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5 tips for better image manipulation

Hands holding a photo of a lake

Part of mastering image editing in Photoshop is learning how to save time with image manipulation tricks and useful tools. Here we share five hard-earned tips from professional designers that will help to put you on track to work more efficiently.

01. Learn smart objects

Photoshop screenshot shows Convert to Smart Object selected

Converting layers to Smart Objects is a smart move

“One of my top tips is to learn how to use Smart Objects,” says Andrew Kitchener, junior designer at Ragged Edge (opens in new tab). “Keeping things editable is the key – there’s nothing worse than trying to edit a file that’s all unnecessarily rasterised.”

02. Get your shadows right

Lamp casting a shadow

Compare your shadows to real-life objects

“With retouching and mock-ups, it’s all about the shadows,” adds Kitchener. “Drop shadows are handy and quick, but for 99 per cent of things, they’re totally inaccurate. Always look at how light and shadows work on objects in real life, and try to apply that on-screen.”

03. Manage your time

Stop watch in a hand

Good planning relies on setting realistic targets

“The biggest mistakes you can make are bad timing estimation, lack of organisation and rushing the job,” believes Elena Morán, a UX/UI designer at London digital agency atom42 (opens in new tab). “Every task has parts you won’t enjoy as much as others. But don’t neglect them in favour of the parts you do enjoy. Give each step its necessary importance, and you’ll get there in the end,” she advises.

04. Put in the hours

Woman working

The more you put in...

“Education gives you a solid foundation, but becoming skilful is a matter of time,” says Morán. “You need hours and hours of practice until you are efficient. Nobody can skip that part of the journey. Working in a fashion-related company helped me a lot; there is so much image manipulation to do there!”

05. Ask questions

Asking for help can often save a lot of time and frustration

Asking for help can often save a lot of time and frustration

“Be patient,” advises Harry Gahagan, a graphic designer at Centaur Media (opens in new tab) in London. “It can be really frustrating but you’ll get the hang of it. Making mistakes and asking for help is the best way. Also, YouTube tutorials are very handy; you should bookmark videos and web pages so that you can go back to them.”

This article was originally published in issue 272 of Computer Arts, the global design magazine – helping you solve daily design challenges with insights, advice and inspiration. Buy issue 272 here (opens in new tab) or subscribe to Computer Arts here (opens in new tab).

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Tom May is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. Author of the Amazon #1 bestseller Great TED Talks: Creativity (opens in new tab), published by Pavilion Books, Tom was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. Today, he is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq and its sister sites Digital Camera World, T3.com and Tech Radar. He also writes for Creative Boom and works on content marketing projects.