Review: Photoshop 7 Savvy

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With the release of each new version of Photoshop, dozens of "Guides" & "How To’s" hit the market. Some are general in nature (for example, how to use types) and some are very specific (such as "Make Amazing Web Graphics in 24 Hours"). Some are exceptional, some are worthless, and most are average.

Photoshop 7 Savvy, which is written by Steve Romaniello, is a general focus book that falls into the upper range of the "average" category. Priced at a retail of US$50, it’s in the same price range as most of the other guides out there. Among the General Guide crowd, Photoshop 7 Savvy can certainly hold its own — you could easily do worse.

Overview

Photoshop 7 Savvy is one of a new series of "Savvy" books published by Sybex, who offers in the same range such titles as "Flash MX Savvy" and "Dreamweaver Fireworks Savvy."

A quick look at the cover of the book might throw you off. It’s quite plain, lacking any clue to the depth that is available in Photoshop 7. The average Photoshop user loves color, depth, and movement, and with so many buying decisions consciously based on physical product perceptions, one must wonder why the publisher chose such a drab, lackluster cover design. The contents of the book, however, more than make up for its plain appearance.

What’s In It?

The book is well laid out, clearly written, and concise. It’s separated into four main parts:

  1. Photoshop Core – an introduction to Photoshop, setup, layout, and basic tool use are found here
  2. Photoshop Color – everything you can ever need to know about color, including management and printing
  3. Photoshop Savvy - photo retouching, filters, and advanced techniques
  4. Photoshop, WWW, And Digital Video - using Photoshop for the Web and with digital video

Each of these parts is further subdivided into numerous chapters — from 2 chapters in part 4, to 14 chapters in part 1. Interspersed among the chapters are "Hands On" sections that allow you to try out the techniques you’ve just read about, in conjunction with the CD that comes with the book. Sybex have included throughout the book a special icon that appears whenever a topic that’s new to the 7th version of Photoshop is being discussed — a nice touch.

Core

The "Core" section is like most of the other guides out there. It tells you how to use the various tools in Photoshop (like the magnetic lasso) and the procedures of usage (including instructions for layers, channels, paths, etc.).

The part of this section that stands out is the detail the author goes into in chapter 5, where he discusses how to set up Photoshop, including the all-important allocation of memory. He includes in this chapter very good descriptions of the various preferences and what they’re for.

Almost right away you notice that although the author frequently mentions keyboard shortcuts for various tools or actions, he doesn’t use them or provide them in his step-by-step instructions. For instance, he gives quite detailed instructions on how to copy an image to the clipboard and then make a new document with that image. He could have enhanced that description quite easily to include the 5 keystrokes method, using shortcuts: Ctrl-A, Ctrl-C, Ctrl-N, Enter, Ctrl-V.

The author also neglected to mention other time-saving shortcuts that many users find useful. For instance, his description of the zoom tool should have noted that you can use the scroll wheel found on many of today’s mice in conjunction with the CTRL key to zoom in. Regardless, overall, this section — even for an experienced user of Photoshop — certainly teaches a few things.

Color

The "Color" section is one of the parts that really stand out in this book. Here, the author goes into fairly good depth on color management, and the techniques for manipulating color. He even explores the reasons why colors are the way they are on computers today, and the considerations for printing. This is one of those sections that’s worth reading twice, just to make sure everything has really sunk in.

Savvy

The "Savvy" section is another stand-out part of th book. The author goes into considerable depth on photo retouching and restoration (with a hands-on exercise), the use of filters, and advanced techniques involving selections, layering, and automation. This section is almost its own advanced Photoshop book in itself, and perhaps the reason the series was created in the first place. Again, well worth a double read.

WWW & DV

I found this section to be lacking. It almost seemed to be thrown in at the last instant in order to attract two of the biggest new users of Photoshop: Web designers and digital video users. It does cover image optimization for the Web, and the use of ImageReady in conjunction with Photoshop, but in my opinion you’d do better to get a smaller, more specialized book about Photoshop for the Web, rather than trying to rely on Photoshop 7 Savvy to teach you the nitty gritty.

Appendices

The appendices include sections on tool descriptions, file formats, blending modes, quick keys, and a glossary. Overall, the appendices are a nice addition tot he text, making it easy to quickly look up what the Clone Stamp does, what a .tiff file is, what luminosity does to an image, and what the heck someone is talking about when they discuss tweening.

The Final Word

Overall, I give the book a thumbs up. Id’ recommend it to someone who’s new to either computer graphics or the Photoshop program. To experienced Photoshop users, or those simply migrating to Photoshop 7 from an earlier version, I’d say sit in the bookstore and read through a chapter first before deciding if it’s right for them.

That said, I wouldn’t recommend to them a different Photoshop book over Photoshop 7 Savvy. It’s a fairly safe buy, and a good addition to any user’s library — I’ll gladly add it to my collection of eight other Photoshop books dating back to Photoshop 3!

Rating: 3.5 stars
For more information: visit the product page at Sybex
Retail: US$50.00 – though you can buy it at Sybex.com for 20% off the retail price
Pages: 625, includes a CD

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