Features such Layer Groups. “As most of the work I do in Photoshop is taken into 3D software, I love the way the layer set-up allows you to organize specific passes,” says Isles.
“Using the Group Layer option [Layer > Group Layer] you can name and organize a large workflow really easily.”
Photoshop’s value to these experts becomes clear when you ask what can be achieved with Photoshop that goes beyond what can be offered by other media, such as paint or vector work.
Digital ‘painter’ Daniel Hammonds, www.devotion-graphics.com, admits that his attempts at painting in oils and acrylics “would usually involve scraping a lot of paint off the canvas before repainting”.
In Photoshop it’s different, he says: “Mistakes can be erased, colours can be corrected and proportion faults can be fixed with a few clicks of a mouse.”
Brazilian designer Adhemas Batista, www.adhemas.com, points out that, “Without Photoshop, you can’t manipulate images, fine-tune pieces or apply light or shadows.”
James Digby-Jones is partner at top UK retouching house Saddington & Baynes, www.saddingtonbaynes.com, and believes that working in traditional media just doesn’t measure up to the infinite possibilities offered by Photoshop.
“It’s the editability, and flexibility to undo and manipulate. Often, it’s the happy accident of how several layers combine that gives the best results.”
But such power is nothing without control, and Photoshop experts all have their pet hates when it comes to pedestrian Photoshop work, and techniques they feel deserve to be blacklisted.
“Relying on filters too heavily is really cheesy,” says Isles. “Using filters as masks to manipulate real photos is an approach I think is much more successful. If you want to create a glass effect, for example, take a photo of some glass, and then use the filters as a final tweak. Don’t just turn the button up to 100 per cent.”
Daniel Hammonds warns that filters can ”become glaringly obvious and produce generic results”. Isles adds that Photoshop users can get more out of the application simply by “playing to your strengths” and “letting it do the heavy lifting”.
“Painting isn’t my strongest point,’ Isles admits, “so I have to create a library of masks, files and brushes that I can use to modify images. This saves time and allows me to focus on things I am stronger at.”
Is there one neglected feature that experts feel could lift the work of many Photoshop users to another level? “I have to say it’s Calculations,” says Campau. ”It has been around since the beginning, but many people don’t even know what it’s used for, even though it is by far the best way to create masks and isolate objects by combining different layer channels with different modes.”
For complex layer masks such as hair or glass, he says the tool is “the best way to pull out what you need.” Bert Monroy is probably the world’s leading authority on Calculations, and you can read about the astonishing work he does using this age-old Photoshop feature in our profile of his work – along with profiles of four other Photoshop masters.