Photoshop CS: Classroom in a Book
Posted: 17-Sep-2004

Mac Guild Grade

Distributed by: PeachPit Press


Reviewer: Lane Smith $45.00

Photoshop CS: Classroom in a Book
By Adobe Creative Team
ISBN: 0-321-19375-X
609 pages, $45 US (Includes CD-ROM)

What the Book is About
Photoshop CS: Classroom in a Book is the ultimate guide for anyone who wants to learn the popular graphics design program, Adobe Photoshop CS. The book uses hands-on tutorials as a teaching method and is laid out more as a lesson book than a manual. Photoshop CS: Classroom in a Book allows you to complete lessons at your own pace and gives you ideas and examples for real-life work. It starts with the most basic concepts, such as image types and tools, and gradually advances into more complicated techniques and object lessons. From Marquees to Vector Masks, Photoshop CS: Classroom in a book teaches this and more in easy-to-follow lessons and tutorials. 

Target Audience
Photoshop CS: Classroom in a Book is directed for those who own Adobe Photoshop CS for Mac or PC and those who have no experience, little experience, or know an average amount of Photoshop. Personally, I used the book to refresh my Photoshop know-how; learn things I might have missed, catch up on new features added in Photoshop CS, etc.. This book is also ideal for teachers and educators to use as a lesson manual. The book is extremely thorough and moves along gradually, so even those who haven't caught up to technology could use and understand this book.

What to Expect
First off, there should be a "General Surgeon's Warning" planted on the cover of this book: Do not expect to complete this book in under a month and still have a life. Photoshop CS: Classroom in a Book is a huge book. Do not expect the "tech humor" that is common with pop authors such as David Pogue or Michal Rubin. This is a more serious "hit the grindstone" learning manual.

Photoshop CS: Classroom in a Book is divided into 20 different 'lessons', each with a different themes, techniques, and several tutorials teaching the fundamentals of those themes. The first few lessons are easy enough and go into the most basic parts of Photoshop, such as the interface, tools, layers, and basic photo corrections. After the 5th lesson, the book suddenly speeds up and dives deeper into Photoshop, discussing channels, masks, painting techniques, and basic pen techniques. Lessons 10 thru 12 make up the icing of the entire book. Everything that can possibly help you add more "Wow" to your photos is found there. The last 9 lessons deal with printing, Adobe's ImageReady, and web graphics.

The book comes with a CD-ROM packed with every tutorial file needed to follow the lessons in the book. As an added bonus, the CD also includes the completed graphics representing what each lesson should result with. Also, Adobe was kind enough to include 34 free professional fonts in the CD, yours for the taking.

The value of a reference book increases when you use it on a regular basis, so a quick way to reference and look back through the material is essential. The authors of Photoshop: Classroom in a Book include review questions and answers covering the main topics at the end of each lesson, a 24-page index, and short sub-topics under each lesson in the table of contents. With this, reviewing and research is quick and easy.

Hands-on tutorials are a brilliant way to master any skill. With a typical user's manual that contains no tutorials, I end up thinking, "Okay, so now what am I supposed to do?" The tutorials give you the experience of using the knowledge you just gained, guiding you along the way, and helping you improve your skills. What excitement is lacking in the text, the authors make up for it by including interesting and exciting photos to work with.

Photoshop is a very diverse product by design; in creative arts, no two people will have the exact same techniques. In that respect, Photoshop CS: Classroom in a Book doesn't show you just one way of doing things, but guides you through several different techniques. I found this great because some of my former techniques required twice as much work as those mentioned in the book, so the book definitely helped me streamline my efficiency.

One thing that often annoys me is when a new version of a product is released that introduces a new feature, but does not provide enough explanation for me to take advantage of the feature. For example, in Photoshop CS, Adobe released a new feature called the File Browser. Previously, I thought this was nothing big and decided it was just a fancy way of File->Open. Photoshop CS: Classroom in a Book has an entire lesson dedicated to this new feature and others like it, and I became enlightened as to just how much of an advancement these new features really are.

Mac Guild Grade
A (Outstanding)

Final Words
In my opinion, Photoshop is one of the most amazing applications for the Macintosh. Photoshop can do pretty much anything you set your mind to do: from retouching priceless family photos to creating web comics. With the right amount of knowledge, the possibilities are endless. However, achieving that in-depth knowledge of Photoshop is no easy task. There are hundreds of online tutorials that teach you how to do various effects, and numerous costly classes and seminars offered by local colleges to further your expertise, but these methods eat up time and money. Photoshop CS: Classroom in a Book gives you a good inexpensive alternative for learning Photoshop CS in a single book, providing an in-depth look at the software, as well as quick reference material for learning specific tasks. The book is well-written, and takes you from the very basics and fundamentals of Photoshop to the advanced techniques and effects. Comprehensive hands-on tutorials guide you through each lesson. With Photoshop CS: Classroom in a Book, there is no reason for you not to be able to know and use Photoshop like an expert.