If there was one thing all bloggers should do to beef up their visual skills is to get familiar with Photoshop. I know what you are going to say. Who has the time? It's too expensive. My readers don't care.
But I'm here to tell you, you are mistaken. It doesn't take a long period of time to become familiar with Photoshop. And instead of having a mini Zara-shopping spree, maybe consider Photoshop a necessary investment and save up for a couple of months. Lastly, believe or not, your readers do care. Time and time again, we hear from major online companies like Pinterest, Google and Facebook that visual graphics that are eye-catching and fresh perform better on their platforms, which means more traffic and more followers.
Just today, I'm making a case for Photoshop and sharing the top 5 Photoshop tools you can master. No mess, no fuss, just plain Photoshop tools and settings you should know to create visuals that will help you stand out in the blogging community. Sharing her graphic design and Photoshop insight, I asked Katrina Tan from Pugly Pixel to offer her thoughts on what every blogger should get familiar with. If you haven't checked out her site, click over and book mark it.
1. Brushes: This isn't your Microsoft Paint brush, trust me. This brush can do a variety of things, from straight lines to dotted or dashed. Katrina says, “Besides its ability to create painterly brush strokes, you can also use the brush tool as a rubber stamp, or even a roller brush. You can use it to create straight lines, dotted lines, dashed lines, or even give the impression of multi-colored confetti-like dots.” Here are a few examples that you can sift through including lace brushes, pencil/chalk brushes (resource links) and Katrina has a tutorial for a confetti brush that feels like something the Kate Spade NY team would use and a collage enumeration with brushes. For more artistic brushes, download Katrina's paint and watercolor brushes resource.
2. Shapes: Want to create graphics that have callouts or indicate a special phrase? Use Photoshop's default set of useful shapes like ovals, squares/rectangles, and hearts. Katrina says, “The great thing about shapes is that they're vector-based elements, meaning that you can shrink or stretch them in Photoshop without loss of quality. I use shapes all the time. I use them to create labels for my photos and it's the primary tool that I use when I make blog photo layout templates for post collages or blog photo frames. You can download Katrina's arrow label shapes which we've used in various marketing materials and on the web. So cute and extremely handy for “calls to action”.
3. Clipping Masks: You can use clipping masks to apply a pattern or photo to text or to a Photoshop shape. Doing this can give the effect of an elaborate photo cut-out of certain letters or shapes. It can be hard to understand what a Clipping Mask really is so think of it like a layer that drapes over a specific object. Anything can be made into a clipping mask, textures, photos, colors. What's great about clipping masks too is that you can create a basic template for your photo collages, giving you the chance to drop photos into the template and Save As. No more time on creating layouts; just use the template. For a tutorial on how to create clipping masks, visit Katrina's tutorial using a few fabric swatches.
4. Masks: At times, a portion of your image needs to be edited, whether it be your hair, your face, the background, etc. However, you don't want to do a rough-editing job and ruin the other portion of your image. Bring in the Photoshop Mask tool. These masks isolate and protect parts of an image, allowing you to paint parts of an image without touching the other parts of the image. You can create a To make a mask, use the Quick Select or Magic Wand tool and select your image. Then hit Quick Mask. Immediately, you can see that the red areas are the parts of the photo that are protected. AKA you can't ruin them. Change the saturation, levels, curves in that area only.
5. Unsharp Mask: This tool is my ultimate retouching go-to in Photoshop. The Unsharp Mask filter makes your image look more focused by adjusting the contrast of the edge detail. Basically, your image looks more focused without actually sharpening the image. To use this filter, go to Filter in the Navigation Bar, then Sharpen, then Unsharp Mask. Here you will get a pop-up that will preview the image for you with and without the Unsharp Mask settings. Play with the Amount slider to sharpen as you see fit, then use the Radius slider to determine how many pixels will be effected. Finally, we have the Threshold filter, which according to Adobe Photoshop's Classroom in a Book, “determines how different the sharpened pixels must be from the surrounding area before they are considered edge pixels and subsequently sharpened by the Unsharp Mask filter.” To familiarize yourself with the Unsharp Mask settings, adjust the sliders and see the before/after image. That way you can determine what settings work best for you.
All of these tools help take your photos to a more graphically designed visual which clearly states what your blog post is about. Less 2D, more 3D. Plus, they help your photos stand out, which is pretty important in this growing community.
What tools do you use in Photoshop? Which ones would you like to become more familiar with?Many thanks to Katrina from Pugly Pixel for sharing her top tools and resources with us.