It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Corey Barker!

In the beginning…

A really long time ago there was a Photoshop book published by an up-and-coming Photoshop trainer, you may know his name; and it was called Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks. I remember I saw the book on a colleagues desk. I was working for a newspaper in Bradenton, FL not too long after I had graduated from the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, FL. I was immediately intrigued and started flipping through it and was amazed at how simple this stuff looked; I knew I had to have this book.

I was so excited that I went to the bookstore that day to get my own.  Remember, this was at a time when Photoshop training wasn’t nearly as ubiquitous as it is now; especially cool stuff like this. I actually still have my original copy. The point I am trying to make is that this was when my eyes started to open. I was realizing what was possible and eagerly studied through every tutorial, some of them several times. Not because I didn’t get them, but because I would experiment with several different images. I would even mix up tutorials throughout the book into ways I had not thought of before, and that is what made the difference.

I already had a desire to learn Photoshop, but I had never truly been inspired to learn it. In the profession I was headed into, I needed to know the software. There was a lot of training material on learning the nuts and bolts of the program, but nothing out there really gave you that spark to take it to the next level.  I was hooked and hoped that another one would come out soon.

It seems I wasn’t the only one who thought the Down & Dirty book was great! The series went on to become a tremendous success for Scott Kelby, he continued with several installments as newer versions were released up to CS, and they were also available in a Photoshop Elements series. However, with the swift proliferation of digital photography, Scott has begun concentrating his efforts into his deep passion for photography; and I think you all know how that has worked out. That doesn’t mean the popularity of the series waned, because the books had continued success long after newer versions were released. However, fans were left wanting more!

A New Era

In 2006 I was working at a large-format printing company as the lead designer and production manager. Unhappy with my job, I spent my days working there and spent my nights pouring over Photoshop books, experimenting with Photoshop. I was doing everything thing I could to master the program and figure out how to do cool stuff with it. I was even getting consistent freelance work and word was getting around. I had been a NAPP member for years, had already attended at least 6 Photoshop Worlds, and won a couple Guru awards.  Then the opportunity of a lifetime landed on my computer screen. NAPP posted a video on the NAPP member home page of the Photoshop Guys: Scott Kelby, Matt Kloskowski, and Dave Cross basically posted a casting call for the next Photoshop guru. I knew this would be my chance, but was my work good enough? I hadn’t had the best professional resumé up to that point but felt really good about what I could do with Photoshop. I put together a whole promo kit and sent it in; this got me an interview with Scott himself at Photoshop World in Vegas. Real one-on-one time with the man whose books I had stacked on my desk. Nervous as I was, the interview couldn’t have gone better and a week and a half later I was offered the job.

Now I was in the big leagues! For a lot of designers, this was the big show. Seeing every day the people I had only seen at Photoshop World and at seminars; this was crazy. It took me a while to adjust, but I eventually found my groove and was producing content that people really enjoyed. I did my best to come up with new, fresh stuff because I knew designers were bored with what was out there. I knew, because I was one of them. I knew I wanted people to feel that same energy I get when an idea starts to take shape. Creativity comes in spurts! It’s like when people meet a comedian in public; people always have the urge to ask them to say something funny right then. If you are a creative designer, you know that some days, ideas come together in seemingly magical ways. Other days you just want throw yourself on your Wacom pen. As I got more creative with my content, things started getting noticed, and I was starting to build a modest fan base that were closely following my work.

All the while this is going on; the fans were still craving more from the Down & Dirty book series. It had been quite a few years since the last one. In 2009, Scott Kelby decided to bring the Down & Dirty series out of retirement to write a new version for Photoshop CS4. This time, I was extremely honored to be asked by Scott, to write a special 3D chapter at the end of the book. 3D was a new thing in Photoshop, and he saw how much fun I was having with it. In addition to coming to work for him, this was another dream come true! He was now asking me to contribute to one of his best-selling books. Though on hiatus for a few years, this book proved the series is still loved by fans and they immensely enjoyed this newest edition. It also prompted a reboot of the Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks seminar, which Scott and I both taught on the road throughout 2009 and 2010.

After 5 years, contributing to the CS4 Down & Dirty book, doing the Down & Dirty Tricks section of the Photoshop User magazine with Felix Nelson, and helping to teach the Photoshop Down & Dirty tricks seminar tour, I have been given the opportunity to author my own book. Not just any book, Scott decided to pass the Down & Dirty torch to me and allow me to completely write a reboot of the franchise called Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks for Designers. I was beside myself! Here I am, this guy that pretty much got started early in my career with this series, and now it comes full circle. I now get the opportunity to inspire others with the same kind of thing that inspired me. That seems to be the real question: How do you inspire with what inspires you? I hope you will have a look at this new book and see! Even if you are not a designer, you are still a curious human being. Have a look and see how ideas come together and learn how to see things differently.

Here are some examples from this newest edition. I not only wanted to include typical design stuff like text and graphics, but wanted to show you what you can really do with photographs as well. Whether it’s a stock image or my own, as a designer, I see photos as merely components to my overall designs. I often shoot things for Photoshop knowing I am going to do with it later, but rarely actually what I will use it for. An example would be these two images. You can see how they started as simple studio shots and then became fully realized concepts. These are step-by-step in the book!

Here are some other couple examples that include text. The Musketeer image was inspired by the film Three Musketeers that was just in theaters recently. It demonstrates building an image out of several parts to create an overall title effect. The chrome logo was inspired by the logo for the new car from Fiat. It is pretty much created from scratch and the book lays this out step-by-step same as the Musketeer image.

Lastly, I just wanted to share a couple examples from the new 3D chapter. I am really excited about this chapter because it’s jam-packed with cool stuff. Like this first one with the paint splash, looks 3D huh? Well, it is actually a 2D photo and text converted into a couple flat 3D Postcards and positioned to give that illusion.  In the other example, I have a fully realized 3D logo built entirely in Photoshop complete with lights, reflections, and shadows…and the book covers it step-by-step!

Well, there we have it! Just a sampling of the jaw-dropping techniques you will learn in this new edition. Hopefully the Down & Dirty series will continue to live on to inspire a new generation of designers. I think Scott started a phenomenon in this series and I’m so very blessed to be a part of its legacy. Most importantly, it is you that I hope enjoys it most. After all, it is you for whom it was written. Take this road map and find that eureka moment!

You can keep up with Corey over at and order Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks for Designers at

  1. Corey, awesome blog, I was wondering if I could use your book, now I’m buying it. You really balance the PSUTV show out. While everyone is cutting up you seriously swing in with a mind boggling tip that know one has ever seen, way to go!

  2. This is amazing and i wish i could had seen it from the begining like you did but about the time all was coming out I abandon Photography due to sever burn out and now i am play catch-up and will never do it. my mind is not as sharp but i will trugg on and try everything i see. Keep puting it out there and i will try it all. Merry Christmas

  3. Congratulations to Corey on the book. I’m ordering my copy today. I’ve been waiting forever for someone to do a book like this. So many books about photoshop are geared towards photographers, but Photoshop is the bread and butter of designers too and there’s very little like this out there (previous editions of Down and dirty tricks aside) compared to the number of “photoshop for photographers” type books, so congrats again and thanks for doing this !!!

  4. Awesome post Corey. Its an inspiring story. You are a great instructor and you deserve all your sucess. Im willing to read your book. Congratulations, best wishes

  5. Awesome post Corey. Its an inspiring story. You are a great instructor and you deserve all your sucess. Congratulations for your book, Im willing to read it. Best wishes.

  6. Hi Cory,
    Unkike Ken above :) , I knew I would be able to use the book as soon as I saw it. I got the tracking information from Kelby Training yesterday and expect the book at my house on Friday.
    It is quite funny that you say that you wondered if your work was good enough for NAPP. I have wondered that about my work myself, in fact I still know my work isn’t good enough to be a NAPP guy. However, I am getting way more confident with my capabilities after winning the Westcott Light kit in Vegas this year and being a Guru Finalist in Vegas last year.
    I also really liked what you said about going over the tutorials multiple times with different images. The Sword shot above is really inspiring since I have several similar images from the Wescott booth in Vegas.
    Now I’m even more excited about your book and when it arrives. And, I think, I know I will share some of the techniques with my Photoshop Students at Oklahoma City Community College next semester.
    Thanks Cory and Congrats on what I know will be an excellent book,

  7. Hey Corey … Super blog and Yes, you’ve got my creativity juices flowing! You’ve always amazed me with your quick and simple designs! In fact, you did one for light flare, which I use all the time when I can’t seem to get the lights to flare. Very encouraging blog!

    Thanks Scott for letting Corey share his passion!


  8. Corey,

    Really cool to hear your story in your own words. I know that feeling of photoshop inspiration all too well. College was really dry. When I graduated my girlfriend (now fiancé) bought my Scott’s 7 Point System for Photoshop CS3. That book changed my life, then I discovered the world of NAPP and Kelby Training. I’ve been a member for almost 5 years now. I’m really looking forward to getting my copy of this book! Your ideas are awesome, and you are a truly gifted artist. Keep up the awesome work! This blogpost really inspired me. Take care man!

  9. Corey, thanks for the blog today. I put your book on my Xmas wish list! I didn’t think that this book would be something that I could use, as I’m just a photographer. But, like Matt’s book on compositing, you’ve given me new ideas to play around with. Always love your articles in PSU magazine! This book looks to be similar, taken up several notches.


  10. Love the new book Corey! Mine came yesterday and I couldn’t wait to open it up. Way cool. . . started out going to the end of each lesson to see what the end result was since I didn’t have much time to read in-depth!!!! Thanks for autographing it too!

  11. Packets of energy flow throughout your post, thanks for sharing your career path Corey. I receive my book today and very much look forward to diving into it.

  12. Superb book (I got the Kindle version here in UK) and so glad the series is in capable and enthusiastic hands. I too have all the D&D books from PS6 – it has always been my go to bible for design ideas and techniques. Keep on with the Photoshop work Corey and NEVER pick up a camera and you can hide Pete Collins’ camera while you are at it – NAPP needs to keep the ‘P’ for Photoshop in N.A.P.P !!
    Thanks for all that you chaps do.

    1. Oh yes, Dave you are so right – hide the cameras – or just remember that there are lots of designers out here who probably use Photoshop more than photographers do.

  13. Corey, thanks for sharing your story with us. Great to see how you aspired and progressed to where you are. I’m a designer at my day job so am really looking forward to getting your book. Thanks!

  14. Nice, Corey! I can relate to your initial excitement and enthusiasm as you picked up your first copy of D&D Tricks. It was a life changing moment for me too. Enjoy your dream job! Your creativity never ceases to amaze and inspire me!

  15. Corey, I found the first Photoshop Down & Dirty book in a Borders back in 2001 or so. It was my first introduction to this fellow called Scott Kelby. It blew my mind. I was so hard up for extra cash back then that I couldn’t afford the book and sat in Borders numerous times to memorize whatever I could. It was my second exposure to what could be done with photoshop. My first exposure was a simple how-to that I once caught in a Photoshop User Magazine.

    Up until then, it had never even dawned on me to create something from scratch. I always just assumed that you start with a photo and then use Photoshop to doctor it up in creative ways. The book took my Photoshop in a totally new direction.

    I actually bought the second Down and Dirty book, which was my first of many Scott Kelby books. It’s really neat to find out that the book hit you the same way. I’m always amazed at what you come up with in Photoshop, and have learned a ton from your tutorials. Keep up the good work! I plan on purchasing your book when I get a chance. I don’t think Scott could’ve handed the reigns over to anyone more fitting then you. Congratulations, and great blog post!

  16. Corey, thanks for sharing your journey with us. It’s so wonderful to see how it has progressed! Scott, once again, admiring your big heart to mentor, to inspire and to share.

  17. Corey, thanks for sharing your story and all the wonderful techniques and tricks that make Photoshop fun. I had the opportunity to attend your road tour of Down and Dirty Tricks for Photoshop CS4; another terrific seminar to challenge convention. And I preordered your new autographed Down and Dirty Tricks for Designers from Kelby Training. Your training videos on the NAPP members’ site and PlanetPhotoshop always stimulate and excite. Just keep sharing all those wild and crazy Photoshop techniques. Thanks again for helping photographers find the creative artist lurking within. Jim

  18. Hi Corey, congratulations on your book. I still remember stumbling across a graphic texture tutorial on planet photoshop a few years ago and have been a big fan since. It always amazes me how you keep coming up with great content. Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing your creativity!

  19. Corey! Congratulation on your amazing accomplishment! You deserved the best and because you are best graphic designer on the planet! Others on kelbytraining are good,but you blow all of them out of water with you creative talents and skills. I love your training videos because you really are the absolute best in the world of graphic designer. I own all your videos and now I will be so happy to own your amazing book. Keep up the great work and I am your number one biggest fan in the world from California.

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