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Newbie here. I like web and UI design, I know what good UI and good design is, but I lack Photoshop skills.

Sometimes, when I try to do design, my mind goes blank or gets mixed up because I see too many references that I like and it's hard for me to determine which design I prefer.

Where can I learn and improve my photoshop skills, and how can I start working on a concept?

Until now, I've been paying a designer to do what's in my mind, but I myself really want to be able to design.

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4 Answers 4

welcome to GD.SE!

To be honest, I don't think you really need to be a Photoshop guru to design your UIs. Especially if you are doing web, and you will end up coding everything anyway, the skills you will need to present some mockups and wireframes shouldn't take long to learn. Photoshop is quite intuitive, but this of course doesn't mean it won't have a certain learning curve. The thing is, if you are designing for web, you should probably do it in the browser and just use Photoshop for some graphics and for trying things in the layout.

You could start with some basic tutorials, just to understand how the program works (layers, text effects, shapes, things like that). Once you get it, you can follow the tutorials that guide you through a process and help you achieve a result, as they usually cover some of the techniques you will be using later on. Some tuts like these, focused one web, could be very useful.

Now about the concept, I always do mine in pencil and paper. Photoshop is great for certain things, but not for everything. There are much better tools for prototyping, such as Balsamiq (premium) or Pencil (free and open-source). They are faster and easier to use.

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Never start with the tool. Learn the fundamentals of layout, color theory, UX (user experience) and HCI (human-computer interaction). When you understand how to manipulate the data to control the experience then you can create killer interfaces.

Then find the tool that works for you. I do all my mock-ups in Illustrator. There is plenty of disagreement on this point but Photoshop is really an image editor. Illustrator, Inkscape or Fireworks are all better designed for layout. UPDATE I'm also experimenting with Sketch now. It's more intuitive and much less expensive than Illustrator. Not as mature, but it's getting there.

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As for coming up with a design concept / layout:

Start with deciding what kind of feel you want your layout to have:

  • Lighter or darker theme
  • Clean (corporate, typographic or layouts with many icons) or busy with many graphical elements
  • Usage of photo's? Perhaps the background will be 1 huge image which will affect the entire design

Then decide where your main elements will be positioned.

  • Will your menu be vertical or horizontal? Will it be on the top of the page or at the bottom?
  • What space do you want to reserve for your header? Where and how big will it be? What will be inside the header: a banner, a logo, your menu? Will the header have clear borders or does it run through behind the content?
  • Will there be a footer? How big and how important is it?
  • etc...

This will all depend on what kind of feel you are aiming for. Browse a collection of good webdesign sites for inspiration.

After you have decided on the feel of the layout and positioning of your elements, you can start designing the specific elements.

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I have to fundamentally disagree. For UI work (and most forms of design) never start with the visual approach, start with the information. Decide what you need to communicate and what you need the user to do. Map that out somehow (I diagram) then layout wireframes. If the visual brand isn't defined you'll have to build that as well, but it's not part of the UI design until the info architecture and UX are defined. –  plainclothes Aug 8 '13 at 16:53
@plainclothes: Ah yes, the information needs to come first ofcourse, otherwhise you can't possibly know which pages you will be layouting or how your content will be placed. However I believe OP is only having trouble with the visual part and thus I only explained the visual approach. –  Dark Ashelin Aug 8 '13 at 18:57

You are asking two separate, and not all that related questions.

Where can I learn and improve my photoshop skills?

I'd start with Google and books. There is so much information written on using PhotoShop online and in book form.

How can I start working on a concept?

This, essentially, is more about creative thinking. There are, of course, many books and web sites that can help with this. But this is a broad subject in and of itself.

What might help is you just picking up a pencil and getting a sketchpad. If you need to work on an idea, sketch, sketch, sketch and sketch some more.

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