Received this book this week and I must say I am thoroughly happy with it. As I expected from the preview I've seen on 3DTotalPublishing's site, this book is not only intended for those just beginning to learn about painting in Photoshop, but instead presents rendering techniques valuable even for professional artists, like some of the artists presenting this book state(for example Kekai Kotaki from ArenaNet's "Guild Wars" and Daarken). Still, if you're looking for a more images-filled type of book this is not the one for you, since it goes in-depth providing a lot of written information and just the necessary amount of imagery. Each chapter of the main parts is written and illustrated by an artist who presents his own approach, but following the matter of study. You will also be provided with a reminder inside the book to download the accompanying resources for the tutorials in this book from 3DTotalPublishing's site(there you can also see a small format full preview for this book)
The book starts off with the basics: presenting the Photoshop workspace, optimizing it for your own needs and in accordance to your computer's resources, introducing the main features such as working with colors, brushes, textures, blending modes, how to establish composition, perspective and basic tonal values, using photographs for texturing or as matte painting bases, working with masks, wand tool, filters and more. Great insight for beginners and medium-level users of PS.
It continues with art fundamentals, where you will find a more in-depth presentation of what makes a painting good or great. Lighting, value, color, composition, perspective and depth, portraying emotions in your character or landscape and even storytelling. You will learn about the Fibonacci number and his "golden ratio", different types of perspective and much more. A very insightful chapter with extended text supported by just the right amount of images, as with the rest of this book.
A "complete project" chapter follows then, basically presenting you with the creation of a finished piece of digital painting using all the info previously presented in the book. Take it as a revision of some sorts, combined with an in-depth, step-by-step tutorial. Great for evaluating your own learning speed and process.
The book goes on to hands down type of practice, showing you how to create speed paintings dealing with SF character and landscapes, paint your piece using only tonal values of grays and only afterwards apply the color glazes, how to create a finished piece using elements of photos and combining them with digital painting - a technique known as matte painting, widely used in feature films' concept design -, and finally how to tackle fantasy landscapes, in this case an eery skull-canyon-like view overlooking a river and waterfall. Starting with this chapter and continuing until further you will probably see how the pages at which you find certain chapters don't coincide anymore with the pages given in the Contents page. Or at least that's how it is in my own copy's case.
The "Project overviews" chapter deals once again with step-by-step processes of different artists' finished pieces. Again the emphasis is more on text, but you get a decent amount of images also. Personally I appreciate the written part more, since it allows one to use the given techniques in his or her own way, without the pressure to make the final piece as likely in style as the artist's work.
"Quick tips" is an extremely well-made chapter in my opinion, presenting you with short and concise "how to" approaches on different tricky elements, such as trees, sandstorms, smoke, underwater, skin, make something look wet, all those detail things which make a painting come alive.
And finally the "Breakdown gallery" is the major eye-candy part of this book for those who were looking forward to it, you basically get step-by-step kind of tutorials containing only 5 images each - including the finished artwork -, so it's up to you to pay attention and observe since you don't get any text accompanying them. However, after a book packed full of text and information, you should be able to analyse and decipher what and how each artist used in every step in order to achieve the final result.
And that's about it. All in all a great book which offers you all the necessary information without cluttering too many pictures, allowing you to use the given tips in your own way and creating your own image, not just style-copies. Definitely worth its money and then some.