Monday, September 9, 2013

New Header, Same Old Babble


So I finally took my first step into the Photoshop world. As I've pointed out at length in previous blogs (I mention this not only to express continuity with my other postings, but also to say that I blogged about it before it disappears for some strange reason), I decided that my classroom will be in the form of random tutorials that I find online. The benefits being that it's free, I can work on projects of my own choosing at my own pace and I have no one to answer to but myself. The drawbacks are that it's free, I can work on projects of my own choosing at my own pace and I have no one to answer to but myself. On one hand, not going to school for it and figuring out by myself counts as that ever-elusive "real world experience", right? On the other hand, there is a bit of a learning curve to this as with most things that one would encounter when first learning a new skill.

How steep? Let me try to explain. Anyone who's had years of experience under their belts, just zip it for a little bit, okay? While I welcome critiques I just wanted to write down how challenging this was for an old noob. Like you don't remember you're first time?

For the past month, I've been collecting Photoshop tutorials like a tourist collects seashells. Like some fat guy at an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet, I've been loading up on fonts and brushes and backgrounds and textures and anything else I can get my hands on. One of the first sites that I bookmarked was The Photoshop Lady. She has an always changing collection of tutorials and links to tutorials, one of which was this one:

SMASHING!
This is probably familiar to some people. The project was authored a few years ago by a young graphic designer by the name of Jacques Van Heerden. This project was on a short list that I chose out of about a hundred or so. This one stood out because of it's obvious drama and attention grabbing effects. Also the "Block" in the title also helped in my choice. That it claimed to be at a "beginner" level with a 45 minute expected completion time didn't hurt either. In an ideal world, I should have been finished in a hour, two hours tops. That is, if I knew what I was doing. This is what actually happened.



Where do I find the Blending Mode? What is a Vector Mask? Why isn't the Color Dodge working? How do I convert the finished product to a PDF file? These are simple questions that could easily be answered by anyone who knows their way around a Photoshop workspace. But to someone who just jumps in and wants to start working, they could very easily spend more time trying to locate the tools they need than actually using them. I could go into a rant on how the author is presuming that everyone knows what they're doing when they turn on Photoshop, but I've seen this happen before.

I like to cook, but I have an issue with cook books. I have a tidy little library of recipes that I like to use every once in a while. But there are times when I want to try something new like a re-imagined taco or Steak au Poivre or accomplishing an allegedly "Beginner" project in Photoshop. When I try a new recipe, I will normally stick to instruction once. After that, I cannot help but tweak; a recipe can only show you the way. It is up to you as the cook to adjust as you see fit. The problem is, whenever most recipes get transcribed into print, things do get lost; a missing ingredient or an important step. I see it over and over again, and it's bothersome. Sometimes I think it was a publishing error, but other times I believe it's the doing of the author. In some cases, I think they leave out information to keep the integrity of trade secrets. On a less diabolical level, it might be is something as simple as the author going through the motions of a favorite recipe for so long that they unconsciously skip steps. Like someone explaining how to make a PB&J but forgetting to mention that you need bread. What I'm trying to say is that details, although they may be tedious to a seasoned pro, are very important to a noob.

Not to say anything bad about the tutorial, because there was nothing wrong with it. Although it does presume that you know what you're doing to begin with. For example,

"...In this case I used MyriadBold, at a size of 70pt and Filled White #FFFFFF. I centered the text on the canvas and then rasterized the layer. To Rasterize make sure your text layer is selected and then go to Layer>Rasterize>Type – this will turn your text layer into a flat layer, ready for editing..."
 It took me at least an hour to kinda sorta figure out how to kinda get my text centered on the document. Even then, it still wasn't right.

And that was still step one.

For the next couple of days, it was work on it while I can; find at least a few minutes before bedtime where I can at least stare at it. Truthfully, it wasn't like there was noses to grindstones. It felt more like "studying" for a big test. I got everything done on Labor Day, after about eight hours. I took some liberties, like using a
different font, texture and breakage pattern. I couldn't help it, I had to take it in my own direction. It's barely legible, it looks a little wonky and I kind of rushed it at the end. Yes, I spent more time online looking for specific instructions on how to do something (like how to use foreground color) than on the actual project, but it's a start. It may not be pretty, but it's mine, and I can only get better from here!