Two Tips on Using Photoshop Effectively

If you’ve ever worked in Photoshop, you know it’s a complex application. Its depth of features and functionality make it extremely powerful. But they also make it tough to master.

That being said, I thought I was getting to know Photoshop pretty well. As it turns out, I knew less than I thought. Just in the past few weeks, I’ve learned a ton of new tricks that are helping me work faster and make my Photoshop work about 10 times easier.

Here are just two cool, super-simple tips.

1. Use a Smart Object to embed a PSD in a PSD. I never really got what Smart Objects were or how to use them. But now that I know, I’m loving them. Smart Objects are like little containers you can use to hold an image or a vector graphic safely within a Photoshop file. If I want to edit that image, I just double-click on the Smart Object and transform it right there in a new window. Previously, I had to go back to the source file, edit the image, and then re-embed it in the PSD. Clunky.

This method has the added bonus of minimizing the number of layers you have to have in your working file. That keeps things cleaner and less confusing.

2. Use Shape Layers and the Direct Selection Tool. If you’ve ever struggled with controlling the “shape of a shape,” this is the tip for you. Instead of using the Transform Tool to manipulate shapes, try using Direct Selection.

First, make sure that you draw the shape as a Shape Layer. Or if you’re using the Pen tool, make sure it’s set as Shape Layer instead of Paths.

Then, you can use the Direct Selection tool to select individual anchor points and handles to fine-tune the shape however you want. Using this method gives significantly better control than using the Transform tool. It’s been a huge help with things like keeping rounded corners from getting distorted and keeping shapes proportional.

The bottom line? Don’t assume you know everything about the programs you use … even those you use every day. Pay attention to how other people use them. Be an avid reader of blogs and forums that discuss your app … and contribute to them as well. And don’t be too proud to take a tutorial or attend a seminar.

If you find it takes you a long time to do any task, that’s probably a clue that there’s an easier way to do it. Challenge yourself to find out. You’ll be one step closer to being a true Photoshop master.

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3 Blogging Basics: Why, What, and How

Most of the websites we create include blogs. We consider them a critical component of most websites and most successful SEO strategies.

However, blogging usually represents foreign territory for our clients. They’re unsure why it’s important or what they should write about. And if they’re not IT people, the whole process can seem intimidating.

For those just venturing into business blogging, here’s a basic explanation of why it’s is so darn important — and some quick tips on what to write about.

Why blog at all?

First off, there are too many websites for search engines to monitor in real time. Therefore, how often they crawl a given website depends in large part on how often new content is added.

For example, Google might crawl your website after an absence of three weeks. If new content has been added since then, Google will be more likely to return after only two weeks. And if there’s always new content, that’s a sure sign to Google that someone cares about this website. They’ll start crawling even more frequently.

Conversely, if Google never finds any new content on your site, their spiders might not return for a month or even longer. That means your site is going to do poorly in search results.

So adding new content to your site is a critical way of promoting your search rankings. And what’s the easiest place on a website to add new content? Your blog.

What in the world should I write about?

Once our clients get the importance of new content, they’re willing to start blogging. The next stumbling block? Figuring out what to write about.

Here are some fail-safe suggests.

  • Client problems and the solutions you provided
  • New developments within the company — new employees, a new office
  • Developments within the industry — Is there a new product available? What technology is pushing your industry to change?
  • Fun topics — company parties, company pets, a particularly interesting project
  • Writing specifically for keyword phrases. For example, a client of ours specializes in exterior home improvements and is interested in acquiring roofing leads. He and I created an article on energy-efficient roofing solutions, frequently linking from the article to his roofing page.


How do I do it?

I’m not going to belabor this point. Suffice it to say that once I sit down with a new blogger and show them the incredibly easy GUI that modern blogging platforms provide, they’re sold. They can see the parallels between Word and WordPress, and see how easy it is to make the leap.

A final suggestion

So this is the basic information I give to our clients about getting started with blogging. One final suggestion: In terms of content, don’t limit yourself —remember that nearly any content is helpful.

After all, Google learned what you’re selling the first time it crawled your site. It also probably knows 500 other websites selling the same thing. Start blogging and differentiate yourself by out-content-ing your competitors.