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Book Review – Photoshop CS3 Layers Bible By Matt Doyle and Simon Meek

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Layers are one of the one of the most essential features of Photoshop and to be successful in working with Photoshop, you must understand Layers. On a basic level, Layers are like separate transparent sheets that can be stacked one top of another with each one having varying degrees of effect on the others.

Before there were Layers, any change that you made to an image was a permanent change. With the advent of Layers, you can now make changes without affecting the original image. Photoshop CS3 Layers Bible will show you all of the different ways that you can work with Layers and what Layers can do for you.

Photoshop CS3 Layers Bible is 761 pages and divided in to 16 chapters which are further divided into 5 sections. I will address this review based on the five sections with a full chapter listing at the end.

Part I: Layer Basics introduces you to the concept of Layers by explaining what they are, the types of layers that are available, and their functionality such as how Layer transparencies work. You are also shown some of the new Layer features that are available with Photoshop CS3.

Next you see how to manage and organize layers. This includes creating layers from selections, merging layers, changing the order of layers, and duplicating layers. Then you will see how to transform and resize layers. This examines scaling, rotating, skewing, distorting and warping layers.

Part II: Exploring Layer Types begins with type layers and how to work with Photoshop's character formatting features. This includes the character palette and paragraph palette as well as show how to create a type mask.

Next you learn about vector based shape layers, which can be stretched, squeezed and manipulated with no loss of quality. Here you work with the Path and Direct Selection tools. Finally you explore the use of adjustment and fill layers. Adjustment layers are great because they are non-destructive as well as having the ability to be manipulated in ways like normal layers. Fill layers are used to create some advanced effects.

Part III: Advanced Layer Features Starts off with the use of layers with Blending modes. Blending modes allow you to mix the pixels of different layers together to get different effects. Then you move on to Masks and how they can really take your Photoshop abilities to a new level. Explored here are layer, vector, and clipping masks.

From here you learn about Layer Styles and how they are really time-savers. It explores how to create, use Layer Styles, and explains what each layer effect does in depth. Then you will see how Layer Comps work to create snapshots of the state of your layers. These allow you to create multiple new compositions and with Layer Comps you can switch between the different versions to decide which you like best or have different versions available of the same image for multiple designs.

Part IV: Using Layers in Real-World Situations begins with how all that you have learned thus far really works in the real world. This includes creating alternate versions of your documents, flattening documents, using Photoshop in a team, and alternate ways of achieving the same goals. Then you will see how to use Layers in other applications such as QuarkXPress, Illustrator, and Flash.

If the prior chapters focused on the technical aspects of Layers, then you now begin to look at the more practical side. First you examine how to design with layers. This includes building a web page layout, creating a brochure, and producing a flyer. Next you see how to manipulate photographs by using layers. Here you see how to improve contrast, correct color casts, adjusting skin, and work with the new Auto-Align feature in CS3. Finally you work with posters, calendars, and other types of projects.

Part V: Appendixes explores what comes on the included CD-Rom disk: the author-created materials, a PDF version of this book, and more than 90 stock images. There is also a section that highlights the Photoshop short cut keys for manipulating layers.

Photoshop CS3 Layers Bible is a really good reference book about how to use Layers within Photoshop. It breaks everything down into easy to use and understandable language. It has quite a bit to offer for many on many different levels especially those new to Photoshop.

I do wish that the book was printed in color; yes there is a color section that shows a number of the concepts in color, but the majority of the book is in black and white print. Another thing is that the disk included is a CD-Rom as opposed to a DVD and so not all of the images included are of high quality; they are 72 dpi, and not all of the Photoshop files used in the creation of screen captures are included. I wish that a DVD had been used to include all of these.

The upside of the CD-Rom; and to me is a really big upside, is the inclusion of a searchable PDF version of the book that you can keep on your computer and when you need to find something, you don't have to muddle through the book trying to remember where it was located at. Photoshop CS3 Layers Bible will take your ability to use and manipulated layers to an all new level and makes a great reference book.

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About T. Michael Testi

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