I'm a programmer by trade but looking to extend my design skill set. Should I just eat the cost and go straight to Photoshop or should I start with the free alternatives such as Paint.net and Inkscape? I'm committed to becoming a designer. Also, what are some inexpensive ways to get started in Photoshop? I know that they have 30 day trials and I've gotten good feedback about taking a course at the local college to receive a student discount.

  • Can you please clarify this question: "what is the cheapest kit that I get started in with Photoshop?" Andy Ford almost 7 years ago

7 answers

Andy Ford 533
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This was chosen as the best answer

Design isn't about the tools - it's about finding and solving problems. Before jumping into learning a design tool, you should spend some time actually learning design. You can do a lot with pen and paper and it might be a good exercise to do so for a bit.

That being said, you probably should plunk down the cash for Photoshop at some point. Not sure when it's supposed to be released (Q2 2010 was the last rumor I heard), but you might want to hold out until CS5. That would give you a decent amount of time to study up on design fundamentals.

You mentioned some free Photoshop alternatives - which might help bridge the gap until you can pony up the cash to send an Adobe employee's kid to college (i.e. purchase Photoshop). The GIMP seems to be a another very popular alternative and if I recall correctly there may be a plugin and/or hack to make it behave more like Photoshop (gimpshop maybe?).

Here's something to consider: take a "Design Fundamentals" (or similar) course at a local community college. That way you can get some formal design education AND you can purchase Photoshop with your student discount (this generally works in the US. Your mileage may vary outside the US.)

Also, this book may be of interest as it's written specifically for programmers delving into web design.

Answered almost 7 years ago by Andy Ford
  • Good feedback, I'm currently reading every book I can find from the library - I've found Robin Williams' stuff pretty interesting and I just got the smashing magazine book. Great idea on the community college for practical reasons as well as the student discount! Matt Cook almost 7 years ago
  • Yes, The Gimp, NOT paint.net. Our company uses it exclusively over Photoshop cause it does everything PS does, some things even better. Rob almost 7 years ago
  • For the web, I forgot to say. Rob almost 7 years ago
  • Agreed. Photoshop is a necessity. CS5 is coming and it looks awesome. Also, great tip on the student discount. +1 Abinadi Ayerdis almost 7 years ago
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Not necessarily.

Fireworks > Photoshop for most web and UI stuffs :)

Also, if you're a Mac user, I'm really digging on a couple of the upstarts: Opacity (like Fireworks), Acorn and Pixelmator (like Photoshop), and VectorDesigner (like Illustrator). All of these options are better tailored to web workflows, fit the Mac UI paradigms better, and are less bloated (read: crashy, confusing, and full of unnecessary "features") than the Adobe counterparts. They're also significantly cheaper (Pixelmator is available on Amazon for $28).

Answered almost 7 years ago by Justin Hileman
  • Photo manipulation programs are great if you are an artistic person. Being of the same persuasion as the original poster, I find that it's easier for me to put together a page sans-images, and then "gussie it up" with graphical upgrades when a real artist brings it to me. Nathan DeGruchy almost 7 years ago
  • I'm not a Mac user - currently going through the debate of whether or not to switch. There's so many fanatics out there for Mac but there's just something about paying so much for the hardware that holds me back. Matt Cook almost 7 years ago
  • Comparing Fireworks to Photoshop is not really helpful. Fireworks is vector based and Photoshop is for raster graphics. It would be better to compare Fireworks with Illustrator, or Photoshop and The Gimp. Abinadi Ayerdis almost 7 years ago
  • @Abinadi - I have to disagree in part. Fireworks is made just for web design so comparing it to Phototshop for web design is quite valid. And while Photoshop is probably the most widely used app for designing web sites, Fireworks is gaining ground. I'm not personally fond of FW as it tends to crash on me a lot, but a lot of web designers swear by it (I guess they don't have the crashing problem!). It will be very interesting to see how PS CS5 and FW CS5 compare for web design. Andy Ford almost 7 years ago
  • @Andy - If you mean saving raster graphics for the web, Photoshop is better than Fireworks. If you are talking about saving vector graphics for the web, Fireworks is better than Photoshop. Each is better in their area of focus, which is why it is better to compare Fireworks to Illustrator and not to Photoshop. Abinadi Ayerdis almost 7 years ago
  • @Abinadi - Fireworks is actually a hybrid. Yeah, it does vector. It does raster stuff too. Plus it can slice and dice image like ImageReady used to (and more! cf. 9-slice scaling, a feature decidedly missing in Photoshop). The key difference, though, is the fact that it was _made_ for creating web and UI graphics. Unlike Photoshop, which was made for... editing photos. Discuss :) Justin Hileman almost 7 years ago
  • @Andy - Yes, web graphics is what fireworks was made for. I used to use Fireworks a lot and am well aware that it can do some raster graphics. Photoshop also can do vectors, but it was decidedly not made for doing web stuff. But the fact remains that as nifty as the slicing is, Fireworks cannot compete with Photoshop when it comes to raster graphics and Photoshop cannot compete with Fireworks when it comes to vectors. It just seems like it is comparing apples to oranges. When it comes to web graphics, your best bet is to use Fireworks or Illustrator for *most* things. But if you have photos you want to display, you have to admit that Photoshop > Fireworks for that operation. Abinadi Ayerdis almost 7 years ago
  • haha, I just realized that I've been calling Justin Andy by mistake. My apologies. Abinadi Ayerdis almost 7 years ago
  • @Abinadi I agree. Both are necessary, and both have their place. I use Photoshop all the time. It just pains me to see people use it for things that would better fit the Fireworks paradigms :) Justin Hileman almost 7 years ago
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Yes. Buy them as soon as you can afford them. No reason to use anything else.

Answered almost 7 years ago by Not-a-Coder
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I agree with Andy Ford. In my opinion, there are two programs that you should invest in: Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. For better or for worse, they are the industry standard for graphic design. No matter where you go to work, those are the programs that will be used. Those are the accepted file formats industry-wide. And the bonus is that even if you end up working someplace that only uses Macs, Photoshop and Illustrator are almost exactly the same for Macs as they are for Windows.

I am not sure when would be the best time to purchase them, but it is inevitable that you will. There is a reason that they are the standard: they are the best on the market.

Answered almost 7 years ago by Abinadi Ayerdis
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If you'll read the fine print, I think you'll find that Student licenses are supposed to be upgraded to full once you start using the product for commercial work.

Answered almost 7 years ago by Richard Grevers
  • Good to know - I wasn't aware of this. Matt Cook almost 7 years ago
  • Thanks for pointing this out. I hadn't heard of this. But considering it's Adobe, I'm not surprised in the least =) Andy Ford almost 7 years ago
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Academic versions are an option, though not meant for any commercial work, including on the side of your studies.

Photoshop Elements is an idea, it is a "budget" and stripped down version but covers the essentials. I only used version 2 and that was a long time ago but it had some useful web design features including this add-on called "Image Ready".

Answered almost 7 years ago by enbuyukfener
Doug 1095
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Another way to save money: wait for CS5 to be released, then buy CS4 on eBay. This is how I acquired PS Elements 7 for a quarter of the going price for version 8.

Also, I've used Paint.net and it's a great program for what it is, but for features and ease of use, it does not compare to PS.

Answered almost 7 years ago by Doug