Two Different Photoshop 7 Books
Book Review

Using Adobe Photoshop 7
By Peter Bauer and Jeff Foster

Que Publishing
928 pages, 8 in color
CD included with supporting files and samples
ISBN 0-7897-2760-9

Photoshop is an enormously complex program by anyone’s standards. To attempt to cover it all in one book is no small feat. Even with 928 pages of text and illustrations it is impossible, even foolhardy, to think that the creative potential of this software can be fully exposed.

The authors readily acknowledge this obstacle and candidly admit that their work is not for the Photoshop novice, and it wonÕt make anyone an expert. Rather, it is intended to present a “broad brush” (no pun intended) summary of the myriad of tools available with explanations that assume a working knowledge of the graphic design business.

This is an admirable approach because it’s hard to imagine a complete neophyte picking up Using Adobe Photoshop 7 and wading through its entirety without some serious motivational fatigue. And this is one of the book’s strength: freedom to explain without Dick and Jane Reader constraints.

Yet, to anyone with experience in computerized image editing, there will be areas in the book that are redundant or skimmed over too thinly. The degree of redundancy will be a function of the overall level of experience of the reader. Nevertheless, the book is an excellent summary of everything Photoshop has to offer with explanations and illustrations that are well presented and easy to follow, for the most part.

This title lacks the personality of, say, a book by Deke McClelland, and some of the graphics are pretty mundane, but I found it a great reference tool and refresher. Most of us who have had no formal Photoshop education tend to focus only on what the program can do relative to our isolated tasks, and we remain ignorant of so much of what we’ve paid for.

By going through Using Adobe Photoshop 7, page by page, I discovered a lot I should have already known that would have made life easier over the past couple of years. So this is another strength of the book, being designed and created for the more experienced readership ensures that no menu item remains unused, if we just spend a few hours going through the pages from cover to cover and then zeroing in on particular areas of interest.

The authors are highly qualified professionals with excellent credentials. The material is well presented with numerous graphical examples. Color examples for Chapters 1- 18 are contained in the middle of the book (curiously, there are no color samples for the remaining chapters). The accompanying CD contains all the image files used in the book in two compressed files that extract to about 90MB each.

I would prefer that they not be compressed; in order to facilitate browsing, but it’s a helpful feature to be able to take an image right in to Photoshop rather than referring to a printed page. The CD contains about 250MB of demo ware (which explains why the example files had to be compressed) many of which are touted as capable of doing certain tasks better than Photoshop.

This is a bit of an irritation after recalling the cost of the Photoshop application, but, still, the demos offer other resources that may be useful. The authors also mention many Web sites where additional Photoshop resources (actions, filters, shapes, etc.) can be found.

In summary I would recommend this book as a good overall source of information to intermediate and even novice users who want a comprehensive summary of what Photoshop 7 can do in a concise and well-written manner.

MacMice Rating: 3.5 out of 5, depending on reader experience and requirements

Mastering Artistic Design Photoshop 7
By Kyonung-hoon Lee and Dong-mi Kim

Muska & Lipman Publishing
359 pages in full color
CD included with supporting files and samples
ISBN 1-929685-70-X

No one would argue that the best way to learn Photoshop or anything, for that matter, is through a hands on approach. Mastering Artistic Design is another good case in point. The book is a compilation of 17 projects that takes the reader step by step through the creation of an artistic design. Each step is usually accompanied by a color image and, occasionally, a menu screen shot which visually describes the intended effect of the step.

At the beginning of every chapter is an elaborate diagram of how the artwork is structured, layer-by-layer. A CD comes with the book with individual subdirectories containing the component source files required to complete the projects. Tutorials are completed by opening the source files and adding them to the layered image. Each step describes what effect to apply and the result is instantly observable on screen.

The authors have gone to great lengths to make the computerized creative process easy to visualize and understand. For the most part, the narrative descriptions and explanations are clear and easy to understand. There are some pretty interesting effects, with various blending modes, opacity, filters and the like. This resource with literally hundreds of effects can be observed and mentally bookmarked for future use in one’s own projects.

The book is not without flaws. First, it’s a very tedious to get through a project, and there are some minor mistakes and procedures that just won’t work. For example, a filter wouldn’t work on a source file (was grayed out) – wasn’t a big deal to convert the file to another format so that the filter would work – but it was a stumbling block. Another irritation was the requirement to isolate images from the background of the source files.

This was frequently a laborious project that just slowed me down. How hard would it be to have the image selections saved as channels in the original source file? I stress that these are relatively minor irritations that would be sufficient to discourage some readers.

The biggest problem I had with the book was relating to the artwork itself. Call me crude and unsophisticated, but I found many of the project images spooky and, in some cases, downright scary. Granted, there were many opportunities to apply great effects – maybe that’s why they were used. However, part of the motivation in creating graphic art is the intrigue and interest in the finished product – I found that lacking. There are other hands on tutorials, which I would use instead.

Mastering Artistic Design is a comprehensive compilation of artistic expressions that allow the reader to recreate step by step some interesting effects. The artwork is different and hard (for me) to relate to. Project creation can be tedious as well. For these reasons, I would give this book 3 stars with a limited recommendation to intermediates and above looking for resources and ideas for a more modern art form.

MacMice Rating: 3 out of 5

Wynne Stevens

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