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Book Review – How To Cheat In Photoshop CS3: Fourth Edition by Steve Caplin

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The whole purpose of How To Cheat In Photoshop is to, well, show you how to cheat in Photoshop. According to the author Steve Caplin, he will do this in two ways. First he will show you how to make images that look like photos, but are really composites that you put together and the end result is something that never existed in reality. Second, it is to show you how to take short cuts and to work more quickly and economically. He feels that there are too many long winded explanations out there and he has quicker solutions.

How To Cheat In Photoshop is broken down into 15 chapters and a DVD. The DVD contains most of the workthroughs, but not all; these tend to be some of the case studies that include photos of politicians and celebrities that he was not able to get clearance to include on the DVD. The DVD also contains two hours of video tutorials to demonstrate techniques. It is assumed that you are comfortable working with Photoshop and have a reasonable working knowledge. There is no chapter on setting up, or how to use section. The book is not geared for the very beginning user.

Chapter 1, “Natural Selection” will show you how to select objects. Since the point of this book is to take objects from one setting and integrate them into another, this chapter is fundamental. Chapter 2, “Transform and Distortion” explains how when creating a photomontage and combining images, you will need to change the size and scale of objects to match the rest of the picture.

Chapter 3, “Hiding and Showing” will explain how instead of deleting a layer; which is permanent, you can, instead use a layer mask to remove the item allowing it to return later if needed. Chapter 4, “Image Adjustment” looks at using the curves adjustment to get the shadows and highlights to match. This is important when you are swapping heads or hands and the skin tones don’t look right.

Chapter 5, “Composing the Scene” divines the meaning of the composition of a scene. Here you will learn how to get your characters to interact with their background to make the image more realistic. Chapter 6, “Getting into Perspective” is one of the harder things to get right when working with photomontages, but, according to the author, by learning a few simple skills, you can easily master it.

Chapter 7, “Light and Shade” is all about getting the shadows correct. Without the appropriate light and shading, something will feel wrong about the image. Chapter 8, “Heads and Bodies” continues down the path of getting it right, but this time with heads and bodies. Here you learn to change the direction that your subject is looking in.

Chapter 9, “Shiny Surfaces” will show you how to get reflections right. Here you will learn how to create glazed objects, from bottles and windows to brains in jars. Since shiny object reflect objects around them, you will learn how to get those right as well.

Chapter 10, “Metal, Wood and Stone” explains how to work with metals; which can reflect, and wood and stone, which are much easier to deal with. Chapter 11, “Paper and Fabric” differ from metal, wood and stone in that they are floppy surfaces. They bend and crease, and wrinkle. This chapter covers things like cloths, flags, banners, banknotes and documents.

Chapter 12, “The Third Dimension” shows how simulating 3D doesn’t need to be a nightmare. Here you will find methods to bring out the depth of 3D images. Chapter 13, “Hyper Realism” helps you to add action to your scene. By showing blurs selectively, you can create much more realist action.

Chapter 14, “Time-Saving Techniques” will give you techniques to streamline your skills while working with Photoshop. These go beyond keyboard shortcuts to automating repetitive tasks and preparing artwork in advance. Finally, chapter 15, “Working for Print and Web” takes you beyond seeing the images on your computer screen and readies them for the real world whether it is for the printer or the World Wide Web.

Now in its fourth edition, How To Cheat In Photoshop has become a standard of Photoshop techniques. All in all, there are about 170 tutorials on all aspects of Photoshop. Even if you do not want to create montages, you will find that the time tested methods will expand your skills and knowledge of Photoshop. What if you don’t have Photoshop CS3? At least 90% of the techniques presented in the book will work with a CS version of Photoshop.

My recommendation on How To Cheat In Photoshop, is that if you want to become a master at Photoshop, if you want to save time while working with Photoshop, if you want to learn to create convincing photomontages, then this book is a must have.

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About T. Michael Testi

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