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Adobe Photoshop has been around for over 25 years, allowing novice image editors and professional graphic designers alike bridge the gap between concept and final product. In the countless updates the robust program has implemented during its lifetime, the amount of options and tools at a creator’s disposal are mind-boggling. Even for the advanced Photoshop expert, there are many tricks and techniques that go unnoticed.
We reached out to some of today’s most reputable designers and artists to discover their tips and secrets for harnessing the power of Photoshop. Next time you’re working on a project, try some of these techniques to take your images and designs in new creative directions.
1. Use Blend Modes to Creatively Combine Elements
This master of dreamlike and evocative images is a talent to trust – he collaborated with Adobe for their Oscar spot celebrating the 25th anniversary of Adobe Photoshop itself. Here’s what Emi has to say about his favorite software:
“I always loved the gesture and the warmth of the sign in a sketch, in stroke with acrylic or oil color, in the splashes of watercolor or ink. So today when I start developing an image I try to include my manual skill in the sign and in the use of color by digitally importing it into my artwork. I combine in a single image hundreds of Photoshop layers with many and many graphic elements and textures that make the starting image less digital and more similar to a painting or a drawing. I often use Blend Modes – Multiply, Overlay, Soft Light – to obtain peculiar effects in the combination of different layers and textures, like double exposures. The blending allows me to combine in the best way different elements, colors and images in a single work, creating shape and color compositions beyond imagination.”
2. Storing Images in Libraries Will Save You Time
Running CreativeBooster.net keeps Forss busy, where he designs PSD mockups and logo templates in addition to creating compelling images to market brand new typefaces. His work being more technical in nature, Forss’s Photoshop tip is to-the-point while being insightful. According to him:
“My number one Photoshop tip is to use those libraries. They are such a time saver when you can keep images inside a library.”
3. Convert Source Images Into Grayscale and Play With Levels
A sublime illustrator from São Paulo, Brazil, Siqueira’s illustrations have appeared in print and online for some juggernaut corporations and clients. Siqueira makes use of many digital platforms to bring his visceral, comic-book-style illustrations to life. When using Photoshop, Siqueira says:
“Whenever I’m creating a portrait, I like to open and convert my source images into grayscale mode and play with ‘Levels.’ This way, I have a better visualization of the key features of the face, the shadows and the midtones steps and I can use it as guide to draw the portraits while keeping the resemblance.
4. Clipping Mask is One of the Most Useful Tools
SimpleInfo is a terrific all-in-one Taiwanese startup that has its hands in animation, graphic design, illustration, and much more. Co-founded by Chih Chyi-Chang, the company produces colorful and quirky illustrations that serve as their brand’s calling card. One of their content creators, Kuokuo, provided this insight:
“The most important part of design is our own creativity. It’s so important to concentrate on colors and shape. When using Photoshop, one of the most useful tools is the ‘clipping mask.’ Using this method, we can focus on a certain area to create the curve, brush, and color we want to make our work unique.”
5. Take Advantage of the Incredible Plug-ins (Bonus: Use a Camera Raw Filter)
This dazzling digital artists blends neutrals with dizzying color to create stupefying spacescapes and more. When he’s not pushing the boundaries of digital photo art Herndon also designs logos and creates new typefaces. He offers a couple of valuable (but frank) Photoshop tips:
“The biggest failure a designer can have with Photoshop is a lack of knowledge within the program and a lack of research behind some of the incredible plug-ins. I’ve been really into the Filter Forge 5.0 plug-in. It allows you to use thousands of pre-made creative & distortion filters that can really get the ball rolling for conceptual projects.
Another tip I would have is to be careful with adding a ton of color-correcting adjustment layers and instead use a camera raw filter. The CR filter can be really powerful for color correcting and is sort of my go-to at the beginning of every project.”
6. Work With Layers to Create Dynamic, Complex Images
An experienced commercial photographer, Noida creates a signature color palette and a signature air of mystery to his images with his unmatched Photoshop prowess. Situated in Moscow, Nodia’s reputation as a skilled digital photographer and retoucher have landed him some great clients. According to him:
“Well, my favorite tip in Photoshop is to work with layers: correction layers and masks in montage, and the composing part of retouch. Fog, effects, lights, hairs, clipping mask – I use a ton of layers to make my cinematic and advertising action pictures.”
7. Use the Blur Tool to Smooth Out Edges and Make Objects Blend with the Background
This multidisciplinary artist, photographer, and filmmaker from Cairo creates fantastical worlds and sweeping cinematic dreamscapes with the help of Photoshop and other platforms for digital artists. Playing in many mediums his entire career, Elshamy knows that creativity is key. He notes:
“If you are using a lot of stock photos in your artwork and you want to move a person or an object to a new background, you can use the blur tool to smooth out edges of any object to make it blend more with the background. If you lower the opacity by just 1% to 5% it will help blend any object with the background photo to make it look more natural.”
8. Make Perspective Mockups to Present to Clients
An Italian designer, art director, and teacher, Pagnozzi’s graphic design studio One Design specializes in logo design, branding, corporate identity, and packaging. Spearheading the design elements of countless corporations, Pagnozzi utilizes Photoshop to bring his concepts to life. In his words:
“I mainly use Photoshop for creating mockups to be presented to the client, by which I show how the logo looks on several products of the corporate identity, even before the final choice, thus avoiding the waste of time to print and photograph all the materials. To do this I mostly use empty stationery photographs, to which I apply my graphics using the tool ‘vanishing point.’”
9. Convert Images to Grayscale and Use Bitmap Mode
This Barcelona-based graphic designer and art director’s claim to fame is his excellent poster work; the FAME raves that “Quim Marin’s posters are a graphic design nerd’s dream.” He cleverly follows trends and subverts tropes to create powerful pieces. Marin offers this thorough advice:
“In my 17 years as a professional graphic designer, I have relied on one tool that has helped me create striking and aesthetically pleasing designs. There are still those who ask me how it’s done; it’s a simple trick that will help you out on countless occasions. A graphic designer does not always have access to high-quality, attractive images when creating a design and this is when creativity comes into play. A quick and easy solution is to convert the image to grayscale then contrast to highlight the darker areas, which in turn simplifies tonality. This is when our tool comes into its own: from the ‘Menu,’ we select ‘Mode’ where we then click on ‘Bitmap.’ This tool allows us to convert the image to ‘1 ink’ and choose the pattern (the one called halftone pattern). I would recommend you play around with the values in order to see the different possibilities this tool can offer. The resulting image can be colored, converting it back to ‘RGB’ or ‘CMYK’ first and then using the ‘Layers Style.’ Now all that needs to be done is to find the appropriate framing and an interesting color combination in order to achieve an extremely attractive element for your design.”
10. Harness the Power of Masks
A professional retoucher specializing in fashion, commercial, and beauty photography post-production, Maravyova has worked on a great number of professional shoots and projects using her exhaustive knowledge of Photoshop to get the most out of each image. The Moscow-based retoucher had this to say:
“Pay attention to the creation of masks; work on this skill. Your retouch will benefit from this. Sometimes, it’s even necessary to work separately with different areas – light, shadows, and midtones. And instead of drawing by hand, you can learn how to create high-quality masks in Photoshop. This will help you:
select ‘Color Range,’ then ‘Highlights/Midtones/Shadows’ or ‘Channels.’”
11. The Pencil Tool Helps Create Realistic Pen Lines
This Korean illustrator’s work absolutely pops with vibrant color, explosive action, and endless movement. His creative energy isn’t bound to the two-dimensional plane, as his work creating promotional toys for Toy Republic demonstrates. As an illustrator Juyong has gone completely digital. He explains:
“I used to draw lines with pen on paper and scan it, then color with Photoshop. Now I use Wacom Cintiq 27 so all of my illustrations are 100% digital. There was a problem, as I wanted to make the lines similar to a real rough pen line but the brush tool was too soft. So, I started using the pencil tool. A line drawn by the pencil tool is very similar to a real pen line.”
Try out these expert tips to push the limits of Photoshop and hopefully discover new tools and techniques to make your images vivid, crisp, and dynamic. While you’re trying other new tricks within Photoshop, download the Shutterstock plugin to quickly access our entire collection of images without exiting the application. There’s always something new to discover in Photoshop – luckily, you can always turn to the pros for guidance.