I have some general tips for anyone who's interested in learning new software, specifically software for creating (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, Maya Auto Desk, ZBrush). I am in the current process of learning an assortment of new software, while doing this, I am reminded of my time learning Photoshop many years ago. It was a long journey, but a very fun exciting one. Also, one which will never end, as Photoshop is an infinitely complex program. So here are the 9 tips for learning new software, these are not in order as all the tips are important.
1-Tutorials! Use them, as much as you can. Find tutorials that are on your level, but also above it. Usually it's good when you have a hard time following along and struggling, it means you are going to learn something. However, if it get's too confusing, find an easier tutorial.
2-Have fun! This is important, it cannot feel too much like work. If you aren't having fun learning the software, you should stop and go back to working a regular unfun job! No don't do that, you want to learn and become something more! But how do you make something fun that is utterly frustrating? Work on things you like, instead of using the suggested tutorial images, make them your own. Use your own images, your own words, fonts, models, textures, use your own assets and make something you like. Don't worry about showing your first creations, they are for you to study from. Once you have learned more, you can open up to critiques, but only later once you are ready, more on that later (it's the last tip).
3-Take things slow. Learning new software is not just about correctly completing a tutorial. It's about figuring how it works and why. Why each tool does what it does, why certain things are done, how they connect together. In order to truly master a piece of software, you will have to get inside of it's essence, down to the essentials of why it operates, this will take time. Don't be in a hurry, take time to reread, or rewatch parts of tutorials which are unclear.
4-You only need a handful. With all the tools, settings, and features in Photoshop, I find myself using only a handful. Don't be overwhelmed by all the features in a program. Often the software is designed for many applications, such as Photoshop, used for: webdesign, print media, illustration, post production of imaging, ect. This goes the same for a 3d package, a word processing one, or anything else. So take time to learn what you will need to use for your chosen field. Make sure you focus on those features you will need.
5-Redo things till you learn them. Sometimes it can be exciting to get an out come while following a tutorial, it looks good, and took forever to figure out, now you want to move onto the next step. At this point, I recommend redoing everything which took a long time and was difficult. You will find the second time doing it will be much easier, the third time even easier, by the fifth time, you will have basically learned whatever it was so you can use it again without the tutorial.
6-Save and favorite all your tutorials! Don't be afraid to reference them later. It is unlikely you will understand or remember everything from a tutorial. Even those of us who are most proficient with a piece of software still have to go back, or reference again certain things from time to time, so understand even the pros need guidance.
7-Don't also try to learn a new input device. Meaning, if you are still new or not comfortable in a program, then do not also try learning how to use a tablet. It might be temping, you see many artists doing cool things with it, the truth is, you can do just as many cool things with only a mouse. Once you get a work flow of some sort going, you can bring in the tablet and learn how to use it.
8-Don't give up! Now this might seem really obvious, but it is not. Most people will spend a few hours, realize they know nothing, realize how much they have left to learn, then they will just give up because it is too overwhelming. Having the drive to keep going is what will get you to learn what you are trying to learn. Take comfort in the fact that the most amazing thing created with the software you are learning, the person who created it, at one point, they too had to go through what you're going through.
9-And finally, PEER review! Now the key word here is 'peer', not friends and family. You will have to find others who are much better than you, and who are willing to help. Message boards are great for this, or even here on Deviantart, though I recommend a message board as there is more of a tightly knit community there more open to helping. Then once you get the advice, follow it! Be ready to remake something you spent 40 hours on and were utterly happy with! I never said learning new software would be easy, it isn't for everyone.
The road to mastery is not an easy one, it is not a road for everyone. If you read this entire article, chances are you have what it takes. Understand that in learning the software, you are expanding on yourself as a person. A new skill desired by many, attained only by the select few, no ordinary person can become a master, it takes time and dedication. Happy learning my friends!
Listening to: Trance
Playing: LA Noire