Author: Robin Williams & John Tollett
Publisher: Peachpit Press
Aimed at: Designers new to Photoshop
Pros: Step-by-step instructions for range of projects
Cons: No explanation of principles
Reviewed by: David Conrad
The key part of the title that attracted me to this book is "Non-designers". I interpreted this to mean that it was aimed at the techie user who wanted to get into Photoshop without the burden of having to go to art school. However I was a bit worried by the sub-title - "Essential imaging techniques for design" - do I detect a slight contradiction here? In fact the back jacket blurb suggests the book is aimed at designers and the book is for non-techies.
The book starts off with a look at the Photoshop interface which seems reasonable enough. But wait ... I thought this might just be aimed at the techie reader. Do we really need such a mind numbingly boring presentation of how the UI works? The labeled diagram of the UI showing all its components is enough to put you off in itself. I really don't see the point in producing a diagram that is mostly a display of a photo loaded into the application and then labeling the edges of the application - it's messy and doesn't convey very much information. From this point we have a detailed description of each part of the UI much of it repeats the info in the big diagram. We also learn how to do some things - a random selection. At this point you are left with the feeling that there aren't a lot of principles being explained, the approach is more "this does this etc.."
Chapter 2 takes use through some simple projects - whiten teeth, remove dust and scratches, correct a photo that is too light and so on.. They are all explained as a "do-this do-that" list of instructions that gives nothing away as to why they work or. For example, in the whitening teeth example you are simply told to set the brush mode to desaturate and get on with it. No mention of what desaturate is all about, what effect it has in general or where else it might be useful. The same is true of the rest of the projects - they teach you which tool and which settings to use but not why, This might be suitable for a designer who doesn't want to know but for the techie it is no only a boring approach but very wasteful of resources. The only real advantage is that if you are an innocent Photoshop user i.e. you don't really understand anything about image science or image processing it provides a cookbook of techniques that you can simply apply.
Chapter 3 is a very short (just 4 pages) and very basic look at some of the things that you really need to know about such as the difference between bitmap and vector graphics. Chapter 4 moves on to looking at the idea of selecting part of the image and transforming them. In this chapter it is not so bad that principles are explained because there are fewer principles anyway. Chapter 5 looks at layers and again there really aren't a lot of principles to get in the way of categorizing all the useful things layers can be used for.
The following chapters take us through text handling, adjustment layers, transparency, drawing and painting, color tools, filters and effect, raw format and finally the puppet warp tool. All explained in the same do-this, do-that sort of why which works when the is no deep principle of operation but represents a missed opportunity when there is. Occasionally there is a little bit of explanation included - the difference between the Vibrancy slider and the Saturation slider say, but never really enough to satisfy the beginner. It rarely sets out the principles of what it is trying to achieve before launching into the "select tool x" and so on. As a result you just don't get to see why tool x was an obvious choice - unless of course it is obvious e.g. "select the eraser to erase the..."
If you are looking for a cookbook approach to using Photoshop then this might well suit you - it is well written as far as it goes and might well suit designers just starting out with Photoshop. The big problem is that its title is "The NON-designer's Photoshop Book" and this is very misleading. As this is a title in the "non-designer's" series my guess is that the same problem occurs with the rest and once you know that the title isn't meaningful there isn't so much of a problem. If you are looking for a book that presents Photoshop in a logical way based on imaging principles then you need to avoid this book.