This entry in O'Reilly's "A Designer Notebook" series focuses on the use of Adobe Photoshop to create "world-class commercial illustrations." Translated from the original French by William Rodamor, and featuring the work of illustrators such as Bengal (a graphic novel designer and artist), Nicolas Bouvier (a video game artist and art director), Benjamin Carre (a book illustrator and game designer), and Judith Darmont ( a painter), it is a rich, lush, visual tapestry interwoven with each work's history of creation.
As with the other entries in this series, this is no basic primer on Photoshop; it is instead a step-by-step guide to the creation of nine specific works of art ranging from advertising to children's book illustration, from sci fi graphic novels to illustrations for role playing games. It offers not so much the fundamentals of how the program works but rather concrete, real-world examples of how the program can be used. None of it is simple and all of it reflects the time-consuming process of artistic expression, with each painstaking stage recorded by the artist. In general, the book also reveals that very few of the artists use Photoshop exclusively; most of them begin with a basic sketch or image from an outside source and manipulate it into the final product in Photoshop.
Some might consider resorting to outside materials something of a cheat in the context of a book "on" Photoshop, but of course what we're really talking about is how to make quality graphic images and that's not going to be quite as simple as pulling a picture off the web and applying a few Photoshop filters to it. What you find in "Illustrations with Photoshop" is the backdrop to nine radically diverse images and artistic methods, and it offers encouragement and inspiration to those interested in pushing their artistic talents to the limit.
The book's "studio" opens with Bengal's "Robot Lady." It's a demurely muted image illustrating the interaction between a young girl and a robotic presence in some sort of futuristic setting. Bengal regards most of his images as beginning as "tiny universes," and says that this image was birthed the moment the line, "The robot, which had been alone for so long, didn't know that its welcoming gift wasn't suitable for the young lady . . ." He began by sketching the image in pencil, then scanning it. As he worked with it to eliminate imperfections in the images (such as those created by the pencil, by dust, or the texture of the paper), he notes that such marks might be left to give the image a slight sense of surface texture, but he prefers to add texture later in the process; "texture shouldn't be laid down right away. It's more of a distraction at the beginning than a true graphic element." He inks it in "just a few seconds" using the cutout filter, and proceeds to layer in color, lighting, background, and texture. The final product is a a wonderful pseudo-magna piece of sci-fi futurism.