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Painting the Web Paperback – May 11 2008
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Looking at this book from its title alone, I first thought, Painting the Web was a book on SVG. But I was wrong, well partly wrong.
Shelly, takes you through what makes up the graphics on the web now and into the future in a chatty friendly manner, however this book can be a touch dry when it comes to technical explanations.
Raster to Start, Plus a little SVG
It moves through image and colour theory onto a review of professional to budget applications both desktop and online. The book presents a no nonsense explanation of the software. It also supplies a few how to recipes on the building of raster graphics for the web.
A good third of the book is dedicated to the use of vector graphics on the web. Dealing with X3D, VRML (now that brings back memories), VML, SVG (noting it's restrictive browser implementation). I was expecting maybe a little discussion on desktop vector applications, but instead there is comprehensive introduction on SVG. It's not just a few pages folks, this goes from the simple to complex examples. There is also a good overview of the SVG tools and editors in the marketplace to round it off.
Web Design Basics
There is a small section looking at CSS. Now this is not meant to be a primer, it assumes you know your CSS, and I'll assume you do. The book looks at the more advanced elements of CSS 2, not bad if you're not using all the browser compliant elements already. It runs us through concepts such as pseudo-elements, specificity and styling microformats. Like with Raster graphics there are a number of CSS recipes as well.
For me this is where the book slips up a little; if we are uber CSS designers then we should know all the basics that she explains such as layered background, conditional statements, font unit resets, unordered list menus.
There is a section on the principles of good design, as well, detailing how to layout a good semantic web page, be that static or via a flexible layout grid.
One small point on the microformats front, a footnote reference to the microformats wiki would have been a nicety, it's not a biggie, something to consider for the 2nd edition. There is also no explanation what microformats are and how they are used. Slap on the wrist to the technical editor.
Lets Go Dynamic
Paint the Canvas
There is a interesting exploration into the realm of the canvas and it's extension into the use with SVG. This book explains the creation of simple objects and their comparison to SVG, to the use of canvas effects and transformations. The canvas element is one of those under used elements that I can see getting a greater use in the near future.
Overall it's not a bad book, like I said previously, not something I would pick up, but I'm a little jaded on the subject and looking for the edge. Still the sections on SVG and the canvas where informative.
However, the book could do with the gleam of a good technical editor, there are sections of the book that I was wincing over, not that they are technically wrong. It was just the sequence of the chapters and the information therein, a little too much on digital imagery and photographic aspects for my liking for instance.
This with some of the disjointed sections it tended to give me the impression that the book was all over the place not really knowing what it wanted to be, graphics, CSS, AJAX, SVG, Canvas or design overview; it does it all. A little streamlining and this could have been a better book.
That said if you want a good comprehensive overview on the graphical elements of the web, especially SVG at 600+ pages, Painting the Web, by Shelly Powers is a good place to start.
This is a nice companion book for any and all that do graphics programming on the web and is easy to recommend. Jam packed with 600+ pages of content this is a massive text that probably could have been reduced in size but what is there is a positive effort for sure.
This book is a practitioner's book. And, it's a quite personal work. Written in a conversational style, it's easy to read. The author covers a wide range of tools which she uses on a regular basis. That includes a variety of less-familiar open source tools.
There is a great deal of HTML, CSS and JS code related specifically to graphic representation. It's really convenient to have this foundation in one place.
At first glance, one might be surprised at the detail given to techniques of Photoshop and other tools. But again, as a practitioner's book, it reflects the techniques useful for specifically Web design. It's handy to have these in one place for reference.
Because it is a rather personal work, there will be emphases that one might change. There is a significant amount of space spent on SVG -- which, although a standard, I think is problematic because of the lack of inherent support in IE and Adobe's discontinuation of the plug-in. In any case, weighing in at 638 pages, there's a lot of good information, regardless of one's personal opinion.
The focus is on traditional and standards-based HTML programming. The author does broach the canvas object -- a part of the HTML 5 standard which provides another route to animation on the desktop. However, IE8, at the time of the book's writing, didn't support this object. There is no coverage of Flash, and Silverlight is mentioned simply to identify another non-standard MS approach. Indeed, both Adobe and MS focus their energies on Flex/Flash/AIR and Silverlight technologies respectively to provide a richer Internet experience.
As fits a book on graphics, illustrations are in color. This adds a lot to the vitality of the read, and helps portray information in a useful way.
As the author notes, no one book can address the many issues related to web graphics. This book is of a different character than Weinman's Designing Web Graphics.4. Though in need of an update, that volume presents a more structured and a complementary perspective to the present.
In any case, it's a good addition to the Web designer's bookshelf.
I was able to make lots of incremental improvements to my design techniques using the book. The topics covered have a theme to them (the visual aspect of web design) and they are very practical - these are things you can start using today.
Highly recommended to fine tune your craft.
The topics range far and wide, but much of the content is on obscure things like SVG that never really caught on, things like that. Other parts cover stuff that anyone who does any amount of web design has learned many years ago.
I don't really think this is ideal for any audience of book buyer. It certainly wasn't right for me.
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