book reviews

Working Smart in Adobe Photoshop CS2 by Conrad Chavez

In the introduction of this book, the author Conrad Chavez, reminds the reader of the old cliché "Work smarter, not harder." This is definitely a truism that all Photoshop users would like to adopt. Photoshop CS2 is a great product. However, sometimes trying to learn all of the features (or at least the ones you use), is like trying to learn how to fly the space shuttle. Can't we just identify the most useful time-saving techniques? Yes, and Chavez has done it in this book.

Chavez is a longtime expert with Photoshop. He has taken a hard look at Photoshop's time and effort saving tools, and has created a book that provides the reader with many ideas for increasing workflow and task efficiency. This book is in full color, which really helps.

When deciding to increase your efficiency, the first thing you need to take a look at is the hardware. In the beginning of the book, Chavez does just that. He leads you through optimizing and making the best selections of the settings on your PC or Mac. This covers RAM, hard disk settings in Photoshop, monitors and video cards. Believe me, you can avoid MUCH frustration by having adequate RAM and hardware to feed the Photoshop beast! One of the most important things you can learn as a new Photoshop user is the RAM and Scratch Disk settings.

Moving on through the book there are important discussions about optimizing the workspace, efficiently configuring and using the palettes, plus how to save time by configuring the presets and tools to your unique requirements.

Chavez also discusses Bridge, a relative newcomer to Adobe in the last version of Photoshop. Bridge is a great, stand-alone tool in itself. This tool replaced the old file browser feature of Photoshop and is now available in other Adobe programs like Illustrator and InDesign. Bridge has its own features and settings that are important to optimize in order to make efficient use of the interface, how it displays images and uses RAM.

In chapter nine, there are tips for increasing the efficiency of making selections. Veteran Photoshop users know that "Selection is King" in Photoshop. Being able to quickly and accurately select portions of your image are critical to your success in Photoshop. If you can't properly make a selection, the fancy filters and other features are relatively useless.

Other important aspects brought forward in this book are the chapters dealing with correcting images, effectively using layer styles and transparency in layers and documents. Another chapter discusses a feature of Photoshop that can save much frustration, the History palette.

Chavez discusses how to use this important palette productively by using its features like snapshots and properly setting the palette options to increase efficiently.

One of the chapters of specific interest in this book is chapter seventeen. Novice users of Photoshop enter a new world when they learn how to use Actions. Actions are terrific for applying changes to large batches of files. Another great use for actions is to apply a series of filters or changes to a single document in steps. Chavez provides specific directions on how to run actions, plan and create new actions. In the next chapter, readers learn about Droplets, which are a natural progression forward into batch processing with actions.

The final chapters in this book cover two of the more advanced topics: automating with scripts and generating data-driven graphics. These chapters give readers a brief overview of how to use these features in the real world.

I recommend this book. Whether you are a novice or an expert, Working Smart in Adobe Photoshop CS2 is a handy addition to any Photoshop users library. Be sure to check out Chavez' website at: for more information on this author.

Reviewed By: Loren Elks
Adobe Press