Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign and then learn web design (not web management, web desing, there's a difference). Buying books and tutorial will take you a long time to learn...better to look at some community colleges or night shcools to actually learn from a good teacher (yes, tough to find but they are out there). Oh, and the last part? Learn the basics of classic and new age design and good taste. Then, ya gotta learn how to get a job or a client. Actually that last part may be the hardest...
Some utterly generic advice: When you think you’ve mastered a program don’t be too sure.
I work pre-press, so I would also like to recommend looking into some technical aspects of printing – if printing is one of your intended modes of output. When one does not pay any mind to technical aspects that can under certain circumstances lead to bad results.
For what it's worth, you might want to learn to draw.
Absolutely!!! Photoshop is just a tool, and not substitue for talent. But I'll hazard a guess that the way you phrased your question indicates a passion and some skill at drawing and image creation?
If you want to learn how to use Photoshop for illustrative images, then check out the Steve Caplin books.
How to Cheat at Photoshop
Art & Design with Photoshop
If you are serious about your quest, then don't try and teach yourself. Go to art school and get a diploma. Where do you live? There will probably be qualified people here who will tell you what path to take in your country.
There is a dintinction between graphic artist and graphic designer although the line has blurred quiet a bit. Most "graphic artists" are experts in prepress and printing technologies. Along with that, they must be able to operate the applications and are typically forced to learn and adapt to the latest application(s) and operating systems. I would think that if you are interested in "graphic arts" and want to become a good "graphic artist"; you need to learn all of the applications that go into prepress and printing technologies. PDF troubleshooting is also very important as is maintaining a well managed direct-to-plate workflow. I've seen many cases where "designers" state: "I'm not going to worry about whether this great design I've created will print accurately. That's the printer's job". Big misconception. I've worked both sides of the fence, so I can tell you that "printers" do not want to "make sure the job prints accurately". They want a file they can RIP + Print, period. So, while learning Photoshop is important, it is only a smidgeon ( a very small piece ) of all it is you will need to know in order to work as a "graphic artist". I'd recommend learning Ai ( Illustrator ) first. It will give you anchor manipulation and path skills that will come in handy with Ps ( Photoshop ). You will need to learn all of the apps, including QuarkXPress and some of the prepress applications including Acrobat. I also recommend getting a degree in Graphic Arts Technology. Rochester Institute of Technology has a good program where you can minor in design if you want to. As you progress along, see if you can intern somewhere and learn the ropes on the street.
Learning the "tools," whether pastels on rough paper, or digital, ARE important, but are only the tools. Exposing one's eyes and mind to good design principles is important too, as is opening one's mind to concepts. Art museums are a good place to start, but are the end-all/be-all for that either.
Classes on design concepts, as well as various mechanics is very useful.
Back at university, I probably stacked more courses, than necessary, towards the mechanics of photography and cinematography. While there were "concept classes," I now wish that I had spent more time in Fine Arts classes.
I always clipped ads that moved me, whether they had photographs, or not, and saved them. I would pull them out and study them, to try and define what caught my attention. I tried to distill WHY they worked.
Once one has the basics down, then it's time to spend as much time, as possible on learning what works and why. Studying the work of others is good, but one should also spend time developing their own concepts. I keep my eyes out for great design and images, though I have now been retired for some time. I still read books on design, such as creating DVD/BD Menus, or effective logos. Besides the myriad books available on almost every aspect of "design," there are even more examples (good and bad) around us everyday. Look at those, and study them carefully.
Good luck, and as the adgage goes, "the way to get to Carnegie Hall is practice, practice, practice.
Thanks for the help, I appreciate all of the suggestions and will take them into account, but the one I think I was actually speaking about is being a graphic designer. Even though I think some of these same principles and methods would apply to that as well, but see the thing is, I live in the Caribbean, which would require that I would either have to do a course online or travel to the US to get certified and study in this field which can become very costly for me.
Which was why opting for the books and tutorials/forums/website route. Am acutally in the process of starting a small multi-media business which would involve commericials, psa's, music videos and print designs.
And one of the major struggles I have is getting other graphic designers to design or create stuff for me that I might have to incorporate into something am working on. So after realizing that this was a weakness of mine, I figured the best thing to do is learn the softwares as well, and learn it to be one of the best at what am doing.
Hope this clarifies some stuff for you guys and you will be able to provide me with further advice.
Bill makes a good point about looking at existing adverts. I love reading high end magazines regardless of their subject matter, and spend ages trying to reverse engineer lighting in the photographs, what retouching has gone into them, and Hoovering up the best design ideas. There are few things truly original when it comes to layout, but you don't need to plagiarise… Just remember elements from different layouts, and combine with your own ideas.
I'm glad I was able to help you define your career path. You sound like you are "diving-in" head first. I only hope there is water in your pool. Look, none of this comes easy. If you are able to, do some kind of internship at some local ad agency under a fairly decent art director. You will learn quickly if you pay attention, take notes, and apply some of what you learned at the agency later in your own studio. This is a case of taking advantage of the resources you have available to you. Another option is to pitch a studio idea to a designer, such as a work-for-trade situation where you could collaborate with the designer on projects and the two of you could learn from each other. Any way you look at it, it is going to be an investment on your part. It does not happen over night. You will not wake up tomorrow with futuristic, creative powers you didn't have yesterday.
Speaking as a professional Fine Artist, It's about ideas and skill. Photoshop, pens, paper, paints are only tools or a means to realise or express the idea - if you want to master Photoshop the best way to do it is to throw yourself in and create - I learnt a lot this way and I had some really interesting work at the end of it.
Books?...yeah, I read a few about Photoshop, they're kinda suppressive creatively though.
To be a good graphic artist, you MUST be able to draw well.....do this with pen/pencil on paper and scan in to rework or get a Wacom tablet and digitally draw directly ( I bought my first tablet in 1994 to use with PC Paintbrush - that goes back a long way ) and it was the best decision I made for computer art.
Not sure if I'm allowed to post my website - google my username and london, if you want to take a peak at some of the work.
I hope this helps.
I was a little surprised to see QuarkXpress mentioned. However, I was always on the photo-side of things, but had not heard it mentioned in the last ten years. Once, it was the "end-all/be-all," and PageMaker was always trying to keep up. Then, InDesign hit, and Quark sort of disappeared from my radar screen. Glad that it is still about, as I once had many clients who used it. Once, about 40% of my work ended up in that program. When I closed up shop, I did not have even one client using it. Still, brings back fond memories (and a few, where the client was on a PC, that were not THAT fond).
As mentioned, the software is but a set of tools. While it IS good to know one's tools, and be able to use them, the tools, in and of themselves, are not the central focus.
Way back in time, about when pin-hole cameras, and camera-obscuras were passing from favor, a professor shared an observation. He allowed as how "art presupposed technique." That translated to the theory that certain technique was required, but in the end, it was all about "art."
In my above reply, where I commented that I wish that I had spend more course time on Fine Art, and maybe a bit less on the mechanics, it was along those same lines. "Technique," and "mechanics," can be contributors, but in the end, it is about "art."
To the OP - the best of luck, and never, never stop learning.
Thanks for the plug Trevor! Yeah, that's me too. My graphic design and web design stuff is "on the side". I am a computer science geek from way back and since then, software product management with a love for Photoshop and Illustrator. I can't offer any advice from a professional graphic designer aspect as that is not really my profession, but I found that you can learn tons from tutorials to see if you like programs like Photoshop. You can watch videos on Lynda.com or those that come with book, or you can read books if they don't put you to sleep (mine or purely for reference). Heck, you can even learn stuff on these user forums!
Clearly being able to do freehand drawings and sketches (and digital sketching) and having a background in color theory and deisgn are pretty important, too.
I personally wanted to have some updated coursework, so I took all the digital media ,color theory, design, web design,web programming, Photoshop, Illustrator, social media, marketing, and other classes related to graphic design and digitial media that the local colleges and artist workshops offered. I made a lot of new friends and business connections. I also did some web designs, logos, posters, and other advertising stuff for people who heard about me through friends. Volunteer work is another great way to show off your talents and get referrals from people. Doing a few projects for some local clients will give you an idea if it is what you want to do for a career or not.
Many colleges in the US (2 year and 4 year schools) have online studying options...From the local Junior college to places like SCAD in Georgia.(and many more). There are also many colleges that offer art degrees online only.
Jamaine- It is great you are driven to go do something...that will get you far. Go learn and go for it.