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Preface: Photoshop in the Real World

Preface: Photoshop in the Real World

If you're reading this book because you want to produce embossed type, fractalized tree branches, or spherized images in Photoshop, you're in the wrong place. If you're after tips and tricks on how to get the coolest special effects in your images, look elsewhere. There are (at least) half a dozen good books on those subjects.

But if you're looking to move images through Photoshop—getting good scans in, working your will on them, and putting out world-class final output—this is the book for you. Its raison d'être is to answer the many questions that people in production environments ask every single day (and not without some frustration).

  • What settings should I use in the Color Settings dialog box?

  • How do I bring out shadow details in my images without blowing away the highlights?

  • What methods are available to neutralize color casts?

  • How do I calibrate my monitor? (And should I?)

  • How do I put a drop shadow on top of a process-color tint in Quark XPress or Adobe InDesign?

  • What's the best way to silhouette an image for catalog work?

These questions, and dozens of others, face Photoshop users all the time. And unfortunately, the books we've seen on Photoshop—much less Photoshop's own manuals—simply don't address these crucial, run-of-the-mill, day-in-and-day-out production issues. This book does.

Ask Your Printer

We wrote this book for a lot of reasons, but the biggest one was probably our frustration with the knee-jerk advice we kept hearing about desktop prepress: “Ask your printer.”

Go ahead. Ask your printer what values you should enter in the Color Settings and Proof Setup dialog boxes. In our experience, with nine out of ten printers you'll be lucky if you get more than wild guesses. In this new age of desktop prepress, there's simply no one you can ask (whether you're a designer, a prepress shop… or a printer). You're in the pilot's seat, with your hand on the stick (and the trigger). Where do you turn when the bogies are incoming?

We're hoping that you'll turn to this book.

Developing Your “Spidey Sense”

Flipping through several hundred pages isn't exactly practical, though, when you've got a missile on your tail. So we try to do more with this book than tell you which key to press, or what value to enter where. We're trying to help you develop what our friend and colleague Greg Vander Houwen calls your “spidey sense” (those who didn't grow up on Spiderman comics may not relate completely, but you get the idea).

When you're in the crunch, you've gotta have an intuitive, almost instinctive feel for what's going on in Photoshop, so you can finesse it to your needs. Canned techniques just don't cut it. So you'll find a fair amount of conceptual discussion here, describing how Photoshop “thinks” about images, and suggesting how you might think about them as well.

The Step-by-Step Stuff

Along with those concepts, we've included just about every step-by-step production technique we know of. From scanning to silhouettes and drop shadows, to tonal correction, sharpening, and color separation, we've tried to explain how to get images into Photoshop—and back out again—with the least pain and the best quality. And yes, in the course of explaining those techniques, we will tell you which key to press, and what values to enter in what dialog boxes.

History is Important

We hear some of you mumbling under your breath, “We've been doing prepress for thirty years, and we don't need to learn a new way of doing it.” We believe that the key to succeeding in today's prepress market is understanding both the digital and the traditional realms. Our goal in this book is to help you with both. If you're new to prepress, we try to give you the background you need. If you're an old pro, we try to provide an entry into the heart of digital imaging—the world of zeros and ones.

Our goal is not to detract from the way you've been doing things. It's to show you how those approaches can be incorporated with the new tools, improved, and pushed to new limits.

Whither Photography?

This book isn't just about prepress. It's also about photography and about images. We believe that photographers understand tone and color as well as any other skilled group of professionals, and one of our aims has been to help photographers translate their own understanding of images into Photoshop's digital world.

Digital imaging has undoubtedly changed the practice of photography, but images still come from an intentional act on the part of the image maker, and that isn't going to change, whether the photons are captured by goo smeared on celluloid or by photoelectric sensors. We believe that digital imaging offers the photographer as many opportunities as it creates pitfalls. To all the photographers out there who are nervous about the digital revolution, we say, “Come on in, the water's fine.” And more to the point, we can't do this stuff without you.

The Depth of Understanding

We were crazy to take on this book. If we weren't, we wouldn't have tried to unravel such an insanely complex subject. We don't claim to have the ultimate answers, but the answers we do have are tried, tested, and effective. The methods presented in this book may not be the only way to get good results from Photoshop, but they're the product of endless days and nights of research and testing, of badgering anyone we thought might have an answer with endless questions, then trying to present these insights in some coherent form. (Bruce vaguely remembers wondering, while making coffee at 4 AM, why one of his kitchen faucets was labeled “cyan”….)

While our grasp on reality may have occasionally been tenuous during the production of this book, the techniques we present are firmly grounded in the real world—hence the title.

How the Book is Organized

The biggest problem we face in writing about Photoshop is not just that it's the “deepest” program we've ever used, but that almost every technique and feature relies on every other technique and feature. It's impossible to talk about Photoshop without circular reasoning. Nevertheless, we've tried to impose order by breaking our topics down into five general sections.

The world of Photoshop

In the first five chapters, we attempt to lay the groundwork for the rest of the book. We put all this information first because it's patently impossible to be effective in Photoshop without it.

  • Building a Photoshop System

  • Essential Photoshop Tips and Tricks

  • Image Essentials

  • Color Essentials

  • Color Settings

Image corrections

Now that we've laid the groundwork, we jump into really working with images. In these chapters, we explore techniques you'll want to employ with almost every image you work with in Photoshop.

  • Tonal Correction

  • Color Correction

  • The Digital Darkroom

  • Sharpening


The origin and type of the images you work with determine what you can or need to do with them.

  • Spot Colors and Duotones

  • Line Art

  • Scanners

  • Capturing Images

Fine tuning

In the next two chapters, we get down to the nitty-gritty of image manipulation—selecting pixels, pushing them into place, and being efficient with the editing that we all have to do every day.

  • Selections

  • Essential Image Techniques

After Photoshop

Sometimes it's hard to remember that there is life outside of Photoshop. In the last three chapters of the book, we show how to get those images out of Photoshop into the real world.

  • Storing Images

  • Output Methods

  • Multimedia and the Web

A Word to Windows Users

This book covers tips and techniques for both the Macintosh and Windows versions of Photoshop. However, we have chosen to illustrate dialog boxes, menus, and palettes using screen shots from the Macintosh version. Similarly, when discussing the many keyboard shortcuts in the program, we include the Macintosh versions. In almost every case the Command key translates to the Control key and the Option key translates to the Alt key. In the case of the very few exceptions to this rule, we have included both the Macintosh and the Windows versions. We apologize to all you Windows users, but because the interface between the two programs is so transparent we picked one platform and ran with it.

Thank You!

We'd like to give special thanks to a few of the many people who helped evolve a shadow of an idea into what you hold in your hands. Our first vote of thanks goes to the editor of the first edition, Steve Roth, who continually challenged us to make the book better and clearer, and forced us to learn things we only thought we knew. Nancy Davis, and Rebecca Gulick, our editors of this fourth edition, were very helpful and patient; Kate Reber and our other friends at Peachpit took our work and made it fly. And thanks to Angela Reitz for catching far too many typos and inconsistencies at the 11th hour.

We particularly appreciate Mark Hamburg, Photoshop's chief architect, for writing the Foreword, for providing patient and clear answers to a constant string of arcane e-mail questions. Thanks also to Thomas Knoll, without whom there would be no Photoshop, and to Chris Cox, Sean Parent, Russell Williams, Todor Georgiev, Scott Beyer, and the rest of the Photoshop team, for their help and advice.

Several vendors were generous in providing equipment, support and encouragement. Special thanks go to Chris Heinz at Kodak, Luc Colle at Barco, Iain Pike at X-Rite, Dr. Stefan Brues at Gretag-Macbeth, and Andy Chang at Imacon.

Special thanks go to Stephen Johnson and Michael Kieran for their generosity of spirit, their constant encouragement, and for the many hours they spent with us in deep discussions that ranged from the technical to the philosophical. If we see further than others, it's because we stand on the shoulders of true Photoshop giants, including Greg Vander Houwen, Katrin Eismann, Jeff Schewe, Martin Evening, Andrew Rodney, Lynda Weinmann, and Deke McClelland, pixelmeisters all.


“To photographers everywhere; various musicians who helped keep me semisane while I worked on this book, and to Angela.”


“My deepest appreciation to Debbie Carlson, my friend and partner, and to my family and friends—including Don, Snookie, and Suzanne Carlson—who have had to put up with 'the book is almost done' for way too long.”

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