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Book Review – Creative Photoshop: Digital Illustration and Art Techniques by Derek Lea

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Creative Photoshop: Digital Illustration and Art Techniques is not your typical book on Photoshop. It is about being creative, being different, and pushing the envelope. Derek Lea, a part-time instructor at the International Academy of Design in Toronto, is also an award-winning digital illustrator and writer.

Creative Photoshop is about pushing the edge and doing things that haven’t been done, especially with regards to painting in Photoshop. He explores composition methods, and shows hidden potential in unlikely artistic resources and materials.

Creative Photoshop is 357 pages divided into 19 chapters which are further divided into 4 parts. There is also a CD-ROM that contains the files for working through the book. The images on the CD-ROM are not for use other than personal training. I will describe the book based on the four parts. Each part, containing several chapters, takes you through the process of creating a completed detailed image.

Part one, "Drawing and Painting" begins by showing you the techniques for painting in Photoshop. You will learn all about brushes; defining, importing, and techniques for using them. You will learn how to create characters with shape layers. For this you will work with vectors. You will learn how to create graffiti spray art that looks realistic, as well as stencil art work that is easy to do. You will take a photograph and trace it using paths that you can embellish or simplify as needed. You will learn how to illustrate from sketches that you create in Photoshop. Finally, you will learn how to use Retro Art effects and Color Comic Art effects to close out your grouping of basic techniques.

Part two, "Unconventional Methods" explains how to get an antique effect by using a thermal fax machine and hair dryer to create a realistic aging process. Next you will learn how a photocopier can achieve an imperfection that matches the streets of the real world. To create an urban low-brow work of art, one must sometimes use real world resources such as photos and paper scans to get the desired effect.

Part three, "Illustrative Photography" instructs on the topics of creature architecture. Here you will learn how to create the image that is on the cover of the book by seamlessly folding human and architecture together. Then you will travel to the third dimension and see how to create images in a 3D workspace giving that out of worldly effect. Next, you will see how to age someone well beyond their years. Finally you will explore the world of Realistic Surrealism. Here you will learn how to use photos to merge into a surrealistic art form that can also be used to tell a story.

Part four, "Photoshop and Other Programs" begin by showing how to bring stale 3D images to life. The author says that while the potential of photography is recognized by digital artists, the usefulness of 3D is often overlooked. You will learn techniques that, by using Photoshop's wide range of tools, will bring your images alive. Next you will use Poser and Photoshop to emulate the techniques of the old masters. Then, creating Art Noveau couldn't be easier when pasting vector art from Adobe Illustrator. Here you will learn why Illustrator should be part of your digital tool kit. Finally the book concludes by explaining how, using Illustrator files as Smart Objects, you can create M.C. Escher like morphing pattern images.

There are a couple things that I really like about Creative Photoshop. First, I like the fact that the chapters/parts are project-oriented. You can actually accomplish a goal. Many books show a technique here and there and expect you to figure out how to use it. Second, I liked the detail that is explained in the chapters to get you to your goal; it is very well written.

Obviously, Creative Photoshop is geared more for digital artists, illustrators, cartoonists, designers, and graphic artists more than for photographers, but I think that the more creative photographers; ones to whom treat photography as an artistic expression, the book will be informative. It is also a must have for those who want to truly be Photoshop gurus as there are a lot of unique techniques that are not found elsewhere.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.