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Book Review: Photoshop CS5: The Missing Manual by Lesa Snider

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Photoshop is a complex program and learning it can be difficult in the best of circumstances. The goal of Photoshop CS5: The Missing Manual is to not only ease those difficulties, but actually try and make it fun.

Through the use of a conversational style, Photoshop CS5: The Missing Manual you will move from the introduction to Photoshop and make your way deep into the inner workings of this complex program. It provides all of the information for you to learn various secrets and practical tips that make the learning fun. This book is 896 pages divided into 19 chapters and five parts.

Part One, “The Basics,” starts off by giving you a guided tour of Adobe Photoshop CS5. You start off by looking at all of the things you need to get set up properly from a look at the interface, to tweaking your preferences. Then you examine opening, viewing, and saving files.

From there you will learn about working with Layers, how to non-destructively edit your files, make selections so as to choose what you want to edit, and how to control your color through the use of Channels. Topics include LAB, CMYK, Alpha channels, and basic channel tricks.

Part Two, “Editing Images,” now gets you into the work of editing your images beginning with cropping, resizing, and rotating. Next you will use the techniques of working with Layers and selections you learned about in the first part to begin to combine images together.

By draining color, you will see how to create black and white images from color, learn how to change colors in an image, and correct color to make it more accurately represent what was shot. You will also learn about the beauty salon tricks to make people look their best through whitening teeth, slimming up body parts, softening skin, and creating better looking eyes. You will finish up with the topic of sharpening an image.

Part Three, “The Artistic Side of Photoshop,” examines the tools that Photoshop has for creating more artistic expressions. This includes the ability to paint in Photoshop through the use of artistic brushes and palettes, as well as the ability to draw using the vector tools, shapes, and paths.

Then you will see how to use the text capabilities in a much more artistic way. This not only includes the traditional methods of creating, editing, and formatting text, but how to create special effects as well. Finally, you will look at the wide world of filters and how they can provide a variety of specialized looks to your images.

Part 4, “Printing and the Web,” begins by examining the challenges of getting your prints to match what you see on screen. This is one of the bigger challenges you will have unless you understand how to prepare your monitor and your files properly. In this section, you will learn how to calibrate for a number of different devices.

On the other hand, preparing images for the Web is like a journey into the unknown. With all of the different types of computers out there and all of the different monitors and Web connections, how can you prepare? In this section you will see that it is all about balance between image quality and file size.

Part Five, “Photoshop Power,” looks at the fact that many times what you do in Photoshop are tasks that you do over and over. Now you will learn how to work smarter through the use of actions to speed up those repetitive tasks.

You will also explore the use of Photoshop Plug-ins. These are products that plug into Photoshop and help you perform more complex tasks that would take much more time if you were to try to do them by hand. Some of the plug-ins includes noise reducers, products to mask and select, products to color correct your image, as well as a host of other products that can make your life easier. There is also a set of appendixes that provide additional resources that are located online for your use.

Photoshop CS5: The Missing Manual is really well laid out and very easy to use. Throughout the book, when the author mentions a tool or technique, she also puts a reference page number so you can go to for more information so that when she talks about CMYK and color separation, she gives the page where you can learn more about this topic.

I also like the little breakout sections like Workshop Workaround where you learn to overcome difficulties, Frequently Asked Questions, where you learn behind the scenes tips, Power Users’ Clinic where you learn expert tips, and Up to Speed where you get more technical understanding of a topic.

I think that Photoshop CS5: The Missing Manual is more of a reference manual than a tutorial and as such you want to have some basic knowledge of Photoshop. I also like the clear images and full color. As a reference manual, I have to say it is one of the best I have seen and well worth the expense and so I very highly recommend this book.

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About T. Michael Testi

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