Welcome to Photoshop and the land of digital photography and painting. It’s a lot to learn and manage, but it’s certainly worth it to learn how it works and the nomenclature of the tools or file types you will be using a lot.Since Adobe has come out, there have been many new kinds of file types and  many different kinds of tools, picture types, and other things in their programs that have been introduced to the creative community. Of course, a lot of it is based upon traditional things, but it revolutionized a lot of digital work. Within this blog post, we’ll go over how resolutions work, various other units of measure per Adobe software, camera files, and Photoshop layers.

Resolve your Resolution

If you’ve ever had to mess with your computer’s settings, you’ve most likely seen it’s resolution and numbers like 1280×800 or 1680×1050. Now, these look like math equations, and you’re completely correct. These numbers- resolution- are the number of pixels per area on a screen. You’ve heard terms like 720p, or 1080i, too most likely! Although, if not, I can explain this before jumping into the topic at hand. The difference between the p and the i is that they are different strategies to how the pixels create photos on your screen. The i stands for “interlaced scan” which is when the pixels change or refresh by loading all the odd numbered pixels and then the even ones after. The p on the other hand stands for “progressive scan” which is a newer, more smooth pixel refresh.

Now, this is similar for digital files, things that are digital must utilize the same pixels! When using any program for creative design (Creative Cloud products, various illustration softwares, heck, even Microsoft Paint has this!) when you create things you usually set the size and scale of the document. Amongst these options is the setting for DPI.

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This is an example of some DPI settings from a software called “Clip Studio Paint”.

DPI or PPI, depending upon whether or not you are printing or not, either means “dots per inch” or “pixels per inch”. This is extremely similar to the way your screens resolution works. The higher the DPI, the more dots- or pixels- per inch you will have.

(DPI and PPI are unfortunately used like interchangeable terms, so if you feel a bit confused on it, that’s alright. Originally PPI was used for digital- refering to the pixels per screen, meanwhile DPI is the dots used during printing. Many manufacturers of software interchange these. You can probably interchange them, too, since the meaning is now changed from what it used to be.)

A higher DPI means a higher resolution, and usually bigger is better. 72dpi upon printing an image may look extremely blurry, whereas a higher dpi may look extremely crisp. Since there are more pixels in higher DPIs, the images will be more smooth and sleek, usually you can zoom in and not see any blurry pixels. You may use different DPIs depending upon what you are doing, and things that are printed will typically have DPIs of 300, sometimes they may go higher than this though. 72dpi is good for digital- but going higher is fine too. Go big or go home! I personally use 300dpi+ for digital illustrations with pen-touch pressure.

Now, we have programs such as Adobe Illustrator that use different measurement units. Illustrator uses points by default, and each point is equivalent to a .3528 of a millimeter. The reason it uses this is because it uses the points to determine strokes, shapes, and also create sleek looking raster images.

The Sport of RAW and EXTREME Photography

Just kidding, although if there were to be a dramatic photography world cup I wouldn’t mind. But, like the title says “RAW”- there is actually a file type with the name RAW. RAW files are image files that are barely processed and are to be later converted into files like JPEG or TIFF after some editing.

Photographers like RAW files because they have more colors per channel, a RAW can have a minimum of 4096 shades depending upon its settings, whereas a JPEG has only 256. It stores more intense data and has higher image quality. RAW files are used for when photographers want to fine tune and edit their photos as much as they can. Since RAW files are easy to edit and all edits to RAW files are non-destructive, they are the obvious choice for photographers.

Of course, there are quite a few disadvantages. RAW files are usually 2-5 times larger than the average JPEG. This can be easily negated by the large sizes and low costs of memory cards that are used to hold photos, but is still the downside. RAW files also require a second step in order to get the photos how you want them and able to be used. Professional cameras with high quality instant photos are sometimes preferred to utilizing RAW files and having to edit them and compress them on a computer.

Onions Have Layers

Photoshop- and many other programs from Adobe Creative Cloud have layers within their program as a tool. Think of layers like a flipbook. When you draw on one page, then flip the next page over it, you can then draw a new picture directly on top of it. However, with layers you get transparency, and you can use the various layers to create masks, hue and saturation changes, or even overlay things until they look completely and totally different.

Transparency is the white and grey checkerboard that we creative designers love so much. It allows non-colored areas to be transparent and is helpful for things like icons with rounded edges or larger illustrations that need to be overlaid in a design on a website. You make things transparent or else you may end up with a big unneeded white background on your designs, especially if the colors you’re using are not white.

Using layers is actually quite simple once you get the hang of it. When you open a Photoshop document, there is usually already one layer titled “Background” this layer is completely white and lacks transparency. From there you can add, delete, and reorder layers as you please. Layers are arranged vertically and the topmost layer is the one that covers each one. Lets say you draw a small red dot on one layer, and then you put a layer above it with a big blue square in the same place. Since that blue square is on the layer above that little dot, you will see the square. Now reorder them, and put the little dot on top of the square! You’ll see the red dot but you’ll also see the square around it.

Layers empower designers by allowing us to adjust, arrange, and organize our various things on a design, illustration, animation, and other things. We’re able utilize these helpful tools with extreme ease, and it also allows us to organize and reference other things. Layers aren’t only used in Photoshop, but also Animate, Premiere, Illustrator, InDesign, etcetera. Layers are extremely handy tools regardless of the type of work!

Photo by Josefa nDiaz on Unsplash