Photoshop/Graphics people: what do I need to bone up on for a job interview?

I was just called for a job interview for a position advertised as a Web Designer. According to the requirements, they want both programming - which I’ve got years of experience in - and graphics stuff, mainly Photoshop. I know the basics of Photoshop, and have created Web sites using Photoshop and ImageReady. However, I’m far from an expert. I’d describe myself as intermediate level - I can do pretty much what I want with it, but I may have to screw around with it first or look some stuff up on the Web.

The good part is that I can learn software fast. I’m a computer person, they like me. Computers tend to do what I want them to do with a minimum of hassle. Problem with Photoshop is that it’s BIG, and graphics are not my strong spot.

Can anyone give me a lowdown of what the important bits of Photoshop are so I can make sure I’m familiar with all of them before the interview?

Automation, man.

You want to be able to create and modify actions so that you can turn out good looking work quickly.

Having a “toolkit” of useful actions (that you’ve made yourself) is a good thing.

For example, you’ll want a variety of actions for making distinctive-looking navigational buttons. Something to shoot for is an action where you set a selection, foreground and background colours, run the action and end up with a 3D-looking button. Bonus points if you include prompts for text-input to label the button, and have the action produce seperate mouseover states on different layers. Actions to produce scaled or set-sized thumbnails are often useful, too. That sort of stuff.

Getting used to using unique actions as a time saver is also something that you’ll need if you’re on the clock. A client has given you a CD with 100 source pics that need to be edited for the web? Don’t approach them one at a time. Do a quick overview and see if there’s anything that needs to be done across the board, and record that as an action. Run the action on a whole folder.

Actions kick ass.

If you’ll be editing photos, make sure you’re using the right selection method for each situation. A lot of people stick to one way of selecting pixels. (For example zooming right in and using the polygonal lasso tool for everything.) Before you select an area, find the easiest and most accurate way of targeting the pixels you want. If you’ve got a high-contrast background, the magnetic lasso tool will save you a ton of time. Remember you can target the areas you don’t want selected and then invert.

Alpha channels are often overlooked. I obsessively save alpha-channels when working with fiddly bits, and label them so they’re easily found. This saves a lot of time. Much faster to restore a selection you were working with before, and possibly modify it, than to spend time defining a selection from scratch.

Sorry if I’ve stated some obvious things here-- Photoshop is one of those tools that many people use quite a bit without ever really scratching the surface. (I was working with someone recently who called herself a Photoshop “master” – and a little observation revealed that she didn’t know how to apply or edit a mask. :smack: )

I’ve been working with Photoshop for years, and I don’t know how to apply or edit a mask either. Photoshop can do zillions of things, and as long as I’ve been using it, I’ve only scratched the surface.

I’ve worked with mainly print, and haven’t done much web work, but I know it helps to have a familiarity with matching resolutions between your HTML coding and images. Otherwise, the resolution will look chunky.

Also, you’ll probably have to make GIFs with transparent backgrounds, and you do this by using the Export to Gif function instead of Save As. Save all your layered work before you flatten it, because you’ll be guaranteed to have to change something in it later.

What kind of web authoring software is this company going to use? If it’s anything like Dreamweaver, it will probably have some function that automatically generates rollovers. Otherwise, you can probably find a step-by-step way of doing it with Photoshop on the web somewhere.

OK, cool.

I know how to make transparant GIFs, I’ve had to do them for the Web sites I’ve done.

Also know about Rollovers, I do those with ImageReady. I also use Dreamweaver and know it’s got some way of doing them, but haven’t used it yet.

Automation: OK, had no idea Photoshop could do that. Being new at it, I don’t have a portfolio of automations yet, but I’ll study up on them so I can talk smart in the interview.

Alpha channels - what are they?

Also, can someone give me (or point me to) some place that talks about all the different layer types in Photoshop? I know there’s layers, I’ve used them. But I also know there’s different types of layers - normal layer, backgrounds, path layers etc, and I’m not sure what each is for. Any help there?

Wow, there are things in this thread I definirtely have to bone up on too… :slight_smile:

One thing I find useful is to save your important selection outlines! You can then apply them to other layers.

I’ve used the canned automation that came with Photoshop from making simple web picture-galleries, but I’ve never customised it. Looks like something else to learn.

Athena, sorry-- “Alpha Channels” was not the best term to use. Older versions of Photoshop used to call saved selections “Alpha Channels” – eg, in the menu would go “Select --> Save Alpha Channel” instead of the (clearer) “Select --> Save Selection.” I still habitually think of them as Alpha Channels. (They’re still accessible and editable through the Channels tab.)

As far as layer types are concerned, the best place to start is with Photoshop’s built-in help. That’s a concise as your going to get – and you know that it’s relevant to version you’re using.

Your standard layer is just “these pixels are overlaying everything under them.”

Fill layers are useful for keeping filesize down – especially if you’re working at print resolutions. Instead of making a regular layer and applying a solid color, or a gradient or pattern, which would define every pixel, it’s just saved as a “Fill this layer according to these rules” sort of deal, and there’s a layer mask to say where you want to show it. You can’t edit the actual pixels, of course.

Shape layers are just a fill layer with a clipping path defined by the tool you use to create them. I’ve never really found them useful, but I’m sure there are applications for them. Depends on your design sensibilities, I guess. :smiley:

Adjustment layers apply an adjustment to all the layers underneath them. (Color balance/Brightness/Contrast/etc) No pixels are actually altered. This is most useful for print applications and piccies with heavy compositing.

Text layers are pretty straightforward, of course.

It’s also worth registering at the Adobe website – they have some great tutorials and downloads.

Actually, that’s wrong. “Alpha Channel” became “Layer Mask” :smack: Stupid muddy memory.

Out of curiosity, is this an interview where you’ll be “teched out?” In other words, is the purpose of the interview to determine whether or not you are familiar with the tools on your resume? Because if it’s not one of those interviews, whoever’s conducting it will probably not ask you that many technical questions about PhotoShop, and I think being able to “speak the basics” will be fine. However, if you are being quizzed by a more advanced graphics person, know what you can about layering, exporting, dpi, etc. Since it sounds like they’re attempting to combine a more technical position (web developer) with a creative (designer) position, I don’t think they’ll care if you need to look stuff up during work. They likely want to make sure that you know how to manipulate graphics for the web in order to maximize download, color display, sharpness, etc. If they ask you about something you’ve never heard of, play up your learning abilities - admit that you’re not familiar with what they’re talking about, but that you are willing and eager to learn, and highlight that you learn very quickly.

I’m not sure what they’ll ask, overlyverbose. All I know is that they specified Photoshop in the job description, and I’m not as good at Photoshop as I’d like to be. Most software apps have a few key functions that as long as you know them, you’re good to go. I’m trying to figure out what those are for Photoshop.

Plus, Photoshop in general is just fun. Even if I have no use for these tips in the Interview, keep 'em coming. I like learning about it!

From the description you’ve given us, I think overlyverbose is right, they’re probably looking for a “jack all of trades” type web-person. Is this an internal company position (i.e., you’ll be working on the company site), or a web development firm’s position (you’ll be working on client sites)? If the latter, they may have slightly more expectations.

I work in the web design field in an ad agency with a web department. In my (limited) experience, if they’re asking for coding skills, all they really want is basic graphic design (“can you work your way around Photoshop”) and a person whom they think can learn whatever else they need. In all the interviews we’ve ever done, I can never once asking someone exactly how they’d produce something in Photoshop. On the flip side, I will ask about CSS/php/asp/database coding skills, and expect specific answers.

If they really wanted graphic design expertise, it would be stated upfront, more like a Creative or Artistic Designer with some coding skills.

I would doubt it’s something to overly stress about - then again, I’m not being interviewed. :slight_smile:

Make sure you’re portfolio is professional-looking.