Warning: Before you begin reading this article and those to follow, be aware
that before long you will be skipping lunch to retouch photos. You will want
to reorganize all your dusty photo albums. You will find yourself being bombarded
with requests from family, friends, coworkers, and strangers to fix this photo
or make it look "artistic." You will be able to create posters, design
Christmas cards, and desktop publish your own newsletter. You will join the
thousands of other designers who religiously pay tribute to Control+Z or the
miracle of Edit-Undo.
While you may be looking around, asking, "who, me?" this fiction
can become a reality once you get sucked into design programs. Some of my friends
can sit for an hour just watching me add contrast and change colors in family
photos, saying with reverent awe, "Wow, I wish I could do that."
But you can. Graphics software is not difficult to learn, as long as it is
one step at a time. In fact, this is the way most designers learn the programs—by
tackling one project at a time and learning along the way. You're not going
to learn Adobe Photoshop overnight—but, you can do small projects
to learn how to crop photos, how to create a path, how to mask an object,
and what masking an object means.
Each month, this article will give insight and offer educational projects
to better understand such programs as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and
InDesign. While there is more design software out there, these three are
becoming the industry standard. Now available in the Adobe Creative Suite,
this software is rapidly replacing such programs as JASC Paint Shop Pro,
CorelDraw, and QuarkXPress/PageMaker, respectively.
Before we get into too much depth, let's understand the type of
programs we are dealing with.
Adobe Photoshop: Bitmap
A bitmap program breaks up the visual information into bits. If you've ever
seen an image with horrible resolution (low-quality images with low dots-per-inch
counts), you can see the image broken up into tiny little squares. When you
work in Photoshop, it is important to remember that you are changing, manipulating,
and selecting those pixels (bits). When you select what looks to be the border
of a desk, those are actual pixels, not a "line" as we think it appears.
Adobe Illustrator: Vector
On the flipside, a vector program deals primarily with lines. You can import
a bitmap file into a vector program, but you lose the ability to manipulate
those pixels. The image becomes a box. Same concept, except Illustrator
gives you more tools on the interface and a variety of ways to manipulate graphics
(filters, gradients, and transformation options).
Adobe InDesign: Layout
A newbie to the design scene, InDesign is the fusion of PageMaker and Quark
features into one dynamic, similar interface. Users of the older software will
find that for the most part, the transition is seamless—especially with Adobe's
new PageMaker edition of InDesign. New users will find it fairly simple to
use and excellent for incorporation of Illustrator and Photoshop files. It
even interfaces well with Microsoft word documents. This is the solution for
those who want to design advertisement, book, newsletter, magazine, and mailing
Each month I'll "assign" three projects, one for each program, and
point out tips and tricks along the way.
If you don't have these programs and want them, go to http://www.adobe.com/products/creativesuite/main.html
to order the Creative Suite for $999.99. The educational
at journeyed.com is currently $399.98, but they have had discounted sales
in the past.
If you don't have these programs, don't fret. Most other programs have similar
features. In fact, most digital cameras come with some sort of free photo-editing
software that has many of the same features as Photoshop. However, if you want
to get to the nitty gritty of design and want the full array of design options
at your feet, the Creative Suite is the way to go.
So, there you are. After TechTrax's summer break, get ready to rock and roll
with some serious software tutorials. If you want to get ahead of the class,
get your hands on some of the software and play around.
- Check out the toolboxes.
- Import a photo into Photoshop and play with some filters.
- Import a photo into Illustrator and try to trace it with the pen
tool (exasperating in the beginning, but worth the sweat and tears
in the end).
- Create a text box and import a photo in InDesign.
Oops, one more word. Macintosh. They
are pretty sleek and the screen resolution is nothing to sneeze at. They
have the capacity and the memory to run many large programs at once efficiently
and, *gasp*, without crashing—a novel concept, I know. However, for you die-hard
PC users out there, most software is available in Windows format as well
as Mac format. For you serious designers, though, you want to seriously consider
picking up an IMac or PowerBook.