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I only use photoshop/imageready really, so my contribution will be based around that. Sorry if these things are obvious.
Heres a couple of things i use everyday.
Lightening a dark image:
there are many ways to lighten a dark image in photoshop, but sometimes using levels, contrast and the like can kill some of the detail. My preffered method is to duplicate the layer with the image you need to lighten, and change the blending mode of the duplicate to 'screen'. If this results in an overly bright image, you can knock the opacity of the 'screen' layer down a bit.
If you only want to selectively lighten parts of the image, you can then take the eraser tool with a big soft edged brush, take the opacity of the tool down to about 30% and erase the parts of the image (on the 'screen' layer) that you do not wish to lighten.
If you have a washed out image and you want to bring some of the colour and contrast back, use the same procedure but set the blend mode to 'multiply' instead of screen.
Keyboard Shortcuts are your friend:(and theres millions of them)
B = Paintbrush
M = Selection Tool
V = Move Tool
E = Eraser
T = Text
Space = Hold down at any time for the hand tool
CTRL+H = Hide selection edges, guides, slices etc
CTRL++ = Zoom in
CTRL+- = Zoom out
Shift+CTRL+I will invert a selection (unless you have icq running, in which case it pops up the main dialogue for that - on my machine anyway :()
Holding down shift and using any of the tool selection shortcuts allows you to toogle through the options for that tool, e.g. pressing shift+M repeatedly toggles between rectangular selection and circular/oval selection tools.
SHIFT+CTRL+ALT+S = Save for the Web. I use this more than anything.
Also if you use an effect over and over again make actions. I outline text constantly. So I created an action to do this and it is a huge time saver.
My tip - for a simple graduated effect on a picture select the layer that you want and add a layer-mask. Select the layer mask and use the gradient tool (linear). Pull the tool from the edge of the picture towards the centre while holiding the left mouse button. Try experimenting with different lenghts - this is great for graduating one image into another and other cool picture effects.
1) colour code important layers and sets using the layer properties - helps enormously when dealing with complicated multi-layered graphics
2) CTRL ALT +/- to expand and contract the picture frame whilst zooming
3) double click the blank grey photoshop background to open the open-file dialog
4) TAB gets rid of all the menus so you can use the full screen area
5) CTRL SHIFT V - paste into selection - select an area, feather heavily and then paste another foto into it - great for blending fotos.
most of all, learn as many keyboard shortcuts as you can - this is the best way to speed up your work :)
<edit> added number 5) </edit>
When I first joined I found a useful tool in fireworks to help me adapt from adobe to macromedia.
Edit Menu>> Keyboard shortcuts>>
The keyboard shortcut popup opens. In the 'current set' menu select photoshop. the differences were'nt huge but the familiarity of tools like zoom and select functioned the same :)
(also available in DW. All shortcuts listed - very handy)
Many people never venture into L*a*b color space - but they're missing a boatload of usefulness.
One advantage of L*a*b is that ALL the lightness information is isolated in the L channel. This means all the detail is held in one place - giving many advantages for quick adjustments.
1. Sharpening in just the L channel avoids introducing color artifacts into the image.
2. Changing the contrast or levels for just the L channel can bring out new subtlety in an image. I first saw this in a photo of a forest in early spring. The varing shades of young growth green just popped right out with L channel adjustments.
3. Copy the L channel information and paste it into a new image - you now have a grayscale version of the original that looks much better than a grayscale conversion would generate.
Because there is no Lightness detail in a or b, these color channels can be blurred with a Gaussian Blur filter to a much larger degree than you would normally dare in RGB space -- without visibly degrading the image. The advantage? Greater jpg compression.
Take your image into L*a*b and blur both color channels, but leave the L channel untouched (you may be able to set the blur as high as 3 or 4 pixels!) Then return to RGB and save a jpg. It will be a smaller file than the same compression level would have created before the blur.
Enter quick mask mode and select the gradient tool. Drag from the foreground to the background along (the imaginary) z-axis to mask the the objects in the foreground. Then switch to the paintbrush tool (B), and paint in the mask over any objects that need to stay fully in focus. Switch out of quick mask and use the gaussian blur filter subtley to blur the background objects.
This techniques of course depends on the time of image you are using - if you have an even distribution of objects into the background you cabn get away with just using the gradient mask, conversly if you you have one foreground object you could just paint that out with the brush.
I find this works well with greyscale images, but that might just be me :)