For someone looking to get started in design, there are a few things you should learn up front. Some of the simplest things I’ve learned took years to find out simply because I didn’t really know what I was looking for; only that I wanted to learn. So here are a few things I’ve picked up over the years to help you get started.
Adobe software is, for the most part, the industry standard. If you really want to learn how to design, you’re probably going to want to get your hands on a copy of Photoshop at the very least. If you can manage to get an entire Creative Suite (CS), even better, but it’s a lot to learn. Most of the tutorials you will find on the web will cover Photoshop, Illustator, and a few others. Certainly there is other software, some decent free programs even, but you may have trouble finding decent tutorials for them and later down the road, you’re going to encounter people looking specifically for Adobe files.
That being said, once you’ve managed to get your very own copy of Photoshop, my best advice is to find some tutorials (I’ll list a few good sites in a moment) and follow them step by step. Even if the end product of the tutorial isn’t something that particularly appeals to you, you will learn how to use various tools and shortcuts while you do it. I found it was much faster to learn by simply copying what was in the tutorial rather than try to apply the instruction to something else. Everyone learns differently though so do whatever works for you.
A few good tutorial sites for Photoshop:
Google (or yahoo or whatever search engine you prefer…) is your friend. You can find thousands of resources simply by searching for ‘photoshop’.
- BlueVertigo – I -really- wish I had found this site sooner in my career. It’s a massive archive of stock photos, fonts, vector graphics, etc. Any other links I could recommend are already in here…
Saving your work.
I tend to keep the original files on hand in case I need to edit something in the future. This means saving your work to a PSD in Photoshop, AI in Illustrator, etc. But what about all these other file types? JPEGs are going to be the most common (.jpg and .jpeg). If you’re trying to save something for use on the web though, you may be better off saving them as a PNG or GIF.
Saving to these formats can be confusing if you’ve never done it before though. I like my JPEGS fairly high quality to I’ll “Save As…”, pick JPG from the drop down menu, and when the next window pops up (JPEG Options), I select a quality of either 10 or 12 and hit OK. For web, I choose the “Save for Web & Devices…” and can then pick a from a drop down menu on the right whether I want a GIF, PNG, or other. These may take some trial and error to find what settings you like best as some will distort the quality of the image. You can always look up the different file types online and learn a bit more about each one.
So, let’s jump forward and assume you’ve tackled a tutorial or two. Saved some images and you’re ready for the next step. Seems like a good time to learn the lingo.
Resolution: Much like your monitor’s resolution, this refers to the pixels per inch of your image. If you want to design something to be printed, you’re going to want a very high resolution (typically 300). If you’re designing for the web, however, you wont need anything near that high (typically 72).
DPI and PPI: Dots Per Inch (which honestly hasn’t been relevant since older printers were in use) and Pixels Per Inch. DPI referring to resolution for print and PPI for web. Many people use the terms interchangeably though there is technically a difference.
Bleed: When designing for print you will need a little extra space so things will still look clean and neat after the edges are cut. For example; if you design a 4″x6″ flier and the printer tells you they require a 1/4″ bleed, your canvas size will be 4 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ (@ 300DPI), to give you an extra 1/4″ around all four edges. You’re going to want your background to ‘bleed’ out into this area but nothing important, such as text, that could get cut off.
CMYK and RGB: CMYK is typically reserved for print. It will give you a much truer color than RGB, however not all printers require this, and CMYK files tend to be much larger. CMYK actually stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (which is black). RGB is Red, Green, Blue; the colors output from a typical cathode-ray tube (i.e. an old computer monitor), used in all web design and most standard design.
Thumbnail(s): A small version of the design. This term most typically refers to a part of the design process where the designer will create a few rough sketches of the design concept.
Comp(s): This is where the design is taken to the computer and the first drafts are begun. Most designs for clients will have a few comps before the final proofs are sent.
Proof(s): This is the completed version of the design, sometimes in a smaller file format (to be easily emailed), that is sent to the client to be review for color, verbage, etc. and approved before print or upload.
Vector and Raster: Vector works by defining points and what fills the spaces between those points in a document which are stored as mathematical formulas. Raster images are made out of pixels. Simply put, Vector images can be resized to nearly any dimension without loss of quality whereas raster files will begin to distort.
Learning anything yet? I’m sure you guessed the next part. Practice, practice, practice. Play around, have fun. Scour the web and/or library. Ask questions from some other designers. Soon you’ll be a master of all things Adobe and all things design. Maybe.
I’ll leave you with a few more helpful links. Enjoy.