How to improve Photoshop skills of new hires?

So. I’m dealing with some new hires, all are 24-30 years old, all have a 4-year degree in graphic design. This is the most highly educated crew I’ve ever worked with but unfortunately, they are also some of the least knowledgeable and poorly trained artists I’ve ever worked with. Not a huge problem, everyone is new at some point. I’ve been in this industry for over forty years and I don’t expect them to know what I do.

My challenge is figuring out how to get them up to speed. Much of that is on-the-job training as they learn to use the tools and processes for this particular company. However, along with strengthening their general skill set, in particular, they need to drastically improve their Photoshop skills.

Any ideas?

Send them on courses for photoshop.

1 Like

What happened during interview? Nobody asked this question? HR’s been had.

Generalized Photoshop training is an option, and there are in-person and online courses available almost everywhere. But given the depth of the application, I suspect a fair portion of the time in such courses might be spent on aspects that aren’t applicable to your specific needs (and stuff they already know). That’s why on-the-job training is more valuable. So devise a hybrid:

Obviously, you’ve observed their weaknesses in the areas where your operation requires stronger skills, so knowing what those are, set aside an hour one or two mornings a week when work is paused, and use the time to show them the techniques needed to succeed where you’ve seen them fail. Offer your own demonstrations in conjunction with online material you’ve vetted. Even just a few of those hour-long sessions should make a difference. Or maybe its better for your situation to make it a daily 15-minute “break”. Tailor it to your needs.

It’s kinda funny that today’s designers probably started out in infancy using Photoshop or more likely photoshop-like drawing applications and they can be really good at them in some aspects, but they just don’t know production stuff. HR can be totally fooled by the ‘quality’ of some of today’s photoshop ART, but when you dig into the nuts and bolts, nope.

Hot-button has it right. You have to tailor what they need to know. What I’ve noticed most in the work I do is bad masking skills when creating composites. Or bad masking on creating die cuts. Or bad and noticeable retouching where it really matters when printing big. Don’t know what your applications are, but if the skills are particular, you need to set the goals.

I have a ton of ideas about OJT. It was a focus of my last position and I’ve been meaning to write it all down. The process we used for technical training in the military is still the model for my thinking - tell them, show them, have them do it.

You could send them off to classes and try to improve the skill level across the board. IMO, they will teach those classes to the lowest common denominator and could miss the skills particular to your business. I favor building an internal professional development program. Why? Accountability and specificity.

As I said, in my last position I was focused on this. I was trying to institute short, regular design huddles to conquer specific production bottlenecks and provide a venue for q+a. I think framing it as a skill building lesson helps make it feel less punitive and you can target the most important of the missing basic skills that will get the most results. For me, the first one I tackled was just a basic understanding of color. Unfortunately, we failed to keep the negativity out of it. It hampered the success and created resentment.

I also started a slack channel specifically for sharing techniques. It’s easy to video screen capture on Mac now. I think folks got more out of that than the meetings. Find a cool new feature in a program? Come up with a better way to do something? Share it! Encourage senior staff to jump in with positive feedback.

Last thing I did was to develop a “Best Practices Guide”. It served as a technical reference for the most critical practices. It also was a great onboarding tool.

I found the most critical practices to be hard-nosed about were the ones essential to collaborative efforts. Jobs would get handed off between designers and that was a huge bottleneck. Non-destructive editing, labeling source imagery …those kinds of things.

Hope that helps.

1 Like

Unfortunately I was not involved in the interview process. We also do not administer a competency test to verify a candidates ability to drive a computer or use graphics software.
Perhaps I’m expecting too much. I realize things have changed in the years since I graduated but when I received my degree I was capable of stepping right into a pre-press job. I was able to competently use the tools and understood the various processes. That said, I’ve made continual learning a focal point of my life. Unfortunately I don’t know how to inspire the younger generations to do the same.

I think it depends on the school. At my university program years ago, there were zero production classes. The philosophy of the school was that design wasn’t a trade and the university wasn’t a trade school that taught hand-on skills.

I disagreed with them then and I still do 40 years later. A more balanced approach is needed that teaches both thinking and aesthetic skills along with how to use those skills, which today means software and knowing something about how things are printed.

Luckily, after I graduated I went through a series of jobs that required pre-press knowledge. What I learned there has served me well over the years.

As for your question about how to best bring these employees up to speed on Photoshop, I’m curious about what kinds of deficiencies you see in them. Are there major basic problems, such as not understanding resolution or color spaces, or are the problems more along the lines of more advanced techniques using multiple tools used to achieve certain kinds of outcomes.

Your problem runs a bit contrary to what we see often here on this forum. Here, it seems more common for the self-taught to focus almost exclusively on learning software skills at the expense of understanding good design.

Part of my concern in this particular case is why, after I supplied a PDF detailing the process and after several emails where I explained it again, why did did the artist do such a terrible job? Obviously they don’t have any self-awareness that they are in a hole and should stop digging.

Here is a small sample of my latest concern. It was necessary to add more to the top of the image. This is the final image. It’s much worse at full size. To paraphrase Star Trek, “Boldly going where no man should”

Here in California, the community colleges offer contract education for situations like this. You have a batch of employees you need trained in a particular skill set, you work with the local cc to figure out the goals, curriculum, standards and means of assessment. Your business pays the cc and they handle the training. Might be something like this where you are.

I don’t know what I’m looking at, but I don’t think that’s what it’s supposed to look like.

If that’s the level of communication you need to work on yourself first.

I don’t know what that picture, what’s wrong with it (I can see flaws) but I’m not sure what it is or what it ‘should’ look like.

I worked with experienced designers before and prepess guys all my life.

I overheard one of the most senior and excellent designers talking with a customer and they said it might not be possible to do something but they would try.

I took one look at it and knew it could be done and I ended up doing the work for them because they didn’t know how to do it in Photoshop.

Client was happy.

Everyone has different skill sets and different experiences.

My idea for you.

Run weekly or monthly ‘quality’ meetings.

Showcase the original - what was requested - and what the result was - and what the result should have been.

Explain how you got from
Original - the request - why the result was not right - and how you got the result.

By showcasing best/worst examples in quality meetings and sharing techniques - probably a weekly basis - if you want to expedite. Then go to monthly meetings.

Get the team working together, sharing ideas, what’s acceptable, what’s not acceptable.

Most importantly, don’t single anybody out.

And offer people to do courses. If they need time within the working day to do an online course then offer it to them.

Get them up to speed.

Not everyone is the same level. And that’s probably your worst misconception about new hires. Everyone has strong spots, everyone has weak spots.

I could probably walk into most prepress jobs and hit the ground running. But if that prepress company specialises in Illustrations and every staff member must be a strong Illustrator then I would struggle greatly. I cannot draw and would need extra training for that type of role.

Or hopefully, the boss would just not task me with things like that and concentrate on what I am good at and leave the fancy stuff to other suited members of the team.


I was only able to complete a 2 year for my Associates due to time and money. The graphic design courses were devastating for my major. I was only taught how to use Photoshop and by taught I mean, open the program and use the marquis tool. That was basically the extent. When I asked my professor if he would teach us Illustrator, he responded with “I don’t know how to use Illustrator.” Everything else I learned over the years was self taught, including the basics.

This may be more work for you, but if you have standards or guidelines you want your employees to follow, maybe creating some sort of digital pamphlet of steps to prepare for press and linking tutorial videos that are helpful for certain assignments could benefit your employees. I think I would have found a PDF of steps to go through and ensure a document was press ready would have been helpful to me if you had hired me. Other things that could help is keeping a group email going where helpful videos and links you come across can be shared with the entire team - maybe making a note in the email for when this link/video should be used in relation to projects you assign.

With so much information both through Google and through YouTube available now, there really is no excuse for designers to not know how to do something (outside of natural skills that can’t be taught as easily). I got myself up to speed fairly quickly 10 years ago and with virtually no design experience.