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Greetings from Planet Photoshop! So first let me say it’s a real privilege to be able to share some thoughts with you all today and as an added bonus, I have prepared a special video tutorial (found at the bottom) exclusively for this post. But before we get to that, I wanted to briefly touch on the subject of creative exploration.

I am often asked how I come up with some of the stuff I do in my tutorials. To put it simply, it’s a lot of experimentation. When it comes to Photoshop, the only limitations seem to be that of the artist or photographer using it. One can spend a tremendous amount of time learning the textbook functions of Photoshop but to achieve something remarkable one must be willing to look beyond the obvious and strive to present something in a new or unusual way, or even create something no one has ever seen before.

So where do you start? I often engage in a little creative exercise I like to call creativity farming. What I like to do is spend an afternoon at the bookstore, pouring through most of the magazines on the newsstands and just feeding that visual data into my brain. When you are faced with a creative challenge your mind is at work flashing images through your thoughts of things, places, people, objects and making connections between them. Well, it cannot create these connections or ideas if your brain has nothing to refer to. Look at it this way. Just turning the oven on and waiting doesn’t produce a cake. You have to get the ingredients together, mix them up, then let it cook for a while. It’s not just magazines and books either. I have found inspiration in places like the web, restaurants, and even the movie theater. When you go to the movies. Don’t just look at what’s on the big screen. Look at all the movie posters and banners in the lobby. There’s a host of good ideas everywhere. Now I am not suggesting you copy someone else’s design altogether. You may just notice a small part that interests you, like the background or the text. It’s just building one idea on top of another. You would be hard pressed to find any artist, designer, or photographer whose work isn’t influenced by another, even if they aren’t aware of it.

So how does this translate to working in Photoshop? This is where experimentation comes into play. To be honest, playing is probably a more accurate word. Playing with the tools is where I discovered a lot of interesting stuff. Have you ever been in a situation where you would ask: What if I did this? It’s that attitude that you need to have when playing around in Photoshop. Sure, the Levels can adjust the contrast, but what if I move this slider way over here? You won’t know until you try. Most of the time it’s something pretty unexciting, but every now and again there is that ‘aha’ moment. Even if that discovery isn’t necessarily what you are looking for at the moment. Save that file, brush, or layer style right then and you may use it later. Have you ever remembered something you once did but couldn’t remember how you did it?

Which brings us to the bonus video tutorial. What I wanted to do was to show how I go about experimenting with Photoshop and how one idea can build on another and produce another idea altogether. By discovering one simple technique that can be explored in many different ways and produce so many different results, you will have a library of techniques at your disposal. When you see something that interests you, the mind will bring those components of technique and creative thought to harmonious fruition.