Most of us will learn Photoshop without being tutored by another human being.
I learnt Photoshop by reading books. I didn’t have much choice in 1990’s. Now we have other mediums like YouTube, and Adobe’s website, plus a host of other websites.
YouTube is great for specific techniques, like smoothing skin on portraits. But, if you want to learn about a specific tool, it is better to use a reference book. Even Adobe’s website sometimes lacks the detail you need, about specific tools.
Before we go any further, designers and photographers use Photoshop differently. I am talking here about Photoshop for Photographers. In fact, there aren’t that many books on Photoshop aimed at Designers.
I prefer to read my reference books printed on paper. For most other books I happy with the digital format.
Best Photoshop Reference Books
The two best authors are Scott Kelby and, Martin Evening. By best, I mean consistently produce up to date reference books on Photoshop.
It seems that Scott Kelby reacts quicker to Photoshop upgrades, so his book is usually more up to date. These are the latest versions below:
- Scott Kelby’s book has 360 pages.
- Martin Evening’s has 754 pages.
Martin Evening’s book as you can see has more pages and is moderately more expensive than Scott Kelby’s book.
There are of course plenty of other books, some cheaper. Why do I not recommend Adobe’s “Classroom in a Book” range? This range is project based and, not a reference manual. Other books like the Dummies range or, Learn in 24 hours, don’t contain enough information to compete with Martin Evening or, Scott Kelby.
Reference books are not going to deep dive into layering and compositing images. For compositing/layering images the project based format is better. Check out the ‘Best Advanced Photoshop Books’ below.
If I had to pick one book out of the two, it would be Martin Evening’s book. Despite Martin’s current copy not covering the Photoshop 2017 release, there is far more content than Scott Kelby’s book. Martin as of 3rd November is in the process of publishing a copy covering Photoshop’s 2017 release.
The changes in the 2017 release of Photoshop are not such a drastic change as to render a book covering a slightly older version of Photoshop irrelevant – far from it. Sometimes a bargain can be had by just choosing a book covering a previous version of Photoshop. Photoshop updates are rarely quantum leaps.
Scott Kelby is CEO of Kelby Media, Editor and founder of Photoshop User magazine, and co-founder of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP). Scott has got his marketing down to a fine art. Martin Evening, on the other hand, is a photographer who happens to know Photoshop back to front.
My money is on Martin Evening
Best Advanced Photoshop Books
I’ve read the following books and followed every project in each book.
The Hidden Power of Blend Modes – Scott Valentine
This book will not only give you the technical knowledge required to understand blend modes. The math behind blend modes is quite simple. You’ll soon get to understand why a blend mode gets its name. For instance: the math behind the Multiply blend mode, well the clue is in the name.
The first part of the book is project based, with each project submitted by different authors, who are usually big guns in the Photoshop world. Math aside, each blend mode effect is explained in layman’s language.
There are a few online resources as well, but they do not allow you to download images from each project.
You are not going to remember how each blend mode works, so I have this book on my bookshelf, and on my computer as a PDF.
How to Cheat in Photoshop – Steve Caplin
This is a fun book. There’s a host of different effects, some easy to follow, some not. My only criticism is sometimes the instruction is not explicit enough. Ironically this can make you think a lot harder leading to a better understanding of the tools being used.
There are links to video instruction for most of the projects on Steve Caplin’s website.
I’ve created images using this book that can fool most people. You probably won’t fool those with a digital imaging background though!
You will have fun with this book, and learn some usable skills.
The Photoshop Workbook – Glyn Dewis
Glyn Dewis is a well known Photoshop YouTuber. His presenting skills on YouTube are excellent.
The instructions in his book are very explicit and easy to follow.
The techniques vary from the mundane, (how to create a snow effect), to Glyn’s signature gritty portrait shots.
Glyn’s work is geared more towards people, and that is reflected in this book.
If I had to pick two books to take to my desert island.
- Scott Valentine’s: The Hidden Power of Blend Modes
- Martin Evening’s: Adobe Photoshop CC for Photographers 2016 edition.