Eeeeek, I've fallen into the tutorial pit and can't get out! I can't stop playing with web Photoshop tutorials! Besides teaching basic or new techniques, they take me to places I don't normally venture, outside of my photoshopping box.
I am not a graphic artist. In the hands of a master, Photoshop is an instrument. In my hands, it remains a simple tool to achieve my minor graphics needs.
My first and only graphics program was PhotoImpact. It served its purpose for a good many years. It wasn't hard to switch from that to Photoshop, for my basic photo editing, like collaging and color tweaks. All graphics tools use the same concepts, and even the same icons. It's just a matter of learning how they organize and store the tools.
And it's the same for all programs, whether they be word processors, spreadsheets, or graphics programs. In order to make them intuitive to users, they all share the same general interfaces.
With my conversion from PI to Photoshop, it was like someone had come by and rearranged all the contents of my kitchen drawers. I'd reach in to get a ladle, and it was relocated to somewhere else.
I had to relearn the smallest commands, like image resizing, and color conversion. I groped for where they hid Gaussian Blur or Brightness/contrast. I'd crop something, and Photoshop would sit there stupidly while it waited for me to enable the photo crop. Little things like that. I resisted the change until it became second nature.
One concept I had to pick up was Layers, which has been around for ages, but it wasn't in the low level version of PI I was using. And the pen tool is an instrument of torture, for now. It's still a hit and miss how I swing that pen arc. Laying down dots is easy. I haven't yet gotten the hang of dragging handles to fit curves, and what key combinations to click and unclick: ctl-this, alt-that. Since Undo doesn't go back several levels as in PhotoImpact, I've gotten very friendly with my History tab.
Because of layering, I better understand the once elusive concept of gradient fill with masks, which I now use with ease. I forced myself to sit and read how each of the filters function. I understand the broad categories of the lightening, darkening, and differences, but when I need subtle changes, I just click and see the effect.
I learned to use curves, thresholds, and channels, and displacement maps. (Lions and tigers and bears, oh, my!) There are as many ways to make text cutouts as there are to extract an image from its background. That's the beauty and the coiled power within Photoshop.
I was staring at the Museum of Modern Art website photos, for inspiration, and I saw some interesting pieces of work. Sheesh, if a person can park two vacuum canisters in a lucite cabinet (I kid you not, this was on the MOMA site), and call it art, I can create ART.
That's when I found Photoshop brushes. The brush presets are the next best thing since sliced fractals. Four brushes, two colors, one blank canvas. Voila. Art by numbers. Sure, art is much more than that. It's composition, form, color, yada yada. Well, tell that to the guy with the two bloomin' vacuum cleaners on display at MOMA.