Much has been said about the worth of Photoshop tutorials found on the web. By simply following a step-by-step instruction on how to achieve a certain effect, Photoshop is now becoming more accessible to almost anyone who knows how to use a computer.
Photoshop tutorials alone could not make you a successful graphic designer. Sure, you can probably know how to do basic photo manipulation but everything is in vain unless you have an idea on basic graphic design.
Graphic design is a process of incorporating the elements and principles of visual arts in order to achieve an aesthetically pleasing and functional effect. The functions vary per work. Aesthetics, as we all know, is subjective. It is safe to say then that there is no single formula for graphic design. The processes are not even consistent and would depend a lot on a designer's attitude, personality and motives.
Authors of Photoshop tutorials oftentimes subscribe to a rather wrong notion. But it can't be help and they can't speak for everyone. It is the role of a Photoshop learner to get the necessary background on graphic design and not just rely on spoon-feeding.
For one, a novice Photoshop user should at least try to analyze his / her intended audience. This is done in order to determine the purpose of your message. You can create abstract visuals in painting but not in graphic design. Every work should function as expected. Part of achieving this is how you will relay the message. Simply put, you have to consider your medium. If it is a movie poster, where shall it be placed? If it is a web design, to whom will it cater?
Once you have determined all these, you can now envision how the design will look and feel like. You can organize your text and graphics based on that vision. Use the appropriate layout, typefaces, styles, formats, and spacing. You can manipulate each graphic element and the design altogether. It would depend a lot on your imagination. It is more dependable than Photoshop tutorials anyway.
But how exactly, you may ask? Now comes in the elements of graphic design. Let us begin with the basic.
Line. There are a variety of them and each has its own design function. Straight, curve, thick, thin, broken-what lines do, independently or when incorporated with other elements, is organize texts and graphics. It creates a visual path that will help your audience follow through the design. Lines give a sense of motion to the design. It directs the eyes of the spectator.
Shape. Psychologists have always been fascinated with shapes. Think: Rorschach inkblot test. You can make use of the same principle in your design. By knowing the audience, you will learn how to easily manipulate their thoughts on a visual stimulus of your own doing. Shape, more than any element, symbolizes ideas.
Mass. The most confusing part of Photoshop tutorials is when the author begins blabbering about the importance of mass. Those who don't know a thing about graphic design will ask: "What in the world is visual weight?" Simply put, it is how graphic and text elements create contrast to grab a spectator's interest.
Texture. Another confusing thing about Photoshop tutorials is texture. The same question is often left hanging. These are easily understood once you already know your "emboss" from your "drop shadow." Visual texture also creates contrast and interest. It adds dimension and personality to the design. It provokes emotions and play on the spectator's eyes. Whenever you hear someone saying that a certain artwork seems alive, that is most likely the handiwork of texture manipulation.
Color. This is probably the easiest element to control in graphic design but is still oftentimes overlooked. Handling color is as simple as getting a color wheel and picking which color combination works together. But the tricky part here is learning color association and symbolism. Just like shapes, psychologists learned that colors evoke a certain behavior towards a spectator.
Those are the five basic elements of graphic design. Begin to apply these on your next Photoshop projects and notice how your skills improve.