The risk run by all books in this fast-developing field is that they’re outdated by the next software upgrade. However, digital design is now beginning to settle down and most of the technical developments are at the edges, with minor interface tweaks. In fact, complaints abound that version advances often mean little more than moving frequently-used functions to unfamiliar places and ensuring that older versions won’t run under newer operating systems.
Wisely, the authors choose to stick to two software packages, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, with clear markers at the beginning of each chapter indicating which is covered. As the landscape settles down, certain programs become dominant and these two have been the lingua franca for long enough to assume they won’t be toast in the next few months.
Whilst there is a professional feel to the layout of the book and the topics covered, this is a book which is, in all probability, going to appeal to the non-professional market – and I use the term as a subtle differentiator from “amateur”. Anyone going into or already working in a professional studio will probably have had formal training in the field and the kind of work covered is more in the field of illustration than fine art.
All that said, this is a Quarto-produced book and therefore stands very much on its layout. There are no lengthy technical dissertations, but rather a series of spreads illustrating a variety of topics from using layers to the use of colours and the handling of vector art and creating animated gifs. Critically, the authors also show you how the many context menus will drop down and how the various effects will preview. It’s here that they give themselves the greatest hostage to fortune as packages are tweaked, but the basic principles usually win through, so it’s a risk worth taking.
For anyone, professional, semi-professional or, indeed, amateur, who wants a simple guide to the main drawing packages, this is invaluable and easy to understand. Given the complexity of such software, it’ll probably be an aide-memoire for the regular user as well.