New eBook From Smashing Magazine: Mastering Photoshop For Web Design


Mastering Photoshop for Web Design is the third book in our eBook series, and it’s definitely the best eBook we’ve published so far. It was written from scratch by our regular writer Thomas Giannattasio, exclusively for Smashing Magazine and its readers. We are very proud of the result, in particular because of the high quality of tips, ideas and techniques that Thomas — who is a deep expert in Adobe Photoshop — presents in his book.

Update (January 2013): The e-book is now available for $4.99 (€4.49)

Mastering Photoshop is written for advanced and intermediate designers who want to brush up on their workflow and improve their Photoshop skills. The eBook contains 178 pages, explaining fundamental techniques that Web designers need to know to produce high-quality work in Photoshop. You won’t find any generic step-by-step tutorials or learn random effects. You will gain a profound understanding of what you can do with Photoshop and how to use it effectively in your work.

All chapters have undergone a careful technical review by well-known designer, illustrator and speaker Elliot Jay Stocks2. The book was proofread by our regular proofreader Andrew Lobo, and it has an attractive layout. The PDF can be printed and read on all devices.

The Author

Thomas GiannattasioThomas Giannattasio is an interactive designer who resides in the Washington DC metro area. He specializes in Web design and front-end development, particularly art direction, website design and application design, and has 14 years of experience. Thomas cares strongly about typography, simplicity and user experience. He works as a senior designer for a global marketing firm and freelances under the name attasi.

Thomas’ articles on Smashing Magazine prove his expertise in Photoshop: The Ails of Typographic Anti-Aliasing3 and Unknown Photoshop Tricks and Time-Savers4 are two of the most useful Photoshop-related articles that Smashing Magazine has published over the years.

The Expert’s Opinion

Elliot Jay Stocks“Photoshop is a powerful tool, and although the basics can be easy to grasp, mastering the application can be extremely difficult. This is where Mastering Photoshop comes in: it takes readers through the app in depth and relates all tasks back to the creative process. There’s much to learn in here, for beginners and experts alike.”

— Elliot Jay Stocks, designer, illustrator and speaker

The eBook, in PDF, ePUB and Mobipocket format, is ideal for archiving, for armchair or mobile reading (including the iPad and iPhone via iBooks and other apps) and of course for printing. You can order your copy of Mastering Photoshop for just $19,905 (or €16.95 if you live in the EU) starting now and exclusively in our Smashing Shop.


Buy the book now!7

The book contains eight chapters:

  1. Color Management
    Colors can appear lighter or darker, more or less saturated, cooler or warmer, or just plain wrong depending on the user’s environment. This can be quite a problem, especially with a client’s brand-specific colors. As Web designers, our responsibility is to ensure that the experiences we craft are as true to the original as possible.
  2. Paths
    While Illustrator’s vector tools are much more powerful, Photoshop’s benefit lies in its ability to blend vector and raster data together seamlessly. Because Photoshop documents are based on a pixel grid, the path tools in Photoshop make them superior to Illustrator for designing on-screen media.
  3. Layer Styles
    Layer Styles are essential to creating flexible and non-degradable documents, because they’re separated from the layer’s actual content. In this chapter, we’ll cover how to create great-looking and reusable styles. We’ll also cover some unique effects and non-typical uses that help to consolidate excess layers.
  4. Brushes
    Mastering the digital brush is by no means easy. It carries the same difficulties as the sable brush hidden at the bottom of your art bin. In fact, the difficulty is multiplied by the disconnect between the hand and monitor. Developing Photoshop brush skill takes time, but it is well worth the effort.
  5. Typography
    While the majority of type on the Web is rendered by HTML, Photoshop is still necessary to handle treatment beyond the grasp of CSS. In this chapter, we’ll explore Photoshop’s type tools and discover ways to maximize the software’s typesetting capabilities.
  6. Photography
    A photograph — especially of the human face — immediately draws the user’s attention and can be used to direct eye flow to important areas of the page. Placing a large photograph above the fold is a common way to provide an entry point to the content. Because photographs are high above other elements in the hierarchy, they need to be handled with care and precision.
  7. Exporting
    Once you’ve polished every last pixel, it’s time to get your work into the browser. This is a pretty straightforward process, but properly optimizing your images is crucial. You need to maintain a balance between clarity and download speed. This requires multiple formats, varying levels of compression and other optimization techniques. In this chapter, we’ll explore the workflow of exporting images via the “Save for Web and Devices” dialog.
  8. Summary

Sample Chapter and Screenshots

You can download the Chapter 4, Brushes8 (4.7 Mb, PDF) for free. Please consider buying the eBook if you find it useful or helpful.

Large view10

Large view12

Large view14

Motivation behind the book

In the foreword, Thomas describes his motivation:

“This book was written in the hope of filling a gap — a gap that has existed for as long as designers have been using Photoshop for Web design; a gap that we so often fill with tutorials focused on the latest trends and on inspiration galleries that are quickly browsed and forgotten; a gap that is growing as quickly as our technologies. It’s a gap of foundation.

The fast pace of the Internet has focused us on the latest and greatest techniques, which typically have a lifespan of only a few months. Rarely do we focus on the fundamentals — the principles that outlive the trends. Unfortunately, the principles often appeal to us less than the shiny and new.

Photoshop tutorials offer quick results. They hold our hands step by step until something incredible appears, but they rarely explain in depth the principles that allow us to create something unique and incredible of our own. If you’re a beginner, I hope this book gives you the comprehension you need to bring your ideas to life. If you’re a veteran, I hope it unveils some of the mysteries that have always boggled you.”

The book is not protected by DRM and is available exclusively in the Smashing Shop. Please respect our work and the hard effort of our writer. If you received this book from a source other than the Smashing Shop, please support us by purchasing your copy in our online store.


Thank you.


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  4. 4 ../2010/01/20/obscure-adobe-photoshop-time-savers/
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Vitaly Friedman loves beautiful content and doesn’t like to give in easily. Vitaly is writer, speaker, author and editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine. He runs responsive Web design workshops, online workshops and loves solving complex performance problems in large companies. Get in touch.

  1. 1

    I would definitely buy it if it was a printed book at that price + shipping. Until screens become easier to read from (I don’t have a Kindle or eBook reader), I’ll have to pass.

    I’d even be willing to pay a $5-10 premium + shipping if it was available as an actual “book”.

  2. 52

    I agree all. The ebook is too expensive. I will buy it if you cut the price 70%.

    • 103

      Thomas Giannattasio

      July 27, 2010 11:43 am

      If only the world worked that way. I’d love to walk into a Mercedes dealership, claim that the cars are too expensive and demand a 70% price reduction. I’d have entire fleet of them!

      Pete, what if your clients requested a 70% cut? How would you respond?

  3. 154

    Looks good, but that’s just too much money.

  4. 205

    Crtl + Alt + Right Click resizes your brush… Alt + shift + right click adjusts the hardness…the sample chapter has it swapped.

  5. 256

    I was going to get it until I realized that the price was for a eBook. Sorry SM but I cannot pay that for a digital version which cost none to print and distribute. Yes you worked hard on it, but still. Please consider offering a printed version, even for a little more!

  6. 307

    Guys at SM, you should really consider the idea of hiring a marketing expert to place your ebooks in the market. As you can read from the majority of people, if you had priced it 9.95$, you would have hit a homerun, but 19.95$ for an ebook? No way, sorry, not this time

  7. 358

    What kind of serious person would publish a book especially web related. It’s all about videos now pal, get a hint, this generation demands visual stimulation not black type on white paper. How out of touch could one get in expecting this would sell. GooYa

  8. 409

    Wow people. They worked hard on this book, and the price really isn’t that bad.
    If you don’t need the book, then don’t buy it.

    I’m still voting for the epub-version though before I will buy it so I can read the book on my iPhone :)

  9. 460

    Although beeing a child of the web, i would prefer a paperback (printed) version.
    Am I too old (35 yrs)? ;-)

    • 511

      I too prefer printed books (I’m 26). I get that people are thinking it could be an age thing, however I think there’s more to it, I think it’s related to the occupation- as contradictory as this is going to sound…
      Web designer/developers spend a lot of time on computers- designing, emailing, social networking, developing etc.. sometimes it’s nice to be able to immerse yourself in a book to getaway from the glare of the pc.
      In the case of instructional books like this one, I prefer to have a printed copy of a book in front of me rather than have to juggle multiple windows between the book and the application or having the book on one screen and the application open on the other (and having to shift the focus of the active window in order to flick to another ebook page). Some people may find flicking through a book more awkward than this(?)..but that’s not how I feel.

      • 562

        That’s exactly how I feel.
        So, Smashing Mag, are you hearing the voice of your readers?
        *hint* *hint*

  10. 613

    The comments are correct… 20 dollars for an eBook is a bit much.

    And after paying and waiting months for your worthless smashing book I wouldn’t buy a coffee from you lot.

  11. 664

    The book looks very interesting, well done SM! :)

  12. 715

    Half the price twice the sales, twice the amount of satisfied customers?

  13. 766

    Discussions like this lead me to wonder how many readers of SM are doing web work as a hobby or as a job…

    • 817

      Chances are if they are doing it for a job they already know most of the books content. The book is more for students and hobbyists.

  14. 868

    I love these guys and I have all their 2 latest print copies. But I prefer printed copies. Let me decide if should get this one… hum!

  15. 919

    Do people not print things anymore? Last time I checked, I could plug in my printer, click print and voilà — pdf on paper.

    As far as price, how much does a coffee frappuccino cost? $4 or $5? Maybe we all take a week off from expensive coffee — voilà: ebook price justified (as well as the crankiness from lack of coffee!).

    • 970

      Uhm… printing out 178 pages, probably heavily illustrated…yeah…be my guest…

      • 1021

        Our friend Brett is of course on a corporate printer and thinks everything is free. Printing a book like this on a consumer printer will empty a complete cartridge and cost you 15$ in paper, if you appreciate good paper that is.

  16. 1072

    I have a very very tight budget. At least 50% discount, I will buy the ebook. Deal or No Deal!

  17. 1123


  18. 1174

    Edgars Zagorskis

    July 27, 2010 9:22 pm

    Get a grip y’all FW lovers. Of course, FW is way far better than PS when it comes to the vectors and slicing, but on the other hand, there is totally no “design” in FW. Make 1920×1080 canvas with few overlapping gradient semitransparent layers, then put 10 complex paths with 500 points each and then you see.
    So this book is about (i hope :D) “mastering PS for web _design_” not “PS as the best tool eva to master web”

  19. 1225

    I think you can price this book any way you want it, ignore the people who want it for 5$. They are useless customers. If this book would actually help somebody in their career, 19$ is nothing. A good designer makes 19$ in 5-15 mins.

    However, for 19$ the content has to be worth it. We can only judge that by the sample chapter. To me it seems of a good quality, although hardly original or unique. It does not seem to bring information that one cannot get from just the manual or online resources.

  20. 1276

    I’ve only glanced over the preview chapter that you guys gave for free, and my opinion is this:

    1. With all of the price comments you could have started with a one week 5$ coupon like rockable press does, it would have been a bit cheaper for $15 and people just love discounts, therefore decreasing the price objections, at least by a small margin.

    2. Judging the preview… the chapter explained the brushes in photoshop in the same way that a manual would have explained or a non designers book.

    I think that since this book is portrayed as Mastering Photoshop for Web Design, it should have been a project based book, and from start to finish make a kick-ass template where you go over all of the tools that Photoshop provides to the designers, because the topics look alright, it just needed the content to pull it together.

    Next book you guys publish, go for a project based approach… I think it will serve the market better to see how a designer thinks and implements a design with the tool rather than just seeing what the properties of the tools do without any creative exercises… after all it’s easy to mess around with the tools and properties… it’s harder to have the mindset of making something useful out of simple tools… and that’s what is missing out of the market, not another photoshop manual (IMOHO).

  21. 1327

    Guys @ Smashing- I just wanted to clarify… I commented earlier that I wouldn’t buy the book because I thought it was a little too expensive. I hope you don’t take that as a “dis”… SM is a great site, I love it… and I think that most commenters above would agree that your content is great and I have no doubt that the book is great as well.

    That being said, web design is a hobby/occasional freelance type thing for me. I’m not a beginner, but not a pro coder/designer either. That’s why I find your site to be such a great reference. I don’t know if you’ve looked into it before, but perhaps a large part of your audience is in a similar situation? There’s nothing wrong with that, cornering a niche is great for any business. However, reading the above comments, I can’t help but get the feeling that you’ve targeted – and priced – your ebook for professionals. If I was a pro, I wouldn’t hesitate to drop 20 bucks on a quality ebook. Not being a pro though, I probably wouldn’t go beyond $9.95. Again – not a knock – just trying to provide some honest feedback. I think that at this price point, your book would be a hit, because your professional customers would be thrilled at the great value, yet you would still pick up most of the middle-of-the-roaders like me.

    Above, Thomas compared buying your ebook to a buying a Mercedes. While I understand the comparison drawn, I think it’s worth exploring why Toyota Camrys and Honda Civics are the most popular car out there. I think that sometimes a compromise can be struck that can benefit your customers while remaining or even becoming increasingly profitable.

    Sorry to pontificate… just wanted you to know that despite the complaints about the price, we appreciate SM and value your efforts to provide such a quality resource.

  22. 1378

    20 bucks for an ebook is a bit expensive in my opinion too, even if the writers’ work seems great.
    I would definitely buy it if it was a printed version, but for a PDF file, no way !

  23. 1429

    Is not it better fireworks or illustrator for web design? managing objects in layers in photoshop is too cumbersome when you have many elements. I do not think is the best tool for Web design. Yes, it is for insurance purposes or specific details of a website, but not completely designed. (sorry for my english)

  24. 1480

    Just saw this and thought, thats the next web design book I need to add to my collection. And given I just got an iPad I figured I may as well get it. Also, $19.95 really isn’t a lot to be honest, most web design books around are $30+ so I think its a great deal. Good work Tom!

  25. 1531

    For anyone who says this is too expensive:

    This isn’t Priceline where you can “Name Your Own Price”.. Take it or leave it. It’s just like any product you find online. .

    Price can be determined by the value of the content. .

    In the meantime, give them some credit. I’d like to see your books.. Let’s get together and come up with a reasonable price in which we are willing to pay..

    Come on guys, really?

  26. 1582

    Quite simple: your book and ebooks are awesome, I get a lot of of them and they save me time looking around. I’ll buy this one as I bought some others.

    HOWEVER, I agree that it’d worth looking into other distribution model. Hardcopy for $19.99 (leaflet type) and softcopy for $9.99. I’d buy the hardcopy for most photoshop or webdesign stuff. I’d buy the softcopy for CSS, PHP, WP and others.

    Now off to the checkout page.

  27. 1633

    I’ll buy it when a printed version is out.

  28. 1684

    Do you consider on creating a printable version (mean a real book, with cover and all that.)?

    PS: Sorry for my low english

    bye ,)

  29. 1735

    I’ll buy it, but as others have said, it would be great to have a physical book. After a 8-10 hour day of working on a computer, usually the last thing I want to do when I get home and relax with a book is look at a screen of any kind (including phone/ipads!)

  30. 1786

    thanks for deleting my post… whats the matter? Truth hurt?

  31. 1837

    Unfortunately its an ebook, i hate it to read something on the monitor. Will there be a hard copy?

    Anyway, congratulation on the ebook!

  32. 1888

    WoW…. most everyone bit$^&h’s about the price. It’s amusing.
    I don’t care one way or the other. What would be cool to see are sales figures from the experiment. Or other statistics

  33. 1939

    I have to agree. I purchase several (printed) computer books every month priced $20-40. I don’t mind paying good money for good content. This book certainly looks promising, but I simply cannot justify spending $20 on a PDF version no matter how much work was put into the book. Lots of work is being put into ANY good book, not just your book. I’d be willing to pay $20-30 for a printed copy, and maybe $8-14 for a PDF copy. $10 sounds about right.

    You only have to sell twice as many at $10 to make (nearly – because of payment transaction fees) the same amount of money. I am just speculating, it’s up to you guys to figure this type of stuff out. You should do whatever makes you the most money. I just think a lot of people have a hard time justifying a $20 PDF no matter how good the content is – it’s still just a PDF! We all know you are saving tons of money by not having to actually print, store and ship the books out – you should consider passing those savings onto your customers.

    Gone are the days when Smashing Magazine was small with one simple purpose: making your readers happy. Smasing Magazine has turned into a corporate lets-try-to-make-as-much-money-as-we-can machine. In all honesty, I enjoy reading the network posts more than the actual SM posts. I know you guys hired a bunch of people, but I feel like the site, including its content, was much better in the early days. Perhaps you guys ran out of ideas and creativity along the way.

    • 1990

      Vitaly Friedman

      July 29, 2010 5:19 am

      Stefan, I am sorry but this is simply not true. We are actually inveseting much more time and resources into preparing articles published on Smashing Magazine now. The articles are written by some of the leading designers in the industry, and articles are carefully prepared and presented. And no, it’s not about money these days: we are truly passionate about what we are doing and what we are doing is building a business model for the maintaining and growing the magazine in the future.

      Can you please be more specific: what kind of posts are you missing here? What are you interested in? What kind of recent articles did you like / disllike and why? I would love to hear more feedback from you.

  34. 2041

    When are you publishing a printed book again? I think I would like all your books that are pdf’s now if they were printed. Especially now in the summerholiday it would be very nice to have a couple of books like this to take with you on traveling…

  35. 2092

    Okay, I bought the book. I read the book.

    I wish I had my money back. Far from being “mastering” anything, it was an introduction to Photoshop and photoshop tools. It almost read like a a big glossary.

    I hate to say it guys, but there’s more “how to” in the manual – if you’ve got the manual, and spend an hour googling for photoshop tutorials, you already have more information than is in this book.

  36. 2143

    There are mistakes in the excerpt, which makes me nervous about buying the full ebook. It says to hold alt+shift+right click, and scrub to change brush size, then says ctrl+alt+right click to change hardness. These are backwards.

    ctrl+alt+right-click+scrub = brush size
    alt+shift+right-click+scrub = hardness

  37. 2194

    I’m only interested in the first two chapters. It would be amazing if I could just buy those.

  38. 2245

    I agree with holeycoww.

    I’d love to buy it but it’s too expensive for a digital book. Physical books have paper costs, ink costs, labor costs, distribution costs, shelf space costs and the million middle men that get a cut. $8 sounds like a deal maker to me. C’mon, you’ll still make a killing with how many people are coming in here.

  39. 2296

    I’d love to improve my design technique by reading this book but, hey! €17 for an e-book!?

    I must be missing something. €9, to me, is the ideal worth for selling an ebook. What’s the point in selling 1000 books at €17 or selling 5000 at €9? And, more than that, production cost of an e-book wont change by selling it 6 or 6000 times. Yes i’m just talking about numbers, i respect all of the effort put in writing the whole thing down.


    You guys should practice marketing theories a little more.

    Keep up the good job here a SM.

  40. 2347

    I bought the smashing book but this is waaay too expensive. Will pass, thanks.

  41. 2398

    It’s so simple :

    We all love Smashing Mag but we want a PRINTED BOOK !

  42. 2449

    david said:
    > Half the price twice the sales,
    > twice the amount of satisfied customers?

    actually, most of the time when you cut the price of
    an e-book in half, you get 3-5 times as many sales.
    sometimes even more than that, even a lot more…

    (and your customers aren’t just “satisfied” then;
    they are overjoyed because they got a bargain.)

    if you only get _twice_ as many sales, that means
    you probably shouldn’t reduce the price any farther…
    _unless_ your motivation is to gain more customers,
    that is, which you’ll then leverage with later products.
    (remember that _any_ sale, at _any_ price, is profit,
    as your variable cost for an e-book approaches zero.
    and repeat-customers are the _best_ you can have.)

    however… so as to preclude early-buyer resentment,
    it’s usually better to move in the opposite direction…
    start with your lowest price (for pre-orders and fans),
    and then raise the price for your later purchasers…
    and raise the price again when your sales stall out.
    (it’s weird, but a price-rise can often stimulate sales.)
    the same rule applies: when you double the price,
    and you get fewer than 25% more sales, you have
    surpassed the maximum wise price for your product.

    i’m not telling anyone how to price their product,
    but it is important to understand the dynamics…


    p.s. and if you really have 200,000 readers and
    200,000 followers on twitter, then i’d think you
    would definitely benefit from giving that solid base
    a big “pre-order discount” for their word-of-mouth,
    most especially if you genuinely believe in the book.

  43. 2500

    This book definitely fills a void. The majority of photoshop books are aimed at photographers. I agree that this would be a good book to get printed though, not just because it would be handy but it would have little competition in the book store.

  44. 2551

    After reading of the comments here I decided not to buy.
    Seems to be an overpriced book as a PDF. A few comments show that the book is more like a glossary rather than anything to learn from.

    I bought the smashing book for 23E and you Expect me to buy this for 17…

    Also most of the stuff thats in the book you can find on-line.

  45. 2602

    Painting Straight Lines? Are you kidding?

    Oh, if only I could figure out how to change the diameter of my brush… I could be a master!

    Rename this to The Complete Idiots Guide to Photoshop Tools and I’d pay, like, 5 bucks for it. Maybe.

  46. 2653

    I have loved the last couple of books I have purchased from you guys. 1x printed book and 1xeBook.

    I just have to chime as a tech and gadget nut and say I I too would also love if this came out as a printed book. I have an excellent ebook reader and large quality monitors but ultimately having a printed book is a much more enjoyable experience than reading an eBook for me. I just like to get away from an electronic screen no matter how good it is and turn the pages of a book.

    If you opt to bring this out as a printed book I would definitely buy it even at a higher price point as I really liked your last one and thought it was absolute quality.

  47. 2704

    this is amazing … i love smashingmagazine… but could you please introduce some more option for buying this book… like moneybooker.. because paypal isn’t available in Pakistan yet… :(

  48. 2755

    Worth every penny :D

  49. 2806

    Good thing I read all the comments here. Thanks to everyone for your feedback – I was going to purchase the book but now I realize its way too expensive.

    Hopefully they will reduce the price to $4.99 – $9.99

    $20 is a rip off.


  50. 2857

    Nice one – but do one with Fireworks also :-)


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