Raster Graphics TechniquesRaster Graphics Techniques



This assignment is largely self directed, but with the focused intent of rapidly increasing your fluency in Adobe Photoshop.

You will be producing a series of raster graphics “sketches”. These are not intended to be finished compositions. Each sketch will be an exploration of the technical and expressive capabilities of Adobe Photoshop.

If you’ve never used Photoshop or similar raster graphics tools before, you will be starting out just learning the most basic selection, layering, color adjustments and other simple techniques. You will also be learning to navigate the Photoshop workspace and getting acquainted with the range of tools at your disposal. You will find that you can quickly begin to combine a few basic techniques to produce more sophisticated designs.

If you are an experienced Photoshop user, you can use this assignment to dive deeper into tools and techniques that you’ve yet to explore. You can experiment with more involved processes to achieve richer, more individualized design qualities.

You will be sharing the images you produce with accompanying notes describing the techniques involved.


You are expected to spend at least 4 hours on this project. If you are completely new to this software, assume that you will need to add another hour or so on top of that estimate to get acclimated to the workspace.

You will be submitting 12 or more images with process notes for this assignment. I’m estimating that on average you will spend 20 minutes per image. This duration includes the time you need to read or watch tutorials, experiment with the tools/techniques and add written notes as text on your photoshop sketches. I anticipate your first few sketches to be fairly simple as you get to know some of the most basic tools and techniques, but you are encouraged to take more time on later sketches and explore more involved techniques that require multiple steps.

You will be taking notes using the text tool in Photoshop, adding the notes on your experiments directly to each photoshop sketch that you produce.

This is an example of a raster graphics "sketch" with a description of the techniques involved.

Learning Objectives

  • Demonstrate technical proficiency using Adobe Photoshop to produce raster graphics.
    • Adobe Help: Photoshop User Guide (Links to an external site.)
    • Built in tutorials/help in the Photoshop application:
      • Help > Photoshop Help…
      • Help > Hands On Tutorials…
    • Everyone should be comfortable with these basic skills (if you are more experienced you can start with more advanced tools and processes):
      • Constructing a composition with multiple photo images
        • Basic manipulation of images (move, resize, modify shape)
        • Change layer order
      • Understand the differences between Smart Objects and ordinary raster layers
      • Make Selections (isolating specific pixels)
        • Marquee tools (rectangle, ellipse, etc.)
        • Lasso tools
        • “Smart” selection tools (Magic Wand, Object Selection, Quick Selection)
      • Direct pixel editing of selected areas (destructive processes)
        • Copy/Paste
        • Transformations
        • Delete
        • Eraser
        • Clone Stamp
        • Brush tool
      • Image Adjustments
        • Hue/Saturation
        • Brightness/Contrast
        • Etc.
      • Filters (Have fun experimenting with these, but be aware that simple applications of these often result in very cliche “photoshopped” images.)
        • Blur
        • Distort
        • Etc.
      • Non-destructive editing (These are more advanced techniques that will be extensively used in the main assignment for this module. For now you can just get acquainted with what they are. More guidance will be provided to help you develop workflows and understand how to apply these techniques.)
        • Blending Modes
        • Layer Styles (fx)
        • Layer Masks
        • Adjustment Layers
        • Layer Groups
  • Explain raster graphics techniques using the vocabulary that is specific to domain.
    • This will be demonstrated through your written notes on your image “sketches”.
    • Vocabulary includes
      • The names of tools
      • The names of processes/actions
      • The names of workspace elements/panels



    • Find photographic content to edit and composite
      • Collect and organize images that you’ve already taken.
      • Shoot new photos. Focus on capturing:
        • Scenes/atmospheres/spaces without a foreground subject
        • Textures, fields of color, patterns
      • Creative Commons Image Search (Links to an external site.)
        • This is a great place to locate images with clear copyright designations and attribution information.
          • Many, but certainly not all, images are shared with the expressed intent to allow reuse and remixing.
        • Record and include attribution information on the images you use in your work.
    • Sign up for your free Adobe Creative Cloud account through ASU: ASU UTO Adobe Creative Cloud access requestLinks to an external site.
    • Download Adobe Photoshop using the Creative Cloud application or Adobe website.
      • You will also need Illustrator, Audition, Premiere Pro and Media Encoder for other class modules. I recommend installing these right away so you don’t have to worry about doing so later in this very compressed class timeframe.
    • For this assignment you will only be using Photoshop. (As we progress throughout the semester you will start combining tools and techniques using the optimal tools for the specific task.)
    • Create a new Photoshop file. In the document settings window:
      • Type a meaningful name for your document (include your last name as part of the document name (ex. laheyCircuitRocks01.psdc)
      • Set the document width and height to 3000 x 3000 Pixels
        • You are welcome to use a smaller document size if you are running into memory or drive space issues.
        • I generally like to start with a size that is large enough to maintain image quality for photos, then crop and down-scale later as needed.
        • Please stick with a square aspect ration for these.
          • This aspect ratio gives you a lot of flexibility for composing images and reserving space for your written notes without biasing your designs to landscape or portrait orientations.
        • Consider using the crop option as your final step before saving your JPEG version of your image.
      • Orientation doesn’t matter since this is a square aspect ratio.
      • Set the Resolution to 300 Pixels/Inch.
      • Set the Color Mode to RGB, 8 bit
      • Set the Background Contents to White.
      • Leave the Advanced Options to default settings.

Photoshop new document settings

  • Save your file.
    • Save frequently (this is less critical if you use the Creative Cloud save option).
    • I recommend using the option to Save to Creative Cloud while you are working on the project.
    • When you finish work on an image, use Save As to save a copy to your computer. You will archive this, but it will not be a part of your submission. For this step, do the following:
      • File > Save As
      • Select “Save on your computer”
      • Set the Format as Photoshop (psd)
      • Click “Save”.
      • In the “Photoshop Format Options” panel that pops up
        • Leave the “Maximize Compatibility” box checked.
      • Click “OK”

    • Find tutorials, lessons and reference materials that are appropriate for your experience level. YouTube and other websites can be a great source of information, but I recommend starting with Adobe’s help:
    • Depending on your learning preferences, you can follow tutorials step by step, or start experimenting and look for help when you get stuck on something.
    • Create images using the tools and techniques you discover.
      • Prioritize demonstrating the basic techniques and tools that I outline in the learning objectives.
      • Multiple tools and techniques, especially the basic foundations, can be demonstrated on a single image, but try to keep them somewhat focused, especially for your beginning stages.
    • Take notes as you go!
      • Notes should be included as text on the images that you are working on.
        • I recommend taking notes in a text editor, then copying this text into your photoshop text field since photoshop does no spelling or other checks and is not as easy to fluidly write in.
      • Hint: The history panel (which is super useful for other things) will remind you of your editing process for your file. Note that this will be cleared out if you close and reopen the file.
      • Taking notes is an opportunity to demonstrate various type techniques.
        • You may notice that the obvious text options are not as many as what you find in Illustrator, but there are lots of cool things you can do with text that are unique to Photoshop.
      • Describe what tools/techniques you are using.
      • Specify the source of any lessons, courses or tutorials that you are utilizing.
      • Notes need not be highly formal, but should be clearly legible and must communicate what you were doing.
      • Mark how many minutes you spent on that image.
    • Produce at least 12 images demonstrating a wide variety of tools, techniques and processes.
      • On average, each image should represent about 20 minutes of focused effort.
        • Some may be significantly quicker exercises.
        • Others may be much more involved processes, taking longer to learn, develop and describe.
    • Media organization
      • Repeat the process of creating a new file, saving that file as a cloud document while you work, then saving a photoshop document to your computer (for your archive).
    • Use the Save As process to save flattenedcompressed jpg versions of your images. These files will constitute your final submission.
      • File > Save As
      • Choose the “On your computer” option
      • Set the Format as JPEG (jpg)
      • Make sure the “Embedded Color Profile” option is selected
      • Verify the name of your file and the location where it will be saved.
      • Click “Save a Copy” (not the “Save” button)
      • Now click “Save”.
      • In the JPEG Options panel that pops up
        • Set the Quality slider bar to 12 (Maximum)
        • Set Compression Method as Baseline (Standard)
        • Click “OK”
    • Repeat this process for each of your images.


  • Submit your 12 or more JPEG images.
  • Archive your Photoshop files (I recommend maintaining the Adobe Cloud version and a version on your computer or external storage device) but do not submit them for this assignment.
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