Adobe Photoshop 5.02

by Joe Gillespie — Jun 1, 1999

Photoshop is undoubtedly the most ubiquitous graphics manipulation program there is but how relevant is it to Web design?

The main requirements of Web graphics programs are that they should be able to produce images in GIF and JPEG formats and optimise them for Web use. It would be nice if it also allowed you to animate the GIFs and slice and dice the images for rollover buttons.

Off the shelf, Photoshop does allow you to save in GIF and JPEG but the built-in file export facilities are rudimentary and offer none of the optimisation niceties of more dedicated programs like Fireworks, ImageReady or Ignite.

Photoshop is unashamedly aimed at producing graphics for print. Its host of colour management features leaves little to be desired but they can be confusing and intimidating if you only want to produce Web graphics. There is also the price, which is considerably higher than more appropriately featured Web graphics programs. With Photoshop, the Web designer is paying for a lot of features that will never be used.

Cheaper alternatives such as PaintShop Pro and Corel PhotoPaint may be a better choice for budget-minded Web designers. On the Macintosh platform, there are fewer options and Photoshop rules the roost.

Earlier versions of Photoshop caused problems with Web graphics. The 'adaptive' palette mode would shift colours that were originally web-safe. The text anti-aliasing in Photoshop 5.0 was dreadful. Thankfully, Adobe have addressed these problems with the 5.02 update.

On the face of it, Photoshop seems to be expensive and not exactly suited to Web design without the buying additional plug-ins, making it even more expensive and complex. If you only want to take scans and turn them into GIFs or JPEGs with minor retouching, then Photoshop is undoubtedly overkill.

Now, having said all that, I am going to put on my graphic designer's hat. I have been using Photoshop since its first beta version and apart from a few minor quibbles, I use it for everything. It is my sketch pad, my scanning application, my retouching program, I use it for drawing, setting type - and designing my Web pages.

I don't design the look of a page in a Web page generating program, I use Photoshop and its wonderful layers to build the look and feel and the navigational elements. I can slide the layers about, scale elements, swap alternative layers until I have a page that I am happy with.

Having designed the page, I can extract the various layers and make them into final GIF and JPEG files, but not with Photoshop's default file export facilities. I either use BoxTop Software's PhotoGIF and ProJPEG or Adobe ImageReady to optimize the graphics. Any of these will do a better job than Photoshop on its own.

So, where it might not be the ideal Web graphics tool, Photoshop has no match when it comes to the graphic design of Web pages. If you are serious about Web page 'design' as opposed to Web page production, it is definitely a 'must have'!

Adobe Photoshop 5.02
Features red bar90%
Ease of Use yellow bar80%
Value for Money green bar85%
'Must Have' Factor blue bar100%
Manufacturer Adobe, Inc
Price $995 for Mac or PC
Summary A 'must-have' for graphic designers producing Web pages.
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