Creating Content with Photoshop and Illustrator

Kamille Hansen

Project Objectives

For the last year and a half, I have been working as a media relations specialist at BYU-Idaho. Part of my job description is creating graphics for the weekly spiritual devotionals that are shared by faculty members and employees of BYU-Idaho. I usually create these graphics using Adobe Photoshop, and truth be told, I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about how to use it.

This project’s main objective was to give me opportunities to practice creating visual content using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. My brother wanted some extra content for his small business’ Instagram page. I figured it was the perfect opportunity. I could do some free work for him and get some practice with Adobe while I was at it.

My original plan was to spend 5 hours a week on the project. I figured I could make at least 6 new graphics each week in that allotted time, but I was secretly banking on making 10 or more graphics each week.

The Project

Well, needless to say, I had greatly overestimated my abilities. Content creation and design ended up being much more difficult and time consuming than I had anticipated. Not only that, but my Adobe skills were much more rudimentary than I had thought possible.

During the first two weeks of my project, I was unable to create a single piece of “post-able” content. It was rather humiliating, and very humbling. Here are a few examples of my work:

First Public Update: I spent most of my time trying to figure out how to use the tools in Illustrator.
Second Public Update: My first attempt at using Illustrator to create a How-To graphic.
Third Public Update: Trying again with the How-To graphic.
Third Public Update: Yet another attempt at the How-To graphic. I really wanted to be sure I was getting good practice in Illustrator.
Fourth Public Update: I worked in Photoshop to create ads for each of the ties my brother made. These are only a few that I worked on.
Fourth Public Update
Fourth Public Update
Fifth Public Update: After talking with my mentor, I re-worked some of the ads to make them more appealing. I changed the text to white and made the background less textured on this one.
Fifth Public Update: I changed the text to white on this one and enlarged the tie to make it more noticeable. I used the clone stamp tool to increase the size of the original picture so there would be room for text.
Fifth Public Update: I changed the text to white and changed the background color so the text would stand out more.
Fifth Public Update: I made more graphics on Illustrator that I knew my brother would like.

Challenges Encountered During The Project

As I stated before, I quickly learned that I did not know as much about Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator as I had initially thought. In the two weeks leading up to my first public report, I realized just how basic my understanding was. I originally decided to work in Illustrator because that was the program that I was least familiar with. I had to go through each tool and practice using it. I made several pages of random shapes and lines, and I tried to figure out how to adjust the colors and strokes. I spent a lot of time watching videos on YouTube, just trying to figure out the capabilities of all the tools. I was embarrassed that all I had to show for those first two weeks were very simple shapes and designs.

My ignorance proved to be the biggest challenge throughout the project. I finally learned that if I didn’t know how to do something, instead of wasting time trying to figure it out on my own, I should just look it up online or on YouTube.

Another major challenge I encountered was my very basic understanding of graphic and visual design. I was learning how to use the tools in Adobe, which was the purpose of the whole project, however, my designs seemed really basic and uninteresting, even to my untrained eye. Thankfully, I had a great mentor, who would look over my work and give me suggestions on how to improve the designs I had created. His mentorship made a huge difference in the quality of my work.

Processes of The Project

My process for this project was as follows: brainstorm ideas with my brother, decide which Adobe program to use, open Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, and stress out.

I am being a bit facetious, but it was true that as soon as I opened the program I had chosen to work in, I got so stressed out. Every time. It is hard trying to make your brilliant ideas become a reality. The ideas that my brother and I came up with were sometimes much harder to execute than I had thought they would be, especially the tie tutorials. Those were really hard.

Having a plan really helped in the process, however. My complete process for the entire project included brainstorming content ideas, making a plan of how I would make the content (including what program I would use), and opening Adobe and working diligently until I had achieved passable results. I showed my work to my mentor and liked to get his feedback. Whatever suggestions he gave, I tried to implement in another draft.

An Overview of My Project Experiences

Once I had figured out how little I knew about how to work in Adobe, I was able to accept the fact and learn a lot. I have a very busy schedule during the week, so most of my work on this project was done on weekends in five-hour chunks of time. I really enjoyed the time I spent learning more about Adobe. I would stick my earbuds in and listen to audio books while I worked.

For the first few weeks, I worked mostly in Illustrator. I wanted to make how-to-tie-your-tie tutorials. They ended up turning our pretty well, and most importantly, I learned a lot about how Illustrator works. I spent the rest of the remaining weeks working in Photoshop, creating ads for the different ties that my brother makes. I explored with a whole bunch of tools and techniques to see what looks I liked best. Working with my mentor was really great. I never took much of his time, but the few minutes that he would spend looking over my work were really beneficial to me. The last few weeks of the project, I re-created some of the work I had done to be more in line with the suggestions my mentor had given. My graphics looked so much better when I followed his advice.

Insights and Takeaways from This Project

One of the first lessons I learned from doing this project was that you should always set realistic goals. I initially thought I would pump out a lot more content than I was actually capable of completing. I am all about challenging myself and setting goals that will help me learn and grow, however, goals should be realistic. Luckily, I learned that you can always evaluate your goals and set new ones. I definitely had to do that.

I learned the importance of asking questions. I learned pretty quickly that if I didn’t ask questions, I would never learn how to work Adobe programs. Adobe programs are not very intuitive. You must ask questions (of the internet and your friends and mentors) if you want to learn.

I was also reminded of the value of sticking to your task until it is completed. There were so many times while I was working on this project that I just wanted to give up. I could not see any improvement in my skills, and I felt like I was wasting my time. Now that the project is over, I can see how far I have come. I learned how to use Photoshop and Illustrator. My skills are still fairly simple and basic, but I have improved a lot from the time I started this project.

If I’m being completely honest, I am glad that this project is over, however, I fully intend to complete more projects like this in the future. I am not quite where I would like to be in my skill levels for design and Adobe, but I know that with more practice, I can get there.