input


    Manipulating images




    Creating or capturing images

    F i g U r e 1 . 2 The design process can be visualized as a 3D helix.

    Every project is different, and complex projects with many actors can seem-ingly take on lives of their own. Every project, no matter the scale, is an opportunity to learn something new and refine your technical skills while strengthening your professional relationships.

    Learning Composition principlesSeasoned creative professionals have developed an eye for composition that informs their work and personal styles. We all know, or more accurately feel, beauty when we see and experience it. The key to learning how to see is to bring your con-scious attention to understanding what gives you aesthetic feelings.

    Learning how to see with an artists, designers, or photographers eye is largely an ineffable process that naturally grows and matures over many years.


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  • L e a r n i n g C o m p o s i t i o n P r i n c i p l e s 5

    Learning how to frame compositions and employ composition themes is a means of stimulating this process.

    Framing CompositionsPositioning and proportioning a frame around a subject is one of the most powerful tools you have in creating art. Consider filling the frame with the most intriguing part of the picture to generate interest. Sometimes this means zoom-ing in or moving closer to the subject. Rotating the frame also adds a dynamic tension that can be compelling (see Figure 1.3).

    F i g U r e 1 . 3 Framing compositions is an art.

    Part of framing compositions is removing unwanted elements from the pic-ture. The easiest way to do this is in the cameras viewfinder or LCD screen at the time a photo is captured.

    When framing compositions, you should also consider the dimension of depth, which can be thought of as foreground, subject, and background. Dont include foreground or background elements at the expense of your subject. In landscapes, show more of the sky or ground according to which element youd like to accentuate. In portraiture, the rule of thumb is to show more of the foreground than the background or risk losing the viewers attention in compo-sitional depth. Leonardo da Vinci bends this rule in the most famous painting of all time by painting two different landscapes with slightly different viewpoint

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