Ben Riggin
Adobe Adjunct Instructor/Trainer

We all started in the same chair.

Technical Tutorial Published 10/25/16 Last updated on 5/15/18

I have been a contracted Adobe Adjunct Instructor, in Continuing Ed. and in Media Arts for over ten years. I am an Editor and an Animator, and Filmmaker.

I begin all of my Adobe classes the same way. I get us going by ask questions, what do you already know about Photoshop, or Indesign, or Illustrator, etc. I get the room talking, especially to each other. After a point, they start asking questions as well.

In Photoshop Fundamentals classes, the first couple of hours are reserved for a guided tour. We keep the books closed. I show the class where to get the media to work with, and we begin. We start by working with the two tools that are often used together and are often the first steps for pretty much everything you do in Photoshop projects.

I've learned over the years that two tool sets that cause the most grief with 'never-evers,' are the Selection Tools and the Layers Panel. They are often the most misunderstood tool sets for beginners. Why? I don't know?!

So due to the anxiety over learning these tools, I take a good hour to lead everybody through a guided description of both tool sets. We break it down, we practice, we talk, we make mistakes, we question, we take our time. We play.

I have an Encyclopedia Britannica Reference book of the human body to demonstrate how composited imagery works. I often use the multi page reference of the human heart to demonstrate the idea of how each layer is like an acetate page in the book. The acetate is transparent, around the painted image of the heart per page. Each layer in the Layers Panel uses the checkerboard pattern to represent transparency around an image on a layer. As you turn the page, each page in the book has it's own transparency, just like each layer. Students tend to easily understand that. They get it.

You see their apprehension dissipate. They relax. Everything else beyond that becomes much easier for them to learn, and for me to instruct. That gets us passed being stuck.

I've had really good success utilizing this approach.

I always remind them that 'we all started in the same chair.' They can learn this.

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Will Rodriguez

Posted on 7/30/17 11:08:52 PM Permalink

​I don't have access to an Encyclopedia Brittanica, but I am moved to make some of my own transparencies using laminate. Thanks for the idea boost!

Karen Karenchik

Posted on 5/4/17 12:43:55 PM Permalink

Dr. Sharkawi Che Din

Posted on 1/11/17 4:52:32 AM Permalink

​Thanks for sharing.

Margaret Marsh

Posted on 12/7/16 10:15:41 PM Permalink

​Good article Ben! I have been teaching Photoshop in New Zealand since version 1 way back in 1990. Being that early there was no one to show me the way ... no online books or YouTube ... no internet ... no in-house colour printing and the app only ran on Macs! I only had the printed user guide out of the box. I realised very quickly that selections and layers were the backbone of the program. Your comments on these two tools is very apt for newbies, and I cover layers and selections in the very first intro session.

Scott Winland

Posted on 11/20/16 5:45:49 AM Permalink

​Thanks for this!