As a basic guide to Photoshop CS6, PHOTOSHOP CS6 FOR DUMMIES falls into that impractical middle ground between beginning and intermediate guide to Photoshop. Too advanced and badly organized for beginners, it likewise is not the best reference guide for highly experienced Photoshop users, because much of information contained within it is too basic. However it is most suitable for the advanced beginner-intermediate student who has already taken a beginning Photoshop course and spent at least a dozen sessions using Photoshop.
For over 15 years, I have taught 18-20 beginning Photoshop courses per year. I also have graduate degrees in education and counseling, and have done much one-on-one tutoring. As a result, am very well attuned to the processes by which students learn Photoshop. Important to the learning process is helping the students retain what they learn, and understand the thinking process that occurs in regard to determining the order of steps and the use of tools.
Users totally new to Photoshop are likely to be intimidated by Peter Bauer's approach and wonder if they need instead a book entitled PHOTOSHOP CS6 FOR ABSOLUTE DUMMIES.
From the start, Bauer refers to features - e.g. 8 and 16 bit color modes, color correction by channels - which he does not define. Indeed, he prematurely and unnecessarily mentions topics too early which are likely to overwhelm beginners who needs to process information one step at a time, and in an order which makes sense when initially editing a photo.
Bauer would have written a better book if he had begun with definitions of terms, an in-depth introduction to the Photoshop interface, and discussion of the first steps which follow opening a photo and evaluating it in regard to potential editing.
In my classes, I find that beginning students need intensive focus upon:
a) proportion, resizing and resolution
b) mastery of the levels sliders, and hue/saturation
c) understanding the difference between selection techniques, the best uses for each one, and the refining of selection
d) step-by-step guidance in using the layers palette
e) considerable experience with the clone tool and healing brush
f) various sharpening techniques, and their suggested uses
Bauer does not present any of these topics to a degree which I view as adequate. He does not even, for example, address the biggest issue student have with the magnetic lasso (getting out of it, and avoiding the "bubble gum" effect). He barely refers to the process of refining selections, and he omits key information to regard to effective sharpening.
In regard to version CS6, PHOTOSHOP CS6 FOR DUMMIES does not in any depth cover the newest features. It does clearly indicate that a technique is new when it is introduced. But the book is not organized in a manner which would help a previous Photoshop user locate and focus upon the latest features.
But PHOTOSHOP CS6 FOR DUMMIES is not by any means a complete loss. Bauer's writing style is clear, and the layout of the book, like most For Dummies books, contributes to readability (although some of the diagrams and screenshots are a bit too small).
It is also brimming with many useful tips - ones which even many intermediate and advanced users can benefit. I, for example, learned more about organizing filters and using the oil paint filter, about using vibrance with the sponge tool, and about certain settings available in Edit, Preferences. Even with my many year's experience using Photoshop, I picked up about two dozen tips with which I was not familiar.
Bauer also covers almost every topic likely to interest Photoshop users - retouching, color correction, brushes, selection, layers and layer styles, vector paths, filters, camera raw, and even video/animation capabilities which are now available in the regular as well as the extended version. But therein lies the problem. In attempting to cover everything, he overreaches himself, particularly in regard to addressing himself to the Photoshop beginner - the likely audience for his book.
Although I have not yet examined or read many books focused on Photoshop 6 in particular, I continue to recommend to my beginning students Mike Woolridge and Brianna Stuart's TEACH YOURSELF VISUALLY ADOBE PHOTOSHOP and Elaine Weinmann's PHOTOSHOP VISUAL QUICKSTART GUIDE. Even more comprehensive and also accessible to beginners is Steve Johnson's PHOTOSHOP ON DEMAND. Finally Scott Kelby's books on PHOTOSHOP FOR DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHERS continue to be excellent guides suitable for the beginner/advanced beginner.
I would not recommend PHOTOSHOP CS6 FOR DUMMIES, except to advanced beginners who also have a more suitable beginning or intermediate Photoshop book.
Clarity is the beauty of these "for dummies" books. You will know where to look and you will understand what you read. This book functions as a general orientation of the program, moving logically from less to more complex, and going into detail where needed (ex: what do the sliders within the dialog mean and what going in either direction will accomplish.) In that regard, it is the perfect beginning reference for those starting out with the program or needing a review.
Having said that, it is an embarrassingly obvious update of the CS5 version of the same book with an occasional icon saying "new" inserted where text about a CS6 specific change was plugged into the existing template. It is only 6 pages longer than the previous version. Considering how much has been added and changed, I find that surprising.
What this book is NOT--and what I had hoped it would be--is a guide to the new features of this edition of the program. I realized that it wouldn't be limited to that, but I had hoped for a CS6 centric book or, at least, a listing of what is new, where it is, what it does, and where to find it and, later on, some details.
You have to search through the book looking for the little balloon icon that indicates new features. Is this, necessarily, a bad thing? Maybe not. I suppose that the new features should appear in the chapter dedicated to related material. However, having the new features listed somewhere would have been a big help since there have been hundreds of changes from simple JDI tweaks to major additions, revisions, and rearrangements. I've used Photoshop since 1999, and I can't remember an upgrade that has had as massive an impact to the look and feel and functionality of the program as a whole.
Considering the extent and complexity of the changes, I would have expected that more space be dedicated to, at least, the major features. The new blur gallery is covered in 2 pages, and coverage of the radically revised crop tool is even less generous. A new 13-page chapter has been added in regard to the new video editing capabilities of the non-extended version. As someone who knows absolutely nothing about video, it seems to be a good introduction to the subject. I understood it well enough that I could tackle a simple project based on it. For me, this was the only useful part of the book, and that is because it is the only part of the book in which I was being introduced to something new to me and for which I don't yet need further details.
If you are looking for a sort of introductory guided tour of Photoshop (and, to some extent, digital photography),and for a book that will clearly communicate what you need to know for practical competence, this book more than fits the bill. Intermediate users will also find helpful general information all in one place. Just because the book didn't meet my needs does not mean that it isn't a well-done (and well-priced) Photoshop reference.
If you are looking for a CS6-specific book, this is not it. Nor is it for you if you're comfortable with the basics and are ready to set out in more specialized directions (portrait retouching, HDR, etc). This book skims the surface of everything, but doesn't explore anything in depth. It is more along the lines of a general orientation.
"Photoshop CS6 For Dummies" is not mostly about CS6 per se. If you're expecting a book that will help you learn more about the new features in CS6, you'll be sorely disappointed. Almost all of this book covers image manipulation concepts that are not specific to CS6. It has only a *miniscule* (i.e. less than a chapter's worth) coverage of a *subset* of new features in CS6 (such as Content-Aware Move, Enhanced Video Editing, and New Filters in CS6).
Chapters 1 and 18 are the chapters with the most coverage on the new features in CS6. The rest of the chapters discuss image editing and features in Photoshop that are not specific to CS6 (such as Resolution, Tonality, Histograms, Adjustment Layers, Smart Objects, etc.). Here's a brief outline of the book to give you an idea of what it contains:
-- Part I - The Basics --
Chapter 1: Introduction (New Features in CS6 [Video, Skin Tones Color Range, Face Detection, AutomaticSave Recovery Information, Content-Aware More Tool], Keyboard Shortcuts, Installation, etc.])
Chapter 2: Digital Images (Nature of Pixels, Resolution [Image Resolution, Camera Resolution, Monitor Resolution], Resolving Resolution, Sampling Method, File Formats)
Chapter 3: Menus (Menus, Panels, Workspaces, Shortcuts, Tool Presets, Preferences [Interface, Performance, Cursors, Transpar4ency & Gamut, Units & Rulers, Guides, Grid & Slices, Plug-Ins, Type], Color Settings, Troubleshooting)
Chapter 4: Opening Images (Downloading, Scanning [Scan Resolution, Preventing Moire Patterns], Organizing, Adobe Bridge, Renaming, Printing, Aspect Ratio, Resolution, Color Management,Sharing Images)
-- Part II - Easy Image Enhancements --
Chapter 5: Image Enhancements (Tonality, Histograms, Auto Corrections, Levels & Curves, Shadow/Highlights, Exposure, Toning Tools)
Chapter 6: Color (Color Modes, Models, Depths [RGB, CYMK, Grayscale, Multichannel, etc.], Hue/Saturation, B&W, Color Filter, Channel Mixer, Color Lookup, Invert, Posterize, Threshold, Gradient Map, Selective Color, Replace Color, Equalize, etc.)
Chapter 7: Adobe Camera Raw 7 (Histogram, Lens Correction, Camera Profiles, Special Effects, etc.
Chapter 8: Fine-Tuning (Selection, Feathering, Quick Mask, Saving & Loading Selections, Adding Masks to Layers & Smart Objects, Adjustment Layers, etc.)
Chapter 9: Fixing Common Problems (Red Eye, De-glaring, Noise Reduction [Digital Noise, Luminescent Noise], Perspective, etc.)
-- Part III - Creating Art in Photoshop --
Chapter 10: Compositing Images (Layers, Smart Objects, Blending Modes, Layer Masks, Clipping Groups, Vanishing Point.)
Chapter 11: Vectors (Custom Shape Tool, Pen Tool, Paths Panel [Work Path, Clipping Path, Saved Path, Shape Path, Vector Mask Path, Fill Path, Stroke Path, Select From Path, Path From Selection, Vector Layer Mask From Path, Create New Path, Delete Path], Combining Paths)
Chapter 12: Layer Styles (Bevel and Emboss, Stroke, Inner Shadow, Inner Glow, Satin, Color Overlay, Gradient Overlay, Pattern Overlay, Drop Shadow, Opacity, Fill, Advanced Blending [Channels, Knockout, Blend Interior Effects as Group, Blend Clipped Layers as Group, Blend Clipped Layers as Group, Transparency Shapes Layer, Layer Mask Hides Effects, Vector Mask Hides Effects])
Chapter 13: Text (Type Tool[Tool Presets, Orientation, Font Menu, Font Style, Font Size, Anti-Aliasing, Alignment, Type Color, Warp Text], Character Panel [Leading, Kerning, Scaling, Baseline Shift, Faux Styles, OpenType Options, Dictionary], Styles, Type Containers)
Chapter 14: Painting (Brushes, Color, Adobe Nav, Color Lava, Specialty Brush Tips & Mixer Br45ush [Erodible Brush Tips, Airbrush & Watercolor Tips], Filling, Blending Colors, Gradients, etc.)
Chapter 15: Filters (Smart Sharpen, Blurring, Noise Reduction, Blending, etc.)
-- Part IV - Advanced Topics --
Chapter 16: Streamlining Workflow (Recording Action, Batch Command, Scripts, Adding Extensions, Bridge, etc.)
Chapter 17: Video and Animation (Adjustment Layers and Painting on Video Layers, Transitioning, Titling, Special Effects, etc.), Animation)
Chapter 18: CS6 Extended (Object Stack Modes, 3D Artwork, 3D Scenes, etc.)
Chapter 19: Wacom Tablet
Chapter 20: HDR (HDR Pro, HDR Toning, Printing, etc.)
This book is filled with clearly printed and amply sized illustrations (photo examples illustrating techniques and screenshots of panels, dialog boxes, etc. on almost every page) that complement the text very well for helping the reader understand the material presented in the book.
"Photoshop CS6 For Dummies" is helpful for someone with little or no background knowledge of image editing concepts, as well as for someone who wants a primer/refresher on Photoshop. Do note that you will need at least version CS2 of Photoshop to get the most out of this book. Even though the book is not CS6-specific, it's a clearly written and easily understandale book that will help any novice get up to speed with Photoshop. I like this book a lot because I find it invaluable as a reference tool to help me unleash the full power of my copy of Photoshop (CS5) -- 5 stars.