With the same goal in mind as 10 Common Mistakes Made in Type Design, this article was created to raise awareness and educate new Photoshop users and designers,not to make fun of or mock the one’s who use the below techniques and practices.
Below is a list of 12 common mistakes, misuses and various ways new users abuse Photoshop. I have fell victim to a few of these myself when first starting out, so I hope this article helps educate designers and other individuals new to Photoshop. I encourage all of you to add your own mistakes or tips in the comment section below.
Improper extraction methods
Many new and unexperienced Photoshop users depend on the magic wand, quick select or lasso tool to extract backgrounds or objects in an image. Photoshop’s “easy” selection and extraction methods have come a long way, but it still doesn’t compare to the precision you get with the pen tool.
The pen tool can be quite tricky to new users, but once mastered you will wonder how you ever used any other method. Other great methods of quick masking or extraction can also be used. Just don’t use the eraser tool!
Adding a slight feather to your extractions helps improve the appearance of your images.
Setting body copy
Photoshop can be used to create fantastic text effects, but that doesn’t mean you should use it for large areas on text — especially for body copy. That’s what InDesign, Quark or even, Illustrator is for.
Your text will not print as clear and sharp in a raster-based program like Photoshop. Stick with vector-based programs for large amounts of copy.
Using rainbow gradients
You know you’ve seen them a million times, and every time they get more jarring to look at. Just say no to rainbow gradients! (Caution: Grip your arm chair before clicking the link to the left!) :)
Now that doesn’t mean you should stay clear of gradients all together. I’ve seen plenty of designs and websites as of late using tactful gradients. Try blending the gradients from a lighter shade to a darker shade of the same color, instead of blending 2 or more disconnecting colors.
Assuming K=100 is Black
Many new designers, including myself at one point, thought that setting my K in CMYK to 100 would result in black. This is not the case… instead, it results in a dark grey.
Although you can get away with setting your K to 100 for black text, large areas of black should be set to ‘Rich Black’. Try using C=90 M=60 Y=30 K=100 — it will produce a much richer and noticeable black.
Overusing and abusing filters
I shouldn’t have to go into too much detail with this one, but I remember being obsessed with filters when I first experienced Photoshop. Even though they’re “fun and easy” doesn’t mean they make you look professional and experienced.
Overusing and misusing filters can easily make you look like an amateur.
Creating logos in Photoshop
Though this one can be argued, you should create logos in vector-based programs, like Illustrator, as much as possible.
Vectors are easily scalable and retain consistent clarity no matter how large or small you scale them.
Working under 300dpi in print
Many new users fall into the trap of working in 72 dpi (dots per inch). While this is true for the web, it should not be used when printing. Typically 300 dpi is best for print, but you should always check with your printer.
Also, when working with images that are 72 dpi in print, don’t assume you can just increase the resolution or size of the image and everything will be fixed. The image will appear pixelated and of lower resolution once printed.
Not learning shortcuts
No matter which program you are working in, learning shortcuts is a must. Not only will it increase your workflow by saving valuable time, but many of the tools require additional keys for added functionality.
You can even create your own in Photoshop by selecting ‘Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts…’
Not using layers and folders
Everything in Photoshop revolves around layers. I’ve seen many new Photoshop users neglect using little to no layers, only to regret it later. They make it much easier to edit, move, duplicate, delete, etc.
Also, naming your layers and structuring them into folders is essential, especially when dealing with large PSDs or if you’re a web designer. It will help you navigate around your project, save time and reduce headaches.
‘Desaturate’ to convert images to Black & White
This one is often over looked, even by experienced designers. Choosing Image > Adjustments > Desaturate for converting your image to black and white, often produces a flat, “lifeless” photograph.
Try converting by choosing ‘Image > Adjustments > Channel Mixer’. Check off ‘Monochrome’ and then adjusting the Red, Green and Blue channel sliders — this produces a much richer image.
Beveled, embossed and drop shadows
Similar to rainbow gradients and abusing filters, beveled and/or embossed text can be labeled as unexperienced. Unless you have a valid reason, stay clear of these or use sparingly.
Drop shadows should also be treated properly and with care. When applying a drop shadow, make certain to pay attention to other lighting in the image. You don’t want drop shadows coming from all directions causing an image to appear unbelievable or fake.
Also, adjusting or toning down drop shadows is important as well. They should be subtle and soft, not dramatic and harsh.
Not taking advantage of guides and grids
You wouldn’t believe how many designers “eye” things up instead of pulling out guides or using the grid in Photoshop. They’re there for a reason… use them.
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