Photoshop: a Graphic Designer's Dream.
When it comes to web design – in fact, any kind of computerised graphic design – Photoshop has been the standard for years, and remains the market leader. But just what is so great about it?
Photoshop was originally designed for print graphic designers, and it shows: the selection of features available is truly professional, not 'dumbed down' like many web programs are. That doesn't mean, though, that Photoshop is no good for the web: it supports all the important web formats, and even comes with a special tool, ImageReady, to help you prepare images for the web. It will even help you cut up your designs into parts that can be used on a website, and write some HTML for you, if you want.
Photoshop is useful enough for the web that most people you might do designs for will ask for the PSD (Photoshop format) files you produced – this is especially common when you design a logo. If you're getting something designed for you, make sure you get the PSDs, as this lets another designer edit the files later. PSD files are widely supported by other software, including Paint Shop Pro.
As well as the web and print, Photoshop is also used in television, film and DVD preparation – but that doesn't mean it's become unfocused. It simply provides almost every feature you could ever want, and is constantly doing things that people didn't think were possible: in the latest version, for example, there is a function to easily remove shadows without altering the rest of the image, and a function that lets you extend objects in images without sacrificing the image's perspective. Each new version makes the existing features easier to use, which is significant given how revolutionary some of Photoshop's functions were considered just a few years ago: you can do things that were once thought impossible with nothing more than a few clicks.
Of course, since you probably won't spend much of your time editing photographs with Photoshop, these market-leading graphics features probably won't be all that important to you. If you're anything like me, you'll simply be interested to know how easily it lets you produce logos and other website elements. The answer is: very easily. Photoshop's layers tool is still better than any other out there, and lets you layer text and images together quickly to create a very professional look.
Photoshop can make such impressive changes to images that a term for it has come about on the web: 'Photoshopping'. Photoshopping is when you take an image and modify it using Photoshop so that it becomes a convincing, but fake, new image. The technique has gained fame from several incidents of fake images being spread across the web and even in the established media: Photoshop can produce output so real-looking that even experts have trouble spotting it.
Photoshop's Big Drawback.
There's not much argument, though, that Photoshop is extremely expensive: it costs well over $500. Worse, your $500 gets you a restrictive license that only lets you install the program on two computers (and the program 'phones home' to Adobe over the Internet to check). It's well known that most of the people out there using it for smaller sites and projects are doing so illegally, simply because of the price. There are other problems with the latest versions, though, notably the fact that they run slowly unless you have a very good computer – plenty of people have ended up adding more RAM to their PCs just to make Photoshop run the way it should, despite the fact that relatively few features are added between versions.
If you'd be interested in a slimmed-down, cheaper version of Photoshop that has everything except the professional print output capabilities, you should take a look at Photoshop Elements. For about $100, it's more than good enough to compete with the likes of Paint Shop Pro – Photoshop Elements is the program I use, and I really couldn't be happier with it. There will, of course, be situations where even $100 is a lot to spend, but it's still well worth consideration.
You can download free trials of both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements from http://www.adobe.com/products/tryadobe/.