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Delve into Photoshop’s tools with this collection of resources

Adobe Photoshop is a complex piece of software to tackle. If your goal is to become a Photoshop expert, plan on spending several years working at it. If you want to learn as little as you can to make it useful, I suggest you take our Photoshop CS6: The Basics workshop.  If and when you’re ready to go further, try the other workshops and webinars  that we offer.

Learning how to use Photoshop requires a hands-on approach, and once you’ve exhausted all of IT Training’s offerings, you’ll need to seek other learning resources. Luckily for you, the Internet is overflowing with free Photoshop tutorials. In this post, I share a few of them with you.

Photoshop is all about the tools. There are probably hundreds of them, and if you don’t know which tool to use for which task, you won’t be able to accomplish very much. That’s why I searched the Web for tutorials that really focus on Photoshop’s tools. It seems to me that learning what each tool can do is like learning the alphabet. Once you have the letters, you can build words, and then sentences, then paragraphs; you get the idea.

So without further ado, here are six tool-focused Photoshop tutorials. Click titles to view the tutorials.

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Use InDesign for Your Presentations

If you are ready to break out of the PowerPoint mold and infuse rich design features with multimedia into your slide shows, create an interactive InDesign document for your next presentation. Adobe InDesign offers Presentation mode with buttons, transitions, and all interactive bells and whistles.

You can watch how to to do it here:

And you can check out all the features with written step-by-step how-to’s here:


Tilt-Shift Photography Effect with Photoshop

Tilt-shift photography refers to the use of tilt for selective focus. There are special lenses that can be used to create this effect optically, or it can be simulated in digital editing and processing.

Here are a few examples I did, following the steps I outline below:


The tilt-shift effect essentially creates a imitation of a miniature scene or a small-sized model, often from real-life photography. The tilt-shift effect can be a lot of fun and is very easy to do with Photoshop.

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Creating an animated Gif in Photoshop CS5

There are many different ways and programs you can use to go about creating a fun and interesting animated gif for the web. For this tutorial I will show you one quick and easy way to create an animated gif using Photoshop CS5. I am working on a Mac, but a PC will do just the same.

You can check out a preview of what the completed animated gif can look like by visiting this link. Keep in mind, this is a web page I designed to showcase the animated gif created for this specific tutorial. Uploading your completed animated gif directly to the web will not result in the animation being centered on the web page.

a series of images

To begin with, I used Photoshop to create a series of images of which I kept in one folder. These images will act as the states for my animated gif. It is not necessary to use Photoshop to do this. You can create an animated gif with a series of photographs or a group of illustrations created in Illustrator in much the same way. Really, as long as you can open your files with Photoshop, you can create an animated gif out of virtually anything. The important thing to note is that each layer, or state, should be the same dimensions and resolution and will need to have something different, whether that change is slight or dramatic.

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Hidden Treasures of Illustrator

Looking for clip art? What about additional color options in Illustrator? Check out this option!


To find Clip Art, go to the Window menu. Choose Symbol Libraries. There are lots of options from the fly-out menu. Choose one and click. This opens up the panel for the option you chose. To apply a clip to your project, simply press and drag from the panel to your project. Remember that you can re-size without losing any quality when working with a vector image!

One more feature! As you go back into the Window>Symbol Libraries menu and choose another panel, the newly chosen menu will be added as a tab in the same panel you opened with your earlier choice. Even if you close the menu by clicking on the X in the upper right hand corner, choose another panel and you will find the new panel is added to the previous one.

There are many panels in the Window menu that will give you options such as brush, graphic styles, and swatch libraries. You can get some interesting effects by pressing and dragging an effect, for example, on top of a piece of clip art.  Experiment and have fun!

Create a website with rollovers using Illustrator and Dreamweaver

Knowing the basics of Illustrator and very little Dreamweaver, it has become very easy to create an interesting and fun website, complete with rollovers without knowing any code. Here’s an example of what can be accomplished. I used CS5 on my iMac, but you can use a PC and Adobe versions as old as CS2 just as well.

To Start with, create a new Folder on the Desktop (or wherever you plan to save your website) and title is “website.” This will provide a location where all your files for this particular website will be saved. It is important to keep all web files for one website in one location.

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Create High End Camera Effects Virtually in After Effects CS5.5

There are several new features in After Effects CS5.5, but the most impressive and frankly jaw-dropping effect that I’ve seen is the Warp Stabilizer. It sounds like something Captain Picard would need, but in fact it’s a way to stabilize camera footage.

When shooting film or video, there are several options for how to achieve camera motion while keeping the camera stable. If you’re a professional filmmaker, you might have access to a Steadicam rig, which uses gyroscopes to allow a camera operator to move freely while the camera stays still. However, for an amateur, this isn’t really an option due to the expense of such rigs.

But now in After Effects CS5.5 Adobe has introduced the Warp Stabilizer, which can take handheld camera footage, and stabilize it to the degree that it appears as if it was shot with a Steadicam. Stabilizing features have been part of After Effects for a long time, but the degree to which you can stabilize motion with this new effect is absolutely amazing. Watch this video to see an example of the stabilization and how to use this new feature.

Stabilize Shaky Footage with After Effects CS5.5

The next feature we will look at is the Camera Lens Blur effect. On a real camera, we can change the focal length of the lens as the shot is going on, which is a way to point the viewer at specific parts of the shot. This is called Rack Focus, and is quite complex to complete on an actual film set. It requires excellent timing and a second camera operator, called a Focus Puller in order to change the focus as the shot is happening.

Now we can do this in software with After Effects CS5.5. As long as the entire shot is in focus, we can use this effect to blur out specific parts of the image, and animate it so that it mimics the focus of an actual camera.

Camera Lens Blur in After Effects CS5.5

We also have a new effect for the people who work in 3D. After Effects CS5.5 has added some new light falloff features that more closely mimic real world lighting conditions. This can improve the look of your 3D effects in After Effects.

Light Falloff Effect in After Effects CS5.5

Capturing Memories with a New Generation of Digital Cameras

As a photography buff and Photoshop user, I have been touching up digital photographs for years. Rarely will you see acne, wrinkles, warts, or scars on the individuals in any of my pictures. In my personal photos, I have been paring off the extra flab that appears on my lower arms and thighs for so long now that it is easy for me to forget what I really look like. Furthermore, my close friends and family members always look at my photos with a knowing eye. If there is a huge mushroom or fish in one of my photographs, or if there is a shark’s fin just breaking the surface of the water behind swimmers, or if someone’s eyes look way too bright, my loved ones know that I have been up to my old tricks.

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Changing Ruler Units from Inches to Centimeters in PowerPoint 2010

By default, the rulers in PowerPoint display measurement in inches. The same is true of the other Microsoft Office applications. If you prefer to view and work with metric units, this setting can be changed from within Microsoft Word and Excel (via Options > Advanced > Display) but not from within PowerPoint.

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Identifying and Replicating Colors in PowerPoint

Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 includes many useful new features that make it easy for users to do everything they need to do from within the program. We can now edit images, audio clips, and even video without ever opening another application. While these editing capabilities are fairly limited, they are still extremely handy when you are trying to get a slide show out the door quickly.

Considering their efforts to include all the basic tools that a designer could ever need, I am really surprised that Microsoft has not integrated some type of color picker tool into their user interface. I can’t count the number of times over the past 5 years when I have needed to identify and replicate a specific color used in a slide show. Yes, I am a power user, and yes, I do create far more presentations than the average Joe, but I feel certain that even novice users may occasionally have this need. 

While it isn’t difficult to open Photoshop, or another image editing application, and to use the tools available to identify a color’s hexadecimal code or RGB values, it takes time.  I want everything to be quick and easy!   (  :

Pixie IconI guess that is why I was so excited when I recently discovered a handy little utility called Pixie. The program is free, easy to download and use, and it provides accurate color information, not only for use with PowerPoint, but for use with any application that doesn’t have its own built-in color picker.

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