Never used Photoshop Elements 2 before? Want to get really good results in a hurry -- even pro-quality results? Check out Photoshop Elements 2 Zero to Hero. This book combines the best elements of a beginner's tutorial with the best elements of a Photoshop Elements project book. You won't just learn the core skills you need; you'll learn how to put those skills together to do some surprisingly slick work.
This is the third book in Friends of Ed's new Zero to Hero series (titles on ActionScript and Macromedia Fireworks have already been published). If you haven't come across these books, you owe it to yourself to check them out. Breezy, friendly, and full of screen captures and sample images, they focus on the skills you'll really need -- and make learning a pleasure.
Plus, they're a heck of a deal. You don't usually get a 96-page color section for this price. (And that's before the $5 rebate available on this book through 5/30/03 -- just download and return the form at the Friends of Ed web site.)
But what matters, of course, is the content -- and that's just what it needs to be.
The authors begin with just enough background on color, printing, and resolution to help you avoid a host of common beginners' mistakes. Next, it's on to a quick tour of the Photoshop Elements interface (both Windows and Macintosh): the shortcut bar, toolbox, palettes, file browser and navigation tools, swatches, and so forth.
In just a half page, you'll learn what you need to know right away about graphic file formats. Next, you'll walk through a few of the tools you'll be using most often; for example, the Zoom and Resize tools.
Once you've got all that "Chapter Zero" stuff under your belt, you'll accelerate towards "Hero" status. Step-by-step, you'll walk through each significant image adjustment tool: rotation, cropping, brightness and contrast, color levels, color casts, hue and saturation, lighting and backlighting controls, recoloring, and sharpening.
Next, you'll drill down to selecting and changing specific parts of your image: using Photoshop Elements' Marquee, Lasso, and Magic Wand tools; selecting complicated shapes; softening parts of an image with anti-aliasing and feathering; using the Selection Brush; transforming selections, and more.
You'll also find hands-on chapters covering photo manipulation (cloning, dodging, burning, red eye brushes); text; brushes, filters, and effects; and, finally, outputting your work for print and Web.
All this is prologue to a wonderful four-chapter, full-color project section. Our favorite project is the first: transforming a stock image of the Eiffel Tower into a work of art that captures the feeling of Paris at night. The results are so good, professionals might be amazed you did this with a $99 software package, not the "grown-up" version of Photoshop.
This tour de force begins with preparing your image (including considerations of resolution and making the most of the pixels you've got). Next, you'll enhance the image; choose among Photoshop Elements' 40 filters and decide when to use a third-party filter (the authors love the low-cost Virtual Painter, which is available in an evaluation version at www.jasc.com).
This project encompasses text handling; layer-based compositing and gradients; brush-based painting to add night stars; vector-based shape handling to add a silhouetted airplane; vapor trails and other finishing touches; and finally a tad more color correction to highlight the elements that matter most.
Another project we love comes from coauthor Todd Pierson. Imagine a young child in the kitchen, filling a fishbowl from a garden hose. Now, imagine the entire kitchen waist deep in water. Easy to imagine, right? But hard to render realistically, without thousands of dollars in water damage? Pierson walks you through every step of creating this special effect...including the details that make it believable enough to scare any parent.
Speaking of parents, there's a full chapter on cleaning up family photographs: what you can realistically accomplish in Photoshop Elements, how to do it -- and how to shoot pictures that won't need so much fixing. Nifty, and fun. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.