This node is the first of a seven part series discussing the specifics of multimedia and being a digital artist. Nodes that you should be acquainted with before reading this one are:

a) Multimedia hardware fundamentals

b) Multimedia software fundamentals

As I said before, my write-ups concerning a curriculum of study for working towards a professional career as a multimedia artist are at best, bare bones and need to know. I have an unbelievable energy and unlimited excitement for this stuff, and easily could write double for whatever I’m speaking about at that moment. Yet it is far better to pursue a very limited scope with the many flavors of multimedia technology for a few reasons:

a) Affordability. In a nutshell, software is expensive. I’m trying to save you a buck. Even though you won’t be paying for any of these programs in the beginning, at some point you WILL have to go legit and get legal copies.

b) Learning curve. Your first program to learn is Photoshop, which I will speak about in this node. Let me just unleash some truth on your ass now: Photoshop is difficult and it is time consuming. Anyone who tells you that they learned the program in a day or two is lying. And you know what? It comes across through their portfolio and final work. I use the program for at least 2 hours a day(for the last four years) and STILL consider many aspects of the software new to me. Being able to beat the learning curve with Photoshop is a two-prong win. The first victory is that you’ll be savvy with probably the most used image editing program ever created. Photoshop is GLOBAL in its popularity within the design sector. The second victory is that spending all that time working within the Photoshop environment will ease the subtle intricacies of learning any future programs. In other words, every program you will learn after Photoshop won’t be as hard as the time you put into Photoshop. Of course, there are exceptions, but not many that you’ll have to deal with within your first few digital artist years.

c)Time and burnout. This isn’t really meant to be funny, but it IS possible to burnout on Photoshop. Photoshop is one of those programs that reveals itself to you in big chunks at varying times. The program imparts its secrets to you a little at time, and then suddenly ALL AT ONCE. It’s kind of like the little snowball rolling down into the big angry avalanche type of deal. A person (like me at one time) would spend five hours just trying to airbrush a person out of a photo. At hour five, just as I’m finishing up and ready to pass out, I suddenly happen upon a shortcut that allows me to do my last five hours in fifteen seconds with better results. The heart palpitates suddenly and realizes the significance and future prospects of such a find. From there my mind reels out twenty five more experiments and I’m off to work again. Five hours turns into fifteen and suddenly it’s 4AM, you’re drinking DRIP COFFEE from a percolator (quadruple as much caffeine as instant) and asking your roommate where you can score some Benzedrine. I actually failed a semester of college because of this. That’s right, 6 F’s all the way down baby. It came to the point where I was just wanted to enhance my image manipulation techniques and found no reason to waste conscious hours on liberal arts classes. Time is your enemy when you’re a digital artist and the body can take only so much damage. Sticking with one of two programs during your first year will greatly increase your chances of staying healthy.

d) Earning street credibility. With Photoshop, there’s a certain part of your life that you should somewhat devote to what I like to describe as ‘earning street credibility’. Street cred is what I use to define a digital artist from a Photoshop hobbyist. I’m rather tough on myself when I try to measure my talents up to par with those of other professionals. I learned that college really didn’t help. Getting an A doesn’t mean much when your teacher is second rate and your classmates are morons with no sense of inspiration or inner beauty. Street cred is putting your money where your mouth is, so to speak. So for a good year, I made most of my money making fake ID’s, forging driver’s licenses, doctoring report cards, and faking police reports. Not only does it efficiently and thoroughly test out your maturity with the real ‘blood and guts’ of Photoshop, but it can make you some pretty good scratch too. If you don’t really want to break the law (and I applaud your moral standards), then just quietly try to duplicate your own driver’s license in the privacy of your own house. Same thing with your birth certificate. Government documents are the best teachers I’ve ever had with 2D image editing. How to learn? Simple. READ everything. Online tutorials discussing Photoshop techniques are PLENTIFUL AND FREE. SCOUR the cyber space for them. Oh, by the way, if you’re one of those high strung individuals who always forgets to have fun, then let me help you out:

HAVE FUN WITH THIS. I was so busy with proofing the watermarks on my forged driver’s licenses or checking the font pitch of a report card that I forgot just how cool all this was. YOU’RE A GOD, man. One of my lady friends came up to my dorm one night and started reading a book on my bed, like she always did. She noticed I was working on driver’s licenses and made some comment. I looked up after the third time she repeated it and said, “HUH?”

“You know, being able to do shit like this makes you look pretty hot,” is what she kept trying to get me to hear. Well, be still my heart. I’m not saying that you should learn how to beat the man or use this as a way to pick up chicks. But if it happens and things fall out in your favor, TAKE A FUCKING BREAK AND ENJOY YOURSELF FOR A MINUTE. YOU MIGHT BE MISSING OUT ON POTENTIAL SEX, NIMROD.

I just wanted to throw that little anecdote in there. Digital artists cannot live on binary digits alone, you know.

Ok well. First thing is first. Without inspiration, you’ll go nowhere. Enthusiasm in a lot of cases, is many times more important than actual knowledge. You’ve got to love the program baby. When you sit down, fire up the computer, and import your images things have to start exploding in your mind. Realize that you are a DARK LORD with the fate of these pictures. At the whim of a mouse click, you can create entire photo-montages of surrealistic beauty or edit a picture to perfection. I fell in love with Photoshop after I realized that I would never take a bad picture ever again. Being a photography nut also helps with your education. As you learn to touch-up photos and what not you’ll begin to understand one important rule:

With Photoshop, nothing is visually impossible. In fact, I can guarantee you that you’re mind will fail way before this program lets you down. Can you understand that? I promise you will creatively burn out before you ever utter a phrase like,” Well, I wanted to do this and that in Photoshop, but couldn’t find a way.”

It isn’t my intention to teach you Photoshop in this node. There’s just too much too learn. I mainly meant to speak about its importance and advise you on learning this program FIRST in the long career of learning multimedia programs. After you have a good grasp of Photoshop, everything else generally falls into place. You’ll feel comfortable with yourself. You’ll feel SMART. I would advise looking for tutorials specifically discussing the following topics associated with the program. I’ve found that learning these first helped the most:

  • -understanding the conceptual meaning of working within layers.
  • -color correction with regards to photo-realistic images.
  • -configuring the ‘levels’ of an image.
  • -image compositing via the stamp function AND cut/paste technique
  • -feathering
  • -basic typography (typography is the use of letters and words as ART. Quite important if you’re thinking about web design or print design)
  • -photo montage (This is defined as the art of assembling various images into one for either surrealistic beauty( like putting the likeness of you on the moon or riding a jumping dolphin) or for forgery purposes. Like changing the picture on a driver’s licence, etc…)
  • -blur filter
  • -image manipulation (This is a general term I use to learning the little intricacies of taking scratches, stains, people, and/or objects out of an image)

Other free advice I’d like to give you.
  • -don’t get caught up with filters, ok? They’re cool, but not what you should be worrying about. Learn what everything on the task bar does first, and go from there.
  • -if you’re interested in web design, learn the specifics of image optimization and color reduction theory for the web.

Douglass Coupland said something in Microserfs that best described my personal belief in Photoshop and image manipulation:


And with that said, get to work. There’s a lot to be learned young Jedi.